Subbotnik Jews as a sub-ethnic group
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                  Subbotnik Jews as a sub-ethnic group

                  Velvl Chernin (photo by Vyacheslav Likhachev)

                  Subbotnik Jews as a sub-ethnic group

                  18.02.2011, Communities of Eurasia

                  Velvl Chernin
                  Editorial note. The Euro-Asian Jewish Yearbook has already touched upon the issue of the Judaizers1. An article by Alexander Lvov published three years ago, was devoted, first and foremost, to the spiritual culture and the history of formation of that unique sub-ethnic group. In the article published in the present issue of the Yearbook the Israeli researcher Velvl Chernin reviews the current state of the communities that still exist in the post-Soviet space.
                  In the late 18th century, when the partitions of Poland resulted in the Russian Empire taking territories with a numerous Jewish Ashkenazi population that formed the culture-historical community of people which is usually designated as Russia’s of Russian Jewry, Russian Subbotniks already represented a separate confessional group. The 19th century saw intensive rapprochement between the religions practices of Subbotniks and normative Judaism and the forming of two quite clearly defined confessional groups among the Subbotniks: Gers (Talmudists and Kippah-wearers) and Karaite-Subbotniks. While the former went all the way to Orthodox Judaism in its Ashkenazi version, the latter didn’t accept the Talmud and attempted to find in the traditional Jewish world an example to follow in the form of the Karaite sect of Judaism.

                  The most distinctive feature of the Karaites-Subbotniks was that they retained a clearly defined Russian ethnic self-awareness combined with an equally distinct appreciation of their belonging to the “Jewish faith”. Their contacts with the Crimean and Lithuanian Karaites, who, to a degree, exemplified for them “a Jewish model to be imitated”, were occasional and never formally arranged since, in particular, normative Karaism denied the acceptance of proselytes and regarded the very existence of a community of Karaites of non-Jewish origin senseless.
                  Quite different was the situation with the Gers-Subbotniks who strove for the closest possible rapprochement with “indigenous Jews”. Members of this group actively used Hebrew in worship, sent their sons to yeshivahs and invited Ashkenazi Jews to serve as melameds, rabbis, cantors and shochets.
                  Over many generations, there have been marriages between Gers-Subbotniks and the Ashkenazi and Mountain Jews. According to the Russian Encyclopedia of the World’s Peoples and Religions, “Gers-Subbotniks have virtually merged together with Jews”2.
                  The April 17, 1905, Czar’s Manifesto on Freedom of Worship technically terminated the persecution of Subbotniks which had lasted over a century. It also permitted official registration of their communities. Nevertheless, it must be particularly noted that since Russia’s local administrations tended to reckon Subbotniks as Jews (“new Jews” in terms of confession), there were attempts to use restraining statutes directed against Jews. To address this matter, the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs issued a circular explaining that Subbotniks had equal rights with the indigenous population and that restraining statutes directed against Jews (regarding the pale of settlement, in particular) shall not apply to them. However, the above practice persisted and in 1909, the Ministry of Internal Affairs issued another letter of like tenor.
                  This alone shows that on the part of government officials, confusing “new Jews” and “indigenous Jews” was quite a steady trend. Among Gers-Subbotniks, due to the ethno-confessional nature of Jewish religion, there gradually began to form Jewish self-awareness, both confessional and a quasi-ethnic one. And the process persisted despite the fact that Gers-Subbotniks continued to steadily use Russian as their everyday language (and, partly, as the language of religious practice) and even though most groups of Gers-Subbotniks remained well aware of their initially non-Jewish origin. In was as early as at the end of the 19th century that Gers-Subbotniks began repatriating to Eretz Israel where they played a significant role in the advance of the settlers’ farming. Even though the repatriation was religiously motivated, it coincided with and was, to a degree, inspired by the Jewish national movement committed to the reconstruction of the ethnic motherland of Jewish people. After the establishment of the Soviet power, thousands of Gers-Subbotniks became, partly through the Ozet (Society for Settling Toiling Jews on the Land) and Komzet (Committee for the Settlement of Toiling Jews on the Land) activities, members of Jewish kolkhozes.
                  With sovietization and the decreasing role of religion in society, two factors contributed to the growth of Jewish self-awareness among Gers-Subbotniks: entering the Jewish ethnicity in Soviet passports for a part of the Gers-Subbotnik population; and the fact that thousands of members of their community fell victims to the Holocaust. The term “Subbotnik” was perceived in many of the local communities (though by no means in all) as an offensive one and challenging their Jewishness.

