Paper $29.95 ISBN: 9781684580019 Published December 2019
Cloth $90.00 ISBN: 9781684580026 Published December 2019
E-book $39.95 ISBN: 9781684580033 Will Publish December 2019

A Jewish Woman of Distinction

The Life and Diaries of Zinaida Poliakova

ChaeRan Y. Freeze

A Jewish Woman of Distinction

ChaeRan Y. Freeze

Distributed for Brandeis University Press

Translated by Gregory L. Freeze
400 pages | 17 halftones, 6 line drawings | 6 1/8 x 9 1/4 | © 2019
Paper $29.95 ISBN: 9781684580019 Published December 2019
Cloth $90.00 ISBN: 9781684580026 Published December 2019
E-book $39.95 ISBN: 9781684580033 Will Publish December 2019
Zinaida Poliakova (1863–1953) was the eldest daughter of Lazar Solomonovich Poliakov, one of the three brothers known as the Russian Rothschilds. They were moguls who dominated Russian finance and business and built almost a quarter of the railroad lines in Imperial Russia.
For more than seventy-five years, Poliakova kept detailed diaries of her world, giving us a rare look into the exclusive world of Jewish elites in Moscow and St. Petersburg. These rare documents reveal how Jews successfully integrated into Russian aristocratic society through their intimate friendships and patronage of the arts and philanthropy. And they did it all without converting—in fact, while staunchly demonstrating their Jewishness.

Poliakova’s life was marked by her dual identity as a Russian and a Jew. She cultivated aristocratic sensibilities and lived an extraordinarily lifestyle, and yet she was limited by the confessional laws of the empire and religious laws that governed her household. She brought her Russian tastes, habits, and sociability to France following her marriage to Reuben Gubbay (the grandson of Sir Albert Abdullah Sassoon). And she had to face the loss of almost all her family members and friends during the Holocaust.

Women’s voices are often lost in the sweep of history, and so A Jewish Women of Distinction is an exceptional, much-needed collection. These newly discovered primary sources will change the way we understand the full breadth of the Russian Jewish experience.
Review Quotes
Esther Schor, Princeton University
“The remarkable diaries of Zinaida Poliakova, deftly edited by ChaeRan Freeze, open onto the world of the ‘Russian Rothschilds,’ a world of high culture, vast privilege, and the skillful, constant fashioning of a hybrid Jewish-Russian identity. Whether the topic was a game of dominos or a royal reception, a music lesson or a marriage, Poliakova took up her pen and left us an invaluable, detailed record of her day-to-day life. The four diaries included in this volume, translated by Gregory Freeze, cover Poliakova’s Russian years, 1875–87. For the entire life of Poliakova, we turn to Freeze’s superb biographical essay, which extends Poliakova’s story to fin-de-siècle Paris; the whirlwind of the Holocaust; and the harsh realities, both personal and financial, of her postwar life in England. Taken together, the life and diaries of Poliakova comprise an important contribution to modern Jewish history.”
William G. Wagner, Williams College
“Introduced by an excellent discussion of the lives, self-understanding, and fate of Zinaida Poliakova and her family, this impressively annotated translation of Poliakova’s diaries provides a revealing depiction of the world of the Jewish elite in late Imperial Russia as experienced by a young woman from one its most prominent families.”
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