To understand how Russian-American people of Jewish background ended up living in a country whose governing elite had tolerated the enslavement of African-Americans on U.S. soil until the 1860s, used military force to strip Native Americans of their land, seized the northern section of Mexico in the 1840s, denied U.S. women the right to vote until 1920, and established a corporate-oriented economic system in which an oligarchy of interlocked plutocrats exploits U.S. working class people and U.S. middle-class consumers at home and wages imperial war abroad, we must first examine pre-1905 Western European and Russian people's history.
Pre-1905 Western European and Russian people's history
In 63 BC, about 75% of all people of Jewish religious background did not live in Palestine. Most people of Jewish religious background lived throughout the Middle East and North Africa. But following the conquest of Palestine by Roman invaders from Italy under the leadership of Pompey in 63 B.C, the first people of Jewish background from Palestine arrived in Western Europe. After being imprisoned by Pompey's soldiers in Palestine, these people of Jewish background were transported to Rome.
In Rome, the people of Jewish religious background (whose numbers grew by converting many people in Rome to Judaism, before the rate of conversion to Judaism in Rome became insignificant when Christianity became Rome's state religion after 300 AD) established themselves eventually as merchant-traders and were granted some community autonomy by the Roman emperors. In addition, between 63 B.C. and 1100 AD the number of people of Jewish background living in other communities around Western Europe, from Spain to Holland, also increased as a result of migration or the pre-300 AD religious conversion of some people in these communities to Judaism.
During the first ten centuries of the Christian era, the commercial role of people of Jewish background in Western Europe--providing the major trading link between Europe and Asia--grew in importance, and the living conditions of people of Jewish background in Western Europe generally improved. Because of their important commercial role in the feudal economy, people of Jewish background in Western Europe were protected by the Western European kings and princes prior to 1100 AD. So by the end of the 11th century, people of Jewish background in Western Europe were an economically prosperous religious group and, economically, were considered part of the upper classes in Western European society.
In southern Russia, as a result of religious conversion, settlements of people of Jewish background also developed in the 7th century, following invasion of that area by Turkish soldiers. Known as Khazars, the first people of Jewish background in Russia ruled South Russia in the 8th century, traded with Byzantium, defended the area from attempts at invasion by Greeks, Persians and Arabs and governed from their capital of Itel a/k/a Astrathan, which was located at the mouth of the Volga River.
By the following century, however, the Khazars no longer ruled South Russia or played a major political or economic role in the country's history. A Kiev state that evolved into the Russian state was established in 862, and over a century later, in 988, the Kiev ruler, Vladimir I, converted to Christianity. But by the 12th century a new trading community of Jewish background had settled in Kiev. During this same 12th century, the Russian city of Moscow was founded in 1147. But by the following century, Mongol/Tartar troops from Mongolia, under Genghis Khan's leadership, had begun their 300-year rule over Russia with their burning of Kiev in 1240.
In Western Europe and England by the end of the 12th century, meanwhile, the governing elite singled out people of Jewish background for special oppression. Merchants of Christian background wished to obtain for themselves the profits from trade that merchants of Jewish background had secured prior to the 12th century. People of Jewish background in Western Europe and England were thus pushed-out of their merchant-trader roles and tracked into the economic role of moneylenders to feudal nobles and kings or to peasants and artisans. In England, for example, people of Jewish background "were barred from all ordinary trade and industry, and, as moneylenders, were used by the Crown as a kind of sponge to gather up wealth from their neighbours and then be squeezed by the royal treasury," according to A People's History Of England by A.L. Morton. The same book also noted that "in this way the exactions of the Crown were concealed and the anger they aroused turned upon the Jews instead of their master;" and, "whenever the protection of the Crown was relaxed, as in 1189," people of Jewish background in England "were exposed to massacre and pillage."
In addition, when the feudal nobles, after being unable to pay back their high-interest loans, subsequently lost their estates to the people of Jewish background who had lent them money, an additional economic motive would develop for the feudal nobles in Western Europe and England to massacre, expel or confiscate the property of people of Jewish background.
In 1290, for instance, the 16,000 people of Jewish background who lived in England were finally expelled from that country and their property was confiscated. The King of England in that year, Edward I, also no longer had an economic need for people of Jewish background to lend money to him because by that time the Lombards in Italy "were able to finance him more efficiently than the Jews"; and these Italian merchants, "coming from cities where banking had already made great progress, were able to conduct financial operations on a scale unknown in Northern Europe," according to A People's History of England by A.L. Morton. So, people of Jewish background in England were expelled from England in 1290 by Edward I, additionally, as a "result of the intrigues of" this "rival group of" Italian "moneylenders who could offer the King better terms" than the English moneylenders of Jewish background, according to the same book.
Sixteen years later, the 100,000 people of Jewish background who lived in France were expelled, in 1306. Two years after the bubonic plague spread in 1347 through Western Europe, eliminating one-third of Western Europe's population, the persecution of people of Jewish background in Germany also intensified. Between the end of the 14th century and the beginning of the 16th century, most German towns that were commercial centers forced people of Jewish background to leave for either the small village domains of German feudal lords or for Eastern Europe. People of Jewish background were expelled from Cologne in 1424, expelled from Strasbourg in 1438, expelled from Augsburg in 1439, expelled from Erfat in 1458, expelled from Nuremberg in 1498, and expelled from Ulm in 1499.
Expelled from England, expelled from France, and persecuted in Germany in the 14th century, people of Jewish background in Western Europe naturally accepted Polish ruler Casimir the Great's invitation to settle in Polish-controlled areas of Eastern Europe as a third estate, performing commercial, middleman services in an agricultural society for the Polish king and nobility between 1330 and 1370, during Casimir the Great's reign. In his book The Invention of the Jewish People, however, Shlomo Sand asserts that "there is no historical evidence showing that Jews migrated from Western Germany to the Continent's East," despite the fact that the Yiddish language that most Russian-Americans of Jewish background spoke when they first arrived in the United States bears a strong resemblance to the German language. According to Sand,the people of Jewish background who lived in Poland and lands controlled by Russia in the 14th century "came mainly from the east and the south--not only from the Khazar lands, but also from the Slavic regions under its influence;" and only "a limited immigration of Jewish elites from German--rabbis and Talmudic scholars, young and old" were "invited in from the West" to live in Poland.
According to The Invention of the Jewish People book, Yiddish ended up being spoken by most people of Jewish background in Eastern Europe and Russia in the 19th-century not because of any significant "migration of Jews from the west," but because the people of Jewish background who had migrated there from the east and south lived in Polish territory where "some four million Germans had migrated from eastern Germany" in the 14th and 15th centuries. Hence, the Slavic-based Yiddish language that the people of Jewish background from Khazar and other areas to the east and south of Poland spoke, began to increasingly resemble a dialect of the German language as the centuries passed.
Approximately 85 percent of the people of Jewish background in Poland during the 14th-century were involved in estate management, tax and toll collecting, moneylending or trade. And between 1300 and 1880, the ancestors of most Russian-American people of Jewish background--often described by historians as Ashkenazi Jews--lived in the Polish area of Eastern Europe.
In 1386 the governing elite in Poland and Lithuania then united in a Roman Catholic state which was unfriendly to the people of Greek Orthodox Christian background who still lived under Mongol/Tartar rule in Russia. In 1496, however, people of Jewish background were expelled from Lithuania. But they continued to be allowed to live in Poland.
Russia remained under Mongol/Tartar rule and paid tribute to the Mongol/Tartars until 1552, when Ivan the Terrible finally drove the Mongol/Tartars out of Russia. But while Russia was still under the domination of the Mongol/Tartars and people of Jewish background were living under Polish rule in Eastern Europe, the Castillian monarchy in Spain was beginning to acquire increased wealth from the African slave trade and the theft of the Caribbean Islands, Central America and South America from indigenous people.
Prior to 1492, people of Sephardic Jewish background--who were primarily descendants of Arab, Berber and European converts to Judaisim prior to 1100 AD--had also either migrated and settled or been born and grown up in Spain and Portugal, when people of Arab Islamic background governed this area. The people of Sephardic Jewish background were generally among the most affluent in Spain, during the period when people of Arab Islamic background controlled that country.
But the reconquest of Spain by people of Catholic background led to an increase in anti-semitism in the area. In 1391, for instance, 300 people of Jewish background were slaughtered by people of Catholic background in Seville, and hundreds of more people of Jewish background were killed in Toledo in 1449 by people of Catholic background. Ironically, financiers of Sephardic Jewish background, the Rasia brothers, made it financially possible for the Spanish monarchy of Catholic background to finally drive the more religiously tolerant Arab Muslims out of Spain, by bankrolling the Christian monarchy's reconquest. In 1492, the same year that Christopher Columbus' ships reached the Caribbean Islands off the coast of Latin America on a commercial mission for the Spanish Catholic monarchy, 100,000 people of Jewish background were expelled from Spain by a March 31, 1492 edict of expulsion. The day before Columbus set sail, on August 3, 1492, 300,000 other Spaniards of Sephardic Jewish background began emigrating from Spain.
The March 31, 1492 edict of expulsion required Spaniards of Sephardic Jewish background to sell their properties before going into exile. It also prohibited the 100,000 expelled Sephardic Jews, who included many craftsmen, manufacturers and merchants, to bring any of their gold or silver with them when they left Spain. The majority of the Sephardic Jew initially immigrated to Portugal. But between 1495 and 1497, these Sephardic Jews were also expelled from Portugal. Most of the Sephardic Jews then went to North Africa. But during the 16th century, some went to Italy, Brazil and the Dutch West Indies.
Those Sephardic Jews who stopped openly practicing Judaism and converted to Christianity, in order to avoid being expelled from Spain and Portugal by the Inquisition authorities, were known as "New Christians" or "Marranos," Some of the Marrano merchants were thus able to profit from the sugar industry's development in the Caribbean and Brazil during the 16th century. As the Encyclopedia Judaica noted:
"Marrano merchants participated in the development of sugar production in Madeira, Sao Tome and Brazil. Diego Fernandes and a group were owners of one of the five sugar plantations which existed in Brazil about 1550."
By the first half of the 17th century, "all the great sugar plantations in Brazil were in the hands of Jews" of Sephardic background; and by 1730 Sephardic "Jews possessed 115" sugar "plantations out of 344" sugar plantations in Dutch-controlled Surinam, according to Abram Leon's book The Jewish Question.
Expelled Sephardic Jews and Marranos also apparently profited from the enslavement of Africans and the development of the African slave trade after 1500 in the Western Hemisphere. As the Encyclopedia Judaica observed:
"Curaco and Sao Tome' became the main center of Jewish trade in the Antilles.
"This was a factor that exercised great influence in the expansion of Jewish trade toward Africa after the expulsion from the Iberian Peninsula. With the rise of the slave trade to America they found chances to extend their influence to the main African slave markets on the coast of Guinea, the Cape Verde Islands, Sao Tome' and Angola, since these regions belonged to the sphere of Portuguese dominance. The same circumstances operated in the infiltration by Marrano merchants into Spain, especially to Seville, in order to participate from there in the American trade. Among the early families engaged in this activity was the Jorge whose participation in the slave trade is recorded from 1540. Other representatives were Francisco Nunes de Bejar and his son Antonio Nunes Caldeira. There Seville merchants had correspondents in the important centers in the Indies and West Africa as well as in Lisbon, and especially with the slave contractors of Africa, some of whom were Marranos. From 1587 the king of Spain as monarch of Portugal assigned slave-trading agreements with Lisbon merchants for the provision of slaves in Angola and Cape Verde. The system lasted until the Portuguese restoration in 1640."
After also being expelled from Italian cities like Naples in 1540 and from Genoa and Venice in 1550, many Sephardic Jewish and Marrano merchants ended up settling in Amsterdam. Certain merchants of mostly Sephardic Jewish or Marrano background also continued to profit from slavery and their involvement in the African slave trade until the U.S. Civil War. As a 1973 book edited by Nachum Gross, Economic History of the Jews, recalled:
"The Marrano Diaspora in the New World (particularly in the Caribbean), became both customer for, and trader in, African and Indian slaves…Jews appear to have been among the major retailers of slaves in Dutch Brazil (1630-54)…Among the Jamaican Jewish merchants who seem to have specialized in the slave trade were David Henriques, Hyman Levy, and especially Alexander Lindo, who was a major importer of slaves during the period 1782-92…Members of the well-known Gradis family of Bordeaux were active in the shipment of slaves from West Africa to such French colonies as Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic).
"Aaron Lopez and Jacob Rodriguez Rivera of Newport, Rhode Island, had at least one slaver on the high seas each year after 1764; and in 1773 had a total of eight such ships under sail. Isaac De Costa of Charleston was another large-scale importer of slaves…
"Jewish merchants, auctioneers, and commission agents in the Southern states continued to buy and sell slaves until the end of the Civil War. The fact that Jacob Levin of Columbia, South Carolina, and Israel I. Jones of Mobile, Alabama, two merchants who often dealt in slaves, were the leaders of their Jewish communities in the 1850s is evidence that at no time did Southern Jews feel tainted by the slave trade. Levy Jacobs was an active trader in slaves both in New Orleans and in Mobile during the 1820s; Ansley, Benjamin, George, and Solomon Davis of Richmond and Petersburg, Virginia, went on the road to sell gangs of slaves in the states of the lower South beginning about 1838; B. Mordecai of Charleston had large slave pens alongside his warehouses and purchased $12,000 worth of slaves at one sale in 1859..."
In Eastern Europe during the 16th and 17th century, the Lithuanian and Poles of Ashekenazi Jewish background--who were not involved economically in the sugar plantations or slave trade of the Western Hemisphere--were generally more affluent than the Polish peasantry of Catholic religious background. As merchants, the Poles and Lithuanians of Jewish background exchanged the spices and silk of Asia for European raw materials and controlled Polish trade until the 19th century. As moneylenders playing middlemen economic roles within feudal Polish and Lithuanian society, the Polish and Lithuanians of Jewish background also controlled the Polish and Lithuanian banking activity. The Polish peasants of Catholic background, however, began to view the Poles of Jewish background who acted as middlemen for the Polish feudal landlords of Catholic background as agents of economic exploitation.
By the middle of the 17th-century, Polish peasant hatred for Poles of Jewish descent, because of their economic role, had apparently become widespread. Peasant hatred for people of Jewish background also existed in the Polish-controlled Ukraine. In both Poland and the Ukraine, large numbers of people of Jewish background were apparently targeted and killed during peasant revolts in the 1640s and 1650s.
Within Russia, serfdom had been established in 1581 by Czar Ivan IV. By 1603, some Russian peasants of Greek Orthodox religious background revolted against being made serfs, but the Russian Czar's troops were able to suppress the 1603 peasant revolt. Polish landlords then marched into Moscow from the West in 1605. The following year, however, Moscow residents revolted and forced the Polish landlords' troops to leave. In 1609, however, the Polish Army returned to Moscow and controlled Moscow again until 1612. But in 1613 an army of Russian peasants led by the Russian nobility of feudal landlords recaptured Moscow from the Polish nobility's army and the Russian feudal landlords elected a new Czar.
Despite being driven out of Moscow in 1613, the Polish feudal landlords still controlled the city of Kiev and the Ukraine. By 1686, however, the Polish state was forced to give up its control of Kiev and the Ukraine area, following a Russian state-supported Ukrainian peasant uprising in 1653 and another Ukrainian peasant revolt between 1667 and 1671. During an earlier 1640s Ukranian peasant revolt led by a Cossack named Bohdan Chaicknicki a/k/a Bogdan Chmielnicki, over 200,000 Ukranians of Jewish background were apparently killed (according to Nathan Ausubel's Pictorial History of the Jewish People), when mass peasant discontent in the Ukraine was expressed in anti-Semitic attacks. In 1686, the same year that the Russian monarchy regained control of Kiev, people of Jewish background were also legally barred from living in Moscow.
Within Poland, between 1500 and 1650 the number of Poles of Jewish background increased from 10,000 to about 150,000. By 1650, a class of skilled artisans was beginning to develop within Polish communities of Jewish background, whose economic interests were becoming different than the economic interests of the Polish merchants and Polish moneylenders of Jewish background.
By 1654, meanwhile, the first people of Jewish background to settle in North America, the Sephardic Jews, had arrived in the then-Dutch-controlled New Amsterdam colony, on the island of Manhattan. In that year, the Portuguese monarchy had conquered several Dutch colonies in South America and the Sephardic Jews from Spain or Portugal or Marranos, who spoke a form of Judeo-Spanish or Ladino, were forced to move. Twenty-three of the Sephardic Jews chose to go to the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam, in Holland's New Netherlands territory in North America.
After people of Jewish background were also forced to leave Hamburg and Vienna in Central Europe in 1648, some Ashkenazi Jews from Central Europe or Eastern Europe also began to settle in North America by the end of the 17th-century. By this time, the British monarchy had replaced the Dutch government as the colonial power in North America that controlled what had been previously called New Amsterdam and New Netherlands.
Some more people of Sephardic Jewish or Ashkenazi Jewish background moved to North America during the 18th century. By 1740, one of the wealthiest merchants in New York City was a person of Jewish background named Jacob Franks, although in 1750 only 300 people of Jewish background yet lived in New York City.
By 1776 there were between 2,500 and 3,000 people of Jewish background (about half Sephardic and half Ashkenazi) living within the thirteen English colonies on North America. In 1776, most of these 2,500 to 3,000 people of Jewish background lived in Boston, Newport, New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Charleston, Savannah or Charlotte. They mostly worked in North America as merchants, salespeople, peddlers, teamsters or shippers. Their economic role within English colonial society was primarily to transport goods from the colonial cities to the colonial farms, although, as previously noted, some of the Sephardic Jews were involved in the importation of African slaves in 1776.
After the American Revolution forced the British monarchy to allow the white male political leaders of the 13 colonies to set up a politically independent government in North America, the United States of America, the number of people of Jewish background who lived in the United States between 1789 and 1840 did not increase much. There were still only 15,000 people of Jewish background living within the United States in 1840. The number of people of Jewish background in the United States, however, increased to about 50,000 between 1840 and 1850. By 1860, the arrival of more German immigrants of Jewish background after 1850 had increased the number of people of Jewish background in the U.S. to 150,000. Between 1860 and 1880 the number of people of Jewish background in the U.S. reached about 250,000, of whom 60,000 lived in New York City.
By 1880, nearly 50 percent of the German-Americans of Jewish background were self-employed wholesale or retail merchants and about 2 percent were bankers, brokers or U.S. corporate executives. And by 1900, 115 of the 4,000 individuals who were then millionaires in the United States were of Jewish background (mainly Sephardic or German Jewish religious background).
Around 20 percent of the German-Americans of Jewish background in 1880 were office workers and about 10 percent were salesmen in 1880. But fewer than 12 percent of German-Americans of Jewish background had to earn their living as skilled blue-collar workers, doing manual work as tailors, clock and watchmakers, jewelers, cigar makers, butchers or printers in 1880.
During the 18th century in Poland, however, the relatively affluent economic situation of Poles of Jewish background deteriorated as monarchical Poland's feudal society fell apart because of foreign military intervention and economic decay. By 1795, Poland had been partitioned three times and no longer existed as an independent state. The portion of Poland where most of the ancestors of Russian-Americans of Jewish background lived was now considered part of Russia. At the time of the second partition of Poland in 1793, between 750,000 and 1 million people of Jewish background thus became Russian citizens. But the general deterioration of the economic, legal and political situation of most people of Jewish background within Czarist Russian society between 1793 and 1917 eventually led many Russian people of Jewish background to immigrate to the United States.
Prior to 1793, the Czarist government in Russia had long discriminated against people of Jewish background who refused to convert to Christianity. In 1563, for instance, a Russian Czar named Ivan the Terrible made the following reference to people of Jewish background who lived in the town of Polotsk, after his troops conquered Polotsk: "Those who consent to baptism are to be baptized; those who refuse are to be drowned in the Polot River." The Czarist government in Russia also had issued four Imperial edicts earlier in the 18th century which ordered the expulsion of people of Jewish background from Russia, based on the ideological pretext that people of Jewish background were "haters of the name of Christ the Savior."
In Russia after 1793, people of Jewish background were generally only allowed to live within a "Pale of Settlement," located in the formerly Polish-controlled Bylorussia or White Russia section of Russia, in Russian-controlled Lithuania and in Russian-controlled Ukraine. The idea of segregating most people of Jewish background in Russia inside a "Pale of Settlement" was apparently conceived by Tsarina Catherine II in the late 18th century. As a result, "the first quarter of the nineteenth century witnessed the mass expulsion of" people of Jewish background "from the villages in White Russia, from the western frontier towns and from certain cities (Kiev, Sevastopol, Nikolayev)," according to Voices Of A People by Ruth Rubin.
According to the 1818 Russian government census, at the beginning of the 19th century, 86% of all people of Jewish background in the Ukraine, in Lithuania and in White Russia were still small business people, 12% were skilled artisans and 2% were farmers. The Polish cities and towns at the beginning of the 19th century were still primarily inhabited by people of Jewish background who generally made their living as small merchants, peddlers or skilled artisans. In the rural villages of Poland, at the same time, people of Jewish background also generally owned the taverns, liquor shops and mills.
As capitalism began to develop under Russian rule during the 19th century, Poles and Russians of non-Jewish background began to economically displace the majority of petty merchants and peddlers of Jewish background in Czarist Russian economic life. A small group of wealthy Eastern European merchants, traders or moneylenders of Jewish background, however, were able to link up with Western European financers to form a few large banking houses in St. Petersburg, Warsaw, Kiev and Vilna by the 1860s, as capitalism developed in Czarist Russia.
As a result, between the 1850s and 1917, Russian bankers of Jewish background who were financially-linked to foreign investment bankers from Britain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany profited from the the construction of Russia's railroad system and held some positions of economic power within Czarist Russia's banking industry. As Robert Brym recalled in his 1978 book The Jewish Intelligentsia and Russian Marxism:
"Ginzburg…created one of the most important banks in St. Petersburg; the Poliakov brothers founded a series of banking houses in Moscow, Rostov, Kiev and Orel; the Azov-Don Bank was headed by Kaminka; Steiglitz, in his time the wealthiest banker in Russia and state banker to two Tsars, raised a son who became head of the State Bank; Soloveychik founded the Siberian Commercial Bank; Zak was chairman of the board of the Petersburg Discount and Loan Bank; Bliokh founded the Warsaw Commercial Bank; and a host of smaller provincial houses were created by such men as Wawelberg, Landau, the Epsteins and Krongold…By 1916 the fourteen St. Petersburg banking houses operating with joint-stock capital had 70 managers, 28 of whom (or 40 percent) were Jews…
"Beginning as purveyors of military supplies (Zeitlin), court Jews (Steiglitz), large exporters (Strowberg), liquor monopolists (Benardaki), lessors of estates (Ginzburg), or even as poor Jews who…acted as agents for western or local sources of capital, eastern European Jewish merchant bankers were then transformed into finance capitalists…By connecting up with western banking houses…these men made the transition from feudalism to capitalism. But in order to do so it was necessary to break an old social tie: that which they had formerly had with the rest of the Jewish community."
Prior to the beginning of the 19th century, these merchant bankers-turned-finance capitalists of Jewish background had extended credit and provided capital to the small businessmen of Jewish background within decaying Polish feudal society. As capitalism developed within 19th century Czarist Russian society, however, it became much more profitable for these bankers to invest their capital in business projects outside the Pale of Settlement, than to keep extending credit to the petty traders of Jewish background, who faced new economic difficulties from having to now compete in the local marketplace with an increasing number of Russian and Polish traders of non-Jewish background. By the 1870s, the export trade from Poland was controlled by Poles of Catholic background, not of Jewish background; and the Polish peasants who had been freed from legal serfdom after the 1860s now no longer required traders of Jewish background to sell their surplus produce, but could sell it themselves. As Brym's book, The Jewish Intelligentsia and Russian Marxism, observes, "by the end of the" 19th century, "the bulk of the Jewish merchant population" in Czarist Russia "had been reduced to a mass of peddlers, hawkers, petty money-lenders and small shopkeepers," who were generally impoverished.
People of Jewish background who had made their livings from the liquor trade in rural areas prior to 1800 also generally lost their livelihoods during the 19th century in the Czarist Russian economy. In 1800, around 40% of the work force of people of Jewish background were involved in the liquor trade. After Polish feudal society collapsed economically, Polish merchants and Polish nobles of Catholic background wanted the profits of the liquor trade for themselves. So they encouraged the Czarist Russian government to drive people of Jewish background out of the liquor business by expelling people of Jewish background in Russia from additional rural areas. By the end of the 19th century, when the liquor trade was placed under the control of the Czarist Russian government, only a small percentage of Eastern Europeans of Jewish background were able to now earn their living from the liquor trade that had provided 40% of people of Jewish background with family incomes a century before.
One result of being both driven out of the liquor trade and expelled from rural areas in Czarist Russian society was that the percentage of people of Jewish background who lived in towns and cities within the Pale of Settlement of 362,000 square miles increased greatly during the 19th century. By 1897, nearly 82 percent of the people of Jewish background in Russia who resided in the Pale of Settlement lived in cities and towns.
Within the Pale of Settlement in Czarist Russia by 1897, 11% of the population was predominantly Yiddish-speaking people of Jewish background. But within the Pale of Settlement's cities, nearly 37 percent of the population was predominantly Yiddish-speaking people of Jewish background in 1897. Over 92 percent of all people of Jewish background who lived in Czarist Russia in 1897 lived in the Pale of Settlement.
Despite the increasing economic impoverishment of most people of Jewish background who lived in the Pale of Settlement, the population of people of Jewish background who lived in Eastern Europe increased during the 19th century. In 1830, nearly 3.3 million people of Jewish background lived in Eastern Europe. By 1880, when only 250,000 people of Jewish background lived in the United States, the population of people of Jewish background in Eastern Europe had increased to nearly 7.8 million.
During the 1800s in Czarist Russia, the number of people of Jewish background who earned their livings as impoverished skilled crafts workers, artisans or factory workers increased, as the number of people of Jewish background who were able to support themselves as small merchants, petty-traders or liquor distributors declined. By 1897, for instance, there were about 500,000 skilled crafts workers or artisans and almost 50,000 small factory workers of Jewish background in the fifteen provinces of Russia's Pale of Settlement.
But as more and more peasants of non-Jewish background moved from the country to the city, following the ending of serfdom in Russia in the 1860s, and competed with workers of Jewish background in Russia for skilled craft worker or artisan jobs, people of Jewish background found it harder to find work as skilled crafts workers or artisans. In addition, new foreign investment in post-1870s Russia created large factories that did not generally employ factory workers of Jewish background, but did produce goods more efficiently than the mainly small manufacturing factory shops in the Pale of Settlement--that were usually owned by small business people of Jewish background who were willing to employ people of Jewish background. So it also became harder for people of Jewish background to earn their livings as small factory workers in Czarist Russia by the end of the 19th century.
As indicated previously, a turning point in Czarist Russian history in the 19th century was February 19, 1861, when Czar Alexander II freed 22 million Russian peasants from serfdom and a capitalist economy based on hired labor, not on the serfdom of Russian peasants, began to develop. Under serfdom, industy in Russia did not develop rapidly and the agricultural productivity of the involuntary serf labor was low. Weakened by its defeat in the Crimean War and frightened by the increase in peasant revolts against the feudalist Russian landlords, the Czarist government had felt compelled to abolish serfdom in 1861.
By 1870, foreign investors from countries like France were beginning to finance increased factory production in Russia and railroad construction, occasionally in partnership with individual Russian investment bankers of Jewish background. But by the 1870s, the vast majority of people of Jewish background in Czarist Russia were still much too poor to make any such capital investments in Russia.
In 1859, however, the small group of wealthy financiers of Jewish background with links to Western European investment banks were given the legal right to settle outside the Pale of Settlement and live in Russian provinces and cities that had previously denied entry to people of Jewish background. (unless they had been willing to convert to Christianity). Among the most influential Russian capitalists of Jewish background in the 1860s to 1900 period were: 1. Abraham Warshavsky, one of the first Russian Railway contractors; 2. Bloch and Leopld Kroneberg, who helped finance and organize the building of the Petersburg-Warsaw-Kiev-Best-Litovsk railways; and 3. Samuel & Lazar Poliakove, the "Railway Kings of Russia," who, along with Baron Ginzburg, Leon Rosenthal, and Kaminka, played an influential role, as previously indicated, in Russia's post-1860s banking system. After quickly becoming extremely wealthy by the 1860s, Russian capitalists of Jewish background like Baron Ginzburg formed a "Society for spreading education among the Jews in Russia" in 1863, which financially helped some Russian youth of Jewish background in the Pale of Settlement obtain university education in Russia.
Some of the surplus capital created after 1860 by the development of capitalism in Russia was also used to create a textile industry in the Lodz and Bialystock region, a leather industry in the Smorgon and Shavli region in Lithuania and a tobacco industry in the Ukraine region, in which people of Jewish background were employed as small factory workers. Clothing, shoe and furniture factories were also established in the Pale of Settlement with the surplus capital crated by post-1860s capitalist development in Russia that also employed the skilled crafts workers and artisans of Jewish background who had previously worked at home as tailors, shoemakers, cabinet makers or metal workers.
By the 1870s and 1880s, tens of thousands of the people of Jewish background who worked in the Russian tobacco, clothing and textile industry were also women workers. Prior to 1860, large numbers of women of Jewish background in Czarist Russia had worked as shopkeepers or inn and tavern managers, before people of Jewish background were driven out of the liquor distribution industry by Czarist government laws.
Between 1880 and 1917, as capitalism continued to develop within Czarist Russia, the legal discrimination experienced by the 92% of the people of Jewish background who lived inside the Pale also began to increase. The residential rights and freedom of movement for people of Jewish background within Czarist Russia had been legally restricted since they first became Russian subjects after the 1791 partition of Poland. Because Moscow merchants of Christian background in the late 18th century feared the potential economic competition of merchants of Jewish background, for instance, Czarina Catherine II's 1791 decree prohibited people of Jewish background from registering as merchants in interior Russian cities and ports. But until 1882, people of Jewish background were at least legally entitled to live anywhere within Czarist Russia's Pale of Settlement.
A Czarist law of May 3, 1882, however, legally prohibited people of Jewish background from settling in the rural villages of the Pale of Settlement. Another Czarist law of December 29, 1887, made it illegal for people of Jewish background to move from one town in the Pale to another town. Some towns in the Pale of Settlement were also now redefined by Czarist courts as "villages," in order to provide a legal justification for expelling people of Jewish background from certain Pale of Settlement towns between 1882 and 1917.
One result of the increased legal restrictions on which areas of the Pale of Settlement people of Jewish background could live in was the congestion of people of Jewish background in the cities and large towns of the Pale. In turn, the congestion of people of Jewish background in Czarist Russian cities and large towns of the Pale created more intense competition for scarce jobs between people of Jewish background, further reducing their average family incomes even more after 1882.
Although the Kiev province of the Ukraine was within the Pale of Settlement, 92% of people of Jewish background were legally restricted from living permanently in Kiev in Czarist Russia. The privileged 5% of people of Jewish background who were allowed to live in Kiev, however, were often allowed to live only on one side of the street. In 1891, skilled crafts workers and artisans of Jewish background, who had been eventually allowed to settle in Moscow during the 19th century, were also legally prohibited from living anymore in Moscow and 14,000 of them were expelled from Moscow; and by January 14, 1892, tens of thousands of Moscow residents of Jewish background had been expelled from Moscow. By a law of 1865, certain artisans had been included among the privileged 5 percent of people of Jewish background who could live outside the Pale. People of Jewish background who were graduates of Russian universities and women of Jewish background who were prostitutes were also among the privileged 5% who were also legally permitted to live outside Czarist Russia's Pale of Settlement.
Educational opportunities for people of Jewish background in Czarist Russia also became more legally restricted between 1880 and 1917. Beginning with the 1887-88 school year, a quota system which discriminated against Russian students of Jewish background in the secondary schools and universities was legally established in Czarist Russia. Within the Pale of Settlement, no more than 10% of the students in each Russian high school could be of Jewish background. Outside the Pale of Settlement in Russia in all areas except St. Petersburg and Moscow, no more than 5% of the students in high school could be of Jewish background. In St. Petersburg and Moscow, only 3% of the students in secondary school could be of Jewish background. In every part of the Czarist Russian empire, no more than 3% of the students in Russian universities and other higher educational institutions could be of Jewish background.
