Interview with Solzhentisyn about "200 Years Together"
Moscow News -- January 1-7, 2003
With his Dvesti let vmeste, or 200 Years Together, a historical study of the relationship between Russians and Jews in Russia, Alexander Solzhenitsyn calls for a better understanding and mutual empathy between the two nationalities. The second volume of the book, spanning the period from the 1917 Revolution to the mid-1970s, is about to hit the bookstalls. Ahead of the publication the author was interviewed by Moskovskiye Novosti editor Viktor Loshak in his house at Troitse-Lykovo
Chukovskay: We had a meeting shortly before Book 1 came out, and it was clear that Book 2 was on the way and could have been brought out literally within weeks. Nonetheless, 18 months have passed since.
Why was the publication delayed for so long?
Solzhenitsyn: It was certainly going to take not weeks, but much longer. Also, Natalya Dmitrievna [the author's wife and the book's editor. - V.L.] decided to double-check all footnotes once again - in a broad context. It required the patience of Job because all source materials had to be checked out and many pages around each quotation read through carefully. That was how she worked. In all, there are 1,500 footnotes. A very large volume. Also, it was not our only work in the past year.
Chukovskay: You have been working on the book for 12 years in all?
Solzhenitsyn: I began in 1990. But there were long breaks. In the 1990s I wrote and published many other things.
Chukovskay: Before passing over to Book 2, I would like to say that our first interview (Burning Question, MN No.25 of June 26, 2001) triggered an extensive response. One typical comment in letters to the editor was this: The appearance of a book on the relationship between Russians and Jews merely fosters anti-Semitism.
Solzhenitsyn: I should say that, indeed, there was plenty of bitterness in early reviews- moreover, judging by the rate of their appearance, you might think that this bitterness was provoked, even before the book was read to the end, by the mere fact that I had taken up the issue at all.
Now, however, looking at the reviews in their entirety, including the latest commentaries, I have good reason to say that many of my readers consider the book useful and interesting. I have received words of gratitude from ordinary Jewish readers: "Thank you for your interesting book - we have learned so much from it." The latest reviews are more reasonable and balanced. Recently, I was happy to read a very profound article by Alexander Eterman, in Vremya iskat, a journal published in Israel.
It is in fact what I was dreaming about - that is to say, my call for mutual understanding was heeded and appreciated. A hand was held out. It isan extremely valuable article, a direct follow-up on my book.
Now, I rule out completely that my book could in any way have incited tension. Quite the contrary, tension has been left behind, and now it is time we calmly discussed the issue.
Chukovskay: In your book, you quote from Dostoevsky's diaries - "the final word on this great tribe has yet to be said." After you finished it, did you get an impression that you had now said this word?
Solzhenitsyn: No, that would be too presumptuous. I do not have this impression. I have said what I could, but the final word, if at all possible, has probably still to be said, not in our lifetime.
Chukovskay: Am I right to understand that in the first chapters of Book 2, devoted to the Revolution, you disclose the Russian noms de guerre of Jewish revolutionaries and count their number in the supreme Revolutionary bodies so as to show in the closing chapters, when talking about the need for nationwide repentance, that Jews have cause not only to resent Soviet power, but also to repent?
Solzhenitsyn: That's right, both.
Chukovskay: You use a specific word characterizing the revolutionary atmosphere at the time; you write that it is not only about the national factor - referring to the Bolsheviks of various nationalities and ethnic groups - but mainly about the non-national. What exactly does this word mean?
Solzhenitsyn: A lack of any national awareness. An international, cosmopolitan worldview.That was the rationale behind Bolshevism for a very long time. It is in fact the absence of any national sentiment. There is just none.
Chukovskay: You have addressed a subject wherein you yourself often invoke such concepts as "spirit," "consciousness," and "historical fate." Were these nebulous notions not an impediment to your well-researched work, based on solid facts?
Solzhenitsyn: Far from being an impediment, they were, to a very large extent, a part of my underlying concept. My book aims to go deep into Jewish thoughts, feelings, ideas, and mentality - that is to say, the realm of the spiritual. In this sense the objective of my book is not, in fact, scientific, but artistic. It is basically an artistic work. Except that there are not two or three characters, but a great many characters, with various, most diverse feelings and ideas. Facts alone are not enough to understand them. Generally speaking, I regard the spirit and consciousness the most substantial elements of history.
Chukovskay: I noticed that in Book 2, an impartial researcher at times gives way to a passionate writer. Say, you write about the Bolsheviks, Stalin, and you bring in plenty of color and hues.
Solzhenitsyn:Absolutely. As a matter of fact, I had to restrain a writer's passion all the time because otherwise I would have broken the rule of using a great number of quotations. My commentaries could not be colored patches: They had to be level, restrained. Language-wise, the book was not entirely free and easy for me, but then I reaped a bountiful psychological harvest.
Chukovskay: It seemed to me that you found the work on Part 2 more exciting.
Solzhenitsyn: More exciting, I agree. It was simply a sense of involvement: After all,this is my era. Book 1 is distant history to which I was not a party. But here I am a party.
Chukovskay: Your book comprises an extensive essay about Alexander Galich, with abundant quotations. Why does he touch you so: After all, Galich as a historical figure is out of proportion to the prominence that you gave him. The impression is that you had some personal dispute with Galich?
Solzhenitsyn: I took Galich as a typical proponent of a whole public trend. Again, this is easier to do not through a general description but through a specific person, a specific poet, with passages from him works. He was included in the book not as a specially selected personage, but as a representative, symbol, and mouthpiece of public sentiments. But of course once I touched on him, I could not but touch on his personal feelings, in particular repentance. As for a personal relationship, we had none.
Chukovskay: Your book left me wondering - in fact, it is the same question that you put to yourself: Can a people be judged as a whole? If a person was born Russian, Jewish, or Kazakh, is he obligated to answer for an entire nation for the rest of his life?
