Revolution in a Shtetl: Literary Image and Historical Representation

Piotr Laskowski


The paper analyses a specific form of revolutionary collectivity referred to as akhdes by Jewish militants of 1905. This peculiar political subjectivity, which emerged independently of mass political parties, could hardly be recognized and apprehended by historians. However, it was perceived by some Yiddish writers who instantaneously fictionalized revolutionary events of 1905. The way the revolted crowd (oylem) was rendered both in historical and literary works is reconsidered with reference to the concepts coined by recent political philosophy (particularly, Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari, and Paolo Virno). The paper is composed of three parts. The first part reviews briefly some of the attempts at writing the history of crowds. The second part is devoted to revolutionary events of 1905 in a specific place, the shtetl of Krynki, which—due to the intensity of the revolt there—attracted particular attention of historians. The third part focuses on Isaac Meir Weissenberg’s novella, A Shtetl, published in 1907, to suggest a political reading that could inform historical narrations insofar as they try to apprehend the dynamics of the revolution itself.

Słowa kluczowe: Revolution of 1905,  Jewish socialism, Weissenberg,  shtetl, Krynki