November 6, 2006 at 3:34 am | Posted in Books, Globalization, History, Israel, Judaica, Literary, Philosophy, Zionism | Leave a comment






Simon Dubnow:

Simon Dubnow September 10, 1860December 8, 1941

Simon Dubnow

(alternatively spelled Dubnov, September 10, 1860December 8, 1941 was a Jewish historian, writer and activist.



Shimon Meyerovich Dubnow to a large poor family in the Belarusian town of Mstislavl (Mahilyow region), after receiving a traditional Jewish education in a heder and a yeshiva, he entered into a kazyonnoe yevreyskoe uchilishche (state Jewish school) where he learned the Russian language. Simon was unable to graduate because these institutions were soon eliminated by a Tsarist ukase (see May Laws), and he had to pursue his interests in history, philosophy, and linguistics by educating himself. He was particularly fascinated by Heinrich Graetz and the Wissenschaft des Judentums movement.

In 1880 he used forged documents to move to St Petersburg, which was officially out of reach: a rare exception to the obligation to settle in large cities was made only to “useful Jews“, such as registered prostitutes, former cantonists, or very wealthy merchants (see Pale of Settlement).

Soon Dubnow’s publications appeared in the press, including the leading Russian–Jewish magazine Voskhod. In 1890, during the expulsion of Jews from the capital city, Dubnow was forced to leave. He settled in Odessa and continued to publish studies of Jewish life and history, coming to be regarded an authority in these areas.

Dubnow actively participated in contemporary social and political life in the Russian Empire. He called for modernizing Jewish education, organizing Jewish self-defense (see Pogrom), and for equal rights, including the right to vote.

In 1906 he was allowed back to St Petersburg, where he founded and directed Jewish Literature and Historical-Etnographic society and edited the Jewish Encyclopedia. In the same year, he founded the Folkspartei (Jewish People’s Party), which successfully worked for the election of MPs and municipal councillors in interwar Lithuania and Poland. After 1917 Dubnow became Professor of Jewish history in Petrograd University.

In 1922 he emigrated to Kaunas (Kovno) and later to Berlin. His magnum opus was ten volumes of History of the Jewish people, first published in German in 19251929.

In August 1933, after Adolf Hitler came to power, Dubnow moved to Riga, Latvia. Nazi troops occupied Riga in July 1941, and Dubnow, with thousands of other Jews, was transferred to the Riga ghetto.
According to the few survivors, Dubnow repeated to ghetto inhabitants: “Yidn, shreibt un fershreibt” (Yiddish: “Jews, write and record”).

On December 8, 1941, Simon Dubnow was among thousands of Riga ghetto Jews massacred in the Rumbula forest.


Dubnow was ambivalent toward Zionism, and completely rejected assimilation. He believed that the future survival of the Jews as a nation depended on their spiritual and cultural strength, and self-rule in the diaspora. This ideology became known as Jewish Autonomism, and was adopted in various versions in the platforms of some Jewish parties such as the Bund, but after the Holocaust has lost its popularity and practically disappeared from Jewish philosophy.

See also

History of the Jews in Russia and Soviet Union

Timeline of Jewish history

External links:


Dubnow’s biography

Simon Dubnow Institute

Works by Simon Dubnow at Project Gutenberg

Life and writings of Simon Dubnow book by Sophia Dubnow-Erlich

(in Russian)


  • History of the Jewish people

(original in German: Weltgeschichte des Jüdischen Volkes, in 10 volumes, 1929)

  • The newest history of the Jewish people, 1789–1914

(Die neueste Geschichte des Jüdischen Volkes, in three volumes, updated in 1938.)

  • A History of Hassidism

(Geschichte des Chassidismus), 1888.

  • Jewish history textbook

in 3 volumes, 1901

  • My life,  Berlin, 1937


TrackBack URI

Entries and comments feeds.

%d bloggers like this: