Mikhail Slonimski

Mikhail Slonimski

Mikhail Slonimski was born in Russia in 1897. He began writing short stories in the early 1920s and show the strong influence of Yevgeni Zamyatin.

In 1922 helped form the literary group, the Serapion Brothers. Inspired by the work of Yevgeni Zamyatin, the group took their name from the story by Ernst T. Hoffmann, the Serapion Brothers, about an individualist who vows to devote himself to a free, imaginative and non-conformist art. Other members included Nickolai Tikhonov, Mikhail Zoshchenko, Victor Shklovsky, Vsevolod Ivanov and Konstantin Fedin. Russia's most important writer of the period, Maxim Gorky, also sympathized with the group's views.

Slonimski's story, Emery's Machine, about the future of Communism, was published in 1923. This was followed by the novel, The Lavrovs (1926), about the problems that intellectuals were having in finding a place in Soviet society.

Other novels by Slonimski include Sredni Prospect (1928), about the New Economic Policy and Foma Kleshnyov (1931).

After the Second World War Slonimski wrote First Years (1949), a revision of The Lavrovs. He attempted to correct the ideological errors of the work by placing the emphasis on the February Revolution to the October Revolution.

Mikhail Slonimski died on 8th October, 1972.


The history of the Serapion Brotherhood begins in 1919, when the House of Arts was opened in Petrograd under the aegis of Maxim Gorky . In the literary studio of the new facility, young authors were given the opportunity to meet for readings and discussions and to attend seminars by experienced writers and poets such as Yevgeny Zamyatin and Nikolai Gumiljow . During the period marked by revolution, civil war and political pressure on artists, this house was one of the centers of free intellectual life in Petrograd. In this environment the circle of young writers slowly formed who called themselves “The Serapion Brothers” with a name borrowed from the German romantic ETA Hoffmann. The group was officially formed in 1921, and on February first of that year the brothers met for the first time. The Serapion brothers were Lew Lunz , Nikolai Nikitin , Mikhail Slonimski , Ilja Gruzdev , Konstantin Fedin , Vsevolod Ivanov , Mikhail Soschtschenko , Weniamin Kawerin , Viktor Shklowski , Nikolai Radishchev , Vladimir Pozner , Nikolai Tichonow and Jelisaweta Polonskaja . Schklowski and Gruzdev were literary critics, Tikhonov, Radishchev and Polonskaya, the only Serapion sister, wrote poetry, the remaining members were prose writers and publicists. The admission of new members was stopped almost simultaneously with the establishment. Many other authors who were close to the Serapions in spirit or as real friends were allowed to participate in the regular meetings and also have their say. The group had no official positions and no statutes, although minutes of the meetings were written. The brothers often met privately, mostly in Slonimsky's small room on Nevsky Prospect, where the authors presented their works and discussed them. Most of the members of the group were still very young and lived from the financial support of Maxim Gorki, who sponsored the group, although the Serapions considered the realistic fiction to be out of date and thus also questioned the work of their patron.

Mikhail Leonidovich Slonimskii

Born July 21 (Aug. 2), 1897, in St. Petersburg died Oct. 8, 1972, in Leningrad. Soviet Russian writer.

Slonimskii studied in the faculty of history and philology at the University of Petrograd. His first book. Sixth Infantry Regiment (1922), was a collection of short stories about World War I (1914&ndash18). The novel The Lavrovs (1926 2nd ed., 1953) portrayed a young intellectual who was won over to the side of the revolution. The novel Foma Kleshnev (1930) depicted the reeducation of the prerevolutionary intelligentsia during the Soviet period. The same theme was dealt with in Slonimskii&rsquos most important work, the trilogy consisting of Engineers (1950), Friends (1954), and Contemporaries (1959), devoted to the formation of the Soviet technical intelligentsia during the first years of Soviet power.

In his early works, Slonimskii used a style that was showy and permeated with metaphors the style of his later works was concise and realistic. Slonimskii was awarded three orders and several medals.

Goodbye to All That?

Leszek Kolakowski is a philosopher from Poland. But it does not seem quite right&mdashor sufficient&mdashto define him that way. Like Czeslaw Milosz and others before him, Kolakowski forged his intellectual and political career in opposition to certain deep-rooted features of traditional Polish culture: clericalism, chauvinism, anti-Semitism. Forced to leave his native land in 1968, Kolakowski could neither return home nor be published there: between 1968 and 1981 his name was on Poland&rsquos index of forbidden authors and much of the work for which he is best known today was written and published abroad.

In exile Kolakowski lived mostly in England, where he has been a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, since 1970. But as he explained in an interview last year, Britain is an island Oxford is an island in Britain All Souls (a college without students) is an island in Oxford and Dr. Leszek Kolakowski is an island within All Souls, a &ldquoquadruple island.&rdquo 1 There was indeed once a place in British cultural life for intellectual émigrés from Russia and Central Europe&mdashthink of Ludwig Wittgenstein, Arthur Koestler, or Isaiah Berlin. But an ex-Marxist Catholic philosopher from Poland is more exotic, and despite his international renown Leszek Kolakowski is largely unknown&mdashand curiously underappreciated&mdashin his adoptive land.

Elsewhere, however, he is famous. Like many Central European scholars of his generation Kolakowski is multilingual&mdashat ease in Russian, French, and German as well as Polish and his adopted English&mdashand he has received accolades and prizes galore in Italy, Germany, and France especially. In the United States, where Kolakowski taught for many years on the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago, his achievements have been generously acknowledged, culminating in 2003 in the award of the first Kluge Prize from the Library of Congress&mdashbestowed for lifetime achievement in those fields of scholarship (the humanities above all) for which there is no Nobel Prize. But Kolakowski, who has more than once declared himself most at home in Paris, is no more American than he is English. Perhaps he is properly thought of as the last illustrious
citizen of the Twentieth-Century Republic of Letters.

In most of his adoptive countries, Leszek Kolakowski is best known (and in some places only known) for Main Currents of Marxism, his remarkable three-volume history of Marxism: published in Polish (in Paris) in 1976, in England by Oxford University Press two years later, and now reprinted in a single volume by Norton here in the US. 2 No doubt this is as it should be Main Currents is a monument of modern humanistic scholarship. But there is a certain irony in its prominence among Kolakowski&rsquos writings, for its author is anything but a &ldquoMarxologist.&rdquo He is a philosopher, a historian of philosophy, and a Catholic thinker. He spent years studying early modern Christian sects and heresies and for most of the past quarter-century has devoted himself to the history of European religion and philosophy and to what might best be described as philosophical-theological speculations. 3

Kolakowski&rsquos &ldquoMarxist&rdquo period, from his early prominence in postwar Po-land as the most sophisticated Marxist philosopher of his generation through his departure in 1968, was actually quite brief. And for most of that time he was already a dissident: as early as 1954, aged twenty-seven, he was being accused of &ldquostraying from Marxist-Leninist ideology.&rdquo In 1966 he delivered a famously critical lecture at Warsaw University on the tenth anniversary of the &ldquoPolish October&rdquo and was officially reprimanded by Party leader Wladyslaw Gomulka as the &ldquomain ideologue of the so-called revisionist movement.&rdquo When Kolakowski was duly expelled from his university chair it was for &ldquoforming the views of the youth in a manner contrary to the official tendency of the country.&rdquo By the time he arrived in the West he was no longer a Marxist (to the confusion, as we shall see, of some of his admirers) a few years later, having written the most important book on Marxism of the past half-century, Kolakowski had what another Polish scholar politely terms a &ldquodeclining interest in the subject.&rdquo 4

This trajectory helps explain the distinctive qualities of Main Currents of Marxism. The first volume, &ldquoThe Founders,&rdquo is conventionally arranged as a history of ideas: from the Christian origins of the dialectic and the project of total salvation through German Romantic philosophy and its impact on the young Karl Marx, and on to the mature writings of Marx and his colleague Friedrich Engels. The second volume is revealingly (and not, I think, ironically) entitled &ldquoThe Golden Age.&rdquo It carries the story from the Second International, founded in 1889, to the Russian Revolution of 1917. Here, too, Kolakowski is concerned above all with ideas and debates, conducted at a sophisticated level by a remarkable generation of European radical thinkers.

