Unfulfilled hopes. The Jews of Warsaw and the Emperor of Russia, King of Poland, Alexander I

In the Napoleonic Wars era, the rights of Warsaw Jews were being gradually limited. The community located their hopes for improvement in the person of Emperor Alexander I of Russia, considered a liberal monarch. Russian count Novosiltsev played a significant role in complex political games between Poles, Jews and Russians.

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Emperor and king Alexander I Romanov in the king’s office at the Royal Castle in Warsaw, watercolor-gouache produced after 1817  /  National Museum in Warsaw

After Emperor Napoleon I’s failed conquest of Russia, the Russian army entered the territory of the Duchy of Warsaw. On 8 February 1813, general Mikhail Miloradovich hosted the representatives of state, Warsaw city authorities and clergy in his headquarters in Mokotów. The delegation gave him keys „as a sign of peaceful surrender of the city” along with bread and salt „as a proof of (…) openness and hospitality”, while the general assured his visitors about good will the Emperor of Russia, Alexander I, had towards Poles.

On 13 March 1813, Alexander I established the Temporary Highest Council of the Duchy of Warsaw, which governed the administration, courts and education. The monarch tried to gain favor of Polish political elites for his own plan of reviving the Polish state, and to persuade them that it would be possible only under his rule. One of the main supporters of compromise and attaching Poland to Russia was Prince Adam Jerzy Czartoryski, whose opinions were shared by many aristocrats. The idea of the Republic under the rule of the Emperor-King was gaining popularity in the political and military circles. The Jewish community, struggling with the laws limiting the right to settle and to run businesses, introduced in the Duchy of Warsaw era, was locating great hopes in reestablishing the Polish state. The laws were a painful obstacle in the lives of Jewish people of Warsaw — and of the entire Duchy.

Let’s recall: on 16 March 1809, the King of Saxony, the Duke of Warsaw Frederic Augustus introduced new rules regulating the lives of Jews in Warsaw. They included an index of streets from which the Jews were forbidden from settling in: the Old Town with Podwale and side streets, Świętojerska, Długa, Bielańska, Miodowa, Senatorska along with neighboring streets, as well as Krakowskie Przedmieście, a part of the Nowy Świat and the streets next to it. This decree, followed by further ones in 1809 and 1810 caused the Jewish community to shift from the center of the city to the peripheries, where the conditions of living and running businesses were much worse. All Jews in the Duchy of Warsaw were obliged to pay numerous, high taxes, both those mandatory for every citizen as well as those impacted only them specifically. On 30 October 1812, the authorities issued a decree according to which Jews were supposed to forbidden from producing and selling alcohol from 1 July 1814. It would have caused a loss of income in a significant part of the community.

When the Duchy of Warsaw became controlled by Russians, the representatives of the Warsaw kehilla decided to try and reverse laws harmful towards the Jews by submitting petitions to the new Duchy authorities, and later — to the Emperor Alexander I himself. They managed to gain support from Nikolai Novosiltsev, the vice-head of the Temporary Highest Council of the Duchy of Warsaw, which prompted hopes for success. The representatives of the kehilla, following Novosiltsev’s guidance, submitted twice — on 17 October 1813 and on 15 April 1814 — a request to repeal the laws forbidding the Jews from producing and selling alcohol. They managed only to postpone its effectiveness until 1 July 1815. Hence, in the Summer of 1814, a delegation of the Warsaw Jewish community: Michał Ettinger Rawski, Wolf Michał (Wulf Michel) Kohn (Cohn) and Szachna Neuding, encouraged by Novosiltsev, went to Petersburg and on 9 August 1814, submitted an extensive document in French to Alexander I. It explained the connection between previous laws and the worsening situation of the Jewish people. An excerpt says:

„On behalf of 200,000 miserable Jews, condemned to die of hunger, we beg Your Imperial Majesty to cast your eyes on us. Under the Prussian rule, we had always enjoyed our full citizen rights (…) All laws, old and new, allow us to practice our faith freely, we have never been afraid that we would be forbidden from it (…) Yet despite it all, taxes have been raised only for us, in Warsaw we were thrown out of our homes (…) and, to complete our misery, we are being deprived of a right we have had in Poland for several centuries, the right to make and sell vodka, beer and other liquors. We cannot understand the reason which drove the Polish government to introduce such a ban”.

