The idea of having to liberate the Christian peasants from the harmful economic and moral influence of Jewish merchants was an essential element of the political agenda of both the secular intelligentsia and the Catholic clergy. Activists of both political camps started founding cooperative shops, which were seen as the most promising tool to “emancipate” the peasants and the founding of which became legally possible after a streak of reforms shortly before the Russian Revolution of 1905/06. The article thus poses the questions of what role antisemitism played in the cooperatives, what tasks these cooperatives were supposed to fulfill and whether they were a success or not. The article comes to the conclusion that after the Revolution, there was a significant dissent between the two groups mentioned: While priests argued that cooperatives needed to be antisemitic in order to be successful, the liberal intelligentsia countered that antisemitism deterred cooperative shops from being economically successful. Both groups, however, celebrated the founding of such shops as a means for Lithuanians to gain foot in the Jewish dominated towns.
Author: Klaus Richter