The Russian-Jewish Tradition: Intellectuals, Historians, Revolutionaries

The Russian-Jewish Tradition: Intellectuals, Historians, Revolutionaries


Brian Horowitz
with an introduction by William Craft Brumfield

Series: Jews of Russia & Eastern Europe and Their Legacy
ISBN: 9781618115560 (hardcover)
Pages: 292 pp.
Publication Date: March 2017

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This book argues that Jews were not a people apart but were culturally integrated in Russian society. In their diasporic cultural creations Russia’s Jews employed the general themes of artists under tsars and Soviets, but they modified these themes to fit their own needs. The result was a hybrid, Russian-Jewish culture, unique and dynamic. Few today consider that Jewish Eastern Europe, the “old world”, was in fact a power incubator of modern Jewish consciousness. Brian Horowitz, a well-known scholar of Russian Jewry, presents essays on Jewish education (the heder), historiography, literature and Jewish philosophy that intersect with contemporary interests on the big questions of Jewish life. This book lets us grasp the meaning of secular Judaism and gives models from the past in order to stimulate ideas for the present.

Brian Horowitz is the holder of the Sizeler Family Chair in Jewish Studies at Tulane University in New Orleans. He is an expert on the Jews of Eastern Europe and author of a number of books, including Empire Jews, Jewish Philanthropy and Education in Late-Tsarist Russia, and Russian Idea - Jewish Presence.


Horowitz’s essays are built on a solid foundation of multilingual primary sources and literature, revealing the author’s profound knowledge of both the Jewish and Russian context. Horowitz’s work speaks to the past and ongoing research of scholars from around the world and across the field. … In sum, The Russian-Jewish Tradition is essential reading for scholars and advanced students of many subjects within the fields of Jewish and Russian history, culture, and literature.
— Vassili Schedrin, Queen's University, Canada, H-Net Reviews
If there was any powerful, single, positive intellectual commitment among [Russian Jewish intellectuals], it seems, it was not to an ideology, but rather to the urge to document and to describe one’s own reactions to evidence. This notion of the power of writing is evident in Horowitz’s citation from a letter Rozanov wrote to Gershenzon in 1909: ‘I fear that the Jews will grab the history of Russian literature and Russian criticism still more firmly than the banks’ (227). Writing about literature, Rozanov believed, was a way to take power. The Russian Jewish intellectuals, it appears, agreed—and Horowitz pays homage to their achievements.
— Gabriella Safran, Stanford University, Slavic Review
The book is written in an elegant scholarly style and will be interesting for specialists in Russian Jewish history, literature and philosophy; as well as students and a wider audience. The book significantly increases our knowledge on the Jewish identity in Russia, on Russian Jewish intellectuals, and on Jewish scholarly and educational institutions.
— Victoria Khiterer, Millersville University, The Russian Review, October 2017 (Vol. 76, No. 4)
Through this learned, wide-ranging collection of articles on a fascinating generation of Jewish intellectuals, historians and authors, Brian Horowitz provides an invaluable set of insights into the many different connections between Russian and Jewish cultures and societies. With articles on S. An-sky, Simon Dubnow, Vladimir Jabotinsky and other key figures, this book will soon become required reading for students and scholars of Russian, Jewish and East European histories.
— Dr. Scott Ury, Senior Lecturer, Department of Jewish History Director, Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism and Racism Tel Aviv University
Brian Horowitz’s beautifully written essays illustrate the vibrancy and vicissitudes of Russian Jewish thought in the late Imperial and early Soviet periods. With mastery of Hebrew, Yiddish, Russian, and German sources, he plumbs the depths of philosophy and fiction to convey the subtleties of Jewish intellectual history all the while countering the stereotype of Jewish victimization.
— Steven G. Marks, Professor of History, Clemson University
This book is a comprehensive analysis of Russian-Jewish tradition, Jewish intellectuals, historians, writers and educational institutions in the late nineteenth and and early twentieth centuries. It is a well-written reference book for specialists and academics on Russian-Jewish history.
— Ayse Dietrich, Department of History, Middle East Technical University, International Journal of Russian Studies (7.1, 2018)

Table of Contents

Introduction, William Craft Brumfield

Part I: Russian-Jewish Historians and Historiography

1. The Return of the Ḥeder among Russian-Jewish Education Experts, 1840–1917
2. ‘Building a Fragile Edifice’: A History of Russian-Jewish Historical Institutions, 1860–1914
3. Myths and Counter-Myths about Odessa’s Jewish Intelligentsia during the Late Tsarist Period
4. Saul Borovoi’s Survival: An Odessa Tale about a Jewish Historian in Soviet Times
5. The Ideological Challenges of S. M. Dubnov in Emigration: Autonomism and Zionism, Europe and Palestine

Part II: Russian–Jewish Intelligentsia’s Cultural Vibrancy

6. Semyon An-sky—Dialogic Writer
7. Russian-Jewish Writers Face Pogroms, 1880–1914
8. M. O. Gershenzon, Alexander Pushkin, the Bible, and the Flaws of Jewish Nationalism
9. Battling for Self-Definition in Soviet Literature: Boris Eikhenbaum’s Jewish Question
10. Vladimir Jabotinsky and the Mystique of 1905
11. Vladimir Jabotinsky and Violence

Part III: Jewish Heritage in Russian Perception

12. Vladimir Solov’ev and the Jews: A View from Today
13. Fear and Stereotyping: Vasily Rozanov and Jewish Menace