The Anti-Imperial Choice

The Making of the Ukrainian Jew

Yohanan Petrovsky-Shtern

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This book is the first to explore the Jewish contribution to, and integration with, Ukrainian culture. Yohanan Petrovsky-Shtern focuses on five writers and poets of Jewish descent whose literary activities span the 1880s to the 1990s. Unlike their East European contemporaries who disparaged the culture of Ukraine as second-rate, stateless, and colonial, these individuals embraced the Russian- and Soviet-dominated Ukrainian community, incorporating their Jewish concerns in their Ukrainian-language writings.


The author argues that the marginality of these literati as Jews fuelled their sympathy toward Ukrainians and their national cause. Providing extensive historical background, biographical detail, and analysis of each writer’s poetry and prose, Petrovsky-Shtern shows how a Ukrainian-Jewish literary tradition emerged. Along the way, he challenges assumptions about modern Jewish acculturation and Ukrainian-Jewish relations.

Yohanan Petrovsky-Shtern teaches Jewish history in the History Department and the Crown Family Center for Jewish Studies, Northwestern University. He publishes frequently in the areas of East European history and culture and Jewish studies. He lives in Chicago.

"Petrovsky is a real rarity among scholars: he is fully at home in both East European and Jewish literature, and he exhibits an intimate knowledge of both Ukrainian and Jewish histories."—Glenn Dynner, author of Men of Silk: The Hasidic Conquest of Polish Jewish Society


"A work of original and impressive scholarship."—Timothy Snyder, Yale University

"The Anti-Imperial Choice is an impressive piece of scholarship that benefits from exhaustive research in libraries, archives, and collections held in private hands."—Robert Weinberg, Slavic Review

"A scintilliating, informative, and novel book...The Anti-Imperial Choice deserves a broad readership among historians, literary specialists, indeed anyone interested in culture, identity, and modernity in the context of Eastern Europe."--Theodore R. Weeks, Journal of Jewish Identities 

"This book is an important contribution not only to the history of Jews in Ukriane but also to broader discussions of the role of language in a writer's construction of his or her national identity."—Amelia Glaser, American Historical Review

“This book is highly recommended reading, and provides food for thought for all historians of imperial and colonial literature of Eastern Europe and beyond.”—Alexis Hofmeister, Ab Imperio

Winner of the 2009-2010 American Association for Ukranian Studies Book Prize
ISBN: 9780300137316
Publication Date: April 28, 2009
384 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
29 b/w illus in gallery
Lenin's Jewish Question

Yohanan Petrovsky-Shtern

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