Translated by Moshe Kutten
Edited by Rafael Manory
Years of Calamities
Immediately after the colonies of Kherson and Ekaterinoslav were placed under the new authority of the Supervisory Committee, Gaan started to systematically concentrate on correcting some of the flaws in order to improve the situation in the settlement. The actual manager, Stempel, who was an experienced and dedicated administrator, consulted, on all agricultural matters and farm management, with the experts from among the Mennonites. He nominated some of them as inspectors in every colony, replacing the previous inspectors who were mainly retired army people. Although the new inspectors were not completely untainted by anti-Semitism and rudeness, it was, nevertheless, a change for the better.
An improvement was felt in the state of the farms, which encouraged the settlers somewhat; however, following that, natural disasters occurred frequently and according to official reports from those years, the colonies in Kherson suffered from human and farm animals' disease and epidemics. During 1848 alone, close to 6000 people fell sick with scurvy, fever and other diseases, out of which about 1500 died. The hospital and the clinic that the settlers started to build thanks to the generous contribution of the [Jewish] merchant Efrat from Odessa were not yet completed during the epidemics' season.
The drought year caused a sharp increase in the price of hay. It also resulted in a cattle plague, which almost destroyed the livestock sector. Most of the horses and the entire herd of sheep and goats died during the cattle plague. Only about a third of the cattle survived. The impoverishment in the colonies forced the government to instruct its officials to act mercifully and not to be strict about collecting taxes.
In addition to nature's perils, the regular failures occurred due to the errors and negligence by the officialdom. Stempel, who reviewed the state of the housing, determined that the chill and the mold in the houses that were built during the days of Gladkii, and were in the state of disintegration and collapse, caused many of the diseases. He turned to the authorities with a request to fix of the houses immediately or rebuild them. Kisliyov nominated, again, a new commissioner (senior official Strokov), to investigate and give his opinion. After the senior official confirmed Stempel's conclusions that the construction was
negligent and faulty and improper materials were used. Another inspector, who was a civil road engineer, was sent to visit the colonies on the same issue. That engineer determined that the construction materials and their quality were not that bad, however, he stated that the fault was with the Jews who were not accustomed to maintaining their houses in order and cleanliness, and that was the reason for the disintegration of the houses
However, at some point, the government did not have a choice any longer, and it became clear that the houses had to be fixed. Kisliyov demanded, that to save money in the construction and renovations budget, the farmersthe home owners, would participate in the work.
Gaan insisted on the need to rebuild the houses that were constructed in the colonies during the days of Demidov; however, the matter was postponed due to lack of hay that was needed for the firing of the clay bricks.
Among the people who arrived in Kherson, three years prior, there were several tens of families, natives of the province of Kovno. The Kovno Provincial Minister, who was responsible for the transport of the settlers to Kherson, demanded from the Supervisory Committee to allocate land for them. The Supervisory Committee selected the 24 fittest families from among them, and demanded an allocation from the government for their settlement. However, Kisliyov proposed to allocate the needed budget from the local revenues (leasing of the reserve areas, etc.) or to settle them gradually. During 1850, 26 houses were built in the colonies of Ekaterinoslav for the Kovno settlers and they settled in their farms.
At the same time, two hundred families from Odessa requested to be allocated land. They claimed that they stopped in Odessa on their way to settle in Kherson. Investigating the truth of their claim and finding the source location of each one of these families, required a substantial effort. However, as they committed to establish the farms on their expense and were even ready to send 25 people to start the construction, and sowing, the Guardian Bureau tended to approve their request. However, due to the scurry disease, their arrival was delayed for some time.
A thorough description and more interesting information about the state of the settlements in those days were included in the letters and reviews of A. B Islavin, the personal secretary of Kisliyov, where he described his impressions about his tour of the colonies. Upon his return following a few-months tour, he submitted a detailed report in which there were many repetitions over the reviews and proposals of his predecessors, but with certain changes. He too, proposed tight oversight by the local inspectors and harsh punishments for the lazy and for those who neglect their farms.
In his first letter to Kisliyov (from 13 June 1851), he elaborated, (without expanding due to the short visit) about the main reasons which led to the failures of the Jewish settlement. He listed the main reasons as follows: indifference of the provincial authorities, from the most senior to the lowest in rank, procrastination in the dealing with requests from people who turned to the bureaus, and in correspondence among the bureaus, the greediness of the officials, particularly among the lower ranked and the last of all, the poor quality of soil.
This is what Islavin wrote:
People who previously held a tailor's needle and mason chisel, who took on a plow, after dragging their feet from one office to another for four or five years waiting for a government's approval, exhausting their last pennies, got an allocation of 50 Rubles from the government and sometimes, did not receive even that. They were forced to settle on barren and poor soil, which, even after substantial efforts and the investments of a significant initial fortune, could not provide better harvests, even for an expert farmer. This was the source for the complaints of all settlers, some of whom abandoned their plots, and some left before receiving them. Now, there is only distrust and fear prevailing among the settlers.Islavin proposed to allocate plots, suitable for cultivation, and also to nominate guides and supervisors for the settlers and the candidates for settlement. He also issued proposals regarding the order and the regime within the colonies.
The criticism by Islavin, about the provincial bureaus, provoked resentment and responses from the bureaus. In addition to his general review, Islavin brought proofs to support his criticism. He described the general phenomena of the procrastination by the officials and the bureaus, and pointed out many facts about the deprivation of the Jewish settlers even after they settled.
