This book examines the intersection of urban society and modern politics among Jews in turn of the century Warsaw, Europe's largest Jewish center at the time. By focusing on the tumultuous events surrounding the Revolution of 1905, Barricades and Banners argues that the metropolitanization of Jewish life led to a need for new forms of community and belonging, and that the ensuing search for collective and individual order gave birth to the new institutions, organizations, and practices that would define modern Jewish society and politics for the remainder of the twentieth century.
About the Author
Scott Ury is Senior Lecturer in Tel Aviv University's Department of Jewish History, where he also serves as head of the Stephen Roth Center for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism and Racism.
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Barricades and BannersThe Revolution of 1905 and the Transformation of Warsaw Jewry
By Scott Ury
STANFORD UNIVERSITY PRESSCopyright © 2012 Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University
All right reserved.
Chapter OneWarsaw before 1905 One City, Many Stories
Introduction: All the World's a Stage
Decoding and deciphering the urban arena is a vibrant academic field, and this study of Jews, Poles, and Russians in the city of Warsaw should be seen as part of this larger academic discussion. Often inspired by the works of Walter Benjamin, Georg Simmel, and other thinkers, many studies of the city point to the limits inherent in any intellectual attempt to define and narrate that indecipherable site and symbol of modernity and entropy known, alternatively, as the city, the urban environment, the metropolis, and, by some, even as home. Such dilemmas regarding the narrativization and representation of the city are particularly relevant when speaking of Warsaw, a nineteenth-century city par excellence. During this period, members of at least three different communities referred to the city by at least three different names in at least three different languages: Warszawa in Polish, Varshava in Russian, and Varshe in Yiddish. In many senses, this book is about these intersecting and at times conflicting desires and the ensuing attempts to define and possess the embattled center that would eventually serve as a symbol of Russian imperial progress, Polish national independence, and Jewish martyrdom. In an effort to lend structure to these three intersecting histories and their respective narratives of redemption, this introductory chapter will address each particular historical story separately—first the Polish, then the Russian, and lastly the Jewish. While some will claim that dividing Warsaw's history into three separate narratives is inherently misleading, my hope is that this historically oriented chapter will lend background and context to many of the thematic questions addressed throughout this book.
Warszawa: From Medieval Outpost to Polish National Center
The earliest accounts of a permanent settlement in or near the area that would become known as Warsaw date back to the tenth or early eleventh centuries when the settlement of Stare Bródno (also referred to as Bródno) was founded on the banks of the Wisla (Vistula) River. In the middle of the eleventh century, Bródno was succeeded by the settlement of Kamion, which was then followed by the village of Jazdów. Around 1300, Jazdów was conquered and the settlement was relocated three kilometers to the north in the fishing village of Warszowa, which in time received its present-day Polish appellation, Warszawa (Warsaw). There, on the banks of the Wisla at the onset of the fourteenth century, the settlement's status became somewhat less precarious, as can be observed from the establishment of a town council in 1376. In fact, by the early fourteenth century Warsaw had become one of the seats for the duke of Mazovia, and by 1413 it was made the capital of Mazovia. Like many other medieval towns, Warsaw owed its survival to the local waterway, in this case the Wisla River. By serving as a conduit between Warsaw and the cities of Kraków and Gdansk (Danzig), and also providing connections to other centers like Sandomierz, Kazimierz Dolny, and Góra Kalwaria as well as Chelmno and Oswieciem (Auschwitz), the Wisla would prove to be Warsaw's lifeline for the next four centuries.
With the end of the Mazovian ducal line in 1526, Warsaw was incorporated into the crown lands of the Jagiellonian state. By 1569—the same year that witnessed the union of the Polish Crown and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania—meetings of the General Sejm and royal elections were regularly held in Warsaw. As a way station situated halfway between the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth's capitals of Kraków in the south and Vilnius in the north, Warsaw's location was, apparently, already everything. Some four decades later, Warsaw became the permanent site of the Polish Sejm. In 1596 King Zygmunt III Waza (Sigismund III Vasa, b. 1566, 1587–1632) moved the seat of the capital of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth from Wawel Castle in Kraków, which was severely damaged by fire, to the Warsaw Castle off the banks of the Wisla. By the late sixteenth century, Warsaw had begun to solidify its place in Polish history.
