December 1, 1742 – Empress Elizabeth Orders Expulsion of Jews from Russia

Elizaveta Petrovna, daughter of Peter the Great, seized power in November, 1741 and crowned herself Empress on April 25, 1742.

When she ascended the throne, she proclaimed that “The Russian people have been groaning under the enemies of the Christian faith, but she has delivered them from the degrading foreign oppression.”

Elizabeth of Russia by V. Eriksen

Elizabeth of Russia by V. Eriksen

In futherance of that goal, on this day in history, the Empress issued an Order of Expulsion against all Jews in Russia except those prepared to adopt Christianity. When the city of Riga submitted that consideration should be given to the losses that would ensue for the merchants of the city through that expulsion, the Empress wrote with her own hand: “I do not wish to obtain any benefit or profit from the enemies of Jesus Christ.”

Part of the impetus for this action resulted from the outcome of one of her wars with Sweden. Russia had acquired the Baltic territories of Livonia and Courland, which were inhabited by a fairly large Jewish population. Annexation made them all Russian subjects, but the Empress did not want them at all, much less the prospect of their leaving the provinces and coming into Russia proper.

The Empress was relatively enlightened by Russian standards, however. When Tsar Ivan ‘the Terrible’ (1530-84) annexed the town of Pskov, for example, he ordered that all Jews who refused to convert to Christianity be drowned in the river. (Pskov is still known for its anti-Semitism.) And Elizabeth’s father, Peter the Great, declared:

I prefer to see in our midst nations professing Mohammedanism and paganism rather than Jews. They are rogues and cheats. It is my endeavor to eradicate evil, not to multiply it.”

Peter the Great - like father, like daughter

Peter the Great – like father, like daughter

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