In mentioning the disorder in the construction of the housing, Islavin pointed out to the fact that in most cases the authorities did not lift a finger to perform proper inspection. It was obvious that the faulty houses were also the result of the privation and poverty of the residents, however, the authorities could do something about it. As proof, he pointed at the actions of the head of the bureau in Bobruisk, Sologuv, who assisted in the construction of the houses and was very helpful and useful to the settlers. He hired the builders, and inspected the quality of the work, offered wood at discounted prices, so each one of the 39 houses that he built, costed no more than 27 Rubles. Compared to the budget allocated for that purpose, it was a saving of 23 Rubles for each house. These savings could be used for procurement of other farm's needs.
The attitude by the neighbors, the Christian farmers, was depressing and unfavorable. The Jewish townspeople did not receive any guidance from them and only won laughter and mockery from their neighbors. These Christian neighbors blamed the Jews of receiving the land from the government, and were sending their cattle to graze on Jewish fields. The local authorities never paid attention to the complaints by the Jews.
In colonies with a mixed population of Jews and Christians, tense relationships were formed. The Christians complained that the Jews were not careful in handling fires, and about the fact that the Jews kept goats, which damaged the vegetable gardens.
Most of the Jewish colonies were fearful of visits by the regional police. The police would collect previously owed taxes from them, with the encouragement of the Jewish communities, and recruited their sons to the army despite the fact that according to the legislation, they were exempt from both paying off previously owed taxes, and from compulsory service from their day of their settlement. The authorities deliberately did not transfer them from the status of townspeople, to the status of farmers.
The Problem of the Supervision in the Settlement
The main problem in the Jewish settlement was how to tie the Jews to working the land. This problem could have been solved, were the conditions appropriate for the settlers. However, despite all the good will by the settlers, things developed in such a way that the conditions could only make the Jews hate their new lives. The authorities wrongly thought that they could tie the Jews to the land by coercion and by a harsh regime, harsh regulations, inspection by officials and ruthless punishments.
At the base of the government regulations about the Jewish settlement, there were three requirements, namely, that the Jewish farms be managed via a dependence on self-labor; the settlers could be helped, at time of need, by hired labor, however, they could only hire help from among their people; the other requirement was that the settlers would be prohibited from working in commerce or in small craftsmanship for profit. The third requirement was that the settlers needed to develop a mixed farm, meaning not only cultivation of crops but they should also raise cattle, grow vegetables and plant orchards. These requirements, which were appropriate, became, several decades later, the ideological base for the collective agricultural settlement in Israel. However, under the conditions of those days, these requirements were illogical and baseless, and the people who dictated these requirements upon the Jews, were themselves owners of giant estates and masters of thousands of enslaved vassals. Even the liberals among them, were far from holding views of social equality, and of respecting labor as a human value. The common Jews, who came to settle in Kherson and Ekaterinoslav lands, looked for sources of sustenance and for tranquility in their lives. They were not fortunate to find either, not at all. What power could have prevented the poor settlers from wandering back to town to earn some pennies so that they could buy some food for their children?
Indeed, even with the primitive cultivation methods practiced during those days, a diligent and organized farmer could have established a sound farm, pay his taxes and live life without deprivation. The government hoped that the Jewish settlers would reach that level during the first six years after their settlement. However, many years passed and most of the farms never progressed. The fields were sown or were somewhat cultivated, however, the cattle sector never developed, the vegetables were never grown and fruit trees never planted. The inspectors and visitors who were sent to inspect the situation as well as the local authorities, all indicated, even the most objective among them, that the conditions of the settlers were harsh but that the main factor was the human factor.
We cannot deny that there was a bit of truth in this criticism. Indeed, it was not easy for the Jews to free themselves from their old customs. Unlike the Christian settlers, who in time of need and deprivation, could always look for work as agricultural laborers or in another physical labor type of work, the Jews only knew how to be occupied by doing air business such as peddling or salesmanship.
During the feudalist regime of those days, the officials understood that they needed to uproot the Jewish characteristics by establishing a harsh regime and strict supervision and by restricting the freedom of movement.
Gaan, as the head of the Supervisory Committee of the settlement in Novorussiya, was the first
person who tried to manage the Jewish settlers by using constructive methods. Despite the fact that he, too, supported the government regulations, he nominated inspectors from among agriculturalists, and not administrative inspectors, to implement these instructions. The role of the inspectors was to guide the settlers in all of the farm categories, to teach them order, help them procure tree seedlings and guide them in handling the plants. He was diligent in seeing that the houses were constructed properly and they would be spacious and stylish in their appearance. He even took care of making sure to have ornamental gardens planted around them.
According to his proposal of 1858, 145 German farmers were settled within the Jewish colonies in order to serve as positive examples for the Jews.
As the years advanced, substantial progress occurred in some of the Jewish settlers' farms, particularly because of the effort of the second generation, which became accustomed to physical work. In every colony, some owners developed beautiful farms. Some of the farms developed the cattle sector, vegetables were grown and trees were planted. However, some other farms were neglected, their owners suffered from deprivation, and they always tended to wander off to the cities where they could earn some income.
After visiting the settlement colonies himself, Islavin suggested dividing the settlers into four levels. He proposed to award those who excel with rewards and benefits and to encourage those whose situation was average, to rise and reach the higher level. For those who belonged to the lowest level, Islavin proposed to treat harshly and to escalate their punishments.