Solzhenitsyn: Although people do judge of nations on the practical level, there is not a sufficient base for this. Such judgment is wrong on a responsible, spiritual level. Nonetheless, people conveniently pass judgment on any categories: "Say, women are so and so." But how can you possibly judge of all women at once? Or: "Old people do this and that," or: "Britons are like that." People just make such judgments pragmatically, but they do not standup to strict, spiritual judgment.
Chukovskay: Book 2, however, left me with the impression that sometimes you are inclined to talk about a nation as a whole.
Solzhenitsyn: No, I do not pass judgment on a nation as a whole. I always distinguish between different social strata of Jews. You can observe this throughout Book 2. There are those who rushed headlong into the Revolution; others, quite the contrary, tried to hold back themselves and their young, and uphold the tradition. Still others were the work-horses of the enormous Soviet military-industrial complex - the plodders. I do not think that I pass judgment on a nation as a whole. I believe that it is not up to humans to make such judgments on a high spiritual level.
Chukovskay: And another thing. I have never before come across any information about a letter criticizing "Jewish bourgeois nationalists" that Stalin's Agitprop was forcing Jews prominent in science and culture to sign as soon as the"doctors' case" was opened. Furthermore, dozens of signatures, as you write, had already been gathered. These included Landau, Dunaevsky, Gilels, Oistrakh, and Marshak. But the leter was never published.
Solzhenitsyn: The letter to Pravda was never published because the doctors' case was going nowhere, and Beria sought to have his own way. It was not published until 1997 - in Istochnik, a bulletin of the RF Presidential Archive.
Chukovskay: You write with great warmth and respect about the seven people who went on Red Square in protest against the invasion of Czechoslovakia. They got straight into the clutches of the KGB. Four of them were Jewish. Do you believe it was a coincidence, or perhaps those were the most humiliated people? On the other hand, you talk about a special Jewish sensitivity to problems.
Solzhenitsyn: Not a personal grudge, of course. Sensitivity to problems. Jews accounted for a substantial share of the dissident movement. The demonstration by those seven people was organized: They knew each other, and they planned their action in advance. Sensitivity to general problems and the specific situation within the dissident movement, where the demonstration was born, were factors here.
Chukovskay: Two hundred years together. The main premise of your wide-ranging work is this: The truth about the Russians' relationship with the Jews is morally vital. To whom? To history? To both nationalities?
Solzhenitsyn: Any truth is morally vital to a person. Any truth in principle. The Jewish issue had for a long time been off-limits here. Zhabotinsky ridiculed the attitude in a commentary on an article by Osorgin: It is commonly believed that the best service that our Russian friends can render us is not to talk about us at all. Soviet Jews had that feeling for a long time. But after restrictions on Jewish immigration in the Soviet Union or Russia were lifted and an exodus began, now is just the time when the issue can be discussed openly. I for one felt entirely free, unrestrained, and confident that I was not causing Jews any harm socially. So I was stunned by such a large number of harsh, bitter reviews at first.
Chukovskay: What I find amazing is that you read the reviews at all, and follow the general trend.
Solzhenitsyn: I remember the general drift, but not each review in particular, of course.
Chukovskay: A personal question if I may. What was your reaction when all sorts of KGB scum went around calling you "Solzhenitser," ascribing Jewishness to you,among other lies?
Solzhenitsyn: I never lost my cool whatever state police were doing, whatever side of the ideological divide they sought to bring up against me - be it "Solzhenitser" or, quite the contrary, anti-Semitism. I saw that they were simply seething with rage and just did not know what stone to grab to hurl at me.
Chukovskay: You have a formula: a "ring of resentment." Does it refer to a ring of mutual resentment that impedes an objective view of a situation?
Solzhenitsyn: A ring is where it is difficult to find the beginning and the end. A ring, in the sense that it is a closed-circuit line, making research difficult, obscuring the origin of a dispute and its subsequent course.
Chukovskay: After you drew a line at a certain year, the Internet began to spread like wildfire, also leading to a measure of assimilation and dissolution of national identity. New relationships are rapidly evolving in the world. You do not take it upon yourself to appraise them. But what are the main elements of new relationships? How do you see them?
Solzhenitsyn: It was not by accident that I stopped at the exodus through Jewish emigration. I write in concluding remarks that I did not immediately hit on that cut-off line: At first I was planning for my book to span a period from the second integration of Jews in Russia, in 1795, until the mid-1990s. But, first of all, the exodus convinced me that the 200 years had already come to pass, almost to the year: In 1772, the first 100,000 Jews were allowed to integrate into Russia, while the 1970s marked a breakthrough in Jewish emigration. I simply cannot take it up to the mid-1990s, above all, because it is impossible to be a historian of the modern area. Very many processes are occurring behind the scenes: Little or nothing is known about them in the public domain while details about them may not be released until 20 or maybe even 50 years from now. This makes writing seriously and responsibly altogether impossible.
Chukovskay: Impossible for you, or do you believe that it is in principle impossible to be a historian today?
Solzhenitsyn: It is impossible to be a historian of the present day. Also, it is impossible for me: I am nearing the end of my lifetime. Concerning the Internet, I will say frankly that I do not follow it: It is a global phenomenon that will have its consequences. As for assimilation, it is a cultural process. There is no way you can assimilate just by picking up an idea or developing it on the Internet. Assimilation has to be absorbed on the inner level - it is a very complex process. My impression is that thus far it is proceeding haltingly in the world. Nations are still important, have some weight in the world - and they have their own identity, distinct from each other. But internationalization is certainly an ongoing process.How it will evolve, I can no longer tell.
Chukovskay: There is an expectation that the world could become a melting pot, where all nations will assimilate, or else the opposite, the economic divide will lead to even greater isolation.