                  Nowadays, we can consider Subbotnik Jews as a specific sub-ethnic group within the Jewish people. Ethnicon “Subbotnik Jews” is a novelty that appeared in writing only in the beginning of the 21st century3. It is not prevalent in everyday verbal practice either among members of this group or among their neighbors of different ethnicities or faiths. The term “Subbotnik Jews” undoubtedly comes from an attempt to place the descendants of Russian proselytes (who have, over many generations, formed into a separate ethno-confessional group) among other sub-ethnic groups of the Jewish people in the post-Soviet space, such as the Ashkenazi, Mountain, Georgian, Bukhara and Krimchak Jews.
                  It will be noted again that the afore term is not an established one; it is conventional, to an extent, and is neither a self-designation nor an exonym of the ethno-confessional group under review which is actually a continuum of considerably different local subgroups that were, virtually, not in contact over a long period of time. As self-designation, local subgroups of Subbotnik Jews use terms “Jews” (in the Voronezh Oblast), “Gers” (in Azerbaijan) and “Subbotniks” (in Siberia). As exonyms, bookish terms “Judaizers” or “Judaizing sects” and popular terms “Jews”, “Gers”, “Subbotniks” and “Zhids” are used.

                  The usage of all these terms is geographically and situationally specific. Russia’s Gers-Subbotniks, who gave birth to the community of Subbotnik Jews, from the very start drew the attention of Jewish researchers, writers and public figures. They were regarded positively and even enthusiastically.
                  In his notes of journey, a renowned Jewish writer, ethnographer and public figure S. Ansky (Rappoport, 1863-1920)4 passionately and with affection
                  wrote about Gers-Subbotniks. Doctor Hillel Yaffe (1864-1936), chairman of the Hovevei Zion movement in Eretz Israel, in his memoirs, wrote about Subbotnik Jews in the context of the critical situation the first Jewish farming colonies found themselves in during the Ottoman rule. Here is how he described the contribution of Subbotnik Jews to the stabilization of the situation: “It was the Gers who retrieved the situation. Owing to their hard work and insistence, modesty in demands and firmness, they attained success. Gers are very good Jews, fervently committed to religion, ready to dissolve among other Jews and to live and die in this land”5.

                  However, despite the longstanding interest in Gers-Subbotniks on the part of Jewish intellectuals, significant research works devoted to Subbotniks
                  have appeared only recently. The first worthy of mention among these works is the aforementioned article by Alexander Lvov who consistently delved into the history and spiritual culture of this ethno-confessional group6.
                  Likewise, worthy of mention is a substantive and outstanding, in many respects, paper by Valery Dimshits devoted to the ethnographic description of Gers living in the village of Privolnoye in Azerbaijan7. Contrary to such sub-ethnic groups of the Jewish people as Ashkenazi, Mountain and Bukhara Jews, Subbotnik Jews, also a sub-ethnic group, lack their own specific spoken language. Traditionally, Subbotnik Jews have used and still use Russian (less commonly Ukrainian) as their spoken language. However, a number of local groups of Subbotnik Jews include in their speech vocabulary borrowed from Yiddish (or from Hebrew via Yiddish) to designate realities of traditional Jewish ways of life. There have been identified group-specific Jewish religious folklore works in the Russian language.

                  Traditional onomasticon of Subbotnik Jews rests on Biblical names found in the Russian translation of the Bible or on Biblical names as used by the Ashkenazi Jews. Also encountered are specific Ashkenazi non-Biblical names. Surnames of Subbotnik Jews are Russian. However, strictly limited sets of surnames and their geographic specifity allow members of a given group to identify the name-bearers as “ours” or “not ours”. For instance, for Subbotnik Jews of Ilyinka, the Voronezh Oblast, “our” surnames are Kozhokin, Matveev and Karpov, while for Subbotnik Jews of the settlement of Vysoky, the Voronezh Oblast, “our” surnames are Gridnev, Chernykh, Puzankov, Voronin, Konchakov and Yuryev. Several surnames are common among different local groups of Subbotnik Jews and are perceived as “ours” in geographically distant communities: such are Shishlyannikov and Zhabin. Also encountered are surnames showing that their bearers descend in the male line from the Ashkenazi (the Lyubarovs from the settlement of Vysoky) and Mountain (the Yunusovs, the settlement of Vysoky; the Khanukaevs from the Azerbaijani village of Privolnoye) Jews. For the Israeli, (for the man in the street), specifically “Subbotnik-like” surnames indicating the descent of their bearers from long-ago Subbotniks-repatriates are such surnames as Kurakin, Dubrovin and Matveev.