Under the protection of Zygmunt III Waza and Wladyslaw IV Waza (Ladislaus IV Vasa, b. 1595, 1632–1648), the Counter-Reformation found a supportive base in Polish lands and Warsaw benefited. At the same time, the city's growth in this period also attracted the attention of its neighbors. As a result, Warsaw and its residents suffered greatly during the Swedish invasion of 1655–1660 when the city was occupied by hostile forces. Damaged by the vicissitudes of war, Warsaw's population remained relatively limited at roughly 6,000 residents in the middle of the seventeenth century. This lack of growth hindered the city's international status as it was overshadowed by more dominant centers of wealth and power during this era, such as Kraków and Prague. Like many other frontier outposts that would later metamorphosize into great industrial cities—Odessa, Manchester, Chicago—Warsaw's beginnings were rather humble.
The city's modest beginnings took a turn for the better in the middle of the eighteenth century during the reign of King Stanislaw II August Poniatowski (1732–1798). Poniatowski, who ruled from 1764 to the final dismemberment of the Polish Commonwealth in the Third Partition of 1795, is credited with a series of political and financial changes that transformed Warsaw from a way station along the banks of the Wisla to a major European center. During the second half of the eighteenth century, Warsaw's registered population grew over fourfold from roughly 24,000 residents in 1754 to some 110,000 in 1792. As a patron of the arts and an advocate of the Enlightenment, Poniatowski helped turn the capital into a center of publishing, art, and scholarship. Warsaw's prominence as a center of enlightenment and culture was bolstered further by technological and communication developments. Improvements in the Dnieper-Bug Canal in 1775 created a connection between the Bug and the Pripyat rivers that opened new trade routes between Warsaw and markets to the east including Dnipropetrovs'k and Kiev as well as the southern port city of Odessa. As Wandycz notes, "Warsaw grew as an important trading, banking, and industrial center."
With the Third and final Partition of Poland in 1795, Warsaw experienced a series of political changes that would characterize its precarious fate at the crossroads of the European continent for the next two hundred years. The spoils of war and the whims of peace—in this case the failed Kosciuszko Insurrection of 1794—placed Warsaw in Prussian hands where it served as the capital of New East Prussia. As a provincial center under Prussian imperial rule, Warsaw's influence and stature shrank at the expense of Prussia's newly acquired province of Poznan (Posen), which developed quickly. After the Napoleonic invasions, Warsaw came under French rule in 1807 and served as the capital of the truncated Polish state known as "the Duchy of Warsaw." The Napoleonic experiment of creating a puppet Polish state was relatively short-lived, and with Russia's victory in the Napoleonic Wars and the realignment of Europe at the Congress of Vienna in 1815, Warsaw was incorporated into the Russian Empire where it became the capital of the Kingdom of Poland, a constitutional monarchy under the indirect rule of Russia's Tsar Alexander I.
Varshava: A Russian Imperial Center
With Kraków slipping under Austrian control and Poznan slowly being integrated into the Prussian economy and society, Warsaw became a key center and symbol of both Russian administrative designs and Polish national aspirations for the remainder of eastern Europe's long nineteenth century (1772–1914). Repeatedly, Russian government officials and, in time, Polish national visionaries would clash over the fate, definition, and direction of Warszawa/Varshava/Varshe as they struggled to construct a city that would satisfy their imperial agendas and political needs. Few phenomena represent as many different aspects of the modern era—technology and urbanization, social engineering and internal colonialization, capitalism and nationalism—more than the ongoing struggles over the construction, definition, and control of the city of Warsaw.
