Saturday, May 2, 2015

The Jewish Population of Imperial Russia

Jews were arguably the most discriminated against ethnic group in the entire Russian Empire. After the partitions of Poland, the newly Russian Jews were forced to live in the Pale of Settlement beginning in 1791, under Catherine the Great. This almost 500,000 square mile stretch of land bordered the Kingdom of Prussia and Austria-Hungary. 

Besides being forced to live in this area, Russian Jews were also subject to abuse by military units. During the Great War (World War One), many Jewish villages were ransacked and thousands of Jewish men, women, and children were murdered. Anti-Semitism was a norm during this time so the officer corps of the Russian army did nothing to stop these actions and were often extremely anti-Sematic themselves. 

Additionally, Jews were all but completely barred from joining the military. Some officers refused to allow potential Jewish soldiers into their ranks, while others were more lenient and willing to create special Jewish divisions. About a half million Jews were able to serve in the Great War. Clearly, Jews in Imperial Russia faced an extreme amount of discrimination and persecution. 

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