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Birobidzhan
An Experiment to Create a Soviet Jewish Homeland

Birobidzhan Collection at YIVO Institute for Jewish Research
The Yivo library and Archives possess a unique collection of printed and archival materials about the Jewish Autonomous region in the former Soviet Union commonly known as Birobidzhan, the region's capital city.

The Birobidzhan experiment was an exotic and controversial attempt to establish a socialist Jewish homeland in the Russian Far East. Birobidzhan still exists today as a remnant of the Communist Party's effort to create a territorial enclave where a secular Jewish community rooted in Yiddish and socialist principles would serve as an alternative to Palestine. The experiment in Jewish territorialization appealed to many Soviet and foreign Jews who desired to build a national Jewish territory dedicated to the building of socialism in the Soviet Union.

In December 1927, after lengthy and often heated debates, and after several years of "lobbying" by Jewish political activists, the Soviet government decided to create a national territory for Soviet Jews along the Sino-Soviet border, which comprised 36.000 square kilometers with 11.000 inhabitants, mostly Russians. In March 1928 the first Jewish settlers arrived in the area and began constructing the new Soviet Jewish homeland, officially known as the Jewish Autonomous Region (J.A.R.) since 1934. The main goal of the Birobidzhan project was the "productivization" of Soviet Jewry by encouraging Jews to become farmers and workers. In addition, the Kremlin intended for Birobidzhan to reflect the socialist aspirations of the Jewish people whose national language was Yiddish. During Birobidzhan's first decade of existence, Yiddish did play a significant role in the life of the region, though it cannot be denied that the Jewish content of Yiddish materials was diluted. Gradually, the role of Yiddish diminished, and the expression of Jewish national consciousness among Jewish inhabitants of the J.A.R. was limited to the designation of Evrei (Jew) in their internal passport.

Leftwing Jews throughout the world hailed the decision to establish the J.A.R. This support led to the formation of various organizations whose purpose was to promote the Birobidzhan project by collecting money and publicizing its existence in various forms. During the 1930s and 1940s, such important cultural figures as Albert Einstein and Marc Chagall were among the scores of prominent Jews who welcomed the creation of the J.A.R.

The collection at YIVO represents both pro and anti-Birobidzhan sympathies. It main be divided into following categories:
• Periodicals, books and pamphlets from the Soviet Union.
• Periodicals, books and pamphlets from abroad.
• Archival materials of the pro-Soviet organizations "ICOR" and "Ambijan"* (USA)
• Archival materials from Birobidzhan and other parts of the former Soviet Union.
• Art albums, posters, slides, videos.

Periodicals
The collection includes more than 30 periodicals published from the late 1920s through late 1940s in the Soviet Union, Poland, Belgium, The Netherlands, England, the United States, Argentina, Uruguay and South Africa.

Among the most interesting publications of the 1930s-1940s is the monthly magazine Naylebn (New Life), the official organ of the pro-Soviet Jewish organization ICOR ( Idishe kolonizatsya organizatsye, Association for Jewish Colonization in the Soviet Union). This monthly publication was issued on an excellent quality paper in Yiddish and English from 1928 to 1935 under the title Icor, and from 1935 to 1950 as Naylebn. The magazine features articles, photos, literary works, including poetry, fiction, humor, satire and other materials covering virtually all aspects of life in the Jewish Autonomous region. Browsing the pages of " Naylebn" we can trace the lives of American families who immigrated to Birobidzhan before 1937 and remained there. We can also vividly see how the propaganda apparatus of Icor worked praising even the tiniest achievements of the J.A.R. on the one hand (for instance, the day of establishment of the J.A.R. was pronounced on the pages of Naylebn as the greatest event in the Jewish history), and, on the other hand, neglecting crucial happenings, such as repressions and dismantling of Yiddish culture. The magazine aggressively defended any attempt of the " Forverts" to write negative information about Birobidzhan. On the pages of the " Forverts", on the contrary, one can find numerous articles about Birobidzhan as well, with emphasis on its problems and impossibility to become a genuine center for Jewish life. There we can encounter many personal revelations of miserable existence of Jews who decided to connect their destiny with the Soviet Zion. Any article of this sort was immediately counterattacked by " Naylebn" and occasionally by the Communist daily " Morgn Frayhayt", which in it’s turn wrote numerous materials about Birobidzhan "achievements". In unison with aforementioned pro-Soviet periodicals from the Unite States the Birobidzhan myth was propagandized and advertised by the following publications:
" Unzer veg", [1935-1936 the years reflect YIVO holdings]; " Gezerd" [1932] (Antwerp); Iberboy [1936] (Brussels); Der Idisher poyer [1928, 1930], Nay- erd [1933-1934], Prokor [1927], Heymland [1949](Buenos Aires); Gezerd vort [1932-1934] (Johannesburg); Naylebn [1936] (London); Prokor-buletin [1932], Birobidzshan [1948-1950] (Montevideo); Ikor yor-bukh [1932, 1933, 1936], Ikor-bazar [1938-1930], Ikor almanakh [1943], Ambijan Bulletin [1946-1949; in English] (New York); Gezerd-tribune [1936] (Paris); Nayerd [1930-1934] (Riga); Iberboy [1933-1935] (Warsaw).

