Shtetl. XXI Cent. Fields studies, Collection of Articles, in Russian).

Author:Czerny, Boris
Position:Book review


Shtetl. XXI Cent. Fields studies, Collection of Articles, in Russian). ED. by V.A. Dymshits, A.L.L'vov, A.V.Sokolova, St-Petersburg, Evropeiskij Universitet v Moskve, 2008, 292 p., introduction, notes, bibliography, lists of quoted interviews, interviewees and of locations mentioned, illustrations. ISBN 978-5-94380-076-4.

As pointed out by Alla Sokolova in her article" Evrejskie mestechki pamjati: lokalizacija shtetla" (Jewish lieux de memoire: localization of Shtetl, 29-64), for the children, the grandchildren, and now the great- grandchildren of those who left the traditional Jewish world of villages from "Russia" and emigrated to the United States, France or Israel, the shtetl is a mythical place on an imaginary map. To a large extent, the idealized representation of shtetl life on a wide territory corresponding to the former Pale of Settlement at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century was encouraged by Jewish populists driven by Rousseauist and Tolstoian conceptions of "the good wild man" and the necessity of going back to nature to find the mysterious energy of the Jewish people, its culture and its folklore. The most famous representative of this movement was the writer, journalist and ethnologist S. An-Sky, who, between 1911 and the beginning of the First World War, made ethnographic expeditions in Podolya and Volhynia. At the same time, for the assimilating German and French Jews, the shtetl on the boundaries of Ukraine symbolized the refusal of the ephemeral and the active preservation of Judaism and Jewish values. After the Shoah, the shtetl was apparently nothing more than a still place, a dead place which only remained in Chagall's paintings or in musicals like "Fiddler on the Roof."

The rehabilitation of shtetls as authentic places to live began in the 1970s with the publication of Shmuel Gordon's writings, generally considered as the pioneer of neo-shtetl literature. The stories and essays about Jewish families who returned to their shtetls in the Podolian part of Ukraine and continued to preserve the pre-Holocaust way of life have widely contributed to the rediscovery of the traditional Jewish world. However, the main books about the way of life and the dwellings of the Jews in the small villages of Podolya and Volhynia were published in the 1990s and at the beginning of the twenty-first century with, for example, L.V. Sholokhova's books (Phonoarchive of Jewish Musical...

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