As a result of this legalized quota system, the great majority of people of Jewish background were denied access to higher education in Czarist Russia and, between 1886 and 1902, the number of students of Jewish background as a percentage of all Russian university students decreased from 14% to 7%.
There were also legalized occupational restrictions on people of Jewish background in Czarist Russia. They were legally excluded from most civil service government jobs in Czarist Russia and they were, legally, only allowed to work as teachers within the Jewish religious schools. Outside the Pale of Settlement or outside the city limits within the Pale, people of Jewish background were generally legally prohibited from buying, selling, renting, leasing or managing land or real estate within Czarist Russia.
People of Jewish background were also legally denied the right generally to own property in mines or oil fields within Czarist Russia. In addition, the small number of skilled crafts workers or artisans of Jewish background who were legally allowed to work outside the Pale were, generally, still legally prohibited from owning their own homes outside the Pale. Special taxes were also legally imposed on people of Jewish background in Czarist Russia that were not imposed on people of Christian background in Czarist Russia.
As a result of the Czarist government's 1804 "Statute Concerning the Jews" (which also imposed special legal restrictions on the economic activity of people of Jewish background), people of Jewish background were legally tracked into petty trade and commerce within the Russian empire; and, by the end of the 19th century, a substantial majority of people of Jewish background were now paupers.
Article 34 of the 1804 statute, for instance, legally prohibited people of Jewish background from operating inns and taverns in the rural villages and thus "deprived" many small Jewish traders "of occupations by which they had earned a livelihood in the course of centuries," forcing many to operate "stalls and shops in marketplaces" on shoestring budgets, according to an essay by I.M. Dijour, titled "Jews in the Russian Economy." Dujour also asserted in his 1966 essay that "even without the pogroms, an intolerable economic situation" in the 19th century in Russia "inevitably had to lead to the mass emigration of Jews from Russsia." So, not surprisingly, 700,000 people of Jewish background emigrated from Russia between 1884 and 1903; and 500,000 of them settled in the United States during these same years.
People of Jewish background in Czarist Russia also were not allowed to claim the legal exemptions from military service that were available to Russians of Christian background at the beginning of the 20th century. As a result, in 1905 people of Jewish background composed 5.7% of the Russian Army, but only 4 % of all the people living within the Russian empire.
Among the people of Jewish background in Czarist Russia who did not emigrate to Western Europe or the United States before the end of World War II, some were members of Czarist Russia's economic elite. But many more were involved in the various anti-Czarist working-class-based revolutionary political organizations.
In the 1870s, Russians of Jewish background founded a socialist periodical, "Haemeth," for instance. Also in the 1870s, the Tchailkovski circle, that helped develop a revolutionary spirit among Russian students, was led by a Russian of Jewish background named Mark Natanson, who was one of the founders of the Russian Narodnick revolutionary movement. Another Russian of Jewish background, Lev Martov, became influential within Russian revolutionary socialist movement circles after 1893. A Jewish nationalist group of revolutionary socialists, the Bund, also was formed in 1897 which competed with Martov's Menshevik and Lenin's Bolshevik group for support of Russian workers of Jewish background, prior to the October 1917 Russian Revolution which brought Lenin's Bolshevik party to power.
Post-1905 people's history of Russian-American Jews
Following the Czarist government's suppression of the 1905 Revolution in Russia, however, even many Russian revolutionaries of Jewish background joined the mass emigration to the United States. Between 1905 and 1907 alone, over 332,000 people of Jewish background left Russia for the U.S.A.. By 1910, 500,000 people of Jewish background, mostly from Eastern Europe/Russia, lived on the Lower East Side, in Harlem, in the East Bronx and in Brownsville. Between 1880 and 1920, the percentage of the Big Apple's population that was of Jewish background increased from 3 percent to 30 percent, as a result of mass emigration from Eastern Europe/Russia.
By 1900, 80% of the 70,000 people of Jewish background who now lived in Chicago were of Russian/Eastern European, not German, background. Thirty years later, 80% of the people of Jewish background who lived in Chicago were still of Russian/Eastern European background, but the number of people of Jewish background who now lived in Chicago had increased to 300,000. By 1930, more people of Jewish background lived in New York City than in any other city in the world; and New York City and Warsaw were the only cities that had more people of Jewish background residing in them than Chicago. Between 1880 and 1917 the proportion of the population in the United States that was of Jewish background increased from 0.6 percent to 3.5 percent.
By the time people of Jewish background from Russia began arriving as immigrants in the United States in a mass way, the people of Jewish background from Germany were already the top manufacturers of ready-made clothing in the USA. Many of the immigrants from Eastern Europe/Russia of Jewish background had previously attempted to earn their livings in the Pale of Settlement as tailors. Of the 106,836 people of Jewish background who immigrated to the USA in 1903, for instance, 16,426 were tailors and in 1897 about 20 percent of all the workers in Russia's clothing industry had been of Jewish background.. So the people of Jewish background from Germany who controlled most of the clothing and garment industry's small sweat-shop factories were willing to quickly hire at low-wages the tens of thousands of newly arrived skilled immigrant workers of Jewish background from Russia/Eastern Europe in the early 20th century. According to AFL labor leader Samuel Gompers' autobiography, Seventy Years of Life and Labor, by the late 1880s in the United States:
"The clothing trade was largely in the hands of [German] Jews who in every way within their power encouraged the Jewish Russian people, particularly those who were in the sections where oppression and cruelty obtained, to come to the United States and, coupling the possibility of profit with affection for their co-religionists, found employment for the new Russian-Jewish immigrants in the clothing industry. After the immigrants had landed in the United States and were employed by the clothing manufacturers, the latter lost interest in the welfare of their employees and paid them miserably low wages...."About 33 percent of all Russian-Americans of Jewish background worked in the U.S. clothing manufacturing industry as blue-collar workers by 1900. Nearly 60 percent of all Russian-American workers of Jewish background in the U.S. were factory workers in 1900. Most of the Russian-American workers of Jewish background who entered the U.S. garment and clothing industry sweatshop factories between 1880 and 1920 remained U.S. garment or clothing industry factory workers until their deaths.