This petition was one of many presented to the Emperor of Russia and the future king of Poland and revealing the number of issues which he would have to face.

Attempts to gain Tsar’s favor

Alexander I’s plan to transform the Duchy of Warsaw into the Kingdom of Poland proved successful, albeit, due to Prussia and Austria’s claims, its territory proved to be much smaller than the emperor intended. The Kingdom was established following the agreements between Russia, Prussia and Austria on 3 May 1815, included in the final agreements of the Congress of Vienna in June the same year. The reborn state wasn’t entirely independent, because it was connected to Russia by personal union and common foreign policy. Still, its formation was welcomed with great enthusiasm by Polish elites.

The representatives of the Warsaw Jewish community continued their attempts to repeal the laws which complicated the life of Jewish people of Warsaw and the Kingdom of Poland. In the summer of 1815, Ettinger Rawski, Kohn and Neuding, following the advice of Nikolai Novosiltsev, went to Paris, then residence of Alexander I, the Emperor of Russia and King of Poland. We should add that they followed Polish political elites which sent to Paris a tribute delegation comprising members of the Senate, Parliament and Warsaw authorities.

In September 1815, the delegation of the Warsaw Jews was heard by Grand Duke Constantine, and thanks to his support, they were welcomed by the Emperor and King Alexander I as the representation of the general Jewish population of the Kingdom of Poland. They submitted a petition containing many issues crucial for the community. Still, the monarch didn’t respond to the request, postponing it until later. On 19 September 1815, the delegation received a letter of support from Duke Constantine addressed at Novosiltsev, which was supposed to facilitate the next audience with the monarch. It reads:

„Nikolai Nikolaevich, I kindly ask Your Excellence to show all the possible support towards the signatories of this letter, the Jewish deputies of the Kingdom of Poland, who have been introduced to His Imperial Majesty, during His Imperial Majesty’s stay in Berlin. On this occasion, please accept my assurance od my special respect towards you”.

Delegates of the Warsaw Jewish Community had reached Berlin even before Emperor Alexander I and established contact with Novosiltsev, who arrived from Warsaw to meet the ruler. The day after Alexander I arrived in Berlin, on October 25th, 1815, they sent a plea to the monarch via Novosiltsev. It was another attempt to gain his sympathy for the needs of the Jewish community, which could have paved the way for the authorities of the Kingdom of Poland to repeal its unfavorable laws. But the Emperor and King Alexander I did not want to interfere in matters that were in the hands of the Kingdom’s government, passing onto them the issue of the status of Polish Jews. The plea had reached the ruler, but he decided to address the demands of the Jewish community after his arrival in Warsaw.

The Emperor of Russia and King of Poland Alexander I came to Warsaw on November 12th, 1815, welcomed with the sound of bells. When he rode his horse through the decorated streets, crowds of people welcomed him shouting: „Long live Alexander, our king”. Leaflets with poems honoring him were distributed in the streets and squares. Near the castle, Alexander was welcomed by the Roman-Catholic clergy, then a military parade took place in Saski Square. During the king’s three-week stay in Warsaw, various delegations kept coming to the royal castle to pay tribute to him, try to gain positions and promotions, and file petitions.

Representatives of the Jewish community, Ettinger Rawski, Kohn and Neuding, thanks to the protection of Novosiltsev, received an audience with Grand Duke Constantine on November 24, 1815. They asked to support their requests to the Emperor and King Alexander I. Then, when they were finally welcomed by the monarch, they paid homage to him on behalf of the entire religious community of the Kingdom of Poland and presented „The Hymn for the joyous arrival of our most beloved ruler, the Emperor and King Alexander I, sung in deepest respect and humility by the eldest Israelites of the city of Warsaw”. It was printed in four languages: Hebrew, Polish, German and French, and expressed hopes connected with the new state of affairs:

 „Do szczęśliwości Polski, do weselnej wrzawy,

 Łączą się z uniesieniem odgłosy Warszawy.

 Pójdźcie z arfami w dłoniach i wy Judy dzieci,

 Niechaj hymn wasz do Boga nad gwiazdy poleci.

 Bóg ujęty naszym stanem

 Aleksandra dał nam panem (…).

 Pojrzyj na nas, ludzkości i prawdy czcicielu!

 Jak liście potyrane ludy Izraelu.

 Niech przeleci nad niemi słowo Twojej mocy,

 Gwiazda Twoja rozpędzi cienie naszej nocy.

 Niech dla nędznych Judy dzieci

 Gwiazda nadziei zaświeci (…).

 Juda uboga w wszystkiem, bogata w życzeniu,

 Bojaźliwa lecz wierna, wymowna w milczeniu,

 Poniżona wzdychając do najlepszych chęci,

 Do Boga bogów modły za Tobą poświęci.

 Niech Ci tyle szczęścia stwarza

 Ile nas w Tobie obdarza (…)”


[„To the joy of Poland and to merry noise,

The sounds of Warsaw link in exultation.

Carry your harps, children of Judea,

May your hymn to God fly above the stars.

God, concerned with our state,

Made Alexander our master.

(…).

Look at us, worshipper of humanity and truth!

People of Israel are trampled like leaves.

May your word of power fly over them,

And your star disperse the shadows of our night.

May a star of hope

Shine for the miserable children of Judea.

(…).

The Judea, poor in everything, but rich in hopes,

Shy yet faithful, honest in its silence,

Humbled, hoping for the kindest will,

Will pray for you to the God of Gods.

May He give you as much happiness

As He gives to us through you

(…)”]


Several years later, in a speech given during a service in memory of the Emperor of Russia and King of Poland Alexander I, Szachna Neuding recalled audiences with the monarch:

„I have witnessed, a number of times, the [monarch’s] good will. When I was selected, together with other members of the Warsaw kehilla, to pay homage to him in the name of the entire Jewish community of the Kingdom of Poland, in the capital of France as well as here, I have heard his fatherly confirmations: I take you under my protection, and I will make your lives better”.

Unfortunately, the tributes paid to Alexander I and the requests made to him did not bring expected results. Contrary to the assurances of the emperor and the king, the authorities did not take any actions which would have resulted in actual change of the situation of the Jewish population in the Kingdom, aside from certain small improvements. The decree issued by the authorities of the Duchy of Warsaw forbidding Jews to produce and trade in alcohol was again postponed (until July 1, 1816), and later suspended for an unlimited period of time.

It happened thanks to the intervention of Nikolai Novosiltsev, from December 1815 the commissioner plenipotentiary to the Council of State, who presented the case to the Emperor and King Alexander I and convinced him that the implementation of the decree should be stopped. On the day of its publication, he handed over a letter to the governor of the Kingdom of Poland, General Józef Zajączek, in which he demanded on behalf of the ruler to cancel the decree. As a result, it was never applied; the Jewish community paid Novosiltsev back with 120 thousand zlotys to express thankfulness. On that occasion, the commissioner made the community’s leaders aware that the monarch had good intentions towards the Jews and would have changed their situation — were it not for the resistance of the Kingdom’s government. At that time, as well as on other occasions, he tried to instill a conviction that they should not expect anything good from the government of the Kingdom of Poland, but they can always count on Alexander I’s mercy. Additionally, every time he offered his mediation in contacts with the ruler, he counted on the high bribes — and he succeeded.

Enthusiasm and brutal reality

The reborn Kingdom of Poland was a state separated from the Russian Empire, it had its own Parliament, Polish as the official language, Polish administration and its own currency. The Polish Army, led by despotic Grand Duke Constantine and Polish generals, developed into one of the most modern and best trained ones in Europe. It was a source of joy for Polish political and cultural elite, prompting hopes for a better future. A year after the establishment of the Kingdom, poet and drama writer Alojzy Feliński wrote, at the initiative of the Grand Duke, the Hymn for the Anniversary of the Kingdom of Poland…, known also as The National Song for the Prosperity of the King. The song, published on 20 July 1816 in „Gazeta Warszawska”, beginning with words „O, God who, through so many centuries, surrounded Poland”, gained great popularity. The original chorus read:

„Przed Twe ołtarze zanosim błaganie,

Naszego Króla zachowaj nam Panie!”.

[„To your altars we carry a prayer: Save our King, Lord!”]


The last verse referred to the brotherhood of Poles and Russians and a belief that Poland will return to its glory under the rule of Emperor and King Alexander I:


„Wróć nowej Polsce świetność starożytną

I spraw, niech pod Nim szczęśliwą zostanie.

