Page 14 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 24

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6
J
e w i s h
B
o o k
A
n n u a l
Stalin’s death effected considerable changes in the political
climate of the USSR. T h e Russian Jews as a national m inority
benefited little from the thaw tha t followed the change in the
top Soviet leadership. T o be sure, physical persecution had been
arrested and some of the Jewish writers, victims of Stalin’s terror,
were rehabilitated. However, the authorities were clearly no t in
a mood to encourage a revival of Jewish life in general, or of
Jewish literature in particular. W ith respect to the Jews, the
campaign of de-Stalinization was somehow soft-pedaled and
plainly understated by the Party bosses. In his dramatic speech
at a secret session of the 20th Congress of the Communist
Party (1956), Krushchev made no mention of the m urder of
Jewish intellectuals and writers, and this omission was a grave
indication of the future Soviet a ttitude toward all things Jewish.
In September 1957 it was reported in a memorandum subm itted
to the Central Committee of the Communist Party by the
Union of Soviet Writers tha t although no Yiddish books had
been published in the USSR for many years, a large Yiddish
literature existed in manuscript, and tha t there were more than
seventy Yiddish writers whose works could no t be published.
When, in the course of his visit to the Un ited States, Anastas
Mikoyan, the then First Deputy Premier of the Soviet Union,
was asked about this peculiar situation, he replied tha t “in
my country all people enjoy freedom for the development of
their culture. They can have their theaters and their literature ,
and tha t includes the Jews. However, the Jewish popu lation
has merged with Russians in Russian culture so fully th a t
Jews participate in general culture and literature on the Russian
stage and in Russian literature. T he re are many Jewish writers
who consider themselves Russians and prefer to write in Russian.
We cannot interfere in tha t m atter . .
Yet, Haym Sloves, a
staunch Communist Yiddish writer from France, re tu rned after
a visit to the USSR profoundly disturbed by the official Com­
munist explanation. W riting in the fellow-traveling
Yiddish
Ku ltur,
Sloves was quite explicit: “ . . . the weakness of the
official Soviet integration theory consists essentially in the simple
fact tha t it does no t correspond and in fact is in complete
opposition to the reality of the situation as it was in the past
and as it is in the present . .
According to Sloves, Soviet
Yiddish writers emphasized tha t there was a great demand for
Yiddish literature and a market for it at least equal to tha t
for books issued by o ther national m inorities
.” 2
Unfortunately, however, Soviet authorities d id no t help to
promote Yiddish books as they did the lite ra tu re of many other
a
Yiddish Kultur,
New York, #2, 1959; also on Sloves, see
American Jewish
Year Book
#61, 1960.