The Emperors and Czars of Europe
Czar Alexander III of Russia
Reign 1881-1894.

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Alexander III Alexandrovich (26 Feb 1845 20 Oct 1894) (Russian: Александр III Александрович, Aleksandr III Aleksandrovich) reigned as Emperor of Russia from 13 March 1881 until his death in 1894. He was born in St. Petersburg and  was the second son of Czar Alexander II by his wife Princess Marie of Hesse and by Rhine.

As Czar, Alexander III engaged in anti-Semitic policies such as tightening restrictions on where Jews could live in the Pale of Settlement and restricting the occupations that Jews could attain. The pogroms of 1881 occurred at the beginning of Alexander III's reign. Anti-Semitic policies under both Alexander III and his successor, Nicholas II, encouraged the Jewish immigration to the United States from 1880 on.

The administration of Alexander III enacted the May Laws in 1882 that imposed harsh conditions on the Jews as a people for the alleged role of some Jews in the assassination of Alexander II.

Below are two articles as published in the New-York Daily Tribune in 1891, that describe the Jewish experience in Russia during this time.

photo: Czar Alexander III of Russia. From Wikipedia.


From the New-York Daily Tribune
May 31, 1891:



Letter from St. Petersburg, to the Berliner Tageblatt [newspaper], May 10, 1891:

The persecution of the Jews in the central part of the country recalls the fanaticism of the darkest days of the Middle Ages. What false prophets preached in theory has become a terrible reality in this land of Caesarism, through the intolerance of orthodox disciples; a reality which proves as nothing else the lack of European civilization. Men who fulfill every duty required by the State, who perform every duty performed by other citizens, are termed by law, "inorodcy," (foreigners), and are treated by the folk as enemies. Why? Simply because they acknowledge a religion in which the founder of Christianity was born.

Since 1881, when Ignatieff promulgated the terrible Jewish laws the lives of the 5,000,000 Russian Hebrews who, with few exceptions led a pitiful, beggarly existence, have been passed in unbroken war against the frightful abuse and persecution of the authorities. Eternal lies are the cause of this; false accusations against the Jews of crimes against the State, the authorities, Russian citizens and a Draconic code of laws which robs them of the privileges of honest subjects. A late cause of this inhuman condition is the desire of dishonest Government servants to bent upon the plunder of their fellow citizens. Robbers! Men who are obliged to live crowded together paint the Jews to the Czar as terrible robbers, like so many sheep; who have no whole pieces of clothing upon their backs; men whose rags draw tears to the eyes of the beholder; whose only pleasure is the practice of the commands of their religion! If the head officer of the district--the Pristaw--happens to owe a gambling debt, the poor creatures are not even sure of their miserable lives. As in the Middle Ages, the unfortunate people save, with great difficulty, a few hundred dollars for their children, only to be robbed in the middle of the night. They are plundered every week, every day, every hour by the almighty policemen. And when their money is gone they are driven from their homes.

The Ignatieff laws forbade the Jews the right of sojourn outside of the cities and the market places, the renting of farms, the acceptance of mortgages. The hardest measure, however, was the confinement of all Jewish inhabitants of the country to certain governments or districts. In addition to Poland, these districts are Vilna, Kovno, Witebsk, Grodno, Minsk, Mohilev, Volhynia, Podolia, the eight governments of West Russia; Kiew, Tschernigow; and Pultova, the three governments of Russia-Minor, and Jekatarinoslaw, Tauria, Cherson and Bessarabia, the four governments of South Russia. Beyond the boundaries of these districts the Russian Hebrew dare not go, unless he has secured special privileges by education or money. Merchants of the first order--that is, those who are ranked in the highest tax list--and Hebrews with academic degrees have the privilege of settling in other parts of Russia. It is more correct to say that such Hebrews had that privilege, as the attempt has been made to withdraw even that. Reforms are planned for the professions of law and engineering, with the intention of decreasing the percentage of Hebrews within them. Even the privilege of studying at the university is to be restricted. Many boys who have been able to graduate from the gymnasia after heavy monetary sacrifices on the part of their parents, have not received Governmental permission to enter the universities.

For the laborer it is harder. One day the head of a city government orders the Jews to sell only wares which they themselves have manufactured; another day he drives them from the city. And yet these same Jewish citizens are obliged to perform military service as other citizens; to pay heavier taxes than their Russian neighbors! Is it any wonder that policemen try to gain the favor of their superiors by a cruel interpretation of the law? Can one wonder that they take advantage of a source of income which is easy to control?

