The campfire pictured above represent both hope and destruction for Russian Jews. During the mid 19th century, the Jews in Russia had a breakthrough in terms of freedom like their counterparts in Germany. They had numerous opportunities to hold middle-class work positions such as teachers and bankers. This was a moment of hope in the dark for them as they finally had a chance to integrate, assimilate, and improve their status in society. However, all good things never last as the increased opportunities for the Jews sparked some discontent among the non-Jewish Russians. Although it did not start out violent, this quickly took a turn for the worse when Tsar Alexander II was assassinated in 1881. The Tsar was the Jews’ saving grace as he played a direct role in improving the conditions of the Jews. The loss of their sole backer caused the backlash on the Jews to spread like wildfire. The most prominent one was the countless restrictions imposed by the new tsar, Alexander III. Their once cherished freedom was now a distant memory as they are now forbidden from buying any land or conduct businesses. Even the children’s right to education was compromised as quotas limited the amount of Jewish Russians allowed to enroll in state schools and colleges. The media and other reactionaries also further fueled the fire by printing propaganda and spreading damning rumors. Towards the end of the 19th century, thousands of Jews were killed in Russia as a result of race riots sparked by these rumors and propaganda, leaving behind a path of destruction for the Jews like an out of control fire, blazing down everything in its way. This would eventually contribute to the widespread genocide of Jews all over Europe.


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