Russian and Ottoman Answers to the “Jewish Question”. A Comparison of the Treatment of Jews in the Russian and Ottoman Empires


Term Paper, 2013
17 Pages, Grade: 94.0

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Table of Content

Introduction

Status of the Jews in the Russian and Ottoman Empires

The Status of the Jews in the Russian Empire

The Status of the Jews in the Ottoman Empire

Government Policies towards the Jews in the Russian and Ottoman Empires

The “Jewish Question” in the Russian Empire

Ottoman Governmental Policies Towards its Jews

Conclusion

Works Cited

Introduction

Both the Ottoman and Russian Empires had to contend with large, multiethnic, multi-religious populations. But, in these two empires, which relied on their identities as the vanguards of Sunni Islam and Orthodox Christianity, respectively, for both internal and external legitimacy, what were they to do with the vast amount of religious minorities who fell under their rule? Could they incorporate these religious minorities into society without either jeopardizing their religiously based legitimacy or fermenting dissent among them through alienation? Could these empires even trust these religious minorities, these heretics?

These questions were at the very heart of both Russian and Ottoman policy towards, treatment, and perception of religious minorities during the period in which these two dynasties reigned. However, in both empires, a unique case presented itself. This group had no ties to any specific nation and had not had a homeland since antiquity. They were spread throughout both empires, not really residing predominantly in any one location, at least not to an extent where they became the majority. They were seemingly harmless, yet had such a negative reputation that hatred for them among other groups was commonly passed down through generations and was deeply ingrained. They spoke their own language, identified with each other ethnically as well as religiously, had their own set of customs, isolated themselves from others not of their group, and largely resisted assimilation. In short, this group was the quintessential “other.” The group I am referring to is the Jews.

In this paper, I will examine the status of the Jews and government policies towards them. I will then assess the facts, comparing and contrasting the conditions the Jews faced in these two empires. According to my own findings based in both primary and secondary sources, I have come to the conclusion that Jews under Ottoman rule experienced a higher level of basic treatment and enjoyed considerably more freedom and equality than their Russian counterparts did, and it is my aim in this paper to demonstrate exactly that. Entire books could and have been written on this very topic, detailing events stretching from the beginning of these empires to their ultimate collapse. For the purposes of this paper, I have narrowed my focus to the events of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, ending right on the cusp of the First World War.

Status of the Jews in the Russian and Ottoman Empires

Before this paper can assess the comparative treatment of the Jews in the Russian and Ottoman Empires, it must first detail the status of the Jews in these two empires. The statuses of Jews in the Russian and Ottoman Empires went through several important changes over the time period to be discussed; however those changes will be examined in the two sections following this one. What will be presented in this section is the position of the Jews, their rights and responsibilities according to the laws of the empires, at the beginning of the period to be examined. For the Russian perspective, the start will be the coronation of Alexander I and, for the Ottomans, the coronation of Mahmud II. Furthermore, this section will study how the legal prescriptions concerning the Jews of the two empires compared to the reality they faced. In other words, how the status of the Jews as delineated by the laws of the land compared and contrasted to their actual status in society. We will see that, at times, these two points were the same, while in other cases they differed to varying degrees. Sometimes, these incongruences were in the Jews’ favor, but most often they proved to be injurious.

The Status of the Jews in the Russian Empire

A Jew in the Russian Empire at the turn of the nineteenth century found themselves subject to a myriad of laws specifically applied to them in addition to those that concerned any of the tsar’s subjects. Perhaps one of the most well known of these laws was the one isolating the empire’s Jews to a region known as the “Pale of Settlement.”

At the time, most of the inhabitants of the Russian Empire were without the freedom of movement within the empire and were confined to the region in which they lived.[1] Following the first partition of Poland in 1772, in which masses of Jews that had been living in the former country now found themselves under Russian rule, in 1791 the tsarist government decided to allow Jews to not only live in their former regions of residence, but also in the new areas which had then been annexed from the Ottomans on the Black Sea shore. Later, the regions that had been annexed during the second (1793) and third (1795) partitions of Poland were also added to the Pale of Settlement. Along with delineating specifically where the Jews could live, the government also prohibited Jewish merchants from trading in the provinces of inner Russia.[2] The reasoning behind these decrees was two-fold: first, the government sought to prevent Jews engaged in various commercial endeavors (merchants, innkeepers, etc.) from competing with their Russian counterparts. Second, the government recognized the potential of the Jews as a colonizing element. Thus, Russia’s Jews were confined to the region, which stretched from the Black Sea in the south to the Baltic Sea in the north, until the provisional government that came to power after the Revolution of February 1917 abolished the Pale of Settlement.[3]

Besides the limitations concerning the movement and habitation of the Jews, they were also targeted economically and commercially. Initially, following the first partition of Poland in 1772, Catherine II affirmed that the Jews in the new territories would not be subject to any new laws inhibiting the rights they had enjoyed in the former country.