Niech zaprzyjaźnione dwa narody kwitną

I błogosławią Jego panowanie”.

[„Return the ancient glory to new Poland

And make it prosperous under His rule.

May two nations bloom in friendship

And may they bless His dominion”.]

The enthusiasm of Poles was shared by many Jews, even though they belonged to a community which had few reasons to feel optimistic. The Principles of Constitution, prepared by the Polish political leaders, presented to Alexander I in September 1814 and signed by the monarch in Vienna on 25 May 1815contained a separate paragraph on Jews, which read as follows:

„The People of Israel will keep their civil laws already assured by contemporary regulations. Particular regulations will describe the conditions under which the Jews will be able to receive a wider participation in the social welfare”.

However, this paragraph didn’t find a reflection in the Constitution of the Kingdom of Poland, prepared by a team of Polish aristocrats led by Prince Adam Jerzy Czartoryski. The work on the content was supervised by the Emperor and King Alexander I, and Nikolai Novosiltsev had a significant influence on its provisions. The resulting Constitution, signed by the ruler on November 27, 1815, differed from the liberal provisions contained in the Principles of the Constitution. It granted civil rights only to Christians, thus excluding Jews from those who could enjoy them.

According to the Organic Statute of National Representation, signed by Alexander I on 1 December 1815, political rights were to be granted only to persons registered in the citizens’ books, and the right to enroll in them was to be granted only to those who had already had civil rights during the Duchy of Warsaw era. The Jews remained excluded, because a decree of the King of Saxony and the Duke of Warsaw, Frederic Augustus, issued in 1808 suspended the civil and political rights of Jews for ten years.

Thus, there was no trace of the assurance contained in the Principles of Constitution, according to which the rights of the Jewish community would be extended. Moreover, at the beginning of 1817, the Administrative Council decided that the aforementioned decree of Frederic Augustus of 1808 and other laws restricting the rights of the Jewish population should remain valid. The Emperor and King Alexander I confirmed the Council’s decision in a law issued on 17 June 1817, which was to remain in force until the new law regulating the general situation of Jews was issued.

Meanwhile, the authorities of the Kingdom of Poland opposed changes in the legal situation of the Jewish population. They claimed that they displayed low state of consciousness, stubborn persistence in difference and distinction from the general society. The ministers argued that the Jewish community requires thorough internal changes, and they considered the increase of the level of education. They required that the Jews should become similar to the rest in terms of language, clothing and lifestyle in order to join the circle of citizens. That was supposed to be the condition to grant them gradually the same rights as the Christian community.

Threat of clearances and forced assimilation

The first several years of the newly established Kingdom of Poland were a period of dynamic economic development. The state authorities cared about the rebirth of industry, so many entrepreneurs, qualified industrial workers and craftsmen came to Poland from abroad. A particular development took place in the areas of mining, metal and textile industries. The production, which was largely intended for export to Russia, brought considerable profits. The network of paved roads was expanded and river transport was modernized.

Cities were developing, especially Warsaw, which regained its function as a capital. It attracted settlers again as an administrative and economic center. It attracted newcomers with its fast pace of development and big city appeal. New streets were marked out and the old ones were cleaned up. The state authorities renovated or erected public buildings and supported financially the construction of new brick houses. The town developed trade, crafts and industry, mainly textile (woollen fabrics) and food products.

The population of Warsaw grew, and so did the Jewish community. In 1815, it consisted of 17 620 people, which constituted 21.7 % of the total number of permanent residents of the capital city listed in the official registers (81 020 people). However, we must be aware of the fact that the actual number of Warsaw’s inhabitants was slightly higher at that time due to a large number of people who lived there temporarily (around 1820 there were approximately 15,000 of them). Moreover, about 9,000 Polish and Russian soldiers stationed in the capital.

The authorities of Warsaw took steps to limit the influx of Jews into the city and remove them from its center. The census carried out in 1815 was intended to determine how many of them lived outside the allowed streets and rented apartments — contrary to the provisions of the decree of the Saxon king and the Duke of Warsaw issued in 1809. On that basis, at the end of September 1815, the State Counselor Aleksander Linowski ordered the Police Department to issue orders to expel the Jews from illegal places of residence. According to the results of the census, the resettlement was to impact 2,604 families, i.e. about 2/3 of the Jewish inhabitants of the capital. The illegal tenants were to move within two weeks, by October 16, 1815.

