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On faith and fanaticism: converts from Judaism and the limits of toleration in late imperial Russia.

She was a convert from Judaism in the imperial Russian provinces assailed by her family and friends for communal betrayal. Brought to life in the Ukrainian artist Nikolai Kornilovich Pimonenko's painting Zhertva fanatizma (Victim of Fanaticism; 1899), this converted Jewess was inspired by an actual female convert in a shtetl (Yiddish: small town) in the Pale of Jewish Settlement in late imperial Russia who converted to marry her Christian lover and was then tormented by her former coreligionists. Although contemporary Jews decried Pimonenko's art as antisemitic for casting the former Jewess as an innocent victim of Jewish wrath and aggression, they also appropriated the sketch and another like it for circulation on postcards with the accompanying Hebrew words ha-meshumedet (the Apostate) and ba-bogedet (the Traitoress), thus renarrating the events to cast moral blame on the neophyte and legitimize the collective ire of the Jewish community. (1) More than a controversial episode in the artistic representation of Jews, Pimonenko's illustration is the product of a long history of storytelling about conversion as a conflictual boundary crossing. It gives figural rendering to a wide-ranging conversation over the course of the 19th century about Jewish violence in the face of conversion. The popular press and jurists alike mediated this conversation in the late imperial period to mark Jews as both religious and social "fanatics," whose violent intolerance toward apostate kin rendered them undeserving of imperial toleration. In particular, conservative voices in the late imperial press linked stories of conversion-inspired violence to the medieval ritual murder accusation to generate a new blood libel myth in which Jews ritually sacrificed their converted family members.

Postcard of Nikolai Kornilovich Pimonenkos 1899 painting Victim of Fanaticism, printed by a Jewish publisher active in Berlin and retitled in Hebrew ha-meshumedet (The Apostate). Similarly, the German title reads Baptized Jewess in Native Village.

Credit: Collection of Prof. Shalom Sabar, Jerusalem.

Violence as a concept long framed the relation of the state and imperial subjects to conversion as a boundary crossing during the long 19th century. Many Jews narrated conversion as Christian violence against vulnerable Jewish children; and conversions for many converts and their clerical and administrative allies were often understood as endangered by the violence of Jewish families and communities who sought to physically repress deviant behavior. Violence in these stories not only consisted in the infliction of physical pain but also inhered in the language of dispute over the violation of confessional and communal boundaries. Claims of physical harm referred either to direct or to structural violence--at times religious coercion and at times perceived assaults on religious truth, thus causing despair and humiliation. (2) The stories of aggression told about Jews expanded the scope of violence in the Russian Empire to everyday forms of conflict, suggesting that minority groups like the Jews were usurping the state's monopoly on the legitimate use of violence.

Beginning in the mid-1860s and the era of reform, conservative voices in the Russian press, in line with some jurists, harnessed these stories of violence to create a narrative of gendered violence in which Jews were designated as inherently fanatical. This discrediting discourse came on the heels of the 1863 Polish insurrection and ensuing Russification campaigns in the northwestern region. In addition, the 1864 judicial reforms provided public, civil channels for cantonist converts from Judaism to challenge their coerced baptisms in the pre-reform army and for prosecutors to indict relapsed converts and their alleged Jewish enablers on charges of leading neophytes astray or of "seduction" (sovrashchenie), (3) In this late imperial discourse of Jewish violence, the female convert as victim was used to construct an ethnoconfessional political order that set "fanatical" minorities apart from the rational, tolerant, and civilized imperial order. The female victim symbolized the vulnerability of religious truth to heterodoxy, especially because women were identified as vessels of religion across faith communities. In addition, exclusion and humiliation often breed intimate and domestic violence. Thus gendered violence served to structure and legitimate forms of domination. (4) In late imperial Russia, publicists argued that because of their contempt for Orthodoxy, Jews would easily turn to domestic violence to prevent a relative from being baptized.

Thus the convert from Judaism serves as a prism through which to analyze Russian modernity and the production of new ideas on difference and arguments for exclusion along the lines of religion, gender, and ethnicity. Stories of Jewish violence can be compared with late 19th-century discourses on Muslim violence, allowing us to see how the state's management of its ethnoconfessional minorities inspired ideologies of both tolerance and intolerance. (5) The empire tolerated religious minorities and allowed their religious clerics to participate in imperial governance, though it also promoted an exclusive religious truth which it wielded at times in the service of empire building. The Russian Empire as a confessional state endeavored to support bounded, discrete confessional communities and their clerics for purposes of imperial management. It was often unable to control religious affiliation or identification, however, when it came to dealing with converts or those who trespassed and rendered violable the confessional boundaries in which the state invested disciplinary energy. (6) Conversions between tolerated faiths challenged the classificatory grid of the empire, raising questions as to how a tolerated faith should maintain its boundaries. (7) The manner in which confessional communities encountered and engaged converts needs to be studied in greater detail to better understand cultural entanglements in everyday life. (8)

Stories of violence offer a window into the micropolitics of provincial life. In the provinces, the confessional state enabled Jews to legally contest conversions through recourse to communally controlled metrical records on age and the power to conscript. Yet only the Orthodox Church was allowed to engage in missionary activities, while deviance was criminalized, thus limiting the degree of toleration. Publicists, meanwhile, were free to critique Jewish religious ethos as intruding on the Orthodox Church's monopoly on heterodox conversions. Conversion and its discontents highlight the religious drama of empire and the deep tension between toleration and state-sanctioned religious truth.

In this article, I survey a variety of archival and published sources on conversion-inspired violence (verbal invectives, physical attacks, kidnapping, and murder). I analyze how physical and bureaucratic responses by Jews to out-conversion were translated to Russian audiences in the late imperial period through the language of gender and fanaticism and were then reworked into an imperialist civilizational discourse. In this way, violence and intolerance became a defining discourse of empire, marking the line between civilization and savagery and between politically tolerable and intolerable groups.

Discursive strategies of Russian imperial rule created and maintained the differences between ruler and ruled, especially the ethnoreligious "other." The veracity of the stories is less significant here than their discursive and political purposes. (9) In this modern formulation of Jewish difference, Christian invocations of Jewish "fanaticism" not only criticized Jewish theology but branded Jewish social behavior as malevolent and destructive to basic family formation. Again, it served as grounds to exclude Jews from the modern body politic. Thus imperial policies on religious toleration were mobilized at the turn of the 20th century to make claims on political community. Similar patterns can be discerned in the racialization of confessional difference in the late imperial period, just as ethnic ascription started to displace confession as a stable marker of identity. (10)

Evidence: Tales of Violence

Stories of violence punctuate much of the archival and published record on conversions from Judaism in the imperial period. The imperial archives are replete with cases of converts from Judaism bringing complaints to civil authorities against family members and entire kehillot (Jewish communities) for attempting to stymie their conversions. (11) Similarly, parish priests claimed that they shied away from converting local Jews out of fear for their lives.* 12 In one instance in Congress Poland, the Synod reprimanded a local Orthodox priest for allowing himself to be intimidated by a minority, which thus prevented the rightful baptism of a neophyte's young son; the cleric worried about the daunting proximity of the Jewish mother and her family. (13)

Stories of Jewish violence reached near and far in the empire, even shaping conversion politics in urban imperial centers--typically off-limits to Jewish residence--and in non-Russian Orthodox institutions. At the St. Petersburg shelter for converted Jews and those undergoing conversion, Archpriest Nikandr Briantsev routinely received petitions from priests in the western provinces to offer refuge to neophytes. For example, a priest from Lepel District, Vitebsk Province, asked on behalf of the convert Elizaveta Katz, a domestic servant in a Christian home in Polotsk, who took shelter with him when her Jewish father discovered she worked for the family and demanded that she return. (14) The St. Vladimir Brotherhood in Kiev routinely administered expedited baptisms to neophytes who were escorted to the shelter by local peasants wanting to protect them from "fanatic" Jewish coreligionists. The latter, it was alleged, chased down apostates, beat them, captured them, and sometimes even killed them. (15)

Catholics claimed to face similar threats. Though only the Russian Orthodox Church had the right to missionize as the "preeminent and predominant" church in the empire, the Catholic Church secured the right from the Ministry of the Interior in 1821 to shelter and protect those Jews who voluntarily sought them out for conversion. (16) Just a few years prior, a Jewish father together with a member of the Lida Jewish community reportedly entered St. Stefan's Catholic Convent in Vilna to try to physically extract his 16-year-old daughter from the hands of the church. (17) The physical presence of Jews ready and willing to fight for confessional control of their converted kin loomed large in the archival and published record of Jewish conversion in 19th-century Russia.