Imperial designs for a domesticated, well-functioning, and well-behaved city started slowly as the cumbersome Russian imperial apparatus struggled in the late eighteenth century to wield order over its ever-expanding empire of peoples. Russian administrative designs to impose bureaucratic order were hindered further in the Congress Kingdom by the influence of twenty years of Prussian and then French rule that had strengthened economic and cultural connections between Warsaw and other centers like Berlin and Danzig. As such, the first fifteen years of Russian rule in the Kingdom of Poland were, relatively speaking, rather benevolent. In addition to granting the Kingdom of Poland (also known as the Congress Kingdom) a formal constitutional monarchy that permitted a fair degree of local autonomy, government officials also promoted industrial growth and institutional development designed to serve the empire's interests. Although clearly under Russian rule, the Congress Kingdom had a great deal of autonomy at the time including: "its own Government, its own judiciary, its own elected Assembly or Sejm, its own civil service and its own army." Furthermore, many earlier rights such as the Napoleonic Code, freedom of the press, religious toleration, and the peasantry's right to purchase land were all upheld. Under this political environment, Polish enlightenment thinkers like Stanislaw Kostka Potocki (1755–1821) and Stanislaw Staszic (1755–1826) remained influential figures, and enlightenment-oriented educational institutions blossomed. In a relatively short period, Warsaw University was established, and the Preparatory Polytechnical School in Warsaw was created. As part of these educational reforms, over one thousand primary schools educated local children.
After steady demographic decline in the period of political uncertainty between 1794 and 1815, Warsaw's population rose in the first quarter of the nineteenth century to roughly 130,000 residents by 1827. This growth was bolstered by the city's integration into the Russian Empire's economic market, which solidified its status as a growing center for industrial production, in particular textiles and metal goods. More efficient tax collection, the reinstatement of state monopolies over the sale of salt and tobacco, and the creation of the Polish Bank in 1828 further contributed to the city's economic development in this period. Other significant changes in this period of imperial innocence included a network of new roads linking Warsaw to other cities in the Congress Kingdom and, ultimately, other parts of the Russian Empire, and the construction of the Augustów Canal. These transportation and communication improvements were matched by the creation of a city municipality and the reconstruction of the city's urban layout, including the expansion of Warsaw to include the Belvedere Palace in Ujazdów.
The French Revolution of 1830, the inspiration of other movements for national liberation, and a growing sense of dissent within Russian society encouraged increased demands for self-rule among Polish intellectuals, army officials, and other local leaders. These and other calls for autonomy directly challenged tsarist designs to bring local regions and peoples under direct Russian rule. Coming to the throne on the heels of the Decembrist Revolt of 1825, Tsar Nicholas I (1796–1855) was intent upon reasserting imperial control over the empire's provincial territories, residents, and resources. The conflict between these two forces erupted in November 1830 when Polish army officers led an armed insurrection against Russian rule. Lasting several months, the rebellion, known in Polish historiography and collective memory as the November Insurrection, was ultimately defeated by Russian forces. Moreover, true to the imperial handbook for colonial administration, the uprising was followed by a series of punitive measures including the abolishment of autonomy in the Congress Kingdom and the implementation of Russian military rule in and over Poland. As part of these imperial reforms, Polish administrative regions (wójewodztwa) were replaced by Russian ones (gubernia) in 1837; schools were now under the jurisdiction of the Russian Ministry of Enlightenment in 1839; the Polish currency, the zloty, was abolished and replaced with the Russian one, the ruble, in 1841; and the Enlightenment-influenced Napoleonic Code was restricted and the Russian Criminal Code implemented over the region. The central political conflict between Russian (and later Soviet) imperial designs and local, Polish aspirations for self-rule that would characterize the region for the next two centuries had begun to crystallize.