                  The fact that in the territory of Russia (USSR, CIS) Subbotnik Jews have survived as a separate group who, to a certain degree, retain in memory their descent from the proselytes genetically related to Russians, brought about specific novelties as to their self-identification during the Soviet period when the role of religion as an identification factor had considerably weakened under the influence of atheistic propaganda. This resulted, on the one hand, in complete negation, by a part of the members of this group, of their descent from the proselytes, and on the other, in attempts, by some researchers, to set apart ethnic and religious identification and to describe Subbotniks as “Rus sian people of the Jewish faith”8.
                  The repatriation of Subbotnik Jews to Eretz Israel in the late-nine-teenth and early-twentieth-century, has long been a part of the Zionist epos. Such pioneer-settlers’ surnames as the Kurakins and the Dubrovins are an inalienable part of the history of today’s Israel revival. However, the descendants of Subbotnik Jews that repatriated in the days of the Ottoman rule and the British Mandate have lost their ethnic specifity, dissolved among the Hebrew-speaking population of Israel and became an inalienable part of its Ashkenazi section. A further point here is that the majority of the descendants of the first-waves-of-aliyah repatriated Subbotniks bear not the initial Russian surnames but the Hebraized ones (Yaakoby, Shmuely, Dror, etc,).

                  Carefully read memoirs of pioneers Zionists suggest that Russian Gers were not just an exotic additive to the Ashkenazi repatriates of the first, second and, to a degree, of the third aliyah, but, rather, one of the core factors that formed Jewish farming colonies of the non-kibbutz type (moshavot and moshavim). This was detemined by the high religious motivation of Russian Gers combined with many generations’ experience in farming. There were also other groups possessing the same experience: Mountain Jews, fellahs Musta’arabi from ancient old communities of Peki’in and South Lebanon and, to a degree, Kurdistan Jews. Members of these have also made a notable contribution to the development of new Jewish settlement farming. However, Subbotnik Jews possessed three additional qualities rendering them even more attractive in the eyes of the Zionist leadership, as a means for building a new Jewish society in Eretz Israel.

                  1. They spoke Russian, the language most of the Zionist functionaries in Eretz Israel of the time knew as their second or even their first tongue.

                  2. Subbotnik Jews didn’t have their own religious and political elite which could anywhere near compete with the Ashkenazi Zionist elite.
                  3. Subbotnik Jews were perceived as Gers, that is, as proselytes, and therefore, strived to merge with the Ashkenazi Jewry rather than
                  retain their communal purity.

                  It was these peculiarities of Subbotnik Jews that led the first waves of their immigrants towards complete assimilation into the society of Ashkenazi Jews. Further still, descendants of Subbotnik Jews embodied the vision of courageous, strong and self-confident Jews tilling the ancient land of their forefathers.
                  The inspiring appearance of offspring, born in Eretz Israel and Hebrew-speaking, of Russian peasants, differed strikingly from the stereotypical image of a shtetl Jew from the pale of settlement. That appearance was in harmony with the concept setting the New Yishuv in Eretz Israel against Galut, and it was instrumental in forming an idealized vision of a new Palestinian Jew, a farmer and a warrior.
                  One way or another, by that time, when in the late 1960s and early 1970s, a considerable number of Subbotnik Jews living in North Caucasus9 and the Voronezh Oblast began publicly to struggle for repatriation from the USSR, the process of the assimilation of this sub-ethnic group in Israel had actually reached completion, even though the remembrance of the pioneers-Gers is still vivid both at the family and national levels. This is why, today, only the groups of Subbotnik Jews who still live in their traditional places of residence in the CIS and those who repatriated from the USSR/CIS to Israel beginning in the 1970, can be considered a separate sub-ethnic group. At present, the total number of Subbotnik Jews maintaining, to a greater or less degree, their ethno-confessional identity amounts , in accordance with preliminary evaluation data, to about 10 to 15 thousand people10. While part of them (about 2 thousand people) live in Israel, the rest stay in the territory of the CIS in several local groups undergoing gradual dissolution but still retaining their specificity.
                  The dissolution of the local Subbotnik Jews groups is accounted for by their assimilation and migration, the processes that have gathered momentum in the post-Soviet time. A distinction should be made between the assimilation of Subbotnik Jews into the non-Jewish society to which they are exposed together with the rest of the CIS Jewish population, and their integration in Russian (Russian-speaking) Jewry which is facilitated by the present ethnolinguistic situation, when Yiddish ceased to be the mothertongue of most of the Jews in Russia and the bordering countries and when the former linguistic contraposition between Eastern European Ashkenazi and Subbotnik-Jews (accordingly, between Yiddish and Russian) became irrelevant.