Books and booklets
The Birobidzhan collection also contains more than 150 books and booklets published from 1927 to nowadays in the Soviet Union and elsewhere. Most are in Yiddish, Russian and English. Besides clearly propagandistic works published in the 1930s there are some serious works that objectively analyze the experiment. Among them the closest attention require the following works:
• Sadan, Dov. Der emes vegn der Yevsektsye un Birobidzshan. Buenos Aires, 1935.
• Fink, Viktor. Evrei v taige. Moscow, 1930.
• Yosef. "M’antloyft" fun Erets-Yisroel, men "loyft keyn" Birobidzshan. Tel Aviv, 1932
• Jewish National Fund. Der emes vegn der Yevsektsye un Birobidzshan. Jerusalem, 1933.
• Ronkin, Jizchak . Birobidjan-Palaestina. Prague, 1937

Wall Newspapers
A unique possession of the YIVO archives is a set of almost 100 wall newspapers from Birobidzhan. Handwritten or typed, this 1933 set was a supplement to the local newspaper Birobidzhaner Shtern. It is the only one of its kind in the world. These newspapers will enable researchers to learn more about the lives of Jewish pioneers of Birobidzhan. On the pages of the wall newspapers there may be found more critical materials than in the official Birobidzhaner Shtern, which was, in a way, as any official newspaper, a translated version of Pravda.

Works of Art
YIVO also owns two art albums, A matoneh tsu Biro-Bidjan = A gift to Biro-Bidjan (Chicago, 1937) and Ikor (New York, 1929), which are devoted to Jewish Colonization in Birobidzhan and are represented by well-known artists, such as B. Aronson, W. Gropper, L. Lozowick, Z. Maud, Y. Ryback. Biro-Bidjan – catalog of the 1936 exhibition of works of art presented by American artists to the state museum of Birobidzhan innumerates some 210 works of American artists to support Birobidzhan project. YIVO archives have also materials related to this exhibition. Interestingly enough, this exhibition traveled over several cities of the United States, reached Moscow, had a large review in Soviet and American press and … disappeared, never reaching Birobidzhan. In the best scenario it ended somewhere in the reserves of one of Moscow galleries.

The archives of YIVO possess the materials related to Birobidzhan both from Russia and from the United States. There one can encounter materials on the National Committee ICOR, manuscripts, articles, essays on Birobidzhan, as well as correspondence, personal documents, reports, photographs and clippings of leaders and activists of pro-Soviet Jewish organizations, which supported the Birobidzhan project. YIVO photo and film archives own a silent film "A Scientific Expedition to Birobidzhan" (1929), produced by the faculty of Brigham Young University and ICOR activists.

Julia Flaum
The latest acquisition of YIVO on Birobidzhan is the archive of the Jewish actress Julia Flaum (1914-1995), who played in Birobidzhan State Jewish Theater in the 1940s. It has playbills of Birobidzhan State Jewish Theater, photos of it’s actors and actresses, personal correspondence of the years spent in Birobidzhan, clippings from Russian and Yiddish press about Birobidzhan State Jewish Theater.

