The two defining moments of the last century were, arguably, the Holocaust and the Russian Revolution. The tragic role of Jews in the former is self-evident; their prominent – if also profoundly paradoxical – role in the latter is the subject of our path-breaking YIVO conference. The Russian Revolution liberated the largest Jewish community in the world. It also opened the floodgates for the greatest massacre of Jews before the Second World War amid the civil war and its aftermath in 1918-21. Once the Bolshevik rule was then consolidated, Jews entered into nearly every sphere of Russian life while, in time, much of the singular richness of Jewish cultural life in Russia was flattened, eventually obliterated.
YIVO presents a two-day conference on Jews in and after the 1917 Russian Revolution. Professor Steven J. Zipperstein of Stanford is the lead academic advisor. The first day of the conference opens with a keynote address from Professor Samuel Kassow, setting the social, economic, political, and cultural stage for the world in which the 1917 Revolution occurred. Panels that morning discuss this context further and explore the various immediate reactions to the Revolution during 1917. Panels that afternoon explore Jewish revolutionary leaders Esther Frumkin, Leon Trotsky, and Rafael Abramovitch, as well as the Jewish community through the eyes of Russian writers Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Maxim Gorky, and Mikhail Bulgakov. The evening features revolutionary speeches recited by The Jewish Daily Forward’s editor-in-chief, Jane Eisner.
The second day of the conference opens with a keynote address from Professor Elissa Bemporad discussing in broad strokes the world that emerged from the 1917 Revolution. Panels that morning discuss Jewish life in the Soviet Union, including Jewish involvement in the secret police, residual underground Jewish orthodoxy during the Soviet Union, and Jewish culture in the Soviet Union through talks on Literature, Music, and Visual Arts. A panel in the afternoon discusses the Revolution abroad through the lens of Jewish communism, Jews in espionage, Yiddish literature, and the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research’s own relationship to the Soviet Union. A final keynote address from Professor Steven Zipperstein speaks on the lasting impact of the 1917 Revolution and some of the ways that it has shaped the Jewish world politically and culturally over the last hundred years. The conference then closes with a discussion panel on Jews in revolution. Led by Professor Zipperstein, the panel will include Mitchell Cohen, Victor Navasky, and Deborah Lipstadt.