The Apotheosis of History: Dubnow

  • Lionel Kochan


History becomes a surrogate for Judaism in the work of Dubnow, at the end of the nineteenth century. Dubnow was born in 1860 in Mstislav (Mohilev, White Russia). At one level he can be regarded as a Jewish parallel to those other contemporary historians of central and eastern Europe who made historical consciousness the bearer and, to some extent, the awakener of national identity (e.g. Palacky- Bohemia; Lipinsky- Ukraine; Lelewel- Poland). Dubnow too made the study of Jewish history, with the concomitant development of Jewish historical consciousness, a principal bearer of Jewish existence. At a deeper level Dubnow’s outlook epitomises that situation in which nothing remains to the Jew save his history. That is all he has left. A knowledge of history, Dubnow held, has to replace, was in fact already replacing, the authorities and sanctions of the past. In the days of antiquity what he called ‘the triple agencies’ of the state, race and religion had formed Israel into a single nation. During its dispersion these had been chiefly replaced by religious consciousness.


Jewish Identity Jewish Life Jewish History National Minority Historical Consciousness 
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  1. 2.
    Quoted M. Wischnitzer, ‘Ha’Adrikhal shel Ha’Historiografiya Ha’Yehudit’, in Sefer Dubnow, ed. S. Rawidowicz (London, Jerusalem, 1954) p. 145.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    See Paul Sofer, ‘Sergei Bershadsky’, He’Avar, xx (1973) esp. p. 66.Google Scholar
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  5. 8.
    Cf. Sh. Auerbach, ‘Shimon Dubnovs Shtellung tzu Yiddish un Hebräisch’, in A. Steinberg (ed.), Simon Dubnow, the Man and His Work, World Jewish Congress (Paris, 1963) pp. 162–4.Google Scholar
  6. 9.
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  7. 17.
    A. Steinberg, ‘Die weltanschaulichen Voraussetzungen der jüdischen Geschichtsschreibung’, Festschrift zu Dubnows 70tem Geburtstag, ed. Meisl, Elbogen, Wischnitzer (Berlin, 1930) p. 40, n.l.Google Scholar
  8. 26.
    M. Davis, ‘Jewry East and West-The Correspondence of I. Friedländer and S. Dubnow’, Yivo Annual, ix (New York, 1954) p. 27.Google Scholar
  9. 27.
    S. Dubnow, Pinkas Ha’Medina (repr. Jerusalem, 1969) introduction, p. xi.Google Scholar
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    Ahad Ha’am, Igroth V, 1913–1919 (Jerusalem, Berlin, 1924) p. 247.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Lionel Kochan 1977

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lionel Kochan
    • 1
  1. 1.University of WarwickUK

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