Contemporary Works
YIVO library and archives holdings of contemporary works published both in the former Soviet Union and abroad up to year 2000 are also impressive. The publications of 1960s-1990s include scholarly works on the subject in various languages from the former Soviet Union, Israel, United States, France, Germany; literary compositions of Birobidzhan local writers, poets and journalists; the complete run of the local newspaper " Birobidzhaner Shtern" (1973 – to present); personal memoirs of the persecuted Jews from Birobidzhan; methodological materials and textbooks to teach Yiddish published by the Birobidzhan branch of the Russia’s Ministry of Education, art albums and posters, sound recordings of the local Yiddish radio, a documentary "Jews under the Red Star", on contemporary Jewish life in the city of Birobidzhan (1989), slides and newspaper clippings on revival of Jewish culture in the late 1980s early 1990s, correspondence of professor Bernard Chossed (United States) on Jewish revival in Birobidzhan.

*Ambijan – American Birobijan Committee, a pro-Soviet organization, which supported the colonization of J.A. R. and was especially active in the 1940s.

Various Authors & Editors

Bund Archive
Russian State Archive of Social and Political History (RGASPI), Moscow

The Bund ( Algemeyner Yidisher Arbeter Bund in Lite, Poyln un Rusland) was a Jewish political party espousing social democratic ideology as well as cultural Yiddishism and Jewish national autonomy. The Bund archive, held by the Russian State Archive of Social and Political History (formerly Central Party Archive) in Moscow contains records and printed materials from the "Bund archive abroad", as well as records of local Bundist organizations from the period 1874-1926. This previously inaccessible collection is now available for research in a convenient, fully indexed microfiche format from IDC Publishers.

Repression
The Russian Empire had the largest Jewish population in the world. The census of 1897 enumerated more than five million. In its dealings with the Jews, the Tsarist regime combined strict segregation and sharp discrimination with fiscal exploitation and contemptuous treatment. The laws of 1791 and 1835 confined Russian Jews to fifteen provinces in the western part of the Russian Empire, called the Pale of Settlement ( Cherta osedlosti). These territories are now found in the Russian Federation, the Ukraine, Belorussia and Poland. The unceasing repression stemmed from the regime’s extreme Judeophobia. Laws enacted in May 1882, following the wave of pogroms that swept through the Ukraine and Russia in 1881, further restricted Jewish residency and employment rights. Between 1881 and 1914 nearly two million Russian Jews, seeking better economic opportunities and freedom from persecution, emigrated.

The Bund
Algemeyner Yidisher Arbeter Bund in Lite, Poyln un Rusland was a Jewish political party espousing social democratic ideology as well as cultural Yiddishism and Jewish national autonomy. It was founded as a clandestine revolutionary organization in Vilna (now Vilnius in Lithuania) on October 7, 1897. It was dedicated to the overthrow of the Tsarist regime in the Russian Empire and the defence of the Jewish proletariat. The Bund demanded national-cultural autonomy (with Yiddish as its national language) for the Jews, insofar as they constituted a distinct nation and not just a separate religious group. This demand was combined with a belief that the Jews would find their redemption not in the ancient world of Palestine, but rather in Eastern Europe, in the lands where they had been rooted for so long. In contrast to the Poalei Zion movement, the Bund rejected Zionist ideology. Central to its beliefs was the struggle for the national rights of Jews wherever they lived, including the recognition of Yiddish as a national language.

Russia
The Bund joined the Rossiiskaia sotsial-demokarticheskai rabochaia pariia (Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (RSDRP)) as an autonomous organization on several occasions: 1898-1903, 1906-1917. In the 1905 revolution, the Bund led Jewish workers in street battles and on the barricades, forming armed self-defense groups to fight anti-Semitic pogroms in Odessa, Zhitomir and elsewhere. Shortly afterwards the revolution legalized the Bund’s activities, allowing the organization to function openly for the first time.The membership of the Bund in Russia grew constantly. By the time of the October Revolution in 1917 it numbered some 40,000 members resident in 400 localities. However, the assumption of absolute power by the Bolsheviks spelled doom for the Bund in Russia. Some members joined the Communist Party of Bolsheviks, whilst others transferred to the Jewish Social-Democratic Labour Party (Poalei Zion and renamed as the Jewish Communist Labour Party in 1923). The Soviet government disbanded the Social Democratic fraction of the Bund in 1921, as a result of which many leaders of the Bund emigrated to Western Europe. The Russian period in the Bund’s history came to a close.

Federation
Following the dissolution of the Bund in Russia, Poland became the centre of its activity as an independent political party (1919-1948). Romania, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia had autonomous Bund parties. Bundist groups continued to be active in various countries, including Israel, England, France, Argentina and the USA. In the post-war years the Bund (now known as the International Jewish Labour Bund) established itself as a loose federation of national Bundist organizations in several countries, with its centre in the United States. Many Bundist immigrants continued to adhere to the principles through activism within labour and socialist organizations.

Bund Archive
The archive of the Algemeyner Yidisher Arbeter Bund in Lite, Poyln un Rusland ("Russian Bund") consists of records and printed matter from "Bund archive abroad" and records of local Bundist organizations. The Bund archive was founded in 1899 in Geneva to facilitate the collection and preservation of vital organizational records, mainly of the Zagranichnyi komitet ( Abroad Committee) and printed matter (leaflets, journals, etc). The choice of place was necessitated by harsh political conditions in Russia where, due to political repression, the Bund remained underground. In 1919 the Bund Archive was transferred to Berlin where it established a headquarters in the German Social Democratic Party (SPD) building. Once again, unfavourable political conditions prevented the archives from being moved to Poland, which by then had become the centre of the Bund movement.

The largest part of the Bund collection held in RGASPI was bought during the period 1924-1927. At the end of 1924 N.S. Angarskii (a representative from the Lenin Institute) and ISTPART ( Istoriko-Partiinaia Komissia, which gathered documents concerning the history of the communist and socialist movements in Russia), began negotiations with one of the holders, Franz Kurskii, of the "Bund archives abroad" and representatives of the Polish Bund in order to buy the Bund’s archive and library. Some documents were copied under F. Kurskii’s supervision. However, the documents were not just retyped. Remarks about and explanations of unclear passages were made, nicknames were replaced by original names and data was checked. In certain cases, the text even had to be "decoded" and "deciphered". Additionally, the Lenin Institute obtained a portion of printed and hectographic Bund materials. This collection was held first at the Lenin Institute and then in the Central Party archive, where the documents were disclosed and catalogued in two inventories ( opisi). The other part of the collection was received from the Revolution Museum in Leningrad and deals with the history of the Bund in Bolshevik Russia.

The collection
The archive of the Algemeyner Yidisher Arbeter Bund in Lite, Poyln un Rusland, held by RGASPI ( fond 271), consists of records and printed materials from "Bund archive abroad," as well as records of local Bundist organizations from the period 1874-1926. The first part ( opis’ 1) covers predominantly the pre-Revolutionary period of the Bund’s history from 1894-1917. The majority of records from opis’ 2 date from 1917-1921 and deal with the history of the Bund in Bolshevik Russia. The records within the collection are catalogued thematically and chronologically.

