‘Russian Jews in Exile from Bolshevik Russia: Lev Shestov as an Example of Russian-Jewish Existential Compromise’

Tabachnikova, Olga orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-2622-6713 (2008) ‘Russian Jews in Exile from Bolshevik Russia: Lev Shestov as an Example of Russian-Jewish Existential Compromise’. East European Jewish Affairs, 38 (2). pp. 185-200.

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13501670802182151


Lev Shestov (born Leib Jehuda Shvartsman in Kiev in 1866) was a product of his times
and entangled cultural roots. His destiny became closely related to the Russian Diaspora
in Europe (he fled Bolshevik Russia in 1920). He was also linked to the local (especially
French and German) intellectual life. However, being a Jew made Shestov stand out
from the purely Russian emigration, for although he connected himself first and
foremost with Russian culture, he could not be integrated without reservations into the
purely Russian Diaspora. On the other hand mapping him in relation to the diverse
Russian-Jewish émigré milieu in Europe is not a straightforward task because his
attitude to his Jewish roots was rather ambivalent. The case of self-identification, in
varying degrees, was similarly ambiguous with many Russian Jews who left Russia after
the revolution. Shestov’s activities in emigration were diverse. Apart from teaching he
published regularly in the outlets of the émigré press as well as in major French literary
journals and gave lectures in Germany (in particular, addressing such different
audiences as the Union of Russian Jews and the Nietzschean Society). In brief, his way
of coping with the experience of exile was to become a multicultural conductor of sorts.
This article aims to analyse Shestov’s life path in the framework of the Russian-Jewish
Diaspora in Europe at the time in the context of both cultural and ethnic repudiation and
appropriation. This in turn should shed some new light on the cultural life of this

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