At the end, Islavin's original proposals which were submitted to his patron and were also moved for discussion in other institutions (such as the Jews' Committee and the Council of Ministers), were not approved for some reason. However, they did generate interest. According to the proposals, the settlers who were considered as First Level farmers were those who owned established farms, who possessed all the required agricultural equipment, oxen, mules or horses and sufficient farm building. They cultivated their fields free of any pressure by the inspectors, their crops-growing fields covered at least 8 disiyatin [disiyatin = 2.7 acres], their vegetable garden was at least 1.5 disiyatin or larger, they were prepared for the winter by having sufficient amounts of hay and straw, their houses were in good repair and at least 15 trees were planted around them. Also, their behavior was good, they were obedient toward the local authority, they resided in the colony permanently and when they left, they always returned on the date stated in their license and their taxes were paid off in an orderly manner. Second Level farmers were settlers whose farms were cultivated properly, but not to the extent and the range of those of the First Level farms. Their way of life and behavior were impeccable according to the criteria mentioned above. The Third Level included settlers who were honest in their behavior, obedient and paying taxes, but their farms were not sufficiently developedthey cultivated less than half disiyatin of vegetables, did not own structures for their farm animals, and there were no trees planted around their houses. The Fourth Level included people who did not own farm animals or agricultural equipment, or they were neglected, their fields were cultivated neglectfully, they lacked cleanliness and order. It also included people who were leaving the colony without permission, or did not care to come back on the stated date.
Rude and insolent people who did not obey the local authority, or people who were late in paying their taxes and alike, were also included in their level.
According to Islavin's proposal, only farmers of the first two levels were allowed to be elected as the heads of a village or members of a village management team. People of the third level could only be elected to less important roles. On the other hand, people who belonged to the fourth level were not allowed to elect or be elected for any role. The first two levels were exempt from paying taxes on public pasturelands (first-degree farmers were exempt for 20 heads of cattle and 45 heads of sheep). The first and second-level farmers were allowed to hire paid (Jewish) laborers in a time of need, something that was not allowed for the third-level farmers who had to cultivate their farm by themselves.
Theft, insolence, disobedience toward the authority officials, or leaving the colony and going to the city without a license, was punishable, on all levels, by jail, or by physical punishment and by reduction to a lower level. Fourth-level farmers were also punished for negligence in their work. For a first offensethe punishment was several-days in the local jail, or a physical punishment. On the third offense, if the farmer was late to return to the colony on the date stated in the license, his punishment was jail time for several months or enrolment into the army.
About Rabbis and Melameds
Islavin thought that one basic reason for Jews' inability to acclimatize with agriculture was the zealous religious education that was being taught by the rabbis and the melameds. He thought that the religious leadership interpreted the Jewish laws, after being exiled from their native land, according to their convenience and usefulness to the leaders, because of their greediness and desire for power. He was convinced that these interpretations were harmful particularly towards the occupation of working the land. The holidays of Passover and Sukkot occur during the busy agricultural seasons. While in their native land, they would only celebrate four days of the holidays out of eight, and would work during the Khol Hamoed [regular working days that fall during the 8-day holidays], and nowadays they are idle even during Khol Hamoed days. Exactly during the season of preparing the fields for the winter crops, their holidays, which include Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot, last for three weeks.
Islavin concluded from that, that the attitude of the Jews toward physical work and agriculture could be changed, if the zealous rabbis would be replaced by more generally educated rabbis who would educate their followers to love nature, work and agriculture, and would not confuse them with invalid and ancient superstitions. He thought that the children would benefit from replacing the zealous melameds with teachers with a general education who would educate the children in school using the state language and would widen the general curriculum.
Islavin understood very well, that his objective could not be achieved by an order from high up, or by instituting a new regime by force. He understood that they should approach the solution of the problem carefully and with patience. The rabbis, with all of their bad influence, were very knowledgeable in the interpretations of the Torah and the Talmud, and the nation considered them as their spiritual leaders. Replacing them with young rabbis with general education could result in a negative response. Besides, there were insufficient numbers of rabbis from among the graduates of the rabbinical and teacher colleges in Vilna and Zhitomir[*] . There were also only a few generally educated youth who could serve as teachers in the schools.
Based on his belief in the power of change through education, Islavin proposed to award the rabbis with a general education, graduates of the colleges in Zhitomir and Vilna, land plots in addition to their salaries, where they could work in their free time, and also allow them to be helped by employing laborers form among the colony's people. He also suggested to exempt them from paying taxes for the first 10 years, while their occupation in agriculture would serve as an example for the Jewish population and in particularthe youth.
As mentioned above, Islavin did not wish to cause an immediate change through a revolution. He did not prohibit the melameds from continuing teaching using their old system. However, he did prohibit the studies in a kheder located at the house of the melameds. He specifically emphasized that they need to find a vacant house in each colony and dedicate it for the purpose of teaching and education.
To establish uniformity in constructing schools, and to coordinate the supervision over them, Islavin suggested imposing empowering the Supervisory Committee, which oversaw the settlement in Novorossiya, with that duty. However, to avoid misunderstanding between the supervising authority and the population, Islavin proposed nominating an enlightened and educated Jew for this purpose, who would serve as an advisor to the Supervisory Committee. The person who was proposed for that position, was Herman-Bernard Gurovitz, the founder (in 1826), and the principal of the Jewish school in Odessa (He also founded a school in the city of Uman in 1822).
Islavin objected to the existence of a yeshiva [Jewish high school] in the colony of Romanovka, since it attracted Jewish youth from far away cities. The existence of a yeshiva in an agricultural colony may, in his opinion, convert the agricultural village to a typical [Jewish] town in the Pale of Settlement.