Solzhenitsyn: I do not think it will become a melting pot. There will be greater isolation, I agree, if only due to the inevitable, and now obvious, glaring gap between the rich and the poor. It so happens that there are two biological species living on Earth. As for nations resisting a fade-out, this is just as well. Mankind should be many-colored - not in the sense of skin color but in the sense of the color spectrum of perception, variegation of cultures. Otherwise it would be boring. If the melting potidea worked, life would become impossibly dull and boring.
Chukovskay: How do you view the intensity of interethnic problems in Russia?
Solzhenitsyn: You see, numerous bloody conflicts were all but preordained by the breakup of a centuries-old empire, especially after decades of ruthless Communist rule. Remember, in the early 1990s the fear of a "Yugoslav scenario" was overriding. With God's grace, it bypassed us. And now it has conveniently been forgotten what an inferno it could have meant. Yes, the Chechendisaster caught up with us, but its root causes lie not in interethnic strife - at any rate, not on the part of the Russians. Altogether different factors and driving forces were at work there. But any interethnic tension,wherever it exists, is of course very dangerous, and everything must bedone to avoid or lessen it.
Chukovskay: Much in your book centers around Israel. Yet you admit that it will never become a motherland for all Jews, neither will the majority of them ever live there. What is it - a tragedy of Israel or a tragedy of the nation?
Solzhenitsyn: In studying Jewish sentiments and views, I naturally also studied Russian Jews who had absorbed Russian culture but left for Israel. I followed them, I cited them, and their life in Israel interests me as a continuation of these Russian-Jewish relations. At the very beginning of the book I specified, though, that I was studying the issue only within the bounds of Russia. As for speculation on what choice the Jews will ultimately make, I believe that it has already been made: There are still Jews in all countries of the world; there are Jews in Russia, although they are not being forcibly held here; there are Jews in the United States, in especially large numbers, and of course there are and there will be Jews in Israel. The Jewish people has a difficult fate. It will never be easy.
Chukovskay: You have finished the book. What are you doing or going to do now that the last word has been written?
Solzhenitsyn: I have some loose ends that need tying up. There is plenty of work to bedone yet. There is something to publish. Some of the publications will, I think, be made after I am gone. I am not embarking on any new projects. I have an ongoing project called Literary Collection. Some of it has been published, and more is forthcoming. I can take it up or leave off at any moment. It does not have a final, definitive form: These are simply comments on particular authors or even particular books. It is just my personal opinion as a writer.
True, at this point Natalya Dmitrievna added that the work was unique inthat it was not just a writer's opinion, nor a critic's opinion, but the opinion of a reader who happens to be a writer. And it is a very frankopinion.
Chukovskay: So, you took a long time to work on the book, and now you have finished it. Do you feel relieved?
Solzhenitsyn: I do. Because it is such a great responsibility. There is responsibility in every page, every footnote, every passage. The thoughts and feelings of Jews, especially of those with Russian culture, especially of high-minded people - I went to them and felt an affinity with them, as one does with characters in a work of fiction. But had I known how much effort this would require, I would never have started it. I had no idea how much hard work it
Possibly no other book by Alexander Solzhenitsyn has provoked such scathing criticism as has his 200 Years Together. Avowed anti-Semites read Book 1 as being sympathetic to the Jews. Liberal critics lambasted the book as nationalistic and stirring jingoist passions.
Considering how high passions were running over Book 1, which chronologically ended with the 1917 Revolution, now that the writer has taken his historical study up to the mid-1970s, it is bound to come underfire from weapons of all calibers.
After two meetings, following publication of each book, with Alexander Isaevich and his wife, Natalya Dmitrievna, who greatly facilitates the author's historical quests, I would like to suggest that Solzhenitsyn's latest work should not be seen as a dry piece of deadwood thrown into the fire of the perennial Russian debate as to who is to blame for every trouble under the sun.
Solzhenitsyn's is a different, above-the-fray vantage point. His is a different objective, totally devoid of writer's vanity: Not really needing our approval, Solzhenitsyn seeks to act as a kind of referee in a protracted historical debate. He does not seem to care even whether thereis still anyone left in the ring or whether Russian Jews, having acquired the Russian language and culture, have fully assimilated. Meanwhile, anti-Semites, for want of something better to do with their narrow minds, will keep harping on their tune, even if not a single Jew, so hateful to them, remains on the planet.
With his book, comprising evaluations of tsars, Khrushchev, Beria, Galich,and Zhabotinsky, and quotations from Lenin to Stalin to Grigory Pomerantsto Lydia Korneevna Chukovskaya, Solzhenitsyn stepped into the minefield of the Jewish issue. And he walked across it confidently - maybe because therei s no longer a mine that could blow up his authority.
"Russian Jew. Jew. Russian. How much blood has been spilled, how many tears shed over this; what untold suffering there has been, and at the same time how much joy in spiritual and cultural growth. There were, and there still are, many Jews who bore this brunt - being a Russian Jew and Russian at the same time. Two loves, two passions, two struggles - isn't this too much for one heart?"
Lydia Chukovskaya --- Copyright 2003 Moscow News.
Chapter 1 : To End of 18th Century
From the Beginnings in Khazaria
[G13] In this book the presence of the Jews in Russia prior to 1772 will not be discussed in detail. However, for a few pages we want to remember the older epochs.
One could begin, that the paths of Russians and Jews first crossed in the wars between the Kiev Rus and the Khazars- but that isn't completely right, since only the upper class of the Khazars were of Hebraic descent, the tribe itself being a branch of the Turks that had accepted the Jewish faith.
