The Russian Museum of Ethnography and The Russian American Foundation are co-presenting a new exhibition with the YIVO Institute: The Jews of Tsarist Russia, opening reception at The YIVO Institute on June 4, 2012. The exhibition will present for the first time in the United States scarcely known and unique pages of the photographic record of Jewish life in Tsarist Russia from the collections of the Russian Museum of Ethnography in St. Petersburg, Russia.
The Jews of Tsarist Russia features 40 photographs from the seminal ethnographic exhibition held in Moscow in 1867 which introduced viewers to the diversity of Jewish life in the Russian empire. Most of the photographs in this new exhibition are portraits from the Mogilev, Vitebsk, Vilno, and Kamenetz-Podolsk provinces, the cities of Vilno and Berdichev, as well as Armenia and Crimea. It also includes unique and symbolic portraits of Mountain Jews and Jews of Bukhara.
One of the highlights of this exhibition is a series of photographs taken during the famous An-sky expedition of 1912-1914. Semion Akimovich An-sky (real name – Shloyme Zaynvl Rapoport, 1863-1920) was the prominent Jewish ethnographer and writer who inspired, organized, and directed ethnographic expeditions into the Pale of Settlement under the auspices of the St. Petersburg Jewish Historical and Ethnographical Society. The expedition visited Kiev, Podolia, and Volyn provinces and carried out detailed research on traditional Ashkenazi life, focusing on oral folklore, music, arts and crafts, beliefs and religious practices, occupations, and "shtetl" architecture. These expeditions were of groundbreaking significance for the modern ethnography of East European Jewry. The photographs in The Jews of Tsarist Russia give viewers a rare glance into the world of old Russian Jewish culture. The Jews of Tsarist Russia is sponsored by the Russian Museum of Ethnography, the Russian American Foundation, the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, and the Russian Ministry of Culture under the auspices of the Russian Heritage Festival ®.