The archival collection contains documents on the following topics:
• History of Jews in Eastern Europe (Russia, Poland, the Ukraine); Anti-Semitism in Tsarist Russia; pogroms, Yiddish culture.
• Jewish Labour movement in the Russian Empire: before the rise of Bund; Bund in Russia 1897-1923 (including records of the Bund Foreign Committee in Geneva, 1898-1919; of the Central Bureau of Bundist Groups Abroad, and of Bund cells in the Tsarist army).
• Russian revolutionary parties: Narodnaia Volia, Rossiiskaia Sotsial-Demokraticheskaia Rabochaia Partiia (RSDRP); The Mensheviks, the Bolsheviks, the Socialist Revolutionary Party (SR); Revolutions of 1905 and 1917 in Russia; Jews in Russian revolutionary parties, biographies.
• Jewish political movements (Zionism, Poalei Zion, Zionist-Socialists, Territorialists, Folkists, religious groups, biographies).
• International socialist movement: Socialist International, Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), socialist parties in Germany, Great Britain, France and other European countries, biographies; correspondence of prominent leaders of socialist movements such as K. Kautsky, A. Bebel, L. Trotsky, A. Plekhanov.
• Bundist publications range from leaflets and pamphlets to complete runs of periodicals. Included are illegal propaganda pamphlets and periodicals from the Bund’s earliest period, which were published abroad and subsequently smuggled into Russia as well as proclamations and brochures printed in clandestine printing shops inside Russia.
• The collection also includes photographs, posters, minutes, reports, correspondence, financial ledgers, manuscripts and biographical materials.

RGASPI
The Russian State Archive of Social and Economic History (RGASPI; formerly Centre for the Preservation and Study of the Archives of Contemporary History, a.k.a. RTsKhIDNI) is the keeper of the former Central Party Archive. RGASPI possesses the richest collection of documents and materials concerning the social and political history of Russia and many countries of Europe, Asia and America. Its holdings consist of more than 1.6 million files, 9,300 photographs and 8,600 metres of film. It also houses the documents of different political parties, social democratic, communist, and international organizations; the correspondence of well-known political figures; historical evidence of the French Revolution of the eighteenth century and the 1848 revolutions in Europe; Communist Union; and the 1st, 2nd and 3rd International.
Jewish Cultural Renaissance in Imperial Russia
Rare Russian-Jewish Publications from the Late 19th - Early 20th Century

First Steps
As a result of political and social reforms, during the second half of the 19th century the Jewish population of Russia began to participate in the general Russian cultural and political arena, and the Russian language gradually became the Jews’ second native language. A strictly Jewish literature written in Russian began to develop, and literature was translated from Hebrew and Yiddish into Russian.
A distinct Jewish literature in Russian originated in 1803 with the publication in St. Petersburg of a separate edition of a poem by L. Nevakhovich entitled “The Wailing of a Daughter of Judah.” It was not until many years later (1840) that a second analogous publication appeared: a book of verse by L. Mandel'shtam, one of the first Jewish graduates of Moscow University. There was then another long interlude. It was only in the 1860s that the Jewish population of the country, riding on the wave of general Russian social change, gradually began to read its national literature in the Russian language. For rather a long time, such literature was published not so much for Jewish but for Russian readers. It was used to explain to Russian society the essence of Jewish religious life, to communicate the spiritual and social needs of the Jewish people, and to appeal for tolerance and human sympathy toward them.

On the Wave of Change
But things did not stand still and, together with Russian life, the Jewish world changed. Thousands of young Jews left the villages and towns in the Pale of Settlement in Lithuania, Belarus, and Ukraine and headed for the large industrial and cultural centers, where they hoped to receive an education at Russian gymnasia and universities in St. Petersburg, Moscow, Odessa, Khar'kov, and Kiev. This would broaden their horizons and provide them with an opportunity to become integrated into the local social, communal, and cultural life of the country. This led, slowly but surely, to a situation in which Russian, instead of being a language of “business-like” exchange, became the third or even the second “native” language of Russia’s Jews (after Yiddish and Hebrew). According to the 1897 census, for example, over 3000 residents of Odessa, 2000 residents of Ekaterinoslav, and 3500 residents of Kiev used Russian as their native language. By this time, the sizable Jewish population of St. Petersburg had become almost entirely Russian speaking.
By the beginning of the 20th century, a Russian-Jewish intelligentsia had emerged. Acknowledging themselves as Russian Jews, their representatives – doctors, journalists, lawyers, writers, engineers, scientists, and men of culture – now addressed their own people in the Russian language. A distinct culture of Russian Jewry – scholars, authors, publishing houses, newspapers, and journals – gradually arose in the country. The development of Russo-Jewish Judaica (the study of the history of the Jews, which was undertaken by Jews themselves) and the publication of this research were innovations launched by the Russo-Jewish press in the pre-reform period.