If one follows the presentation of J. D. Bruzkus, respected Jewish author of the mid 20th century, a certain part of the Jews from Persia moved across the Derbent Pass to the lower Volga where Atil [west coast of Caspian on Volga delta], the capital city of the Khazarian Khanate rose up starting 724 AD. The tribal princes of the Turkish Khazars, at the time still idol-worshippers, did not want to accept either the Muslim faith - lest they should be subordinated to the caliph of Baghdad - nor to
Christianity - lest they come under vassalage to the Byzantine emperor; and so the clan went over to the Jewish faith in 732. But there was also a Jewish colony in the Bosporan Kingdom [on the Taman Peninsula at east end of the Crimea, separating the Black Sea from the Sea of Azov] to which Hadrian had Jewish captives brought in 137, after the victory over Bar-Kokhba. Later a Jewish settlement sustained itself without break under the Goths and Huns in the Crimea; especially Kaffa (Feodosia) remained Jewish. In 933 Prince Igor [912-945, Grand Prince of Kiev, successor of Oleg, regent after death of Riurik founder of the Kiev Kingdom in 862] temporarily possessed Kerch, and his son Sviatoslav [Grand Prince 960-972] [G14] wrested the Don region from the Khazars. The Kiev Rus already ruled the entire Volga region including Atil in 909, and Russian ships appeared at Samander [south of Atil on the west coast of the Caspian]. Descendents of the Khazars were the Kumyks in the Caucasus. In the Crimea, on the other hand, they combined with the Polovtsy [nomadic Turkish branch from central Asia, in the northern Black Sea area and the Caucasus since the 10th century; called Cuman by western historians; see second map, below] to form the Crimean Tatars. (But the Karaim [a Jewish sect that does not follow the Talmud] and Jewish residents of the Crimean did not go over to the Muslim Faith.) The Khazars were finally conquered [much later] by Tamerlane [or Timur, the 14th century conqueror].
A few researchers however hypothesize (exact proof is absent) that the Hebrews had wandered to some extent through the south Russian region in west and northwest direction. Thus the Orientalist and Semitist Abraham Harkavy for example writes that the Jewish congregation in the future Russia "emerged from Jews that came from the Black Sea coast and from the Caucasus, where their ancestors had lived since the Assyrian and Babylonian captivity." J. D. Bruzkus also leans to this perspective. (Another opinion suggests it is the remnant of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel.) This migration presumably ended after the conquest of
Tmutarakans [eastern shore of the Kerch straits, overlooking the eastern end of the Crimean Peninsula; the eastern flank of the old Bosporan Kingdom] (1097) by the Polovtsy. According to Harkavy's opinion the vernacular of these Jews at least since the ninth century was Slavic, and only in the 17th century, when the Ukrainian Jews fled from the pogroms of Chmelnitzki [Bogdan Chmelnitzki, Ukrainian Cossack,1593-1657, led the successful Cossack rebellion against Poland with help from theCrimean Tatars], did Yiddish become the language of Jews in Poland.
[G15] In various manners the Jews also came to Kiev and settled there. Already under Igor, the lower part of the city was called "Kosary"; in 933 Igor brought Jews that had been taken captive in Kerch. Then in 965 Jews taken captive in the Crimea were brought there; in 969 Kosaren from Atil and Samander, in 989 from Cherson and in 1017 from Tmutarakan. In Kiev western Jews also emerged. in connection with the caravan traffic from west to east, and starting at the end of the eleventh century, maybe on account of the persecution in Europe during the first Crusade.
Later researchers confirm likewise that in the 11th century, the "Jewish element" in Kiev is to be derived from the Khazars. Still earlier, at the turn of the 10th century the presence of a "Khazar force and a Khazar garrison," was chronicled in Kiev. And already "in the first half of the 11th century the Jewish-Khazar element in Kiev played "a significant roll." In the 9th and 10th century, Kiev was multinational and tolerant.
At the end of the 10th century, in the time when Prince Vladimir [Vladimir I. Svyatoslavich 980-1015, the Saint, Grand Prince of Kiev] was choosing a new faith for the Russians, there were not a few Jews in Kiev, and among them were found educated men that suggested taking on the Jewish faith. The choice fell out otherwise than it had 250 hears earlier in the Khazar Kingdom. Karamsin [1766-
1826, Russian historian] relates it like this "After he (Vladimir) had listened to the Jews, he asked where their homeland was. 'In Jerusalem,' answered the delegates, 'but God has chased us in his anger and sent us into a foreign land.' 'And you, whom God has punished, dare to teach others?' said Vladimir. 'We do not want to lose our fatherland like you have.'" After the Christianization of the Rus, according to Bruzkus, a portion of the Khazar Jews in Kiev also went over to Christianity and
afterwards in Novgorod perhaps one of them - Luka Zhidyata - was even one of the first bishops and spiritual writers.
Christianity and Judaism being side-by-side in Kiev inevitably led to the learned zealously contrasting them. From that emerged the work significant to Russian literature, "Sermon on Law and Grace" ([by Hilarion, first Russian Metropolitan] middle 11th century), which contributed to the settling of a Christian consciousness for the Russians that lasted for centuries. [G16] "The polemic here is as fresh and lively as in the letters of the apostles." In any case, it was the first century of Christianity in Russia. For the Russian neophytes of that time, the Jews were interesting, especially in connection to their religious presentation, and even in Kiev there were opportunities for contact with them. The interest was greater than later in the 18th century, when they again were physically close.
Then, for more than a century, the Jews took part in the expanded commerce of Kiev. "In the new city wall (completed in 1037) there was the Jews' Gate, which closed in the Jewish quarter." The Kiev Jews were not subjected to any limitations, and the princes did not handle themselves hostilely, but rather indeed vouchsafed to them protection, especially Sviatopolk Iziaslavich [Prince of Novgorod 1078-
1087, Grand Prince of Kiev 1093-1113], since the trade and enterprising spirit of the Jews brought the princes financial advantage.