Both archival and press narratives of violence make frequent reference to a Jewish crowd (tolpa) or to masses that offered impromptu, local, communal resistance to the conversion of coreligionists away from Judaism. Crowds did not always need to resort directly to violence to intimidate converts. Their very impromptu, impulsive, and improvised nature, however, could also be invoked rhetorically to undercut the Jewish community's authority by ostensibly demonstrating their political incoherence and lack of legitimacy. In the 1858 Catholic conversion of Riska Ruvelevna, a young girl from the Girtakol' Jewish community in Kovno Province, the district court in Rossieny reported that "Jews gathered in a crowd" (sobravshis ' tolpoiu) outside the home of the accountant of the district treasury, who was sheltering the girl while a local priest trained her in Catholic dogma. (18)

One reported case was the conversion of the Jewish gymnasium student Nakhim Khais to Russian Orthodoxy in 1883. A Jewish "crowd" succeeded in abducting him from an ecclesiastic shelter shortly after his baptism. The journal Volyn (Volynia) reported that as soon as Jewish crowds started to amass near the shelter, Father Leontii asked for police help. On Sabbath, the crowd grew to several hundred people, at which point a young Jewish boy, an acquaintance of the neophyte, approached the shelter and called Nakhim out of the gate; the crowd then snatched him and fled. Nakhim's parents were subsequently arrested, but the boy had disappeared. (19) In this case, the Jewish crowd was cast as more than just an intimidating force; it was a violent force capable of kidnapping. Accusations concerning threatening Jewish crowds can tell us a great deal about local Orthodox and Catholic conceptions of small-town provincial space, Jews' performance of religious community, and boundary maintenance. Fears of Jewish power encoded in these crowd scenes reflected deep imperial and Russian Orthodox anxieties about religious toleration and the relationship of Orthodoxy to legally empowered and state-sanctioned foreign confessions. Jews, a large demographic presence in the Pale of Jewish Settlement, were deemed capable of rivaling the state's police force by journalists and state authorities, who attributed special physical and disciplinary strength to them.

While physical violence and threats were part of Jewish contestations of out-conversions, attempts by Jewish communities to stymie or undo conversions by legal and bureaucratic means also created controversy. In these accounts, the violation of ethnoreligious boundaries and imperial religious hierarchies is itself marked as a form of violence. Violence here denotes a sense of humiliation or subversion of truth, specifically, the degradation of Orthodoxy or pravoslavie, lit. "true belief." The public press would later harness such degradation to support legal intolerance of Jews.

Convert complaints, police reports, and provincial administration correspondence furnish reports of Jewish families trying to physically return apostates to the Jewish community, despite imperial laws criminalizing deviations from Orthodoxy. For example, the adolescent Jewess Sheina Leibovna Dlugolenska wanted to convert to Russian Orthodoxy to marry her peasant lover, Vladislav Stanislav Grabovskii (a Catholic also converting to Orthodoxy), yet she despaired that her Jewish family and community would sabotage her conversion. Dlugolenska's family lived in the Bel'sk region (Grodno Province), in the village of Subbotka, where her father managed his brother's liquor lease at the village tavern. The neophyte's 1872 petition to the bishop of Brest was mediated through a priest in Bel'sk. Here, Dlugolenska expressed her fear of Jewish intervention in the following terms:

   About three weeks ago, I found it timely to reveal my desire to the
   peasants of Kotlov so that they would inform the priest of the
   Grinevich church, in whose parish they lived; ... a week ago, my
   parents and relatives having found out about my intention ... got
   involved and threw me in a wagon and already started carting [me
   off] in order to do something to me; but to my happiness, at the
   time the peasants of Kotlov were informed of this, they overtook
   us, kidnapped me, and brought me to the Bel'sk police and told them
   what happened.... Even though the state administration ... promises
   to give me to these peasants for safekeeping from the Jews, I still
   fear for my life. (20)

In this conversion file, Dlugolenska's narrative is the only one that invokes physical violence. It was written three days after her original conversion announcement to the Bel'sk district police, at which point she realized that her desire could not be instantaneously fulfilled and that the bureaucratic process necessarily entailed informing the Biatystok crown rabbi, who furnished the metrical records of her birth, parentage, and age.

Dlugolenska testified to police at the outset that she could not remember her birth year, but it seemed to be about 17 years prior; she had been told by the peasants of her village, Subbotka, that independent conversion was forbidden until the age of 18. (21) The only voices we hear from her alleged Jewish attackers are written communications from Bialystok Rabbi M. Mari and Sheina's father Ovsei-Leib, who affirmed that Dlugolenska was 14 years old and should be returned to the rightful care of her family. (22) The peasants of the village of Kotlov wrote on her behalf to the Bel'sk police, stating that her future husband had asked the peasants of Kotlov to take care of the Jewess until her conversion. The peasants of Kotlov petitioned the Bel'sk police for official custody of Dlugolenska in advance of her conversion, which they were granted. A Kotlov village elder helped Dlugolenska write both of her petitions to the authorities due to her illiteracy. (23) Dlugolenskas narrative invoked physical violence, yet her fear may have been more mundane--of Jews brandishing metrical records and imperial statutes on underage baptisms to legally stymie her conversion and intermarriage. (24) Although the neophyte alone testified that physical violence had taken place, both the urgency of her petitions and the official granting of temporary custody of Dlugolenska to the peasants of Kotlov suggest that she greatly feared Jewish legal involvement and that the authorities agreed with her. They acceded to her urgent plea for safe haven.

In journalistic accounts and archival files, Jews wielding metrical records to legally contest a child's baptism are often accused of convert intimidation and threatened abduction. In the 1874 case of Pera Girsenovich, who escaped to Vilna to prepare for baptism, the mother superior of the convent charged local Jews and the neophyte's family with engaging civil authorities to disrupt the religious proceedings of baptism. Girsenovich's family accused the neophyte of theft, which at once served to desacralize her conversion and prod civil authorities to investigate the crime. Police officials entered the convent several times to interrogate Girsenovich, thereby reminding the neophyte of her aggrieved family. Latching onto language of Jewish violence and intimidation of converts, the convent personnel threatened to stop aiding Jewish neophytes if it entailed having to withstand the indignity of civil encroachments on church territory and repeated Jewish legal inquiries into the legalities of the convent's actions. (25) Thus claims of violence stemmed not only from physical coercion by Jewish communities but from their ostensible use of the law to undermine Orthodoxy. Conversion constituted a fraught zone of broader conflict--conflict between religious truths and between individual belief and communal control. Neophytes perceived the attendant conflict as a violation of individual will, while Orthodox believers viewed it as a violation of religious truth.

In some ways, violence functioned as noisy "background static" to daily religious coexistence, as David Nirenberg observes. It imbued the language of dispute, often encoding a wide variety of conflicts that accompanied conversion. (26) Converts from Judaism, parish priests, and provincial administrators co-constructed a narrative of Jewish violence that articulated a range of anxieties over crossing the boundaries of religious identity and legal classification. Such anxieties centered on the convert's sincerity, interfaith relations, family breakdown, and the specter of the convert's relapse. In conversions to Russian Orthodoxy, fear that the church would not be able to successfully exercise its privileged status and fully control minority assimilation also produced stories of violence. For the popular press, as we will see shortly, these isolated incidences formed part of a larger pattern of Jewish criminal behavior that squarely indicted the multiconfessional establishment and called into question the state's official policy of toleration.

Narrating Violence (I): Minority Fanaticism

Much of imperial Russian discourse is laced with references to the "fanaticism" of various minorities, a strategy used in other colonial contexts. As has been shown in comparative studies of imperialist discourses on Muslims in India and Central Asia, "establishing the enemy as fanatical denies him moral status and affords those whose moral superiority is thus affirmed a free hand in defending their interests." (27) Imperial Russian "interests" lay in discrediting foreign faiths while affirming an imperial commitment to "tolerating" difference. Jewish "fanaticism" served as a catch-all phrase to explain why Russian Jewry, unlike its Central European counterpart, was not amenable to integration or the linguistic, occupational, and educational restructuring of Jewish society. (28) Fear of Jewish fanaticism, in turn, translated into the residential restrictions and other exclusionary elements of Jewish policy in the imperial period. (29) Thus "fanaticism" emerged as a defining characteristic of Jews in Russian imperial discourse, much as it functioned to cast Muslims as the savage other. (30)

Among the many contexts in which Jewish fanaticism was referenced, female conversion from Judaism was particularly charged. The woman was readily portrayed as the victim of a violent Jewish politics to thwart conversions to Christianity. This figurai rendering finds clearest expression in Pimonenko's 1899 Victim of Fanaticism, where the converted Jewess--wearing a cross around her neck--stands in fear against a rickety wooden fence, facing her Jewish attackers and accusers. Her blouse is torn--a sign of sexualized violence that has already crossed from the verbal to the physical realm.

It is striking that, in court records, invocations of Jewish violence were much more prominent after the Great Reforms. In the pre-reform period, courts approached with skepticism charges that Jews intervened criminally to block conversions. In 1828, the Imperial Senate heard a convert murder case in which several members of the Dinaburg Jewish community and its communal leadership (kahat) were found guilty of murdering a man. This German, Johan Itsko, had been circumcized and converted, changing his name to Abram. When he signaled his wish to return to Christianity, prosecutors alleged, the Dinaburg community murdered him. In addition to the murder indictment, the Senate argued that local Jews had used communal tax money to bribe local magistrates to bury the case. Prior to this, the Ministry of Justice had demanded a review of the case, questioning the veracity of some of the lead informants and, more important, the motive for the murder. (31) The case files make no presumption of Jewish violence against apostates, and even question whether religious renunciation was an adequate motive for murder.

