The Lithuanians

It was not only the Jews who fled from Tsarist persecution in the late 19th century. Immigrants from Lithuania came to Scotland en route for the United States and many stayed.

During the nineteenth century there were two quite distinct waves of immigration into Scotland: the influx of Irish settlers, which reached a peak in the 1840s, and a smaller movement of European immigrants between the 1880s and the First World War. According to the Census returns, there were never more than 25,000 immigrants in this second wave, with almost half of that number coming from tsarist Russia. It has been assumed that these Russian immigrants were from persecuted Jewish community, that they were of artisan or commercial background and that their experience of immigration and settlement was largely similar to the Russian groups in the East End of London, Leeds and Manchester. This was not the case. Those immigrants who arrived in Scotland from Tsarist Lithuania came primarily from peasant stock, were predominantly Catholic and had virtually no contact with their Jewish compatriots whose experience of immigration was entirely different. They were leaving Lithuania mainly because of a rapid deterioration in their standard of living. An increase in population, heavier taxation and a fall in grain prices forced many peasants to seek a more secure future elsewhere. Between 1868 and 1914 about one in four Lithuanians made this choice, with the main exodus occurring in the 1890s and 1900s. It is estimated that in this period the Lithuanian community in Scotland increased in size from a few hundred to around 7,000. About 2,000 others settled elsewhere in Britain.

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