This radical move caused opposition of the Jewish elders, who on October 2, 1815, asked councilman Linowski to stop the clearances. They managed only to postpone the term until April 1816. On February 6, 1816, the President of Warsaw Karol Woyda announced an order of displacement of Jewish merchants from the main streets of the town; the operation was supposed to end on April 18. Luckily, thanks to the intervention of Nokilai Novosiltsev, who turned to the Emperor and King Alexander I in defense of the Warsaw Jews, the authorities withdrew from the clearances. However, it was only a postponement of the actions which were still supposed to limit the number of Jews in Warsaw and remove them from the city center.

Nikolai Novosiltsev again supported the Jewish community when in 1818 a deputy appointed by the Council of State decided, under the leadership of President of the Government Commission of Religion and Public Enlightenment Stanislaw Potocki that only those Jews who would dress European and send their children to public schools would retain the right to trade in alcohol. Concerned by this decision, the elders of the Warsaw kehilla filed a protest note addressed to the Emperor and King Alexander I. On this basis Novosiltsev intervened in the Council of State, and when this proved unsuccessful, he presented the note to the monarch and obtained a favorable deal. He informed the kehilla about this in the following letter:

„Following the request to the King sent by the deputies of the Warsaw kehilla, which I was lucky to present to His Majesty Emperor and King on 3 (15) September [1818], the Monarch asked me to confirm his support for the People of Moses and to make them aware that the His Imperial Majesty keeps his eye on the fate of said People through fair and just laws”.

Thus, Nikolai Novosiltsev manages to paralyze attempts taken by the government of the Kingdom of Poland to limit the rights of Jews to trade in alcohol, which gained him thankfulness and trust of the community. For the leaders of the Jewish community of Warsaw, this case was another proof that in the struggle for keeping their rights, they can count on support from the authorities in Petersburg, willing to limit the discriminatory plans of the government in Warsaw.

Rise of aversion towards Jews

Unfortunately, over time the attitude of the Emperor of Russia and King of Poland Alexander I, as well as his Petersburg ministers towards the Jewish population became less and less favorable. This happened due to the development of the Russian Orthodox Subbotnik cult, who recognized the Old Testament as the basis of faith and practiced Jewish religious rituals. The Russian authorities began to suspect the Jewish community of supporting this movement and encouraging Christians to convert to Judaism. They began to exile Jews from the places where the cult operated began, and to restrict their rights.

Emperor Alexander I, fascinated by mysticism and the concept of the Christian state, encouraged the development of missionary activity among the followers of Judaism. Their conversion to Christianity was seen as a way to solve the problem of the Jews’ distinction and their integration with the rest of the society. The newly baptized were allowed to buy land or to freely run a business. Changes in the monarch’s attitude towards Jews were quickly followed by the authorities of the Kingdom of Poland, pursuing their policy of limiting their rights. Now it became easier to gain Alexander I’s approval for the actions reducing the rights of the Jewish community in terms of their place of residence and business activity

These shifts had a strong impact on the Jews of Warsaw. On July 31, 1821, the Emperor of the Russia and the Polish King Alexander I issued, at the request of the governor of the Kingdom of Poland, a law according to which the area open for Jewish settlement (called the „district”) was seriously reduced. Ten more streets were added to the list of inaccessible for settlement: Zakroczymska St., Leszno, Chlodna St., Elektoralna St., Żabia St., Graniczna St., Krolewska St., Nowy Swiat St., as far as Łazienki St., Marszałkowska St. and Nowojerozolimska St. (Jerozolimskie Avenue). Moreover, it forbade the Jews to live in many of the nearby streets, for example the ban on Zakroczymska Street also referred to Gwardiacka, Bitna and Fawory. Moreover, in September 1821, the governor of the Kingdom of Poland, Józef Zajączek, enlarged the area closed for Jewish settlement by the streets in the southern part of the town: Mokotowska, Aleje Ujazdowskie, Wiejska, Piękna and Górna. Luckily, at the same time he postponed the date of eviction to May 1, 1825. Regardless, it was a move detrimental to the Warsaw Jewish community, worsening its situation, as 1/3 of them lived in these streets.