It was in the late imperial period that the language of fanaticism came into common use by the state and Orthodox Church, applied to Jews and to other confessional minorities, especially the large Muslim population in the south and east of the Russian Empire. Imperial officials and missionaries in the east--the Volga region and Turkestan--described Muslim culture as fanatical, both in terms of religious piety and social backwardness. Such fanaticism was the antithesis of the secular, public order, which obstructed the state's self-proclaimed efforts to bring enlightenment and civilization to these areas. Islam was thus discursively cast as inimical to progress and seen as a spiritual competitor to Russian and Orthodox influence in southern and eastern imperial borderlands. (32) Thus the discourse of Jewish fanaticism had much in common with state and Orthodox descriptions of Muslims.

Once again, women were cast as most in need of salvation, both victims of Muslim fanaticism and those most susceptible to it. The Volga-Kama region had been subject to violent colonization and conversionary campaigns in the 18th century. In the 19th century, the Orthodox Church expended extensive efforts to prevent apostasy among converted Tatar, or Kriashen, populations, who continued to live in close proximity to Muslim Tatar communities. Orthodox Christianity presented itself to the Tatar population as the liberator of Muslim women. This discourse found further parallels among Protestant missionaries in India, who emphasized mistreatment of women as a malady of native society and as a justification for colonial intervention. (33) Yet, for all the rhetoric invested in female victimhood, Orthodox missionaries in the Volga region noted that women offered more resistance than men to the spread of Orthodoxy. Missionaries attributed such resistance to women's natural conservatism and predilection for superstitious beliefs. (34) Thus women were marked as vessels of religion, both open to religious truth and carriers of "superstitious," native religion.

Much as imperial discourse burdened Muslim women as carriers of religious truth--as valiant converts or obstinate nonbelievers--Jewish women, too, were marked as the loci of religion. One strain of late imperial antiJewish discourse viewed Jewish women as victims of a misogynist Talmud and of the general cultural inferiority of Jewish society. (35) All Russian Jews were considered religious fanatics, and historically Jewish women's "fanaticism" was viewed by polemicists as "compensatory piety" to overcome their lack of value in the Jewish collective. Still, missionaries deemed Jewish women less "fanatic," since they did not traditionally study the Talmud and had the most to gain from conversion to Christianity. (36) Thus the rise in Jewish female conversions in the late imperial period in part validated and accentuated contemporary discourses on Jewish female victimhood. (37) In the Volynian ecclesiastical press in 1886, which reprinted a story from a Warsaw paper, even an octogenarian woman who finally converted to Catholicism after 30 years f fearing her Jewish family's wrath was cast as the female victim of Jewish oppression. (38)

Rhetoric of fanaticism for both confessional groups served to typecast these imperial minorities--both beneficiaries of tolerance and imperial institutional and clerical support--as inimical to the modern, supracommunalist ethos of the empire. Following wider European developments, modernity in Russia in many ways hinged on the contrast between civilization and savagery, or freedom and fanaticism, and the colonialist narrative of liberation through religious conversion, which promised to save women from violent, uncivilized men. (39) Thus colonialist discourses simultaneously marked certain populations for exclusion and civilizing. (40) For both Jews and Muslims, the discourse of fanaticism was intimately connected to conversion policies, state and ecclesiastic assimilation campaigns, and indigenous communal responses to mission and apostasy.

The convergence of public discourses on Jewish fanaticism and convert victimhood in the reform period can be attributed to the effects of the Polish uprising and judicial reforms. In the early reform years, the Polish uprising of 1863, which threatened to destabilize the western borderlands where a majority of the empire's Jews resided, heightened sensitivity to issues of ethno-confessional minority integration. (41) In addition, the Russian state's violent missionary past caused heterodox unrest and indigenous critiques of the uneven terms of imperial religious toleration. More recently, Russification policies in the western borderlands reflected a diverse range of bureaucratic visions, from Russian national exclusivity to imperial inclusivity. (42) In the Jewish population, an increasing number of former cantonists--some 25,000 of whom were coercively baptized in the pre-reform army--retroactively challenged the validity of their baptisms in the reformed judiciary of 1864. The popular press responded to all these developments by ratcheting up images of Jewish "fanaticism," which marked Jews as religious zealots of the modern era, who countered religious choice with violence. (43) As in other European conversion narratives of Jews, portraits of Jewish resistance to a relative's baptism were rhetorically employed to counter historical images of coercive Christian proselytism. (44) Thus competing visions of the imperial body politic and of the terms of toleration helped fan new stories of Jewish violence and fanaticism, especially stories of Jewish female oppression and colonial liberation.

Narrating Violence (II): Gendered Victimhood

The gendering of convert victimhood was part and parcel of stories of violence and claims of Jewish fanaticism. Creating a gendered binary of female convert victim and male Jewish oppressor allowed the late imperial press to use gender to both narrate and claim power, projecting an image of outsized minority power in the imperial provinces. The same gendered language supported claims that the privileges of Russian Orthodoxy must be increased to better protect the vulnerable Russian nation. Women were marked as essential vessels of religious truth, family, and the body politic, which were feared to be under siege; autocracy and Russian Orthodoxy had a salvific role to play in bringing progress through the moral force of reason to the foreign confessions.

The Russian state formally exited the Jewish conversion business in the reform era, when it closed cantonist units in the army, yet it soon began to exert more indirect pressures on Jews to convert. Residential and socioeconomic mobility, made possible by state-led industrialization campaigns, undercut the economic position of small market towns. Jews' efforts to exit these conditions were further aggravated by academic quotas on Jews in the postreform period. Though numbers of conversions for both men and women increased in the late imperial period, the rate of female conversions from Judaism grew more dramatically. Perhaps this gender shift encouraged the gendered portrait of convert victimhood painted in the press and immortalized by the artist Pimonenko. (45) In the absence of a formal state mission to Jews in the late imperial period, Pimonenko and other public voices gestured to a new set of attractions and pressures to convert--animated not by a state mission but as a response to economic dislocation and everyday social intimacies, with their attendant romantic coloring.

Stories of conspiratorial Jewish abductions of female converts were increasingly popular in the late reform era and postreform public press. Public trials were extensively covered in news reporting. In 1879, a man who signed himself "Pravoslavnyi" (Orthodox) wrote in to the Kiev diocesan journal about the attempted abduction by Jews of the convert from Judaism Vera Shpanerova, who was married to an Orthodox man and the mother of two children. She was captured while out on a shopping trip by Jews from her Podolian hometown, who locked her up and pressured her to relapse back to Judaism. She agreed to their demands in order to escape them, at which point she contacted her husband, who called the police. Her family and several local Jews were promptly arrested on criminal charges of "seduction." (46) In a similar case in 1888, Shmul and Chava Mintses together with a group of friends and relatives were tried in a Warsaw circuit court on charges of "seducing" the Mintses' daughter Matlia away from Russian Orthodoxy. The father was arrested in Berlin after kidnapping his daughter on imperial Russian soil and transporting her abroad with the intention of separating her from her Russian husband and returning her to Judaism. (47) Both sensational cases, of Shpanerova and Mintses, centered on female converts from Judaism found with their parents far from their Christian homes. Though the courts in both cases indicted Jewish family members for causing a convert to Orthodoxy to stray, the role of the converts in their own apostasies was ignored. Did they relapse and then blame their families, or were they coerced by family members to renounce their baptisms and mixed marriages? We may never know.

In addition to stories of conspiratorial Jewish abductions of women, the late imperial press also carried a number of stories of murders--attempted and completed--of female converts from Judaism. Such publicized acts of Jewish "fanaticism" prompted the conservative newspaper Kievlianin in 1884 to call for greater legal protections for married Jewish women who converted and sought to marry Orthodox men, but whose Jewish husbands refused to grant them divorces in order to free them. According to imperial law, any children born to the now mixed couple would be considered Orthodox and raised as such. The press contended that Jewish men accepted the law and refused divorce but sought religious vengeance through murder instead. (48) In fact, in 1875, the Synod granted the convert from Judaism Elena Mikhailovna a divorce from her Jewish husband based on the general threat (confirmed by diocesan personnel in Polotsk) that female converts felt of being forcibly returned to Judaism by their Jewish husbands. (49)

In casting a spotlight on the modern Jewish convert as a victimized female, the male conscript forced into conversion was left in the shadows; the state's role in perpetrating violence against foreign confessions was forgotten. The state's violent missionary efforts from the 16th through the 18th centuries are well known, though coercive missions continued to be carried out in the 19th century. These affected not only Jewish cantonist conscripts, especially from 1843 to 1855, but also Baltic Lutheran peasants in the 1840s, relapsed Tatar converts in the Volga-Kama region in the 1860s, mass Catholic conversions in the mid-1860s, and Uniates--or Greek Catholics--in 1839 and 1875. (50) Press stories left aside the intolerance and conversionary violence of the imperial state and its criminalization of apostasy from Orthodoxy even if coerced to highlight the ethnoconfessional tribalism of a minority group that placed faith and community above family love.

