Making and unmaking the Jewish family : marriage and divorce in imperial Russia, 1850-1914 / by ChaeRan Y. Freeze.
This dissertation examines the transformation of the Jewish marriages and divorces in tsarist Russia within the broader framework of a "crisis of the family" that pervaded Europe in general, and Russia in particular, starting in the mid-nineteenth century to the first world war. On one level, this study explores the internal dynamics of change within the Jewish family such as changing patterns of marriage (e.g. age, social status) and the causes of marital breakdown and divorce. Drawing upon previously untapped sources, including numerous declassified archival materials from the former Soviet Union, it focuses on the quotidian lives of the Jews--domestic routines, family rituals and customs, chronic conflicts, and daily quarrels. Individual cases that pertain to a host of thorny family questions shed light not only on the personal interaction between couples and their immediate families but on their relationship with Jewish religious authorities and society. These case studies also provide a unique window into the lives of Jewish women, who have thus far been left out of the picture without a voice. On another level, this study examines the complex relationship between the Jews and the Russian state in the arena of family policy and politics. Until the late nineteenth century, the tsarist government had permitted each confession to deal independently with matters of family and religious affairs; but as the state apparatus expanded and acquired a new capacity to control its subjects, it began to encroach aggressively on this important bastion of autonomy. How the state implemented and justified its intrusion into the autonomous sphere of Jewish religious law and family practice is central to understanding the bitter politics behind the "regulation" of the Jewish family in late Imperial Russia. This dissertation, in short, is intended as a broad social history of the Russian Jewish family--the patterns of marriage and divorce, the underlying dynamics of change, and the response of the Jewish community and state. It hopes to offer a new perspective on the "Jewish question" in tsarist Russia, showing how the Jews interacted with a state increasingly determined to "Russify" its minorities. It also seeks to provide a new dimension to the vast literature on the family, marriage and divorce in Europe, which covers virtually every ethnic and national group but until now has failed to integrate Russian Jewry--the largest Jewish community in nineteenth-century Europe--into its analysis.
Record last modified: 2018-05-22 11:47:00
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