Nicholas was the name of two Russian czars.
Czar of Russia from 1825 to 1855. His reign was marked by a general reaction, the persecution of liberal elements in the country, and the oppression of religious and national minorities. Nicholas I regarded the Jews as a harmful alien group whose unity should be destroyed so that it would become completely assimilated within the Russian people. To achieve this, he adopted many measures. The first, which left its imprint on the whole of his Jewish policy, was the introduction of compulsory military service for the Jews (1827). This was accompanied by the seizure of Jewish children, who were to be educated in the schools for soldiers' children in the spirit of the Christian religion (see *Cantonists). The area of the Pale of *Settlement was reduced and the Jews were expelled from *Kiev, *Sevastopol, and *Nikolayev. There was also a suggestion that they be expelled from within 50 versts of the border. On the other hand, the government encouraged renewed agricultural settlement of the Jews in southern Russia and around their townlets, exempting the settlers from military service. The government of Nicholas I supported the maskilim in their struggle against Orthodoxy. Under the influence of the maskilim, a severe censorship was imposed on Jewish books, their publication being authorized at two presses only, in *Vilna and *Zhitomir. During the 1840s the government set out to develop the network of Jewish government schools, particularly the rabbinical seminaries of Vilna and Zhitomir, which offered a general education in addition to a Jewish education in the spirit of the *Haskalah. At the end of the 1840s, the Jews were forbidden to wear their traditional garb.
Toward the close of Nicholas' reign the "classification" (razbor) of the Jews into "useful" (merchants, craftsmen, agricultural workers) and "non-useful" persons was proposed. Severe repressive measures were to be adopted against the "non-useful" – principally the intensification of conscription. This project was interrupted by the death of Nicholas I, which also resulted in the abolition of the special conscription of Jews and in other alleviations. Of the hundreds of anti-Jewish laws which were passed during his reign, the most important for the Jews were the Jewish statutes of 1835 and 1844 (which officially abolished the Jewish communities and introduced the status of *kazyonny ravvin). In the memory of the Jewish people, the reign of Nicholas I is regarded, especially because of the Cantonists decree, as one of the darkest periods in the history of the Jews in czarist Russia.
Russian czar from 1894 to 1917. His reign was marked by a violent struggle against the revolutionary movement, the war against Japan (1904), which was followed by the first Russian Revolution (1905–06), and Russia's participation (1914–17) in World War I, which culminated in the Revolution of the spring of 1917 and the removal of Nicholas II from the throne. At the outset of his reign the Jews, like other Russian circles, hoped that the new czar would change the extreme reactionary and antisemitic policy of his father *Alexander III. This hope was, however, soon disappointed. The czar, whose education at the hands of Constantine *Pobedonostsev had made him an indubitable Jew-hater, regarded the Jews as the principal factor in the Russian revolutionary movement. He favored antisemitic statesmen, rejected any attempt to change the anti-Jewish laws in spite of the advice of some of the leading statesmen of his court (such as S. *Witte and P. Stolypin), and took under his aegis the violent antisemitic movement, "*Union of Russian People" (popularly known as the "Black Hundreds"), and other organizations formed in reaction to the liberal and revolutionary organizations. The pogroms against the Jews, which were at first due to the free hand given to anti-Jewish incitement and the rioters, were later directly perpetrated by the police and the army, as part of the campaign against the revolution. The *Beilis blood libel trial at Kiev, which was designed to set off renewed persecutions of the Jews, was inspired by the czar. Although no new anti-Jewish laws were passed during the reign of Nicholas II, the administrative pressure which accompanied the pogroms encouraged hundreds of thousands of Jews to emigrate to the U.S. and elsewhere.
NICHOLAS I: Dubnow, Divrei, 9 (19582), 95–118, 208–11; Dubnow, Hist Russ, index; R. Mahler, Divrei Yemei Yisrael, Dorot Aḥaronim, 2 bk 1 (1970), 13–240. NICHOLAS II: Dubnow, Divrei, 10 (1958*), 102–8, 189–207, 218–24, 262–4; Dubnow, Hist Russ, index; Elbogen, Century, 371–404, 453–7; I. Ma'or, She'elat ha-Yehudim ba-Tenu'ah ha-Liberalit ve-ha-Mahpekhanit be-Rusyah (1964); Die Judenpogrome in Russland (1909); S.W. Baron, Russian Jews under Tsars and Soviets (1964).
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.