Jews, too, used gender to make claims about religious coercion and the confessional power dynamic in the empire, emphasizing their status as an embattled minority subject to direct and indirect forms of conversion coercion. Jewish families cast many teenage conversions--especially those of girls--as abductions, thereby denying the agency of the neophyte. In addition to crafting abduction narratives, families often presented female conversions as insincere or unprepared; playing into the trope of the weaker sex, these female converts were dismissed as feeble-minded. (51) One motivation behind the construction of gendered stories was to find legal loopholes to annul baptisms and contest the legal hold of the Orthodox Church on its members. At times, such stories also served to cover up Jewish female elopements and interconfessional intimacies. (52)

In convert narratives, the Jewish woman--like the Muslim woman--is by turns a victim of patriarchal religion but also the most fanatical. Converts from Judaism gendered the obstacles they faced when attempting to convert and leave Jewish society. The historian ChaeRan Freeze has shown how many females cast themselves as victims of an abusive Jewish family and despotic community, thus rhetorically strengthening their case as emotionally and socially detached from their former Jewish communities. (53) Male neophytes, however, were also able to present themselves as victims, this time stymied by female religious fanaticism in their sincere but frustrated male attempts to convert. Such explanations served to justify delayed conversions or to arouse anxiety about the status of children during custody battles. Moshko Blank, an elderly Jew from Zhitomir who waited until his wife died to convert to Orthodoxy in 1844, blamed Jewish women in general as the obstacles to mass Jewish conversion to Orthodox Christianity. The great-grandfather of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, Blank claimed that he waited until age 90 to convert, "because my wife hindered my conversion until now, but finally, she ... died." (54) Pavel Dreizin, a converted rabbi turned native missionary, repeatedly voiced anxieties about his Jewish wife's "fanatical" tendencies as grounds to divorce his wife and gain sole custody of the children. Dreizin stated that he feared that in the event of his death, his wife Braindl would vanish with the children to America or somewhere in the Pale of Settlement where she would try to "seduce" them back to Judaism. In the event of refusal, Dreizin feared that Braindl would murder them "like Jews always did with apostates from the faith." (55) The Lithuanian Ecclesiastical Consistory, which handled Dreizin's conversion, denied his divorce request since Braindl desired to stay married, but following Pavel's death it turned down Braindl's request for visitation rights with her children on the grounds that her husband had repeatedly claimed that she was a harmful fanatic. (56) Thus both Jews and converts from Judaism--men and women--used the language of gendered violence to navigate the painful experience of family rupture. In so doing, they created a legal space for the state to enter family and communal politics.

Stories of gendered Jewish violence in the popular press, especially prominent in conservative newspapers like Kievlianin, were thus influenced by reform-era developments, including not only the Polish uprising of 1863, but also the judicial reform and the abolition of cantonist units. The latter spawned public trials for legal reversion to Judaism and heterodox calls for freedom of conscience and the need to absolutize religious toleration, freeing society from the established church's purchase on religious truth. Conservative newspapers also reflected the racialization of Jewish difference: converts served as reminders that confessional self-identification could be changed, thus amplifying the search for more stable markers of identity and parameters of imperial inclusion. (57)

Theories of Violence: A New Ritual Murder Accusation

The language of fanaticism and gendered violence was used to emphasize Jewish difference and was common in articles on contested Jewish conversions. Yet the press could go further, using such contestations to challenge state religious policies, especially what some authors deemed to be an excessively tolerant social order in the face of alleged Jewish violence. An account in May 1866 in Pravoslavnoe obozrenie clearly illustrates this. It alleged systematic Jewish violence against Orthodoxy when it reported the conversion of the 16-year-old Jewess Rachel-Leah Goldferbova to Russian Orthodoxy in the environs of Brest-Litovsk, in the northwest part of the Pale of Jewish Settlement. According to the account, Goldferbova was an orphan and lived with her grandmother, who ran a tavern frequented by local soldiers. Vaguely aware that one of her brothers had converted while fulfilling his military service in the Imperial Army, Rachel-Leah was intrigued by discussions she had about conversion with army personnel, converts from Judaism among them. (58) A local army priest helped sequester Rachel-Leah and prepared her for baptism, though not without local Jews preemptively kidnapping her to hide her from her Orthodox mentors. Ultimately, army personnel were called in to recapture Goldferbova from the rural mill where she was stashed, and they ensured her safe and successful baptism. (59)

Already in this 1866 article, the author used this story of violence to initiate a larger imperial conversation. Juxtaposing the innocent, vulnerable convert Rachel-Leah to the "fanatical," powerful Jews of the Brest-Litovsk region bent on her confessional return, the author suggested that the empire's tolerant ethos enabled a similar power disparity among imperial confessional communities:

   Jews in Russia enjoy freedom of confession, a protected law; if one
   would think to persecute them for religious belief and rituals,
   they would respond according to the law; meanwhile, Jews permit
   themselves to use extreme oppression and torture for religious
   freedom, especially toward those of them who would think to
   exchange, according to the conviction of their conscience, Judaism
   for the Christian faith; for this, they slander, beat them, seize
   them with force, curse, deprive them of property, such that
   Christians need to take up a defensive position, appearing as
   martyrs, as if the ruling religion here were Judaism and the ruling
   nation the Jews. (60)

Latching onto popular Russian tropes of a predatory minority threatening to unseat and victimize the majority, this article at once rehashed common imperialist tropes of native Russian victimhood and created a new forum around the issue of conversion to articulate Russian anxieties about toleration as empowering the foreign faiths. Polemically casting Jews as Russia's modern inquisitors, the anxiety-ridden or cynical author calls our attention to the ways in which the dictates of confessional management from the imperial center did not necessarily correlate with the practice of law and community building in the imperial provinces. State policies would have required discrete, self-contained confessional groups, yet many religious communities were deeply entangled in one another's practices, social networks, and daily routines. Knowledge and access bred both sociability and intense hostility and local rivalries, especially when conversions subverted disciplinary power and ruptured tacit boundaries structuring a small-town community.

While individual instances of Jewish physical violence against apostates did occur, the popular press's argument for a conspiratorial Jewish politics of violence against converts, as outlined in the Goldferbova story, was a rhetorical strategy to contest the terms of imperial toleration. The article was unprecedented in using Jewish violence to cast Jews as a predatory minority unworthy of toleration. From 1866 through the 1880s, these stories progressed in the public press to racialize "fanaticism" or other cultural proclivities as innate to Jews and Judaism, spinning a wholesale indictment of Jewish intolerance. Jews were alleged to be incapable of countenancing religious deviance and thereby placed themselves beyond the scope of true toleration and freedom of conscience.

The historical context is crucial for understanding how converts, confessional politics, and religious tolerance coalesced to become fodder for a growing Judeophobic discourse in conservative circles. As John Klier has written, occult forms of Judeophobia were born in the twilight of the reform years, when disillusionment and socioeconomic dislocation shifted social and political blame onto minority groups. The growing popularity of Iakov Brafman's theory of a conspiratorial, international Jewish cabal at this time transformed earlier discourses on Jewish violence to posit a conspiratorial, religious rite, which became fodder for the public press's Judeophobic screeds. (61) New forms of Judeophobia also emerged in opposition to appeals by tolerated faiths in support of freedom of conscience. Such groups had pointed to the use of coercive baptisms to bolster their arguments for expanded tolerance. Baltic Germans, for example, petitioned that coreligionists who had forcibly been baptized by the Orthodox Church in the 1840s be allowed to return to the Protestant faith. Jews in the late imperial period added their voices to the chorus of tolerated groups subjected to irregular state missions who tried to expose the inconsistent terms of toleration in the empire. (62) Jewish contestations of coerced baptisms occurred amid a spate of religious mutinies in the Imperial Army between 1855 and 1860, launched by former Jewish cantonists who claimed they had been forcibly baptized as underage recruits. More publicly, a stream of veteran converts in the 1870s retroactively challenged their conversions as cantonists in the pre-reform army. The increase in official renunciations of Orthodoxy in this period can be linked in part to the judicial reforms of 1864, which eased the process by bolstering judicial review over administrative procedure.