The pretext for interfering in the internal affairs of the Jewish communities was provided by the disputes that were taking place within them, during which the parties in question sometimes appealed to the state authorities with a request to intervene. It was a period of increasing conflict between the Misnagdim (orthodox Jews) and Chassidim on the one hand, and the supporters of the Jewish Enlightenment (Maskilim) on the other. The supporters of the different traditions, despite their differences and sharp disputes, were able to unite against the supporters of the Enlightenment, perceived by both of them as a threat.

The conflicted parties fought for seats on the board of the Warsaw community, intending to have possibly strongest influence on the entire Jewish community. In the beginning of 1818, elections of the new community board were held. As a result orthodox and Hasidic Jews managed to eliminate the Maskilim and take over the power in the kehilla. Maskilim reacted to this by publishing a pamphlet by Pinkus Elias (Pinchas Eliachu) Lipszyc from Opoczno, entitled The Request or Justification of the People of the Old Testament. The author accused the board of the Warsaw municipality of abusing the tax collection and management of the funds collected in this way, hindering the establishment of secular schools and, as a result, keeping the members of the municipality underdeveloped and isolated from the environment. Pinkus Elias demanded closing down of the kehilla and religious fraternities, forbidding rabbis to cast curses on the supporters of modernization, and entrusting the power over the Jewish community to the enlightened people.

The brochure provided Polish political elites with arguments against the functioning of kehillas according to the previous rules, and showed the necessity of a thorough reform of the Jewish religious structures. As a result, on January 1, 1822, the Emperor of Russia and the Polish King Alexander I, who agreed to the request of the kingdom’s government, published an order according to which kehillas were dissolved. They were replaced by the supervisors of the synagogues, whose powers were to be limited to the organization of religious life and charity. In practice, however, their powers were much broader and included, among others, the collection of taxes. The Warsaw supervisors managed the synagogues and the synagogue service, supervised schools, hospitals, cemeteries and charity institutions.

An extremely important move was the establishment of a committee for the Jewish community in the Kingdom of Poland, called the Committee of the Ancients, which, similarly to the successive Committees of Jewish Issues operating in Petersburg, was to deal with the matters of the Jewish community, changes in its legal status and internal reform. The Emperor of Russia and the King of Poland, Alexander I, when appointing the Warsaw Committee, pointed out in a document issued on June 3, 1825 the need for a new regulation of the legal situation of the Jews and the initiation of the Enlightenment changes within the community:

„Having drawn our attention to the current number of the Jewish people living in our Kingdom of Poland, and the need to replace the temporary state to which they are subject to with a permanent order of things, in order to improve them, as long as it is compatible with the prosperity of the entire population of the new Kingdom and the welfare of the state, given that this goal may be achieved by giving a uniform character to the regulations, devices and views concerning themselves (...)”.

The Committee of the Ancients established by the Emperor and the King consisted of Poles — representatives of the aristocracy and intelligentsia. Its first secretary was Ezekiel (Stanislaus) Hoge, once hassidic, then a maskil, who eventually converted to Christianity in 1825. The members of the committee had little knowledge about Jewish matters, so they invited an expert — an Italian priest Alois Louis Chiarini, who considered Judaism as a religion hostile to Christianity, and saw the Talmud as the main source of darkness and fanaticism. The Jews, on the other hand, belonged of the Advisory Chamber, headed by court counselor Mark Aurelius Müller, consisting of five members and five deputies. The members of the Chamber were representatives of the Jewish elite, representing the community of Orthodox, Maskilim, and even Hasidic Jews.

The Committee of the Ancients dealt with such matters as the functioning of the synagogue’s caretakers, taxation of the Jewish population and the way of appointing the districts. They also discussed the need for changes in the professional structure of the community, organization of elementary schools for Jewish youth, limiting the import of Hebrew books and establishing printing houses which would produce appropriate religious literature. The Advisory Chamber demanded to abolish special taxes, to stop clearances in Warsaw and other cities, to grant Jewish craftsmen the right to belong to guilds and to establish vocational schools for Jewish youth. The Committee stated that the separation of Jews in the districts is contrary to the plans to carry out reforms, as it helps to maintain their distinction and prevents their integration with the environment. Unfortunately, the vast majority of changes proposed by the Committee were rejected by the government of the Kingdom of Poland.