The leading Marxists of the age&mdashKarl Kautsky, Rosa Luxemburg, Eduard Bernstein, Jean Jaurès, and V.I. Lenin&mdashare all given their due, each accorded a chapter that summarizes with unflagging efficiency and clarity their main arguments and their place in the story. But of greater interest, because they don&rsquot usually figure so prominently in such general accounts, are chapters on the Italian philosopher Antonio Labriola, the Poles Ludwik Krzywicki, Kazimierz Kelles-Krauz, and Stanislaw Brzozowski, together with Max Adler, Otto Bauer, and Rudolf Hilferding: the &ldquoAustro-Marxists.&rdquo The relative abundance of Poles in Kolakowski&rsquos account of Marxism is doubtless owed in part to local perspective and some compensation for past neglect. But like the Austro-Marxists (accorded one of the longest chapters in the whole book) they represent an ever-timely reminder of the intellectual riches of Central Europe&rsquos fin de siècle, forgotten and then expunged from a narrative long dominated by Germans and Russians. 5

The third volume of Main Currents&mdashthe part that addresses what many readers will think of as &ldquoMarxism,&rdquo that is to say the history of Soviet communism and Western Marxist thought since 1917&mdashis bluntly labeled &ldquoThe Breakdown.&rdquo Rather less than half of this section is devoted to Soviet Marxism, from Stalin to Trotsky the rest deals with assorted twentieth-century theorists in other lands. A few of these, notably Antonio Gramsci and György Lukács, are of continuing interest to students of twentieth-century thought. Some, such as Ernst Bloch and Karl Korsch (Lukács&rsquos German contemporary), have a more antiquarian appeal. Others, notably Lucien Goldmann and Herbert Marcuse, seem even less interesting now than they did in the mid-Seventies when Kolakowski dismissed them in a few pages.

The book ends with an essay on &ldquoDevelopments in Marxism Since Stalin&rsquos Death,&rdquo in which Kolakowski passes briefly over his own &ldquorevisionist&rdquo past before going on to record in a tone of almost unremitting contempt the passing fashions of the age, from the higher foolishness of Sartre&rsquos Critique de la raison dialectique and its &ldquosuperfluous neologisms&rdquo to Mao Zedong, his &ldquopeasant Marxism,&rdquo and its irresponsible Western admirers. Readers of this section are forewarned in the original preface to the third volume of the work: while recognizing that the material addressed in the last chapter &ldquocould be expanded into a further volume,&rdquo the author concludes, &ldquoI am not convinced that the subject is intrinsically worthy of treatment at such length.&rdquo It is perhaps worth recording here that whereas the first two parts of Main Currents appeared in France in 1987, this third and final volume of Kolakowski&rsquos masterwork has still not been published there.

It is quite impossible to convey in a short review the astonishing range of Kolakowski&rsquos history of Marxist doctrine. It will surely not be superseded: Who will ever again know&mdashor care&mdashenough to go back over this ground in such detail and with such analytical sophistication? Main Currents of Marxism is not a history of socialism its author pays only passing attention to political contexts or social organizations. It is unashamedly a narrative of ideas, a sort of bildungsroman of the rise and fall of a once-mighty family of theory and theorists, related in skeptical, disabused old age by one of its last surviving children.

Kolakowski&rsquos thesis, driven through 1,200 pages of exposition, is straightforward and unambiguous. Marxism, in his view, should be taken seriously: not for its propositions about class struggle (which were sometimes true but never news) nor for its promise of the inevitable collapse of capitalism and a proletarian-led transition to socialism (which failed entirely as prediction) but because Marxism delivered a unique&mdashand truly original&mdashblend of promethean Romantic illusion and uncompromising historical determinism.

The attraction of Marxism thus understood is obvious. It offered an explanation of how the world works&mdashthe economic analysis of capitalism and of social class relations. It proposed a way in which the world ought to work&mdashan ethics of human relations as suggested in Marx&rsquos youthful, idealistic speculations (and in György Lukács&rsquos interpretation of him, with which Kolakowski, for all his disdain for Lukács&rsquos own compromised career, largely concurs 6 ). And it announced incontrovertible grounds for believing that things will work that way in the future, thanks to a set of assertions about historical necessity derived by Marx&rsquos Russian disciples from his (and Engels&rsquos) own writings. This combination of economic description, moral prescription, and political prediction proved intensely seductive&mdashand serviceable. As Kolakowski has observed, Marx is still worth reading&mdashif only to help us understand the sheer versatility of his theories when invoked by others to justify the political systems to which they gave rise. 7

On the link between Marxism and communism&mdashwhich three generations of Western Marxists tried valiantly to minimize, &ldquosaving&rdquo Marx from his &ldquodistortion&rdquo at the hands of Stalin (and Lenin)&mdashKolakowski is explicit. To be sure, Karl Marx was a German writer living in mid-Victorian London. 8 He can hardly be held responsible in any intelligible sense for twentieth-century Russian or Chinese history and there is thus something redundant as well as futile about the decades-long efforts of Marxist purists to establish the founders&rsquo true intent, to ascertain what Marx and Engels would have thought about future sins committed in their name&mdashthough this reiterated emphasis on getting back to the truth of the sacred texts illustrates the sectarian dimension of Marxism to which Kolakowski pays special attention.

Nevertheless, Marxism as a doctrine cannot be separated from the history of the political movements and systems to which it led. There really is a core of determinism in the reasoning of Marx and Engels: their claim that &ldquoin the last analysis&rdquo things are as they have to be, for reasons over which men have no final control. This insistence was born of Marx&rsquos desire to turn old Hegel &ldquoon his head&rdquo and insert incontrovertibly material causes (the class struggle, the laws of capitalist development) at the heart of historical explanation. It was against this convenient epistemological backstop that Plekhanov, Lenin, and their heirs were to lean the whole edifice of historical &ldquonecessity&rdquo and its accompanying machinery of enforcement.

Moreover, Marx&rsquos other youthful intuition&mdashthat the proletariat has a privileged insight into the final purposes of History thanks to its special role as an exploited class whose own liberation will signal the liberation of all humankind&mdashis intimately attached to the ultimate Communist outcome, thanks to the subordination of proletarian interests to a dictatorial party claiming to incarnate them. The strength of these logical chains binding Marxist analysis to Communist tyranny may be judged from the many observers and critics&mdashfrom Mikhail Bakunin to Rosa Luxemburg&mdashwho anticipated communism&rsquos totalitarian outcome, and warned against it, long before Lenin got anywhere near the Finland Station. Of course Marxism might have gone in other directions: it might also have gone nowhere. But &ldquothe Leninist version of Marxism, though not the only possible one, was quite plausible.&rdquo 9

To be sure, neither Marx nor the theorists who followed him intended or anticipated that a doctrine which preached the overthrow of capitalism by an industrial proletariat would seize power in a backward and largely rural society. But for Kolakowski this paradox merely underscores the power of Marxism as a system of belief: if Lenin and his followers had not insisted upon (and retroactively justified in theory) the ineluctable necessity of their own success, their voluntaristic endeavors would never have succeeded. Nor would they have been so convincing a prototype to millions of outside admirers. To turn an opportunistic coup, facilitated by the German government&rsquos transport of Lenin to Russia in a sealed train, into an &ldquoinevitable&rdquo revolution required not just tactical genius but also an extended exercise of ideological faith. Kolakowski is surely right: political Marxism was above all a secular religion.

Main Currents of Marxism is not the only first-rate account of Marxism, though it is by far the most ambitious. 10 What distinguishes it is Kolakowski&rsquos Polish perspective. This probably explains the emphasis in his account on Marxism as an eschatology&mdash&ldquoa modern variant of apocalyptic expectations which have been continuous in European history.&rdquo And it licenses an uncompromisingly moral, even religious reading of twentieth-century history:

The Devil is part of our experience. Our generation has seen enough of it for the message to be taken extremely seriously. Evil, I contend, is not contingent, it is not the absence, or deformation, or the subversion of virtue (or whatever else we may think of as its opposite), but a stubborn and unredeemable fact. 11

No Western commentator on Marxism, however critical, ever wrote like that.

But then Kolakowski writes as someone who has lived not just inside Marxism but under communism. He was witness to Marxism&rsquos transformation from an intellectual theorem to a political way of life. Thus observed and experienced from within, Marxism becomes difficult to distinguish from communism&mdashwhich was, after all, not only its most important practical outcome but its only one. And the daily deployment of Marxist categories for the vulgar purpose of suppressing freedom&mdashwhich was their primary use value to Communists in power&mdashdetracts over time from the charms of the theorem itself.