New People, New Language
On the brink of the 20th century, a rich literature in the Russian language was created in Russia by and for the Jews. It became possible for a Jew to address another Jew in Russian and to know not only that he would be understood, but that he would find in the addressee a grateful reader. While in the 1870s there were only two popular authors writing in Russian (namely G. Bogrov and L. Levand), by the beginning of the 20th century the Jews of Russia were reading, along with the works of Leo Tolstoy, Anton Chekhov, and Maksim Gorky, works written by their own authors in the Russian language: S. Uishkevich, Ben-Ami, Sh. An-sky, N. Osipovich, and S. Frug.
The works of the classics of Jewish literature began to be translated into Russian, for both Jewish and Russian readers; for example, Mendele Moikher-Sforim, Sholem Aleichem, and Haim Bialik were translated. Participating in this process were not only Jewish authors and translators, but also well-known writers of the period, such as V. Bruisov, V. Khodasevich, V. Ivanov, and F. Sologub. Numerous literary miscellanies reproduced translations of the best examples of ancient, medieval, and modern Jewish poetry produced by such past masters as A. Maikov, A. Pleshcheev, P. Kozlov, and P. Weinberg. Many of the Jewish libraries in Russian towns created special “Russian” sections for Russo-Jewish literature.

New Jewish Studies
In 1863, an initiative by Ezvel Gunzburg and A. Brodsky (the leader of the Odessa community) led to the establishment of the St. Petersburg-based Society for the Spread of Education among Jews of Russia (OPE). The objective of the OPE was to create a new system of Jewish education that would combine secular European knowledge with traditional Jewish scholarship. In St. Petersburg, Baron D. Guenzburg laid the foundations of a Higher School of Jewish Studies. Leading Jewish organizations – such as the Jewish Historical-Ethnographical Society and the Society for the Emancipation of Jews – decided to create a non-religious, civic Jewish community.
They published periodicals and anthologies with the aim of amassing material on Jewish history and the cultural history of Russian Jews. These publications had more than just academic significance: Jewish scholars of the ancient, medieval, and contemporary history of the Jewish people contributed to the revival of national consciousness, refuted numerous myths and falsifications in the literature on Jews, and generally provided food for thought on the past and future of the Russian Jewry.

Time, Place, Content
One of the manifestations of national Jewish cultural life of the period was the publication of numerous literary-publicistic anthologies. In 1871, Adolf Efimovich Landau began publishing historical-literary anthologies of the “Jewish Library” in St. Petersburg. These contained articles and publicistic works written by prominent representatives of the Jewish enlightenment, that is, Lev Levand, Lev (Judah Leib) Gordon, and others. The “Jewish Library” became the largest Jewish publishing project and was very popular among educated Jews not only in the capital but throughout Russia.
Because the majority of the Jewish population lived in the Pale of Settlement, many anthologies were published not only in St. Petersburg, but also in such provincial cities as Kiev, Minsk, Odessa, Homel, Kremenchuk, and Kharkov. The traditions of the time dictated the content of such publications, which, as a rule, included both literary and purely publicistic works. Often such anthologies became joint projects: Both Jews and Russian authors contributed to them. Similar almanacs were either organized thematically or had a general cultural character.

Lost Works
The overwhelming majority of these publications – which were issued in small editions, and often in provincial cities – have been irretrievably lost. This is regrettable, as their content has enormous significance. The publications reflect the general cultural and social life of the Jewish population of that period, and provide unique information about the life of the Jewish community and its relations with the wider society.
The uniqueness of these publications is also evinced by the fact that their pages contained works by many writers who later became well-known authors, poets, translators, commentators, or political activists, such as H. N. Bialik, L. Jaffe, S. Marshak, L. Gordon, I. Levner, S. Asch, M. Berdichevskii, S. Uishkevich, Ben-Ami, V. Khodasevich, K. Lipskerov, M. Mane, and A. Sobol. Moreover, a number of these works were never published in any other place. Thus, many “Jewish” works by such writers as M. Gershenzon, S. Marshak, Ai. Shternberg, A. Sobol, and N. Minskii – writers who are now recognized only as practitioners of Russian literature – have been lost.
During the 1920s and 1930s, this tradition, which was gradually dying out in the USSR, was continued in the United States within the milieu of Jewish emigrants from Russia and other European countries.