Despite these conflicts between government anxieties, bureaucratic machinations, and national aspirations, Warsaw continued to serve as a center of imperial, national, and economic desires in the decades following the revolt. Improved technological means, like the expansion and improvement of the Dnieper-Bug Canal, and administrative decisions, including the reduction of tariffs on the import of raw materials and the export of goods to and from Russia proper as well as restrictions on imports from Prussia, strengthened the economic and political ties between Warsaw and other parts of the Russian Empire. The opening of rail lines with Vienna between 1845 and 1848, with local industrial centers like Skierniewice and Rogów in 1845, and soon thereafter with St. Petersburg, Moscow, Kiev, and Danzig further connected the city to commercial markets and industrial centers in the Russian Empire. In addition to these technological advancements, the use of steamships up and down the Wisla also helped fuel the Congress Kingdom's economic integration into the Russian Empire as Russia entered the age of industrialization.
These technological and commercial developments were matched by urban improvements in Warsaw including the introduction of gas service to the city in 1856, the construction of the first permanent bridge over the Wisla between 1859 and 1863, and the installation of a water-pumping system between 1851 and 1855. These steps boosted the city's growth and solidified its status as an industrial, commercial, and financial center. By the mid-nineteenth century, Warsaw was no longer simply an imperial outpost or a local commercial center but a burgeoning industrial city that would play a critical role in the Russian Empire's seemingly never-ending race to keep up with "the West." The Spring of Nations of 1848, which witnessed revolts across central Europe from Berlin to Budapest, seemed to pass over Warsaw. Like other nineteenth-century frontier outposts that were busy being transformed into industrial powerhouses, such as Chicago, Warsaw appeared to be "a city that works" and not a magnet for political radicals and revolutionary intellectuals. This focus on business and industry was furthered during the Crimean War of 1853–1856 when Warsaw-based industries served the needs of Russian imperial forces. This period of relative calm and economic development was paralleled by continued demographic growth to some 200,000 residents in 1860, an increase of roughly 50 percent from 1830.
These economic advances and a period of relative calm led to a degree of political liberalization in the Congress Kingdom during the early years of Alexander II's reign. Official reforms regarding the right to public assembly and organization gave birth to new organizations and institutions including a City Delegation whose role was to inform the ruling viceroy of public opinion. These and other reforms fed a larger sense of anticipation that soon erupted in the uprising of January 1863. Despite the expectations and growing demands for local autonomy, the January Uprising against tsarist rule was suppressed by government forces. In response to the insurrection and the ensuing period of rebellion, tsarist authorities closed Polish social and cultural institutions, rescinded earlier reforms regarding the right to use Polish language and practice Polish culture, replaced Warsaw's Main School with the Russian University of Warsaw, made Russian the official language of courts and administration, and officially turned the Polish Kingdom into the Russian Province of Vistula land. Other punitive measures included the confiscation of thousands of noble estates, the destruction of villages, massive exiles, torture, and hundreds of executions. Frightened by the sight of a local rebellion that threatened the very sanctity of empire, the Russian Empire struck back with a vengeance.
Excerpted from Barricades and Banners by Scott Ury Copyright © 2012 by Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University. Excerpted by permission of STANFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
List of Maps, Figures, and Tables xi
Naming, Dating, Placing, and Other Methodological Dilemmas xiii
Introduction: Between Past and Present 1
1 Warsaw before 1905: One City, Many Stories 22
2 Urbanization, Community, and the Crisis of Modernity: Jewish Society in Turn-of-the-Century Warsaw 45
3 Revolution, Jews, and the Streets of Warsaw: Between Secret Cells and Popular Politics 91
4 The Rise of the Jewish Public Sphere: Coffeehouses, Theaters, and Newspapers 141
5 From Public Sphere to Public Will: The Elections to the Russian State Duma and the Politicization of Ethnicity 172
6 Democracy and Its Discontents: The Image of "the Jews" and the Transformation of Polish Politics 214
Conclusion: Politics, Order, and the Dialectics of Jewish Modernity 261