This cynical application of dialectics to the twisting of minds and the breaking of bodies was usually lost on Western scholars of Marxism, absorbed in the contemplation of past ideals or future prospects and unmoved by inconvenient news from the Soviet present, particularly when relayed by victims or witnesses. 12 His encounters with such people doubtless explain Kolakowski&rsquos caustic disdain for much of &ldquoWestern&rdquo Marxism and its progressive acolytes:

One of the causes of the popularity of Marxism among educated people was the fact that in its simple form it was very easy even [sic] Sartre noticed that Marxists are lazy&hellip.[Marxism was] an instrument that made it possible to master all of history and economics without actually having to study either. 13

It was just one such encounter which gave rise to the sardonic title essay in the newly published collection of Kolakowski&rsquos writings. In 1973, in The Socialist Register, the English historian E.P. Thompson published &ldquoAn Open Letter to Leszek Kolakowski&rdquo in which he took the erstwhile Marxist to task for having let down his Western admirers by abjuring the revisionist communism of his youth. The &ldquoOpen Letter&rdquo was Thompson at his priggish, Little-Englander worst: garrulous (the letter runs to one hundred pages of printed text), patronizing, and sanctimonious. In a pompous, demagogic tone, with more than half an eye to his worshipful progressive audience, Thompson shook his rhetorical finger at the exiled Kolakowski, admonishing him for apostasy:

We were both voices of the Communist revisionism of 1956&hellip. We both passed from a frontal critique of Stalinism to a stance of Marxist revisionism&hellip. There was a time when you, and the causes for which you stood, were present in our innermost thoughts.

How dare you, Thompson suggested from the safety of his leafy perch in middle England, betray us by letting your inconvenient experiences in Communist Poland obstruct the view of our common Marxist ideal?

Kolakowski&rsquos response, &ldquoMy Correct Views on Everything,&rdquo may be the most perfectly executed intellectual demolition in the history of political argument: no one who reads it will ever take E.P. Thompson seriously again. The essay explicates (and symptomatically illustrates) the huge moral gulf that was opened up between &ldquoEastern&rdquo and &ldquoWestern&rdquo intellectuals by the history and experience of communism, and which remains with us today. Kolakowski mercilessly dissects Thompson&rsquos strenuous, self-serving efforts to save socialism from the shortcomings of Marxism, to save Marxism from the failures of communism, and to save communism from its own crimes: all in the name of an ideal ostensibly grounded in &ldquomaterialist&rdquo reality&mdashbut whose credibility depended on remaining untainted by real-world experience or human shortcomings. &ldquoYou say,&rdquo Kolakowski writes to Thompson, &ldquothat to think in terms of a &lsquosystem&rsquo yields excellent results. I am quite sure it does, not only excellent, but miraculous it simply solves all the problems of mankind in one stroke.&rdquo

Solving the problems of mankind in one stroke seeking out an all-embracing theory that can simultaneously explain the present and guarantee the future resorting to the crutch of intellectual or historical &ldquosystems&rdquo to navigate the irritating complexity and contradictions of real experience saving the &ldquopure&rdquo seed of an idea or an ideal from its rotten fruit: such shortcuts have a timeless allure and are certainly not the monopoly of Marxists (or indeed the left). But it is understandably tempting to dismiss at least the Marxist variant of such human follies: between the disabused insights of former Communists like Kolakowski and the self-righteous provincialism of &ldquoWestern&rdquo Marxists like Thompson, not to speak of the verdict of history itself, the subject would appear to have self-destructed.

Maybe so. But before consigning the curious story of the rise and fall of Marxism to a fast-receding and no- longer-relevant past, we would do well to recall the remarkable strength of Marxism&rsquos grip upon the twentieth-century imagination. Karl Marx may have been a failed prophet and his most successful disciples a clique of tyrants, but Marxist thought and the socialist project exercised an unparalleled hold on some of the best minds of the last century. Even in those countries that were to fall victim to Communist rule, the intellectual and cultural history of the age is inseparable from the magnetic attraction of Marxist ideas and their revolutionary promise. At one time or another many of the twentieth century&rsquos most interesting thinkers would unhesitatingly have endorsed Maurice Merleau-Ponty&rsquos encomium:

Marxism is not a philosophy of history, it is the philosophy of history and to renounce it is to dig the grave of Reason in history. After that there can be no more dreams or adventures. 14

Marxism is thus inextricably intertwined with the intellectual history of the modern world. To ignore or dismiss it is willfully to misinterpret the recent past. Ex-Communists and former Marxists&mdashFrançois Furet, Sidney Hook, Arthur Koestler, Leszek Kolakowski, Wolfgang Leonhardt, Jorge Semprun, Victor Serge, Ignazio Silone, Boris Souvarine, Manès Sperber, Alexander Wat, and dozens of others&mdashhave written some of the best accounts of twentieth-century intellectual and political life. Even a lifelong anti-Communist like Raymond Aron was not embarrassed to acknowledge his undiminished interest in the &ldquosecular religion&rdquo of Marxism (to the point of recognizing that his obsession with combating it amounted to a sort of transposed anticlericalism). And it is indicative that a liberal like Aron took particular pride in being far better read in Marx and Marxism than many of his self-styled &ldquoMarxist&rdquo contemporaries. 15

As the example of the fiercely independent Aron suggests, the attraction of Marxism goes well beyond the familiar story, from ancient Rome to contemporary Washington, of scribblers and flatterers drawn to despots. There are three reasons why Marxism lasted so long and exerted such magnetism upon the best and the brightest. In the first place, Marxism is a very big idea. Its sheer epistemological cheek&mdashits Promethean commitment to understanding and explaining everything&mdashappeals to those who deal in ideas, just as it appealed for that reason to Marx himself. Moreover, once you substitute for the proletariat a party that promises to think in its name, then you have created a collective organic intellectual (in the sense coined by Gramsci) which aspires not just to speak for the revolutionary class but to replace the old ruling class as well. In such a universe, ideas are not merely instrumental: they exercise a kind of institutional control. They are deployed for the purpose of rescripting reality on approved lines. Ideas, in Kolakowski&rsquos words, are communism&rsquos &ldquorespiratory system&rdquo (which, incidentally, is what distinguishes it from otherwise similar tyrannies of fascist origin which have no comparable need of intelligent-sounding dogmatic fictions). In such circumstances, intellectuals&mdashCommunist intellectuals&mdashare no longer confined to speaking truth to power. They have power&mdashor at least, in the words of one Hungarian account of this process, they are on the road to power. This is an intoxicating notion. 16

The second source of Marxism&rsquos appeal is that Marx and his Communist progeny were not a historical aberration, Clio&rsquos genetic error. The Marxist project, like the older socialist dream which it displaced and absorbed, was one strand in the great progressive narrative of our time: it shares with classical liberalism, its antithetical historical twin, that narrative&rsquos optimistic, rationalistic account of modern society and its possibilities. Marxism&rsquos distinctive twist&mdashthe assertion that the good society to come would be a classless, post-capitalist product of economic processes and social upheaval&mdashwas already hard to credit by 1920. But social movements deriving from the initial Marxian analytical impulse continued for many decades to talk and behave as though they still believed in the transformative project.

Thus, to take an example: the German Social Democratic Party effectively abandoned &ldquorevolution&rdquo well before the First World War but only in 1959, at the Congress of Bad Godesberg, did it officially lift the mortgage of Marxist theory that lay upon its language and official goals. In the intervening years, and indeed for some time afterward, German Social Democrats&mdashlike British Labourites, Italian Socialists, and many others&mdashcontinued to speak and write of class conflict, the struggle against capitalism, and so forth: as though, notwithstanding their mild and reformist daily practice, they were still living out the grand Romantic narrative of Marxism. As recently as May 1981, following François Mitterrand&rsquos election to the presidency, eminently respectable French Socialist politicians&mdashwho would not have described themselves as &ldquoMarxist,&rdquo much less &ldquoCommunist&rdquo&mdashtalked excitedly of a revolutionary &ldquogrand soir&rdquo and the coming transition to socialism, as though they were back in 1936, or even 1848.

Marxism, in short, was the deep &ldquostructure&rdquo of much progressive politics. Marxist language, or a language parasitic upon Marxist categories, gave form and an implicit coherence to many kinds of modern political protest: from social democracy to radical feminism. In this sense Merleau-Ponty was correct: the loss of Marxism as a way of relating critically to the present really has left an empty space. With Marxism have gone not just dysfunctional Communist regimes and their deluded foreign apologists but also the whole schema of assumptions, categories, and explanations created over the past 150 years that we had come to think of as &ldquothe left.&rdquo Anyone who has observed the confusion of the political left in North America or Europe over the past twenty years and asked themselves &ldquoBut what does it stand for? What does it want?&rdquo will appreciate the point.

