In loco parentis: Staatliche Zensur, Selbstzensur und Mehrsprachigkeit in der jüdischen Presse Russlands, 1804-1906

Translated title of the contribution: In loco parentis: state censorship, self-censorship and multilingualism in Imperial Russia’s Jewish press, 1804-1906

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


Since the invention of movable type printing in the mid 15th century rabbinic leaders have praised printing as the ‘sacred craft’ and a powerful tool for the dissemination of Jewish teaching, one of the most important mandates of Jewish faith. Along with the establishment of printing presses in Imperial Russia came the government censorship of all books, including Jewish ones. Jewish community leaders considered government censorship as representing the opinion of society, restraining people from acting contrary to public expectations. Any dissenters risked isolation and the burning of their works. Before government censorship, they had implemented their own mechanisms of checking and prevention. This pre-censorship had two aims, firstly not to annoy the printer, who at that time had the power to reject anything he disagreed with, and secondly to satisfy the Jewish clergy who were the guardians of the religious and moral wellbeing of the Jewish people. As the generator of ideas the clergy was also deemed responsible for their control, especially when it came to printing and dissemination. A Russian-language Jewish press was launched by an acculturated Jewish intelligentsia following the liberal reforms during the first decade of the reign of Alexander II, while a mass Yiddish press emerged with the ambition of the General Jewish Workers’ Bund in Lithuania, Poland and Russia, a Marxist-oriented party, founded in Vilna in 1897, to generate material for mass agitation addressed to the Yiddish speaking workers in the industrial centres of the Pale of Settlement. The latter is discussed in this contribution. From 1901 onwards the Bund produced press material in Russian and Polish for its potential confederates, the Russian and Polish workers in the Pale of Settlement, besides German material for self-presentation at the international congresses of European Social Democracy. In this article I will demonstrate how the translations of these pamphlets, originally conceived in Yiddish, were self-censored when targeted at members of different speech communities, depending on their function, leading to appeals for donations when directed to an audience outside Russia. I will also show that the strategies applied by the Bund’s translators were governed by being faithful to their party line, rather than being faithful to the original text, and how their misjudgement and inadequacy to deal with the challenges contributed to the Bund becoming ever more isolated and eventually finding itself moved from the position of an influential team player to that of an isolated political outsider, both nationally and internationally.
Translated title of the contributionIn loco parentis: state censorship, self-censorship and multilingualism in Imperial Russia’s Jewish press, 1804-1906
Original languageGerman
Title of host publicationSprachkontakte in Zentraleuropa
EditorsA. Katny, S. Newerkla
Place of PublicationFrankfurt/Main
PublisherPeter Lang International Academic Publishers
ISBN (Print)9783631624098
Publication statusPublished - 2013

Publication series

NameSprach- und Kulturkontakte in Europas Mitte. Studien zur Slawistik und Germanistik
PublisherPeter Lang


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