The Golden Age Shtetl: A New History of Jewish Life in Eastern Europe
by Yohanan Petrovsky-Shtern,
The Jerusalem Post, May 2, 2014
In the late 18th century, soon after Russia took control of 400,000 square miles of Poland, Catherine the Great announced that the new rulers would win the hearts of the people "by a kind, righteous, merciful, modest and humane management." The 900,000-1.2 million Jews in the villages and towns now attached to the Russian Empire, the czarina declared, would maintain "the freedoms they now legally enjoy," because "Her Majesty’s love of humanism makes it impossible to exclude them from the universal future commonwealth under Her blessed rule, while the Jews in turn as loyal subjects will dwell with appropriate humility and engage in trade and industry according to their skills."