Islavin's proposals were submitted to the authorities in Petersburg for discussion and resolution.
During spring of 1856, in his lecture in front of the new king - Alexander the Second, Graf Kisliyov emphasized that various limitations, prevent the assimilation of the Jews among the neighboring populate. Because of that lecture, the Czar ordered (31 March 1856) to review all the standing regulations concerning the Jews,
in order to achieve the purpose of assimilation of this nation among the country settlements, as long as the moral state of the Jews makes them qualified for that purpose.
That view was the extension of the opinion that favored the assimilation and conversion of the Jews through allocation of special rights, and not through economic, physical and spiritual servitude, as in the days of Nikolai the First.
The Jews' Committee, which discussed the abovementioned proposals, concluded that most of the [Jewish] agricultural settlements in the western provinces contained too few farmers. Every action in this area would encounter financial problems. Finding qualified teachers for the colonies was not a simple task, as the experience in establishing public school for the Jewish population in the cities had shown. The Jews' Committee preferred to offer the Ministry of State's Assets to consider, at least initially, to be content with establishing several schools in the colonies of Kherson and Ekaterinoslav maintaining them through the meat tax account. As far as including religious studies as part of the curriculum, or leave this question up to the parents to decide, the Jews' Committee decided on the former, based on the experience acquired in public schools in the cities, which were not favored by the Jewish parents. The main reason for the failure of the state schools came from the fact that the Jews did not believe in foreign intervention in religious studies. That was why the local authorities concluded to exclude the religious studies from the general curriculum of public schools.
The Jews' Committee, also looked at the influence of the melameds as harmful, but understood that as long as they do not have a replacement, they are necessary, and that the termination of their work would be perceived as a prohibition of religious studies. Only after sufficient numbers of suitable rabbis and teachers would be trained, it would be possible to proceed with removing the melameds.
All of the conclusions by the Jews' Committee were approved by the Alexander the Second on 4 May 1859.
Kherson's and Ekaterinoslav Colonies are Center Stage Again
When the settlement in the western provinces was discontinued by the Czar's decree towards the end of 1859, the attention was again directed towards the regions of the Jewish settlements in Kherson and Ekaterinoslav. About 80 thousand disiyatins were available for new settlers, where more than 2000 families could be settled. The areas were leased at the time and the incomes from the lease were spent for the benefit of the existing settlement.
One of the first actions of [the new Minister of State's Assets] Muravyov, like his predecessors, was to investigate the state of the existing colonies by sending a special envoy, Rudnitzki. This envoy also confirmed
in his review, that working the land may become a permanent occupation of the Jewish population, despite the fact that acclimatization with physical work and persistence with it required more effort than for people who were born as farmers. This was the results of customs that had been acquired for generations, and the lack of character for fighting nature. The officials who handled the settlers, with all of their desire to fulfil their superiors' wishes, were not always vigilant or diligent in employing the means for doing their job.
The Jews could not perform their agricultural work properly. Jewish farmers were perceived by their Christians neighbors with distrust, disdain and ridicule. That weakened the self-confidence [of the Jewish settlers] and their ability to endure.During 1858, a locust plague rampaged through most of the colonies, whereas in 1859, most of the pasture grass wilted from luck of rain, and the cattle remained without food. The winter crop did not yield seeds, and was harvested as straw. The spring sprouting was poor, making the economic situation of the settlers, who did not have sufficient seeds and savings from prior years, desperate.
The Jews who settled in proximity to cities (the intent here was the settlements in the western provinces), were placed in a continuous contest between the work requirements in their own farms and their customs and connections with their people. However, the people who settled in the prairie (Kherson), far from the cities, were in continuous fight with climate hardships, which were difficult to overcome even for people who were born to be farmers.
In places that lack ravines or streams, the farmers were forced to dig very deep wells, in some place up to 25 sazhins (about 50 meters), just to provide their needs of drinking water. Nobody talked about water for growing vegetables or plant trees.About one third of Kherson's settlers, according to Rudnitzki, were owners of sound and established farms. About one third were less established farms and the other third were poor, wandering and miserable.
Many farmers leased and cultivated plots of their fellow villagers, in addition to their own land.
Rudnitzki also indicated that the appearance of some of the colonies (Sdeh Menukha Ha'Gdola [Big Sdeh Menukha], Bobrovi-Kut, Novo-Berislav, and Novo-Kovna) was nicer than the Russian villages around them. He found there were ornamental gardens and trees around the houses there. However, some other colonies (Israelovka, Novo-Poltavka and Lvov) made a poor impression: The fields are laughable, as the cultivation work looked negligent. Only rarely were the adult settlers able to become dedicated farmers. However, those who came to the colonies as children, or were born in the colonies, worked diligently and smartly. Although they still did not rise to the level of the German farmers, they, however, were better than the Russian farmers.
In Rudnitzki's opinion, it was advisable to continue with the settlement, since the Jews were able to be diligent farmers for their own sake and for the sake of the country. However, a suitable way for dividing the lands according to their types would be required. In addition, some additional privileges should be provided for the settlers.
The proposals, were compiled and approved by Muravyov, with some additional comments and proposals by Gaan, who in the meantime, went up in rank and became a secret advisor and a member in the Council of the Ministry for the State's Assets. The proposals dealt mostly with the implementation aspects. It was emphasized that the western provincial committees must be reminded that they need to be mindful of the instructions concerning the dates of the departure, organization and supply to the convoys when it comes to transporting candidates to Kherson and Ekaterinoslav. They should also be reminded to be diligent when it comes to selection of candidates.
