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2012 St. Petersburg Symposium

National Library of Russia
Institute for Genealogical Research

National Library of Israel
International Institute for Jewish Genealogy

Joint Symposium

The Genealogy and Family History of Jews in Russia

St. Petersburg
(September 10-12, 2012)

At the invitation of the Institute for Genealogical Research at the National Library of Russia, IIJG held a successful Joint Symposium in St. Petersburg from 10-12 September, 2012.

The primary aim of the Symposium was initiate a ground-breaking discussion at an academic level into the genealogy of the Jews of Russia – that is, Jews who lived outside the Pale of Settlement from the beginning of the 19th century and inside Russia proper until the modern era. A secondary aim was to introduce Western scholars to work being done in Russia today on Jewish genealogy and, per contra, to bring to the attention of Russian specialists some of the resources and research available beyond their borders. It can be fairly said that these objectives were attained.

Papers and Participation

The impressive number of 23 scholarly papers were presented by 20 speakers over the two and a half days of the Symposium.

As was to be expected, the majority of the participants were Russian, almost exclusively from St. Petersburg and Moscow. The IIJG team of seven was made up of 3 scholars from Israel, together with one each from Paris, Philadelphia and Riga.

Besides the numerical ratio, there was a certain lack of symmetry between the two sides. On the IIJG side, four members of the team were tenured university faculty and the others were academics of different stripes. On the other side, most of the Russian team were connected with the National Library of Russia as librarians and archivists, or were private scholars and researchers. However, a high level of scholarship and interest in Jewish genealogy was common to all.


The keynote speaker at the opening session was Prof. Benjamin Nathans of the University of Pennsylvania, well-known for his book Beyond the Pale – the Jewish Encounter with Late Imperial Russia (2002). In his observations, he set the right tone for the event and suggested various avenues for investigation into the topic at hand.

Broadly speaking, the first day of working sessions was dealt with “Sources and Resources” for the genealogy and family history of Jews in Russia, while the second day was devoted to case studies.

The full programme is attached in English. As will be seen, the range of topics was wide, ranging from documents on Jewish genealogy in the Russian National Library, the NKVD and Russian provincial archives, through the synagogue and the cemetery as sources for Jewish genealogy, to studies regarding requests from Jews to settle outside the Pale, the genealogy of Jewish women in Russia, Jews in the Russian nobility – not to mention Jewish business and merchant families in Moscow, artisan families in the provinces and much more in between.

Click here for the Symposium’s programme.

Click here for an academic review of the Symposium by Prof. Benjamin Nathans.

Click here for IIJG Director’s Opening Remarks.