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The Jewish Elite in the Russian Empire of the Late 18th – Early 19th Centuries: Toward a Rhetoric of Self-Presentation

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Chapter Summary

Jewish cultural history of the late 18th to early 19th centuries period tends to be approached either as part of history of "the early Haskalah" or as part of history of Hasidism. This chapter is based on primary sources which make it possible to reconstruct some features of the mode of self-presentation typical of members of the upper class of Jewish society in Tsarist Russia. These materials consist of odes, appeals, proposals, and items of correspondence. Both in content and form, these texts were in many ways dictated by formal considerations, as well as by the preferences of the addressees. The proliferation of "patriotic" rhetoric in texts written or commissioned by Jews was further encouraged by a surge of nationalistic propaganda during the Napoleonic war years. The Jewish petitioners were probably quite clear on the real intent behind the Tsarist edicts, which they often cited in support of their requests.

Keywords: "patriotic" rhetoric; "the early Haskalah"; Jewish society; Napoleonic war years; Tsarist Russia



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