He emphasized that the houses must be constructed and completed before the arrival of the settlers. It was proposed that discussions must be held with the Interior Ministry, about increasing the allocation for housing from 100 to 150 rubles per house, and to construct them according to the plans of the technical department.
The date by which the exemption from government taxes that Ekaterinoslav's farmers had enjoyed expired at the end of 1847. According to the personal tax tables, they had to pay 2872 rubles in 1857 and 4951 rubles in 1858, altogether 7823 rubles. The Supervisory Committee officials notified their superiors regarding the collection of the taxes, that during the ten years of the exemption, the settlers experienced many hardships, and that they were in a poor economic state, not better than at the start of their settlement. The officials indicated that the settlers would not able to pay their taxes. They elaborated that 5 of the 10 years since settlement were years of drought and deprivation, and for 6 years the settlers suffered from locust. As a result, the harvest did not even return the amount of seeds needed for the following year. During the year of 1848, 730 heads of cattle have died from a cattle plague, and during the years 1848, 1849 and 1853, 2584 people died from the rampage of the scurry and cholera diseases. They also stated that during the War of Crimea (18531855), the settlers fulfilled their civil duty and transported soldiers and military supplies in their wagons. The Supervisory Committee, therefore, requested to extend the tax exemption of the Jewish colonies of Ekaterinoslav for an additional period of five years.
Muravyov rejected the request of the Supervisory Committee and blamed the officials for their negligence to collect the taxes since 1857 for two years. However, the Supervisory Committee insisted on its request, and stated that it was possible to collect the taxes only by means of coercion, meaning by selling some of the Jewish assets. There was no other way to do it. Muravyov brought the problem for discussion in the Council of Ministers, which decided to exempt the Jewish settlers from paying taxes until 1862. The resolution was approved by Alexander the Second on 26 January 1860.
Improvement and Stabilization
Rudnitzki divided the Jewish settlers into three types: One third were established farmers, one third were in a satisfactory condition and third were in a failed condition. If we consider the state of the Russian peasants, even 50 years later, we recall that they were retrograde, and most of the peasants had to sustain themselves by outside work in the cities; we can also recall a similar situation, in the beginning of the 20th century in Romania, Poland and Carpathian Ukraine. If we compare that to the state of the Jewish colonies, we find that two thirds of the settlers were actually in a satisfactory situation, able sustain themselves by cultivating the land, and these were Jews who were doing this after only one generation of working in the fields. This could be considered significant progress. It was also encouraging to see the fact that the second-generation youth were diligent and knowledgeable in the various farm's categories.
It is worthwhile to note that during these years, after the which the exemption from taxes ended, except for a few cases, the taxes were paid fully.
There were four types of [annual] taxes that were imposed on the settlers:
These taxes amounted to about 30 Rubles per year for a family of six.
Towards the year 1860, in the ten land areas where public forests were planted, about 11,693 of forest trees and 25,530 olive trees were planted. There, about were also a vineyard and 28,000 plants of forest trees and berry trees in the nurseries. Overall, a total of about 30,000 fruit tree, berry trees and ornament tree were planted in the gardens around the houses.
According to Gamm, the head of the Supervisory Committee in those days, the colonies made a nice impression. The streets were straight and wide. There were quite nice houses on both sides, painted in white, and exceptionally clean. There were farm buildings located in the yards, including cowsheds, stables, barns, sheds for tools and cellars. Some of the farmers excelled in the development of their farm, and there were some who won prizes.
In Gamm's opinion, the Jewish settlers were influenced by the German farmers, particularly the Mennonites, who were placed in each colony to set an example for the Jews. The German farms, were immersed in greenery, surrounded by vineyards and by storage places full of food. These exemplary farms proved what could be done with diligence, knowledge and good will.
The number of the exemplary German farms reached 139 at the end of 1850's
among the Kherson colonies, and 60 exemplary farms among Ekaterinoslav colonies, a total of 199 farms.
According to Gamm, there were some farmers who were also involved with craft and commerce, however, their main occupation was agriculture. The farmers showed readiness to be introduced to more efficient cultivation methods and more advanced tools.
Similar to the rest of the inspectors and the various visitors, Gamm was also of the opinion that the Jews' morality was defective and that they brought with them, from their previous locations and prior way of life, attributes of unruliness, stubbornness, cheating, gossip, and particularly the tendency for wandering around. However, on the other hand, he knew to state pleasantly, that due to their transfer to the agricultural way of life, their morality improves. As a side comment, he continued to praise the honest way of life of the Jewish settlers, and the fact that they avoid drinking, and are not obsessed with sex and adultery. Because of these attributes, Gamm expressed his confidence that the generation that was born in the colonies, and the following generations, will become natural farm workers, as long as the melameds would not harm them with their invalid education.
We can learn, from some numbers provided in these reviews, about the way of life and the structure of the public management of the colonies in Kherson and Ekaterinoslav during the 1860s. It turned out that there were 83 orphans in the colonies, and that there were guardians nominated for them. The orphans' property (from their parents' farm) amounted to 7,745 Rubles. At that time, there were 176 disabled, mentally sick, and homeless people in the colonies for whose upkeep, a special fund was established in 1854, via an internal tax that was imposed on every household. Towards 1860, there were six synagogues and 28 Batei Midrash [houses of learning and praying], where 14 rabbis served. In the Kherson colonies, there were 930 pupils who studied in kheders taught by 94 melameds. Tuition cost the farmers about 7000 Rubles per year. In Ekaterinoslav colonies, 13 melameds taught, and 4 boys from the colonies studied in the agricultural school.