                  The preservation of the ethnocultural and identification-related specificity of Subbotnik Jews is facilitated by noticeable social differences between them and the rest of the CIS Jews. While most of the CIS Jews are not only strictly city dwellers, but, increasingly, dwellers of the largest cities, Subbotnik Jews remain, for the most part, living in hinterland villages or have left them only recently keeping up their contacts with the village. Another distinctive feature of this sub-ethnic group, amid prevailing Russian-speaking modern Jewry, is the role of Jewish religion being the most important factor for maintaining its Jewish identity.
                  No ethno-sociologic studies of Subbotnik Jews were performed. Therefore, the data on their total number and the extent of their adherence to the religious tradition is far from being complete. However, basing on available data from field research in some of the regions where there are communities of Subbotnik Jews and from exploratory trips to other such regions, we were able to identify the following local groups that still exist: Subbotnik Jews of the Voronezh Oblast and communities related to them; Ger and Karaite-Subbotniks of the village of Privolnoye in Azerbaijan; Subbotniks of Astrakhan; Subbotniks of the village of Bondarevo (Khakasia); Subbotniks of the Irkutsk Oblast; and Subbotniks of the town of Sevan (Armenia).
                  There were, to be sure, more such local groups in the recent past, but some of them ceased to exist due to assimilation processes, though in particular cases, even the assimilated offspring of Subbotnik Jews keep in memorytheir ancestry from “people of Jewish faith”. Following is the description, relying on available incomplete data, of local groups of Subbotnik-Jews that survived to the present day.

                  Today, the main place of residence of this group is the settlement of Vysoky in the Talovsk District of the Voronezh Oblast where they are still the majority despite the mass repatriation of the settlement’s population to Israel in the late 1990s – early 2000s. Cross marriages that became more frequent over the recent two or three decades did not result in the loss of ties of the population of Vysoky with the Jewish religious tradition, since children from cross marriages of Subbotnik Jews and Christians, brought up in Vysoky, are not baptized as a rule and are, de facto, integrated in the Jewish community.

                  There is a Jewish cemetery in the settlement and a Jewish burial society that carries out burials with strict observance of the traditional Jewish law. There is no Synagogue in Vysoky and there never has been one. Prayer services are done, as they were done in times past, as a rule, in private houses of families where mourning for the deceased is observed and the Kaddish has to be read. Prayer services are recited in the Ashkenazi style. Though the community still has a kosher Sefer Torah (the Torah scroll), the liturgical language today is Russian. In Vysoky, there is a Jewish Sabbath school and courses of Hebrew and Jewish religious tradition for adults.
                  Several smaller communities in other residential places are connected through family and historical ties to the settlement of Vysoky.
                  a) In two adjoining big villages of Gvazda and Klepovka in Novobuturlinski District of the Voronezh Oblast there is a small minority of Subbotnik Jews remaining loyal to the Jewish religion. They live among numerous orthodox Christians some of whom, former Subbotnik Jews, have not so long ago became apostate (the so called vykrests). In the village cemeteries there are small Jewish sections.
                  b) In the khutor (hamlet) of Shishlyannikov in the Talovsk District of the Voronezh Oblast Subbotnik Jews constitute an overwhelming majority of the population; there is a cemetery there, and the burials are carried out with observance of Jewish law.
                  c) In the village of Nikolskoye in the Talovsk District of the Voronezh Oblast there still exists a small group of Subbotnik Jews living among the Christian majority.
                  d) There are Subbotnik Jews in the stanitsa (Cossack village) Rodnikovskaya in the Kurganinsk District of the Krasnodar Krai. Ties between the Voronezh Subbotnik Jews and stanitsa Rodnikovskaya go back to the 1920s, when a group of Voronezh Subbotnik Jews moved to Kuban. They decided to settle in Rodnikovskaya where dating from the 19th century there existed a local community of Subbotniks. According to Karaite sources, old-time Subbotniks community in stanitsa Rodnikovskaya, as well as in stanitsa Mikhaylovskaya in the same District, was a community of Karaite Subbotniks11. Even if those sources were right, the merger of the Voronezh and Kuban Subbotniks resulted in the prevalence of normative Judaism in the Rodnikovskaya community12. Apart from its ties with Vysoky, the Rodnikovskaya community also has ties with the Mikhaylovskaya community, but the author has no information about what that community is like. The informants only say that “there are still people there who uphold Jewish faith.”
                  e) Up until recently, settlement Vysoky had had a most intimate relationship with the village of Ilyinka in the Talovsk District of the Voronezh blast where Subbotnik Jews were a majority group. However, almost all Jewish inhabitants of Ilyinka have repatriated to Israel and their houses were occupied by new migrants from different regions of the CIS13. These days, only a well preserved cemetery regularly visited by the former residents of Ilyinka living in Israel reminds one of the Jewish past of the village. At the present time, several Ilyinka natives live in Vysoky.
                  f) In the town of Rasskazovo, a once large Subbotniks community ceased to exist due to assimilation processes. There are several families in Vysoky with one of the spouses (in the 50 to 60 age group) coming from the Rasskazovo community. Thanks to them, there are still some connections left with the few Subbotniks of Rasskazovo (mostly very old people) who maintain Jewish traditions.
                  g) Apart from their traditional places of residence, there exists quite a sizable diaspora from Vysoky and other communities of the Voronezh Oblast Subbotnik Jews. Their biggest groups live in Voronezh, the capital of the region, and in the district center Talovaya. Natives of Vysoky, after moving to towns, keep up close ties with their home village. It is worth noting that on the Lag BaOmer holiday when, according to a local tradition, it is common to visit the graves of parents, a lot of people from towns who were born in Vysoky come to the cemetery in the settlement. The total number of Subbotnik Jews of the local Voronezh group who remained to live in Russia is about 1500 people.
                  Privolnoye, a big village in Jalilabad District of Azerbaijan, was inhabited by two communities of Subbotniks who maintained their distinctiveness: Karaite-Subbotniks constituting about 60% of the population and Gers. Among the Gers there lived a small group of Mountain Jews who eventually merged with Gers. In the early 1990s, after the breakup of the Soviet Union, most of the residents of Privolnoye moved to Russia. A small group of the Privolnoye Gers, mostly those who had family ties with Mountain Jews, repatriated to Israel, and a few of them moved to Azerbaijani cities, for the most part, to Baku.

                  In Russia, Gers and Karaites of Privolnoye settled dispersedly. Sizable groups of them have been formed in the Stavropol Krai and the Volga region (in Volgograd and Togliatti, for the most part). By now, in Volgograd, the Gers of Privolnoye constitute the core of the local religious community which was founded and supported during the Soviet period by Gers-Subbotniks of the Kolotilin family.
                  It should be emphasized that it was a forced resettlement from Privolnoye. It resulted in the disintegration of the traditional communal system and led to a weakening of the religious identity of Gers and Karaite-Subbotniks and to propagation of assimilation processes among them. Nevertheless, in the new places of their residence, natives of Privolnoye still consider themselves a separate group different from the surrounding population. There are several nostalgic websites and forums devoted to Privolnoye14. These days, there are only small groups of Gers and Karaite-Subbotniks left in the settlement (most of them are at retirement age now) living among the Azerbaijani who occupied the houses abandoned by forcibly displaced people. So far, a Jewish prayer hall is still functioning in Privolnoye and there is an outlet of the Hesed charitable foundation there15. It is worthy of note that among the Azerbaijani Jewish community, Gers of Privolnoye are considered undoubted Jews, while Karaite-Subbotniks are virtually not.
                  The total number of Gers and Karaite-Subbotniks of Privolnoye in Russia and Azerbaijan exceeds five thousand people over half of whom are Karaite-Subbotniks.
                  3. ASTRAKHAN SUBBOTNIKS
                  A distinguishing feature of this local group of Subbotnik Jews is that they, unlike members of the aforementioned groups, preserve clear memories of the time (it was late 19th century) when their forefathers converted to Judaism. Astrakhan Subbotniks reside in small groups in several locations of the Limanovsci Disctrict in the southeast of Astrakhan Oblast, nowhere a majority. There are separate “Jewish sections” in local cemeteries. Natives of these village communities also live in Astrakhan. Words borrowed from Yiddish occur in the speech of elderly Astrakhan Subbotniks. Their traditional prayer services are in the Ashkenazi style. In the recent past, their children attended a Jewish Sabbath school operated in Astrakhan with financing from Jewish organizations. The Astrakhan rabbi, a Habad Jew from the U.S., is malevolent to Subbotniks and doesn’t consider them Jews. In this respect, he is very different from the Volgograd rabbi (also a Habad Jew but a Russian one) whose active parishioners are mostly Gers-Subbotniks (both former natives of Privolnoye and the local ones). The number of Astrakhan Subbotniks amounts to several hundred people.
                  4. BONDAREVO SUBBOTNIKS
                  The village of Bondarevo (or, as it used to be called, Iudino) is situated in the Beisk District of the Republic of Khakasia. Its population is roughly 2000 persons. The two main confessional groups who have long since lived in the village are Subbotniks (Judaizers) and the Molokane. Estrangement between these groups (including their adherence to strict endogamy) is still there. A substantial part of the youth from the Subbotniks community have left Bondarevo and, after obtaining a higher education, settled in cities (Abakan, Krasnoyarsk, etc.). In the village, primarily among the older generation of Subbotniks, Jewish religious traditions are still observed which includes prayer services, food restrictions, holidays and burial cer- emonies. However, the community’s youth settled in cities also maintain adherence to Judaism. Many of them take part in the activities of the local Jewish communities. The total number of Bondarevo Subbotniks is about 1500 people.

