Two Hundred Years Together, Chapter 3, Aleksandr Solzhenitsy

Por • 29 jul, 2022 • Sección: sociologia

Chapter 3

During the Reign of Nicholas 1

With regard to the Jews, Nicholas I was very resolute. It was during his reign, according to sources, that more than half of all legal acts relating to Jews, from Alexis Mikhailovich to the death of Alexander II*, were published, and the Emperor personally examined this legislative work to direct it.1

Jewish historiography has judged that his policy was exceptionally cruel and gloomy. However, the personal interventions of Nicholas I did not necessarily prejudice the Jews, far from it. For example, one of the first files he received as an inheritance from Alexander I was the reopening, on the eve of his death (while on his way to Taganrog), of the “Velije affair”—the accusation against the Jews for having perpetrated a ritual murder on the person of a child. The Jewish Encyclopedia writes that “to a large extent, the Jews are indebted to the verdict of acquittal to the Emperor who sought to know the truth despite the obstruction on the part of the people he trusted.” In another well‐known case, linked to accusations against the Jews (the “assassination of Mstislavl”), the Emperor willingly turned to the truth: after having, in a moment of anger, inflicted sanctions against the local Jewish population, he did not refuse to acknowledge his error.2 By signing the verdict of acquittal in the Velije case, Nicolas wrote that “the vagueness of the requisitions had not made it possible to take another decision”, adding nevertheless: “I do not have the moral certainty that Jews could have committed such a crime, or that they could not have done it.” “Repeated examples of this kind of assassination, with the same clues,” but always without sufficient evidence, suggest to him that there might be a fanatical sect among the Jews, but “unfortunately, even among us Christians, there also exists sects just as terrifying and incomprehensible.”3 “Nicholas I and his close collaborators continued to believe that certain Jewish groups practised ritual murders.”4 For several years, the Emperor was under the severe grip of a calumny that smelled of blood… therefore his prejudice that Jewish religious doctrine was supposed to present a danger to the Christian population was reinforced.”5

This danger was understood by Nicolas in the fact that the Jews could convert Christians to Judaism. Since the eighteenth century, the high profile conversion to the Judaism of Voznitsyn, a captain of the Imperial army, had been kept in mind. “In Russia, from the second half of the seventeenth century onwards, groups of ‘Judaisers’ multiplied. In 1823, the Minister of Internal Affairs announced in a report “the wide‐spread of the heresy of ‘Judaisers’ in Russia, and estimated the number of its followers at 20,000 people.” Persecutions began, after which “many members of the sect pretended to return to the bosom of the Orthodox Church while continuing to observe in secret the rites of their sect.”6

“A consequence of all this was that the legislation on the Jews took, at the time of Nicholas I… a religious spin.”7 The decisions and actions of Nicholas I with regard to the Jews were affected, such as his insistence on prohibiting them from having recourse to Christian servants, especially Christian nurses, for “work among the Jews undermines and weakens the Christian faith in women.” In fact, notwithstanding repeated prohibitions, this provision “never was fully applied… and Christians continued to serve” amongst the Jews.8  Sigue en…

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