The Shield/Jewish Rights and Their Enemies

Professor Maxim Maximovich Kovalevsky, one of the greatest Russian sociologists, was born in 1851. Owing to his political convictions, he had to leave Russia. In 1901 he founded in Paris the Russian Higher School of Social Sciences, the faculty of which covr sisted of exiled Russian scholars and political emigrants. In 1905 he came bach to Russia, resumed his University work and took an active part in the political movement. In 1906 he was elected to the Duma and in 1907 to the Imperial Council. He died in 1916.



IF the question should be put as to who at present stands in the way of Jewish equal rights and who demands still further limitations of the Jews' participation in both military and civil service, the answer is that no one class follows a more systematic and more definite programme in this connection than the League of United Nobility. In the year 1913 one of their conventions made the following recommendations, recorded in a volume published in the name of the league, and here quoted literally:

"I. Jews and converted Jews should not be allowed to serve in the army and navy either as regular recruits or as volunteers, nor should they be admitted to military schools.

"II. Jews and converted Jews should not be allowed to take part in the electoral conventions of the Zemstvos.

"III. Jews and converted Jews are not to be permitted to serve in the Zemstvos.

"IV. Jews and converted Jews are not to be permitted to serve in any municipal capacity.

"V. Jews and converted Jews should not be permitted to enter the civil service.

"VI. Jews and converted Jews should not be included in the lists of jurors; they may not be appointed or elected to serve in courts, they may not practice as either advocates or attorneys."

These recommendations are clearly at variance with the trend of Russian legislation throughout the reigns of Peter the Great, Catherine the Second and Alexander the First. Peter the Great called into the service of the Russian government all subjects irrespective of their nationahty or religion. His fellow champions were representatives of different nationalities such as Bruce, Bauer, Repnin, Menshicov and Yaguzhinsky. As to Catherine the Second, our code of laws still retains the expression of her wish that all the peoples of Russia, each according to the precepts of its religion, should pray to the Almighty for the welfare of its rulers, and should all be equally benefited by its government.

In his "Principles of the Russian Governmental Law" Professor Gradovsky says: "In the reign of Peter the Great there were no general regulations concerning the Jews. Measures against the Jews date from the reign of Catherine the First. During the reign of Catherine the Second, little was added to the existing array of limitations. In the districts in which the first Partition of Poland found them, the Jews at that time enjoyed almost all the rights of the native Russian citizen. Although the Empress recognized the "Pale of Settlement" created in the reign of Peter the Second, she, nevertheless, stretched its boundaries to include not only Little Russia but also the Vice-Royalty of Ekaterinoslav and the province of Taurida, wherein the Jews were granted all rights of citizenship. In the "Regulations Concerning the Jews" published in 1804, in the reign of Alexander the First, the principle of equal civil rights for this nation is brought out in Article 42. "All the Jews in Russia," says this article, "whether residents or new settlers or foreigners coming to transact business are free and are to be under the protection of the law on a par with other Russian subjects." In commenting upon this article, Professor Gradovsky writes that this is clearly an attempt to fuse the Jewish nation with the rest of the Russian population by giving the former definite civil rights.

Only during the last year of the reign of Alexander the First were some measures adopted whereby the "Pale of Settlement" was narrowed down because of a certain sect of "Sabbathists," closely related to Judaism, which had greatly increased in numbers, particularly in the provinces of Voronezh, Samara, Tula, and others. According to the "Regulations Concerning the Jews" of 1835, enacted in the reign of Nicholas the First, the Jews retained the right to own all kinds of real estate, with the exception of inhabited estates and to deal in all kinds of merchandise on the same basis as the other citizens,—of course, only within the "Pale."

