The Velizh Affair: Blood Libel in a Russian Town (Hardback)Eugene M. Avrutin (author)
Hardback 208 Pages / Published: 28/12/2017
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On April 22, 1823, a three-year-old boy named Fedor finished his lunch and went to play outside. Fedor never returned home from his walk. Several days later, a neighbor found his mutilated body drained of blood and repeatedly pierced. In small market towns, where houses were clustered together, where residents knew each other on intimate terms, and where people gossiped in the taverns, the courtyards, and the streets, even the most trivial bits of news spread like wildfire. And it did not take long before rumors began to spread that Jews had murdered the little boy. The Velizh Affair reconstructs the lives of Jews and their Christian neighbors caught up in the aftermath of this chilling criminal act. The inquisitorial commission into the murder resulted in the charging of forty-two Jews with ritual murder, theft, and desecration of Church property, and the forcible conversion of three town residents. Drawing on an astonishing number of newly discovered trial records, historian Eugene M. Avrutin explores the multiple factors that not only caused fear and conflict in everyday life, but also the social and cultural worlds of a multiethnic population that had coexisted for hundreds of years. This beautifully crafted book provides an intimate glimpse into small-town life in eastern Europe. The case unfolded in a town like any other town in the Russian Empire where lives were closely interwoven, where rivalries and confrontations were part of day-to-day existence, and where the blood libel was part of a well-established belief system.
Publisher: Oxford University Press Inc
Number of pages: 208
Weight: 470 g
Dimensions: 244 x 164 x 22 mm
"Avrutin carefully and systematically relates Russian criminal investigations to those practiced in contemporary Europe, specifically, on the centrality of interrogations, including 'enhanced interrogations, ' confrontations between those accused and their accusers and ultimately the particulars of incarceration while the inquiry was in process. He makes excellent use of a wide-range of recent scholarly publications on each of these points as he delineates the official boundaries placed upon the prosecutor and those accused in a system in which there were neither lawyers nor juries....Avrutin opens a window not only into the practice of Russian justice under Nicholas I, he also documents the regime's approach to what it saw as deviant religious practices as it affirmed the widely held popular belief in the reality of Jewish ritual murder. Avrutin is to be commended for his careful, insightful, and truly impressive work."--Alexander Orbach, The Russian Review
"[A] devastating and evocative tale of magic and everyday life in small town Russia....To conjure up this belief system and the power it exerted as vividly and persuasively as Eugene Avrutin does is no mean feat of historical imagination."--Abigail Green, Times Literary Supplement
"[A] scholarly work that reads as a riveting novel"--Southern Jewish Life
"Meticulously researched, fluently written, and thoughtfully argued. The Velizh Affair explores one of Imperial Russia's most fascinating, troubling, indeed infuriating legal cases: an accusation of Jewish 'ritual murder' that seemed to have been adjudicated in a year but, instead, dragged on for another eleven, during which time more than forty Jews were imprisoned and the deep fissures in the Russian-Jewish relationship laid bare."--Hillel J. Kieval, Washington University in St. Louis
"A refreshingly original work of scholarship that draws on previously inaccessible Russian archival material in the telling of a gripping, gruesome story. Avrutin shows himself to be among the finest modern Jewish social historians of his generation."--Steven J. Zipperstein, Stanford University
"During the reign of Tsar Nicholas I, just a decade after Napoleon's ill-starred march on Moscow, the grisly murder of a boy in the Russian town of Velizh brought forth portentous accusations that the Jews had committed blood libel. Based on a remarkably rich, long-ignored source, Eugene Avrutin reconstructs the murder case with great sensitivity, erudition, and a feel for the temper of the time. Piecing together the everyday life of the town, the belief systems that fueled the accusations, and the dynamic between local rivalries and outside politics that made the Velizh Affair history's longest running blood libel accusation, Avrutin offers a compelling explanation, rendered in clear, elegant prose, for how such allegations--otherwise so similar to witchcraft accusations--survived and even flourished in the modern world."--Helmut Walser Smith, author of The Butcher's Tale: Murder and Anti-Semitism in a German Town
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