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Doubly Chosen

Jewish Identity, the Soviet Intelligentsia, and the Russian Orthodox Church

Judith Deutsch Kornblatt

Publication Year: 2004

    Doubly Chosen provides the first detailed study of a unique cultural and religious phenomenon in post-Stalinist Russia—the conversion of thousands of Russian Jewish intellectuals to Orthodox Christianity, first in the 1960s and later in the 1980s. These time periods correspond to the decades before and after the great exodus of Jews from the Soviet Union. Judith Deutsch Kornblatt contends that the choice of baptism into the Church was an act of moral courage in the face of Soviet persecution, motivated by solidarity with the values espoused by Russian Christian dissidents and intellectuals. Oddly, as Kornblatt shows, these converts to Russian Orthodoxy began to experience their Jewishness in a new and positive way.
    Working primarily from oral interviews conducted in Russia, Israel, and the United States, Kornblatt underscores the conditions of Soviet life that spurred these conversions: the virtual elimination of Judaism as a viable, widely practiced religion; the transformation of Jews from a religious community to an ethnic one; a longing for spiritual values; the role of the Russian Orthodox Church as a symbol of Russian national culture; and the forging of a new Jewish identity within the context of the Soviet dissident movement.

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press

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pp. ix-2

The following study grows from a long-standing interest in Russian Orthodoxy. I came to my fascination with the Eastern Church through Russian literature, as did so many of the individuals interviewed here. Russian culture, even modern Soviet Russian culture, is suffused with a worldview that I began to realize is in many ways fundamentally different from my own. ...

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1. Introduction: Russian Jewish Christians

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pp. 3-32

A MEMORY HAS ACCOMPANIED ME NOW for many years. During an extended visit to Soviet Russia in the Brezhnev era of stagnation, on several occasions I was asked by acquaintances of only a casual nature whether or not I believe in God. Why, I wondered, would anyone on the streets of Moscow in the 1970s care about my personal religious life? ...

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2. The Jewish Question in Russia: Separation of National and Religious Identity

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pp. 33-51

THE UNIQUE HISTORY OF THE Jews in Russia and Eastern Europe establishes, at least in part, the context in which the Russian Jewish Christians of the late Soviet period can experience their hybrid identity without the dissonance that it might create for American or even Western European Jews. In the United States, as we will see, ...

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3. The Path of Faith: The 1960s Generation

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pp. 52-83

ONE COLD SPRING DAY IN 1993, the dissident religious author Zoya Krakhmal'nikova asked to speak with me about her latest project: the formation of an international association she called "A Christian Alternative to the Threat of Russian Fascism." Krakhmal'nikova is among those who rediscovered Solovyov for the post-Stalin generation, and she has come to focus more and more on the Russian philosopher's defense of the Jews. ...

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4. The Path of Faith: The 1980s Generation

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pp. 84-99

THE GENERATION THAT CAME to faith as the Soviet Union was falling apart had much in common with the previous generation. Many mentioned to me the influence of Father Men, and of gathering in clubs in his name. And like Father Michael and the others quoted in the previous chapter, ...

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5. The Paths Diverge: The Conflict of Identity

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pp. 100-130

THE RUSSIAN JEWISH CHRISTIANS interviewed for this book moved along their respective paths of faith at various speeds, and to varying destinations. One, at least, has left Christianity completely, although he maintains social ties with other Orthodox believers. Yura, this Jewish Christian "apostate," ...

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6. Concluding Thoughts: The Responsibility of Chosenness

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pp. 131-144

Despite the desire of the Russian Jewish Christians to avoid the term conversion, or perekreshchenie, and despite the truly unique aspects of their experiences, we nonetheless need to recognize the similarity of the phenomenon considered here to other cases of conversion that have become increasingly prevalent in recent years. ...

Appendix A: Sample Transcript: Interview with “Marina”

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pp. 145-158

Appendix B: Father Daniel’s Mass

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pp. 159-164


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pp. 165-184

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 185-194


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pp. 195-203

E-ISBN-13: 9780299194833
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299194840

Publication Year: 2004