I was looking for some comprehensive histories of Jews in Russia, when I came across Aleksander Solzhenitsyn's Two Hundred Years Together. I had no idea that this book even existed, and am disappointed that it is not available in English translation.

The usual people (Daily Stormer, Occidental Observer, etc) and a variety of supposedly left-leaning, Holocaust-denying and Jew-hating commenters on Amazon have all decided that the reason it doesn't exist in translation is because it is being suppressed. Given the prevalence of trash antisemitism that exists in English, I highly doubt that something written by so eloquent and expressive a writer as Solzhenitsyn would be deliberately withdrawn from the public, but there's no arguing with some people.

Are there any Russian speakers here (or French or German speakers, since it was translated into those languages) who have read this book and who can comment on the nature of its content? How historically reliable is it? How incendiary is it? And are there any plans for a proper English translation? (I say "proper" because the websites I referenced earlier are compiling translations of their own, but I have good reason to suspect they are incorporating passages that Solzhenitsyn himself disavowed.)

  • I don't think it's really fair to paint left leaning people as Holocaust deniers. Despite a lot of troubling antisemitism on the left, full blown Holocaust denial is a far right gig ('left leaning' social democrats were liable to be joining to Jews in the ovens after all) – Ne Mo Mar 15 '17 at 23:14
  • I agree, @NeMo. That's what I meant by "supposedly" left-leaning. – Shimon bM Mar 15 '17 at 23:28
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    I am not quite sure what kind of an answer you are expecting. Solzhenitsyn is an excellent writer, in the tradition of 19th century realism, but not a good historian. He is reliable in the sense that he will not invent quotes, but he is not reliable in the sense that once he either is unaware of historic sources contradicting some of the central themes of his book or simply does not care. His book is not incendiary (as some other "publications" you mention), but is just not that good if you treat it as a historic research monograph. – Moishe Kohan Mar 16 '17 at 1:21
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    Unfortunately, the detailed critique of his writing by professional historians is either behind the paywall or is in Russian. Google translate will give you a reasonably good approximation of what Petrovsky-Shtern says here: magazines.russ.ru/nz/2001/4/shtern.html. Petrovsky-Shtern also has a shorter English version of his review here: “On Solzhenitsyn’s ‘Middle Path,’” Polin, no. 18 (2005), 381-392. Polin is published by Institute for Polish-Jewish Studies (Oxford). Your library might have it (my university library does); or use the interlibrary loan to get it. – Moishe Kohan Mar 16 '17 at 1:27
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    One more thing: If you just want to quote a fragment from the book, you can use: Mahoney, Daniel J.; Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr Isaevich; Edward L. Beach Jr (2009). The Solzhenitsyn Reader: New and Essential Writings, 1947–2005. Lanham, MD: Intercollegiate Studies Institute; pages 488–507. – Moishe Kohan Mar 16 '17 at 15:59

I am a Russian speaker who read the book, and many reviews of this book. Most reviews label it as anti-semitic. Its main point is to justify or acquit all Russian actions with respect to the Jews. And to shift the blame on the Jews whenever he can. I would not recommend this as a book on the history of Jews in Russia. On my opinion, the book is of interest only from the point of view of history of the Russian chauvinist thought.

For the early (before the mid 19th century) history, I recommend Leskov, Jews in Russia (there is an English translation). I intentionally choose a "genuine Russian" author (and quite famous and respected), who is not related in any way to the Jews.

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    @ShimonbM: given this answer, I cannot imagine why would anyone bother translating the book. – sds Mar 16 '17 at 14:26
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    So its being "suppressed" in roughly the same manner that The Terror of Tiny Town is being suppressed by Netflix. – T.E.D. Mar 16 '17 at 15:24
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    @T.E.D. I strongly disagree. On my opinion, there is simply nobody to translate it. This is a huge book, a lot of work, and hard to find any strongly interested Western publisher. Most of the antisemitic rubbish (and other rubbish, which is abundant in Russian) is not translated. – Alex Mar 16 '17 at 19:12
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    Sometimes the publishers send me Russian books to referee, with the question "to translate them or not". In this particular case I would recommend "not to translate". And I suppose most of the people who read the book will answer the same. So much about "suppression". If you wish to translate it, go ahead. But I predict poor sales. – Alex Mar 16 '17 at 19:19
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    I confess that I did not understand the first comment of T.E.D. Now I see that we completely agree on the case. (And about the movie too. I read its description on Wikipedia, and I have no slightest desire to see it). – Alex Mar 17 '17 at 2:43

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