“Jewish communities residing in the cities and territories now incorporated in the Russian Empire shall be left in the enjoyment of all those liberties with regard to their religion and property which they at present possess.”[4]

Jews were admitted to the mercantile estate in 1780 and, in 1783, the Jews in townships where their residence was authorized were allowed into the burgher estate and to participate in the municipal leadership. Despite these promising directives, the situation for the Jews soon began to go in a different, ominous direction. In 1791, Catherine II caved under the pressure of the Russian merchants of Moscow and Smolensk and prohibited the admission of Jews to the mercantile estate within inner Russia.[5] This made it impossible for Jews to trade in the major urban centers of mainland Russia and laid the foundation for the Pale of Settlement. In 1794, the tsarina issued a ukase that required Jews to pay double the taxes that were levied on Christians.[6] Furthermore, Jews were restricted in their choice of profession, only being allowed to engage in commerce and crafts. Few Jews had the possibility of engaging in agriculture of any kind. The limitation to the Jews’ occupations had the effect of creating intense competition amongst them, thus leading to the pauperizing of the Jews and the foundation of a Jewish proletariat that found integration to be impossible.[7] It should be noted that these new regulations were most likely entirely the work of the Senate and not so much the will of Catherine II.[8] Regardless of whom the responsibility for these decrees lies with, what can be said for certain is that the Jew of early nineteenth century Russia found himself in a very precarious position. With the extra tax burden and the restrictions on where they could live and what they could do to make a living, the Jews of the Russian Empire had basically the same living conditions of its serfs, but without any of the protections that went along with serfdom.

The Status of the Jews in the Ottoman Empire

Jews in the Ottoman Empire at the turn of the nineteenth century enjoyed considerably more freedom than their coreligionists in the Russian Empire. While Ottoman Jews also lived in isolation from members outside of the Jewish community, it was not to the same extent or in the same spirit as the Jews of the Russian Empire. Jews were present practically everywhere in the Ottoman Empire, although only ever comprising a small minority of the region’s population.[9] Furthermore, they tended to inhabit certain quarters of major cities, most notably the capital of Istanbul, starkly different from the policies of the Russian Empire. They were allowed to operate their own form of local government, with its own judicial and legislative system that reflected traditional Jewish law. The courts prosecuted both civil and criminal cases, and could inflict punishment up to capital punishment, which was reserved for the Ottoman government. The Jewish courts would simply turn over the guilty party to the Ottoman authorities and they would deliver his prescribed punishment.[10] In exchange for an annual tax, Jews in the Ottoman Empire were exempt from military service.[11] They also had a distinct class system made up of three estates: those who were rich enough to contribute, those who were not rich enough to contribute, but did not require monetary assistance, and the poor who, instead of giving, received. It was seen as the duty of the richest members of the community, who comprised the vast minority, to take care of its poorest members.[12]

Government Policies towards the Jews in the Russian and Ottoman Empires

Policy in the Russian Empire towards the Jews was concerned with “improving” them into loyal, trustworthy subjects, while policy in the Ottoman Empire was focused on improving the empire through the utilization of its Jewish subjects.

The “Jewish Question” in the Russian Empire

Government policy towards the Jewish subjects of the Russian Empire varied somewhat from tsar to tsar.

Alexander I (r. 1801-1825) alternated between granting the Jews rights and limiting their freedom. In 1804, Alexander I granted them the right to place their children in the empire’s public educational institutions. He also allowed them to buy and rent land in an effort to promote agriculture among them. He even gave the Jews certain territories specifically to act as agricultural colonies.[13] However, Alexander I also levied greater restrictions on where the Jews could inhabit, prohibiting them from establishing themselves within fifty versts of the frontier. He even considered confining the Jews entirely to cities. However, this never came to fruition, as his Minister of the Interior made the case that taking such a measure would effectively simply condemn the Jews to death by starvation.[14] Overall, the Jews under the reign of Alexander I enjoyed a relative peace and the newly opened avenues to agriculture and education. However, the shrinking of the Pale of Settlement exacerbated the conditions within the region, increasing competition and hardship for Russia’s Jewish subjects.