Beside the heads of the villages, who were called 'Shultz'es [a word taken from the German settlers], 46 paid people worked in the internal management in various tasks.
Among the Jewish population in the colonies, that amounted to about 27 thousand people, 86 trials were held. Eight people were sentenced to serve time in jail, 288 received administrative punishments for offences such as negligence in farm work, disobedience and leaving the colonies without a license:
|Cash fines||181 people|
|Public work penalties||49 people|
|Jail penalty for several days||53 people|
There were 14 taverns in Kherson's colonies, one for every 654 people. In Ekaterinoslav, there were 13 taverns, or one for every 419 people
The population towards 1861 was
|Kherson||21 colonies||1778 families||16,932 people|
|Ekaterinoslav||16 colonies||864 families||9,852 people|
|Total||37 colonies||2,642 families||26,784 people|
Altogether, at the same time, there were 3829 horses and 9274 heads of cattle (including calves)
These seemingly dry facts and numbers, give an idea about the way of life of this Jewish community of 27,000 people, in 37 colonies cultivating close to a million and a quarter dunam [about 309,000 acres] of land. The community's internal life was managed by its elected people, its children were all studying Torah as well as reading and writing in Hebrew.
The settlers have not reached wealth as of yet. They were not even satisfying all of their needs. The drought and the locust were still frequent guests. There were some colonies that suffered from a shortage of drinking water, and some failed farms could be found in every colony, not necessarily because of neglect. During the years, several levels of material status have been formed among the settlers, and thus some relationships of envy, hate and strife existed.
Not every head of colony (Shultz) acted honestly, kindly and with empathy towards his fellow farmers. There were, certainly some forceful Shultzes who encircled themselves with a group of yes-men, like in every other place in the world. The situation was far from ideal, however is clear that, at that point, the most difficult things, were already behind the settlers.
The Situation after the Peasants' Emancipation, during the 1860s
Upon the emancipation of the peasants in 1863, the Russian government turned to formulate regulations for an autonomous self-governing regime in the villages. Until then, all the lands' matters were included under the Ministry of the State's Assets. From then onward, the handling of the improvement in the state of the farmers and modernization of their farms was transferred to the Zemstvo [local elected authority] of the province. The local matters in every village would be managed by an elected head of the village and the regional matters by an elected institution called Volost.
The writers of the regulations understood that they could not exclude the Jewish settlers from the new regime and its arrangements. The general regulations were approved only in 1866. In the meantime, as regime was not strict about matters related to the internal management of the Russian farmers, they were also not strict about keeping the old regulations about the Jews (the prohibition of being involved in commerce, or of employing
Christian workers, etc.) in the western provinces. However, that was not the case `for the colonies of Kherson and Ekaterinoslav, which were under supervision since their establishment.
Based on the new order (from 22 October 1859) to discontinue the settlement in the western provinces, and concentrate it in Kherson and Ekaterinoslav, the government turned to implement its decision, in practice.
As mentioned earlier, 80 thousand disiyatins were available for the Jewish settlement in these two provinces. The Guidance Bureau was leasing these lands to the local farmers, and the incomes were used for the special needs of the Jewish colonies. These lands were big enough for the settling of about 200 families. The first candidates, some 200-300 families, arrived in Kherson and Ekaterinoslav several years prior, and they were spread, in the meantime, in the region while waiting to be settled. The officialdom did not know exactly where their places of residence were, or whether they still had an interest in settling. However, anybody who requested received a plot.
Based on their experience from prior years, the Guidance Bureau was strict about preventing the arrival of candidates before everything was ready to receive them, including housing, farm structures etc. Because of a shortage in construction materials and workers, it was not possible to execute the settlement on a massive scale. The Guidance Bureau settled on settling 200300 families per year.
From their experience, they also learned that tightening the fist on the allocation for the construction of houses and farm equipment caused the failures of the first settlers. Now everybody recognized that the allocation for the establishment of a new farm should not be less than 500 Rubles.
The budget for the Jewish settlement came from the meat tax account (that was collected from the Jews for Kosher slaughtering and was spent on needs of Jews). These accounts were handled by the provincial authorities, and were operating within the Jewish population of every province. Budget allocations from the meat tax for settlers were therefore available only for candidates from the same province. This arrangement caused problems, because it required coordination with the provincial ministers where the settlers came from, to confirm that it was possible to withdraw allocations from the meat tax account for the needs of the settlement.
The responses to these requests were sometimes elusive. Some officials responded that there is money available, but cannot be withdrawn in large sums. Other responded that there were local needs, and that all the moneys have already been budgeted for specific needs. There were some provincial ministers who doubted the whole issue of the settlement and hinted that in their view the failures were mostly because the Jews had no interest in agriculture.
Islavin, who, as mentioned earlier, had visited the colonies while serving as the secretary of Kisliyov in 1851, was asked again to visit the colonies, investigate and provide his opinion on the way by which the Jewish farmers should be incorporated under the new regulations. Islavin rose up in rank in the meantime. After serving
for two years as the head of the Guidance Bureau, he became an advisor for the Ministry for the State's Assets, and his opinion and proposals carried weight at that point.
During his visit current in 1865, about 15 years after his first visit, he was able to compare and determine the amount of progress and development. Islavin did find a certain progress, however, his impressions were mostly pessimistic. In one colony, he saw the same rickety houses that he saw 15 years prior. Not everywhere, the planted trees took hold. Not in every colony, the taxes have been paid, and not all the gardens around the houses were attractive.
