The Jewish Archival Survey: Tracing Jewish Records in the Former Soviet Archives

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<ul><li><p>This article was downloaded by: [Memorial University of Newfoundland]On: 06 October 2014, At: 21:26Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office: Mortimer House,37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK</p><p>Slavic &amp; East European Information ResourcesPublication details, including instructions for authors and subscription information:</p><p>The Jewish Archival Survey: Tracing Jewish Records inthe Former Soviet ArchivesMarek Web aa YIVOPublished online: 12 Oct 2008.</p><p>To cite this article: Marek Web (2003) The Jewish Archival Survey: Tracing Jewish Records in the Former Soviet Archives,Slavic &amp; East European Information Resources, 4:2-3, 5-15, DOI: 10.1300/J167v04n02_02</p><p>To link to this article:</p><p>PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLE</p><p>Taylor &amp; Francis makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of all the information (the Content) containedin the publications on our platform. However, Taylor &amp; Francis, our agents, and our licensors make norepresentations or warranties whatsoever as to the accuracy, completeness, or suitability for any purpose of theContent. Any opinions and views expressed in this publication are the opinions and views of the authors, andare not the views of or endorsed by Taylor &amp; Francis. The accuracy of the Content should not be relied upon andshould be independently verified with primary sources of information. Taylor and Francis shall not be liable forany losses, actions, claims, proceedings, demands, costs, expenses, damages, and other liabilities whatsoeveror howsoever caused arising directly or indirectly in connection with, in relation to or arising out of the use ofthe Content.</p><p>This article may be used for research, teaching, and private study purposes. Any substantial or systematicreproduction, redistribution, reselling, loan, sub-licensing, systematic supply, or distribution in anyform to anyone is expressly forbidden. Terms &amp; Conditions of access and use can be found at</p><p></p></li><li><p>The Jewish Archival Survey:Tracing Jewish Records</p><p>in the Former Soviet Archives</p><p>Marek Web</p><p>SUMMARY. As the rigors of the Soviet-era prohibitions in the post-So-viet archives were eased in the early 1990s, students of Russian-Jewish his-tory in the former Soviet Union, as well as from abroad, have been using thisopportunity to search for records of the Russian-Jewish past. The Jewish Ar-chival Survey, a joint program of the Jewish Theological Seminary ofAmerica, the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, and the Russian StateUniversity for the Humanities has been among the earliest initiatives in thisfield. [Article copies available for a fee from The Haworth Document DeliveryService: 1-800-HAWORTH. E-mail address: Website: 2003 by The Haworth Press, Inc. Allrights reserved.]</p><p>Marek Web, former Head Archivist at YIVO, has been coordinating the work of theJewish Archival Survey since its inception in 1992. Mr. Web has published books onJewish archives, and articles on the history of Polish Jewry. His most recent works areJewish Documentary Sources in the Moscow Archives, co-edited with M. Kupovetskiiand E. Starostin (1997), and Poyln: Jewish Life in the Old Country, an album of photo-graphs by Alter Kacyzne (1999).</p><p>Address correspondence: Marek Web, YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, 15West 16th Street, New York, NY 10011 USA (E-mail:</p><p>[Haworth co-indexing entry note]: The Jewish Archival Survey: Tracing Jewish Records in the For-mer Soviet Archives. Web, Marek. Co-published simultaneously in Slavic &amp; East European InformationResources (The Haworth Information Press, an imprint of The Haworth Press, Inc.) Vol. 4, No. 2/3, 2003,pp. 5-15; and: Judaica in the Slavic Realm, Slavica in the Judaic Realm: Repositories, Collections, Projects,Publications (ed: Zachary M. Baker) The Haworth Information Press, an imprint of The Haworth Press, Inc.,2003, pp. 5-15. Single or multiple copies of this article are available for a fee from The Haworth Document Deliv-ery Service [1-800-HAWORTH, 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. (EST). E-mail address:].</p><p> 2003 by The Haworth Press, Inc. All rights reserved.</p><p>10.1300/J167v04n02_02 5</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Mem</p><p>oria</p><p>l Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity o</p><p>f N</p><p>ewfo</p><p>undl</p><p>and]</p><p> at 2</p><p>1:26</p><p> 06 </p><p>Oct</p><p>ober</p><p> 201</p><p>4 </p></li><li><p>KEYWORDS. Archival surveys, Jewish archivesBelarus, Jewish ar-chivesMoscow, Jewish Theological Seminary of America (New York),Russian State University for the Humanities (Moscow), YIVO Institutefor Jewish Research (New York), Russia</p><p>In the late 1980s Jews in the Soviet republics regained the right to promoteJewish learning. The subsequent opening of the former Soviet archives in the1990s made possible once again the study of Jewish primary sources.