In 1113, Vladimir (later called "Monomakh"), out of qualms of conscience, even after the death of Sviatopolk, hesitated to ascend the Kiev Throne prior to one of the Svyatoslavich's, and "exploiting the anarchy, rioters plundered the house of the regimental commander Putiata and all Jews that had stood under the special protection of the greedy Sviatopolk in the capital city. .. One reason for the Kiev revolt was apparently the usury of the Jews probably, exploiting the shortage of money of the time, they enslaved the debtors with exorbitant interest." (For example there are indications in the "Statute" of Vladimir Monomakh that Kiev money-lenders received interest up to 50/ per annum.) Karamsin therein appeals to the Chronicles and an extrapolation by Basil Tatistcheff [1686-1750; student of Peter the Great, first Russian historian]. In Tatistcheff we find moreover "Afterwards they clubbed down many Jews and plundered their houses, because they had brought about many sicknesses to Christians and commerce with them had brought about great damage. Many of them, who had gathered in their synagogue seeking protection, defended themselves, as well as they could, and redeemed time until Vladimir would arrive." But when he had come, "the Kievites pleaded with him for retribution toward the [G17] Jews, because they had taken all the trades from Christians and under Sviatopolk had had much freedom and power... They had also brought many over to their faith."
According to M. N. Pokrovski, the Kiev Pogrom of 1113 had social and not national character. (However the leaning of this "class-conscious" historian toward social interpretations is well-known.)
After he ascended to the Kiev throne, Vladimir answered the complainants, "Since many [Jews] everywhere have received access to the various princely courts and have migrated there, it is not appropriate for me, without the advice of the princes, and moreover contrary to right, to permit killing and plundering them. Hence I will without delay call the princes to assemble, to give counsel." In the Council a law limiting the interest was established, which Vladimir attached to Yaroslav's "Statute." Karamsin reports, appealing to Tatistcheff, that Vladimir "banned all Jews" upon the conclusion of the Council, "and from that time forth there were none left in our fatherland." But at the same time he qualifies "in the Chronicles in contrast it says that in 1124 the Jews in Kiev died [in a great fire]; consequently, they had not been banned." (Bruzkus explains, that it "was a whole Quarter in the best part of the city.. at the Jew's Gate next to the Golden Gate.")
At least one Jew enjoyed the trust of Andrei Bogoliubskii [or Andrey Bogolyubsky] in Vladimir. "Among the confidants of Andrei was a certain Ephraim Moisich, whose patronymic Moisich or Moisievich indicates his Jewish derivation," and who according to the words of the Chronicle was among the instigators of the treason by which Andrei was murdered. However there is also a notation that says that under Andrei Bogoliubskii "many Bulgarians and Jews from the Volga territory came and had themselves baptized" and that after the murder of Andrei his son Georgi fled to a Jewish Prince in Dagestan.
In any case the information on the Jews in the time of the Suzdal Rus is scanty, as their numbers were obviously small.
[G18] The "Jewish Encyclopaedia" notes that in the Russian heroic songs (Bylinen) the "Jewish Tsar" - e.g. the warrior Shidowin in the old Bylina about Ilya and Dobrin'a - is "a favourite general moniker for an enemy of the Christian faith." At the same time it could also be a trace of memories of the struggle against the Khazars. Here, the religious basis of this hostility and exclusion is made clear. On this basis, the Jews were not permitted to settle in the Muscovy Rus.
The invasion of the Tatars portended the end of the lively commerce of the Kiev Rus, and many Jews apparently went to Poland. (Also the Jewish colonization into Volhynia and Galicia continued, where
they had scarcely suffered from the Tatar invasion.) The Encyclopaedia explains "During the invasion of the Tatars (1239) which destroyed Kiev, the Jews also suffered, but in the second half of the
13th century they were invited by the Grand Princes to resettle in Kiev, which found itself under the domination of the Tatars. On account of the special rights, which were also granted the Jews in other possessions of the Tatars, envy was stirred up in the town residents against the Kiev Jews." Similar happened not only in Kiev, but also in the cities of North Russia, which "under the Tatar rule, were accessible for many [Moslem? see note 1] merchants from Khoresm or Khiva, who were long
since experienced in trade and the tricks of profit-seeking. These people bought from the Tatars the principality's right to levy Tribute, they demanded excessive interest from poor people and, in case of their failure to pay, declared the debtors to be their slaves, and took away their freedom. The residents of Vladimir, Suzdal, and Rostov finally lost their patience and rose up together at the pealing of the
Bells against these usurers; a few were killed and the rest chased off." A punitive expedition of the Khan against the mutineers was threatened, which however was hindered via the mediation of Alexander Nevsky. "In the documents of the 15th century, Kievite [G19] Jewish tax-leasers are mentioned, who possessed a significant fortune."
Note 1. The word "Moslem" is in the German but not French translation. I am researching the Russian original.
The Judaizing Heresy
[G19] "A migration of Jews from Poland to the East, including White Russia [Belarus], should also be noted in the 15th century there were lessers of tolls and other assessments in Minsk, Polotsk" and in Smolensk, although no settled congregations were formed there. After the short-lived banishment of Jews from Lithuania (1496) the "eastward movement went forth with particular energy at the beginning of the 16th century."
The number of Jews that migrated into the Muskovy Rus was insignificant although "influential Jews at that time had no difficulties going to Moscow." Toward the end of the 15th century in the very center of the spiritual and administrative power of the Rus, a change took place that, though barely noticed, could have drawn an ominous unrest in its wake, and had far-reaching consequences in the spiritual domain. It had to do with the "Judaizing Heresy." Saint Joseph of Volokolamsk [1439-1515] who resisted it, observed "Since the time of Olga and Vladimir, the God-fearing Russian world has never experienced such a seduction."