But there was a third reason why Marxism had appeal, and those who in recent years have been quick to pounce upon its corpse and proclaim the &ldquoend of History,&rdquo or the final victory of peace, democracy, and the free market, might be wise to reflect upon it. If generations of intelligent men and women of good faith were willing to throw in their lot with the Communist project, it was not just because they were lulled into an ideological stupor by a seductive tale of revolution and redemption. It was because they were irresistibly drawn to the underlying ethical message: to the power of an idea and a movement uncompromisingly attached to representing and defending the interests of the wretched of the earth. From first to last, Marxism&rsquos strongest suit was what one of Marx&rsquos biographers calls &ldquothe moral seriousness of Marx&rsquos conviction that the destiny of our world as a whole is tied up with the condition of its poorest and most disadvantaged members.&rdquo 17

Marxism, as the Polish historian Andrzej Walicki&mdashone of its more acerbic critics&mdashopenly acknowledges, was the most influential &ldquoreaction to the multiple shortcomings of capitalist societies and the liberal tradition.&rdquo If Marxism fell from favor in the last third of the twentieth century it was in large measure because the worst shortcomings of capitalism appeared at last to have been overcome. The liberal tradition&mdashthanks to its unexpected success in adapting to the challenge of depression and war and bestowing upon Western democracies the stabilizing institutions of the New Deal and the welfare state&mdashhad palpably triumphed over its antidemocratic critics of left and right alike. A political doctrine that had been perfectly positioned to explain and exploit the crises and injustices of another age now appeared beside the point.

Today, however, things are changing once again. What Marx&rsquos nineteenth-century contemporaries called the &ldquoSocial Question&rdquo&mdashhow to address and overcome huge disparities of wealth and poverty, and shameful inequalities of health, education, and opportunity&mdashmay have been answered in the West (though the gulf between poor and rich, which seemed once to be steadily closing, has for some years been opening again, in Britain and above all in the US). But the Social Question is back on the international agenda with a vengeance. What appears to its prosperous beneficiaries as worldwide economic growth and the opening of national and international markets to investment and trade is increasingly perceived and resented by millions of others as the redistribution of global wealth for the benefit of a handful of corporations and holders of capital.

In recent years respectable critics have been dusting off nineteenth-century radical language and applying it with disturbing success to twenty-first-century social relations. One hardly needs to be a Marxist to recognize that what Marx and others called a &ldquoreserve army of labor&rdquo is now resurfacing, not in the back streets of European industrial towns but worldwide. By holding down the cost of labor&mdashthanks to the threat of outsourcing, factory relocation, or disinvestment 18 &mdashthis global pool of cheap workers helps maintain profits and promote growth: just as it did in nineteenth-century industrial Europe, at least until organized trade unions and mass labor parties were powerful enough to bring about improved wages, redistributive taxation, and a decisive twentieth-century shift in the balance of political power&mdashthereby confounding the revolutionary predictions of their own leaders.

In short, the world appears to be entering upon a new cycle, one with which our nineteenth-century forebears were familiar but of which we in the West have no recent experience. In the coming years, as visible disparities of wealth increase and struggles over the terms of trade, the location of employment, and the control of scarce natural resources all become more acute, we are likely to hear more, not less, about inequality, injustice, unfairness, and exploitation&mdashat home but especially abroad. And thus, as we lose sight of communism (already in Eastern Europe you have to be thirty-five years old to have any adult memory of a Communist regime), the moral appeal of some refurbished version of Marxism is likely to grow.

If that sounds crazy, remember this: the attraction of one or another version of Marxism to intellectuals and radical politicians in Latin America, for example, or in the Middle East, never really faded as a plausible account of local experience Marxism in such places retains much of its appeal, just as it does to contemporary anti-globalizers everywhere. The latter see in the tensions and shortcomings of today&rsquos international capitalist economy precisely the same injustices and opportunities that led observers of the first economic &ldquoglobalization&rdquo of the 1890s to apply Marx&rsquos critique of capitalism to new theories of &ldquoimperialism.&rdquo

And since no one else seems to have anything very convincing to offer by way of a strategy for rectifying the inequities of modern capitalism, the field is once again left to those with the tidiest story to tell and the angriest prescription to offer. Recall Heine&rsquos prophetic observations about Marx and his friends at the midpoint of the nineteenth century, in the high years of Victorian growth and prosperity: &ldquoThese revolutionary doctors and their pitilessly determined disciples are the only men in Germany who have any life and it is to them, I fear, that the future belongs.&rdquo 19

I don&rsquot know whether the future of radical politics belongs to a new generation of Marxists, unmoved by (and perhaps unaware of) the crimes and failures of their Communist predecessors. I hope not, but I wouldn&rsquot bet against it. Jacques Attali, one-time political adviser to President Mitterrand, last year published a large, hastily penned book on Karl Marx. In it he argues that the fall of the Soviet Union has liberated Marx from his heirs and freed us to see in him the insightful prophet of capitalism who anticipated contemporary dilemmas, notably the global inequalities generated by unrestrained competition. Attali&rsquos book has sold well. His thesis has been widely discussed: in France, but also in Britain (where in a 2005 BBC Radio poll listeners voted Karl Marx &ldquothe greatest philosopher of all time&rdquo 20 ).

Of course one could respond to Attali as Kolakowski responded to Thompson&rsquos analogous claim that the good ideas of communism might be saved from its embarrassing actuality:

For many years I have not expected anything from attempts to mend, to renovate, to clean up or to correct the Communist idea. Alas, poor idea. I knew it, Edward. This skull will never smile again.

But Jacques Attali, unlike Edward Thompson and the recently resurfaced Antonio Negri, is a man with sharp political antennae, finely tuned to changes in the mood of the hour. If he thinks that the skull might smile again, that moribund, system-building explanations of the left may indeed be due for revival&mdashif only as a counterpoint to the irritating overconfidence of contemporary free-marketeers of the right&mdashthen he is probably not wholly mistaken. He is certainly not alone.

In the early years of this new century we thus find ourselves facing two opposite and yet curiously similar fantasies. The first fantasy, most familiar to Americans but on offer in every advanced country, is the smug, irenic insistence by commentators, politicians, and experts that today&rsquos policy consensus&mdashlacking any clear alternative&mdashis the condition of every well-managed modern democracy and will last indefinitely that those who oppose it are either misinformed or else malevolent and in either case doomed to irrelevance. The second fantasy is the belief that Marxism has an intellectual and political future: not merely in spite of communism&rsquos collapse but because of it. Hitherto found only at the international &ldquoperiphery&rdquo and in the margins of academia, this renewed faith in Marxism&mdashat least as an analytical tool if not a political prognostication&mdashis now once again, largely for want of competition, the common currency of international protest movements.

The similarity, of course, consists in a common failure to learn from the past&mdashand a symbiotic interdependence, since it is the myopia of the first that lends spurious credibility to the arguments of the second. Those who cheer the triumph of the market and the retreat of the state, who would have us celebrate the unregulated scope for economic initiative in today&rsquos &ldquoflat&rdquo world, have forgotten what happened the last time we passed this way. They are in for a rude shock (though, if the past is a reliable guide, probably at someone else&rsquos expense). As for those who dream of rerunning the Marxist tape, digitally remastered and free of irritating Communist scratches, they would be well-advised to ask sooner rather than later just what it is about all-embracing &ldquosystems&rdquo of thought that leads inexorably to all-embracing &ldquosystems&rdquo of rule. On this, as we have seen, Leszek Kolakowski can be read with much profit. But history records that there is nothing so powerful as a fantasy whose time has come.


Ḥayyim Selig Slonimski was born in Bialystok, in the Grodno Governorate of the Russian Empire (present-day Poland), the oldest son of Rabbi Avraham Ya'akov Bishka and Leah (Neches) Bishka. [5] His father belonged to a family of rabbis, writers, publishers and printers, and his mother was the daughter of Rabbi Yeḥiel Neches, an owner of a well-known beit midrash in Bialystok. [6] Slonimski had a traditional Jewish upbringing and Talmudic education without a formal secular education, Slonimski taught himself mathematics, astronomy, and foreign languages. [7]

An advocate for the education of Eastern European Jews in the sciences, Slonimski introduced a vocabulary of technical terms created partly by himself into the Hebrew language. At age 24, he finished writing a textbook on mathematics, but due to lack of funds, only the first part of which was published in 1834 under the title Mosedei Ḥokhmah. [8] : 180 The following year, Slonimski released Sefer Kokhva de-Shavit (1835), a collection of essays on Halley's comet and other astronomy-related topics such as the laws of Kepler and Newton's laws of motion. [8] : 180

In 1838, Slonimski settled in Warsaw, where he became acquainted with mathematician and inventor Abraham Stern (1768–1842), whose youngest daughter Sarah Gitel he would later marry in 1842. There he published another astronomical work, the highly popular Toldot ha-Shamayim (1838). [9]

He also tried his hand at the applied sciences, and a number of his technological inventions received recognition and awards. [10] The most notable of his inventions was his calculating machine, created in 1842 based on his tables, which he exhibited to the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences, and for which he was awarded the 1844 Demidov Prize of 2,500 rubles by the Russian Academy of Sciences. [11] [12] He also received a title of honorary citizen, which granted him the right to live outside of the Pale of Settlement to which Jews were normally restricted. [13] In 1844, he published a new formula in Crelle's Journal for calculating the Jewish calendar. [14] [15] In 1853 he invented a chemical process for plating iron vessels with lead to prevent corrosion, and in 1856 a device for simultaneously sending multiple telegrams using just one telegraphic wire. The system of multiple telegraphy perfected by Lord Kelvin in 1858 was based on Slonimski's discovery. [16]

Slonimski lived between 1846 and 1858 in Tomaszów Mazowiecki, an industrial town in central Poland. He corresponded with several scientists, notably Alexander von Humboldt, and wrote a sketch of Humboldt's life.

