Russian Jews in the Turmoil of History: Three Ages of Stalinism

Wednesday, November 18, 2020 - 12:30pm to 1:45pm
color photo of Luba Jurgenson

Professor Luba Jurgenson, a leading French cultural historian of Stalinism and the Gulag, presents a reflection on the destinies of Jews during Stalinist terror. In examining Jewish life during three eras of Stalinism, Jurgenson will read Soviet and Jewish history through the lenses of three prominent writers: the memoirist and chronicler of the Great Terror Evgenia Ginzburg (1904–1977), the political philosopher, Zionist activist, and memoirist Julius (Yuly) Margolin (1900–1971), and the great Yiddish poet and playwright Peretz Markish (1895–1952). All three were victims of Stalinist repression at key moments in Soviet history: the Great Terror, the beginning of the WWII, and the postwar antisemitic campaign. By tracing the turbulent and tragic paths of these writers, Jurgenson's lecture will analyze Jewish survival and death in the USSR and investigate Stalinist attitudes and policies toward the Jewish population.

Luba Jurgenson is a writer, translator, and Full Professor at the Department of Slavic Studies of Université Paris-Sorbonne, where she directs the research center Eur’ORBEM (Center of Interdisciplinary Research on Central, Eastern, and Balkan Europe). Jurgenson also heads the research seminar “Narrative, Fiction, History,” associated with the Center de Recherches sur les Arts et le Langage (CRAL, EHESS) and serves as a member of the editorial board of the magazine Memories at Stake and of the Interdisciplinary Inventory of Notions and Concepts of the Testimony and Memory Areas (with Philippe Mesnard). Her fields of research are the memory of violence in East and Central Europe, and Judaism and literary modernity. Jurgenson is the author of numerous books, including Is the Concentration Camp Experience Unutterable? (L’expérience concentrationnaire est-elle indicible?, Monaco, 2003); The Gulag: Testimony and Archives, with Nicolas Werth (Laffont, 2017), Where There Is Danger (Boston, 2019) as well as numerous articles and collective volumes on the memory of historical events of the twentieth century. In 2003, she edited the full version of Varlam Shalamov’s Kolyma Tales in French (Editions Verdier) and in 2010, the full version of Julius Margolin’s A Journey to the Land of Zeka (Editions Le Bruit du temps). Luba Jurgenson edits the book series L’Usage de la Mémoire (Paris, Editions Petra). 

Maxim D. Shrayer, born and raised in Moscow, is a bilingual author, scholar and translator. A Professor of Russian, English, and Jewish Studies at Boston College, Shrayer serves as Director of the Project on Russian and Eurasian Jewry at Harvard’s Davis Center. Shrayer authored and edited over fifteen books in English and Russian, among them the internationally acclaimed memoirs Leaving Russia: A Jewish Story and Waiting for America: A Story of Emigration, the double biography Bunin and Nabokov: A History of Rivalry, the Holocaust study “I SAW IT,” and the travelogue With or without You. Shrayer edited and co-translated four books of fiction by his father, the Jewish-Russian writer David Shrayer-Petrov. Maxim D. Shrayer won a 2007 National Jewish Book Award, and in 2012 he received a Guggenheim Fellowship. Shrayer’s Voices of Jewish-Russian Literature was published in 2018. His most recent book is A Russian Immigrant: Three Novellas. Shrayer's Of Politics and Pandemics: Songs of a Russian Immigrant is forthcoming.


Luba Jurgenson (Université Paris-Sorbonne)
Moderator: Maxim D. Shrayer (Boston College; Davis Center)

Genesis Philanthropy GroupCosponsored by the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies and the Center for Jewish Studies at Harvard University. The Project on Russian and Eurasian Jewry has been made possible with the generous support of Genesis Philanthropy Group.

For more information, please call 617-495-4037.