                  5. IRKUTSK OBLAST SUBBOTNIKS
                  The largest community of the Irkutsk Oblast Subbotniks is in the settlement of Staraya Zima where there still exists the building of a synagogue (expropriated by the Soviet authorities and not having been returned up to now) and a well-kept Subbotnik Jewish cemetery. Apart from that, Subbotniks also live in several zaimkas (small villages) of the District in some of which they constitute the majority of the population. There also exists a sizable diaspora of the Staraya Zima Subbotniks in the Eastern Siberia cities. Though the assimilation processes among the Irkutsk Subbotniks are well under way, in recent years a reverse trend of returning of a certain part of young people to the Jewish religious tradition is observed. There was an attempt made to officially register the Subbotnik Jews religious community in the settlement of Staraya Zima, but it failed because of lack of funds and refusal on the part of the authorities to return the synagogue building to the community. Some of the former natives of Staraya Zima have repatriated to Israel over the last twenty years. Although there are quite a few Irkutsk Subbotniks (no less than several thousand by estimate), it is hard to provide more exact figures because of lack of accurate information about the population of the Subbotniks zaimkas and also on account of numerous mixed marriage which, nevertheless, do not result in conversion to Christianity16.
                  6. SUBBOTNIKS OF THE TOWN OF SEVAN
                  In times past, in the town of Sevan (Elenovka until 1935) in the west of Armenia, there existed a large community of Subbotnik Jews with their own synagogue17. At present, because of emigration and assimilation there are only about ten Subbotniks left in the town18. They are all elderly people. It may be assumed that the overall number of Subbotniks of Sevan, including young people who left the town but did not entirely lose their confessional identity, amount to about 100 people.
                  * * *
                  Apart from the afore-specified groups of Subbotnik Jews in respect of whom there are verified (though frequently far from being complete) data, there are a lot of local groups of Subbotniks about the present circumstances of which we know, virtually, nothing. Though it has been known that in the recent past sizable groups of Subbotniks existed in the rural districts of the Volgograd Oblast, no certain information on their current status is available.

                  Neither is there any credible information about the Subbotniks of Bessarabia and Ukraine, even though there is evidence that there were whole villages of them in the region and that fragmentary data according to which they are still there appear once in a while. Obscure is the fate of a small community of Subbotniks that existed during the Soviet period in Turkmenia.
                  * * *


                  The review we are offering for the attention of the reader is by no means complete. And its very incompleteness strongly suggests that it is necessary to undertake a broad range of ethnographic and sociological studies of the current state of Subbotnik Jews.
                  Selected bibliography

