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To be Jewish in SOVIET SIBERIA: the Forms of JEWISH NATIONAL LIFE in Western Siberia in 1940-80-s

Sun, December 16, 10:00 to 11:30am, Seaport Hotel & World Trade Center, Waterfront 3 Ballroom


The paper will present the analysis of forms of Jewish national life in Western Siberia (Tyumen, Tomsk, Omsk, Novosibirsk, Kemerovo). Siberia is not considered by researchers as a place of traditional Jewish presence. The peculiarity of the Jewish communities in Siberia was their extreme geographical and social mobility; the Jewish population of Siberia was formed due to the continuous influx of migrants. If in the 19 century the main groups were exiles, soldiers and traders, then in the 20th century they were joined by refugees of two world wars, evacuees, and victims of deportations, as well as builders of new industrial facilities and searchers of new economic prospects. The extraordinary socio-cultural diversity of Siberian Jewry leveled out many internal contradictions that meant their differences in religious, political and social views were less relevant. This, together with the special tradition of interethnic and interconfessional interactions, a lower level of anti-Jewish sentiment, significantly smoothed out the problem of anti-Semitism, so acute in the western part of the country. The global project of creating a "Soviet man" began with the goal of destroying religion and national identities in Siberia like in other parts of the USSR. The key question of the research is how and in what forms did the Jews preserve their national identity in the region. The proposed presentation will deal with legal and illegal, private and public forms of national Jewish life in Western Siberia in the 1940s-1980s. Archival materials, in-depth interviews with Jews living in the Western Siberian region, as well as the interviews with Jews who left for Israel (their interviews are recorded under the project "הנצחת התנועה היהודית בברית המועצות" available through the website of National Library of Israel) will be used as a source base. Synthesis of methodological approaches to the study of everyday practices and oral history will provide an analysis of the following issues:
• Legal and clandestine religious communities;
• Family practices as a form of preserving national life;
• Forms of national communication and Jewish activism
• Peculiarities of the attitudes to Jews in Soviet Siberia.


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