For example, in 1876, Private Aleksei Iofin asked Kiev officials to mark "Jew" on his army discharge papers. He argued that he was forcibly converted to Orthodoxy as a nine-year-old cantonist recruit and thus was never legitimately baptized. Viewing this request as an act of apostasy, the officials started a criminal court case against Iofin. The defense lawyer emphasized that Iofin publicly declared his renunciation and, in so doing, boldly expressed the subjective nature of religious freedom. Freedom of faith (including the right of the individual freely to choose his or her religious ascription and the right of multiple religions to missionize and convert) had reigned in many parts of Europe since the French Revolution, he claimed. Russia, by contrast, protected freedom of confession only in the narrowest sense and granted mission and criminalization of apostasy solely to Orthodoxy. The defense pleaded that Iofin's underage cantonist baptism be deemed invalid and that the court's verdict uphold "civilization and freedom of conscience." The court acquitted Iofin. (63)

While cantonist accusations of state violence were being aired through these court cases, criminal accusations of convert apostasy and Jewish collusion were also aired in the public press in the late imperial period. The popular press used "seduction" trials and accounts of Jewish religious violence against converts to showcase how Jews took advantage of their religious freedoms to impinge on the religious freedom of other subjects, namely Jewish converts to Christianity. In this way, the Russian press invoked innate and malevolent Jewish tendencies in order to argue that the entire imperial toleration enterprise was compromised and indeed untenable. In this contentious climate, the head of the Holy Synod Konstantin Petrovich Pobedonostsev claimed that arguments for freedom of conscience were just a pretext used by heterodox groups to promote their particular interests. In general, the Russian Orthodox Church argued that toleration was less a boon to imperial stability than a mechanism to disestablish Orthodoxy as the state religion. (64) Conversion and its discontents increasingly functioned in the Russian press's discussion of the Jewish Question to undercut support for the extension of legal privileges to Jews.

Over time, an increasing number of journalists contended that Jewish violence was lethal and that it aimed to avenge apostasy. (65) In 1878, a year after Khaika Prizent converted to Orthodoxy to marry her peasant lover, there was an alleged arson at the couple's home. Sometime after the failed first attempt on her life, Khaika's corpse was found by the charred remains of a local inn. Coroners identified the cause of death as strangulation prior to the fire and noted that she was five months pregnant. Though her father was acquitted of arson and murder, the court surmised that the crime was committed by other Jews seeking revenge for Khaika's conversion and intermarriage. (66) In 1886, a Jewish girl was murdered after leaving home with the intention to marry a Christian man. The Volynian ecclesiastical press claimed that she was murdered by her fanatic Jewish family, who preferred her death to the stain of intermarriage. (67)

The theory of the fanatical Jew willing to murder for his faith assumed a status of fact when it was marshaled as evidence by the prosecution in the highly publicized Liutsinskii affair--the trial over the murder of Maria Drich, a Catholic domestic servant in the employ of a Jewish family in Liutsin (Vitebsk Province). This case expanded the supposed scope of Jewish violence beyond converted kin. This time, the Jewish defendants were charged with murdering a Christian woman for seducing a Jewish adolescent in two senses: by romantically attracting and by enticing him into conversion. Significantly, the case reads like a ritual murder charge, referring to the telltale physical signs of ritual murder to invent a new mode of religiously inspired murder--here, killing to exact revenge on a convert or his or her Christian accomplice. The Liutsinskii affair is significant for exploring just how far the popular press could mobilize religion for political ends, as a means of recasting the Jewish faith as an antimodern, coercive, authoritarian religion.

In November 1883, the Jewish merchant Zimel Abramov Lotsov from Vitebsk Province informed police that Maria Drich, his Christian domestic servant, stole from him and then disappeared during the night. Police were unable to locate Drich in the Liutsin environs. Then, in March 1884, a local fisherman found a woman's corpse in the river. Coroners identified the body as the missing servant Maria Drich, and medical examiners confirmed that she had been murdered by strangulation, then bound hand and foot to stakes, and carried to the river, where her body was tied to bricks and thrown into the water.

Zimel Lotsov, his wife Ester, and two other Jews were charged with premeditated murder, strangulation, and collaboration to cover up the crime. The police discovered that Zimel's eldest son Yankel was in love with Maria and intended to convert to Catholicism to marry her. (68) In the April 1885 criminal trial, the prosecutor indicted the Lotsov parents by invoking Yankel's intended conversion and Jews' capacity for violence when faced with a relative's conversion. "You, jurists," concluded the prosecutor, "live among a Jewish population, and you are well aware what kinds of counteractions are used by them in those cases when some Jew desires to convert to Christianity." (69) The prosecution's entreaty to the jury turned on the assumption of Jewish violence in reaction to apostasy.

The defense attorney requested a retrial, arguing that Christian stereotypes of fanatical Jews had wrongfully served as legal evidence of the Liutsin Jews' violent motive. According to the defense, "The prosecutor, in his own words, said, 'Jews who convert to Christianity need to hide or otherwise they disappear,' " thus asserting that all Jews "are capable, for religious goals, of committing murder." (70) The case was tried a second time; the Lotsovs were found guilty of murder, but the other two Jews were acquitted.

The following year, a court case about Jewish "seduction" offered another forum for asserting a Jewish ethos of murderous violence against converts. In 1886, a Kiev district court in Chigirin sentenced ten Jews to five to eight years of hard labor for "seducing" the female convert Evdokiia Shevchenkova back to Judaism. The convert told police that her Jewish family abducted her from her godfather with the intention to kill her. Shevchenkova initially reported that she was tortured and beaten, and that her Jewish kidnappers pinched her skin and pricked her with needles--an act commonly associated with ritual murder. Traces of scratches on her wrists served as courtroom evidence of the ultimate goal of her attackers. For the right-wing newspaper Novorossiiskii telegraf, the legal crime of seduction in the Shevchenkova case did not reveal the full truth of Jewish criminality, which amounted to the "systematic and brutal persecution of a Jewess who had converted to Christianity." (71)

Odesskii vestnik provided a fuller account of the judicial proceedings regarding Shevchenkova's abduction and relapse back to Judaism by retelling both versions of Shevchenkova's testimony. Initial testimony indicted her Jewish family and a host of other Jewish conspirators with abducting her for the purpose of murder. On the stand, though, the convert broke down and admitted that she ran away to her family. She admitted that she had devised the whole abduction story since she was afraid that her Orthodox godfather would beat her. (72) At the time of the trial, Shevchenkova had been married for three months to an Orthodox peasant. Though she professed love for her parents, she later claimed on the stand that her parents did not love her, as they always made her work and used her hard-earned money to buy a dress for her sister. In each of her multiple narratives, Shevchenkova referred to violence as a way to articulate and navigate family tensions. She tapped into gender stereotypes of vulnerability to excuse her relapse, as if it had been coerced. She further used family feuds and sibling rivalry as a way to distance herself from her Jewish family as she stabilized her Russian Orthodoxy identity through marriage.

In 1881, Kievlianin reported on a case of a convert abduction that ended in the murder of a 16-year-old male convert from Judaism to Russian Orthodoxy. The corpse of Andrei Garun, formerly Abrum Itsko Shmikler, was found in April 1879 in a river in the village of Vishnevets (Volynia Province), and an investigation confirmed that this was the same boy who had gone missing from a nearby monastery in September 1878, just months after his conversion. Though all the convicted Jews in the case pleaded not guilty, all were charged with either premeditated murder or collaboration for not reporting the crime to authorities. (73) Here, as in the Drich and Shevchenkova cases, the details of the murder mimic the evidence procured in classic ritual murder cases--the circumstances of uncovering the corpse in a river, bound by rope to stakes, and found with repeated bodily punctures. In both cases, mysterious deaths were linked to local Jews who purportedly killed converts and--in the Drich case--their accomplices for undermining the sanctity of religious community. The subtext in all these cases was that in mobilizing religion, Jews violated the familial bonds of the body politic and thus marked themselves as unworthy of the tolerant ethos of the imperial political community.


Accounts of conversion-inspired violence abounded in the 19th century, from bureaucratic and clerical circles to the popular press, and from converts from Judaism to their former Jewish coreligionists. These intersecting and conflicting stories were constructed so as to make sense of cultural entanglements and provide an interpretive narrative for others. Stories of violence in state and church records throughout the imperial period articulated a variety of concerns with conversion as a boundary crossing that bred conflict. Jews invoked it to express incredulity at voluntary conversion. Yet due to the influence of the press, especially after the second Polish insurrection in 1863, a strong wave of negative sentiment toward foreign faiths--Jewish and Muslim--came in that was closely tied to debates on toleration and freedom of conscience. Articles in the reform and postreform Era press used conversion and its attendant conflicts to contest the terms of imperial toleration. The press questioned the extension of toleration toward minorities if these groups did not tolerate dissent within; it also questioned minorities' demands for freedom of conscience to remedy past injustices, including violent missionary activities that the state had approved. Tolerated faiths themselves were now charged with heresy hunting. Through discourses on fanaticism and gendered violence, conservative journalists and jurists attempted to discredit Jews and Judaism as politically dangerous and immoral in seeking to usurp state power and threaten religious orthodoxy.

Jewish violence against baptized relatives--both physical and rhetorical--forms a rich historical subject, in terms of both the legal avenues available for Jews to contest religious deviance and the traditionalist ethos of shunning converts, which is not attested to at this time among Jews in Western and Central Europe. (74) Beyond the veracity and prevalence of such cases, this article has explored the afterlife of such communal contestations in the public sphere--how stories of Jewish violence were mediated by journalists and legalists and interpreted for imperial Russian public consumption. At the level of imperialist discourse, stories of violence moved beyond the realm of direct, physical attacks to argue that the use of force among Jews and other ethno-confessional minorities ran deeper and was more nefarious. Such groups, it was alleged, made excessive displays of power and thus undermined the status and privilege of Orthodoxy. Thus narratives of violence polemically articulated the humiliation of Orthodox sensibilities, inverting power relations in an age of religious toleration.

