Historical Research and Forgeries in the Age of Nationalism: The Case of the Russian Empire Between Jews and Russians

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Abstract

The nineteenth century saw the beginning of modern historical research and methodology as well as intense development of historical thought in the Russian Empire. This century was also marked by the emergence of the Haskalah, which reached its peak in Russia in the 1860s and introduced a new area of scholarship–Wissenschaft des Judentums, or Hokhmat Israel. It included, inter alia, research endeavors to trace the history of Jewish communities in the territories that became part of the Russian Empire. The first Jewish researchers, both maskilim and Karaites, tried to employ research methods used by their European and Russian counterparts. Simultaneously, there appeared multifarious forgeries of historical documents–manuscripts, colophons, tomb inscriptions, as well as forged chronicles and “folklore” texts, both in Jewish and Russian educated circles and in the scholarly world more broadly. This article examines historical forgery in the Russian Empire as a socio-cultural phenomenon in a wider temporal context. It proposes a number of factors that contributed to the coexistence of the two, apparently conflicting, parallel processes–the emergence of modern science and the rise of historical forgeries.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)101-117
Number of pages17
JournalEast European Jewish Affairs
Volume48
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 4 May 2018

Keywords

  • Haskalah
  • Historical forgeries
  • Russian Empire
  • Wissenschaft des Judentums
  • nationalism

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