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Yohanan Petrovsky-Shtern interview, "Jews in the Russian Army, 1827-1917"
New Books Network
  • Marshall Poe, University of Iowa
  • Yohanan Petrovsky-Shtern
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Every Jew knows the story. The evil tsarist authorities ride into the Shtetl. They demand a levy of young men for the army. Mothers' weep. Fathers' sigh. The community mourns the loss of its young. It's a good story, and some of it's even true. The reality, of course, was much more complex as we learn in Yohanan Petrovsky-Shtern's excellent Jews in the Russian Army, 1827-1917 (Cambridge UP, 2008). The drafting of Jews into the Russian army was not really an act of oppression, but, as Petrovsky-Shtern argues, integration. By calling up Jews, the government was de facto recognizing them as full-fledged subject of the empire, the equals of other imperial minorities and even Russians themselves. Of course they were subject to discrimination. But they were not simply victims: the Jewish soldiers changed the culture of the army just as the army changed what it meant to be Jewish within the empire. As Petrovsky-Shtern points out, all this was part and parcel of the process of making both entities--the Jews and empire--modern. So, did your bubbe tell you the story about the wicked Russians press-ganging your poor great grandfather Moishe and then forcibly converted him to Christianity? Read this book and find out what really happened.
  • 19th Century,
  • 20th Century,
  • Anti-Semitism,
  • Christianity,
  • Communism,
  • Eastern Europe,
  • Ideology,
  • Jews,
  • Liberalism,
  • National Identity,
  • Nationalism,
  • Russia,
  • Soviet Union,
  • Ukraine,
  • War
Copyright © 2009 New Books In History
Citation Information
Marshall Poe and Yohanan Petrovsky-Shtern. "Yohanan Petrovsky-Shtern interview, "Jews in the Russian Army, 1827-1917"" New Books Network (2009)
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