Sunday 11 September 2016


SHMUEL ZHUKOVSKI (1901-October 9, 1931)

            He was a literary critic and current events author, born in Demidovka, a suburb of Kiev, Ukraine. His father was the owner of a print shop. He studied in a “cheder metukan” (improved religious elementary school), and secular subjects privately. During WWI he lived Berdichev, and he collected materials on Jewish folklore for Sh. An-sky’s ethnographic expedition which was ongoing in Ukraine at the time. In 1917 he joined the Labor Zionist party and later joined the Red Army during the Civil War. Following demobilization, he returned to Berdichev. He worked there in a Jewish school. He was an erudite man, especially in Yiddish and Russian literature, and in his youthful room there would gather creative young folks to read one another’s initial literary efforts and discuss questions of literature and art. He debuted in print in 1922 in the newspaper Komfon [= Komunistishe fon] (Communist banner) in Kiev, with a critical treatment of Yiddish proletarian literature. At his initiative, the local newspaper Berditshever arbeter (Berdichev worker) introduced a literary page for beginning writers; Syame (as everyone called him) was its editor. He would later contribute to Emes (Truth) in Moscow, Prolit (Proletarian literature) and Shtern (Star) in Kharkov, and other serials. He published criticism of newly published books in the Soviet Union and articles on Soviet Yiddish literary issues. In the mid-1920s he was a state scholar at Kiev’s Institute of Jewish Culture at the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences. In the late 1920s he moved to Moscow and worked at the state academy of the arts where he lectured on Yiddish literature and continued publishing in the Yiddish and general press. His premature death in Moscow cut short in the bloom of life his intensive literary critical and literary research activities. After his death, his literary colleagues put together a portion of his literary critical work and published in Kharkov an anthology entitled Pruvn (see below).

During his lifetime, he published in book form: Dos yor 1905 in berditshev (The year 1905 in Berdichev) (Kiev, 1925), 208 pp. After his death, Mikhl Levitan edited a collection of his most important articles: Pruvn, a zamlung konkrete kritik (Endeavors, a collection of concrete criticism) (Kharkov: Ukrainian State Publishers for National Minorities, 1934), 229 pp.

Sources: Kon (Tsipyanski), in Morgn-frayhayt (New York) (November 2, 1931); Y. Bronshteyn, in Tsaytshrift (Minsk) 5 (1931); A. Vevyorke, Revizye (Revision) (Kharkov, 1931), pp. 119-68; A. Kahan, in Prolit (Kiev) (September-October 1931); obituary, in Literarishe bleter (Warsaw) (October 23, 1931); Folks-shtime (Warsaw) (October 22, 1957).

Borekh Tshubinski

[Additional information from: Chaim Beider, Leksikon fun yidishe shrayber in ratn-farband (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers in the Soviet Union), ed. Boris Sandler and Gennady Estraikh (New York: Congress for Jewish Culture, Inc., 2011), pp. 154-55.]

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