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  • How Jews Gained Their Education in Kiev, 1860–1917
  • Victoria Khiterer (bio)

Russian governmental policies on Jewish education changed several times during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. As Michael Stanislawski has shown, the Russian government actively intervened in affairs related to the traditional Jewish educational system. The law of 1844 led to the establishment of Jewish state schools in many cities and towns in the Pale of Settlement, subordinating traditional religious Jewish schools, ḥeders, to the Ministry of National Enlightenment (Ministerstvo narodnogo prosveshcheniya). The Russian government planned to transform Jewish society through this new educational system and achieve rapprochement between Jews and the general population.1 Hence, the Russian language was part of the curriculum in Jewish state schools. From 1864 the government required that all private Jewish teachers, melamedim, pass an examination to show proficiency in Russian.2 Jewish state schools thus served as a tool for the Russification of the Jewish population.

The imperial authorities allowed Jews to establish state and private Jewish schools in the Pale of Settlement and, starting in the 1860s, outside it. Jewish schools were opened in many cities outside the Pale, even in the Russian capitals of St Petersburg and Moscow.3 A private school for impoverished Jewish boys and girls was established in St Petersburg by Lazar and Anna Berman in 1867. In 1873 their daughter Sara 'received permission to open a private school for Jewish girls', also in St Petersburg.4 In Moscow, a talmud torah was established in 1872 [End Page 155] and the Aleksandrovskoe Jewish artisan school was founded in 1880. This school was named after Alexander II and opened to commemorate the twenty-fifth anniversary of his reign.5

However, rights that were granted to Jews in St Petersburg and Moscow were often not extended to Kiev. Kiev was always an exception to the rule: its first official Jewish schools were permitted by the authorities only in the early twentieth century. In this chapter, I analyse why the official Jewish schools in this city were opened significantly later than in other cities and towns within and beyond the Pale of Settlement. I will also discuss the education of Jews in general, pointing out situations faced by schools and universities in Kiev.

Before the 1880s Russian authorities encouraged Jews to send their children to state schools and universities. In the 1860s and 1870s the ideas of the Haskalah spread among Russian Jews, and the number of Jewish students in general schools grew significantly. Ironically, just as Jews were developing an increased interest in general education, the tsarist government restricted their access to Russian state schools. In 1887 the numerus clausus for Jewish students was established in gymnasiums and universities. This limitation was part of the policy of state antisemitism that was implemented by the Russian government from 1881 until the collapse of the monarchy in February 1917.

The situation with regard to Jewish education in Kiev can be understood only in the context of the overall history of Jews in Kiev. In Sholem Aleichem's words, 'the large, beautiful gentle city of Yehupets [Kiev] … is certainly not the kind of city that would seek to have even a token Jewish population. Quite the contrary, it is well known that, from time immemorial Jews have been as welcome to the people of the city as a migraine.'6 The persecution of Jews in Kiev was always harsher than in other places in the Russian empire, and the religious intolerance of the non-Jewish population was stronger, due to the special significance of Kiev for Orthodox Christians as a holy city, 'the Jerusalem of the Russian Land'.7

Jews were expelled from Kiev several times by various rulers. The last expulsion of the city's entire Jewish population occurred in 1835 by order of Nicholas I, because the city was excluded by law from the Pale of Settlement. Kiev remained beyond the Pale until the February 1917 revolution. However, between 1859 and 1861 new laws allowed Jewish merchants of the first guild, craftsmen, Jews who were university graduates, students of gymnasiums and universities, retired soldiers, and some other categories of Jews to reside in Kiev.8

Jews were...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2516-8681
Print ISSN
0268-1056
Pages
pp. 155-179
Launched on MUSE
2018-08-03
Open Access
No
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