As scholarship on group formation has shown, cultures identify themselves through differentiation from other cultures. Conversion has increasingly been seen in cultural studies as a topic that facilitates a turn away from a binary approach to difference. It is here that cultural identification through differentiation is most explicit and recognizable. The late imperial Russian press used the conflict prompted by contentious boundary crossings to discredit Jews as social fanatics who violently persecuted their own kin. Thus violence provided a language for categorizing ethnoconfessional difference and rendering the tribalism of tolerated groups as anathema to the purported multiconfessional ethos of the empire. By censuring Jewish parents and relatives for domestic violence against converts, the family and the strength of blood relations became a litmus test for political solidarity. These assessments of imperial loyalty became particularly acute in the post-1863 climate, when tensions between the imperial and national impulses in statecraft ran high. At times, those tensions were expressed by discrediting both foreign faiths and the state's multiconfessional order as a whole. Members of the Orthodox Church and conservatives viewed tolerance and multiconfessionalism as destabilizing to the autocracy and the state's established faith. Imperial "sociability" and family morality thus became proving grounds for imperial inclusion. The inchoate Russian nation, the Russian Orthodox Church disempowered in the face of non-Orthodox rights, unliberated ethnoconfessional minorities--all these were read as "female," and their alleged vulnerability became the driving discourse of imperial Russia's civilizing mission.

Returning to the subject of the Pimonenko painting, which linked conversionary violence and Jewish fanaticism, we see it both as symptom and as cause of the decline of the Russian Empire's multiconfessional establishment and its tolerant ethos in the late imperial period. The discursive terrain of violence analyzed here was animated by the confessional state and its empowerment of confessional orthodoxies through metrical record keeping, conscription, taxation, and family and religious law. Yet the rhetorical violence engulfing Jews and their relationship with apostates was an attempt to narrate toleration as a zero-sum game in which permissive policies toward foreign confessions necessarily disestablished the Orthodox faith. Thus the confessional state enabled Jewish contestations of conversion, and Orthodox privilege and an imperial civilizing mission generated a discourse of discrediting foreign faiths.

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(1) Hillel Kazovsky, "Jewish Artists in Russia at the Turn of the Century: Issues of National Self-Identification in Ait," Jewish Art 21-22 (1995-96): 20-39, esp. 38.

(2) Nancy Scheper-Hughes and Philippe Bourgois, "Introduction: Making Sense of Violence," in their Violence in War and Peace: An Anthology (Oxford: Blackwell, 2004), 1-31.

(3) For the criminal code on apostasy, see Ulozkenie o nakazaniiakh ugolovnykh i ispravitel 'nykh (St. Petersburg: n.p., 1866), articles 184, 185. The criminal code considered apostasy a twofold crime, penalizing both the seducer and the seduced. This reflected the state s suspicion that any deviation from Orthodoxy was the work of alien influences. The legal term to denote apostasy from Orthodoxy, sovrashchenie (seduction or corruption), equated heresy with sexual temptation and thus cast the crime as nonspiritual in nature. See Paul W Werth, At the Margins of Orthodoxy: Mission, Governance, and Confessional Politics in Russia's Volga-Kama Region, 1827-1905 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2002), 157.

(4) On gendered violence, according to the theory of Pierre Bourdieu, see Scheper-Hughes and Bourgois, "Introduction."

(5) For a study of how Jews embraced the epithet of "fanaticism" and repurposed it for their own political ends, see Ellie R. Schainker, Confessions of the Shtetl: Converts from Judaism in Imperial Russia, 1817-1906 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2016), chap. 5.

(6) For scholarship on state support of confessional orthodoxies and religious toleration as a key instrument of imperial management, see Robert Crews, "Empire and the Confessional State: Islam and Religious Politics in Nineteenth-Century Russia," American Historical Review 108, 1 (2003): 50-83; and Crews, For Prophet and Tsar: Islam and Empire in Russia and Central Asia (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006). For scholarship that complicates the strictly disciplining dimension of the confessional state and points to ways in which the state also sought to discredit the tolerated confessions, on which I build in this article, see Mikhail Dolbilov, Russkii krai, chuzhaia vera: Etnokonfessional 'naia politika imperii v Litve i Belorussii pri Aleksandre II (Moscow: Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie, 2010); Dolbilov and Darius Staliunas, Obratnaia uniia: Iz istorii otnoshenii mezhdu katolitsizmom i pravoslaviem v Rossiskoi imperii, 1840-1873 (Vilnius: LII Leidykla, 2010); and Paul W. Werth, "Lived Orthodoxy and Confessional Diversity: The Last Decade on Religion in Modern Russia," Kritika 12, 4 (2011): 849-65, esp 857.

(7) On converts and the challenges they posed to the confessional classificatory grid of the empire, see Paul W. Werth, "Empire, Religious Freedom, and the Legal Regulation of 'Mixed' Marriages in Russia," Journal of Modern History 80, 2 (2008): 296-331.

(8) For a synthetic analysis of imperial Russian multiconfessionalism at the state level, see Paul W. Werth, The Tsar's Foreign Faiths: Toleration and the Fate of Religious Freedom in Imperial Russia (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014).

(9) As for the veracity of some of these cases, there is comparative evidence of individual cases of Jewish murder and abduction of neophytes in early modern Poland, in part connected to the mass conversion of the Frankists to Catholicism. At this time, violence against apostates was viewed within a medieval, Crusade-inflected Jewish martyrology in which the act of conversion was viewed as a destructive, obliterating force in Jewish society. See Pawel Maciejko, The Mixed Multitude: Jacob Frank and the Frankist Movement, 1755-1816 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011), 133-36, notes 39, 46.

(10) Charles Steinwedel, "To Make a Difference: The Category of Ethnicity in Late Imperial Russian Politics, 1861-1917," in Russian Modernity: Politics, Knowledge, Practices, ed. David L. Hoffmann and Yanni Kotsonis (New York: St. Martin's Press, 2000), 67-86. For scholarship on the racialization of confessional difference with regards to Jews, see Eugene M. Avrutin, "Racial Categories and the Politics of (Jewish) Difference in Late Imperial Russia," Kritika 8, 1 (2007): 13-40; Marina Mogil'ner, "Evreiskaia antropologiia vkontekste evropeiskikh rasovykh issledovanii," in Istoriia i kul 'tura rossiiskogo i vostochnoevropeiskogo evreistva: Novye istochniki, novyepodkhody, ed. Oleg Budnitskii (Moscow: Dom Evreiskoi knigi, 2004), 116-37; and Eli Weinerman, "Racism, Racial Prejudice, and Jews in Late Imperial Russia," Ethnic and Racial Studies 17 (1994): 455-56. On racialized categorizing in the late Russian Empire and Soviet Union, see Chia Yin Hsu, "A Tale of Two Railroads: 'Yellow Labor,' Agrarian Colonization, and the Making of Russianness at the Far Eastern Frontier, 1890s-1910s," Ab Imperio, no. 3 (2006): 217-53. Hsu argues that while race suggests biological and immutable difference, in the context of empire it also carried judgments based on culturally shaped notions of behavior and propensities.

(11) For complaints lodged against various kehillot, see Tsentral'nyi derzhavnyi istorichnyi arkhiv Ukrainy, Kyiv (TsDIAK) f. 442 (Chancellery of the Governor-General of Kiev, Podolia, and Volynia), op. 149, d. 6289 (Boguslov kahal); f. 442, op. 142, d. 94 (Radomkahal, 1835); f. 442, op. 158, d. 1000 and op. 159, d. 586 (Belotserkov kahal, 1847-49); and f. 442, op. 84, d. 420 (Lipian kahal, 1853). For examples of complaints against family members pursuing converts, see "Perepiska s raznymi litsami o kreshchenii ikh v pravoslavnuiu veru," 1867-79, (Tsentral 'nyi gosudarstvennyi istoricheskii arkhiv Sankt-Peterburga [TsGIA SPb] f. 542, op. 2, d. 3, 11. 114-15); Rossiiskii gosudarstvennyi istoricheskii arkhiv (RGIA) f. 822 (Roman Catholic Ecclesiastical College), op. 1, d. 2590 (Po raportu vilenskoi konsistorii kasatel'no perekhoda evreev i magometan v rimsko-katol. ispovedanii, 1821); Derzhavnyi arkhiv Kyivs'koi oblasti, Kyiv (DAKO) f. 1, op. 140, d. 517,11. 5-5 ob. (O razreshenii vremennogo prebyvaniia Reweke Srebnik v Kieve dlia priniatiia Pravoslaviia, 1904). One female convert said that her parents put her under surveillance for an entire year after her wish to convert became known. She took advantage of a visit to her aunt in Vilna to seek out conversion (Conversion of Townswoman from the Miadelskii Jewish Community Sheina Khodos, 1901 [YTVO Institute for Jewish Research (YTVO) RG 46, 111:52]).

