Why did he buy the Reply of the Zaporozhian Cossacks?
January 29, 2014 8:48 AM   Subscribe

Alexander II was known as the liberator of serfs, because under his rule, in 1861, serfs were granted the freedom to marry without having to gain consent, to own property, and to own businesses. In 1862, Alexander II signed off on the ethnic cleansing of Circassians that began as a simple resettlement, and led to (by official Tsarist documents, more by other accounts) over 400,000 deaths. Circassians in fact protest the 2014 Olympics in Sochi being that it was the supposed site of their final expulsion.

In the late 1850s, Alexander II moved to assimilate the Polish people that had rebelled under his father's reign by restoring the rights of the Polish to elect local assemblies. However, Polish exiles abroad were organizing resistance to the Russian rule. Polish nobles did not approve of Alexander II's peasant reform, and an uprising began in January 1863 when Polish (and Lithuanian, and Byelorussian) youth protested their conscription into the Russian army. Owing to their lack of military strength, the rebels resorted to guerrilla warfare, only to have the resistance crushed in the summer of 1864, with many an execution and deportation. Following this event, Alexander II ended Polish autonomy just as his father had. The Polish language was banned at official places, and Polish people were forbidden from acquiring landed property.

Alexander III was 36 years old when his father was assassinated as an example of propaganda of the deed by the People's Will (Narodnaya Volya) in 1881, and his thirteen years of rule sought to reverse his father's liberalization of Russia. Alexander III dreamed of a single Russian nationality, language, and religion just as his reactionary grandfather Nicolas I had dreamed. With Konstatin Povedonostsev and Nikolay Ignatyev having Alexander III as their protégé, the Russian language was taught by mandate throughout the Russian empire, from the Germans to the Polish.

After a period of violent, anti-semitic, rioting pograms following the assassination of Alexander II, the May Laws, also known as "Temporary regulations regarding the Jews" came to remain in effect for over thirty years, and were terribly restrictive in that they prevented settlement only in existing Jewish agricultural colonies, forbade issuance of property and other deeds to Jews, and forbid Jews from transacting business on Sundays and Christian holidays. These laws, as well as subsequent legislation limiting Jewish access to high schools and universities, revocation of the right of Jews to sell alcohol, and measures banning Jewish participation in local elections (even in the Pale of Settlement) led to a surge in Jewish emigration to the United States, triggering a surge of American nativist sentiment in the early 20th century.
posted by oceanjesse (8 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Just got back from the awesome Tenement Museum in New York City. They indeed confirmed that nearly all the Jews settling in the Lower East Side during that period were escaping the May Laws/Pale of Settlement.
posted by Melismata at 9:15 AM on January 29, 2014 [3 favorites]

Thanks, this comes just the day after I was reading the Wikipedia article about Ukrainian history and trying to understand the complicated picture of Polish vs. Russian vs. Cossack picture.

As someone whose Jewish ancestors fled the region, my interest was recently rekindled from an unexpected source: reading about one of Brazil's most beloved authors, the enigmatic and glamorous Clarice Lispector. She was born into a Jewish Ukrainian family and this good biography of her describes how these conditions in the old country drove Jews not just to North but South America. For me it put a whole new perspective on what it meant for us to escape from the old country to become Californians.
posted by steinsaltz at 9:25 AM on January 29, 2014 [3 favorites]

the great historical irony of the 20th century is that Germany tried to kill all the Jews while Russia went communist.
posted by ennui.bz at 9:36 AM on January 29, 2014

Fascinating thanks! I just learned what beyond the pale means.

I also love the Tenement Museum. It provides food for thought for a life time. I still sometimes think about how many people slept in three rooms in the Jewish family's room/story. On two chairs, rather than the floor, because of what scurries around down there.
posted by Measured Out my Life in Coffeespoons at 9:45 AM on January 29, 2014 [4 favorites]

books. 1) Herzen's autobiography, the first part (childhood, youth and exile - actually first 3 parts but published together in english translation as the 'interesting bits') one of my favourite books (he was a rebel. But great book. and short)
2) The Enemy At His Pleasure uses a rare eyewitness account to show that first the Jews were ordered to settle in the Pale Of Settlement (baltic states, bit of poland i think but lithuania and poland are basically the same country) then the first world war's eastern front was fought there, so they lost everything, died eg from starvation and were often persecuted by the armies present, and then it was the second world war and a lot of the major slaughters were in this area where they were hated after being imposed on the local population during the late C19. Roughly. Anyway, books
posted by maiamaia at 1:57 PM on January 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

the great historical irony of the 20th century is that Germany tried to kill all the Jews while Russia went communist.

Some of us would rather call that a great tragic historical irony.
posted by oceanjesse at 2:42 PM on January 29, 2014

The issue of language and russification still persists for Circassians.

Also... an interesting connection from the Caucasian War to current events:

In 1845 Taras Shevchenko glorified the Circassian struggle against Russia in his poem The Caucasus. 2014 being the 200th anniversary of the poet's birth, a Ukrainian filmmaker has started a project called Наш Шевченко (our Shevchenko), filming short clips of people reciting parts of Shevchenko's writing. Clip number 76 was of 21-year old Serhiy Nihoyan, son of Armenian parents, reciting the following words from The Caucasus:
And glory, mountains blue, to you,
In ageless ice encased!
And glory, freedom's knights, to you,
Whom God will not forsake.
Keep fighting—you are sure to win!
God helps you in your fight!
For fame and freedom march with you,
And right is on your side!
A short time after that video was shot, Nihoyan became one of the first protesters killed by gunfire in Kyiv's EuroMaidan protests.
posted by Kabanos at 3:03 PM on January 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

[lulzy derail removed, maybe give the thread some time to get going?]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:44 PM on January 29, 2014

« Older Beautiful Eight-Legged Terrors   |   "Exceedingly sharp and as bright as a gentleman’s... Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments