Re: Jews employed by the Czars #russia

Jules Levin

There are two separate issues here:  1.  Treatment of Jews in the Army
from Alexander II on (I am not talking about the period from Nicholas I
until Alexander II.  Traditionally all conscripts--that is to say, ALL
eligible untitled men in Russia/USSR-- were and are treated badly. 
Privates in the US Army were also forced to polish boots and perhaps
some complained about it later to their children.  (By the way, look at
all the photos of proud young Jewish boys in uniform in the Jewishgen
submitted photos)  In fact my great grandfather (a different one) was a
harness-maker in the Army, a craft which put him in what passed for
middle-class life in the 19th Century.  Jews benefited from army
service, since those that completed service and honorably discharged
were allowed to keep their weapons and could live where they were
discharged, often with minor service appts in their villages, such as
postmaster.  These armed Jews defended shtetles from pogromists, and
were in the first yishuv, defending the pioneers from Arab marauders. 
2.  Jews who provided personal services to the nobility of course could
have direct contact.  Nicholas II's wife Aleksandria the Tsarina
purchased her jewels from a Jewish jeweler.  Providing service to the
upper classes has always provided upward mobility, here in the USA, and
in Tsarist Russia.

Jules Levin

On 10/14/2020 11:05 AM, Michele Lock wrote:

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
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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