Moscow: Der Farband, 1932. Item #1223
20 pp.: ill. 31x23 cm. In original illustrated wrappers. Covers detached from the text block, tears of spine, small pieces of paper glued to the first and last pages, otherwise very good.
One of 4000 copies. In Yiddish. Very rare.
An issue of the first Jewish atheist monthly that was published in 1931-1935.
The Soviet authorities embarked on bizarre yet extensive propaganda against Judaism from the first months of the Soviet regime. Among activities of the Evsection of the Communist Party (1918-1930) was an active fight against this religion. A number of “public trials” against such institutions as сheders, yeshivas and synagogues were staged in Kiev, Vitebsk, Rostov, etc. Closed and nationalized synagogues were turned into workers’ clubs. They were being closed as NEPmen places in the late 1920s and as Nazi’s places in the late 1930s. Rabbis were blamed for both trotskyism and agitation against Birobidzhan; they were arrested, imprisoned, exiled to concentration camps. In 1925, the League of Militant Atheists was formed, it consisted of 5 million members by 1932 and about 22 million by 1937. Its official Yiddish periodical was ‘Der Apikoyres’. The very first issue had come out in Kiev in 1923, but that editorial board didn’t proceed publishing. ‘Der Apikoyres’ was returned to a significantly changed country in almost ten years.
The editor-in-chief was a well-known figure in the Evsection, Moishe Altshuler (1887-1969). He was a Jewish linguist, writer and translator, taught in the Komintern University. Apart from ‘Der Apikoyres’, Altshuler edited periodicals ‘Tribuna’, ‘Yung Guard’, ‘Der Emes’. Being an activist of anti-religious propaganda against Judaism, he also published several books on this topic, including a special textbook ‘Anti-religyezer lernbukh’ (1929).
The design of the periodical through years was produced by painter and caricaturist Aron Hefter (1894–1963) almost alone. He studied at Vilna Art School in 1912-1915, then at VKHUTEIN in 1921-1924 under V. Favorskii, S. Gerasimov, D. Kardovskii. Since 1925, Hefter began to design periodicals and posters, publishing caricatures of politicians, clerics, public figures of Jewish theater and literature, as well as constructivist compositions and photomontages. In 1934, his personal exhibition was held in Moscow.
In particular, he created this interesting cover design where a drawn composition mixing industrial and agricultural worlds with an airplane and two tractors. A photograph of a Jewish (not too happy) worker was printed over the composition showing the forced involvement of the Soviet Jewry in the mentioned fields.
Caricatures against Judaism were produced by Mendel Gorshman, Dmitrii Moor, Mikhail Cheremnykh. Satirical works by the last two were sharper and their approach was close to the style of Hefter’s designs. This issue features the only caricature of a rabbi collaborating with a Nazi officer and a huge capitalist. In the early 1930s, Soviet anti-religious periodicals were illustrated with photographs rather than drawn pictures and caricatures. The rear side of the front cover shows photographs from atheist demonstrations, including a children’s march with a poster against Judaism. Pages contain photographs of Jewish children and youth during anti-religious and labor classes in a club, schools, library, as well as pictures of achievements of the time: a constructivist building, the first batch of steel from Magnitogorsk for the plant.
The issue includes a poem by a Soviet Jewish playwright and poet Samuel Halkin (1897-1960) who little later undertook translation of ‘King Lear’ for Yiddish performance at GOSET. It premiered in 1935 starring Solomon Mikhoels. Halkin actively participated in the work of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee (EAC) and was arrested in 1949, just like his colleagues. A heart attack became a reason to send him to a prison hospital, thus he avoided being shot but was exiled to the camp for 5 years.
Some issues are located in LoC, Indiana University, Yivo Institute.