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The Haskalah Movement in Russia
written by "Raisin, Jacob S. (Jacob Salmon), 1878-1946"
...idden book any of them happened to be detected, he never betrayed his friends. Such a one was usually compelled to marry, so that, being burdened with family cares, he might desist from his unpopular pursuits. From which it would appear that though the opposition to Haskalah in Russia was by no means as violent as had been the opposition to enlightenment in France, for instance, or even among the Jews of Germany and Austria,21 it was a bitter and stubborn conflict between parents and children in the adjustment of old ideals to a new environment. Aside from the hindrances which Haskalah encountered because of Nicholas's conversionist policy, it was greatly hampered by the geographical distribution of the Jews. Here again the czar defeated his own end by segregating the three or four million of his Jewish subjects in certain districts, technically called the Pale, the greatest ghetto the world has ever known. It was a Judea in itself. The Jews there seldom came in contact with outside civilization. The languages they used were Hebrew as the literary tongue, Yiddish among themselves, and the local Slavonic dialect with their non-Jewish neighbors. Russian was strange, not only to the great majority of Jews, but to the Russians themselves. {189} It was merely the State language, and even the Government officials fell back on their mother tongue whenever they were at liberty to do so. It was this that made it very difficult for the Jews to be Russified. But even if Russification had been a much easier process, Russian civilization was hardly worth the having.22 To become Russified would have meant not only religious but also intellectual suicide. Whatever was good in the Russia of that day was an importation. The language was scarcely beyond the barbarous state. Its literature possessed neither original nor adopted writings, no profound philosophical systems, no Rousseau or Goethe, no Franklin or Kant, not even any practical information w...

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