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The Anti-Imperial Choice

The Anti-Imperial Choice: The Making of the Ukrainian Jew

Yohanan Petrovsky-Shtern
Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 384
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  • Book Info
    The Anti-Imperial Choice
    Book Description:

    This book is the first to explore the Jewish contribution to, and integration with, Ukrainian culture. Yohanan Petrovsky-Shtern focuses on five writers and poets of Jewish descent whose literary activities span the 1880s to the 1990s. Unlike their East European contemporaries who disparaged the culture of Ukraine as second-rate, stateless, and colonial, these individuals embraced the Russian- and Soviet-dominated Ukrainian community, incorporating their Jewish concerns in their Ukrainian-language writings.

    The author argues that the marginality of these literati as Jews fuelled their sympathy toward Ukrainians and their national cause. Providing extensive historical background, biographical detail, and analysis of each writer's poetry and prose, Petrovsky-Shtern shows how a Ukrainian-Jewish literary tradition emerged. Along the way, he challenges assumptions about modern Jewish acculturation and Ukrainian-Jewish relations.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-15607-2
    Subjects: History, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Politics of Names and Places: A Note on Transliteration
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-23)

    This book advances an alternative vision of the Jewish encounter with modernity. We were told that nineteenth-century Jews became modern by leaving their ethnic quarters and integrating either into majority national cultures or into the imperial Ottoman, Habsburg, or Russian cultures. This book, however, focuses on Jews who broke the established pattern of modernization and refused to acculturate into the imperial societies. It contextualizes Jews who were sensitive toward the repressed nationhood of Ukrainians and whose very marginality fueled their sympathy for the fledging Ukrainian cause. Jews who were sympathetic to, and sought acculturation into, the colonial are the principal...

  7. CHAPTER 1 A Prayer for Ukraine: The Improbable Identity of Hryts’ko Kernerenko
    (pp. 24-61)

    The East European intelligentsia was indifferent to Ukrainian cultural endeavors at the time the descendant of an affluent Jewish family, Grigorii Kerner, made up his mind to identify with the Ukrainian national strivings, dedicate himself to Ukrainian poetry, and adopt the pen name Hryts’ko Kernerenko. His actions seem to make no sense. In the late 1850s and early 1860s, Ukrainian books and primers appeared in print for the first time in the modern era, Taras Shevchenko was allowed back into the capital, and a couple of Ukrainian periodicals, such asOsnova(1861–62) andChernyhovs’kyi lystok(1861–63), were authorized,...

  8. CHAPTER 2 Between Two Fires: The National-Communist Utopia of Ivan Kulyk
    (pp. 62-110)

    A devoted communist and a Jew in love with Ukraine, Ivan Kulyk epitomizes a dilemma that might be best illuminated with a parable. In 1919, Volodymyr Vynnychenko, a writer, playwright, and one of the leaders of the Ukrainian People’s Republic, wrote a play,Mizh dvokh syl(Between Two Powers), a story of Sofia, a young woman from a provincial town torn between socialism and nationalism and embodying the Ukrainian political dilemma of the early twentieth century. Although Sofia-Ukraine cleaves to her family’s Ukrainian values, she sympathizes with the Bolsheviks and the lower classes’ fight against social injustice. Among the local...

  9. CHAPTER 3 Writing the Body: The Passion and Freedom of Raisa Troianker
    (pp. 111-164)

    “Raia was a virtuoso of libertinage. Her eroticism was phenomenal: her physical desire seemed to be oozing out of her small being. In her presence one could experience a physically perceptible emanation. The air around her was saturated with the fluorescence of her body. Once you came closer to her, crossing this boundary, it seemed as if you found yourself amidst the currencies that made your head go round, your heart beat fiercely, and your breath gasp with a sole desire—a desire for the body of that small, miniature libertine.” This passage from Iurii Smolych’sIntymna spovid’ (An Intimate...

  10. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  11. CHAPTER 4 Being for the Victims: Leonid Pervomais’kyi’s Ethical Responses to Violence
    (pp. 165-227)

    A celebrity among Ukrainian writers and highly ranked in the national pantheon, Leonid Pervomais’kyi defies classification. His critics repeatedly emphasized his unique capacity to change and grow. A Soviet Ukrainian romantic of socialist convictions and proletarian orientation in his early work, he had turned to classic poetry—which one of his Western critics dubbed “hermetic” and a Ukrainian one “ontological”—by the end of his career.¹

    Two idiosyncratic features constantly informed Pervomais’kyi’s work. First, his writings always challenged imposed ideological patterns and transcended the historical limits of representation. He portrayed Jewish integration into the Ukrainian peasant milieu, at a time...

  12. CHAPTER 5 A Messiah from Czernowitz: The Language and Faith of Moisei Fishbein
    (pp. 228-274)

    "Ukraine is God-given and God-chosen. And it will survive, for God wants it to survive. I do not know why I, a Jew, was given this knowledge. But I know.”¹ This aphoristic and ambitious statement belongs to Moisei Fishbein, who views himself as a biblical prophet sent to Ukraine on a mission. Moisei—or Moses—Fishbein occupies a unique place in Ukrainian belles lettres. A Ukrainian poet, he insists on his Ukrainian identity, yet he lights candles on Hanukah; congratulates friends on Passover; says mourningyizkorin remembrance of his deceased parents; and introduces Jewish imagery into his Ukrainian verse,...

  13. Epilogue
    (pp. 275-280)

    In the 1999s, Ukrainian intellectuals made an effort to recover the roots of the Ukrainian anticolonialist tradition, turning to authors whose work has been suppressed or stripped of its message. As part of this process, critics began reinserting Ukrainian-Jewish figures into the Ukrainian cultural context—not only to demonstrate the tolerance of the new society and the openness of its culture but also to signal the rejection of the imperial/colonialist model. Kernerenko, a Ukrainian journalist argued, returned as a legitimate “son of Ukraine.” Troianker reemerged as a harbinger of poetic feminism, futurism, and eroticism. The posthumous publication of several previously...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 281-322)
  15. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 323-336)
  16. Index
    (pp. 337-344)