The Kultur-Lige in Warsaw: A Stopover between Kiev and Paris

Gennady Estraikh

New York University

Jewish, most notably Yiddish, intellectuals in late imperial Russia often claimed their alliance with the nusekh vilne (‘Vilna style’) of highbrow culture or the nusekh varshe (‘Warsaw style’) of popular culture. The circle of literati of the ‘Vilna (or – better – Vilna-Kiev) style’ refused to see in culture only a vehicle for entertainment or propaganda. Their culture was supposed to replace religion as a core ingredient for the modern Jewish nation in the making. The Kultur-Lige was established in Kiev in 1918 as an organization for realizing this objective. Following the Sovietization of Ukraine and all its cultural institutions, a group of activists decamped to Warsaw where they sought to replant the Kultur-Lige as a central organization of an international network (sister organizations emerged in such cities as Paris, Kaunas, Berlin, Amsterdam, Detroit, Harbin and Johannesburg). This paper analyses the Warsaw period of the organization, its place in the intellectual discourse of the 1920s and 1930s, and its role in the 1937 Paris Congress of Jewish Culture.

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