Russian-Jewish Literature: Reinventing Tradition Under Communism

Seminar on Russian and Eurasian Jewry
Event Format
In person
CGIS South, S354, 1730 Cambridge St

How was the Jewish tradition reinvented in Russian-language literature after a long period of assimilation, the Holocaust, and decades of Communism? The process of reinventing the tradition began in the counterculture of Jewish dissidents in the midst of the late Soviet underground of the 1960s-1970s. From then on, Russian Jewish literature turned to the traditions of Jewish writing, from biblical Judaism to the early Soviet (anti-) Zionist novels. Among other things, it ‘re-wrote’ the Haskalah satire, Hassidic Midrash and Yiddish travelogues. In her talk, Professor Klavdia Smola discusses the main topics of her new book "Reinventing Tradition: Russian-Jewish Literature between Soviet Underground and Post-Soviet Deconstruction" (Academic Studies Press, 2023). She illustrates how the process of the late Soviet Jews’ return to their roots in literature constituted an alternative to the socialist-realist canon (similar to numerous other alternatives in the late communist period—such as village prose or the re-ethnicization of the literature of the Soviet republics) and at the same time, in many ways, created its own mirror image.

Remote video URL
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This Seminar is co-sponsored by the Center for Jewish Studies, Harvard University.


The Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University encourages persons with disabilities to participate in its programs and activities. If you anticipate needing any type of accommodation or have questions about the physical access provided, please contact us at 617-495-4037 or in advance of your participation or visit. Requests for Sign Language interpreters and/or CART providers should be made at least two weeks in advance if possible. Please note that the Davis Center will make every effort to secure services but that services are subject to availability.