City of Rogues and Schnorrers

City of Rogues and Schnorrers

Russia's Jews and the Myth of Old Odessa
Jarrod Tanny
Distribution: World
Publication date: 11/14/2011
Format: Paperback 10 b&w illus.
ISBN: 978-0-253-22328-9
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Old Odessa, on the Black Sea, gained notoriety as a legendary city of Jewish gangsters and swindlers, a frontier boomtown mythologized for the adventurers, criminals, and merrymakers who flocked there to seek easy wealth and lead lives of debauchery and excess. Odessa is also famed for the brand of Jewish humor brought there in the 19th century from the shtetls of Eastern Europe and that flourished throughout Soviet times. From a broad historical perspective, Jarrod Tanny examines the hybrid Judeo-Russian culture that emerged in Odessa in the 19th century and persisted through the Soviet era and beyond. The book shows how the art of eminent Soviet-era figures such as Isaac Babel, Il'ia Ilf, Evgenii Petrov, and Leonid Utesov grew out of the Odessa Russian-Jewish culture into which they were born and which shaped their lives.

Author Bio

Jarrod Tanny is Assistant Professor of History and Block Distinguished Fellow of History at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington.


“Traces the emergence, development, and persistence of the myth of Odessa as both Garden of Eden and Gomorrah, a unique Russian/Soviet city that promised its residents easy money and all pleasures of the flesh. . . . A joy to read—well crafted, cogently argued, and compellingly written.”
 — Robert Weinberg, Swarthmore College

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Table of Contents

A Note on Transliteration
Introduction. Why is This Town Different from All the Rest?
1. The Birth of Old Odessa
2. Crafting Old Odessa
3. The Battle for Old Odessa
4. Revival and Survival
5. Rewriting Old Odessa
Epilogue. The End of Old Odessa

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