Re: Jews employed by the Czars #russia


Michele Lock
 

My great grandfather Orel Leybman made boots for the Czar's calvary officers - as a lowly paid, poorly treated army conscript (oral history of my grandfather). I have no illusions about the reality of his time in Lithuania, in contact with anything related to the Czarist government.
My other great grandfather Chaim Lak ran a dairy farm outside of Gruzdziai, in the far north of Lithuania. Jews were not allowed to own farmland, so he most likely leased the land from a noble person, who owned huge amounts of land. I have found 1848 tax records on Jewishgen for nearby Joniskis, which list Jewish farmers who leased land from the Noblewomen Narishkina, or the Nobleman Komar. These Litvak Jews did not have direct contact with these noble persons - they would have dealt with estate managers. Just like tenant farmers in England during the same period in the 1800s - they didn't have personal relationships with the nearby count or duke or prince - they dealt with estate managers. Why would it be any different in Lithuania?
On leasing land to harvest lumber or run a sawmill - a common occupation for Jews in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, which continued into Russian times. Again, the land owned by noble persons or Polish princes, the leasing done through estate managers, who sometimes were Jews, sometimes not. This is well detailed in the book "Money, Power and Influence in Eighteenth Century Lithuania", by the economic historian Adam Teller. Very worth reading to understand the limited economic roles that Jews had during this time period. 
And last - a friend of mine, whose family hails from tiny Dorohynka in Ukraine, told me with complete seriousness that her great grandfather was a musician - and he played for the Czar! Who knew that the Czar liked Klezmer music, and he'd travel all the way from Saint Petersburg to Ukraine to enjoy it.

 

Michele Lock

Alexandria, VA

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