Central Europe in the Middle East: The Russian Language in Israel

  • Anna Novikov


Zionist thought, both long before the State of Israel was founded and even today, gave Russian culture and language a special significance. Sometimes thought of as exotic, and at times almost metaphysical, Russian was often the cultural framework and native language of the first Zionist Haluzim (pioneers). These pioneers, according to the Israeli narrative, immigrated to Palestine and built the land. Today, Russian is the language spoken by approximately 20 per cent of the Israeli population, thereby having its own place and importance in contemporary Hebrew-speaking society. This chapter describes the unique place of this Central and Eastern European language in the Middle East. In a paradoxical way, this Slavic language crossed the borders of its ethnic origins and was brought to the Middle East, far from Slavic historical reality, by a group of people who were mostly of non-Slavic ethnic origin.


Middle East Mother Tongue Russian Language Slavic Language Israeli Society 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Al-Haj, Majid and Elazar Leshem. 2000. Immigrants from the Former Soviet Union in Israel: Ten Years Later. A Research Report. Haifa: Haifa University PressGoogle Scholar
  2. Altshuler, Mordechai. 1987. Soviet Jewry Since the Second World War. Population and Social Structure. New York: Greenwood Press.Google Scholar
  3. Bar-Yosef, Hamutal. 2005. Kriot Ushrikot: Masot Uma’amarim [Calls and Whistles: Journeys and Articles {in Hebrew} {in Hebrew script}]. Jerusalem: Karmel.Google Scholar
  4. Ben Avi, Itamar. 1961. Im Shahar Atzmautenu-Zikhronot Hayav Shel Hayeled Haivri Harishon [With the Dawn of Our Homeland: Memoirs or the First Hebrew Child, {in Hebrew} {in Hebrew script}]. Jerusalem: Organization for the Publication of the Writings of Itamar Ben-Avi.Google Scholar
  5. Bennett, John Price and Pamela Coughenour Riemer. 2006 [ 1995 ]. Rhythmic Activities and Dance. Champaign: Human Kinetics.Google Scholar
  6. Berkowitz, Michael. 1994. The Debate about Hebrew, in German: The Kulturfrage in the Zionist Congresses, 1897–1914 (pp. 109–115 ). In: D. C. G. Lorenz and G. Weinberger, eds. Insiders and Outsiders: Jewish and Gentile culture in Germany and Austria. Detroit, MI: Wayne State University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Epstein, Alek and Nina Kheimets. 2000. Immigrant Intelligentsia and its Second Generation: Cultural Segregation as a Road to Social Integration? (pp. 461–476). Journal of International Migration and Integration ( Canada ). Vol. 1. No 4.Google Scholar
  8. Epstein, Alek and Nina Kheimets. 2001. English as a Central Component of Success in the Professional and Social Integration Scientists from the Former Soviet Union in Israel (pp. 187–215). Language in Society. Vol. 30. No 2.Google Scholar
  9. Felmann, Jack. 1973. The Revival of a Classical Tongue: Eliezer Ben Yehuda and the Modern Hebrew Language. The Hague: The Netherlands: Mouton.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Frankel, Jonathan. 1981. Prophecy and Politics. Socialism, Nationalism, and the Russian Jews, 1862–1917. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Gitelman, Zvi. 1988. A Century of Ambivalence. The Jews of Russia and the Soviet Union, 1881 to the Present. New York: YIVO Institute for Jewish Research.Google Scholar
  12. Gitelman, Zvi. 2003. A Century of Jewish Politics in Eastern Europe. The Legacy of the Bund and the Zionist Movement (pp. 3–19 ). In: Z. Gitelman, ed. The Emergence of Modern Jewish Politics. Bundism and Zionism in Eastern Europe. Pittsburg: University of Pittsburgh Press.Google Scholar
  13. Goodman, Yehuda and Joseph Loss. 2009. The Other as Brother: Nation Building and Ethnic Ambivalence in Early Jewish-Israeli Anthropology (pp. 477–508). Anthropological Quarterly. Vol. 82. No 2.Google Scholar
  14. Hetenyi, Zsuzsa. 2008. In a maelstrom: The History of Russian -Jewish Prose (1860–1940). Budapest: Central European University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Kotik-Friedgut, Bella. 2000. Dinamika iazykovoi situatsii i iazykovoi politiki v Izraile (pp. 182–197). [Variety of Languages and the Dynamics of Language Policy in the Contemporary Israel, {in Russian} {in Russian Cyrillic}]. In: A. D. Epstein and A. V. Fedorchenko, eds. Mass Migration and its Impact on the Israeli Society. Moscow: Bibliotheca Judaica.Google Scholar
