January 24, 2023

"In academia the Soviet Jew has long been seen as an ideological suitcase ripe for stuffing."

"Whether as an idealistic but ultimately failed Communist, a Zionist in training, an eternal refugee, or a Tevye-like throwback for his nostalgic American brethren, the Soviet Jew wanders across the imagination with a counterfeit passport always in need of stamping....  The inability to conform to either traditional Jewish practice or the nascent Bolshevik state, matched with the ability to 'play them off one another' in true trickster fashion, is perhaps the central conceit of How the Soviet Jew Was Made.... " 

Writes Gary Shteyngart in "Beyond the Pale/After the Russian Revolution, Jews left behind the shtetl and had to navigate a modern identity: New Soviet Man" (NYRB)(reviewing "How the Soviet Jew Was Made" by Sasha Senderovich).


rcocean said...

Amazing. The Soviets murdered millions of people. The USSR was the greatest tyranny in history. But hey, lets just ignore that...

Substitute German nazi for "Soviet Jew" and see how this article reads.

I'm always astounded at how brainwashed Americans are. They get hysterical if anyone breaths a good word for Hitler or the Nazis because they were so...evil. Yet, they can't even get slightly annoyed at Stalin/Lenin and all their crimes. They actually murdered more people. But who cares. Praise Hilter, and its a one-way ticket to Palookaville. Praise Stalin, and you'll get a Chair at Yale.

RideSpaceMountain said...

"After the Russian Revolution, Jews left behind the shtetl and had to navigate a modern identity: New Soviet Man"

I can't read the whole thing, but if this piece fails to identify the Jewish roots and Jewish heritage of Soviet Bolshevism it should be chucked in the trash with the other tens of thousands of topical pieces like it.

Lol, many of them did 'leave behind the shtetl' and went from participating in the Putilov Strikes of 1917 to taking up apartments in the Kremlin.

n.n said...

The Soviets murdered millions of people. The USSR was the greatest tyranny in history.

Second, after the PRC, in progress. The Islamic State was competitive with secular states for commission of human rights violations.

Mike Sylwester said...

I read the linked article until I reached the paywall. I will go read the entire article in a library.

When I was in the US Air Force, I spent about ten years of my life interviewing Soviet Jews who had emigrated from the Soviet Union to the USA.

More recently, since 2021, I have worked in a home-health-care agency that originally employed and served mostly Jews who had emigrated from the Soviet Union.

So, I know a lot about Jews who emigrated from the Soviet Union to the USA.


In general, they are very intelligent people.

In the Soviet Union, they were disproportionately successful. Part of the reason for their success was their intelligence. Another part of the reason was that many of them had been reliable Communists through the World War Two years.

After World War Two, there was a reaction against their success. One part of that reaction was that informal quotas were imposed gradually on Jews' entrance into higher education. Soviet Jews perceived that it was becoming harder and harder to enroll in universities and then to enroll in the most desired majors (medicine, hard sciences, etc.)

This development was gradual -- the imposition of the informal quotas and the perception that such quotas were being imposed.

Then, when it became possible to emigrate in the mid-1970s -- because of the Jackson–Vanik Amendment -- many Soviet Jewish families decided to emigrate. A very common reason was that perceived discrimination that limited Jewish enrollment in higher education and in desired professions.

For the parents and grandparents, emigrating was very difficult. Their lives in the Soviet Union were relatively comfortable. It would have been easier for them to stay there. However, they decided to emigrate for the sake of their children's futures.

Narayanan said...

RideSpaceMountain said...
I can't read the whole thing, but if this piece fails to identify the Jewish roots and Jewish heritage of Soviet Bolshevism it should be chucked in the trash with the other tens of thousands of topical pieces like it.
I am interested to know - are there not any Jewish roots and Jewish heritage of Socialism in Germany [which took Nationalist turn?]

Lurker21 said...

The Jewish Century and The House of Government by Yuri Slezkine are both worth a look. I knew some very bitter Soviet and ex-Soviet Jews, but it's hard to assess how their bitterness compares with the bitterness of all the other people under the Soviet yoke.

BobD said...

Leon Trotsky, aka Lev Davidovich Bronstein, seemed to make the transition with some panache, until he’d didn’t.

n.n said...

