ALEXANDER°


ALEXANDER°
ALEXANDER°, name of three Russian czars. ALEXANDER I, czar of Russia 1801–25. Alexander I's character and actions were to a large extent shaped by the vicissitudes he experienced in his struggle against napoleon . His ties with Metternich and the Holy Alliance were a result of his reaction against the spirit of the French Revolution; Alexander activated and joined the Alliance as "the gendarme of Europe" after Napoleon's downfall. When Alexander ascended the throne, Russian policy toward the large Jewish population living in former Polish territory, constituting the so-called Jewish question, had already been under active consideration for some time in government circles. In November 1802 Alexander appointed a committee to consider all aspects of the Jewish question in Russia. Some of its members were his personal friends and, like Alexander at that stage, harbored liberal ideas. The committee's report was approved by Alexander and promulgated in 1804 as the Jewish Statute. It was the first comprehensive piece of Russian legislation to deal with Jewish affairs. The statute, as well as subsequent legislative and administrative measures concerning the Jews taken during Alexander's reign, was based upon the assumption that the Jews were a parasitic element, an undesired legacy bequeathed by the defunct Polish state. The policy underlying the statute, therefore, was that the Jews must be directed toward employment in productive occupations, such as agriculture and industry. On the other hand the native population, especially the peasants in areas that had formerly belonged to Poland, had to be protected from alleged Jewish exploitation and influence. At the same time measures should be taken to raise the Jews from what was considered their debased cultural condition by encouraging secular education and assimilation into the Russian Christian social and cultural environment. A program of repression and restrictions was therefore embodied in the statute, which imposed limitations on Jewish residence, occupations, and land tenure. The full brunt of the legislation was partially averted during the Napoleonic Wars, when the Russian government was concerned that the Jewish population might be driven to help the French, but the measures were resumed with even greater force after the war. The efforts of the English missionary lewis way to induce Alexander to grant the Jews emancipation had no practical results. Alexander, at this time inclining to pietism and mysticism, initiated a policy intended to promote the conversion of the Jews to Christianity. In 1817 a "Society of Israelitic Christians" was founded and placed under the czar's personal patronage. ALEXANDER II, czar of Russia 1855–81. Developments in Russia under Alexander II and the measures he adopted were a result of the harsh legacy of the reign of his father nicholas i , the aftermath of the Crimean War, and his attitude toward the rising revolutionary movement in Russia. Alexander's accession raised great expectations among the Jewish as well as the Russian population. The Jews hoped for a change in the oppressive policies pursued by Nicholas I. The abolition in 1856 of the special system of recruiting Jews for the army (see cantonists ) appeared as a good omen. Alexander, however, was firmly opposed to the abolition of the pale of settlement restricting Jewish residence. The basic Russian policy toward the Jews, which aimed to "reeducate" them and make them "useful members" of the state (see Alexander I), underwent no change during his reign. Alexander II, however, attempted to promote their "improvement," and ultimate "fusion" with the Russian people, by extending the rights of certain groups within the Jewish population. These, by virtue of either their economic situation or education, were considered free of "Jewish fanaticism." His policy was also dictated by the demands of the Russian economy which could utilize Jewish capital and skill for its development. Alexander accordingly approved certain reforms to alleviate conditions for the Jews. In particular, the restrictions applying to rights of residence and entry into government service were eased for merchants of "the first guild" (i.e., wealthy merchants), university graduates, and artisans. All these partial and limited concessions were kept within the bounds personally prescribed by Alexander. In the last decade of his reign, when revolutionary tension mounted, the anti-Jewish oppressive policy again intensified. Nevertheless, Alexander was remembered by the Jews as a friendly and enlightened ruler. His assassination on March 13, 1881, brought this relatively liberal interlude to an end and initiated a period of violent reaction. ALEXANDER III, czar of Russia 1881–94. The reign of Alexander III was dominated by the rising tide of the revolutionary movement in Russia, in which Jewish youth took an increasing part. Ascending the throne after his father Alexander II's assassination, Alexander III was determined to suppress all liberal tendencies and maintain an autocracy. The czar's teacher, konstantin pobedonostsev , procurator-general of the Holy Synod (the supreme authority of the Russian Orthodox Church), a fanatic reactionary, became the most powerful figure in the state. The first organized pogrom against Jews was perpetrated in Yelizavetgrad (today kirovograd ), in southern Russia, in April 1881. It was followed by a series of similar outbreaks of anti-Jewish violence in the course of 1881–84. Alexander and his government accepted the theory that the pogroms stemmed from the inherent hatred of the indigenous population for the Jews because of their "economic domination." This led to the conclusion that the indigenous population must be shielded "against the harmful activity of the Jews." The "Temporary Regulations" of May 3, 1882 (see may laws ) followed. These prohibited Jews from resettling in the   villages or from holding real estate outside the urban areas, and authorized the village communities to oust the Jews already settled among them. These measures were succeeded by partial expulsions of "illegal" Jewish settlers from the interior of Russia, and in 1891 by the eviction of about one-half of the Jewish population from Moscow. Admission of the Jews to the bar was temporarily halted in 1889, and their participation in local government was curbed in 1892. A numerus clausus , restricting the proportion of Jews allowed to enter secondary schools and universities to between 3% and 10% of the admission total, was imposed in 1887. This policy was adopted by Alexander in the face of the majority report of the governmental commission under the chairmanship of Count Pahlen, sitting between 1883 and 1888, which was opposed to a regressive policy and counseled "a graduated system of emancipatory and equalizing laws." Alexander was ready to support the planned Jewish emigration from Russia suggested to the Russian government by baron maurice de hirsch . -BIBLIOGRAPHY: Gessen, in: YE, 1 (c. 1910), 797–839; idem, Istoriya Yevreyskogo Naroda v Rossii, 1 (1925/26), 138–239; Dubnow, Hist Russ, 1 (1916), 335–413; 2 (1918), 154 ff.; I. Levitats, Jewish Community in Russia, 1772–1844 (1943); L. Greenberg, Jews in Russia, 2 vols. (1944–51), index; Weinryb, in: L. Finkelstein (ed.), Jews, Their History, Culture and Religion, 1 (19603), 321–75 (incl. bibl.); Klausner, in: He-Awar, 7 (1960), 91–122; B-Z. Dinur, ibid., 10 (1963), 5–82.

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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