PODCAST: Yohannan Petrovsky-Shtern: Ukraine and the Framing of East European Jewish History

Olena Palko's picture

In this episode, Yohanan Petrovsky-Shtern, Crown Family Professor of Jewish Studies and Professor of Jewish History at Northwestern University, talks to Oleksii Chebotarov, Postdoctoral Fellow at the New Europe College - Institute for Advanced Studies, Bucharest, about Jewish communities in the late Russian Empire and the Soviet Union and the challenges in framing this history.
As the Romanov Empire expanded into what is today Ukraine and Poland, these newly incorporated territories included a sizable Jewish population, most of whom remained confined to these western provinces. Petrovsky-Shtern considers how, despite often representing the majority of residents in certain towns, Eastern Europe’s Jews have continued to be exclusively viewed through the lens of their proscribed minority status. By exploring this issue in closer detail, he also assesses how even small communities that ostensibly existed at the imperial peripherals displayed far greater social and cultural diversity and division than is often presented within more mainstream historiographies. This became even more complex when analyzing the transformation of the East European Jewish population and its changing roles within societies across the region, at a micro-historical level from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries. These questions of historical framing are compounded by the no less complex and multi-faceted issue of national identity and ethnic belonging. A Jew living in the borders of the Russian Empire, for example, might not be viewed as a Russian Jew, while, until recently, a resident of Lviv or Kyiv would very rarely be labelled or self-identified as a Ukrainian Jew.

"Eastern Europe's Minorities in a Century of Change", a podcast series on the history of minorities and minority experiences in twentieth-century Central and Eastern Europe prepared by the BASEES Study Group for Minority History to mark the Institute for Historical Research’s centenary. The co-conveners of the Study Group are Olena Palko (Birkbeck) and Samuel Foster (University of East Anglia).