Collection
This collection contains materials that reflect the color of the period, as well as works that were not subsequently republished and are preserved in single copies in only a few libraries. The collection was made at the Russian National Library in St. Petersburg – essentially the only library in Russia that, for several centuries, had the legal right to receive a copy of every publication that appeared anywhere in the country’s territory.

These rare publications represent an extremely valuable historical and general cultural source for both specialists and researchers, and a broader circle of readers.
National Library of Russia


The National Library of Russia (NLR) is one of the world's largest libraries. Because of the wealth and variety of its collections, it ranks among such eminent libraries as the Library of Congress and the British Library. The NLR occupies a special place in the history of Russian culture. It was founded by the enlightened monarch Empress Catherine II to serve a dual purpose, namely to house “a complete collection of Russian books” and for “general public usage.” Today, the NLR has more than 32.8 million items, 6 million of which are in a foreign language.

Various Authors & Editors

Slavic Judaica in the YIVO Library
YIVO Institute for Jewish Research

IDC is happy to announce it is making available the YIVO Library's Slavic Judaica collection on microfilm. The collection consists of approximately 350 books and pamphlets in the Russian language, from the Library's Vilna and Elias Tcherikower collections, and includes some very rare, unusual and ephemeral books, pamphlets and offprints.
Most of these publications were printed in Central and Eastern Europe during the 19th and 20th centuries (all of them before 1940, and most before 1917). They deal with such topics as Jewish religious traditions, Jewish history, the struggle for equal rights in Tsarist Russia, social and political movements, Jewish community organizations, intergroup relations in Russia and Poland, anti-Semitism, and emigration to America.

Judaica
The Tsarist Russian Empire was the incubator for a number of political and social developments that have had a profound and enduring impact on world history and on the history of the Jewish people in the 20th century. Not only did the 1917 Bolshevik revolution (with its global implications) take place in Russia, but Zionism and the labor movement also flourished in the impoverished and persecuted Jewish communities of the Russian Pale of Settlement.
Because of the political disruptions of the 20th century (wars, revolutions, mass emigration, and Soviet totalitarianism), access to the published and unpublished documentary legacy of Russian Jewry has always been very limited. Libraries and archives within the former Soviet Union were essentially closed to foreign (and most local) researchers, and Judaica collections were often relegated to cellars and warehouses, in a completely chaotic state. While access to ex-Soviet repositories has improved since the late 1980s, much work remains to be done to make their collections truly accessible. For that reason, specialized collections in libraries outside the former Soviet republics assume a particular importance for scholarship.

Vilna collection
The books in the Vilna collection have been the property of the YIVO Library since the period when the YIVO Institute was located in Vilna (now Vilnius, Lithuania), from 1925 until 1940. During the Nazi occupation (1941-1943), the Vilna YIVO library was confiscated and shipped to Germany, where it was to have been incorporated into an anti-Semitic research center headed by the Nazi ideologue Alfred Rosenberg. These library materials were recovered near Frankfurt am Main and returned to YIVO, now located in New York, in 1947. Many of the microfilmed volumes are stamped "Sichergestellt durch Einsatzstab RR," meaning that they were "secured" by the Rosenberg task force. The Einsatzstab's activities throughout Europe have been documented in the book, The Rape of Europe, by Lynn Nicholas (New York: Knopf, 1994). The postwar rescue of YIVO's looted library and archives is discussed in the book, From That Place and Time, by Lucy S. Dawidowicz (New York: W. W. Norton, 1989).

