Jew­ish Rights, Nation­al Rites: Nation­al­ism and Auton­o­my in Late Impe­r­i­al and Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Russia

Simon Rabi­novitch
  • From the Publisher
December 22, 2014

In its full-col­or poster for elec­tions to the All-Russ­ian Jew­ish Con­gress in 1917, the Jew­ish Peo­ple’s Par­ty depict­ed a vari­ety of Jews in seek­ing to enlist the sup­port of the broad­est pos­si­ble seg­ment of Rus­si­a’s Jew­ish pop­u­la­tion. It for­sook nei­ther tra­di­tion­al reli­gious and eco­nom­ic life like the Jew­ish social­ist par­ties, nor life in Europe like the Zion­ists. It embraced Hebrew, Yid­dish, and Russ­ian as ful­fill­ing dif­fer­ent roles in Jew­ish life. It sought the democ­ra­ti­za­tion of Jew­ish com­mu­nal self-gov­ern­ment and the cre­ation of new Russ­ian Jew­ish nation­al-cul­tur­al and gov­ern­men­tal insti­tu­tions. Most impor­tant­ly, the self-named folk­ists” believed that Jew­ish nation­al aspi­ra­tions could be ful­filled through Jew­ish auton­o­my in Rus­sia and East­ern Europe more broad­ly. Ide­o­log­i­cal­ly and orga­ni­za­tion­al­ly, this par­ty’s lead­er­ship would pro­found­ly influ­ence the course of Russ­ian Jew­ish politics.

Jew­ish Rights, Nation­al Rights pro­vides a com­plete­ly new inter­pre­ta­tion of the ori­gins of Jew­ish nation­al­ism in Rus­sia. It argues that Jew­ish nation­al­ism, and Jew­ish pol­i­tics gen­er­al­ly, devel­oped in a chang­ing legal envi­ron­ment where the idea that nations had rights was begin­ning to take hold, and cen­tered on the demand for Jew­ish auton­o­my in East­ern Europe. Draw­ing on numer­ous archives and libraries in the Unit­ed States, Rus­sia, Ukraine, and Israel, Simon Rabi­novitch care­ful­ly recon­structs the polit­i­cal move­ment for Jew­ish auton­o­my, its per­son­al­i­ties, insti­tu­tions, and cul­tur­al projects. He explains how Jew­ish auton­o­my was real­ized fol­low­ing the Feb­ru­ary Rev­o­lu­tion of 1917, and for the first time assess­es vot­ing pat­terns in Novem­ber 1917 to deter­mine the extent of pub­lic sup­port for Jew­ish nation­al­ism at the height of the Russ­ian rev­o­lu­tion­ary period.

Discussion Questions