A poor description of the Soviet Jewish experience and defamation of character.

Temujin said...

"Lol, many of them did 'leave behind the shtetl' and went from participating in the Putilov Strikes of 1917 to taking up apartments in the Kremlin."

Yeah, it was lots of laughs. I wish my Zaydeh was here to enjoy the laughs with you now. He escaped as a young man and spent his grandpa years telling me about the evils of socialism, how he saw it raising it's head here and how I needed to be mindful of it. He saw it as the Great Evil. Trotsky was as much a good Jew as Hitler was a good Catholic.

Anyway- this Russian/Ukranian Jewish descendant ends up posting little bits o'nothing on a blog in America. I got it good, because Zaydeh got away.

Jupiter said...

Does he mention that many of the Soviet Revolutionaries were Jews who returned from the US in order to overthrow the Russian monarchy? Or that the revolution was funded by Jewish bankers in the US and Sweden?

Narr said...

Stalin signaled his willingness to deal with Hitler by replacing the Jew Litvinov as foreign minister with gentile Molotov.

It's a measure of just how shitty things were under the Tsars that so many intelligent people preferred the Reds.

As for the Jewishness of some Bolsheviks, big deal. Most Jews were trying to get by, just like most other Russians; it's more fruitful to look for the roots of Red Tyranny in Russian history and tradition than among a smattering of resentful Jews anyway.

Unless Jews in power always go bad, unlike former Russian Orthodox seminarians.

Narr said...

What's wrong with overthrowing corrupt and backward monarchies that lose wars and territory to smaller countries?

To an American, I mean.

RideSpaceMountain said...



The link between secular European and American Judaism (note carefully, 'secular Judaism'), socialism, bolshevism, and radicalism is extensively documented. There's more than a little evidence for a pre-modern link as well.

This is a well-worn path academically. All you need to do is let your cursor do the scrolling.

Rosalyn C. said...

My Jewish grandparents immigrated to the US from Russia and the Crimea prior to the turn of the 20th century. My grandfather on my father's side left as a young man to avoid being drafted into the Russian army. His father had been abducted as a child and forced to stay in the army, where he grew up with no knowledge of his home town or his religion. He certainly had no love for the Russian army. My grandmother on my mother's side told me about her first day of school, that she had gotten dressed up and was excited to go but was told that the quota for Jews had been met, so she was sent home heartbroken. She taught herself to read. It was a point of family pride that her youngest brother who was able to go to school here in the US eventually became a prominent lawyer and his son became a Yale graduate and US federal judge.

I have a neighbor where I live now who is from the Soviet Union who has told me stories about the antisemitism she encountered there in her lifetime. She corroborates the comments above about the restrictions Jews face in higher education.

I'm always suspicious when people tell me things about the Jews. Yes, early on Jews did play a role in Russian Revolution. Considering that antisemitism was a convenient and frequently used tool used by the monarchs throughout Europe to deflect public anger away from themselves and onto Jews I'm not surprised that some idealistic Jews thought that the revolution could could bring improvements.

“At a time when the Red Army had posters denouncing anti-Semitism, the monarchists fighting for the czar had posters disseminating [anti-Semitism] as a pillar of what they were fighting for ... The revolution offered Russia’s Jews many opportunities, equal rights and education and a chance to fill the vacuum left by an elite that was forced into exile ... But above all it was a haven from a wave of pogroms in which 150,000 Jews in present-day Ukraine were murdered in what some historians call a dress rehearsal for the Holocaust. A Jew in 1917 had two choices: revolution or exile." From: "What was the Jewish role in 1917 Russian Revolution?" BY CNAAN LIPHSHIZ NOVEMBER 6, 2017 5:08 PM link

Narr said...

Gentiles Hindenburg and Ludendorff send the gentile Ulyanov and a ton of money to overthrow the revolutionary government in Russia, which was attempting to sustain the war effort against Germany and improve conditions in Russia at the same time.

Lenin succeeds, and it's the fault of the Jews.

Got it.

doctrev said...

Narayanan said...

I am interested to know - are there not any Jewish roots and Jewish heritage of Socialism in Germany [which took Nationalist turn?]

1/24/23, 11:44 AM

Surely you jest. Of course there are roots, branches, and whole trees of Jews in western socialism/ communism. I'd do your homework for you, but I generally want course credit or at least compensation. Here's something to get you started.


