Sovetish Heymland

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SOVETISH HEYMLAND

SOVETISH HEYMLAND ("Soviet Homeland"), the only Yiddish literary journal in the post-Stalinist Soviet Union, published as an organ of the Soviet Writers' Union. Sovetish Heymland made its appearance in July–August 1961, originally as a bi-monthly and, from January 1965, as a monthly. Apart from a few books in Yiddish that began to be published in Moscow in 1959, this magazine was a partial response of the Soviet authorities to the continued and forceful demands, mostly external, made upon them to reverse the process inaugurated at the end of 1948 of completely obliterating all manifestations of Jewish cultural life. This process had led to the execution of important Yiddish writers in the Soviet Union on August 12, 1952.

The editorial board, headed by Aaron *Vergelis, was composed of the few surviving Yiddish writers and changed significantly in the 1970s and 1980s, when some members died, immigrated to Israel, or quarreled with Vergelis. Like other periodicals of its kind appearing in the USSR, Sovetish Heymland devoted about two-thirds of its space to belles lettres and the remainder to literary criticism, research papers, ideological articles, memoirs, an account of Jewish cultural events in the Soviet Union and abroad, regular columns (such as the one on old Jewish books), polemical sections, etc. Most of the contributors were Yiddish authors living in the Soviet Union. The magazine also frequently presented translations of Soviet authors and, from time to time, contributions by Yiddish and Hebrew writers living outside the Soviet Union, provided, as a rule, that they were sympathizers of the communist movement. The magazine was illustrated and well edited and earned the reputation of being one of the most attractive Yiddish journals published at the time.

The material published by Sovetish Heymland fully reflected the ideology of Soviet patriotism prevailing in the publications in other languages in the USSR. Thus, compared to Soviet magazines that followed a "liberal" line in literature, such as Novy Mir, Sovetish Heymland displayed much greater circumspection. The literary standard was often lower than that of Soviet Yiddish literature before the liquidation of 1948, although every issue contained interesting and appealing items. Most of the contributors were the disciples of the liquidated writers. Their Jewish aspect was expressed primarily by works dealing with the Holocaust and World War ii and by attempts to portray Soviet Jewish life; initially the liquidation of Yiddish literature was only hinted at, but from 1988 it became one of the main topics. Until 1970 the journal exercised great restraint over any topic related to Israel and did not contain the vicious attacks on the state found in other Soviet publications, especially after the Six-Day *War (1967). On the other hand it sharply refuted reports on the situation of Soviet Jewry published in the West. Sovetish Heymland fulfilled a positive role in domestic Jewish life by providing Yiddish material to a considerable readership and serving as a symbol of Jewish identity in a country that had so few opportunities for Jewish expression.

From 1970, when the journal became a forum for virulent anti-Zionist propaganda, it lost many readers and friends in the country and, especially, abroad. In the 1980s the editorial office trained a group of younger writers, such as Boris *Sandler (1950– ) and Velvl Chenin (1958– ). Following the collapse of the Soviet state-sponsored publishing system, the journal was saved by foreign sponsors and appeared sporadically in 1993–97 under the name of Di Yidishe Gas ("Jewish Street").

bibliography:

M. Abramowicz, in: Molad, 163 (1962), 11–17; H. Sloves, in: Yidishe Kultur (n.y., Oct. 1966), 4–17; J. and A. Brumberg, Sovetish Heymland, An Analysis (1966); Midstream, 12 (1966), 49; E. Schulman, in: Judaism, 14, no. 1 (Winter, 1965), 6071; idem, in: Reconstructionist, 37, no. 4 (June 11, 1970), 13–17. add. bibliography: G. Estraikh, in: East European Jewish Affairs, 25:1 (1995), 1–12; idem, Soviet Yiddish (1999), index; idem, in: T. Parfitt and Y. Egorova (eds.), Jews, Muslims and Mass Media (2004), 133–43.

[Chone Shmeruk /

Gennady Estraikh (2nd ed.)]