«Jewish Observer»
December 2001
5762 Kislev

Main page To print
About Saveliy Dudakov's book "Paradoxes and caprices of philo-Semitism and anti-Semitism in Russia".

See beginning in No 14(17)


According to the book, the attitude of Russian tsars towards Jews varied greatly: from completely negative (Elisabeth's, daughter of Peter I, resolution on the entry of Jewish merchants to the country -"I don't want any profit from enemies of Christ") to restrictedly liberal of Alexander I, Liberator. On the whole, in the author's opinion, the tsarist policy towards Jews was anti-Judaistic. In the XIX century, with ridiculous regularity, a liberal tsar was changed for a "Jew-eater" tsar and the attitude towards Jews was appropriately changed too, even became worse. Alexander I, "being a good-natured man practiced a benevolent attitude towards Jewry". "Driven by curiosity ... he used to visit Jewish synagogues" and "adored Jewish cuisine". Hardly one could imagine his brother, Nikolai I, visiting a Jewish house. He could hardly see Jews. "Under his rule the Jewish people experienced nothing but misfortunes". However, his son, Alexander Nikolayevich, didn't suffer from zoological Judaphobia. Jews were grateful to him for exempting from "horrible military service", for liquidating the canton service, thus, terminating the forced christening". The heir of the Liberator became Alexander III. Having "pacified and frozen" the country stricken with acts of terrorism, as advised by his retinue, he practically had lit the green light for Jewish pogroms that began at the dawn of his rule (1881-1882). However, he was afraid that pogroms might cause the destabilization in the country. Once the tsar said to the General-Governor of Warsaw I.Gurko: "Deep in my heart I am always glad when Jews are beaten. Still we shouldn't let it happen".

The logical outcome of this government anti-Semitism was the policy of the last tsar - Nikolai II. He lifted all barriers against pogroms and violence over Jews. He was not ashamed of wearing the badge of the "Russian People Union" and promoted the spreading of the "Protocols of the Elderly of Zion". "What a deep thought!... How precise is the program! No doubt about their authenticity" he wrote on the margins of Nilus' book. Later on, however, upon the secret investigation initiated by P.Stolypin that had revealed the fraud, Nikolai said: "The Protocols should be confiscated. One can't use dirty methods to protect a noble case."

A vivid proof of inherited anti-Semitism of Russian tsars is the response of Nikolai II to the proposal of P.Stolypin and his government concerning the Jewish question. Stolypin thought that after the tsar's manifest dated October 17, 1905, which had granted civil equality to Russians, "the Jews had legal grounds to win full equality too" and "the most severe, ungrounded restrictions imposed on Jews" could be cancelled before the Duma solved radically the Jewish question. Nikolai refused to do this: "Despite all most convincing arguments in favor of the positive solution my internal voice persistently tells me not to do this. Until now my conscience has never failed me. So I shall follow its advice". "This fatal response" - said Dudakov - undoubtedly proves the fact that emperor's anti-Semitism was of religious character ... the emperor was a slave of his feelings but not facts. Unwillingness to solve urgent problems was pushing the country into abyss ..."


Only at the dawn of the XX century, it was Russian writers, philosophers and public leaders who realized in full swing the danger threatening the society's moral. They understood that the "Jewish question is related to the internal life of Russian people" and that "the infection of anti-Semitism has gone beyond the anti-Semitic circles already" (D.Filosofov). In early 1915, M.Gorky, L.Andreyev and F.Sologub set up a Russian society for studying Jewish life. Initially it was called the Anti-Semitic League. It undertook some actions to protect Jews - victims of false accusations and pogroms under the hard conditions of WWI. There was a questionnaire survey through newspapers about the attitude towards Jews and anti-Semitism. 500 responses came from "enemies and friends of Jewry". The aim of the survey was not only the attitude to Jews but also its motivation. When the processing was over, M.Gorky made a report upon the results in the Society (December 15, 1915) and then published his report in the magazine "Letopis". The report in some places is still actual. I think that such everyday work for the enlightenment of Russian society and for its awareness of Judaic values is needed nowadays. Saveliy Dudakov concentrated his attention on "paradoxes and caprices" of Russian philo-Semitism and anti-Semitism. It is to some extent a sensational book as it gives some unknown facts about the presence of Jewish blood in famous painters, writers or public leaders (I.Repin, A.Blok, K.Chukovsky, V.Nesselrod, S.Vitte and others).


Don't we sometimes overestimate its importance? Different and curious things may happen and did happen towards the attitude to Jews. For example, some Jews by blood (Y. Brofman, N. Notovich and others) were ardent haters of Jewry. On the other hand, there were non-Jews in Russia that experienced a thirst towards Jewry, to its spiritual values. Russian philosopher and poet Vladimir Solovjev (1855-1900) is a brilliant example of such attitude. There are interesting facts about him in the book. He was a convinced Christian. At the same time he successive and adamant in his actions in favor of Jews. Being a philo-Semite, he used to reveal Christian anti-Semitism in his articles. At the peak of persecution and pogroms in February 1882, a year after the assassination of Alexander II, he read a public lecture at the Saint-Petersburg University about the historical role of Jewry. The lecture got a striking resonance in the Russian society. V.Solovjev also used to collect signatures under the petition to the emperor for granting civil rights to Jews. In order to feel the spirit of Jewry he learned ancient Jewish language and read holy books. Being fatally ill, he prayed to God for relieving the fate of Jews, he felt guilty for "poor Israel". His last words were "Shma Israel". V.Solovjev predicted that all nations would follow Israel one day.


Should we, Jews, be indifferent to the goodness and evil manifested towards us by surrounding people? Apparently, not. We are self-sufficient and do not need anybody's patronage. Philo-Semitism and anti-Semitism mean certain actions, good and bad. There is only one explanation why we survived all cataclysms. It is our loyalty to the Torah granted to us from above. The book by S.Dudakov is for the mind and the soul. It is worth reading and reading.

"Dvarim", Israel

«Jewish Observer» - obozrevatel@jewukr.org
© 2001 Jewish Confederation of Ukraine - www.jewukr.org