Narr said...

Before Rathenau was Ferdinand Lasalle, who Marx and Engels dubbed a "Negerjude." (OTHO they also insisted that Lasalle was better than the 'vons'.)

William said...

I haven't read the article or the book but here's a few observations: Stalin wasn't particularly anti-Semitic but he might just as well have been. Of the sixteen charged in the first big show trial, all but one were Jewish. The Jews can claim with some justification that they were the early victims of Stalinism. It can also be argued with some justification that Jews were instrumental in the installation of the government that made Stalin possible.......I don't blame the Jews for favoring Lenin over the Czar or even the Whites over the Reds. They'd be crazy to want the Czar back or to live under the Whites. Even so, Bolshevism did not turn out to be the cure for their afflictions.....The weirdest, most unfounded theory that the left holds is that oppression causes oppressed people to become nobler, more sensitive, more attuned to justice than their oppressors. Utter bullshit. My Irish ancestors were mistreated for eight hundred years and, so far as I can tell, it did not improve their character or thirst for justice. Ditto with the Russian Jews. They were treated horribly both by the Czar and, later, by Stalin but there's no reason to believe that such treatment made them better people.

William said...

I read Applebaum's book, "Gulag". She recounts the story of one Jewish herring merchant who had his business appropriated by Lenin. This didn't make him anti-Lenin. On the plus side, his daughters were allowed to attend the university and the old proscriptions against Jews were done away with. Later on, under the NEP, he was given his business back. Later still, under Stalin, his business was again confiscated and he himself was sent to a gulag. The bet here is that his life would have turned out better under Kerensky than under Lenin.....Iirc, Applebaum also recounted the story a Jew in the Red Army who got captured early in the war. The Jew escaped from the POW camp and made his away across several thousand miles of enemy territory and back to Mother Russia. It was an extraordinary story of courage and survival. His reward? Stalin had him sent to a gulag. He didn't believe that anyone could escape in such a way unless he was in cahoots with the Germans! So it went in the USSR. It must have been of some comfort to the herring merchant and the soldier that they were not being mistreated because of their Jewish heritage but for other reasons.

Ex-PFC Wintergreen said...

I can’t see how anyone can un-ironically use the phrase “New Soviet Man” in this day and age; has this doofus not read his Bulgakov?? (Heart of a Dog, to be specific)

Narr said...

Any Jew who wasn't anti-Tsarist wasn't paying attention.

What's un-ironic about Shteyngart's use of 'New Soviet Man'? That's what the theory offered.

The whole point is how far short the reality fell, for Jews and everyone else.

Josephbleau said...

Anti Jewish sentiment was high in Soviet academic math. The number of Jews admitted to grad school at Moscow U was controlled by having students pass a test. The profs would give Jewish students “Jewish Problems”. https://arxiv.org › pdf › 1110.1556.pdf. . And give other students regular problems.

The Jewish problems were exquisitely fiendish as they required some elaborate trick or leap of connection that were almost impossible to discover under pressure on a test. I would guess they wanted some Jews to pad the schools reputation, but not too many.

It’s interesting that they had the integrity to give them an impossible test rather than just telling them to go away.

Prof. M. Drout said...

Some of the very first Soviet Jews to be allowed to emigrate ended up in my home town and I got to know a couple of the kids and their families reasonably well* (in both families, the father spoke English but with a heavy accent and the mother struggled and had her kids translate her Russian to English). Maybe it was just caution on their part, but all the criticism I heard (and Mikhail's father was pretty vociferous, pointing at the television and yelling "Lies! All lies!" whenever something about the USSR came on--which was a lot in the early 80s) was about how terrible Communism was, and how dishonest, poverty-stricken, and dirty everything Communists touched became. The one time I can remember the topic of anti-semitism caming up, Mikhail's dad said "Ha! They only let us go because they hated us, but we got to leave, and they have to stay there!"

*We called our intramural floor-hockey team "CCCP", and we won because Mikhail was much better at hockey than anyone else in the school.

Narr said...

A joke circa the early 1980s--

"Comrade, do you think the Party favors the Jews?"

--Of course!

"What do you mean?"

--They are allowed to leave.