                  1. Бочарников М., Сопелкин Н. (2003) Иудаизм - как религия русских, [Judaism as religion of the Russians] (In Russian) Воронеж. 
                  2. В. Дымшиц (1999). Этнографическое описание села Привольного // Материалы 6-й международной междисциплинарной конференции  по иудаике. Еврейская культура и культурные контакты [Ethnographic description of the village of Privolnoye] (In Russian). In: Papers of the Sixth Annual International Interdisciplinary Conference on Jewish Studies. Jewish culture and cultural contacts]. Part 3. pp. 76-77 Moscow.
                  3. А. Львов (2002). Геры и субботники - «талмудисты и караимы», Материалы Девятой ежегодной международной междисциплинарной конференции по иудаике [Papers of the Ninth Annual International Interdisciplinary Conference on Jewish Studies.] (In Russian). Part 1 pp. 301-312. Moscow.
                  4. А. Львов (2003). Субботники и евреи. Предисловие к публикации очерка Моисея Кузьмина «Из быта субботников» [Subbotniks and Jews.  Foreword to the reedition of the essay by Moisei Kuzткий очерк)  [Russian Judaizers (a concise essay)]. In: Евроазиатский еврейский  ежегодник - 5766 (2006/2007) [Euro-Asian Jewish Yearbook of the year of  5766 (2006/2007)] (In Russian). pp. 163-183. Kiev: Дух i Лiтера.
                  6. С. А. Раппопорт (Ан-ский) (1912). Среди иудействующих. Из путевых заметок [Among the Judaizers. From notes of journey]. In: Собрание  сочинений. Т. 3. Разрушители ограды [Collected works. v. 3] (In Russian). St. Petersburg.
                  7. И. Улановский. Субботники села Еленовка [Subbotniks of the village of Elenovka]. In: Вестник Еврейского Университета в Москве [Publications of the Jewish University in Moscow] (In Russian) #2, 1993. pp. 32-39. Moscow - Jerusalem.
                  8. Bredenshteyn E. Ha-falashmura shek ha-rusim [Русские фалашмура]  (In Hebrew). In: Musaf sofshavua shel "Maariv", 28.1.2008.
                  9. Frank Brown. The Last of the Saturday People. In: The Jerusalem Report, November 19, 2001, p. 72.
                  10. Chernin V. (2007) The Subbotniks, Field Reports of the Rappaport Center, Bar-Ilan University. Ramat-Gan.
                  11. Regev Y. (2009) "Subotnikim" be-Galil. Gerey ha-tzedek ha-rusiim be-moshavot ha-Galil [Subbotniks in Galilee. Russian proselytes in the Galilee  settlements] (In Hebrew). Akhiasaf. Tel-Aviv.

                  А. Львов (2006) Русские иудействующие (краткий очерк) [Russian Judaizers (a concise essay)]. In: Евроазиатский еврейский ежегодник - 5766 (2006/2007) [Euro-Asian Jewish Yearbook of the year of 5766 (2006/2007)] (In Russian). pp. 163-183. Kiev: Дух i Лiтера.
                  Энциклопедия народов и религий мира (1998) [Encyclopedia of the World's Peoples and Religions] (In Russian). p. 835. Moscow: «Большая Российская энциклопедия».
                  See for instance an article by the founder of the Shavei Israel institution (Jerusalem) Michael Freund "Saving Russia's Subbotnik Jews", published on the Israeli website "Atutz Sheva" at; or an article by rabbi Eliyahu Birenboim Masa el hasubotnikim hayehudim - Vysoky, Drom Rusia [A trip to Subbotnik Jews Vysoky, the Russia's South (in Hebrew)] published on the Shavei Israel website at http://www. on 23.02.2008. The term "Subbotnik Jews" is found not only in the Internet but also in printed media. See for instance article by Leora Eren Frucht The 'Subbotnik' Case in the newspaper Jerusalem Report of 22.12.2008.
                  С. А. Раппопорт (Ан-ский) (1912). Среди иудействующих. Из путевых заметок [Among the Judaizers. From notes of journey] (In Russian). In: Собрание сочинений. Т. 3. Разрушители ограды [Collected works. v. 3]. St. Petersburg.
                  Hilel Yafe (1939). Dor maapilim - zikhronot, mikhtavim ve-yoman [Hillel Yaffe. The Generation of Pioneers: memoirs, letters and a diary (in Hebrew)]. Tel-Aviv. The description of the role Subbotnik-Jews played in development of the farmer settlements in Eretz Israel see on pp. 372-375.
                  See for instance: А. Львов (2002). Геры и субботники - «талмудисты и караимы», Материалы Девятой ежегодной международной междисциплинарной конференции по иудаике. [Gers and Subbotniks: "Talmudists and Karaites". In: Papers of the Ninth Annual International Interdisciplinary Conference on Jewish Studies.]. Part 1 pp. 301-312. Moscow. А. Львов (2003). Субботники и евреи. Предисловие к публикации очерка Моисея Кузьмина «Из быта субботников» [Subbotniks and Jews. Foreword to the reedition of the essay by Moisei Kuzmin Life of Subbotniks] (in Russian). In: literary magazine Параллели ##2 and 3. А. Л. Львов, А. А. Панченко, С. А. Штырков. (February of 2001). Полевые исследования культуры сектантов-субботников: экспедиция «Петербургской иудаики» в Ставропольский край [Field investigation of the culsian historian N. Sopelkin from Voronezh. What's interesting is that among all the texts written by Subbotnik Jews you won't find one where the author names himself Russian.

