The Russian historian Lev Berdnikov introduces the reader to a roster of twenty-eight fascinating Russian Jews who not only served their tsar but also defied many of the stereotypes by which Russian Jews have all too often been characterized.
As you read these fascinating biographical sketches, you will travel from the fifteenth to the twentieth century, meeting Jews who, while encountering anti-Semitism, also made important, yet generally little known, contributions to their homeland. As might be expected, among them are financiers, bankers, jewelers, and physicians. Interestingly the list also includes two “court jesters,” a chief of police, and an ambassador to the Court of St. James who was instrumental in establishing the first Russian Orthodox church in England.
Berdnikov draws on numerous, often obscure, sources which shed light on aspects of Russian history that will probably be new even to scholars of the subject. The book is illustrated and contains a helpful glossary of Russian historical terms, prepared by the translator, as well as a brief chronology of Jewish-Russian history. There is also a listing of primary sources which is, unfortunately, entirely in Russian.