Russia

Up until 1772 there were no Jews living in Russia at all, mainly because the Russian Orthodox Church opposed their settlement on the grounds that Jews were responsible for Jesus’ crucifixion. Between 1772 and 1795 the Russian Empire took over and annexed large parts of Poland where hundreds of thousands of Jews lived, now Russian subjects. Catherine the Great decided that the rights Jews enjoyed under Polish rule would be preserved and so they were extended religious tolerance and relative freedom of movement within the “Pale of Settlement” – a western part of the Russian Empire, where only Jews were allowed to live. The area was dotted with small Jewish towns, “Shtetl”, where a unique culinary culture developed, greatly influenced by the neighboring Slavic peoples. Throughout the centuries, the Jews experienced many upheavals, their fields of occupation were limited and many of them produced alcohol or owned taverns, bred cattle or worked as farmers on the estates of local nobles.