Gershenzon, Mikhail Osipovich

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GERSHENZON, MIKHAIL OSIPOVICH (1869–1925), Russian literary historian, philosopher, and essayist. Born in Kishinev, Gershenzon studied in Berlin and Moscow. An anti-Marxist liberal, he nevertheless became the best-known exponent of the thesis that the Bolshevik Revolution would ultimately benefit Russian culture by freeing it from the shackles of tradition. This idea was expressed in his Perepiska iz dvukh uglov ("Correspondence From Two Corners," 1921), an exchange of letters with the Symbolist poet Vyacheslav Ivanov. Gershenzon's other works include monographs dealing with several 19th century Russian revolutionaries and men of letters, as well as such major studies as Mechta I Mysl I.S. Turgeneva, ("The Dream and Thoughts of Turgenev," 1919), and Mudrost Pushkina, ("The Wisdom of Pushkin," 1919). One of the foremost Russian intellectuals of his age, he was the organizer and first chairman of the All-Russian Writers Union. Accused of slavophilism, he replied that he was forever bound to Judaism. Gershenzon was one of the earliest enthusiasts of the revival of Hebrew literature and fought for its recognition as a potentially major contribution to modern writing. He expressed his credo in his foreword to "The Hebrew Anthology" (Russian), and in The Key to Faith (Rus.; Eng. translation, 1925). According to Gershenzon, "A free Jew does not cease being a Jew. On the contrary, only a free Jew is fully capable of absorbing Jewish spirit and merging it with his totally liberated humanity." He published an article on *Bialik (1914) and essays on Judaism. He saw in universalism a Jewish spiritual phenomenon and attacked the Zionist movement.


Y.Z. Berman, M.O. Gershenzon (Rus., 1928), includes bibliography.

[Maurice Friedberg /

Shmuel Spector (2nd ed.)]