Rudintzki, as mentioned above, divided the settlers into three levels. Islavin agreed with him only in regards to the settlers in Ekaterinoslav province. He stated that in Kherson, the number of failed farmers is about half of the settlers, rather than one third. He blamed the lack of progress on the traditional education by the rabbis and melameds. In this area, he did not find any change. The number of melameds increased, new Batei Midrash were built and the Yeshiva in the colony of Romanovka was still operating and its influence seemed to him as harmful.
Islavin wanted to uproot the Jewish zealotry, which hinders progress. However, he did not believe that this should be done by administrative means. He proposed, this time again, to mobilize some of the enlightened people from Odessa, particularly Gurevitz who established there a Jewish school, had close relations with the authorities and knew the colonies. He nominated him to formulate a suitable curriculum, select from among the melameds, those who are suitable to fill the role of teachers, and then convert some of the Batei Midrash to general schools. He also asked him to find a way by which to convince the parents to also send the girls to school.
After the new minister A.A. Zelenoi had readIslavin's review, he wrote on its margin: I believe that the whole enterprise was unsuccessful and faulty in its foundation. It could not be fixed administratively. It is doubtful if new Jewish colonies should be established and convert the Jews to become farmers through coercion. Only by continuous education, and strict supervision, it would be possible to educate and improve their attributes and customs. However, because such supervision and tight handling are not possible, the only thing left to do is to develop the existing colonies, and to hand them over, as well as all other villages, to the provincial authorities (the intent was probably to the Zemstvo. Tz. L). I would like to discuss this review in a special committee, headed by the vice minister and to submit recommendations.
According to Zelenoi's decision, a special committee was assembled to discuss this problem. The opinion of Minister Zelenoi, expressed in the margins of the review, reflects the change in the views and the mood at the beginning of Alexander the Second's reign. Liberalism was gradually evaporating and conservatism showed its claws, especially with respect to the Jews. The committee already operated under a restrictive atmosphere.
The committee, in which Islavin participated, concluded and summarized that the settlement enterprise was mainly external and formal (meaning that its existence did not come from the will of the Jews but from the government initiative). The weakening of the supervision in the western provinces, made it easy for many settlers to fully or partially neglect agriculture.
The settlement in Kherson and Ekaterinoslav achieved, in the Committee's view, the desirable results, to a certain extent, because of the strict supervision imposed on them and because of the guidance by the Mennonites. A healthy core has developed, who could strengthen under comfortable conditions; however, this achievement paled in comparison with the substantial efforts and investments. The objective of easing the burden of the excess number of Jews within the Pale of Settlement has not been achieved.
The committee proposed to discontinue the settlement effort in the provinces of Kherson and Ekaterinoslav starting 1867 and onward.
The committee proposed to take the following intermediate steps before the discontinuation:
We did not find anywhere in the archives any clear decision for the approval of the committee's proposal concerning the discontinuation of the settlement in Kherson and Ekaterinoslav. Perhaps such a proposal was approved without an accompanying publication. However, the fact was that the transfer of candidates from the western provinces to Kherson and Ekaterinoslav stopped, as every candidate required the allocation of 500 Rubles from the provincial meat tax accounts, and these amounts of money were not found in these accounts.
The Jewish settlement movement that started in Kherson in the beginning of the 19th century, froze in 1866. There were some supplement settlements in farms that were vacant by the local residents, or by the members of the second generation who married and inherited the estates of their parents. However, the settlement movement ceased. In the same year there were 39 colonies in Kherson and Ekaterinoslav (see detailed statistics in Appendix C). Most of the farmers in these colonies were already acclimatized to the work in agriculture. The members of the second generation liked work. While some of the farmers were attracted to side occupations in craftsmanship or commerce, it did not take away from the agricultural character of the colonies, the fields of which were cultivated and contained herds of cattle, vegetable fields and tree orchards. A village characteristic atmosphere of physical work and simplicity was created in these colonies.
Klaus's Report in 1870
Klaus was one of the senior officials in the Settlement Department in Novorussiya (Guardian Bureau). In 1870, he was nominated by the ministry to visit the colonies and submit a review to the authorities.
He noted that some of the settlers leave the colonies temporarilyhowever, their number was not significant. He also emphasized, that there was nothing wrong with the fact that a member of a big family, which diligently cultivates the farm, would go out and earn an additional income on the side. He too, like his predecessors, embraced the claim about the bad influence of the rabbis and the melameds, however, his impressions were generally positive. The following are some statements from his review:
The Jewish farmers became convinced of the benefit that working the land brings, and they are working hard and diligently on the development of their farms.In his opinion, one of the obstacles in the development of the villages is the shortage of water. Advanced settlement, even by expert farmers, depends on the abounded availability of water. Within the Jewish colonies, the shortage of water, adversely affects the settlers. For example, the colony of Dobroye, managed to receive water from a well dug by the members of the colony only as late as 1859. Even though pumping the water costs 1000 Rubles per year, the water is not always drinkable. In 1868, the colony dug a new well, however, its water was not good. The water shortage was amplified by the increase in population in the colony.
...Not only men are working in the fields, but also Jewish women, particularly members of the second generation.
There are several wells in Novo-Poltavka, however, their water is bitter and salty and causes diseases. The issue of drinkable water became commercialized. The Christian farmers from the neighboring villages haul water to the colony before holidays and sell them in pales. There is good drinking water in nine of Ekaterinoslav 's colonies. In the colony of Grafskoya, there was a well, however its water is saturated with a bad mineral, and only the poor families use it. However, the established farmers haul water in carts from the German colony Marienfeld.From all the inspectors who have visited the colonies, Klaus was the first one who thoroughly dealt with this problem of water shortage, and the first to propose some solutions.
