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Battle of Wegrow
The Question of Jewish (non)Support of the 1863 Polish Uprising

Discussion with Prof. Glenn Dynner (Sarah Lawrence College)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013, 12:00 PM

Columbia University
International Affairs Building
Marshall D. Shulman Seminar Room, 1219
420 West 118th St., New York City, NY

2013 marks the 150th anniversary of the January Uprising of Polish youth against conscription into the Russian Imperial Army. The Polish lands were under Russian, Prussian, and Austrian control. Russia was still recovering from defeat in the Crimean War. Tsar Alexander II had begun agrarian reforms that would lead to the end of serfdom in the hopes of quelling the potential for peasant revolts. The insurrection that began January 22, 1863 quickly spread to the lands of the former Grand Duchy of Lithuania, comprising what would be modern day Lithuania, Latvia, Belarus, northern Ukraine and parts of western Russia. The Polish Cultural Institute New York is delighted to present, in cooperation with the East Central European Center at Columbia University, a discussion with Prof. Glenn Dynner about the role of Jews on all sides of the conflict.

Allegations of Jewish espionage appeared frequently after the failed Polish uprisings against the tsars, and were especially aimed against the Kingdom of Poland's numerous Jewish tavernkeepers. Such allegations, which resulted in executions and helped ramp up anti-Semitism in the wake of the uprisings, still require substantiation. An exploration of Polish archival documents, including extensive lists of arrested spies and accounts by spies themselves, reveal that some Jews did indeed spy on behalf of the Russian regime. However, they also reveal pro-Polish espionage by Jews and, even more frequently, Polish Christian espionage on the Russians' behalf. These revelations greatly complicate questions of identity and national versus imperial loyalty in partitioned Poland.

Glenn Dynner (Ph.D., Brandeis University) teaches Jewish Studies at Sarah Lawrence College. He is author of Men of Silk: The Hasidic Conquest of Polish Jewish Society (Oxford University Press, 2006), which received the Koret Publication Prize; editor of Holy Dissent: Jewish and Christian Mystics in Eastern Europe (Detroit: Wayne State University Press); and author of the forthcoming book Yankel's Tavern: Jews, Liquor and Life in the Kingdom of Poland (Oxford University Press, 2013). He has been a Fellow at the Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, and is a member of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University.

Sponsored by Columbia University's East Central European Center in cooperation with the Polish Cultural Institute New York.

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