"Pious Jew" Yakov Frizer and the Status of Jews in Siberia in the Early 20th Century

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Abstract


The present article analyses some documents concerning the legal and social status of Yakov D. Frizer (1869-1932), who was a Jew, a resident of Irkutsk, a merchant of the First Guild and one of the biggest gold miners of East Siberia. The story of his life in East Siberia describes religious tolerance along with manifestations of nationalism and antisemitism. On the threshold of the 20th century, Siberia was a colorful mosaic of numerous religious groups and confessions existing in the Russian Empire. Jewish communities of Siberia were characterized by openness and heterogeneity. In contras-distinction to the Jews from the Pale of Settlement, Jews of Siberia were successfully integrated into Siberian society. Being a son of a criminal exile, Yakov Frizer in a course of time became one of the biggest Siberian entrepreneurs. Diaries from Frizer’s private archive sometimes pointed out to the cases of religious and ethnic disaffection, thereby demonstrating the complexity and versatility of interfaith relations in East Siberia. Using the definition of Pierre Bourdieu, several generations of Siberian Jews succeeded to build a “symbolic capital” that became a part of their social status, ensured their social respect, and business connections built on mutual trust, making Jews as useful society members. East Siberia in general was tolerant to questions of religious faith. The so-called “Jewish question” in East Siberia did not have the same sharpness as it had in Western provinces of the Russian Empire. The “Jewish question” in Siberia was rather an echo of anti-Semitic stereotypes that traditionally have deep roots in the Russian society, and common people consciousness. The article is based on unpublished sources and diaries from Frizer’s private archive, as well as on archival sources from the Russian State Historical Archive and the State Archive of the Russian Federation.


About the authors

Irena Vladimirsky

Achva Academic College

Author for correspondence.
Email: irena@achva.ac.il
POB Shikmim, Arugot,7980400, Israel

Doktor Istoricheskikh Nauk [Dr. habil. hist.], Head of the History of the Ideas Department

Mariia V. Krotova

St. Petersburg State University of Economics

Email: mary_krot@mail.ru
21, Sadovaya St., St. Petersburg, 191023, Russia

Doktor Istoricheskikh Nauk [Dr. habil. hist.], Professor of the Department of International Relations, Medialogy, Political Science and History

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