Nicholas I (r. 1825-55) saw the Jews as an “injurious element,” to Russia.[15] He believed that the Jews were a dangerous “other” that, in its condition at the time, could not serve any positive function in Russia until they were “improved.” In pursuit of this policy, in 1827, Nicholas I signed into law an edict that made the Jews of the Russian Empire subject to conscription. Nicholas I’s goal was to turn the Jews into loyal subjects. However, unlike other leaders who enacted Jewish conscription in tandem with Jewish emancipation, Russian Jews gained no rights out of their conscription and were still treated as untrustworthy aliens by the military, as per the orders of the administration, although some elements in the Russian military did not acquiesce to the government’s demand to treat the Jews serving in the army as suspect.[16] Despite Nicholas I’s distrust, Jewish soldiers excelled on the battlefield. Their immediate commanders considered the Jews disciplined, literate, and resourceful soldiers. More than just warm bodies, they were genuine assets.[17] However, the high-ranking officers, who had never actually dealt or served with Jewish soldiers personally, shared the government’s anti-Jewish bias and kowtowed to rabid anti-Semitism.[18]

Beginning in the early 1830s, Nicholas I’s government adopted the ideological policy of “Official Nationality,” consisting of three principles: Orthodoxy, Autocracy, and Nationality. Official Nationality was promoted by Russian officials as state doctrine and is generally considered the guiding ideology of both domestic and foreign policy under Nicholas I.[19] However, it can be argued that Russia had no uniform “Orthodox policy” during this period. Within the Nikolaevan government, there was an ongoing debate about the proper role of religion in Russia’s foreign policy, as Russian officials attempted to exploit the various networks linking Russia’s Armenians, Jews, and Muslims to coreligionists in the Ottoman Empire. Furthermore, Nicholas I’s government strove to promote the tsar as the protector of all the faiths within the Russian Empire, partially in order to cultivate the loyalties of Ottoman subjects across confessional and sectarian lines.[20] What it meant to be “Russian” under the reign of Nicholas I can be seen through certain events that occurred on the eve of the Crimean War. “Russian” presence in the Ottoman capital on the eve of the war was overwhelmingly made up of non-Russians and the “Russian” presence in the rest of the Ottoman Empire looked much the same as it did in Constantinople.[21] When the Ottoman foreign ministry wrote to the Russian Embassy in Constantinople demanding a list of all Russian subjects living in the city in late January 1854, Pavel Pisani, director of the Russian embassy’s commercial division, produced a list of 330 names, grouped under three headings: Merchants; Georgians and Jews from the Caucasus; and Circassians.[22] This document shows how the Russian government under Nicholas I, while perhaps not granting the same privileges to all of its various ethnic and religious groups, did indeed consider all members of these groups to be Russian citizens and saw the empire as both multi-ethnic and multi-confessional.

Alexander II (r. 1855-1881) presented a completely different stance towards his Jewish subjects than his predecessor. In fact, the condition of the Jews in the Russian Empire improved to such a degree, that they held out hope for total emancipation. This was not due to any formal rescinding of the numerous laws that oppressed the Jews, but rather because of the tolerant attitude of Alexander I.[23] The reason for the overall ineffectiveness of Alexander II’s reforms in terms of addressing the “Jewish Question” was the fact that he only enacted half-measures. In other words, Alexander II, while definitely being reform minded, was not willing to approach anything like constitutional and political liberties or civil equality, at least not all at once. Still, any departure from the policies of the previous administration was cause to be hopeful for the future for the Jews of the Russian Empire.[24] However, Alexander II did specifically target the laws concerning Jews in at least one respect to make them on par with the laws concerning the rest of his subjects: military conscription. Shortly after his coronation, in 1856, Alexander II declared an edict that required the process of Jewish conscription to be carried out in the exact same manner as it was for all other ethnicities, did away with the practice of drafting children and the practice of penal conscription, wherein a greater conscription burden would be placed on a community for failing to meet the required quota. This edict also repealed the “temporary laws” of 1853, which allowed Jews to turn in their fellow coreligionists who could not present passports for military service so they would not have to serve.[25] Furthermore, also in 1856, at the behest of the representatives of the “Jewish Committee,” Alexander II gave the following imperial order on March 31, 1856:

“[T]o revise all existing regulations affecting the Jews so as to bring them into harmony with the general policy of fusing this people with the original inhabitants, as far as the moral status of the Jews may render it possible.”[26]

To this extent, one can see the formation of the mindset of Alexander II at the start of his reign on how to answer the Jewish Question: to fuse the Jews with the Russian people via alleviations in their legal status. However, attempts at achieving this “fusion” were blocked by the unity of the Jews within the Russian Empire, which the tsarist government labeled “Jewish separatism,” the “moral status” referred to in the above quotation. Thus, it was implied that those Jews with “better morals” (i.e. those who took a more favorable attitude towards Russification) might possibly obtain beneficial legal statuses that their resistant coreligionists within the empire would not.[27] Alexander II is remembered as perhaps the most liberal and progressive of the Russian tsars due to actions such as the abolition of the serfdom in 1861. Yet even Aleksandr Osvoboditel' (Alexander the Liberator) was still of the mindset that the Jews of the Russian Empire needed to be “improved.”

After Alexander II was assassinated in 1881, his son, Alexander III (r. 1881-1894) ascended to the throne and carried with him a distinctly different attitude than his father when it came to reforms, liberalism, and the Jewish Question. Almost all of the information Alexander III knew about the Jews came from a libelous pamphlet titled “Concerning the Use of Christian Blood by the Jews.”[28] Thus Alexander III, who now controlled the destinies of some five million Jews within the Russian Empire, came to power with deep-seated prejudices against his Jewish subjects. Adding to this was the fact that some of the members of the revolutionary terrorist organization that had killed his father were Jewish. In short, any hopes the Jews of the Russian Empire had that Alexander III would continue in the reform-minded spirit of his father were doomed from the start.

Perhaps the most notable of Alexander III’s initiatives concerning the Jews were they so-called “May Laws” of 1882. Rather than perhaps removing some of the restrictive laws that distinguished Jews from Christians, making the former seem suspect and justifying the hatred and violence perpetrated by the latter, the tsarist government instead added to these oppressive regulations. The May Laws prohibited Jews from settling outside of towns and townlets, except in the cases of the Jewish agricultural colonies established by Alexander I, suspended the rights of Jews to purchase or rent property and land, and forbade Jews from conducting business on Sundays or Christian holidays or to remain open if Christian businesses were closed.[29] Although, on the face, these laws may not seem too oppressive, their enforcement most certainly was. For example, no Russian law had ever defined what constituted a “townlet.” Thus, a Jew who had made a business and raised a family in what was called a townlet could find himself and his family expelled from their home if one day it was decided that the townlet was actually a village. Such instances indeed happened and became increasingly frequent. The result was the mass emigration of Jews from the more rural areas of the Pale to the already overcrowded towns and urban centers, further exacerbating the problems these towns faced of unemployment and pauperism. Indeed, the problem was so pronounced that the situation in the towns and urban centers of the Pale became more and more grievous with each passing day.[30]

The early years of Alexander III’s reign were marked by a series of pogroms against the Jews. Despite the common image of the contemporary tsarist government as inciting and assisting in the pogroms, this is contrary to the reality. Regarding the pogroms, Alexander III said:

“All this is shameful and shows that we must finish with the Jewish Question as soon as possible.”[31]

To this point, the government released an open warning parallel to the May Laws, reading:

“For any carelessness by administrative or police functionaries, the guilty will lose their positions. As was obvious in recent times, the disorders were stirred up by malevolent persons, from greed and other motives, and it is necessary for the chief administrator to explain to the class representatives in the towns and villages that they are obliged to take supervisory measures for the prevention of attempts to stir up disorders against the Jews, and to explain to the local population their criminal liability for violence against persons and property.”[32]

The tsarist government made sure that such warnings were widely disseminated across the empire, both within and outside the Pale of Settlement, so that no stone would be left unturned. Many governors, encouraged by the tsarist government, took steps to further safeguard against pogroms. They made proclamations saying that any person who engaged in any sort of violence against Jews would be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. One governor-general, E.I. Totleben, forbade all public gatherings, saying:

