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

Cover Page

Cite item

Full text / tables, figures


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 The article is based on unpublished sources and diaries from Frizer’s private archive, as well as on archival sources from the Russian State Historical Archive and the State Archive of the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

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

POB Shikmim, Arugot,7980400, Israel

Mariia V. Krotova

St. Petersburg State University of Economics

Email: mary_krot@mail.ru

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

21, Sadovaya St., St. Petersburg, 191023, Russia


  1. Burd'ye, P. Prakticheskiy smysl. St. Petersburg: Aleteyya Publ., 2001 (in Russian).
  2. Crisp, O., and Edmonson, L. Religious Toleration in Late Imperial Russia. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985.
  3. Dameshek, L.M., and Remnev, A.V. Sibir' v sostave Rossiyskoy imperii. Moscow: Novoye literaturnoye obozreniye Publ., 2007 (in Russian).
  4. Geniatulin, R.F. Entsiklopediya Zabaykal'ya. Chitinskaya oblast'. Novosibirsk: In-t prirod. Resursov, ekologii i kriologii Publ., 2004 (in Russian).
  5. Gerasimova, V.A. “Is Siberia tolerant? On the issue of attitudes towards Jews in Western Siberia in the pre-revolutionary period.” Perm University Bulletin. History, no. 3 (2018): 54–63 (in Russian).
  6. Goncharov, Yu.M. “Features of the formation of the Jewish community of Siberia XIX – early XX century.” Izvestia of Altai Article University 1, no. 4 (2012): 68–72 (in Russian).
  7. Goncharov, Yu.M. “Siberian identity of Jews in pre-revolutionary Siberia.” The Bulletin of Irkutsk State University». Series «History», no. 2 (2012): 26–32 (in Russian).
  8. Kal'mina, L.V. “Jews in pre-revolutionary Irkutsk: a glimpse of the provincial gloss.” The Bulletin of Irkutsk State University». Series «History», no. 1 (2012): 118–126 (in Russian).
  9. Kruzhalina, A.A. “«The Jewish Question» Following Materials from the Siberian Newspapers of the Second Half of the XIXth Century.” The Bulletin of Irkutsk State University. Series Political Science and Religion Studies, no. 2 (2013): 157–166 (in Russian).
  10. Meyerovich, A., and Vladimirsky, I. “In search of self-identity: Jews in the context of the Russian culture.” RUDN Journal of Russian History, no. 2 (2018): 236–240.
  11. Ostrovskiy, Yu. Sibirskiye yevrei. St. Petersburg: tip. I. Lur'ye Publ., 1911 (in Russian).
  12. Rabinovich, V.Yu. “Jew or Siberian?” Ab Imperio, no. 4 (2003): 115–142 (in Russian).
  13. Rozental', I.S. “Russian Diaspora, the Jewish Question ... (20s – 40s of the XX century).” Russia XXI, no. 1 (2012): 130–157 (in Russian).
  14. Serebrennikov, I.I. Preterpev sud'by udary. Dnevnik 1914 – 1918 gg. Irkutsk: Izdatel' Sapronov Publ., 2008 (in Russian).
  15. Terry, Ray. Bourdieu on Religion. Imposing Faith and Legitimacy. New York: Routledge, 2014.
  16. Voytinskiy, V.S., and Gornshteyn, A.Ya. Yevrei v Irkutske. Irkutsk: tipolitografiya P.I. Makushina i V.M. Posokhina Publ., 1915 (in Russian).
  17. Vladimirski, I., and Krotova, M.V. “Memoirs of Siberian merchants Ya.D. Frizer and S.V. Vos-trotina as a mirror of regionalism.” Northern Archives and Expeditions 4, no. 2 (2020): 18–30 (in Russian).

Copyright (c) 2020 Vladimirsky I., Krotova M.V.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

This website uses cookies

You consent to our cookies if you continue to use our website.

About Cookies