(12) Iv. Pavlovskii, "O neobkhodimosti priiutov dlia evreev ishchushchikh kreshcheniia," Sovremennost' 137 (9 December 1876).

(13) "Po otnosheniiu glavnogo nachal nika Ill-go otd. sob. E. I. V. kantseliarii: Kasatel'no evreiskogo mal'chika Iankelia Basevicha," 1864 (RGIAf. 821, op. 8, d. 191).

(14) TsGIA SPb f. 542 (Mariinsko Sergievskii Shelter), op. 2, d. 3,11. 114-15 ("Perepiska s raznymi litsami o kreshchenii ikh v pravoslavnuiu veru, 1867-79"). The St. Petersburg shelter even paid the transportation fares of Jews from the western provinces who sought out its protection for conversion. See "Kniga dlia zapisi raskhoda summ ot sbora ezhegodnykh i edinovremennykh pozhertvovanii v pol'zu ishchushchikh prisoedineniia k pravoslaviiu i vnov' prisoedinennykh k nemu evreev," 1869-72 (TsGIA SPb f. 542, op. 3, d. 6). On this, see A. A. Alekseev, O religioznom dvizhenii evreev i rasprostranenii khristiamtva mezhdu nimi (Novgorod: n.p., 1895), 34.

(15) TsDIAK f. 127 (Kiev Ecclesiastical Consistory), op. 1047, d. 328 (Conversion of Jewess Rukhel Volkova Liublinskaia, now Maria, 1894) (Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People [CAHJP] HM2 9683.3)].

(16) RGIA f. 822, op. 1, d. 2590.

(17) Lietuvos valstubes istorijos archyvas, Vilnius (LV1A) f. 378 B/S (Chancellery of the Governor-General ofVilna, Kovno, and Grodno, General Section), 1815 g., d. 184 (1815) (CAHJP HM2 9733.20).

(18) LVIA f. 378 B/S, 1858 g., d. 231 (CAHJP HM3 231.7) (Request of Jewess Ioseleva for the return of her young daughter, who is being held in a monastery with the goal of making her convert to Catholicism, 1858). The crowd as a source of violence figures largely in Kievlianiris coverage of the 1881 murder trial of Andrei Garun, a young convert who was repeatedly threatened by "masses" and "crowds" of Jews before his mysterious disappearance and murder. See "Sudebnaia khronika: Ubiistvo iz religioznogo fanatizma (Prodolzhenie)," Kievlianin, no. 221 (1881).

(19) "Pokhishchenie zhelavshego okrestit'sia gimnazista--evreiami," Volyn, no. 61 (1883).

(20) YIVO RG 46, 1:10,11. 3-4 ob. (Conversion of Jewess Sheina Leibovna Dlugolenska, 1872).

(21) Ibid., 1. 7 (11 May 1872 announcement to the Bel'sk district [uezd] police from Sheina Leibovna Dlugolenska).

(22) Ibid., 11. 9-10 (12 May 1872 certificate signed by the Bialystok community rabbi; 14 May 1872 petition from Sheina's father Ovsei-Leib to the Bel'sk district chief of police).

(23) Ibid., 1. 6 (14 May 1872 petition from the peasants of the village of Kotlov to the Bel'sk police).

(24) Imperial statutes against underage baptisms, which were strengthened in the reform era, defined the legal age for independent conversions as 14. The Orthodox peasants of Kotlov, however, understood the legal age in practice as 18. See Polnoe sobranie zakonov Rossiiskoi imperii: Sobranie vtoroe, 12 dekabria 1825-28fevralia 1881 gg., 55 vols. (St. Petersburg: Tipografiia II otdeleniia Sobstvennoi Ego Imperatorskogo Velichestva Kantseliarii, 1830-85), 36: no. 37,709 (22 January 1862).

(25) YIVO RG 46, 111:76 (Conversion of the Vilna Jewish townswoman Pera Girsenovich, 1874).

(26) For the method of reading religious violence not as the undermining of social stability but as a legitimate means of working out kinks in confessional coexistence, see David Nirenberg, Communities of Violence: Persecution of Minorities in the Middle Ages (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1996).

(27) David B. Edwards, "Mad Mullahs and Englishmen: Discourse in the Colonial Encounter," Comparative Studies in Society and History 31, 4 (1989): 649-70, esp. 655. Cited by Adeeb Khalid in his study of Jadidism and Russian imperialist discourses on Islamic "fanaticism" in Central Asia: The Politics of Muslim Cultural Reform: Jadidism in Central Asia (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998), 51-52.

(28) The 1850 secret charter of the "expert Jew" in imperial governance was explicitly designed to assist governors-general and the Ministry of the Interior (MVD) in rooting out Jewish fanaticism, both religious and social. See Vasily Shchedrin, "Jewish Bureaucracy in Late Imperial Russia: The Phenomenon of Expert Jews, 1850-1917" (PhD diss., Brandeis University, 2010).

(29) John Doyle Klier, Russia Gathers Her Jews: The Origins of the 'Jewish Question" in Russia, 1772-1825 (DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 1986).

(30) Khalid, Politics of Muslim Cultural Reform, 51-60.

(31) RGIA f. 1330 (General Meetings of the Departments of the Senate), op. 5, d. 215, esp. 11. 3, 9 ob.-11, 79 ("Po vysochaishemu ukazu Proizvodstvo Obshchego Senata sobraniia pervykh trekh departmentov po delu evreev Dinaburgskogo kagala, prigovorennykh 5m departmentom Senata v katorzhnuiu rabotu i k drugim pozornym kazniam za obrashchenie v iudeiskuiu veru i ubiistvo nemtsa Iogana, 1828-1829").

(32) Daniel Brower, "Islam and Ethnicity: Russian Colonial Policy in Turkestan," in Russia's Orient: Imperial Borderlands and Peoples, 1700-1917, ed. Brower and Edward J. Lazzerini (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1997), 115-37; Lazzerini, "Defining the Orient: a Nineteenth-Century Russo-Tatar Polemic over Identity and Cultural Representation," in Muslim Communities Reemerge: Historical Perspectives on Nationality, Politics, and Opposition in the Former Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, ed. Edward Allworth (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1994), 33-45, esp. 38-39; Adeeb Khalid, "Backwardness and the Quest for Civilization: Early Soviet Central Asia in Comparative Perspective," Slavic Review 65, 2 (2006): 231-51.

(33) Eliza F. Kent, Converting Women: Gender and Protestant Christianity in Colonial South India (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 9-10.

(34) Agnes Kefeli, "The Role of Tatar and Kriashen Women in the Transmission of Islamic Knowledge," in Of Religion and Empire. Missions, Conversion, and Tolerance in Tsarist Russia, ed. Robert P. Geraci and Michael Khodarkovsky (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2001), 250-73, esp. 252-53.

(35) Agursky, "Conversions of Jews," 82-83. Old Believer Bishop Innokentii also used the argument of women's marginalization in Judaism as an explanation for the supposedly high proportion of Jewish women among prostitutes in the early 20th century.

(36) The early modern convert from Judaism Victor von Carben helped develop this new direction in Christian anti-Jewish polemics. On Carben and other converts in the German lands who developed this type of gendered conversionary literature, see Carlebach, Divided Souls, 182-92, esp. 183-85. According to Jacob Goldberg's study on Jewish conversion in the early modern Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the Catholic order of the Maria Vita Sisters, founded in 1737, specifically targeted Jewish girls who were formally uneducated in the Jewish faith and hence considered easier targets for missionizing. See Jacob Goldberg, Ha-mumarim be-mamlekhet Polin-Lita 0erusalem: Merkaz Zalman Shazar le-haamakat ha-todaah ha-historit ha-Yehudit, 1985), 38.

(37) Based on a sampling of 244 Jewish conversion petitions in the Vilna diocese from 1819 to 1911, women constituted a majority of converts from Judaism starting in the 1860s. See Michael Stanislawski, "Jewish Apostasy in Russia: A Tentative Typology," in Jewish Apostasy in the Modern World, ed. Todd M. Endelman (New York: Holmes and Meier, 1987), 189-205, esp. 200. These statistics are confirmed by archival inventories on Jewish conversion in other churches and locations in the empire. Between 1800 and 1850, the St. Petersburg Ecclesiastical Consistory files (TsGIA SPb f. 19) indicate that 36 civilian males and 8 females converted from Judaism to Orthodoxy. From 1850 to 1893, 16 females converted as compared to 13 civilian males. According to the Roman Catholic Religious College (RGIA f. 822), women started to equal and surpass men in Jewish conversions to Catholicism from 1862 on. In 1862, 18 men converted and 17 women. By 1875, 16 men converted as compared to 39 women. By 1880, 15 men converted as compared to 65 women. According to statistics garnered from archival inventory lists of the Kiev Ecclesiastical Consistory (TsDIAK f. 127), 746 Jews (384 men, 362 women) converted to Orthodoxy under their auspices between 1893 and 1903. In specific years, though, the rates of female conversion surpassed that of men: e.g., 1894, 1895, 1900. In contrast, statistics of Jewish conversion in Kiev from the first half of the 19th century show a higher ratio of men to women. According to Synod statistics from 1910 on heterodox conversions to Orthodoxy, Jewish men tended to outpace female converts in large cities, but in the western provinces as a whole females slightly outpaced males. In St. Petersburg, 68 Jewish men convened and 60 Jewish women; in Khar'kov, 56 men converted as compared to 48 women (11. 90, 235). In Kiev Province, though, as a whole, 30 Jewish men converted versus 33 women (1. 93). See RGIA f. 821, op. 10, d. 278, "Statisticheskie svedeniia o kolichestve lits, pereshedshikh v Pravoslavie iz drugikh ispovedanii" (1910). The author thanks Natan Meir for generously sharing this source.