The terrible persecutions in Moscow became known to the Russian public only by accident. It was reported in Governmental circles that the aged Prince Dolgorukoff was bribed continually by the Jews; that thus only could the increase in the number of Jews in Moscow be explained. They decided, therefore, to get rid of the octogenarian. They would not admit that he had been influenced by feelings of pity and humanity. They feared to see the Jews increase in numbers even during the few years allotted to him on earth. They deprived the aged man of one of the principal offices in the kingdom and sent him to Western Europe for recreation. They drove hundreds and thousands of the people whom he had protected from their beds and exposed them to the elements, hunger and sickness. What excuses are given for this cruel conduct? At times they say that the laws require it; at times they acknowledge its illegality, but assert that they cannot permit the ancient capital of Russia to be made a new Jerusalem!

A few days ago twenty-five Jewish workmen were dismissed from a printing establishment in Moscow and sent back to the Jewish districts. The majority of these men had worked as pirates in Moscow since 1874. In extenuation of the expulsion it was alleged that printing was to be classed among the arts and not among the trades.

Similar assertions are made whenever necessary. A cutter, for instance, is called upon to do the work of a presser. If the poor fellow cannot accomplish the work he is expelled from the laborers' guild and is maltreated and persecuted by the police. The greatest sufferers are hoary-headed men who are no longer able to do their own work.

In the village of Lepetischa 100 families have received orders to leave the place, because, it is alleged, their names were not in the registers before the year 1882! What do registers signify in Russia? Little attention is paid to registration and the Jews have seldom the opportunity to register themselves. It would be impossible, therefore, to obtain a Governmental proof of the establishment of these families. Many of them could prove that they had worked in the village before 1882. That, however, was not sufficient. The 100 families must leave the village within thirty days or submit to the degradation of being chained together and led away as common criminals.

The stand which the authorities have taken toward the schools founded by the Jews is an excellent illustration of the cruelty allowed by the laws. Almost one-half of the 25,000 inhabitants of this city of Winizra [Vinnitsia?-ed.], in Podolia, are Hebrews. A wealthy member of the colony named Weinstein founded a technical college. Despite the large percentage of Hebrews in the city and the history of the institution, only five Jewish children were admitted to the college halls. The other pupils number about 100. Thus are the laws fulfilled!

A similar state of affairs exists in Goslowka [Gorlovka?-ed.], where the well-known railroad contractor, S. S. von Poljakoff, established a school of mines. A large number of young men succeeded in preparing themselves for the course in the school. Only five per cent of the candidates were enrolled on the list of attendants!

A few weeks ago the twenty-fifth anniversary of an institute for ladies of noble birth was celebrated in St. Petersburg. Baron Guenzburg had founded the institute with his own money. Guenzburg, it is true, was invited to the celebration, which was also attended by the Czar. The other guests, however, took such pains to ignore and insult Baron Guenzburg that has determined to leave St. Petersburg.

One of the most degrading of the recent edicts is that of the Governor-General of Odessa. In accordance with it, the local police are directed to punish Jews who do not show them proper respect on the streets. The poor Hebrews, in order to protest against the degrading order, decided to boycott all the restaurants of Odessa. It is possible that the edict will be rescinded. However, the men are still obliged to take their hats off before all city officials if they wish to escape punishment.

The Jews called "foreign vagabonds" by the police form a class by themselves. This term, in reality, is to be applied only to foreigners who do not comply immediately with their orders to emigrate. The police, however, seem to take pleasure in including native Jews in this category. Recently, two citizens of Letetscheff, in Podolia, were brought before the civil and criminal courts to answer the charge of vagabondage. One of these men was the possessor of a small house and fortune, which he had inherited from his father; the other was a respectable cabman. Both were sentenced to prison! In all probability they will remain there until their relatives can prove that they are native Russians.

A few weeks ago a poor fellow from Trostcaniz was summoned to trial because he was unable to prove where had been born At his request a period of seven days was granted to him to produce the papers in proof of his statements. Owing to the condition of the registers mentioned above, this was impossible? What was the result? The unfortunate man was sentenced to four years' imprisonment and to lifelong banishment to Siberia. Shortly after his incarceration his relatives succeeded in obtaining documentary evidence proving his nativity. The courts, however, declined to reopen the case or change the sentence. The man has a wife and seven children who have been thrown upon their own resources.

Does the Czar know what happens in his great Empire? No! For many years the reports of the officials presented to His Majesty have been filled with lies and misrepresentations. The Hebrew is the chief source of income to the officials. A policeman is able to force as much money from a Jew in a single day as his income amounts to in a month. For these reasons his reports are colored and distorted. They are full of false accusations. And the ruler of the land, misled by the statements, promulgates laws which have their foundation in the avarice of his subordinates.