“If, at the demand of the authorities, the crowd does not disperse then, according to legal regulations, weapons will be used against those who do not comply, and those who participate in violence will be immediately arrested and suffer the appropriate punishment.”[33]

Despite the language used by both the central tsarist government and its regional representatives, these proclamations ultimately did more harm than good, as they spread rumors about the pogroms.[34]

Although the government under Alexander III can be commended for repressing the pogroms against its Jewish subjects, the oppressive laws that it initiated, such as the May Laws, created a system that doomed millions of Jews to struggle for their daily survival. Thus the Jews continued to be looked upon as a deficient group within the Russian Empire, requiring “improvement,” rather than simply being the victims of a flawed system that stacked the odds against them.

Ottoman Governmental Policies Towards its Jews

At the turn of the nineteenth century, the future of the Ottoman Empire looked dubious. Reform was needed if the empire was going to survive, but Sultan Mahmud II (r. 1808-39) could do nothing to alter the crash course the Ottomans appeared to be on due to the power held by the Janissaries. In 1826, Mahmud II took advantage of a Janissary uprising to crush the troublesome institution once and for all. With the Janissaries out of the way, Mahmud II could now pursue the reforms the empire so desperately needed, and this newfound freedom eventually led to the period of reforms known as the Tanzimat (1839-1876). Under the Tanzimat, the Ottoman government expounded the policy of Ottomanism. Ottomanism left the traditional concept of the state as essentially Islamic unchanged, but added two new elements: plurality and equality before the law. The purpose of Ottomanism was to obscure and eventually eliminate the traditional perception of Ottoman society as divided between a ruling people, Muslims, and subject peoples, non-Muslims.[35] The policy of Ottomanism became especially important in the wake of the nationalistic and separatist fervor that had seized may of the periphery Christian populations. It became of paramount importance to the Ottomans to convince their non-Muslim subjects that a future under the continued rule of the Ottoman polity was preferable to one in a small national successor state that could arise from a revolt.[36] The emphasis the Sublime Porte placed on Ottomanism was not simply out of fear for the disintegration of the empire, but appears to have been in the vein of a genuine belief that pluralism and legal equality were truly virtuous aims for the empire. Mahmud II expressed his view of his subjects in his later years thusly:

“I distinguish among my subjects, Muslims in the mosque, Christians in the church and Jews in the synagogue, but there is no difference among them in any other way. My affection and sense of justice for all of them is strong and they are all indeed my children.”[37]

This quote shows a divergence from the distinction of non-Muslim subjects as second-class citizens compared to Muslims. Even if Mahmud II only said this to appease his non-Muslim subjects, the very fact that he cared what they thought illustrates the strikingly different mentality the Ottomans had when it came to religious minorities when compared to Mahmud II’s Russian contemporary, Nicholas I who largely treated his non-Orthodox subjects, especially the Jews, with, at the best, contempt and, at worst, with outright hostility.

On November 3, 1839, the Ottoman government officially announced Imperial Rescript of Gülhane, formally introducing the new policy of Ottomanism. Among the promises the Rescript made were reforms to the taxation and military conscription systems and a commitment to equal justice for all Ottoman subjects, regardless of religion, and the “perfect security” of their life, honor and property.[38] The stated purpose of the rescript was to promote every subject’s “devotion for state (devlet), millet, and love of country (vatan mahabbeti).”[39] The Rescript also introduced the concept of “Milel-i erba’a.” Milel-i erba’a, literally “the four communities,” denoted the four religious communities that officially constituted Ottoman policy: Muslims, Jews, Armenians, and Greeks. This term was meant to suggest that the Ottoman Empire, while still a Muslim state, was also a plural society in which the minorities’ special status was officially recognized and protected.[40]

