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Author(s): Vedenyapina, Dasha
Date: 2018
Abstract: My thesis is about new identities experienced by Russian Jews and the construction of the Jewish community. Jewish identity in the Soviet Union was based solely on ethnicity. Soviet passports contained the graph of ethnicity and Jews were considered to be a nationality. It is important to stress on the fact that Jewish identity in the Soviet Union can be characterised as a negative one. It was through the State antisemitism that Jews were defined, being suppressed and discriminated in the social field. With the collapse of The Soviet Union, the situation changed dramatically: those who had been discriminated obtained a rare opportunity to reconstruct their Jewish identity through religion, the rebirth of Jewish tradition and equal rights with the rest of the population. With all that, the auto-definition through ethnicity still persist, among the young generation as well as among the older ones. The quantitative part of my research shows that around 50% of respondents suppose that it is one’s parentage that defines one’s jewishness. In this work I also pay attention to family transmission and collective memory and their contribution to the construction of new types of identities. I show that the identity the young generation obtained from their parents needed to be developed in the new post-soviet reality. So, they have transformed the “passive”, negative Soviet-time identity into new ones, religious or secular, - the principal point is that they are “active”. The construction of active identity demands the construction of the environment, the community. In the second part of the thesis I demonstrate the way this community functions in social, cultural and political spheres. I take the president elections of 2018 in Russia as an example of community act, following the possible trajectories of vote as well as problematizing the existence of community vote among Jews on contemporary Russia. Within the framework of my thesis I took 15 interviews with Jews from different types of communities: the orthodox communities, the reformist one, as well as from so called “secular Jews” attending events in various Jewish clubs and organisations. I also distributed a questionnaire (84 answers) containing questions on the two basic topics of the research: the construction of Jewish identities and the political identity of the respondents.