The Jews of the Pale of Settlement created a distinctive way of life little known beyond its borders. Just before World War I, a socialist revolutionary named An-sky and his team collected jokes, recorded songs, took thousands of photographs, and created a revealing questionnaire in Yiddish, translated here in its entirety for the first time.
ChaeRan Freeze explores the impact of various forces on marriage and divorce among Jews in 19th-century Russia. Challenging romantic views of the Jewish family in the shtetl, she shows that divorce rates among Russian Jews in the first half of the century were astronomical compared to the non-Jewish population. Even more surprising is her conclusion that these divorce rates tended to drop later in the century, in contrast to the rising pattern among populations undergoing modernization. Freeze also studies the growing involvement of the Tsarist state. This occurred partly at the behest of Jewish women contesting patriarchy and parental power and partly because the government felt that Jewish families were in complete anarchy and in need of order and regulation. Extensive research in newly-declassified collections from twelve archives in Russia, Ukraine, and Lithuania enables Freeze to reconstruct Jewish patterns of marriage and divorce and to analyze the often conflicting interests of Jewish husbands and wives, rabbinic authorities, and the Russian state. Balancing archival resources with memoirs and printed sources in Hebrew, Yiddish, and Russian, she offers a tantalizing glimpse of the desires and travails of Jewish spouses, showing how individual life histories reflect the impact of modernization on Jewish matchmaking, gender relations, the "emancipation" of Jewish women, and the incursion of the Tsarist state into the lives of ordinary Jews.
Between 1917 and 1921, as revolution convulsed Russia, Jewish intellectuals and writers across the crumbling empire threw themselves into the pursuit of a "Jewish renaissance." Here is a brilliant, revisionist argument about the nature of cultural nationalism, the relationship between nationalism and socialism as ideological systems, and culture itself, the axis around which the encounter between Jews and European modernity has pivoted over the past century.
When German journalist Jens Mühling met Juri, a Russian television producer selling stories about his homeland, he was mesmerized by what he heard: the real Russia and Ukraine were more unbelievable than anything he could have invented. The encounter changed Mühling’s life, triggering a number of journeys to Ukraine and deep into the Russian heartland on a quest for stories of ordinary and extraordinary people. Away from the bright lights of Moscow, Mühling met and befriended a Dostoevskian cast of characters, including a hermit from Tayga who had only recently discovered the existence of a world beyond the woods, a Ukrainian Cossack who defaced the statue of Lenin in central Kiev, and a priest who insisted on returning to Chernobyl to preach to the stubborn few determined to remain in the exclusion zone.
Unveiling a portion of the world whose contradictions, attractions, and absurdities are still largely unknown to people outside its borders, A Journey into Russia is a much-needed glimpse into one of today’s most significant regions.
In 1847, Russian military engineer and diplomat Egor Petrovich Kovalevsky embarked on a journey through what is today Egypt, Sudan, Eritrea, and Ethiopia, recording his impressions of a region in flux. Invited by Egyptian ruler Mohammed Ali to look for gold and construct mines in the area between the Blue and White Nile, Kovalevsky captured the social milieu of both elites and ordinary people as well as compiled a rich record of the Upper Nile’s climate and natural resources. A Journey to Inner Africa, masterfully translated into English for the first time by Anna Aslanyan, is both a tale of encounter between Russia and northern Africa and an important document in the history and development of the Russian imperial project.
At the turn of the twentieth century, the photographer Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky undertook a quest to document an empire that was undergoing rapid change due to industrialization and the building of railroads. Between 1903 and 1916 Prokudin-Gorsky, who developed a pioneering method of capturing color images on glass plates, scoured the Russian Empire with the patronage of Nicholas II. Intrepidly carrying his cumbersome and awkward camera from the western borderlands over the Volga River to Siberia and central Asia, he created a singular record of Imperial Russia. In 1918 Prokudin-Gorsky escaped an increasingly chaotic, violent Russia and regained nearly 2,000 of his bulky glass negatives. His subsequent peripatetic existence before settling in Paris makes his collection's survival all the more miraculous. The U.S. Library of Congress acquired Prokudin-Gorsky's collection in 1948, and since then it has become a touchstone for understanding pre-revolutionary Russia. Now digitized and publicly available, his images are a sensation in Russia, where people visit websites dedicated to them. William Craft Brumfield—photographer, scholar, and the leading authority on Russian architecture in the West—began working with Prokudin-Gorsky's photographs in 1985. He curated the first public exhibition of them in the United States and has annotated the entire collection. In Journeys through the Russian Empire, Brumfield—who has spent decades traversing Russia and photographing buildings and landscapes in their various stages of disintegration or restoration—juxtaposes Prokudin-Gorsky's images against those he took of the same buildings and areas. In examining the intersections between his own photography and that of Prokudin-Gorsky, Brumfield assesses the state of preservation of Russia's architectural heritage and calls into question the nostalgic assumptions of those who see Prokudin-Gorsky's images as the recovery of the lost past of an idyllic, pre-Soviet Russia. This lavishly illustrated volume—which features some 400 stunning full-color images of ancient churches and mosques, railways and monasteries, towns and remote natural landscapes—is a testament to two brilliant photographers whose work prompts and illuminates, monument by monument, questions of conservation, restoration, and cultural identity and memory.
Just Assassins is an engrossing collection of fourteen original essays that illuminate terrorism as it has occurred in Russian culture past and present. The broad range of writers and scholars have contributed work that examines Russian literature, film, and theater; historical narrative; and even amateur memoir, songs, and poetry posted on the Internet. Along with editor Anthony Anemone’s introduction, these essays chart the evolution of modern political terrorism in Russia, from the Decembrist uprising to the horrific school siege in Beslan in 2004.
As terrorism and the fear of terrorism continues to animate, shape, and deform public policy and international relations across the globe, Just Assassins brings into focus how Russia’s cultural engagement with its legacy of terrorism offers instructive lessons and insights for anyone concerned about political terror.