As the need of the Ottomans to redefine the nature of their polity on the basis of pluralism grew, the usefulness of the Jews became immediately apparent. Jews were a universally recognized religious group and the so-called “Jewish Question” concerning their civil liberties, or largely lack there of, had become a prominent issue in Europe. In addition to the international prestige providing for the Jews could bring the empire, perhaps the collective consciousness of the Ottoman ruling elite might have recalled memories of past Jewish usefulness and loyalty, not to mention the coincidence of the Jews’ interests with those of the Ottoman state.[41] Unlike the Christian communities of the Ottoman Empire, who were numerically strong and densely concentrated in specific areas, the Jews were located practically everywhere in the empire, but only ever comprised a small minority. This meant they could not entertain separatist ambitions like the Christian communities under Ottoman rule could.[42] Furthermore, the Jews also did not have any specific European patrons to claim protector-status over them or to support them like many of the non-Muslim minorities did. The Christian minority uprisings confirmed that the Jews, like the Turks, had ample reason to fear the rise of national states in the Balkans and, ultimately, had much to gain from the continued survival of the Ottoman Empire. In order to promote the principle and image of a plural Ottoman society, the Sublime Porte decided that it was a matter of state interest to advance the position of the Jewish community and grant it greater prominence.[43]

With the formation of government the newly instituted municipal, district, provincial, and state councils in the nineteenth century, the Ottoman government took great care to insure that Jewish representatives were appointed to it. Because the Jews were primarily urban dwellers and because the government was interested in having them represented in local and state institutions, especially in ones that received international notice, in some instances the Jews were overrepresented, compared to their relative share in the general population. Jewish overrepresentation was reflected in the Council of State (Shura-yı Devlet), established in 1868, as a central legislative body representing statewide communities and interests. Of the 38 members, two were Jewish, accounting for roughly five percent.[44] Jewish overrepresentation was even more pronounced in the first Ottoman parliament of 1877-78. The representatives were appointed rather than elected through popular suffrage. The Ottoman government determined how many representatives each religious community would get and then the provincial governors would appoint the representatives.[45] In the first session of the parliament, four of the one hundred nineteen deputies and one of the thirty-two senators were Jews. In the second session, six of the one hundred thirteen deputies and still one of the thirty-two senators were Jews. Looking at the proportion of deputies of a certain religion to the relative number of their male coreligionists in the Ottoman Empire clearly shows the overrepresentation of Jews in the parliament, possibly reflecting the central government’s desire to increase the visibility of Jews in the government. For Muslims, there was one deputy for every 147,953 males. Christians had one deputy for every 110,058 males. Lastly, Jews had one deputy for only every 12,500 males.[46] In the Ottoman parliaments in session between 1908-18, Jews were more proportionally represented, but they occupied a number of prominent positions in parliamentary committees.[47]

In addition to the increase in Jews in the Ottoman government, the Sublime Porte also tried to encourage Jews to enter state educational institutions, especially the Imperial School of Medicine (Tıbhane-i Âmire), which was established in 1827 primarily to train docs for the military.[48] In 1834 the first Jewish student graduated, but there were not as many Jewish students as the government expected. In 1847, in an attempt to encourage greater enrollment, Sultan Abdülmecid ordered the school to employ a rabbi to supervise daily religious services. He also ordered that a special kitchen be set up where Jewish dietary laws could be observed and that Jewish students be allowed special leave every week to observe Shabbat at their homes.[49]

The results of these programs were largely successful. Of the at least thirty-five Jews that served in senior positions in the armed forces in the late Ottoman period, four attained the rank of general and four others the rank of admiral, which conferred on them the title Pasha. More than fifty Jewish physicians served in the civil administration, eight became instructors at the medical school, and one Moravian Jew actually became the headmaster of the Imperial School of Medicine.[50]

By the time of the Young Turk Revolution in 1908, the Jews of the Ottoman Empire regarded the empire with a great deal of gratitude and affection as their historical savior. The competition between the Ottoman Jews and the Armenian and Greek communities within the empire had pushed them from their privileged position and, consequently, they recognized making a common cause with the Muslim elements within a secular and constitutional Ottoman state as the best protection of their interests.[51] Jews were very receptive and loyal to the new Young Turk regime. In Palestine, following the news of the revolution, Sephardi and Maghribi Jews celebrated in the initial public festivals alongside elements of the Muslim and Christian Arab communities. Members of all three religions from various social classes took part in creating a new social network that aspired to transcend communal boundaries and aimed at the economic, cultural, and political betterment of Palestine and the Ottoman Empire.[52] Truly, to the Jews and the new Ottoman government, the spirit of a shared Ottomanism was alive and well. The Young Turks promised extensive political and social reforms, modernization, and universal rights. They reactivated the 1876 Ottoman constitution, held parliamentary elections, and reaffirmed equality among the various religious communities of the empire. Even though equality had been declared at least twice before, those declarations had done little to nothing to dent the hierarchical confessionalism—or “institutionalized difference”—that existed between Muslims and non-Muslims. However, citizenship rights now matched this latest formulation and a notion of Ottoman nationalism transcending religious or ethnic groupings was envisioned and articulated from the bottom-up.[53] Indeed, Ottoman Jews made efforts to help transform and modernize the empire, beginning by organizing to educate their coreligionists about the new constitutional regime and then mobilizing them for participation in the upcoming parliamentary elections.[54] Yitzhak Levi, an Ottoman Jew, embraced the Ottomanist ruling ideology. In a speech to a crowd of hundreds of Jews in Palestine, Levi said that in the aftermath of the revolution, “[W]e are all citizens of the Ottoman nation [ha-umah ha-Otomanit], and it is incumbent upon us to break out of our special associations.”[55]