After Alexander’s death

The Emperor of Russia and King of Poland, Alexander I, died on December 1, 1825 in the city of Taganrog by the Azov Sea. Funeral ceremonies took place in Petersburg on March 25, 1826, along with similar ceremonies in the Kingdom of Poland. On April 7, 1826, the royal castle in Warsaw was attended by the highest state dignitaries, parliamentarians and members of the government, officers and diplomats, who, together with the army waiting at the castle, representatives of the city authorities, clergy and schools formed a funeral procession and walked along Krakowskie Przedmieście, through Saski Square, Wierzbowa, Dluga and Miodowa streets to the cathedral. During the funeral service, the bishop of Cracow and the senator of the Kingdom Jan Pawel Woronicz gave a sermon in which he praised the merits of Alexander I for peace in Europe and the rebirth of the Polish state:

„O brothers! The fact that today I mourn for my own king proves to the world that we are alive! That we know how to love and regret kings, that the chain of our Mieczyslaws and Boleslaws, for an interrupted period of time, has become linked together again, that we weren’t forbidden from the names of our forefathers (...). And when this generous resurrection of our name secured everything inside and outside, it gave us invaluable gifts of freedom, peace and our nationality”.

The services commemorating the late Emperor and King took place in the following days in the Evangelical-Reformed Church and the Evangelical-Augsburg Church. During the ceremony in the Evangelical-Reformed Church, Superintendent General Karol Diehl gave a sermon in which he stated that after the defeat of 1812, Poland could have only expected annihilation, but Alexander I „saved, despite opposition and resistance, at least a part of our homeland: name, language and nationality”. He further emphasized the monarch’s contribution to Warsaw: „Wherever we look, we see visible traces of great zeal for recovering our capital and helping its inhabitants. Warsaw alone will be a particular monument to the kindness and graciousness of Alexander, our great late monarch”.

The mourning services also took place in the synagogues, with a particularly solemn ceremony held on April 17 at the Jewish Hospital. „The description of the memorial service to the brightest Alexander I... (Warsaw 1829)” reads:

„The great hall of the Jewish Hospital in Zielona St. was transformed into a synagogue. The walls covered with black fabric and illuminated with glowing light created the form of a temple, among which the ark of the covenant was displayed. The harmonious songs of pious Israelites have moved even the Christians present there. After appropriate speeches of the rabbis given in Polish, German and Hebrew, the service ended with a prayer”.

During the service, Jan Jakub Glücksberg, then secretary of the Advisory Chamber of the Committee of Ancients, spoke about the deceased monarch: „He remembered the humiliated Israelites in his own goodness, took pity on our misery, and protected us. His kindness was endless. He prompted the state authorities to improve our existence and position, for which he should be counted among the saints”.

Thanks to Alexander I, the Polish state was reborn in connection with Russia, through the person of the Emperor and King. In the opinion of the historian and political scientist Andrzej Andrusiewicz, „Alexander was the first Russian ruler who based his closer relations with Poland on ideals, and not on a barrel of a gun”. The Kingdom of Poland entered a period of 15 years of development, during which the Polish administration showed how to efficiently govern the state and to succeed in economy. The science developed, the arts were in good condition as well.

Admittedly, at the end of his reign, Alexander I expressed his dissatisfaction with the policy of the authorities of the Polish Kingdom. He accused them of being inconsistent in governing the state, and warned them that the unrest initiated by the opposition may prove to be dangerous for the functioning of the state. The Polish elite, on the other hand, was increasingly critical of the monarch, claiming that he was a hypocrite treating Poles like slaves, and harshly dealing with the political opposition.

Contrary to his promises, Alexander I did not improve the situation of the Jewish population in the Kingdom of Poland. Although he was in favor of reforms that would change its legal status and lead towards internal transformations, he did not want to interfere in the power of the Kingdom’s authorities and was aware that his political elites opposed the abolition of restrictions on Jews. Therefore, during the reign of Alexander I there were no comprehensive changes in the position of the Jewish community in Poland. On the other hand, the ruler opposed the moves of the government of the Kingdom of Poland, which undermined the foundations of the Jewish community. Unfortunately, by the end of his reign, under the influence of the Orthodox Subbotnik cult, hostile towards Jews, he became supportive of the policy of the Kingdom, which limited Jewish community’s rights.

 



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