The Blackest Reaction

"Emperor Nicholas II. A grateful Russia." Alexandrovka train station, Pushkin, Petersburg, July 10, 2016. Photo by the Russian Reader
“Emperor Nicholas II. A grateful Russia.” Alexandrovka Station, Pushkin, Petersburg, July 10, 2016. Photo by the Russian Reader
"Forgive me, My Sovereign." Alexandrovka Station, Pushkin, Petersburg, July 10, 2016. Photo by the Russian Reader
“Forgive me, My Sovereign.” Alexandrovka Station, Pushkin, Petersburg, July 10, 2016. Photo by the Russian Reader

Nicholas II

Russian czar from 1894 to 1917. His reign was marked by a violent struggle against the revolutionary movement, the war against Japan (1904), which was followed by the first Russian Revolution (1905–06), and Russia’s participation (1914–17) in World War One, which culminated in the Revolution of the spring of 1917 and the removal of Nicholas II from the throne. At the outset of his reign the Jews, like other Russian circles, hoped that the new czar would change the extreme reactionary and antisemitic policy of his father Alexander III. This hope was, however, soon disappointed. The czar, whose education at the hands of Konstantin Pobedonostsev had made him an indubitable Jew-hater, regarded the Jews as the principal factor in the Russian revolutionary movement. He favored anti-Semitic statesmen, rejected any attempt to change the anti-Jewish laws in spite of the advice of some of the leading statesmen of his court (such as Sergei Witte and Pyotr Stolypin), and took under his aegis the violent anti-Semitic movement the Union of Russian People (popularly known as the Black Hundreds), and other organizations formed in reaction to the liberal and revolutionary organizations. The pogroms against the Jews, which were at first due to the free hand given to anti-Jewish incitement and the rioters, were later directly perpetrated by the police and the army, as part of the campaign against the revolution. The Beilis blood libel trial in Kiev, which was designed to set off renewed persecutions of the Jews, was inspired by the czar. Although no new anti-Jewish laws were passed during the reign of Nicholas II, the administrative pressure which accompanied the pogroms encouraged hundreds of thousands of Jews to emigrate to the U.S. and elsewhere.

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