The people of Europe who read of the inquisitorial conduct of the Russian officials evidently overlook the connection which the measures against the Jews have with the spirit now ruling in Russia. The Jews, as has been the case in all history, are sacrificed first. But they will not be the last to suffer. Nothing that is not orthodox Russian is to be tolerated; everything else is doomed. Differences in religion and language are not to be considered. "Russia is for the Russians" is the prevailing cry. Noble men like Bishop Nikanor are not listened to. Voices like that of Bishop Ambrosius only are heard.



From the New-York Daily Tribune, December 21, 1891:





The persecution of the Russian Hebrews by the Czar is driving them to this country at the rate of nearly 8,000 a month. Many of them reach this land with little or no money, with no knowledge of the language, with no idea of what to do or where to go. This persecution began with the carrying out of so-called "temporary orders," to which the czar, on May 3, 1882, assented. These are known as "May laws,' and their authorship is credited to General Ignatieff, the Minister of the Interior. His career as Minister ended that fall, and for a time the abuse of the Hebrews ceased. A year or so ago, however, M. Pobiedonostzeff, the Procurator of the Holy Synod, which is the supreme governing body of the Orthodox Greek Church, revived the May laws and enforced them to the letter. Although the members of all creeds outside of the Greek Church have been made to suffer, against the Hebrews were these orders enforced with the greatest intensity and severity. Up to this time the Hebrews of this country among themselves have tried to shoulder the burden of caring for the refugees as fast as they land in this country, but they have found that the load was too heavy for the members of one religious creed and of one race to bear alone. Then after 868,000 had been raised among the Hebrews themselves for paying for the transportation of the immigrants, after they had been landed to various parts of the country, it was decided to take advantage of a suggestion made by ex-Judge John F. Dillon, in a letter to Jesse Seligman, and to ask persons of all creeds and races to unite in raising a fund for this purpose.

Upon this a number of prominent Hebrews, got together and agreed upon an appeal to the citizens of New York irrespective of race and creed, for assistance in helping the persecuted refugees to places in this country where they can be of service to themselves and can earn a livelihood for those dependent on them. As the appeal declares, the money collected is not for the purpose of inducing or aiding immigration, but merely to pay for the transportation of the Hebrews as they reach this country to the places to which they wish to go. The appeal is as follows:

To the Citizens of New York:

During the current year an average of 7,500 Russian refugees have landed at this port monthly. They come here, not willingly, nor even as did the Pilgrim Fathers, preferring liberty to persecution for conscience's sake. They are given no choice, but are driven forth relentlessly, from a land in which they have been settled for hundreds of years. Many of them, well-to-do at home, have in the haste of their flight been unable to collect their possessions and arrive here well-nigh penniless. They reach our land of freedom strangers, exiles, their misery frequently heightened by the brutality of their eviction--yet less than a third of them require assistance. These, however, while now dazed and temporarily helpless, are anxious to become honorable, self-supporting citizens, if only the proper direction for their activity be pointed out.

The fund established by Baron de Hirsch provides hundreds with implements and other means for obtaining a livelihood, and assists many to reach places where they may earn it. The United Hebrew Charities distribute such immediate relief as frequent special cases of distress may require. But all these means fail to meet the situation adequately. Experience has shown that unless properly guided, the mere helpless immigrants remain at this great centre and increase the population of our already overcrowded sections. A number of citizens have already united to raise a fund the sole object of which is the transportation of these Russian refugees to various parts of the United States where they may gain an independent livelihood. No encouragement is held out to induce immigration, nor are alms distributed.  The money contributed is disbursed with the single object of transporting these unfortunate victims of persecution from our city to places where they are desired, and where they can and must become self-supporting. This fund has now reached the sum of $08,000(?), but a much larger amount is needed. Committees, in cooperation with this movement, are being organized in different parts of the country for the purpose of obtaining and transmitting information as to demands for labor of every kind. As fast as such demands are made known, money from this fund supplies the means directly to send immigrants to fill the want.

The persecution which is driving these people from their homes continues; and the Hebrew community of the city of New York has been, and is, striving to do its utmost in the direction above indicated. It is, however, overwhelmed by the immensity of the task. It feels that the unhappy plight of these refugees, driven out from their once settled, contented homes, for no fault of their own, yet without right of protest or hope of redress, appeals to all the instincts of humanity, and particularly to the love of fair play and liberty innate in every American heart. We, therefore, deem it a duty to lay before our fellow citizens, irrespective of creed, the sad facts herein recited, believing that they will touch a responsive chord and lead many a generous hear to tender substantial assistance.

[Ed. note: The last paragraphs of this article list to whom contributions may be sent, as well as the subscribers and amounts which they have given to the fund. These paragraphs are not included here.]

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