THE JEWS OF THE SOVIET UNION: The History of a National Minority by Benjamin Pinkus

THE JEWS OF THE SOVIET UNION: The History of a National Minority

Email this review


A history of the Jewish people in the Soviet Union based upon firsthand documentary evidence; by Pinkus (History/Ben Gurion Univ. of the Negev), author of The Soviet Government and the Jews, 1948-1967 (1984). Pinkus has done a first-class job of accessing obscure and rare sources here. By piecing together details gleaned from the Smolensk archives, from private files of individuals and institutions active in the USSR in the 1920's and 1930's, and from the Soviet periodical and daily press, documents, surveys, and memoirs, the author has given as accurate a picture as we are likely to see of Soviet Jewish history. That history Pinkus periodizes (after breaking down pre-Soviet Jewish history into three phases--ancient, up to the first Polish partition in 1772; early modern, up to the 1881 pogroms; and into the modern era, up until the October Revolution) into three eras: construction, from the revolution to the outbreak of WW II; destruction, up until the death of Stalin; and post-Stalin history. Pinkus discounts both Dubnov's belief in the indissoluble link between the Jews of Russia and Poland, and Dinur's dogma that the history of Russian Jews began in 1772. In his account, the fate of the Jews in Soviet Russia was solidified by the official Soviet theory of nationalities ""which settled their political-juridical status. . .as one of the extra-territorial nationalities."" But in the end it seems that the fate of the Soviet Jews is more in the hands of outside sources, particularly the backing they receive from world Jewry and Israel, and the extent to which Western powers are willing to go out on a limb to help. Pinkus' scope does not include any substantial part of the Gorbachev reign, so his verdict for the future is out, but there is a pessimistic hue to his writing (""Will the new Soviet authorities adopt the famous formula. . .about the Jews: one-third will assimilate, one-third will die. . .and a third will be banished. . .or will there be. . .[years] without Stalinist terror, without large-scale emigration, and without full equality of rights?""). Diligent research, informed interpretation: an important addition to Judaic and Soviet studies.

Pub Date: Aug. 15th, 1988
ISBN: 0521389267
Publisher: Cambridge Univ. Press