BBC Radio 4 World War I: The Cultural Front

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For the Jewish civilians of Eastern Europe there is no escape from war. Drafted into the armies of the Czar in disproportionate numbers, surrounded by anti-Semitism, displaced either by their own side or by invading German or Austro-Hungarian armies. The writings of Sholom Alecheim had brought the old world of the Shtetl to new, international audiences. His passing that year is marked by thousands in a grand funeral in New York. But back home all is disaster. Ethnologist S.Ansky travels from St Petersburg to the Pale of Settlement in a desperate attempt to document this disappearing world and bring aid and relief. Back in St Petersburg Maxim Gorky, Russia's senior literary figure, gathers together a host of writers in The Shield, to condemn the continued persecution of the Jews & celebrate their role in helping create the possibility of a new Russia to emerge from the chaos of the old.

Interviewed and translation commissioned for dramatisation.
Period23 Apr 2016


  • World War I
  • Jewish
  • Anti-Semitism
  • Literature
  • St Petersburg
  • Pale of Settlement