  16. Leshem, Elazar. 2008. Being an Israeli: Immigrants from the Former Soviet Union in Israel, Fifteen Years Later (pp. 29–49). The Journal of Israel History. Vol. 27. No 1.Google Scholar
  17. Lissak, Moshe. 2009. Iynim Behistoria Hevratit Shel Israel [Studies in the Social History of Israel, {in Hebrew}]. Jerusalem: Mossad Bialik.Google Scholar
  18. Lissitsa, Sabina and Yohanan Peres. 2000. Problemy Samoidentifikatzii Vykhodcev iz SSSR/SNG v Izraile (pp. 244–278) [New Immigrants and Old Timers: Identity and Interrelations- Research Findings, {in Russian} {in Russian Cyrillic}]. In: A. D. Epstein and A. V. Fedorchenko, eds. Mass Migration and its Impact on the Israeli Society. Moscow: Bibliotheca Judaica.Google Scholar
  19. Litwin, Howard and Elazar Leshem. 2008. Late-Life Migration, Work Status, and Survival: The Case of Older Immigrants from the Former Soviet Union in Israel (pp. 903–925). International Migration Review. Vol. 42. No 4.Google Scholar
  20. Lomsky-Feder, Edna and Rapoport, Tamar. 2001. Homecoming, Immigration, and the National Ethos: Russian-Jewish Homecomers Reading Zionism (pp. 1–14). Anthropological Quarterly. Vol. 74. No 1.Google Scholar
  21. Orbach, Alexander. 1980. New Voices of Russian Jewry: A Study of the Russianjewish Press of Odessa in the Era of the Great Reforms, 1860–1871. Leiden: Brill Press.Google Scholar
  22. Ram, Uri. 1995. The Changing Agenda of Israeli Sociology: Theory, Ideology, and Identity. Albany: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  23. Remennick, Larissa. 2002. Transnational Community in the Making: Russian -Jewish Immigrants of the 1990s in Israel (pp. 515–530). Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies. Vol. 28. No 3.Google Scholar
  24. Remennick, Larissa. 2003. From Russian to Hebrew via HebRush: Intergenerational Patterns of Language Use among Former Soviet Immigrants in Israel (pp. 431–453). Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development. Vol. 24. No 5.Google Scholar
  25. Remennick, Larissa. 2004. Language Acquisition, Ethnicity and Social Integration Among Former Soviet Immigrants of the 1990s in Israel (pp. 431–454). Ethnic and Racial Studies. Vol. 27. No 3.Google Scholar
  26. Shamai, Shmuel and Zinaida Ilatov. 2005. Acculturation Models of Immigrant Soviet Adolescents in Israel (pp. 629–644). Adolescence. Vol. 40. No 159.Google Scholar
  27. Shapira, Anita. 1999 [1992]. Land and Power: The Zionist Resort to Force, 1881–1948. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  28. Shtal, Avraham and Dani Karman. 1999. Motsa Hamilim: Mekorotehen Vegilgulehen shel Hamilim Shepefinu [The Origins of Words: Sources and Moving of the Words we are Using, {in Hebrew} {in Hebrew script}]. Tel-Aviv: Dvir.Google Scholar
  29. Shumsky, Dimitry. 2001. Etniut Veezrahiut Betfisat Haisraelim Harusim (pp. 17–40) [Ethnicity and Citizenship in the Perception of Russian Israelis, {in Hebrew} {in Hebrew script}]. Teoria Ubikoret. No 19.Google Scholar
  30. Shumsky, Dimitry. 2002. Ethnicity and Citizenship in the Perception of Russian Israelis (pp. 154–181 ). In: D. Levy and Y. Weiss eds. Challenging Ethnic Citizenship: German and Israeli Perspectives on Immigration. New York, Oxford: Berghahn Books.Google Scholar
  31. Smooha, Sammy. 2008. The Mass Immigrations to Israel: A Comparison of the Failure of the Mizrahi Immigrants of the 1950s with the Success of the Russian Immigrants of the 1990s (pp. 1–27). The Journal of Israeli History. Vol. 27. No 1.Google Scholar
  32. Spolsky, Bernard. 2001. Language in Israel: Policy, Practice, and Ideology (pp. 164–174 ). In: A. E. Jalatis and T. Ai-Hui, eds. Georgetown University Round Table on Languages and Linguistics 1999. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press.Google Scholar
  33. Vital, David. 1980. The Origins of Zionism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  34. Volkov, Shulamit. 2006. Germans, Jews, and anti-Semites’ Trials in Emancipation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Weiss, Yifaat. 2001. Ha-Golem Veyotzro, o eikh hafah hok hashvut et Israel le-medina multi-etnit (pp. 45–69). [The Golem and its Creator; or How the Law of Return turned Israel into a Multi-Ethnic State, {in Hebrew} {in Hebrew script}], Teoria Ubikoret. No 19.Google Scholar
  36. Wright, Sue. 1996. Language and the State: Revitalisation and Revival in Israel and Eire. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Anna Novikov 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anna Novikov

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations