Empire Jews: Jew­ish Nation­al­ism and Accul­tur­a­tion in 19th and Ear­ly 20th Cen­tu­ry Russia

Bri­an Horowitz
  • Review
By – September 26, 2011
This book is a col­lec­tion of main­ly bio­graph­i­cal essays by Russ­ian Jew­ish his­to­ri­an Bri­an Horowitz. The over­all focus of the essays is the phe­nom­e­non of accul­tur­at­ed Russ­ian-speak­ing Jews in the final decades of the Tsarist Empire. In spite of per­se­cu­tions, dis­ap­point­ments, and stub­born civ­il dis­abil­i­ties inflict­ed on the five mil­lion Jews of pre­rev­o­lu­tion­ary Rus­sia, there were many intel­lec­tu­al­ly capa­ble indi­vid­u­als who mas­tered the Russ­ian lan­guage and active­ly par­tic­i­pat­ed in the country’s intel­lec­tu­al life, seek­ing to mark out an area in Russ­ian soci­ety where Jews could live ful­ly as mem­bers of impe­r­i­al Russ­ian soci­ety. The book is divid­ed into three sec­tions, focus­ing on accul­tur­at­ed Jew­ish writ­ers, engage­ment in pol­i­tics and his­to­ri­og­ra­phy, and promi­nent Jews among the Russ­ian elite. All of the accul­tur­at­ed Jew­ish intel­lec­tu­als described in these essays were male, reflect­ing the bias­es in Russ­ian soci­ety. This book reveals that many Jews in late- Tsarist Rus­sia were enam­ored by Russ­ian cul­ture and sought to cre­ate new Jew­ish lives in Russ­ian. The author makes good use both of old pub­li­ca­tions and archival mate­ri­als, as well as the grow­ing body of recent Jew­ish his­tor­i­cal schol­ar­ship pub­lished in Russ­ian. Bib­li­og­ra­phy, foot­notes, illus­tra­tions, index.
Robert Moses Shapiro teach­es mod­ern Jew­ish his­to­ry, Holo­caust stud­ies, and Yid­dish lan­guage and lit­er­a­ture at Brook­lyn Col­lege of the City Uni­ver­si­ty of New York. His most recent book is The War­saw Ghet­to Oyneg Shabes-Ringel­blum Archive: Cat­a­log and Guide (Indi­ana Uni­ver­si­ty Press in asso­ci­a­tion with the U.S. Holo­caust Memo­r­i­al Library and the Jew­ish His­tor­i­cal Insti­tute in War­saw, 2009). He is cur­rent­ly engaged in trans­lat­ing Pol­ish and Yid­dish diaries from the Łódź ghet­to and the Yid­dish Son­derkom­man­do doc­u­ments found buried in the ash pits at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

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