In February 1862 in Warsaw, Slonimski launched Ha-Tsfira, the first Hebrew newspaper in Poland, and was the publisher, editor, and chief contributor. It ceased publication after six months due to his departure on the eve of the January Uprising from Warsaw to Zhitomir, the capital of the Ukrainian province Volhynia. [17] : 6 There Slonimski was appointed as principal of the rabbinical seminary in Zhitomir and as government censor of Hebrew books. After the seminary was closed by the Russian government in 1874, Slonimski resumed the publication of Ha-Tsfira, first in Berlin and then again in Warsaw, after he obtained the necessary permission from the tsarist government. [18] The newspaper would quickly become a central cultural institution of Polish Jewry. [10]

He died in Warsaw on May 15, 1904.

In 1952, Josef Stalin made a speech in which, among other things, he claimed that it was a Russian who had beat out America in the 19th century in the development of the telegraph. [19] While Stalin's claim was mocked in the United States, Slonimsky's grandson, the musicologist Nicolas Slonimsky, was able to confirm the accuracy of some of Stalin's claims. [20]

Slonimsky S.

Slonimsky was born in 1932 in Leningrad, studied composition under Shebalin, Evlakhov, polyphony - under Nicolai Uspensky, the author of the reading book "Samples of Ancient Russian Vocal Art", piano - under Artobolevskaya, Savshinsky, Nilsen.

The modern Russian composer, professor of St. Peterburg conservatoire named after Rimsky-Korsakov and Samara Pedagogical University, Winner of the Glinca state Prize and of the St. Petersburg Government Prize, Academician of the Russian Academy of Education, the People's Artist of Russia. He was born in 1932 in Leningrad, studied composition under Shebalin, Evlakhov, polyphony - under Nicolai Uspensky, the author of the reading book "Samples of Ancient Russian Vocal Art", piano - under Artobolevskaya, Savshinsky, Nilsen.

Sergey Slonimsky is the author of such operas as "Virinea" (1967), "The master and Margarita" (1972), "Mary Stuart" (1980), "Hamlet" (1990), "Tsar Ixion" (1993), "Ioann the Terrible's vision" (1995) of ten symphonies (The Tenth - "Circles of Hell" after Dante - recorded on CD in Russia), the ballet "Icarus".

"Virinea" was staged in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Samara, Perm his opera "The Master and Margarita (chronologically the first adaptation for stage of Bulgakov's novel) had been prohibited for stage during seventeen years after the performance of the first act in the Leningrad House of Composers conducted by Gennady Rozhdestvensky. "Mary Stuart" was staged in Samara, St. Petersburg, Leipzig, Olomouts, Alma-Ata. Dramma per musica "Hamlet" is on in Samara and Krasnoyarsk. The ballet "Icarus" was shown in Bolshoi Theatre, on the stage of the Kremlin Palace of Congress (choreographer and performer - Vladimir Vassiliev), in the Mariimsky Theatre of St. Petersburg (choreographer Igor Belsky) and in Brno (choreographer Daniel Visner).

Sergei Slonimsky the author of more than a hundred compositions, among them - Concerto-Buffo (performed several times in the USA and England conducted by Yuri Temirkanov), Organ, Violin, Oboe, Balalaika, Electric Guitar Concerts, recently finished Piano Concert ("Jewish Rhapsody"), Cello Concert, 24 preludes and fuges, which are played in Russia and abroad and are in the pedagogical and concert repertoire of pianists.

Theatre and symphony opuses of the composer were perfomed by such famous conductors as Kondrashin, Yansons, Grikurov, Rozhdestvensky, Chernushenko, Sinaisky, Simonov, Ermler, Chistyakov, Talmi, Krents, Class, Sondetskis, Dalgat, Nesterov, Provatorov, Kovalenko, Shcherbakov and many others.

One of the new compositions by Slonimsky is "Petersburg's Visions" after Dostoevsky was perfomed by Yuri Temirkanov in eight cities of the USA, including New York (Carnegi Hall), Boston, San-Fransisco, Los-Angeles in 1996.

Slonimsky is also the author of many vocal compositions: the cantata "Songs of Freedom" based on Russian folk songs (1959) "A Voice from the Chorus", words by A. Block (1963) "Song of Song of Solomon" (1973) "One Day of Life of ancient Indian book Dhammapada" (1998 this cantata is dedicated to Alfred Shnitke, Slonimsky's close friend) "David's Psalms" (1968) "Minstrel Songs" (1975) chamber vocal ensembles lyrics by Akhmatova, Brodsky, Kushner, Rein, Kharms, Antony Slonimsky. In the list of his works there are sonatas - Piano, Violin, Cello, Viola suite, Piano pieces for children music to the filmes by G. Poloka "SHKID Republic" and "Intervention" (Vladimir Vysotsky, who plays the main character, sings the song by Slonimsky in this film) by F. Emler "Before the Court of History" (Monologue of the Russian anarchist Shulgin).

In the 1960-1970s Slonimsky went to several folklore expeditions to the Novgorod, Pskov, Leningrade, Perm regions, he recorded a lot of texts and melodies of ancient and modern Russians folk songs. The composer is a constant organiser of a cycle charity concerts in the Peterburg Fund of Culture, reviving unjustly forgotten works by Russian composers from Balakirev to Shcherbakov, Shebalin, Klusner, Prigozhin.

Slonimsky finds congenial fantastic realism, "black" humour and tragic grotesque of such classical writers of Russian art as Gogol, Dostoyevsky, Bulgakov, Kharms, Zoshchenko. In some of his compositions he follows the style of avantgarde music ("Antiphones" for String Quartet, "Polish Verses" , "Dialogues" for Wind Quartet, "Concerto-Buffo", "Colour Fantasy",simphonic poems "Appolo and Mars", "Peterburg Visiors", "The Tenth Symphony" and other opuses. In most of his prominent works Slonimsky strives for creative refraction of untouched archaic layers of Russian "melos".

Sergei Slonimsky constantly lives in St. Peterburg. Characteristic features of Peterburg culture one felt in his works.

Frow the begining of the 70's the composer has worked in cooperation with theatres, the Philharmonic Hall, the Pedagogical University and Samara musical college. The festival dedicated to the music of Slonimsky was held in the old Russian town of Samara in 1994. In 1999 the world first night of "Ioann the Terrible's vision" took place in Samara, staged by Robert Sturua under the musical conduction of Mstislav Rostropovich. The house was full 13 times during 3 months of 1999 and is on with great success.

Slonimsky often takes part in concerts of young musicians and children, he composes music as a pianist-improvisator, reviving the old tradition of improvisation on the philharmonic stage.

The defining feature of Slonimsky's creative activity is universality. This is evident, above all in complete freedom of national cultures, historical periods, expressive means with the range and diversity of the individual style.

