Sholem Aleichem's Ukraine

The project deals with Jewish migration and inter-cultural interaction in the Ukraine region as represented in the works of Sholem Aleichem. Population movement between Kyiv, Odesa and smaller towns in their area was accorded a special place in the prose of Sholem Aleichem, who lived in these cities from the 1880s until the beginning of the twentieth century. Several political, social, and economic processes occurred in the region during this period and impacted the lives of the four major ethnic groups: Russians, Ukrainians, Jews and Poles. The rapid development of industry, trade and transport resulted in a mass influx of the new residents to the major cities of the region. This process transformed the central cities of the region from a collection of a few rustic-looking neighborhoods in the first half of the nineteenth century to the modern cities of the end of the century. The cities became the common multicultural local meeting space of Ukrainians, Russians, Poles and Jews.

The project addresses the ways in which the ethno-demographic, political, social and economic processes in Ukrainian space were expressed in Sholem Aleichem's works (especially in his road novels) and influenced the author's attitude toward his physical and cultural environment. Utilizing the "New Historicism" theoretical model of Stephen Greenblatt, the study aims to analyze the impact of the mobility of the Jews in the Ukrainian region, in particular migrations to its major cultural urban centers (Kyiv, Odesa, Katerinoslav/Dnipro, etc.) on changes to their socio-linguistic loyalty and the reshaping of Jewish cultural identity as represented in Sholem Aleichem's work. Special attention will be paid to the comparative analysis of literary representations in Yiddish, Ukrainian, Russian and Polish that engage with the issues of migration and inter-cultural contacts in the Ukraine.