Elias Tcherikower collection
Elias Tcherikower was one of YIVO's founders and until his death in 1943 was head of the Institute's Historical Section. A native of Poltava, Ukraine, his massive personal library is especially strong in Russian-language Judaica, emphasizing Jewish history and the political status of Jews in Russia. Tcherikower collected many of his books in Russia and the Ukraine, and the Tcherikower library and archive followed its owner from Kiev to Berlin to Paris, where the collection was hidden during World War II. Tcherikower and his wife escaped from occupied France to New York and after the war his books and manuscripts were found and bequeathed to YIVO.

Unique research materials
The Russian Judaica in YIVO's Vilna and Tcherikower collections includes some very unusual and ephemeral books, pamphlets, and offprints. The pre-1917 imprints (about 90% of the total group) deal with such subjects as Jewish religious traditions, Jewish history, the struggle for equal rights for Jews under the Tsarist regime, political movements among Jews in Russia (e.g., Zionism, socialism), Jewish community organizations, Jewish-Christian relations, anti-Semitism (including some works reflecting anti-Jewish viewpoints), and emigration to America. This portion of the collection is exceptionally rich, and a high proportion of the titles in it is likely not to be found in any other American repository.

Various Authors & Editors

Poalei Zion Archive
Documents, papers, correspondence, political literature, newspapers, journals, periodicals, serials, sheets of signatures, lottery tickets, postage stamps, receipt books, pamphlets, leaflets, posters, and publications relating to the activities of various Jewish political parties and organizations, and also concerning Jewish emigration to Palestine. Includes the correspondence of prominent leaders of the World Zionist movement (such as Ben Gurion, Ben Zvi, and B. Borokhov), as well as works of creative writing (e.g, poetry by David Hofstein with illustrations by Marc Chagall).

This collection is also included in the Poalei Zion Archive collection.

Various Authors & Editors

Poalei Zion Archive
Documents, papers, correspondence, political literature, newspapers, journals, periodicals, serials, sheets of signatures, lottery tickets, postage stamps, receipt books, pamphlets, leaflets, posters, and publications relating to the activities of various Jewish political parties and organizations, and also concerning Jewish emigration to Palestine. Includes the correspondence of prominent leaders of the World Zionist movement (such as Ben Gurion, Ben Zvi, and B. Borokhov), as well as works of creative writing (e.g, poetry by David Hofstein with illustrations by Marc Chagall).

This collection is also included in the Poalei Zion Archive collection.

Various Authors & Editors

Poalei Zion Archive
Documents, papers, correspondence, political literature, newspapers, journals, periodicals, serials, sheets of signatures, lottery tickets, postage stamps, receipt books, pamphlets, leaflets, posters, and publications relating to the activities of various Jewish political parties and organizations, and also concerning Jewish emigration to Palestine. Includes the correspondence of prominent leaders of the World Zionist movement (such as Ben Gurion, Ben Zvi, and B. Borokhov), as well as works of creative writing (e.g, poetry by David Hofstein with illustrations by Marc Chagall).

This collection is also included in the Poalei Zion Archive collection.

Various Authors & Editors

Poalei Zion Archive
Documents, papers, correspondence, political literature, newspapers, journals, periodicals, serials, sheets of signatures, lottery tickets, postage stamps, receipt books, pamphlets, leaflets, posters, and publications relating to the activities of various Jewish political parties and organizations, and also concerning Jewish emigration to Palestine. Includes the correspondence of prominent leaders of the World Zionist movement (such as Ben Gurion, Ben Zvi, and B. Borokhov), as well as works of creative writing (e.g, poetry by David Hofstein with illustrations by Marc Chagall).

This collection is also included in the Poalei Zion Archive collection.

Various Authors & Editors

Poalei Zion Archive
Documents, papers, correspondence, political literature, newspapers, journals, periodicals, serials, sheets of signatures, lottery tickets, postage stamps, receipt books, pamphlets, leaflets, posters, and publications relating to the activities of various Jewish political parties and organizations, and also concerning Jewish emigration to Palestine. Includes the correspondence of prominent leaders of the World Zionist movement (such as Ben Gurion, Ben Zvi, and B. Borokhov), as well as works of creative writing (e.g, poetry by David Hofstein with illustrations by Marc Chagall).

This collection is also included in the Poalei Zion Archive collection.