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589 Ab Imperio, 2/2002 John D. KLIER POLEMICS WITH ENCYCLOPEDIAS: ALEKSANDR SOLZHENITSYN’S “DVESTI LET VMESTE” Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn is justly regarded as one of the greatest Russian writers of the twentieth century, as well as the moral conscience of the Soviet Union for almost a half-century. With this book he has undertaken another great task, an effort to reconcile Russians and Jews. This is necessary, says Solzhenitsyn, because the two sides are guilty of wrongs against each other, committed over the course of their two hundred year long co-existence. The act of recounting this troubled relationship, he believes, will make reconciliation possible. The book is evidently designed to serve as a Russian version of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. To the historian, such a moral undertaking would seem better left to philosophers or theologians, but Solzhenitsyn assures the reader that he can accomplish this task while eschewing religion and mysticism, and concentrating on history, politics, culture, and daily existence [8]. The book itself constitutes a running narrative of Russian-Jewish relations from 1772 to the eve of 1917. The story is told in sequential fashion, although some chapters de-emphasise chronology in order to concentrate on specific themes, such as Jews in the revolutionary movement or the evolution of a Russian and Jewish consciousness (osoznanie). 590 J. D. Klier, Polemics with Encyclopedias: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn... Sources and Methodology Dvesti let is old-fashioned history. The material is presented in chronicle form, providing narrative at the expense of analysis. At times it resembles Solzhenitsyn’s historical cycle, The Red Wheel, where chunks of historical material are included in order to give the aura of authenticity. In Dvesti let, excerpts from Duma debates, official reports, and memoirs, often stand on their own, without interpretation, as though their meaning was self evident. Consequently, the book gives the impression of having been assembled, rather than written. Solzhenitsyn’s choice of sources gives the work a one-dimensional, imperial Russian perspective. His material roughly divides into four categories: official materials published by the tsarist regime; secondary literature from the late tsarist/early Soviet period; memoir literature, and encyclopedias. The reader will search in vain for any modern scholarship. Solzhenitsyn ignores the work of a whole generation of western scholars, such as Hans Rogger, Michael Stanislawski, Michael Aronson, Steven Zipperstein, Jonathan Frankel, Heinz-Dietrich Lowe, John Klier, Shaul Stampfer, Israel Bartal and Eli Lederhendler, all of whom published important books or articles between 1981 and 1995.1 Nor is there any awareness that a new generation 1 Hans Rogger. Jewish Policies and Right-Wing Politics in Imperial Russia. London and New York, 1986; Michael Stanislawski. For Whom Do I Toil? Judah Leib Gordon and the Crisis of Russian Jewry. Oxford, 1988; Michael Stanislawski. Tsar Nicholas I and the Jews. Philadelphia, 1983; Steven J. Zipperstein. The Jews of Odessa: A Cultural History, 1794-1881. Stanford, CA., 1985; Steven J. Zipperstein. Elusive Prophet: Ahad Ha’am and the Origins of Zionism. London, 1993; Alexander Orbach. New Voices of Russian Jewry: A Study of the Russian-Jewish Press of Odessa in the Era of the Great Reforms, 1860-1871. Leiden, 1980; Jonathan. Frankel. Prophecy and Politics: Socialism, Nationalism, and the Russian Jews, 1862-1917. Cambridge, 1981; Heinz-Dietrich Lowe. The Tsars and the Jews: Reform, Reaction andAnti-Semitism in Imperial Russia, 1772-1917. London, 1993; John D. Klier. Russia Gathers Her Jews: The Origins of the Jewish Question in Russia, 1772-1825. DeKalb, IL., 1986; John D. Klier. Imperial Russia’s Jewish Question, 1855-1881. Cambridge, 1995; Shaul Stampfer. Heder Study, Knowledge of Torah, and the Maintenance of Social Stratification in Traditional East European Jewish Society // Studies in Jewish Education. Jerusalem, 1988. Vol. III. P. 271-89; Shaul Stampfer. Gender Differentation and Education of the Jewish Woman in Nineteenth-Century Eastern Europe // Polin. 1992. Vol. VII. Pp. 63-87; Eli Lederhendler. The Road to Modern Jewish Politics: Political Tradition and Political Reconstruction in the Jewish Community of Tsarist Russia. NewYork and Oxford, 1989; Ezra Mendelsohn. Class Struggle in the Pale. Cambridge, 1970; Israel Bartal. Non-Jews and Gentile Society in East European Hebrew and Yiddish Literature, 1856-1914 // Polin. Oxford, 1989. 591 Ab Imperio, 2...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2164-9731
Print ISSN
2166-4072
Pages
pp. 589-604
Launched on MUSE
2015-10-07
Open Access
No
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