It is noteworthy that at this time the Jews were allowed to attend governmental schools of all grades, and that graduates from these were granted certain privileges. It is only toward the end of the reign of Nicholas I that the government adopts a system of limitations relating to the Jews, without, however, restraining their right to attend the governmental educational institutions. On the 31st of March, 1856, an imperial edict was issued ordering a revision of the existing regulations relating to the Jews. Therein it is clearly stated that the purpose of this revision is to conciliate these regulations with the intention of the government to fuse this people with the native population of the land. During the entire reign of Alexander II no limitations existed for the entrance of Jews info the Universities and the other educational institutions. On the contrary, according to Gradovsky, the limitations within the "Pale" did not apply to persons desiring to obtain a higher education, namely to those entering the medical academy, the universities, and the Institute of Technology. Gradovsky refers to the continuation of the "Code of Laws," of 1868. The book was published in 1875, while this freedom was in full swing. Within the "Pale," the Jews had equal commercial rights with other citizens. Until the Polish rebellion of 1863 the Jews were permitted to own real estate, not only in cities but also in rural districts. After the rebellion this was forbidden to them as well as to the Poles. The foreign Jew could come to Russia freely and register on the same foreign passport as would be required from any other citizen of that country.

From what has been said, it follows that many of the limitations, which at present weigh down upon the Jews have been created only recently. The present reign, too, was begun with measures favoring the Jew. In 1903, in spite of the fact that the Jews, in accordance with a law which was confirmed in 1872, were forbidden to live in villages even within the "Pale," two hundred of these villages were turned into towns, and later fifty-seven more were added to this number. The measure rendered these places legally habitable by the Jews. On August 11, 1904, a law was passed wherein it was emphatically stated that Jews who were graduates from a university were to be permitted to live freely everywhere in the Empire. But since the repression of the revolutionary movement, this privilege has become a pretext for the restriction of the admittance of Jews into higher educational institutions.

From the viewpoint of the interests of the Russian state, the existing disabilities of the Jews are detrimental both to our economic life, and to the mutual relations among our citizens; they also work havoc upon the progress of education as well as upon the raising of the general level of our culture. Measures limiting a portion of the population in its rights to acquire property, to obtain an education in middle and higher state schools, to assume the responsibilities of a judge or of a lawyer, and, in general, restraining its freedom to pursue a professional career—are clearly irreconcilable with the promises given us in the manifesto of the 17th of October, 1906.

The fear that the granting of equal rights to the Jews may deprive the peasant of his land, is perfectly groundless. There are many other means whereby the tiller of the soil may be assured the possession of a portion of land. In the West we have systems such as that of the homestead, based on the inalienability of the family property (biеп de famille). Such systems may be traced back as far as the Middle Ages. The mediæval law forbids the taking away from the peasant, even for arrearage, of his agricultural implements and the cattle necessary for his labour,—not to speak of his land, which, however, it would be impossible to take away, since it is the suzerain that is its rightful owner. The indivisibility of the family estate, which only a short time ago was recognised by the Appellatory Division of our Senate, with reference to the Western Section, was achieving the same results because for the sale of such property the agreement of all the members of the family was required. Such a protection of the interests of the peasant landowner is essential in his relation to the capitalist, whether it be a member of the landed gentry or a wealthy peasant, known as a Kulak, or a Jew who lends money at interest, or an Armenian or, for that matter, a usurer of the Orthodox faith. In order that the land be retained by the peasant it is far more essential that only members of the peasant class be allowed to attend the auction sales of land sold because of the owner's arrears. And yet our law has permitted outsiders to attend if not the first auction sale, at least the second. I am strongly in favour of protecting the peasant's property, but I cannot see that to achieve this goal, it is necessary for a body politic based on law to limit any one's freedom of moving about, settling or choosing a profession. This view is shared by some of the political writers in Russia who, like the late B. N. Chicherin, Professor of the University of Moscow, have identified their names with the defence of the idea of equal rights for the Jews.

Copyright.svg PD-icon.svg This work is a translation and has a separate copyright status to the applicable copyright protections of the original content.

This work was published before January 1, 1926, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1926. It may be copyrighted outside the U.S. (see Help:Public domain).