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date: 06 December 2023

Postwar Soviet Yiddish Literaturelocked

Postwar Soviet Yiddish Literaturelocked

  • Gennady EstraikhGennady EstraikhNew York University


By 1945, Soviet Yiddish literary circles grouped around the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee (JAFC) and the Yiddish sections at the Writers Union. In the 1940s, the poets, prose writers, and literary critics had several publishing outlets, most notably the Moscow newspaper Eynikayt (Unity, 1942–1948), two literary periodicals—Heymland (Homeland, 1947–1948) in Moscow and Shtern (Star, 1947–1948) in Kyiv—and the Moscow publishing house Der Emes (Truth, 1928–1948). Four Yiddish state theatres and other professional and amateur troupes performed works by Soviet and other authors. These all came to an end in 1948–1950, when the Soviet authorities liquidated the entire infrastructure of Yiddish cultural, including literary, life. Scores of Yiddish literati were incarcerated on spurious sedition charges as part of repressions in the last years of Joseph Stalin’s rule. On August 12, 1952, five leading writers—David Bergelson, Itsik Fefer, David Hofshteyn, Leyb Kvitko, and Peretz Markish—were among the executed figures of the JAFC. Following Stalin’s death in 1953, the surviving writers could return to “normality,” but Yiddish publishing was renewed as late as 1959. The Moscow journal Sovetish Heymland (Soviet Homeland), launched in 1961, became the center for Yiddish literary activity during the last three decades of the Soviet era. In the heyday of the Cold War, the journal, a forum for a broad variety of publications, was nevertheless better known as an instrument of Soviet propaganda than as a Yiddish literary periodical. Its editor, Aron Vergelis, whose anti-Zionist writings had eclipsed his poetry, acted as a globe-trotting champion of Soviet policies. Meanwhile, the journal, staffed by writers and editors of the older generation, trained a group of authors born after the Nazi Holocaust.


  • Slavic and Eastern European Literatures

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