In partnership with research and academic institutes and centers at Brandeis, the institute supports publications that focus on Russian Jewish experience and help promote the field of Russian Jewish studies by introducing scholars, students and non-specialist readers to Russian Jewish history, culture and heritage. This series of publications will include diaries and memoirs, scholarly monographs and translated historic documents.
Diaries of Zinaida Lazarovna Poliakova
ChaeRan Y. Freeze, Editor
These rare diaries and family photographs provide a unique glimpse into the privileged world of wealthy and assimilated Russian Jews both in Russia and abroad in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Zinaida Lazarovna Poliakova (1862-1952), the daughter of the railway mogul and banker Lazar Poliakov, kept a diary throughout her life. Eight of these diaries (written in Russian with occasional phrases in French and English), which begin in the 1870's and end in 1951, survived the war. They are presently housed in the Russian State Library (Manuscript Division) in Moscow. Poliakova's diary writing as an everyday practice allowed her to reflect on her multiple subject positions that defined her identity: first, she defined herself as an elite Russian woman whose status was defined by her father's wealth and rank, as well as her own social networks, education, and leisure activities. She also saw herself as a Jewish woman because of her religion and the confessional laws of the empire. Third, in her early twenties, she ruminated about her status as a daughter who was soon to be engaged but still lived under the close supervision of her socially conservative family. Knowing full well that her parents read her diaries, Poliakova manipulated her entries to express female desires (especially her choice of groom) and ambitions that could not fully be articulated openly according to the conventions of her class and gender. Finally, she explored her identity as a Russian emigré living in Italy and France with her husband and daughter with final diary entries devoted to her experiences during World War II.
This volume will include a scholarly introduction by Professor ChaeRan Y. Freeze, author of the critically acclaimed Jewish Marriage and Divorce in Late Imperial Russia and editor of the forthcoming Everyday Jewish Life in Imperial Russia: A Documentary Source Reader. The introduction, designed for the student and non-specialist reader, will place the diaries in their historical contexts and provide an analysis of narration and style. Critical annotations of names, places, and dates will help the reader to understand the documents. The publication of these diaries -- previously unknown -- in a reliable English edition will contribute greatly to our understanding of Jewish selfhood, history, and culture in Russia.