</p><p>As the restrictions on previously classified archival materials were aban-doned, interest in identifying, describing, and publishing archival records inJewish history and culture grew stronger. In fact, some Jewish initiatives pre-ceded by several years the grand opening of the post-Soviet archives. Inthe 1980s newly founded Jewish historical societies were planning a varietyof programs in Jewish studies; projects to survey and catalog Jewish recordsoccupied a prominent place among them. It is interesting to note here that inthe specific conditions of the 1980s this work acquired a strong ideologicalflavor, being an expression of the drive to reclaim Jewish national past inRussia. Students of Russian-Jewish history turned their attention to the ac-complishments of the pre-1917 Jewish cultural organizations such as the Soci-ety for the Promotion of Enlightenment Among Jews in Russia (known by itsHebrew name as the Hevrah Mefitse Haskalah and by its Russian name asObshchestvo rasprostraneniia prosveshcheniia sredi evreevOPE), the OPEHistorical Commission, the St. Petersburg Jewish Historical and EthnographicSociety, and the Ansky expedition, and they embraced this period as thegolden age of Russian-Jewish scholarship and as a point of departure for newendeavors.</p><p>In the absence of an established Jewish academic community, grass-rootgroups of young researchers, professionals and amateurs, sprang up in variousplaces throughout the former Soviet Union and began breaking the barriers ofSoviet-era prohibitions that had prevented access to archives. In many placeswhere no such groups existed, individual enthusiasts took it upon themselvesto explore local archives and libraries for Jewish records. Accessing Jewish ar-chival collections became a high priority on every local Jewish associationsagenda. To be sure, many of these early initiatives soon waned due to a varietyof factors. For instance, the Jewish Historical Society in Moscow, which hadpioneered the movement to collect historical materials and had conducted firstsurveys in the Moscow archives, ceased to exist when its most active membersemigrated to Israel.1 On the other hand, the archival program of the St. Peters-burg Jewish University, which started out in the 1980s, had a much longer lifealthough its work was not always carried out with the same intensity.</p><p>6 JUDAICA IN THE SLAVIC REALM, SLAVICA IN THE JUDAIC REALM</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Mem</p><p>oria</p><p>l Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity o</p><p>f N</p><p>ewfo</p><p>undl</p><p>and]</p><p> at 2</p><p>1:26</p><p> 06 </p><p>Oct</p><p>ober</p><p> 201</p><p>4 </p></li><li><p>A defining event for the burgeoning Jewish scholarship in Russia andother former Soviet republics was the research conference Jews in Russia,organized by the St. Petersburg Jewish University in July 1992. The confer-ence was held in remembrance of the 100th anniversary of the publication ofSimon Dubnows historic manifesto On the Study of the History of RussianJews and the Establishment of a Russian-Jewish Historical Society,2 and, ona larger plane, in honor of the school of Russian-Jewish history which Dubnowrepresented. The conference emphasized the continuity of Russian-Jewishscholarship, despite the gap of 70 years during the Soviet era. In substance, theconference featured papers devoted to Russian-Jewish archives and historiog-raphy. Characteristically, the authors of these papers had utilized, on a trulylarge scale, new archival sources that not so long ago had been kept under lockand key.3</p><p>Perhaps most significant among the results of this early period in the re-vival of Jewish historical and archival studies in Russia were the efforts totrack down and report on the whereabouts of major Russian-Jewish archivesand libraries. The fate of the heretofore unavailable Jewish collections at theVernadsky Library and the Central State Historical Archives in Kiev, the Le-nin Library in Moscow, the Saltykov-Shchedrin Library in St. Petersburg, theSoviet-era October Revolution Archives4 and the Central Party Archives inMoscow,5 to name but a few repositories, were revealed in a variety of pub-lished papers and research conferences. In the course of these early discover-ies, a grim picture of destruction and fragmentation of collections unfolded.</p><p>The repositories that are today the designated custodians of Jewish histori-cal records acquired these materials in several ways. In some cases the materi-als were deposited in the Russian imperial archives that were transformed intoSoviet institutions following the October Revolution. Other collections be-longed to Jewish learned societies until the Soviet authorities appropriated anddispersed them among state archives and libraries. Still other collections wereformed in the 1920s and 1930s by the Soviet-Jewish scholarly institutions, andwere transferred to a state archives when these institutions had been liquidatedin recurring political purges. Many Jewish collections originated in the territo-ries that were annexed by the Soviet Union after World War II.