Which Russian Czar encouraged the pogroms against Jews?
There were several czars who instituted pogroms (or mob violence) against the Jews. The two czars most associated with these attacks were Czar Alexander III and his son, the last czar, Nicolas II. However, Czar Nicolas I, who headed Russia from 1825 to 1855, first instituted the Cantonist Decrees. They called for forced military service in the Russian army from boys from 12 to 18. Boys were supposed to serve for 25 years but most did not survive the brutal military service. During their service, many efforts were made to convert them to Christianity. Czar Alexander II followed Nicolas I and treated Jews relatively well. But he was assassinated in 1881 and the next czar, Alexander III tried to blame his assassination on the Jews. He decreed a series of laws called "The Mary Laws", which said among other things,
Alexander III was succeeded by his son, Nicolas II. Under his reign, one of the most famous pogroms took place Kishinev on Easter Sunday in 1903. Ironically, this event received a lot of negative press and eventually helped lead to the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917.
- "It is henceforth forbidden for Jews to settle outside the cities and townships."
- "The registration of property and mortgages in the names of Jews is to be halted temporarily. Jews are also prohibited from administering such properties."
- "It is forbidden for Jews to engage in commerce on Sundays and Christian holidays."
It seems evident that whenever the Romanoff dynasty needed a scapegoat, the Jews were targeted. The pogroms (organized mob violence against Jewish people in Russia) clearly escalated during the reign of Alexander III (1881-1894). The purpose of the pogroms was to shift the focus of the economic and political problems in Russia away from the Czar and 'use' the Jews as 'the reason'. Combined with the pogroms Alexander III had laws passed which financially restricted the Jews in business matters. Another restriction were the laws prohibiting Jews from owning property. When Nicholas II ascended the throne the violence continued. There was an all out assault against the Jews in 1903. Unfortunately the violence against the Jews under Nicholas II only intensified as his absolute rule crumbled beneath him.