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A Century of Ambivalence: The Jews of Russia and the Soviet Union, 1881 to the Present Paperback – April 22, 2001

6 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0253214188 ISBN-10: 0253214181 Edition: Second Expanded Edition

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Through a remarkable collection of photographs from the YIVO Institute and private sources, this book traces the uncertain relationship of the Jews of Russia and the Soviet Union with their state and society. It shows how Jews have remained torn between a love for the land of their birth and loyalty to their own heritage, while contending with both the prejudices of the majority population and the continually shifting policies of the government, tsarist and communist. Well written, well documented, and unique as a pictorial record, this is appropriate for general collections and an important addition to those devoted to Jewish history and life. Quality Paperback and History Book Club selections. Rena Fowler, Northern Michigan Univ. Lib., Marquette
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"Anyone with even a passing interest in the history of Russian Jewry will want to own this splendid ... book." Janet Hadda, Los Angeles Times "... illuminated by an extraordinary collection of photographs that vividly reflect the hopes, triumphs and agonies of Russian Jewish life." David E. Fishman, Hadassah Magazine "Wonderful pictures ... An uplifting [book] for a broad and general audience." Alexander Orbach, Slavic Review
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Indiana University Press; Second Expanded Edition edition (April 15, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0253214181
  • ISBN-13: 978-0253214188
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.7 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #856,646 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By T. Kunikov VINE VOICE on January 8, 2009
Format: Paperback
I didn't have high hopes for this book, in fact as soon as I received it I put it away in the back of a bookshelf and up until a few days ago forgot I even had it. Deciding I haven't read anything on Jewish history in a while I gave this title a try after rummaging through various bookshelves and coming upon this title. I was not disappointed, well, to be honest, I was only disappointed in two aspect. Overall this book is very well written. The text is interspersed with pictures of Jewish life within Russia throughout the time period(s) being discussed. This is not a boring read, the author does an excellent job of moving the reader through Jewish religious, cultural, social and political history within the Russian Empire and what would become the Soviet Union. Additionally, there is some discussion about Jewish presence within the Russian army in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, but this is where I was somewhat disappointed. There is little to no discussion of individual Jews within the Russian army throughout WWI. For example, we are told in general terms that half a million Jews served but little detail is given about what these Jews actually did on the front lines. Secondly, this book is sorely lacking in endnotes. There is a lot of fascinating information which I was pleasantly surprised to learn about but I have no idea where to trace this information to! Thus the four star rating. In the end this is an interesting read and will undoubtedly teach both the novice and the expert something new. Yet still, this becomes a narrative that could have presented a more meaningful account if the time was taken out to source all the information being presented.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Charles S. Fisher on October 24, 2011
Format: Paperback
This is a beautiful, terrible book. I have a romantic attachment to the heroic past of my mother's Ukrainian family. She was born in Elizavetgrad, a couple of hundred miles northwest of Odessa in 1908. My grandmother, Riva, was born around the year the serfs were freed. My grandpa, her second spouse, may have served the required 25 years for Jewish draftees in the Russian Army, including the war with Japan. Rich Jews, among whom he wasn't, either bought substitutes for their sons or Shanghaied poor Jewish kids. Survival in the army was not assured. There was only one Jewish officer prior to WWI. Grandpa was blond and an overseer on a farm. An old Russian saying goes, "Scratch a Russian, find a Cossack." Ukrainians or White Russians obvious injected genes into the family.

Trotsky was born 17 years after my grandma on his father's farm near Elizavetgrad. Trotsky's father was one of the Jewish colonists from the Pale whom the Russian government recruited to fill the southern Ukraine after its conquest from the Ottoman empire. Most Jewish agricultural colonists failed. Having been beggars and petty trades and craftsmen, they made lousy farmers. Given my family history I found the pictures and descriptions of the era fascinating. The elegant synagogue in Elizavetgrad defies the family stories of the town as a stettl of mud hovels. And the Shul in Odessa, with its organ and choir, compares to German reform temples. It was Orthodox whom I thought prohibited instruments out of mourning for the destruction of the Second Temple. Although I could find none, I scrutinized the pictures for my mishpochah. After Jews were tied to the assassination of Tsar Alexander II, the pogroms of the 1880s began in Elizavetgrad.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Jan Peczkis on December 12, 2012
Format: Paperback
If you enjoy oversized books (review based on the 1988 edition) that overflow with photographs, and which contain an introductory-level approach to topics, this book is for you. Much of the content comes from YIVO archives. Because this content covers a century of time, and brings up numerous, very diverse topics, I focus on only a few issues.

Tsarist Russia acquired a huge Jewish population after inheriting the Jews of eastern Poland after the Partitions. (p. XIV, 5). In fact, the Pale of Jewish Settlement ended at the former border of Poland and Russia. In a map, the author includes the Congress Kingdom (central Poland) as part of the Pale (p. 3), even though some other authors do not do so. By 1897, out of 5.2 million Jews in all of tsarist Russia, only 300,000 lived outside the Pale. (p. 39). Obviously, the vast majority of "Russian" Jews were the descendants of Polish Jews.

Zvi Gitelman describes the fate of Jews in tsarist Russia as ones whose fortunes waxed and waned in a cyclic manner. Some Jews sought to escape anti-Semitism by withdrawing further into Judaism, while others went the opposite direction--assimilation and conversion, or in finding solace in utopian movements. Zvi believes that tradition-minded Jews were more inured to anti-Semitism because they reckoned goys as Esau--always an enemy of Jacob. (p. 17). Jews had a derogatory term for Russian gentiles--FONYE GANEV. (p. 81).

The author notes that many Jewish converts were neither Marranos nor the products of a changed religious conviction. They disbelieved all religion. (p. 15). [This trend helps explain the later Endek suspicion of the motives of assimilated and converted Jews.
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