restricted access 3 Russia and the Jews in the Nineteenth Century
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2 44 The theoretical considerations put forth in chapter 1 are universal in applicability and should be borne in mind in our consideration of particular episodes involving cultural genocide. The interplay of natural localness (which inherently limits our ability to bring accurate contextual knowledge to the understanding of nonlocal events) and the popular stylizing of news allow for the manipulation of attitudes and behaviors about nonlocal subjects. Such manipulation can impact the beliefs and behavior of a large percentage of any given population. The vehicles for this manipulation are the government and managed media of the age in question and the use of emotive language as well as the presentation of “expert opinion.” The end product of this manipulation is the thought collective. This process operated in the history of the European settlement of the Americans and in the westward expansion of the United States. It created the thought collective necessary for the dispossession , segregation, and near extermination of the Native American population. It also created the attitudes that argued against physical genocide and for the imposition of cultural genocide. We now turn to a very different historical milieu for our second example. It is set not in the New World, but the Old World. It takes Russia and the Jews in the Nineteenth Century 3 up a situation characterized not so much by a clash of life styles as one of religions—those of Christians and Jews in nineteenthcentury Russian-controlled territory. However, as in the case of the American Indians, here too segregation plays a role and, in the interplay of the competing groups, one finds wavering between physical genocide and cultural genocide. Russia’s Anti-Semitic Thought Collective, Part One Jews have been part of the Russian demographic landscape for a very long time. Documented evidence of small Jewish communities in areas that once constituted the southern region of the Soviet Union go back to the fourth century C.E. (Dubnow 1918, 1:1–3). Whether one believes or disbelieves that Khazars, who once ruled southern Russia, Kazakhstan, and parts of the Ukraine, constituted a Jewish kingdom in the early ninth century, there can be little doubt that by that time the Jewish population in the region had grown substantially . They probably spread north and west in the tenth and eleventh centuries. Meanwhile, other Jews then resident in western and central Europe moved eastward in the twelfth century as a consequence of late medieval anti-Jewish persecution, increasing the general Jewish population in territories that evolved into the Grand Duchy of Moscow. In the fourteenth century, Jews were being expelled from Western European kingdoms such as England, France, and Spain, and some of them went to what was then the evolving Polish kingdom of Casimir III. Later this territory would later come under the rule of an expanding Russian empire. As the Jewish population of what would become Russia grew, the bulk of the Jews did not assimilate with the gentile community. They were seen, both by themselves and others, as a stand-alone russia and the jews in the nineteenth century 45 religious community with its own traditions and culture. This culture evolved within the environment of the shtetl or Jewish town. Within the shtetls, the language was some variant on Yiddish, the laws were drawn from religious sources (halakha), and there existed a distinctly “us and them” attitude toward the surrounding gentile population. This segregation of the communities had a major effect on the role of natural localness in the evolving perceptions each group held of the other. Particularly in the case of the gentile community, it allowed for perceptions of the Jews to be dominated by negative myth and stereotype. The origins of these myths and stereotypes no doubt had much to do with the gentile understanding (or misunderstanding) of the roots of Christianity. We now know that Jesus was a Jewish preacher within the apocalyptic subculture prevalent in the Palestine of his day. He went to Jerusalem during the Passover feast to preach repentance in the face of what he believed was the imminent end of the world. There he was identified as a troublemaker by the Jewish community leaders. They had experienced similar preachers in the past whose apocalyptic sermons had led to riots. Fearing popular disturbances, these community leaders shared their fears with the Roman authorities. It is the latter who arrested Jesus and quickly executed him (Ehrman 1999). Unfortunately, this history evolved into a myth that identified the...


Subject Headings

  • Jews -- Russia -- Social conditions -- 19th century.
  • Palestinian Arabs -- Israel -- Social conditions -- 20th century
  • Tibet Autonomous Region (China) -- Social conditions.
  • Assimilation (Sociology).
  • Indians, Treatment of -- North America -- History.
  • Ethnic conflict.
  • Persecution -- Social aspects.
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