Yid­dish and the Cre­ation of Sovi­et Jew­ish Cul­ture 1918 – 1930

  • Review
By – July 26, 2012

This book exam­ines the intense effort, sup­port­ed by the new Sovi­et state and the involve­ment of many sec­u­lar Jews, to cre­ate a dynam­ic cul­ture for the mass­es of Sovi­et Jews, who were to become new Sovi­et men and women who just hap­pened to speak Yid­dish. The tra­di­tion­al Jew­ish shtetl cul­ture of the eco­nom­i­cal­ly mori­bund small mar­ket towns would have to be sup­pressed in a con­scious act of cre­ative destruc­tion, mak­ing way for the ener­getic new Com­mu­nist reality.

David Shneer looks par­tic­u­lar­ly at Sovi­et Yid­dish lan­guage pol­i­tics, pub­lish­ing and writ­ers in the first Sovi­et decade. The career and works of the poet Izi Kharik reveal both Sovi­et Jew­ish ambiva­lence toward the destruc­tion of shtetl cul­ture and trib­ute to the new Jew­ish and Sovi­et soci­ety being con­struct­ed. This book’s focus is on the dynam­ic peri­od of growth in Sovi­et Yid­dish cul­ture, although the cat­a­stroph­ic toll of the great purges of the 1930s and the Sec­ond World War, as well as the anti-Jew­ish cul­tur­al geno­cide inflict­ed in Stalin’s last years (1948 – 1953), are not far off-stage. Bib­lio., index, notes, photographs.

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.

Discussion Questions