Large numbers of people of Jewish background from Russia/Eastern Europe who immigrated to the USA also attempted to make money by working as pushcart peddlers in the early 20th century. In New York City by 1900, for instance, the majority of New York City's pushcart peddlers were people of Jewish background from Russia. At the same time, by 1900 in New York City, there were also 38 millionaires of Jewish background (mainly Sephardic or German Jewish religious background).
Within the German-American-controlled clothing and garment industry, the newly-arrived Russian-American female and male immigrant workers of Jewish background soon began to organize themselves into labor unions and wage class struggle against their bosses of Jewish background who exploited them in small factory sweatshops. Before 1910, Russian-American workers of Jewish background were paid extremely low wages for producing the clothing worn by most U.S. consumers. The Russian-American workers of Jewish background in the U.S. garment industry sweatshops were also forced to work between 56 and 84 hours a week prior to 1910. In 1900, Russian-American workers of Jewish background had also founded the International Ladies Garment Workers Union [ILGWU].
In 1910, 45,000 Russian-American workers of Jewish background in Chicago struck against Hart, Schaffner & Marx, a firm that produced men's clothing. In 1912 and 1913, Russian-American tailors of Jewish background in New York City, Rochester, Philadelphia, Camden, and Boston also struck against their German-American employers of Jewish background and most were able to win a reduction of their workweek to 48 or 50 hours per week.
On December 14, 1914, Russian-American workers of Jewish background then played a leading role in forming the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America, which, subsequently, won a 44-hour workweek for its members between 1914 and 1920. By 1920, 100% of all clothing production factories in Chicago were Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America union shops.
Between 1941 and 1945, large numbers of people of Jewish background also served in the U.S. military. During World War II, for example, 550,000 people of Jewish background were in the U.S. military; and around 8,000 U.S troops whose religious background was Jewish were apparently killed in combat during this war.
By 1945, 2 million people of Jewish background lived in New York City and around 80% were also of Russian-American background. Around 46% of all people of Jewish background in the United States in 1945 were still working class. But most workers of Jewish background in the United States in 1945 were, by then, white-collar office workers, not blue-collar workers in the clothing industry as they were prior to World War I. Most workers of Jewish background in the United States in 1945 were generally still hired only by U.S. business people who were also of Jewish background. In addition, as late as 1930, Yiddish was still the mother tongue of 28% of all people of Jewish background in the United States.
Only a small amount of capital was required to be a small capitalist jobber or contractor in the U.S. clothing industry and open a garment industry sweatshop. So Russian-Americans of Jewish background were able to become, by the end of World War I, the owners of most of the small garment factory sweatshops in the United States. Russian-Americans of Jewish background also remained the owners of most small U.S. garment factory sweatshops in the U.S. until the end of the 1960s.
Between 1910 and 1975, however, the proportion of Russian-American workers of Jewish background working in the U.S. garment industry factories gradually declined. When Russian-American workers of Jewish background retired, their employers chose not to generally hire younger Russian-American workers of Jewish background to replace them. Nor did they raise hourly wage levels enough to make a blue-collar job in a garment industry factory an attractive job option for most U.S. high school or college graduates of Jewish background. By 2005, few people of Jewish background in the United States made their livings as blue-collar workers in the U.S. clothing and garment industry.
In the early part of the 20th century, anti-semitism within the racist U.S. construction industry generally blocked Russian-Americans of Jewish background from getting hired for the better-paying blue-collar jobs in the construction industry. As a result, most people of Jewish background who worked in the U.S. construction industry were ethnically tracked into the lower-paying jobs of house painters, plumbers, decorators and repairmen during the first half of the 20th century. Although 33% of the people of Jewish background who immigrated to the United States before World War I were skilled blue-collar craft workers, by 1957 only 7% of all people of Jewish background in the USA were earning their livings as skilled blue-collar crafts workers. In New York City, however, 25 percent of the blue-collar service workers, crafts workers, or semi-skilled factory operatives were still of Jewish background in 1952.
Between 1935 and 1953, however, the percentage of people of Jewish background in the United States who earned their livings as white-collar office workers or salespeople declined from about 37 percent to about 27 percent, while the percentage of people of Jewish background who worked as college-educated professionals began to increase dramatically. By 2005, about 90% of all employed people of Jewish background in the USA were professionals and 40% of all U.S. college and university professors were people of Jewish background. Yet about 20% of all people of Jewish background in the USA--mostly people over 50 who had immigrated to the USA from Russia between 1970 and 2000--still had annual household incomes below the U.S. median income level and were living in poverty in 2005.
Of the 5.3 million people of Jewish background who lived in the United States in 2005, most were culturally, economically and politically assimilated into the middle class of an imperialist and militaristic U.S. society. Over half of the people of Jewish background in United States also had chosen domestic partners who are not of Jewish background. A disproportionate number of people of Jewish background, however, are presently members of the U.S. militaristic and imperialist establishment, the U.S. upper-class and the U.S. economic, political, media and cultural governing elite; and a disproportionate number of people of Jewish background in the United States are billionaires.