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Eugene Michael Avrutin
University of Illinois (Champaign, IL 61801-3620)
The Velizh Affair: Jews and Christians in a 19th-Century Russian Border Town

A book-length study analyzing the complex relationships between Jews and Christians based on an extensive murder case from the 1820s-30s in Velizh, a small town about 300 miles west of Moscow.

The Velizh affair was the longest ritual murder case in the modern world. The investigation lasted twelve years (1823-1835), generating an astonishing number of documents. The archive includes hundreds of depositions and petitions, official government correspondence, reports, memos, and personal letters. The case opens a window onto a time, place, and people that seldom appear in studies of either the Russian Empire or East European Jewry. Furthermore, it offers a unique window onto not only the multiple factors that caused ruptures and conflicts in everyday life, but also the social and cultural worlds of a multi-ethnic population that had coexisted for hundreds of years. Using the newly discovered documents, the book project: (1) reconstructs the mental universe of a multi-ethnic border town and analyzes otherwise opaque realms of human experience; and (2) rethinks the role that antisemitism played in the ritual murder charge.

Project fields:
European History; Jewish Studies; Russian History

Fellowships for University Teachers

Research Programs

$50,400 (approved)
$50,400 (awarded)

Grant period:
6/1/2016 – 5/31/2017