                  В. Дымшиц (1999). Этнографическое описание села Привольного // Материалы 6-й международной междисциплинарной конференции по иудаике. Еврейская культура и культурные контакты [Ethnographic description of the village of Privolnoye]. In: Papers of the Sixth Annual International Interdisciplinary Conference on Jewish Studies. Jewish culture and cultural contacts]. Part 3. pp. 76-77 Moscow.

                  Attempts by the outer society to bring back to Subbotnik Jews a Russian ethnic self- awareness had been repeatedly undertaken over generations. Most indicative in this respect is the booklet Judaism as religion of the Russians published in Voronezh in 2003. This publication devoted to Subbotnik Jews of the Voronezh Oblast includes texts by several authors among whom there are Subbotnik Jews and non-Jews. The title of the book, Judaism as religion of the Russians, had been suggested by one of the authors, the Russian historian N. Sopelkin froVoronezh. Whats interesting is that among all the texts written by Subbotnik Jews you wont find one where the author names himself Russian.
                  In the early 1960s, in Adygea, a group of young Subbotnik Jews families organized a woodcutters' artel (cooperative) which they considered as a kibbutz. The members of the artel, several dozens of families from the North Caucasus and from other part of the USSR who came there to join the group, studies Hebrew, kept i`n touch with Israel's embassy and were getting ready to repatriate to Israel. Saturdays and Jewish holidays were days of rest in the artel. After the Six-Day War, the artel was liquidated and its members were subjected to reprisals. Subsequently, in the 1970s and 1980s, most of the former members of the artel repatriated to Israel. Beginning in the 1990s, members of the group comprise the greater part of the population of the kibbutz  Itav in the Jordanian Valley. The history of this group of Subbotnik Jews hasn't been told so far and is worth of becoming a subject of a separate article.
                  Velvl Chernin (2007). The Subbotniks. In: Field Reports of the Rappaport Center, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan. p. 16.
                  Станица Михайловская [Stanitsa Mikhaylovskaya]. In: Известия Таврического и Одесского Караимского Духовного Правления [Bulletin of the Karaite Spiritual Directorate of Taurida and Odessa] 1917, #5-6, pp. 55-56.
                  The author of these lines had an opportunity to meet people from the Rodnikovskaya community, who came to visit their relatives in Vysoky, and to see their ketubahs (prenuptial agreements) compiled in traditional Jewish fashion.
                  As of September 2009, there were only three people left in Ilyinka professing Judaism. See: Лариса Кончакова, Эдуард Бочарников. В Таловском районе есть «Русский Израиль» ["Russian Israel" in the Talovsk District]. In: Новости ГТРК «Ворнеж» of 10.09.2009 at http://
                  See for instance website Село Привольное в нашей памяти [Privolnoye village as we remember it] at
                  Михаил Агарунов. Еврейская община Азербайджана [Jewish community of Azerbaijan] at
                  At least some of the offspring of mixed marriages nominally assign themselves to adherents of Judaism and are even active in efforts to restore Jewish religious and communal life in Staraya Zima and in some other localities of the region. However no studies on the self-identification of the group under discussion were performed, and therefore, what we have at hand is only non-representative empiric information.
                  И. Улановский. Субботники села Еленовка [Subbotniks of the village of Elenovka]. In: Вестник Еврейского Университета в Москве [Publications of the Jewish University in Moscow] #2, 1993. pp. 32-39.Moscow - Jerusalem.
                  Frank Brown. The Last of the Saturday People. In: The Jerusalem Report, November 19, 2001, p. 72.
                  For instance in memoirs of Zvi Segal (one of the 1968 activists for the revival of the Hebron Jewish community) about his roaming around Bessarabia and Transnistria there slips a phrase: "Whole villages of Subbotniks, who are so close to the Jewry and are very good people are in the neighborhood of Krizhopol". In: Sipuro shel Zvi Segal al toldot khayav me-yalduti derekh ha-galut le-Transnistria ve-ad alyato artza [A story told by Zvi Segal about his life from childhood through the deportation to Transnistria and up to the repatriation to Eretz Israel] in Hebrew. In: a family website at
                  The author of these lines had an opportunity to personally meet in the Crimea in late 1970s Gers-Subbotniks of Ukrainian origin.