According to Kramsin it began thus the Jew Zechariah, who in 1470 had arrived in Novgorod from Kiev, "figured out how to lead astray two spirituals, Dionis and Aleksei; he assured them, that only the Law of Moses was divine; the history of the Redeemer was invented; the Messiah was not yet born; one should not pray to icons, etc. Thus began the Judaizing heresy." Sergey Solovyov [1820-79; great Russian historian] expands on this, that Zechariah accomplished it "with the aid of five accomplices, who also were Jewish," and that this heresy "obviously was a mixture of Judaism and Christian rationalism that denied the mystery of the holy Trinity and the divinity of Jesus Christ." "The Orthodox Priest Aleksei called himself Abraham, his wife he called Sarah and along with Dionis corrupted many spirituals and lay.. But it is hard to understand how Zechariah was able so easily to increase the number of his Novgorod pupils, since his wisdom consisted entirely and only in the rejection of Christianity and the glorification of Judaism [G20]..Probably, Zechariah seduced the Russians with the Jewish cabbala, a teaching that captured curious ignoramuses and in the 15th century was well-known, when many educated men "sought in it the solution to all important riddles of the human spirit. The cabbalists extolled themselves .., they were able.. to discern all secrets of nature, explain dreams, prophecy the future, and conjure spirits."
J. Gessen, a Jewish historian of the 20th century represents in contrast the opinion "It is certain, that Jews participated neither in the introduction of the heresy.. nor its spread" (but with no indication of his sources). The Encyclopaedia of Brockhaus and Efron [1890-1906, Russian equivalent to the 1911 Britannica] explains "Apparently the genuinely Jewish element played no outstanding roll, limiting its contribution to a few rituals." The "Jewish Encyclopaedia," which appeared about the same time, writes on the other hand "today, since the publication of the 'Psalter of the Judaizers' and other memorials, the contested question of the Jewish influence on the sects must.. be seen as settled in a positive sense."
"The Novgorod heretics respected an orderly exterior, appeared to fast humbly and zealously fulfilled all the duties of Piety," they "made themselves noticed by the people and contributed to the rapid spreading of the heresy." When after the fall of Novgorod Ivan Vassilyevich III [1440-1505, English name would be "John son of Basil," Grand Prince of Moscoy, united the greater Russian territory under Moscow's rule] visited the city, he was impressed by their Piety and took both of the first heretics, Aleksei and Dionis, to Moscow in 1480 and promoted them as high priests of the Assumption of Mary and the Archangel cathedrals of the Kremlin. "With them also the schism was brought over, the roots of which remained in Novgorod. Aleksei found special favor with the ruler and had free access to him, and with his Secret Teaching" enticed not only several high spirituals and officials, but moved the
Grand Prince to appoint the archimandrite [head abbot in Eastern Orthodoxy] Zossima as Metropolitan, that is, the head of the entire Russian church - a man from the very circle of the those he had enticed with the heresy. In addition, he enticed Helena to the heresy - daughter-in-law of the Grand Prince, widow of Ivan the [G21] Younger and mother of the heir to the throne, the "blessed nephew
The rapid success of this movement and the ease with which it spread is astonishing. This is obviously to be explained through mutual interests. "When the 'Psalter of the Judaizing' and other works - which could mislead the inexperienced Russian reader and were sometimes unambiguously antichristian - were translated from Hebrew into Russian, one could have assumed that only Jews and Judaism would have been interested in them." But also "the Russian reader was.. interested in the translations of Jewish religious texts" - and this explains the "success, which the propaganda of the 'Judaizing' had in various classes of society." The sharpness and liveliness of this contact reminds of that which had emerged in Kiev in the 11th century.
The Novgorod Archbishop Gennadi uncovered the heresy in 1487, sent irrefutable proofs of it to Moscow, hunted the heresy out and unmasked it, until in 1490 a church Council assembled to discuss the matter, under leadership of the just- promoted Metropolitan Sossima. "With horror they heard the complaint of Gennadi, .. that these apostates insult Christ and the mother of God, spit on the cross, call the icons idolatrous images, bite on them with their teeth and throw them into impure places, believe in neither the kingdom of Heaven nor the resurrection of the dead, and entice the weak, while remaining quiet in the presence of zealous Christians." "From the Judgment [of the Council] it is apparent, that the Judaizers did not recognize Jesus Christ as the Son of God, that they taught, the Messiah is not yet appeared, that they observe the Old Testament Sabbath day rather than the Christian Sunday." It was suggested to the Council to execute the heretics but, in accordance with the will of Ivan III, they were sentenced instead to imprisonment and the heresy was anathematized. "In view of the coarseness of the
century and the seriousness of the moral corruption, such a punishment was [G22] extraordinarily mild." The historians unanimously explain this hesitation of Ivan in that the heresy had already spread widely under his own roof and was practiced by well-known, influential people," among whom was Feodor Kuritsyn, Ivan's plenipotentiary Secretary (so to speak the "Foreign Minister"), "famous on account of his education and his capabilities." "The noteworthy liberalism of Moscow flowed from the temporary 'Dictator of the heart' F. Kuritsyn. The magic of his secret salon was enjoyed even by the Grand Prince and his daughter-in-law.. The heresy was by no means in abatement, but rather.. prospered magnificently and spread itself out. At the Moscow court.. astrology and magic along with the attractions of a pseudo-scientific revision of the entire medieval worldview" were solidly propagated, which was "free-thinking, the appeal of enlightenment, and the power of fashion."
The Jewish Encyclopaedia sets forth moreover that Ivan III "out of political motivations did not stand against the heresy. With Zechariah's help, he hoped to strengthen his influence in Lithuania," and besides that he wanted to secure the favour of influential Jews from the Crimea "of the princes and rulers of Taman Peninsula, Zacharias de Ghisolfi," and of the Jew Chozi Kokos, a confidant of the Khan Mengli Giray [or Girai].
After the Council of 1490 Sossima continued to sponsor a secret society for several years, but then was himself discovered, and in 1494 the Grand Prince commanded him to depose himself without process and to withdraw into a cloister, without throwing up dust and to all appearances willingly. "The heresy however did not abate. For a time (1498) its votaries in Moscow seized almost all the power, and their charge Dmitrii, the Son of the Princess Helena, was coronated as Tsar." Soon Ivan III reconciled himself with his wife Sophia Palaiologos, and in 1502 his son Vassili inherited the throne. (Kurizyn by this time was dead.) Of the heretics, after the Council of 1504, one part was burned, a second part thrown in prison, and a third fled to Lithuania, "where they formally adopted the Mosaic faith."
It must be added that the overcoming of the Judaizing Heresy gave the spiritual life of the Muscovy Rus at turn of the 16th century a new impetus, and contributed to recognizing the need for spiritual education, for schools for the Spiritual; and the name of Archbishop Gennadi is associated with the collecting and [G23] publication of the first church-Slavic Bible, of which there had not to that point been a consolidated text corpus in the Christian East. The printing press was invented, and "after 80 years this Gennadi Bible.. was printed in Ostrog (1580/82) as the first church-Slavic Bible; with its appearance, it took over the entire orthodox East." Even academy member S. F. Platonov gives a generalizing judgment about the phenomenon "The movement of Judaizing no doubt contained elements of the
West European rationalism.. The heresy was condemned; its advocates had to suffer, but the attitude of critique and skepticism produced by them over against dogma and church order remained."
Today's Jewish Encyclopaedia remembers "the thesis that an extremely negative posture toward Judaism and the Jews was unknown in the Muskovy Rus up to the beginning of the 16th century," and derives it from this struggle against the Judaizers. Judging by the spiritual and civil measures of the circumstances, that is thoroughly probable. J. Gessen however contends "it is significant, that such a specific coloring of the heresy as Judaizing did not lessen the success of the sects and in no way led to the development of a hostile stance toward the Jews."
You're in; no, you're out. Okay, you're in
[G23] Judging by its stable manner of life, it was in neighbouring Poland that the biggest Jewish community emerged, expanded and became strong from the 13th to the 18th century. It formed the basis of the future Russian Jewry, which became the most important part of World Jewry until the 20th century. Starting in the 16th century "a significant number of Polish and Czech Jews emigrated" into the Ukraine, White Russia and Lithuania. In the 15th century Jewish merchants traveled still unhindered from the Polish-Lithuanian Kingdom to Moscow. But that changed under Ivan [IV] the Terrible Jewish merchants were forbidden entry. When in 1550 the Polish King Sigismund August desired to permit them free entry into Russia, this was denied by Ivan with these words "We absolutely do not permit the entry of the Jew into my lands, because we do not wish to see evil in our lands, but rather may God grant that the people in my land may have rest from that irritation. And you, our brother, should not write us on account of the Jews again," for they had "alienated the Russians from [G24] Christianity, brought poisonous plants into our lands and done much evil to our lands."
According to a legend, Ivan IV [the Terrible], upon the annexation of Polotsk in 1563, ordered all Jews to be baptized in response to complaints of Russian residents "against evil things and bullying" by Jews, leasers and others empowered by Polish magnates. Those that refused, apparently about 300 persons, are supposed to have been drowned in his presence in the Dvina. But careful historians,
as e.g. J. I. Gessen, do not confirm this version even in moderated form and do not mention it once.
Instead of that, Gessen writes that under the False Dimitry I (1605/06) both Jews and other foreigners "in relatively large number" were baptized in Moscow. The story goes according to "In the Time of Troubles" [by Sergey Ivanov, regarding the 15-year period 1598-1613 of confusion following the failed Rurik Dynasty] that the False Dimitry II (the "Thief of Tushino") was "born a Jew." (The sources give contradictory information regarding the ancestry of "the Thief of Tushino.")
[Sozhenitsyn relates that after the "Time of Troubles," Jews, like Polish-Lithuanian folk in general had restricted rights in Russia. [G25] There was prohibition of peddling in Moscow, or to travel beyond Moscow at all. But ordinances were contradictory.
[Mikhail Feodorovich (Michael son of Theodore; 1613 became first Romanov chosen as Tsar) did not pursue a principial policy against Jews.
[Alexis Michaelovitch (Alex son of Michael; Tsar 1645). No sign of discrimination against Jews in the law book; free access granted to all cities including Moscow. During the seizure of Lithuania, as well as later wars, treatment of Jews in captivity was not worse than other foreigners.
[After the ..(1667) (in which ...and the whole eastern bank of the River remained Russian) Jews were invited to stay, and many did. Some converted to Christianity and some of these became heads of
noble families. A small number of baptized migrated to a Cossack village on the Don and a dozen Cossack families descended from them. Samuel Collins, an Englishman residing in Moscow at the time, related that "in a short time, the Jews have in a remarkable way spread through the city and court, helped by the mediation of a Jewish surgeon."
[Feodor III, son of Alexis (Theodore, 1676 Tsar]. Jews not to be assessed toll on entry to Moscow, because they are not allowed in, whether with or without wares. But the practice did not correspond to the theory.
[In the first year of Peter the Great, doors were opened to talented foreigners, but not Jews on account of their being "rogues and deceivers." Yet there is no evidence of limitations imposed on them, nor special laws. Indeed, Jews were found close to the Emperor
• Vice-chancellor Baron Peter Shafirov
• close confidant Abram Veselovsky, later accused of thieving
• his brother, Isaac Veselovsky
• Anton de Vieira, general police master of Petersburg
• Viviere, head of secret police
and others. To A. Veselovsky, Peter wrote that what matters is competence and decency, not baptism or circumcision.
[Jewish houses in Germany inquired whether Russia would guarantee their commerce with Persia, but never received it.
[At start of 18th century there was increased Jewish trade activity in Little Russia (Ukraine), [G27] a year before Russian merchants got the right. Hetman (Ukrainian chief) Skoropadski gave order several times for their expulsion but this was not obeyed and Jewish presence actually increased.
[Catherine I (1724 Tsarina) decreed removal of Jews from Ukraine and Russian cities; but only lasted one year.
[Peter II (Tsar 1727) permitted Jews into Little Russia, first as "temporary visits" on the ground of their usefulness for trade, then, more and more reasons found to make it permanent. Under Anna (1730 Tsarina), this right was extended to Smolensk and Slobodsky. In 1734 permission was given to distil brandy, and in 1736 it was permitted to import vodka from Poland into Russia.
