In recent years, the subject of culture has dominated scholarly literature on Russian Jewish history. Important books have, inter alia , explored the emergence of a vibrant Jewish public culture in the late imperial period, the cultural impact of liberal Jewish philanthropists in major metropolises and the Pale, the significance of Jewish music, the emergence of Jewish ethnography and its relationship to folk culture, the survival and transformation of Jewish cultural movements in the Revolutionary and early Soviet periods, as well as the life and times of major Russian Jewish “culture heroes” such as Sh. An-sky and Lev Shternberg. This current focus on culture has largely displaced the previous generation’s emphasis on Russian Jewish social and political history, though such works have not completely disappeared from the scene. Eugene Avrutin’s fascinating and clearly written new book, Jews and the Imperial State: Identification Politics in Tsarist Russia , fits into neither of these broad categories, though it provides important background information for understanding the works of both. Rather than Jewish culture, social movements, or politics, Avrutin explores the fundamental question of how Jews were recognized and identified – or as he puts it, made “legible” – by the imperial
Canadian-American Slavic Studies – Brill
Published: Jan 1, 2013
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