Family tree

( July 20, 1997 July 20, 1997 Gregorian
July 7, 1997 Julian
Tammuz 15, 5757 Hebrew , Saint Petersburg - October 8, 1972 October 8, 1972 Gregorian
September 25, 1972 Julian
Tishrei 30, 5733 Hebrew , Saint Petersburg)

( 1850 1850 Gregorian
1849 Julian
5610 Hebrew - 1918 1918 Gregorian
1917 Julian
5678 Hebrew )

( 1857 1857 Gregorian
1856 Julian
5617 Hebrew - 1944 1944 Gregorian
1943 Julian
5704 Hebrew )

( 1903 1903 Gregorian
1902 Julian
5663 Hebrew - 1999 1999 Gregorian
1998 Julian
5759 Hebrew )

History of Grodno

Originally in Lithuania/Litwa/Litva/Lita, Grodno guberniya was part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, connected with Poland, and then annexed by Russia. The first mention of Lita occurs in the fifteenth century responsum of Israel Isserlein who refers to "Tobiah" who had returned from Gordita (Grodno) in Lithuania and said, "…It is rare with our people from Germany to go to Lithuania." (Israel Bruna, Responsa, **25, 73)

Grodno, one of the oldest cities in former Lithuania, began as a village founded by a Russian price. The village is first mentioned in the Chronicles of 1128. Lida was founded at the same time as Vilna, about 1320. These cities had no Magdeburg Rights or gilds. However, following the death of Gedimin in 1341, his grandson Witold ascended to the throne. The Jews of Brest received a Charter of Privileges on 1 July 1388. Grodno obtained the same in 1389. These charters represent the earliest documentation of organized Jewish communities in the region.

"The preamble to the charter reads as follows:

"In the name of God, Amen. All deeds of men, when they are not made known by the testimony of witnesses or in writing, pass away and vanish and are forgotten. Therefore, we, Alexander, also called Witold, by the grace of God Grand Duke of Lithuania and ruler of Brest, Dorogicz, Lusk, Vladimir, and other places, made known by this charter to the present and future generations, or to whomever it may concern to know or hear of it, that, after due deliberation with our nobles we have decided to grant to all the Jews living in our domains the rights and liberties mentioned in the following charter." [The Jewish Encyclopedia. NY: Funk and Wagnalls, 1916, Vol. VIII, p. 120.] The charter contains thirty-seven sections concerning all aspects of legal, business, and social relationships between Jews and Christians and proscribed punishments for its violation. This document closely resembles those granted by Casimir the Great and Boleslaw of Kalisz to the Jews of Poland, based on the charters of Henry of Glogau (1251_, King Ottokar of Bohemia (1254-1267), and Frederick II (1244), and the Bishop of Speyer (1084). These charters grant privileges to a Jewish populace largely engaged in money lending. The Grodno Charters of 18 June 1389 and 1408 grant privileges to a community engaged in a variety of occupations including handicrafts and agriculture in the town that was the residence of the ruling Grand Duke. The 1389 document reflects that Jews had lived there for many years, owned land, a synagogue and a cemetery near the Jewish quarter and lived in social and economic parity with Christians. The Jews belonged to the freemen class equal to lesser nobles ["shlyakhta"], boyars, and other free citizens. The starosta (official representatives of the Grand Duke) was called the Jewish Judge and decided all civil and criminal cases between Christians and Jews. Jews had complete autonomy over religious matters. The Jewish communities thrived under this system. Each community had a Jewish elder [title after the sixteenth century] as its head who represented the community in all external relations and in tax matters.

Under the regime of the Jagellons, Jews became tax-farmers. Between 1463 and 1478, Casimir granted to Levin Schalomich certain lands in the vovoidship of Brest together with the peasants living on them. In 1486, Bryansk custom duties were leased to Mordecai Gadjewich and Perka Judinovich, residents of Kiev. In 1487 Brest, Drohycin, Byelsk, and Grodno customs duties were leased to Astashka Hyich, Onotani Ilyich, and Olkan, all Jews from Lutsk. In 1488 some taxes of Grodno were released to Jatzkovich and his sons. In 1489, custom duties of Vladimir, Peremyshl, and Litovishk were leased to the Jews of Brest and Hrubieszow. According to the historian Jaroszewic in "Obraz Litwy", Lithuanian Jews of that time developed the country’s commerce, even with business ventures reaching the Baltic Sea and export trade to Prussia.

When Alexander Jagellon succeeded to the throne, he confirmed the Charter of Privileges. Four Jewish tax-farmers of Brest continued to lease the customs of Brest, Drohoczyn, Grodno, and Byelsk affirmed on 14 October 1494. However, in 1495, Alexander expelled all the Jews from the country either because of personal animosity from Alexander Jagellon or his wife Grand Duchess Helena (daughter of Ivan III of Russia), or due to influences of the Spanish Inquisition, or because of Judaizing heresies. At this time, Jews who converted to Christianity automatically attained noble status. Property of the expelled Jews was allotted to various cronies of the Grand Duke. A nobleman named Semashkowich received the properties abandoned by the Jews of Grodno. On 4 October 1495, the estates of the Enkovich brothers of Brest were given to Alexander’s secretary. On 27 January 1497, the estate Kornitza belonging to the Jew Levon Shalomich was given to the magistrate of Brest-Litovsk. This property distribution continued until mid 1501 when Alexander assumed the throne of Poland. At this time, the Jews were allowed to return to Lithuania and their properties and possessions were to be returned to them. Prince Alexander Juryevich, vice-regent of Vilna and Grodno, was to oversee the restoration of property and settlement of debts owed to them however, they were required to repurchase their former property, pay for all improvements and mortgages, and equip annually a 1,000 horse cavalry regiment at their own expense.

Sigismund I (1506-1548) improved conditions for Jews. In 1508 when Prince Glinski rebelled, two Jews of Brest, Itzko and Berek, furnished him with information. The leading Jew of the country, Michael Jesofovich excommunicated them publicly, prompting eventually an improved tax collection system that he oversaw for Sigismund as prefect over all Lithuanian Jews [1514]. The communities of Brest and Grodno flourished along with Troki, Pinsk, Ostrog, Lutsk, and Tykotzin. According to new statutes of 1529, the life of a Jew was valued at 100 kop groschen as was that of a nobleman while burghers were only valued at 12 kop groschen. Apparently, the Jewish tax-farmers overstepped their legal authority leading to a Brest Jew named Goshko Kozhchich being fined 20-kop groshen for illegally imprisoning the nobleman Lyshinski. Relationships between Jew and Christian were cordial, with shared participation in dining, athletics, and festivals.

Around 1539 a baptized Jew spread rumors about converts to Judaism harbored in the Jewish community. Sigismund ended the harassment of Jews in 1540 when he declared them free of any suspicion. His wife Bona Sporza settled a quarrel between the Grodno Jewish community and one of its powerful families (Judah-Yudicki) over the appointment of a rabbi named Mordechai [ben Moses Jaffe, rabbi of Cracow?], son-in-law of Judah Bogdanovich. (Another man, Mordechai ben Abraham Jaffee was rabbi of Grodno in 1572. See below)

In 1544, Sigismund II, August became Grand Duke of Lithuania and Polish king in 1548. He treated Jews and Lutherans/Calvinists with liberality. At that time, the rabbi of Brest, Mendel Frank, was called "the king’s officer" while prominent Jews were called "Pany" or sirs. Until 1569 with the union with Lublin, Lithuanian Jews lived on grand ducal lands and enjoyed his protection.

After the mid-1500’s, relationships between the minor nobility and the Jews deteriorated. The prevalence of mixed marriages disturbed the clergy. The shlyakhta resented Jews as middlemen in agricultural dealings, the Jewish exemption from military service, and the wealth/power of the Jewish tax-farmers. Living on the protected lands of the king, Jews avoided some of the conflict with the resentful nobility. However, in 1555, the nobility began to attain more power. A blood libel controversy arose in 1564 but was squelched by Sigismund August in a declaration of 9 August 1564. In 1566, however, the nobility finally attained power. They were allowed to participate in the national legislature and produced the repressive Act of 1566. That act stated: "The Jews shall not wear costly clothing, nor gold chains, nor shall their wives wear gold or silver ornaments. "The Jews shall no have silver mountings on their sabers and daggers they shall be distinguished by characteristic clothes they shall wear yellow caps, and their wives kerchiefs of yellow linen, in order that all may be enabled to distinguish Jews from Christians." [p. 126] About twenty years later, however, the nobility withdrew these restrictions.

Stephen Bathori from Transylvania attained the throne about [1570?] via an election and confirmed the privilege. Mordechai Jaffe, author of Lebushim" went to Grodno, built the large synagogue with an ark inscription showing the building was completed in 1578. He was active in the Council of Four Lands and developed methodical study of rabbinical literature.

During the reign of Sigismund III (1587-1632), Saul Judich, representative of the Jews of Brest in 1593 addressed the commercial rivalry between the Jews and the burghers encouraged that decrees of Sigimund III that declared inviolable Jewish autonomy in religious and judicial matters. The illegal assumption of magistrates of Brest over kalah or royal matters was stopped. Saul Judich was a prominent tax-farmer and "servant of the king" who is first mentioned in a decree of 1580 as defending, with other community leaders, the rights of Brest Jews against Christian merchants. He was a favorite of Prince Radziwil, a Calvinist. This same privilege was then extended to the Jews of Vilna in a charter permitting Jews to purchase real estate, engage in trade equally with Christians, to occupy houses belonging to nobility, and to build synagogues. They were exempt from city taxes as tenants of nobility and subject to the king’s vovoidship jurisdiction rather than that of local magistrates. Sigismund also demonstrated negative attitudes toward Jews when he provided for the elevation of Jewish converts to Christianity to noble status, leading to what was called "Jerusalem nobles." That law was repealed in 1768.