[Baltic financier Levy Lipman probably bailed out the future Tsarina Anna financially while she was living in Courland. [G28] Later, he achieved a high rank in her court in financial administration, and received various monopoly rights.]
Elisabeth [1741 Tsarina] however issued a Ukase [imperial Russian decree] one year after taking the throne (Dec 1742) "Jews are forbidden to live anywhere in our realm; now it has been made known to us, that these jJws still find themselves in our realm and, under various pretexts, especially in Little Russia, they prolong their stay, which is in no way beneficial; but as we must expect only great injuries to our loyal subjects from such haters of the name of our Saviour Jesus Christ, [G29] we order all Jews, male and female, along with their entire possession, to be sent without delay from our realm, over the border, and in the future not allowed back in, unless it should be that one of them should
confess our Greek-Christian religion."
This was the same religious intolerance that shook Europe for centuries. The way of thinking of that time was not unique in any special Russian way, nor was it an exclusively Jew-hostile attitude. Among
Christians the religious intolerance was not practiced with any less cruelty. Thus, the Old Believers, i.e. men of the same orthodox faith, were persecuted with fire and sword.
This Ukase of Elisabeth "was made known throughout the realm. But immediately attempts were made to move the Ruler to relent." The military chancellor reported to the Senate from the Ukraine that already 140 people were evicted, but that "the prohibition for Jews to bring goods in would lead to a reduction in state income." The Senate reported to the Tsarina that "trade had suffered great damage in Little Russia as well as the Baltic provinces by the Ukase of the previous year to not allow Jews into the realm, and also the state burse would suffer by the reduction of income from tolls." The Tsarina answered with the resolution "I desire no profit from the enemies of Christ."
[Sozhenitsyn discusses contradictory sources as to the number of Jews that were actually evicted, ranging from almost none, to 35,000, the latter figure having questionable origins; [G30] strong resistance to the edict by Jews, land proprietors and the state apparatuses meant it was enforced almost as little as previous attempts had been.
[(G31) Catherine II, Tsarin 1762 in consequence of a coup, and also being a neophyte to Orthodoxy herself, was unwilling to start her reign opening things up for Jews, though the Senate advised for it. Jews pressed for it and had spokesmen in Petersburg, Riga, and Ukraine. [G32] She found a way around her own law in permitting their entry for colonization into "New Russia" [area between Crimea and Moldavia], which was still a wasteland. Was organized secretly from Riga, and the nationality of the Jews was kept more or less secret. Jews went there from Poland and Lithuania.
[In the first Partition of Poland, 1772, Russia reacquired White Russia (Belarus) along with her 100,000 Jews.]
After the 11th century more and more Jews came into Poland because princes and later, kings encouraged "all active, industrious people" from western Europe to settle there. Jews actually received special rights, e.g. in 13th c., from Boleslav the Pious; in 14th c., from Kasimir the Great; in 16th c., from Sigismund I and Stephan Bathony; though this sometimes alternated with repression, e.g. in 15th c., by Vladislav Yagiello and Alexander, son of Kasimir there were two pogroms in Krakow. In 16th c several ghettos were constructed partly to protect them. The Roman Catholic spirituals were the most continuous source of a hostile stance. Nevertheless on balance it must have been a favourable environment, since in first half of 16th c. [G33] the Jewish population increased substantially. There was a big role for Jews in the business activity of landlords in that they became leasers of the brandy distilling operations.
After the Tater devastation, Kiev in the 14th c. came under Lithuania and/or Poland, and in this arrangement "more and more Jews wandered from Podolia and Volhynia into the Ukraine," in the regions of Kiev, Poltava, and Chernigov. This process accelerated when a large part of Ukraine came directly under Poland in the Union of Lublin, 1569. The main population consisted of orthodox peasants, who for a long time had had special rights and were free of tolls. Now began an intensive colonization of the Ukraine by the polish Szlachta (Polish nobility) with conjoint action by the Jews. "The Cossacks were forced into immobility, and obligated to perform drudgery and pay taxes.. The Catholic lords burdened the orthodox peasants with various taxes and service duties, and in this exploitation the Jews also partly played a sad role." They leased from the lords the "propination," i.e. the right to distil vodka and sell it, as well as other trades. "The Jewish leasers, who represented the Polish lord, received - of course only to a certain degree - the power that the landholder had over the peasants; and since the Jewish leasers.. strove to wring from the peasants a maximum profit, the rage of the peasants rose not only against the Catholic landlords but also against the Jewish leasers. When from this situation a bloody uprising of the Cossacks arose in 1648 under leadership of Chmelnitsky, Jews as well as Poles were the victims" - 10,000 Jews died.
The Jews were lured in by the natural riches of the Ukraine and by polish magnates that were colonizing the land, and thus assumed an important economic role. Since they served the interests of the landlords and the regime.. the Jews brought on themselves the hatred of the residents." N. I. Kostomarov adds that the Jews leased not only various branches of the privileged industries but even the orthodox churches, gaining the right to levy a fee for baptisms.
After the uprising, the "Jews, on the basis of the Treaty of Belaia Tserkov (1651) were again given the right to resettle in the Ukraine.. The Jews were like before resident and leaser of the royal industries and the industries of the Szlachta, and so it was to remain."
"Going into the 18th c. brandy distilling was practically the main profession of Jews." "This trade often led to conflicts with the peasants, who sometimes were drawn into the taverns not so much because well-to-do, but on account of their poverty and misery."
Included among the restrictions placed on the Polish Jews in response to demands of the Catholic church was the prohibition against Jews having Christian house- servants.
[G34] Because of the recruitment coupled with the state tax increases in neighbouring Russia, not a few refugees came to Poland, where they had no rights. In the debates of Catherine's commission for reworking a new Law code (1767/68), one could hear that in Poland "already a number of Russian refugees are servants to Jews."