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14 October 2002, Almaty

  On October 14 a virtual seminar on the subject "Russian-Jewish Literature of the Late XIX - Early XX centuries" was held. Besides us, teachers of the Jewish Tradition of Rimon JCC and Hesed Polina and employees of the Jewish Republican Library, the list of participants also included representatives of Moscow, St.-Petersburg, and Riga. Thanks to the video camera of Almaty Hesed we got a chance not only to hear, but also to take part in the discussion: to ask questions, express our opinion, argue and agree.

  Dr. Nelli Portnova's lecture made us forget about time and tiredness. She told us about prerequisites for appearance of the Jewish literature in Russian and about works of prominent Jewish writers: Lev Osipovich Levanda and Badanis Gershon. Their creative activity began with articles, sketches, and feuilletons published in various Russian newspapers and magazines. They fought for improvement of the civil position of Jews in the society, equal rights, and their complete fusion with the Russians except for Judaism. Impracticability of their demands revealed in pogroms of 80's in Ukraine and Moldova. Later on other Jewish writers, such as Vladimir Zhabotinsky, also gave up their ideas of assimilationism and became heads of the Zionistic movement.

  It was interesting to find out about such an official position as "learned Jew" instituted by the governer of Vilno. Lev Levanda held that post. He had to inform the governer's office about current Jewish events. It is an evidence of a relative autonomy of the Jewish community of that period of time. By the way, besides his publicistic works, Levanda also wrote a book "Hot Times. A Novel of the Last Polish Rebel lion". Dr. Nelli Portnova pointed out the main problems of Jews in the late XIX century that served as a source for their first books in Russian. But that lecture was only the first one in the series devoted to the formation and development of the Jewish literature in Russian. We look forward to the continuation of the lecture and hope that one day all Kazakhstani communities will have a chance to take part in such seminars.

Eugenia Karyakina
Irina Kopylenko

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