As Jesuits gained power in Lithuania, the Jews of Grodno faced increasing restrictions until the reign of Ladislaus IV (1632-1648.) No fan of the Jesuits, he confirmed the Charters of Privileges of the Jews of Lithuania on 11 March and 16 Mar 1633. For all his good intentions, Ladislaus was unable to enforce his will. After 1648, the Cossach uprisings effectively mark the end of Jewish economic security in Lithuania. By May 1676, King John Sobieski received numerous complaints from the Jews of Brest led by their rabbi, Mark Benjaschewitsch who received jurisdiction over criminal cases involving Jews in his community and the power to impose corporal punishment and the death penalty. The Lithuanian Council [Jews were taxed as a single body, pro rata agreements made among their representatives meeting frequently at Brest-Litovsk, Vilna, Pinsk, and Grodno] brought some order to chaotic conditions faced by the Lithuanian Jews. Yet, the kahals were insolvent by mid-1700.

References to the yeshiva at Brest are found in the writings of Solomon Luria (d. 1589), Moses Isserles (d. 1572), and David Gans (d. 1589).

On the December 14, 1795, Slonimskaya Guberniya was formed consisting of eight uezds: Slonimski, Grodnenski, Brestski, Kobrinski, Pruzhanski, Volkovyski, Novogrudski, and Lidszki. In a year, Slonimskaya and Vilanskaya guberniyii were united in one and were given the common name: Litovskaya Guberniya. After this, in five years, Slonimskaya Guberniya was separated again and was named Grodnenskaya Guberniya. The decree about the foundation of a new Guberniya in Lithuania came after the 9 th of September, 1801 and was carried out in the course of the next year, 1802.

The Guberniya stayed in such condition for the next forty years. In 1843, to the previous guberniya, Belostokskaya Guberniya was added. This new province was acquired by Russia according to the Tilsit Agreement of 1807 and consisted of four uezd: Belostokski, Sokolski, Belski, and Dragichinski. Belski and Dragichinski were united into one Lidski uezd became part of Vilenskaya Guberniya. Novogrudski uezd became a part of Minskaya Guberniya. Thus, Grodnenskaya Guberniya consisted of nine uezds: Grodnenski, Sokolski, Belostokski, Belski, Brestki, Kobrinski, Pruzhanski, Slonimski, and Volkovyski.

Grodnenskaya Guberniya covered 704.5 square miles, the "smallest" guberniya, larger only than Russian provinces of Moskovskaya, Tulskaya, Kaluzhkaya, and Yaroslavskaya (if not considering provinces in Poland, Finland, and Ostzeiskaya). Compared to the countries of Western Europe, the guberniya had almost the same territory as Switzerland, larger than Denmark, Belgium, and the Netherlands although it yielded in population. There were 1,842 men per sq. mile in the territory and 37 men in one sq. verst (wiorst). As a result, Grodnenskaya was average among the other Russian gubernii. For example, Podolskaya, Poltavskaya, and Kurskaya gubernii, as well as the provinces of Poland and others, exceeded Grodnenskaya in population density by 1.5 times, Western European countries (France and Austria) by two times, Germany by 2.5 times, Italy by 3 times, and England by 3.5 times.

The Council of Lithuania evolved from the Council of the Four Lands and was the Jewish comunities governing body from 1623 to 1764. Various seventeenth and eighteenth century records exist from the council, with signatures, for community representatives. Grodno towns that were the site of these meetings include: Brisk, Chomsk, Grodno, Krinki, Mezeritch, Mir, Seltz, Zabladova, Zelva. Rabbi Saul Wahl of Brest and Rabbi Abraham Katzenelnbogen of Brest participated in the Council of Lithuania..

The Great Lithuanian Principality, Grodno region :

Second half of the 13th century:

1568 - Rech Pospolitaya (Polish Principality and Lithuanian principality united)

1795 - Grodno was in Russian Empire.

1796 - Grodno was the center of Lithuanian Guberniya (Litovskaya Guberniya), Russian Empire.

1801 - Grodno was the center of Grodnenskaya Guberniya, Russian Empire.

September 3, 1915 – Grodno was occupied by German troops

March 25 1918 - Grodno was in the Belorussian National Republic.

1919 - Grodno was in Belorussian Soviet Socialist Republic.

April 27, 1919 - Grodno was given to Burzhuaznaya Polsha (Poland).

July 19, 1920 - Belorussian Soviet Socialist Republic.

1921 – Grodno was given to Panjska Polsha (Poland)

September 1939 - Belorussian Soviet Socialist Republic.

1944 - Belorussian Soviet Socialist Republic

1990 - Republic of Belarus

Grodno region: Great Lithuanian Principality (13 th to first half of the 14 century.)

The capital was Navagrudak.

Berestya (Brest), Belsk, Braslav, Borisov, Dobrovitsa, Dragichin, Drutsk, Gorognya (Grodno), Kernava, Kletsk, Klutsk, Kobrin, Kovna, Kremenets, Lida, Lumom, Lagoisk, Lutsk, Mensk, Orsha, Polatsk, Pinsk, Raiylj, Slonim, Turov, Upita, Viljkamir, Vilnya, Vitebsk, Volkovysk,

Grodno region: Great Lithuanian Principality (Second half of 14 century and 15 century)

Astrog, Beljsk, Berestje (Brest), Bransk, Brest, Broslav, Brotslav, Chechersk, Chernigov, Chernobyl, Cherkasy, Eljnya, Glinsk, Gomel, Gorodnya, Gorodok Davidov, Kanev, Kiev, Kletsk, Kobrin, Korots, Kovna, Krichev, Kremenets, Lida, Lubech, Lutsk, Merach, Mensk, Mogilev, Mozyrj, Novogrudok, Novrogod-Severski, Oshmyana, Pinsk, Putiulj, Polotsk, Puni, Rasiunya, Rechitsa, Roslav, Smolensk. Stislav, Trubchevsk, Propoisk, Ratna, Rogachov, Ryljsk, Slonim, Starodub, Svir, Troki, Turov, Upita, Vilnya, Vilkamir, Vinnitsa, Vitebsk, Volkovysk

The Great Lithuanian Principality was established around Novogorok Province that incorporated vast Belarusian and Lithuanian territories. The establishment of a principality around Novogorodok (presently Novogrudok, Grodno province) enabled the two nations to retain their independence and provide resistance to Mongol-Tatar raids and German expansionist claims. In 1569, the Great Lithuanian Principality and the Kingdom of Poland signed the Lublino Treaty to become a single federal state--Rzeczpospolita. The Great Principality of Lithuania kept its own bodies of state administration, legislation, state language, financial system, and military. The supreme power in the Rzeczpospolita belonged to the Polish landlords. The alliance managed to survive for over two hundred years. As a result of the three partitions, Rzeczpospolita ceased to exist with Belarus territory going to Russia.

Grodno Pavet (region): Rech Pospolitaya (End of 16th century)

Avgustov, Berestovitsa, Berestovitsa, Dubna, Dubnitsa, Garadok, Glyadavitchi, Gorodnya, Glubokae, Indura, Kamenka, Kamenitsa, Kusnitsa, Kvasovka, Lasha, Lipsk, Lososna, Lunna, Malaya, Mosty, Netechi, Novy Dvor, Odelsk, Razhanka, Sakolka, Sapotskin, Schutchin, Skidel, Strubnitsa, Supraslj, Svyatsk, Vasilkov, Volkovysk, Zabludov, Zelva

Grodno region: Rech Pospolita (17th century)

Grodno’s capital was Vilna in the Lithuanian Principality

Braslav, Berestje, Borisov, Cherersk, David Gorodok, Drutsk, Garodnya, Gomel, Kobrin, Krichev, Mensk, Mogilev, Mozyr, Mstislav, Navagaradok, Orsha, Pinsk, Polotsk, Propoisk, Rechitsa, Slonim, Stolin, Turov, Vitebsk, Volkovysk

Grodno Pavet (region) (Second half of the 19th century)

Azery, Berestovitsa, Bershty, Boljshaya, Dubna, Galynka, Gozha, Grodna, Gudevichi, Kamenka, Lunna, Malaya Berestovitsa, Masty, Masalyany, Prakopavichi, Skidel, Vertelishki, Volpa, Zhydomlya

