Yuri Slezkine

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Yuri Slezkine
Yuri Slezkine - 03.jpg
Slezkine in 2019.
BornFebruary 7, 1956
EducationMoscow State University
University of Texas, Austin
OccupationHistorian, author, translator
EmployerUniversity of California, Berkeley

Yuri Lvovich Slezkine (Russian: Ю́рий Льво́вич Слёзкин Yúriy L'vóvich Slyózkin; born February 7, 1956) is a Russian-born American historian, writer, and translator. He is a professor of Russian history, sovietologist and Director of the Institute of Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. He is best known as the author of the book The Jewish Century (2004) and The House of Government: A Saga of The Russian Revolution (2017).[1][2]


Slezkine originally trained as an interpreter in Moscow State University. His first trip outside the Soviet Union was in the late 1970s, when he worked as a translator in Mozambique.[3] He returned to Moscow to serve as a translator of Portuguese, and spent 1982 in Lisbon before emigrating to Austin, Texas, the next year. He earned a PhD from the University of Texas, Austin.[4]

Slezkine is a W. Glenn Campbell and Rita Ricardo-Campbell National Fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution and Jane K. Sather Professor of History at the University of California, Berkeley. He is also a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2008).[5]

Slezkine's theory of ethnic identity[edit]

Slezkine characterizes the Jews (alongside other groups such as the Armenians and Overseas Chinese) as a Mercurian people "specializ[ing] exclusively in providing services to the surrounding food-producing societies," which he characterizes as "Apollonians". This division is, according to him, recurring in pre-20th century societies. With the exception of the Romani, these "Mercurian peoples" have all enjoyed great socioeconomic success relative to the average among their hosts, and have all, without exception, attracted hostility and resentment. A recurring pattern of the relationship between Apollonians and Mercurian people is that the social representation of each group by the other is symmetrical, for instance Mercurians see Apollonians as brutes while Apollonians see Mercurians as effeminate. Mercurians develop a culture of "purity" and "national myths" to cultivate their separation from the Apollonians, which allows them to provide international services (intermediaries, diplomacy) or services that are taboo for the local Apollonian culture (linked to death, magic, sexuality or banking). Slezkine develops this thesis by arguing that the Jews, the most successful of these Mercurian peoples, have increasingly influenced the course and nature of Western societies, particularly during the early and middle periods of Soviet Communism, and that modernity can be seen as a transformation of Apollonians into Mercurians.[6][7]


  • The House of Government: A Saga of the Russian Revolution, Princeton University Press, 2017
  • The Jewish Century, Princeton University Press, 2004 (ISBN 0-691-11995-3)
  • In the Shadow of the Revolution: Life Stories of Russian Women from 1917 to the Second World War, edited by Sheila Fitzpatrick and Yuri Slezkine, Princeton University Press, 2000
  • Arctic Mirrors: Russia and the Small Peoples of the North, Cornell University Press, 1994
  • The USSR as a Communal Apartment, or How a Socialist State Promoted Ethnic Particularism, Slavic Review, Vol. 53, No. 2 (Summer 1994), 414-452
  • Between Heaven and Hell: The Myth of Siberia in Russian Culture, 1993


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Nathans, Benjamin (23 November 2017). "Bolshevism's New Believers" – via www.nybooks.com.
  2. ^ Hatherley, Owen (2017-12-15). "The House of Government by Yuri Slezkine review – the Russian Revolution told through one building". the Guardian. Retrieved 2018-06-03.
  3. ^ Wood, Tony (2017-10-18). "Can the History of the Soviet Union Be Told through a Single Building?". The Nation. ISSN 0027-8378. Retrieved 2018-06-04.
  4. ^ Slezkine, Yuri. "Yuri Slezkine CV" (PDF). Retrieved 2018-06-03.
  5. ^ "04.28.2008 - Five faculty elected to American Academy of Arts & Sciences". www.berkeley.edu. Retrieved 2018-06-04.
  6. ^ Fitzpatrick, Sheila (2005-03-17). "I sailed away with a mighty push, never to return". London Review of Books. pp. 3–7. ISSN 0260-9592. Retrieved 2018-06-04.
  7. ^ Lazare, Daniel (2005-11-30). "The Chosen People". The Nation. ISSN 0027-8378. Retrieved 2018-06-04.
  8. ^ "National Jewish Book Award | Book awards | LibraryThing". www.librarything.com. Retrieved 2020-01-20.

External links[edit]