Conscription and the Search for Modern Russian Jewry

Conscription and the Search for Modern Russian Jewry

Olga Litvak
Distribution: World
Publication date: 12/06/2006
Format: Hardback
ISBN: 978-0-253-34808-1
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Olga Litvak has written a book of astonishing originality and intellectual force.... In vivid prose, she takes the reader on a journey through the Russian-Jewish literary imagination." —Benjamin Nathans

Russian Jews were first conscripted into the Imperial Russian army during the reign of Nicholas I in an effort to integrate them into the population of the Russian Empire. Conscripted minors were to serve, in practical terms, for life. Although this system was abandoned by his successor, the conscription experience remained traumatic in the popular memory and gave rise to a large and continuing literature that often depicted Jewish soldiers as heroes. This imaginative and intellectually ambitious book traces the conscription theme in novels and stories by some of the best-known Russian Jewish writers such as Osip Rabinovich, Judah-Leib Gordon, and Mendele Mokher Seforim, as well as by relatively unknown writers.

Published with the generous support of the Koret Foundation.

Author Bio

Olga Litvak teaches European and Jewish history at Princeton University. Born in Soviet Russia and educated in the United States, she is a New Yorker by conviction.

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Table of Contents

A Note on Transliteration
Introduction: The Literary Response to Conscription and the Persistence of Enlightenment in Russian-Jewish Culture
1. Stepchildren of the Tsar: Jewish Cantonists and the Official Origins of Russian Jewry
2. Great Expectations: The Beginnings of Cantonist Literature and the Emancipation of Russian-Jewish Consciousness
3. The Romance of Enlightenment: Gender and the Critique of Embourgeoisement in the Recruitment Novels of I. M. Dik, Grigorii Bogrov, and J. L. Gordon
4. Return of the Native: The Nicholaevan Universe of Sh. J. Abramovich and the Enlightenment Origins of Russian-Jewish Populism
5. Dead Children of the Hebrew Renaissance: The Conscription Story as Nationalist Myth
6. The Writing of Conscription History and the Making of the Russian-Jewish Diaspora