In the colonies of Novo Zlatopol, Trudoliubovka, Nechayevka, there is no drinking water, and their farmers bring water from the neighboring Christian villages, from as far as 37 parsas [about 7.517.5 miles].
in the colony of Vesselaya, the well water is good as long as it is fresh, however, it becomes bitter after standing in a barrel for some time.
The colony of Krassnoselka uses two water reservoirs for watering the cattle, however, one of them dries up in the summer.
While pointing at the factors for the lagging of the Jewish colonies, Klaus compared their conditions to the ones of the German and Bulgarian colonies: The German and Bulgarian settlers, are farmers from birth, and accustomed to agriculture. They received 50 or 60 disyatins per family, regardless of the number of people in the family. Since they were expert farmers, they chose the best land areas for themselves. Only 30 disiyatins were allocated for the Jewish families. The bad land areas allocated to them were such that no other farmer would agree to cultivate them. The German and Bulgarian farmers, were free to work in side jobs, in commerce or craftsmanship, while the Jews were prohibited from having any side occupation. The German and the Bulgarian farmers were able to receive additional lands out of the land reserves. The Jews were prevented from doing that. The German and Bulgarian farmers were allowed to employ Christian farmers from neighboring villages, whereas the Jews were only allowed to employ Jewish workers, who were not usually occupied in fieldwork, and only during the busy season. Because of the regulation that stated that a Jewish family is suitable for settlement only if it contained three men who are able to work, two families were sometime combined artificially to form a single-family unit, and they received only a single farm unit and a single residential house. This dual-family arrangement hindered the management of the farm, and the relationships between the families were sometimes tense...
Klaus also discovered that the population doubled in the German and Bulgarian colonies during a period of 2530 years However, in the Jewish colonies, the population has not only not increased, but suffered a steep decrease.
In 1870, there was no change in the number of settlers. The total number of families residing in the 39 Kherson and Ekaterinoslav colonies that year was 2788 families.
In his summary, Klaus noted that the Jewish colonies consist of a community of real farmers. There are a number of farmers with quite established and advanced farms compared with many Russian farms.
The minister wrote on the margins of the review: I thank Mr. Klaus for his successful completion of his task, and with that, the positive review was shelved in the archives
In the years following Klaus's visit and review, many changes occurred in the life of the Russian villages and in the Russian society as a whole. The government was forced to seriously discuss the regulations and the organization of its society according to the reality and to the developments after the emancipation of the farmers. The new regulations were formulated initially according to a liberal spirit. A local self-management team was installed in every village. The farmers elected their own head of village. Every block of villages was included in a regional management named Volost. An institution called Zemstvo was established in every judicial county, under the supervision of which, all the agricultural and local matters of the villages were placed. The institution was responsible for issues such as roads, schools, hospitals, social institutions, and for some time also agricultural training, loaning banks. (In order for us not to consider that the Czarist regime allowed excess democracy, we need to note that the Pristav the regional police commanderhad more influence and authority than the heads of the villages, and that mostly estate owners were elected for the role of heads of the Zemstvos , at least during the initial period. Tz. L).
There was a need to discuss the issue of handing over the government lands to the farmers for good, and the whole legal system associated with that. As part of that discussion, the problem of how to integrate the Jewish colonies into this new system came about. Years passed since Klaus's review of 1870. Regulations were reworked. Ministers changed. Liberalism was diminishing and conservatism expanding, and with it, the hatred of the Jews. The Jewish settlement ceased to invoke the interest of highly ranked people in Petersburg, and based on the old regulations, many of the Jewish farmers were dislodged by the local officialdom because of negligence, laziness and unruliness. In order to integrate this creature called Jewish Settlement in the general regulation system, it was necessary to investigate its state and status. In 1880, Ivanschintzev was nominated for that role.
According to the numbers that were brought up in Ivanschintzev's review, there were only 1956 families residing in all of the colonies, while according to Klaus's review, 10 years earlier, there were 2788 families in these colonies. We do not have any documents or records that explain the reasons for this reduction. However, we would probably be correct if we assume that during the 1870's when the reactionary forces strengthened and the attitude toward the Jewish settlement cooled down, the officialdom expended the use of the dislodging provision toward owners of farms that seemed to them as falling behind.
According to Ivanschintzev the occupations of the Jewish settlers were as follows:
|Agriculture (permanently)||1450 families|
|Craftsmanship within the colonies||160 families|
|Commerce and craftsmanship outside of the colonies||147 families|
|Wanderers (probably occupied in incidental occupations)||137 families|
Ivanschintzev too, like his predecessors, blamed the poor soil, lack of forests, shortage of water, frequent drought years, inconvenient climate, and calamities of nature such as locust, field mice and agricultural pests for the retardation of the Jewish colonies. He too, found fault in the regulation prohibiting the Jews from getting help by employing Christian workers, which caused tremendous loss during the busy season. He also noted that, despite all of that, the Jews vindicated the government objective by their diligence, and wishes to become good farmers. He emphasized that the acclimation of the Jews was proven by the appearance of their villages, most of which looked much nicer that the Russian villages. He viewed with kindness, the Jews whose farms were taken away from because of their farming failure, and who were forced to find sustenance in craftsmanship. He claimed that they could have become good farmers after two to three years of good harvest.
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