The Moscow State Yiddish Theater: Jewish Culture on the Soviet Stage

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Indiana University Press, 2000 - History - 356 pages
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This is the first book in English to trace the fascinating and tragic history of the Moscow State Yiddish Theater, founded in 1919 and liquidated by the Soviet government in 1949. Since the conventional view of the fate of Jews in Soviet Russia is that from the beginning, the Soviet state pursued policies aimed at stamping out Jewish culture, it is surprising to learn that from the 1920s through World War II, secular Yiddish culture was actively promoted and Yiddish cultural institutions thrived, supported by the Soviet government, albeit for its own propaganda purposes. Drawing from newly available archives, Jeffrey Veidlinger uses the dramatic story of the Moscow State Yiddish Theater, the premiere secular Jewish cultural institution of the Soviet era, to demonstrate how Jewish writers and artists were able to promote Jewish national culture within the confines of Soviet nationality policies. He shows how a stellar group of artists, writers, choreographers, directors, and actors led by Solomon Michaels brought to life shtetl fables, biblical heroes, Israelite lore, exilic laments, and dilemmas of contemporary life under the guise of conventional socialist realism before the theater and many of its principal figures fell victim to Stalinist antisemitism and xenophobia after World War II. Enriched by rare photographs of the theater's artists and performances, The Moscow State Yiddish Theater brings to life a complex period in the history and culture of Soviet Jewry.

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