Mythologies and Realities of Jewish Life in Prerevolutionary St. Petersburg

Benjamin Nathans

in Studies in Contemporary Jewry an Annual XV 1999

Published in print February 2000 | ISBN: 9780195134681
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199848652 | DOI:

Series: Studies in Contemporary Jewry

Mythologies and Realities of Jewish Life in Prerevolutionary St. Petersburg

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This chapter analyzes the development of St. Petersburg Jewry as a community on the front line of the encounter with Russians and the tsarist state. Beginning with an analysis of the origins and settlement patterns of Jewish immigrants to the Russian capital, it attempts to place the Jews within the city's distinctive urban topography, and to reconstruct their experience of both rapid acculturation and abiding separateness. It then turns to the struggle over the formation of Jewish communal institutions, in which social and religious tensions already present within Jewish life in the Pale rapidly came to the fore, and were compounded by city and imperial authorities intent on restricting what to them appeared to be excessive Jewish solidarity. The history of Jews in late 19th-century St. Petersburg promises to broaden our view of the role of ethnic and religious difference in the imperial metropolis, of the evolving structure of Russian Jewish society, and of the autocracy's attempt to confront the “Jewish question” in its own backyard.

Keywords: Jews; Russia; Russian Jewry; Jewish community; tsarist state

Chapter.  23482 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Religion

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