This introductory chapter provides an overview of the Jews in Poland and Russia in the years between 1881 and 1914. After the assassination of Alexander II in 1881, the situation of the Jews in the tsarist empire began to deteriorate rapidly. This was partly a result of the government's growing disillusionment with the effectiveness of its policies of transforming the Jews into useful subjects. In part, too, the deterioration was caused by the growing revolutionary threat and the social tensions which this engendered. In this new situation the goal of integration and transformation of the community through education and Russification also became increasingly discredited within Jewish circles. Instead of religion, it was now ethnicity that was seen by many as the chief marker of Jewish identity, while others came to perceive socialism, with its promise of a new and equal world, as the ‘solution’ to the ‘Jewish problem’. From the tsarist empire this ‘new Jewish politics’ spread to the Kingdom of Poland and to Galicia. The new politics even had an impact in Prussian Poland.
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