Harriet Murav: “Poetry After Kerch: Representing Jewish Mass Death in the Soviet Union”

2010 Helen Diller Family Endowment Distinguished Lecture in Jewish Studies

June 2, 2010 | 5:00-6:30 PM | Free & Open to the Public
Humanities 1 Building, Room 210, UC Santa Cruz
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Why was there no Holocaust in Soviet Russia? There were killings, but the killings did not take on the same meaning as in the West, where the Holocaust emerged as a unique and paradigmatic set of events. Official Soviet history is part of the reason for the absence of the Holocaust in the former Soviet Union. The term “Holocaust” itself did not have broad currency in the West during the 40s and it was not used in Russian until the Soviet Union collapsed in the 1990s. Nonetheless, Soviet literature, almost completely neglected by scholars and critics, confronts the impossible history of the destruction of the Jews, but not in the same terms as Holocaust literature in the West. In the former Soviet Union and post-Soviet Russia, the scholarly and artistic response to the destruction of the Jews takes on its own, distinct outline, which combines the perspectives of victim, avenger, and victor. To trace these differences, this paper focuses on three Russian-language poems by Il’ia Sel’vinskii published during the 1940s. These works represent some of the earliest artistic responses in any language to the Nazi mass killings of Jews. Sel’vinskii’s “Ia eto videl” (I saw it), first published in January, 1942, describes the poet’s reaction to the sight of seven thousand corpses in a ditch outside the city of Kerch. Each of the subsequent poems returns to this scene.

Harriet Murav is Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures and Comparative and World Literatures at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Every year we honor Helen Diller, whose generous endowment continues to provide crucial support to Jewish Studies at UC Santa Cruz, by hosting a public lecture series on campus by an internationally recognized scholar.

This event was made possible by generous support from the Helen Diller Family Endowment and the Center for Jewish Studies at UC Santa Cruz.

Questions, or for disability related accommodations, please contact ihr@ucsc.edu or 831-459-5655.

Posted in Diller Lecture Series, Events.

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