Levi encouraged Jews to learn Turkish and Arabic and to participate in and assist the new government to the fullest of their abilities. Levi’s message resonated with the attitude of the Ottoman Jews living in Palestine, evidenced by the fact that they nominated him for the Ottoman parliament shortly after his address.[56]

Conclusion

The Ottoman policies towards their Jewish subjects differed in one main yet vital respect from their Russian counterparts. Both the Ottoman and Russian Empires saw their Jewish populations as possible assets, but they differed as to how they could best implement their Jews for the benefit of the empire. While the Russians found their Jews wanting and therefore requiring “improvement,” the Ottomans saw their Jews as already having proven their worth and thus it was their empire that required improvement. In other words, the Ottomans asked themselves what they could do to help the Jews while the Russians asked what the Jews could do to help them.

Works Cited

Avigdor Levy, The Sephardim in the Ottoman Empire (Princeton: The Darwin Press, Inc.).

Eileen M. Kane, “Pilgrims, Holy Places, and the Multi-Confessional Empire: Russian Policy Toward the Ottoman Empire Under Tsar Nicholas I, 1825-1855.” (PhD Diss., Princeton University, 2005).

George B. English, “Jews in the Ottoman Empire,” Christian Watchman, May 15, 1824, 5, 23.

John Doyle Klier, Russians, Jews, and the Pogroms of 1881-1882 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011).

Leo Abram Errera, The Russian Jews: Extermination or Emancipation? (London: Strand, 1894).

Michelle U. Campos, “Between ‘Beloved Ottomania’ and ‘The Land of Israel’: The Struggle Over Ottomanism and Zionism Among Palestine’s Sephardi Jews , 1908–13,”

International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies 37: 461-483.

S.M. Dubnow, History of the Jews in Russia and Poland: From the Earliest Times to the Present Day (Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1918), v. II, 14.

Yahanan Petrovsky-Shtern, Jews in the Russian Army, 1827-1917 (New York: Cambridge University Press).

Yehuda Slutsky, “Catherine II,” Encyclopedia Judaica (Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2007), 525.

Yehuda Slutsky, “Pale of Settlement,” Encyclopedia Judaica (Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2007), 577-580.

[...]


[1] Yehuda Slutsky, “Pale of Settlement,” Encyclopedia Judaica (Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2007), 577.

[2] Slutsky, “Pale of Settlement,” Encyclopedia Judaica, 577.

[3] Slutsky, “Pale of Settlement,” Encyclopedia Judaica, 579.

[4] Yehuda Slutsky, “Catherine II,” Encyclopedia Judaica (Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2007), 525.

[5] Slutsky, “Catherine II,” Encyclopedia Judaica, 525.

[6] Slutsky, “Catherine II,” Encyclopedia Judaica, 525.

[7] Slutsky, “Pale of Settlement,” Encyclopedia Judaica, 579.

[8] Leo Abram Errera, The Russian Jews: Extermination or Emancipation? (London: Strand, 1894), 7.

[9] Avigdor Levy, The Sephardim in the Ottoman Empire (Princeton: The Darwin Press, Inc.), 105.

[10] George B. English, “Jews in the Ottoman Empire,” Christian Watchman, May 15, 1824, 5, 23.

[11] English, “Jews in the Ottoman Empire,” 5, 23.

[12] English, “Jews in the Ottoman Empire,” 5, 23.

[13] Errera, The Russian Jews, 8.

[14] Errera, The Russian Jews, 8-9.

[15] S.M. Dubnow, History of the Jews in Russia and Poland: From the Earliest Times to the Present Day (Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1918), v. II, 14.

