MEYER (MEIR) PINES (1881/1882-1942?)
He was born in Mohilev (Mogilev), by the Dnieper River, in Russia, into a well-to-do family. In 1890 the family settled in Rozinoy (Ruzhany), Grodno district. He studied in religious elementary school and yeshiva, and secular subject matter with private tutors. In 1890 he entered the University of Berne, Switzerland, where he studied law and philosophy. In 1902 he moved to Paris to study at the Sorbonne. At the time of the first Russian Revolution, he returned to Russia, where he became active in the Jewish socialist workers’ party, and using the name Briskman, he excelled in the role of agitator. He represented the party at the seventh Zionist congress. He helped Israel Zangwill establish the Jewish territorialist party. With the elections to the second Russian Duma, he was a candidate from the territorialist party. At the same time he wrote about literature and Jewish community issues in Fraynd (Friend) and in his party journals Der nayer veg (The new way) and Dos vort (The word). He helped found a daily Yiddish newspaper Di yidishe shtime (The Jewish voice) in Riga, which appeared under the editorship of Bal-Makhshoves. In 1910 he received his doctoral degree from the Sorbonne for his dissertation on the history of Yiddish literature which appeared in French in 1911 with the title Histoire de la Littérature Judeo-Allemande (Paris, 582 pp.), with a preface by Professor Charles Andler. It was translated into Yiddish as Di geshikhte fun der yudisher literatur (History of Yiddish literature) under the editorship of and with an introduction by Bal-Makhshoves (Warsaw: B. Shimin, 1911), 2 vols., 420 pp. It contains chapters on: the Yiddish language, old literature, folksongs, literature of the Jewish Enlightenment, folk poetry, popular novels, and the founders of modern Yiddish literature. The book appeared in various editions and was translated into Russian and German. His history aroused great interest, many wrote about it, including: Nokhum Shtif, Shmuel Niger, Dr. A. Mukdoni, Yankev Milkh, Dr. Yisroel Tsinberg, and Khayim Graft. As A. Mukdoni wrote, “[it] remains the only history of Yiddish literature. People have written partial histories, better and more competent, but for a full history…we have not had such until now.” Ber Borokhov had the following to say: “All the reviewers have taken a more often than not negative stance toward Pines’s book. Of the purely negative critiques, Mr. Tsinberg’s is the most precise and sweeping. Mr. Milkh and Mr. Niger are not satisfied with the purely negative critique and also point out positively that we have a history of Yiddish literature here.” As a pioneering work (not counting Leo Wiener’s English-language The History of Yiddish Literature in the Nineteenth Century [New York, 1899]), Pines’s work suffers from many errors. There were not at that time many monographs and previous works concerned with the specific periods or individual authors—he had to do all the preparatory work himself. If he was not successful in providing a competent history of Yiddish literature, he still received recognition as a pioneer in the field. When WWII broke out, Pines was living in Riga, where he managed a large business. In 1915 he settled in Archangel. In 1920 he moved to London and from there to Berlin where he took part in the work of ORT (Association for the Promotion of Skilled Trades) and in the Jewish emigration association. He was a close friend of Shimon Dubnov, Yankev Leshtsinski, and the ORT leaders Lvovitsh and Singalovski. When the territorialists’ Frayland Lige (Freeland League) was founded, he became a member and thus renewed his territorialist activities. In 1941 the Turkish Embassy in Berlin organized an exchange of Russian citizens who were living in Germany for German citizens in Russia. Pines and his wife were among the Russian citizens in Germany, who were taken to Istanbul where the exchange was to take place. When the echelon of Russians arrived in Russia, Pines and his wife were arrested and exiled to a concentration camp. His wife died in the Gulag in 1942 and he a little later. His history was published in Hebrew translation by Shlomo Tsuker (Zucker), with a preface by Dov Sadan (Tel Aviv, 1981), 232 pp.
Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 2; A. Gurshteyn, in Tsaytshrift (Minsk) 2-3 (1928); A. Mukdoni, Oysland, mayne bagegenishn (Abroad, my encounters) (Buenos Aires, 1951), pp. 251-59; Ber Borokhov, Shprakh-forshung un literatur-geshikhte (Language research and literary history) (Tel Aviv: Peretz Publ., 1966), pp. 96-97; information from Leyzer Pines in Tel Aviv.
Elye (Elias) Shulman
[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), col. 431.]