Grodnenskaya Gubernya (Beginning of the 20 century)

Azery, Belystok, Belsk, Brest-Litovski, Dambrova, Derechin, Domachevo, Dragichin, Dyatlovo, Garadets, Ganenz, Grodna, Homsk, Ivatsevichi, Kamenka, Kamenets-Litovski, Kartuz-Beresa, Karytsyn, Knyshin, Kobrin, Kosovo, Lunna, Malarita, Mosty, Motel, Parechej, Peski, Ozernitsa, Pruzhany, Rosj, Rozhanka, Ruzhany, Sakulka, Schutchin, Skidel, Slonim, Suhavolya, Surazh, Trastsyany, Tsehanovets, Vasiljkov, Volovysk, Volpa, Zabludavo, Zeludok

(Navagrudak was in Minskaya Gubernya)

Grodno Uezd and Town page


and the towns of Bershty, Bershtovskaya, Bogordickaya, Brestov-Velik, Drusgeniki, Dubno, Dubnovskaya, Godevicheskaya, Golynka, Gozhskaya, Gozha, Grodno, Gornica, Gornickaya, Gudevichi, Indura, Indurskaya, Kamenka, Kamenskaya, Krinskaya, Krinki, Lashanskaya, Lunna, Lunnenskaya, Malo-Berestovickaya, M. Berestovica, Masalyany, Mosty, Mostovskaya, Ozerskaya, Ozery, Prokopovich, Skidel, Skidelskaya, Sobolyanskaya, Strupin, Veliko-Berestovickaya, Vel-Kovalichki, Vercelishki, Vercelishskaya, Volpyanskaya, Volya, Zhidomlya, and Zhidomlyanskaya

How The Café Reinvented Jewish Culture

Jewish literature is full of references to cafés, like the Café Fanconi in Odessa described by Sholem Aleichem’s hapless hero, Menachem Mendl, or the Café Royale on the Lower East Side, frequented by Jewish socialists, writers and artists.

These literary descriptions of café settings are often read merely as curious episodes but in fact, the café was an important cultural institution, especially before World War II. Professor Shachar Pinsker’s hefty new book, “A Rich Brew,” has an ambitious subtitle: “How Cafés Created Modern Jewish Culture.” The reader learns that the cafés in Europe, America and Israel were indeed highly productive spaces where people wrote, read and frequently debated questions of modern Jewish culture.

The love story between Jews and cafés had its start in 18th-century Berlin. The Gelehrtes Kaffeehaus was a new meeting place where educated individuals could meet, read newspapers, play chess and chat. Moses Mendelssohn, considered the father of Berlin’s Haskalah, or Jewish Enlightenment, was among the café’s frequenters. The coffee was kosher and, the café, compared to other local institutions, evidenced no Christian influences. It was in the café that Mendelssohn was inspired to write the essays and books which were to became the platform for his philosophy of Jewish acculturation.

The blossoming of Jewish cafés continued from the mid-19th century until the Holocaust. Pinsker takes the reader on a journey across the important centers of modern Jewish culture: Odessa, Warsaw, Vienna, Berlin, New York and Tel Aviv, using a host of different sources and making for a captivating read. This book will be useful for professional researchers of Yiddish and Hebrew culture and literature and for the broader audience as well.

The Association of Jewish Writers and Journalists in Warsaw at Tlomackie 13 was the most famous Yiddish literary club between the two world wars, portrayed in many memoirs and literary works. But that wasn’t the first Jewish café in Warsaw. Cafés gained popularity at the beginning of the 20th century when Warsaw became a magnet for young, impoverished intellectuals, especially Lithuanian Jews. Some of them dreamed about a literary career in Yiddish or Hebrew. They felt comfortable in the home of Yekhezkl Kotik, the respected author of memoirs about Jewish life in Russia in the 19th century. They would sit there for hours and read newspapers, discuss literature and politics, even conduct business. Cafés were also warm in the winter, a valuable benefit for more destitute visitors.

Yiddish literature would surely have been less dynamic without these Warsaw cafés, and especially without the writer’s club on Tlomackie 13. In a way, Pinsker’s book reads like a history of Jewish literature, as seen from the perspective of the café table. The Warsaw cafés were important not only for those Jews who wrote in Yiddish, but also for those who penned their work in Polish, like Julian Tuwim or Antoni Slonimski.

The epilogue of the Warsaw Jewish café culture played out in the ghetto: “The ghetto café… was a complex site of collaboration, cultural survival, commercialism and elitism,” Pinsker concludes in his chapter about Warsaw.

Certain cafés in Vienna and Berlin actually served as sanctuaries for Jewish immigrants and refugees who arrived after World War I. These large German-speaking cities already had a rich culture of literary and artistic cafés. For many Jewish writers, the cafés became “stations on the transnational silk road” of emigration, which eventually led them to America or Israel. The writers brought elements of this café culture abroad to New York and Tel Aviv. New York cafés appear in a number of works of American Yiddish literature, as in Sholem’s Café, described in Dovid Ignatov’s novel, “In Keslgrub” (“In the Whirlpool”). Ignatov describes these locales as a “place of confrontation between various ideas of Yiddish literature.” Quite a few heated quarrels took place here, often about radical political views.

Pinsker closes: “The urban cafés served not only as centers of migrant cultural networks, but also as a respite for the homeless and for cosmopolitan multilingualism, which was in danger of being destroyed by nationalist ideologies.” Today, though, Pinsker surmises, cafés have come to play a less important role, as Facebook and other virtual spaces seem to have taken their place.


L'endroit a profité de la ligne de chemin de fer le long du golfe de Finlande allant de Saint-Pétersbourg à Vyborg en Carélie (chemin de fer Riihimäki – Saint-Pétersbourg) et les premières résidences secondaires de Pétersbourgeois et datchas se sont construites à la fin du XIX e siècle et le début du XX e siècle. La gare elle-même est inaugurée le 1 er mai 1903 qui marque la date officielle de la fondation de la station balnéaire. La bourgade s'est développée sur une colline appelée en finnois Kellomäki (qui signifie colline de la cloche, pour la cloche de la gare, ou selon d'autres sources pour la cloche que les vachers mettaient à leur troupeau) [ 2 ] dont elle a pris le nom jusqu'en 1948. Elle est renommée Komarovo [ 3 ] en l'honneur du botaniste Vladimir Komarov. Il y avait 800 datchas et villas en 1916. On comptait parmi les personnalités y possédant une résidence secondaire ou venues s'y reposer avant la révolution, Mathilde Kschessinska, l'écrivain Leonid Andreïev, la famille Fabergé, Anna Vyroubova, ou le chocolatier Georges Borman. Après la révolution d'Octobre, les propriétaires russes disparaissent, leurs maisons sont vendues à l'encan par les autorités finlandaises et certaines en bois reconstruites ailleurs par leurs nouveaux propriétaires, la région entrant dans la nouvelle république de Finlande. Une centaine de familles finlandaises y vivent alors. La population est totalement évacuée par les autorités finlandaises [ 4 ] , au début de la guerre d' octobre 1939 contre l'URSS. La victoire de cette dernière y a amené les premiers habitants soviétiques au printemps suivant, après le traité de Moscou (1940). La plupart d'entre eux doivent quitter l'endroit lorsque Léningrad est assiégée par les Allemands. Un monument aux morts des combattants de 1944 a été érigé en ville après la guerre.

Les autorités soviétiques ont installé dans d'anciennes résidences secondaires d'avant la révolution des sanatoriums, ce qui en russe signifie maison de cure et de repos, pour les curistes et les vacanciers et en a fait construire de nouvelles, la plupart en bois. Elles se trouvent dans des bois de pins bordant la mer. Il y en a plus d'une dizaine aujourd'hui. Des datchas sont construites pour les membres de l'Académie des sciences, des personnalités du monde de l'art ou de l'intelligentsia. Parmi les propriétaires de datchas célèbres, l'on peut distinguer la poétesse Anna Akhmatova (qui est enterrée dans le cimetière), l'acteur Andreï Krassko, Viktor Reznikov (1952-1992), compositeur et auteur de chansons.

Depuis les années 1990, des maisons luxueuses sont construites par des Pétersbourgeois fortunés à l'intérieur de la forêt de pins, et quelques datchas de bois anciennes ont été démolies. L'ex-gouverneur de Saint-Pétersbourg, Valentina Matvienko y habite en été, se rendant en ville pour travailler.

Watch the video: Σωπαίνω δε μιλώ - Γιώργος Μιχαήλ