</p><p>The records of the Russian imperial government and those of the Sovietregime constitute an even larger source of historical documentation aboutRussian Jewry. As the rulers of the empire continued to impose restrictivemeasures on Jews throughout much of the Russian-Jewish history, so too, vastquantities of administrative records continued to accumulate that reflected therelations between the Tsarist government and the Jews. Similarly, during theSoviet period (especially during the early decades), special departments of thegovernment as well as sections of the Communist Party were established to</p><p>Marek Web 7</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Mem</p><p>oria</p><p>l Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity o</p><p>f N</p><p>ewfo</p><p>undl</p><p>and]</p><p> at 2</p><p>1:26</p><p> 06 </p><p>Oct</p><p>ober</p><p> 201</p><p>4 </p></li><li><p>oversee economic, cultural and ideological activities within the Jewish com-munity. This in turn resulted in yet another large accumulation of records thatilluminate the situation of the Jews in the Soviet state.</p><p>During the Soviet period there was a constant migration of Jewish manu-scripts, archival records, and collections from one archive to another. Thenever-ending turmoil wrought by the revolution and the two world wars, theshifting of the capital from St. Petersburg to Moscow, the appropriation of ar-chives belonging to banned organizations and political parties, the confisca-tion of personal papers, the influx of archives seized by military forces in theSecond World Warall of these events subjected archives to constant struc-tural changes, breakups, relocations, and evacuations.</p><p>Furthermore, the Communist Party influenced the work of the archives byimposing political decisions on the way archival records were to be handled,and this again led to the moving around of documents and collections. Mate-rials perceived as superfluous or dangerous were separated. In the bestcase, they were made inaccessible, in the worstdestroyed. The records trans-ferred to the Communist Party archives were rearranged there, and artificialcollections were carved out without much regard for their provenance.</p><p>During the final years of Stalinist rule, when the last vestiges of Jewishcommunal life in the Soviet Union were being obliterated, some Jewish collec-tions were destroyed, while others were locked away or hidden. Mostly, theyfell into disuse and were totally neglected. For decades, researchers had to relyon secondary sources since Jewish documents were virtually closed to them.</p><p>From 1989, articles began to appear in Jewish periodicals in Russia andin the West, reporting on the historical fate of Jewish collections and ontheir current condition. One notable result of these efforts was the bookDokumentalnye materialy po istorii evreev v arkhivakh SNG i stran Baltii(Documentary Sources on Jewish History in the Archives of the CIS and theBaltic States), compiled by Dmitrii A. Eliashevich (St. Petersburg, 1994). Thismodest publication contains a listing of 938 Jewish collections, which are lo-cated in 92 government and state repositories in 61 cities of the former USSR.And while the entries in this listing disclose only the most basic information(collection location, repository name, collection title, local number, collectionsize and inclusive dates), its importance lies in the fact that the publication wasthe first effort at compiling a guide to archival and documentary sources relat-ing to Jewish history in the FSU. In the introduction, Eliashevich divides theJewish-related collections into three categories: collections of Jewish prove-nance, records of state institutions and organizations appointed to work in theJewish sector, and general records which among other things contain materialsof Jewish interest. The book listed collections belonging mainly to the first twogroups.</p><p>8 JUDAICA IN THE SLAVIC REALM, SLAVICA IN THE JUDAIC REALM</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Mem</p><p>oria</p><p>l Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity o</p><p>f N</p><p>ewfo</p><p>undl</p><p>and]</p><p> at 2</p><p>1:26</p><p> 06 </p><p>Oct</p><p>ober</p><p> 201</p><p>4 </p></li><li><p>Almost from the beginning of this renewed search for Jewish records in thepost-Soviet archives, the entire field became internationalized. Interest in Rus-sian and Soviet Jewish history, combined with the desire to gain access to themass of documents which are critical for its study, made institutions of Jewishlearning in the West eager to join in the exploration of the former Soviet ar-chives. This group included a consortium of Israeli institutions headed by theCentral Archives for the History of the Jewish People, Yad Vashem Archives,the Central Zionist Archives, and the Jewish National and University Library.In the United States, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, the YIVO Insti-tute for Jewish Research, and the Jewish Theological Seminary of Americawere among the earliest participants in this quest.</p><p>In 1991 the New-York based JTSA6 and YIVO7 joined forces with theMoscow State Historical Archival Institutereconstituted in 1991 as theRussian State University for the Humanities (Rossiiskii gosudarstvennyigumanitarny...</p></li></ul>