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It has for a long time been almost universally believed that the policy of the Tsarist government was uniformly malevolent towards the Jews and that this culminated in covert support for the pogroms. I can't in the time available to me present the arguments but the modern consensus seems to be that the main thrust of government policy was to try to break down the separate existence of the Jews, to integrate them into the mainstream, with the complication that the mainstream in formerly Polish Ukraine was not the same as the mainstream in Great Russia. (7) This was one of the factors that led in the nineteenth century to the breakdown of the traditional Jewish religious and community organisation and the emergence of secular elements. The question was whether or not they would define themselves as Jewish if they were no longer religiously Jewish. One of the effects of the upsurge of anti-Jewish feeling was to impress on secular Jews a sense of the importance of their Jewish identity, but it was a national, or ethnic identity rather than a religious one. And, liberated from the traditional religious order it was liberated from the traditional religious pacifism.

(7)  I discuss the matter in eg

A symbolic moment occurred when, in the context of the 1881 pogroms, the synagogues called for a day of fasting and prayer, the traditional response to persecution seen as a sign of God's displeasure. On this occasion the synagogues were filled with young Jews wearing the quasi-military uniform of the Russian universities, a sign of their secular identity since the Rabbis had fought hard to keep them out of the Russian universities. On the one hand they were showing their solidarity with the Jewish community in the moment of its suffering. On the other hand they came armed with poems and manifestos calling for a spirit of resistance. (8)

(8)  See eg John Kier: Russians, Jews and the pogroms of 1881-2, Cambridge University Press, 2011, pp.257-260.

The Jewish tradition of non-resistance was subject to withering criticism in the wake of the Kishinev pogrom in an enormously influential poem by Hayyim Nahman Bialik, City of Slaughter. The poem is framed as spoken by God:

'Pause not upon this havoc; go thy way -
Unto the attic mount, upon thy feet and hands;
Behold the shadow of death among the shadows stands. 
Crushed in their shame, they saw it all; 
They did not pluck their eyes out; they
Beat not their brains against the wall!
Perhaps, perhaps, each watcher had it in his heart to pray: 
A miracle, O Lord, and spare my skin this day!

'Come, now, and I will bring thee to their lairs
The privies, jakes and pigpens where the heirs
Of Hasmoneans lay, with trembling knees,
Concealed and cowering - the sons of the Maccabees!
The seed of saints, the scions of the lions!
Who, crammed by scores in all the sanctuaries of their shame 
So sanctified My name!
It was the flight of mice they fled,
The scurrying of roaches was their flight;
They died like dogs, and they were dead!
And on the next morn, after the terrible night
The son who was not murdered found
The spurned cadaver of his father on the ground.
Now wherefore dost thou weep, O son of Man?'

Chaim Nahman Bialik

The poem was originally written in Hebrew but it's influence was magnified when, in 1904, it was translated into Russian by Vladimir Jabotinsky, at the time a popular journalist who would later become the founder of 'Revisionist Zionism'. seen as the inspiration, whether Jabotinsky would have approved or not, behind the later formation of Likud and the right wing Zionism that came into the ascendant when Menachem Begin became President in 1977.

The impossibility of the Jews continuing in their traditional role in Ukraine at the end of the nineteenth century was well expressed in the 1890s by Nahman Syrkin, who was later to become one of the most radical Socialist Zionists. This may be taken as a useful summary of everything I've said so far:

'The Jews had been permitted entry, or even invited, into backward and feudal societies in order to fulfil certain specific economic functions which at that time were out of bounds to the indigenous population, whether nobles, peasants or churchmen. They had acted as intermediaries between the warrior class and its serfs, between one branch of the society and another. Despised by the upper classes and hated by the lower, they had rarely lived anything but a precarious existence. The Khmelnitsky massacres of 1648 were only an extreme example of a chronic peril, a process which "runs through the whole of Jewish history like a scarlet thread."

'So long as there was little or no competition from within the ranks of the host nation, the Jews had usually been able to count on a measure of official protection against the popular wrath. But as soon as the indigenous nationality produced a capitalist and middle class of its own, the presence of the Jews became an historical anachronism. Sooner or later the pressure to expel them from their  positions in the economy and even from the country became irresistible. It was now the turn of the Jews in the Pale of Settlement, Galicia and Roumania to suffer the fate that had overtaken the Jews in England, France and Spain hundreds of years before. By means of legislation, boycott, discrimination and violence, the rival groups within the indigenous nationalities were squeezing them out of the economic lifestream, creating a "million-headed poverty-stricken Jewish mass."' (9)

(9)  Account of Syrkin's thinking in Joseph Frankel: Prophecy and Politics - Socialism, Nationalism and the Russian Jews, 1862-1917, Cambridge University Press, 1984, pp.298-9.

But if the Jews could no longer be what they had been what were the options open to them? One option had opened for very rich Jews. In 1859 the richest Jews in the Pale - 'merchants of the first guild - were allowed to live in Great Russia. The result was the almost immediate transformation of Russian economic life - the introduction of something we would recognise as a money system, the opening of banks dominated by the Ginsberg family, the establishment of a railway system dominated by the Poliakoff family. But this rapid modernisation of Russian economic life, encouraged by sections of the government, was creating its own opposition with advanced capitalism identified with Judaism by, for example, Dostoyevsky in his essay The Jewish Question, published in 1877. For most of the Jews still living in the Pale, of course, such respectability was out of reach but there was the possibility of abandoning a specific Jewish identity and joining with the politics of the Russian opposition. Although Jews involved in radical politics were only a very small proportion of the Jewish population they constituted a large proportion of the numbers engaged in radical politics and this did not go unnoticed by the police. Then there was the option of emigration and through the 1890s and early twentieth century the number of emigrants to America kept increasing (37,011 in 1900, 77,544 in 1904, 92,388 in 1905, and 125,234 in 1906 (10)), creating in America a substantial body ready to publicise stories of persecution in what was still regarded as 'Russia'. For those who wished to stay in the Pale and maintain their connection with the Jewish people if not with the religion, there was the Socialist Bund. And, especially after Kishinev, there was the emergence of Nationalism. This took several different forms - a demand for cultural autonomy within the Russian Empire, perhaps analogous to the old self-governing kahal system in Poland; 'territorialism' which argued that the Jews needed their own sovereign state not necessarily in Palestine; and Zionism, both right wing (notably Jabotinsky) and left wing (notably the young Marxist theorist Ber Borochov).  All these tendencies were active in setting up their own self defence units.

(10)  Ibid., p.135.