Page 50 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 40

Basic HTML Version

Jewish Samizdat
S am i z d a t , R u s s ian
fo r “ self-pub lished ,” re fers to literature p ro ­
duced and circulated in the U SSR without official perm ission .
Preparation is both difficult and hazardous . Laboriously p ro ­
duced as typescr ip ts, pho to-o ffse ts , occasionally as x e roxe s ,
sam izdat works circulate in extremely limited copies; participan ts
risk official harassm ent and arrest. In the past two decades sam iz­
dat fiction such as Pasternak ’s Dr. Zhivago, Solzhenitsyn’s The First
Circle and The Archipelago Gulag and nonfiction such as essays by
Andrei Sakharov and Roy Medvedev have attracted great atten ­
tion in the West. A less fam iliar aspect, deserv ing grea ter interest,
is the development o f Jew ish sam izd at .1
Jew ish sam izdat consists o f those works published primarily fo r
Jew ish readers and includes a wide variety o f material: Russian
translations o f unavailable Western books; reproduc t ion s o f
pre-Soviet editions ou t o f circulation, documentary material, and
original belles-lettres. Most often written and p rep a red by Jew s ,
Jew ish sam izdat is in the Russian langu age since that has become
the Soviet Jew s ’ mo ther tongue.
Although most Jew ish subjects became officially taboo in the
mid-twenties, Jew ish sam izdat did not develop until a fter Stalin ’s
death . In the Stalin ist period illegal activity was simply too
dangerou s. Only du r ing World War II and immediately a f te r ­
ward, when Soviet authorities re laxed general censorsh ip and
persecution o f Jew ish culture did a few works on the Holocaust
a p p e a r in Jew ish circles. Most no tab le were p oem s by the
acclaimed Soviet poetess Margarita A liger .2
In the postwar period even this minimal activity ceased as
Soviet Jew ry p assed through its “black years” — the cam pa ign
1 A more detailed presentation o f Jewish samizdat will appear in my essay in the
collection SovietJewry, Struggle and Dilemmas, vol. 1: The SovietJewish Awakening,
ed. Yaacov Ro’i (forthcoming).
2 See: Yeshayahu Averbuch, “Jewish Samizdat at the End o f the Forties: Frag­
ments from M. Aliger’s Poem ‘Your Victory,’” in Ro’i, op. cit.