‘To be or to feel?’ Main Patterns of Jewish self-identity among the offspring of mixed marriages. Moscow: Institute of Oriental Studies – Kraft, 2004 (400 p.) (in Russian)

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Author: Elena E. Nosenko
Moscow, Institute of Oriental Studies – Kraft
Year: 2004
Pages: 392
5-93675-085-X, 5-89282-234-6
Download: Введение (PDF)


This monograph is dedicated to the study of Jewish self-identity formation among the offspring of mixed marriages in today’s Russia. Neither scholars nor Jews themselves have come up with a unanimous answer to the question “Who is a Jew?” The situation with the intermarriage offspring is even more complicated.

This study is based on the interviews conducted by the author in Moscow and Petersburg -the two largest cities in Russia where the majority of Russia’s Jewish population lives. The author interviewed 83 persons, using the method of oral history, which is believed to provide better understanding of the formation of ethnic identity. Elena E. Nosenko analysed a variety of factors influencing the Jewish self-identity formation: childhood, family and cultural milieu of the respondents, cultural tradition, religion, anti-Semitism, Holocaust and Stalin’s terror, migration, Israel, Jewish communal and other organizations, etc. As a result of her research, the author has defined four types of ethnic self-identity among people born to mixed couples with one Jewish spouse. 1. The “Russian” (or non-Jewish self-identity) (21 interviews). 2.The “internationalist” type of self-identity (26 interviews). 3. The “split self-identity” or, speaking more properly, the “self-identity of transition” (24 interviews). 4. The Jewish selfidentity (12 interviews). Very often one can see a kind of ‘turning point’ in constructing this new self-identity (anti-Semitic attitudes, trip to Israel, involving into the Jewish life etc.).

The author considers it is possible to speak about “constructing” new Jewish self-identity in today’s Russia rather than about the revival of traditional Jewish self-identity. She also defines the main factors of this constructing: the factor of different Jewish organizations’ activities; the factor of anti-Semitism; the factor of age; the factor of professional activities of respondents; the factor of blood; and at last the factor of historical memory.


  • Instead of Introduction
  • Introduction Download (PDF)
  • Chapter 1. Studying ethnic identity
    • Ethnic identity in intermarriage
    • Studying Jewish identity
    • Researching Jewish identity in Russia
  • Chapter 2. Methods and sources
  • Chapter 3. ‘Fifth line’ (Registration of ethnic groups)
  • Chapter 4. ‘Do they feel Jewish or not?’ (Informal identification)
  • Chapter 5. ‘What is that ‘to be a Jew?’
  • Chapter 6. ‘What do they think about Jews?’ (Negative and positive stereotypes dealing with Jews and non-Jews)
  • Chapter 7. Family and childhood
  • Chapter 8. Cultural traditions and symbols
    • Language
    • Education
    • Food
    • Festivals
    • Fiction and non-fiction
    • Press
    • Music
    • Theater
  • Chapter 9. Religion (Judaism and Christianity and their role)
  • Chapter 10. ‘To leave or not to leave’ (Israel and emigration)
  • Chapter 11. “Jews everywhere’ (Anti-Semitism and its influence)
  • Chapter 12. Holocaust and Resistance
  • Chapter 13. ‘Revival or games?’ (Jewish organizations in Russia today)
  • Chapter 14. ‘Turning point’
  • Chapter 15. ‘Their expectation’ (Jewish perspectives in Russia)
  • Conclusion
  • Appendix (8 interviews)
  • List of some terms
  • Summary


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