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Chapter One Leaving the Shtetl

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Chapter Summary

In the 1860s and 1870s it appeared to some Jews that Russian Jewry was finally on the course that had been achieved by Jewish communities to the west, especially after the legal emancipation of German Jews in 1871. Nevertheless, by the 1860s the regime of the new tsar, Alexander II, embarked on measures in the direction of limited reforms, which brought sweeping changes in the economy, the military, the judicial system, local government, and so forth. Simon Dubnow's "first world" was the town of Mstislavl in the province of Mogilev, where historical and geographical conditions had preserved many old social and cultural patterns. The Haskalah (the Jewish Enlightenment) spans the century of Hebrew literature beginning in the 1770s and ending in the early 1880s. In 1873 Simon wrote an essay entitled "A Vision of the Holy Tongue" in the flowery melitzah style.

Keywords: Alexander II; Hebrew literature; Mstislavl; Russian Jewry; Simon Dubnow



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