[16] Yahanan Petrovsky-Shtern, Jews in the Russian Army, 1827-1917 (New York: Cambridge University Press), 269

[17] Petrovsky-Shtern, Jews in the Russian Army, 270.

[18] Petrovsky-Shtern, Jews in the Russian Army, 270.

[19] Eileen M. Kane, “Pilgrims, Holy Places, and the Multi-Confessional Empire: Russian Policy Toward the Ottoman Empire Under Tsar Nicholas I, 1825-1855.” (PhD Diss., Princeton University, 2005), iii.

[20] Kane, “Pilgrims, Holy Places, and the Multi-Confessional Empire,” iii.

[21] Kane, “Pilgrims, Holy Places, and the Multi-Confessional Empire,” 150.

[22] Kane, “Pilgrims, Holy Places, and the Multi-Confessional Empire,” 150.

[23] Errera, The Russian Jews, 10.

[24] Dubnow, History of the Jews in Russia and Poland, 154-155.

[25] Dubnow, History of the Jews in Russia and Poland, 155-156.

[26] Dubnow, History of the Jews in Russia and Poland, 158.

[27] Dubnow, History of the Jews in Russia and Poland, 158.

[28] Dubnow, History of the Jews in Russia and Poland, 244.

[29] Errera, The Russian Jews, 14.

[30] Errera, The Russian Jews, 14.

[31] John Doyle Klier, Russians, Jews, and the Pogroms of 1881-1882 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 91.

[32] Klier, Russians, Jews, and the Pogroms of 1881-1882, 96.

[33] Klier, Russians, Jews, and the Pogroms of 1881-1882, 97.

[34] Klier, Russians, Jews, and the Pogroms of 1881-1882, 97.

[35] Levy, The Sephardim in the Ottoman Empire, 103.

[36] Levy, The Sephardim in the Ottoman Empire, 103.

[37] Levy, The Sephardim in the Ottoman Empire, 103.

[38] Levy, The Sephardim in the Ottoman Empire, 104.

[39] Levy, The Sephardim in the Ottoman Empire, 104.

[40] Levy, The Sephardim in the Ottoman Empire, 104.

[41] Levy, The Sephardim in the Ottoman Empire, 105.

[42] Levy, The Sephardim in the Ottoman Empire, 105.

[43] Levy, The Sephardim in the Ottoman Empire, 105.

[44] Levy, The Sephardim in the Ottoman Empire, 108-109.

[45] Levy, The Sephardim in the Ottoman Empire, 109.

[46] Levy, The Sephardim in the Ottoman Empire, 109-110.

[47] Levy, The Sephardim in the Ottoman Empire, 110.

[48] Levy, The Sephardim in the Ottoman Empire, 110.

[49] Levy, The Sephardim in the Ottoman Empire, 110.

[50] Levy, The Sephardim in the Ottoman Empire, 110.

[51] Michelle U. Campos, “Between ‘Beloved Ottomania’ and ‘The Land of Israel’: The Struggle Over Ottomanism and Zionism Among Palestine’s Sephardi Jews, 1908–13,” International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies 37: 463.

[52] Campos, “Between ‘Beloved Ottomania’ and ‘The Land of Israel,’” 463-464.

[53] Campos, “Between ‘Beloved Ottomania’ and ‘The Land of Israel,’” 463.

[54] Campos, “Between ‘Beloved Ottomania’ and ‘The Land of Israel,’” 464.

[55] Campos, “Between ‘Beloved Ottomania’ and ‘The Land of Israel,’” 464.

[56] Campos, “Between ‘Beloved Ottomania’ and ‘The Land of Israel,’” 464.

17 of 17 pages

Details

Title
Russian and Ottoman Answers to the “Jewish Question”. A Comparison of the Treatment of Jews in the Russian and Ottoman Empires
College
Georgetown University
Course
Tsars & Sultans
Grade
94.0
Author
Year
2013
Pages
17
Catalog Number
V293849
ISBN (Book)
9783656914730
File size
395 KB
Language
English
Tags
history, russia, ottoman empire, judaism, anti-semitism
Quote paper
Matthew Milzman (Author), 2013, Russian and Ottoman Answers to the “Jewish Question”. A Comparison of the Treatment of Jews in the Russian and Ottoman Empires, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/293849

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