(38) "Perekhod 80-letnei evreiki v khristianstvo," Volynskie eparkbial'nye vedomosti, no. 30 (1886).

(39) Peter van der Veer, ed., Conversion to Modernities: The Globalization of Christianity (New York: Roudedge, 1996), 3-8.

(40) According to Khalid, though, "the rule of colonial difference also subverts self-proclaimed civilizing missions, for natives cannot in the end achieve the civilization that legitimizes the empire in its own eyes" ("Backwardness and the Quest for Civilization," 236).

(41) On conflicting visions and projects of Russification, and tensions in this period between imperialist and nationalist conceptions of the Russian state, see Theodore R. Weeks, Nation and State in Late Imperial Russia: Nationalism and Russification on the Western Frontier, 1863-1914 (DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 1996); Robert P. Geraci, Window on the East: National and Imperial Identities in late Tsarist Russia (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2001); and Andreas Kappeler, "The Ambiguities of Russification," Kritika 5, 2 (2004): 291-97.

(42) Werth, Tsar's Foreign Faiths, 189-92.

(43) Michael Stanislawski, Tsar Nicholas I and the Jews: The Transformation of Jewish Society in Russia, 1825-1855 (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1983); Iokhanan Petrovskii-Shtern, Jews in the Russian Army, 1827-1917: Drafted into Modernity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009). On cantonist contestations of coerced baptisms, see Petrovskii-Shtern, Jews in the Russian Army, 113-24.

(44) In his work on the Jewish conversion narrative in Victorian literature, Michael Ragussis highlights the common inversion of the Jewish-Christian polemic, casting Jews as the inquisitors forcing Christian conversion underground. See his Figures of Conversion: "The Jewish Question" and English National Identity (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1995), 35-36, 40.

(45) Stanislawski, "Jewish Apostasy in Russia."

(46) "Iz Berdicheva," Kievskieeparkhial'nye vedomosti, no. 50 (1879).

(47) "Po delu Shmulia i Khavy Mintses, Aizenberga i drug: 17 maia 1888 goda," Sudebnaia gazeta, no. 11 (1889), 11-13; "Iz Varshavy," Sankt-Peterburgskie vedomosti, no. 296 (1886).

(48) "Na zakonnom osnovanii," Kievlianin, no. 286 (1884). According to Kievlianin s conspiracy theory, Jewish men wished to remain in wedlock with their converted wives so that they could take revenge on them at the first opportunity--through murder.

(49) "O rastorzhenii braka kreshchennoi iz iudeistva zheny s muzhem evreem," Litovskie eparkhial'nye vedomosti, no. 18 (1875).

(50) Stanislawski, Tsar Nicholas I, 20-25; Paul W. Werth, "The Emergence of 'Freedom of Conscience' in Imperial Russia," Kritika 13, 3 (2012): 585-610; Werth, At the Margins of Orthodoxy, 147-61; Werth, Tsar's Foreign Faiths, 75-85.

(51) ChaeRan Y. Freeze, "When Chava Left Home: Gender, Conversion, and the Jewish Family in Tsarist Russia," Polin, no. 18 (2005): 153-88.

(52) ChaeRan Y. Freeze, "The Mariinsko Sergievskii Shelter for Converted Jewish Children in St. Petersburg," in Jews in the East European Borderlands: Essays in Flonor of John D. Klier, ed. Eugene M. Avrutin and Harriet Murav (Boston: Academic Studies Press, 2012), 27-49. Freeze notes the phenomenon of Jewish families responding to conversions with attempted kidnappings (45).

(53) Freeze, "When Chava Left Home."

(54) Gosudarstvennyi arkhiv Rossiiskoi Federatsii (GARF) f. 109 (Third Section of Imperial Chancellery), 1 eksp., 1845 g., d. 131, 1. 7 (Russian translation of Blank's letter to Nicholas I) (CAHJP RU 607). For more on Blank and Lenin's Jewish ancestry, see Iokhanan PetrovskiiShtern, Lenin's Jewish Question (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010).

(55) YIVO RG 46 (Lithuanian Ecclesiastical Consistory), III: 68,11. 71-71 ob., 72 ob.; quotation 1. 72 ob. (Dreizin letter to Lithuanian Consistory).

(56) Ibid., 11. 92-92 ob. (Braindl's petition to the Lithuanian Archbishop, 20 November 1894).

(57) Avrutin, "Racial Categories."

(58) S. P--ii, Tz Bresta Litovskogo," Pravoslavnoe obozrenie, no. 5 (1866): 9-16, esp. 10.

(59) Ibid., 12.

(60) Ibid., 13.

(61) John Doyle Klier, Imperial Russia's Jewish Question, 1855-1881 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 417-49, esp. 436-38.

(62) On the history of freedom of conscience debates, see Werth, "Emergence of 'Freedom of Conscience'"; and Werth, Tsar's Foreign Faiths, 188-201. Werth analyzes a variety of voices, aside from apostates, who invoked freedom of conscience in the 1860s.

(63) "Delo o vozvrashchenii kreshchennogo evreia v iudeistvo (iz sudebnoi khroniki)," Kievlianin, no. 131 (1877), which published the court record of the Kievskaia palata ugolovnogo i grazhdanskogo suda, VII.

(64) Peter Waldron, "Religious Toleration in Late Imperial Russia," in Civil Rights in Imperial Russia, ed. Olga Crisp and Linda Edmondson (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989), 103-19, esp. 109, 116-17; Werth, "Emergence of 'Freedom of Conscience,'" 600-1. In an 1879 letter from Pobedonostsev to Fedor Dostoevskii, the Synod chief complained that Jews invoked "toleration" to counter antisemitic claims, but that toleration for them "meant indifference to faith." Quoted in Antony Polonsky, The Jews in Poland and Russia, 2: 1881-1914 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), 3.

(65) TsDLAK f. 442, op. 538, d. 18 (1885), arrest of Jew guilty of killing his converted daughter; A. E. Koniuchenko, "K voprosu o perekhode iudeev v pravoslavie v dorevoliutsionnoi Rossii," Vestnik cheliabinskogo gosudarstvennogo universiteta, no. 16 (270) (2012): Istoriia, no. 51, 93-98, esp. 96-97, nn. 27-32. Koniuchenko details six cases of alleged intimidation, abduction, or murder of apostates that were investigated by the governor-general's office of the southwestern region (Kiev, Volynia, Podolia) between 1870 and 1892. One of these is the case of Andrei Garun discussed below; the other five cases involved female converts, three of whom converted to marry a Christian man. I thank Victoria Gerasimova for this reference.

(66) "Delo po obvineniiu evreia, meshchanina m. Obodovki Ol'gopolskogo uezda Podol'skoi gubernii, Shmulia-Abama Prizenta v podstrekatel'stve k ubiistvu svoei docheri, priniavshei sv. kreshchenie i vyshedshei zamuzh za khristianina," Kievlianin, no. 283 (1885); "Sudebnaia gazeta," Nedel'naia khronika voskhoda, no. 1 (1886). See also Elizavetgradskii vestnik, no. 1 (1886).

(67) "Fanatizm evreev," Volynskie eparkhial'nye vedomosti, no. 30 (1886).

(68) "Ubiistvo evreiami khristianki," Sankt-Peterburgskie vedomosti, no. 103 (1885).

(69) "Ubiistvo evreiami khristianki," Sankt-Peterburgskie vedomosti, no. 107 (1885).

(70) "Po liutsinskomu delu," Nedel'naia khronika voskhoda, no. 23 (1885).

(71) "Evreiskie protsessy," Novorossiiskii telegraf, no. 3292 (1886).

(72) "Sovrashchenie v iudeistvo (okonchanie)," Odesskii vestnik, no. 46 (1886).

(73) "Sudebnaia khronika: Ubiistvo (evreiskogo mal'chika, priniavshego pravoslavie) iz religioznogo fanatizma," Kievlianin, no. 215 (1881); "Sudebnaia khronika: Ubiistvo iz religioznogo fanatizma (prodolzhenie)," Kievlianin, no. 221 (1881).

(74) Todd M. Endelman, Leaving the Jewish Fold: Conversion and Radical Assimilation in Modern Jewish History (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2015), 317-18.
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