The Moscow State Yiddish Theater

The Moscow State Yiddish Theater

Jewish Culture on the Soviet Stage
Jeffrey Veidlinger
Distribution: World
Publication date: 10/18/2006
Format: Paperback 49 b&w photos, 1 bibliog., 1 index
ISBN: 978-0-253-21892-6
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Description

Winner, 2001 National Jewish Book Award, Yiddish Language and CultureWinner, 2001 Barnard Hewitt Award, American Society of Theatre ResearchA Choice Outstanding Academic Book of 2001

The Moscow State Yiddish Theater
Jewish Culture on the Soviet Stage
Jeffrey Veidlinger

The first history in English of the rise and fall of the Moscow State Yiddish Theater.

A product of in-depth research in Yiddish, Hebrew, Russian, and English, [The Moscow State Yiddish Theater] not only furthers our knowledge of the Yiddish theater in the Soviet Union, but it also deepens and revises our understanding of the Kremlin’s policy toward Jewish society and culture from 1919 to the early 1950s." —Robert Weinberg

[The book] is written with great clarity, the argument is demonstrated with great logic, and its evidentiary underpinnings are very solid.... a model of its kind." —Régine Robin-Maire

This is the first book in English to trace the fascinating and tragic history of the Moscow State Yiddish Theater, founded in 1919 and liquidated by the Soviet government in 1949. Since the conventional view of the fate of Jews in Soviet Russia is that from the beginning, the Soviet state pursued policies aimed at stamping out Jewish culture, it is surprising to learn that from the 1920s through World War II, secular Yiddish culture was actively promoted and Yiddish cultural institutions thrived, supported by the Soviet government, albeit for its own propaganda purposes. Drawing from newly available archives, Jeffrey Veidlinger uses the dramatic story of the Moscow State Yiddish Theater, the premiere secular Jewish cultural institution of the Soviet era, to demonstrate how Jewish writers and artists were able to promote Jewish national culture within the confines of Soviet nationality policies. He shows how a stellar group of artists, writers, choreographers, directors, and actors brought to life shtetl fables, biblical heroes, Israelite lore, exilic laments, and dilemmas of contemporary life under the guise of conventional socialist realism before the theater and many of its principal figures fell victim to Stalinist antisemitism and xenophobia aft

Author Bio

Jeffrey Veidlinger is Assistant Professor of History and Jewish Studies at Indiana University, Bloomington.

Reviews

““Jeffrey Veidlinger relates a fascinating and little-known piece of history. . . . [He] distills a remarkable amount of research into a pithy, well-turned account that will interest readers of cultural and political history.” —Publishers Weekly Drawing from newly available archives, Jeffrey Veidlinger uses the dramatic story of the Moscow State Yiddish Theater, the premiere secular Jewish cultural institution of the Soviet era, to demonstrate how Jewish writers and artists were able to promote Jewish national culture within the confines of Soviet nationality policies.”

“"Jeffrey Veidlinger relates a fascinating and little-known piece of history . . . With the Yiddish Theater as an example, Veidlinger elucidates the way Jewish artists between the world wars won Soviet endorsement to perform and perpetuate their cultural traditions. . . . Veidlinger distills a remarkable amount of research into a pithy, well-turned account that will interest readers of cultural and political history." —Publishers Weekly This fascinating account of the rise and fall of the Moscow State Yiddish Theater brings to life a complex period in the history and culture of Soviet Jewry. It shows how a talented group of writers and artists promoted Jewish identity within the confines of Soviet nationality policies.”

“Jeffrey Veidlinger's thoroughly researched, engagingly written, and richly informative book tackles these issues through the tale of the rise and fall of the Moscow State Yiddish Theater. The choice of the Moscow Theater is ingenious.. Veidlinger's analysis of the increasingly unbridgable agendas of the Soviet regime and the Jewish cultural elite is on the mark, especially the watershed of World War II.. Veidlinger's book is an important and much—needed contribution to the literature on oviet nationality policy in general and Soviet Jewry in particula”
 — Amir Weiner, Stanford University reviewing "The Moscow State Yiddish Theater"

“A product of in-depth research in Yiddish, Hebrew, Russian and English ['The Moscow State Yiddish Theater'] not only furthers our knowledge of the Yiddish theater in the Soviet Union, but it also deepens and revises our understanding of the Kremlin's policy toward Jewish society and culture from 1919 to the early 1950s. ”
 — Robert Weinberg

“Jeffrey Veidlinger's book, The Moscow State Yiddish Theater: Jewish Culture on the Soviet Stage, is an overdue addition to the growing body of scholarly work on Yiddish theatre. This first comprehensive study of the GOSET in English is geared toward a wide-ranging readership. For the historian, Veidlinger clearly presents the intrusion of totalitarian politics into artistic activities; for the theatre scholar, he provides evocative details and illustrative descriptions of the theatre's artistic work.. Veidlinger's seminal study, The Moscow State Yiddish Theater: Jewish Culture on the Soviet Stage, does an important work in bringing it to the attention of the English-speaking audience”
 — Nina Hein, Columbia University reviewing "The Moscow State Yiddish Theater"

“Jeffrey Veidlinger relates a fascinating and little—known piece of history. . . . [He] distills a remarkable amount of research into a pithy, well—turned account that will interest readers of cultural and political histor”
 — Publishers Weekly

“Veidlinger's richly researched and observed history of an underrepresented historical topic depicts the problems attendant on creating and preserving Yiddish as a language and a national and theatrical culture within the restrictive and propagandistic Soviet culture that sought to appropriate and subvert it. The Yiddish theater movement also faced orthodox rabbinical opposition based on the rejection of pagan influences and the increased agency of women, whose role in traditional religious practices was severely limited. Modeled after the Moscow Art Theatre, the Moscow State Yiddish Theatre (MSYT) listed among its creative leaders director Granovsky (who employed Meyerhold's revolutionary biomechanics to train actors), painter—designer Chagall, actor—director Mikhoels (whose death Stalin most likely engineered), and cubist—supremacist designer Altman (who also worked with Meyerhold and at the Habirna Theatre). MSYT's advent in a decade during which the state was pushing to forge a new proletarian culture from a variety of cultural discourses provided some temporary protection from anti—Jewish and anti—Zionist attacks. Veidlinger is good both at delineating the suspicious, tactical relationship between artists and ideologues that characterized Soviet culture and in framing the question of what constitutes a national or narodnaia (people's, folk, or mass) culture, which haunted this nation for more than a century. Photographs and an extensive bibliography. Upper—division undergraduates and above.”
 — S. Golub, Brown University , 2001jul CHOICE.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgements
A Note on Transliteration
Introduction: Jewish Public Culture
1. The Jews of this World
2. Libraries: From the Study Hall to the Public Library
3. Reading: From Sacred Duty to Leisure Time
4. Literary Societies: The Culture of Language and the Language of Culture
5. Cultural Performance: The People of the Book and the Spoken Word
6. Theater: The Professionalization of Performance
7. Musical and Dramatic Societies: Amateur Performers and Audiences
8. The Jewish Historical and Ethnographic Society: Collecting the Jewish Past
9. Public History: Imagining Russian Jews
Conclusion: …and They Gathered
Bibliography
Index