Leningrad Jewish almanac
In 1982, in Leningrad, samizdat began publishing the "Leningrad Jewish Almanac" ("LEA"). Jews had long felt the need for such a publication. In 1981, a group of Leningrad Jewish activists filed papers for the official registration of the Leningrad Society of Exploring of Jewish Culture (LOEK). Soviet law allowed registering the society even in those years. Nevertheless, the officials refused the registration. The need to inform the Jewish population of the city about problems in their ethnic life and life in general was getting more acute. This was the reason for publishing Jewish samizdat collections. The concentration of the "otkazniks" increased. Beside the ulpans, apartment seminars and underground courses on Jewish cuisine operated. The materials of those seminars, the works by the writers and poets treated which Jewish themes, made up the edition.
Well-known geo-physicist Eduard-Isaak Erlikh and Jewish activists Yakov Gorodetsky and Grigoriy Wasserman were the sponsors of the "Leningrad Jewish Almanac". They invited Yuri Kolker to work on the first issue. Later, Yuri Kolker recalled that the situation had been so dangerous that they had been afraid to discuss the issue in someone's apartment. They met on the street, near the office where Erlikh worked - at the junction of Suvorovsky Avenue and 7th Soviet Street. Every member of the editorial board was shadowed; so it was decided not to print the names of the publishers and the address of the publishing house. "We are seen already - by the readers and by the investigators; we have no reason to introduce ourselves to the former or to help the latter", Yu. Kolker recalled. In order to continue publishing in the case of someone's arrest, they decided to publish the issues with different editorial boards. There were 70-80 pages in each issue to make copying less difficult.
The circulation of "LEA" was very big for samizdat - sometimes, it was more than 100,000 copies. People read "LEA" production in Moscow, in the Baltic Republics, in the Ukraine, the Caucasus, and in Birobidzhan. To save the editorial board, the list of members was secret. For the same reason, the distributors replaced another as they left USSR: A. Taratuta, B. Kelman, Ya. Gorodetsky. The first issue, dated September, 1982, was published in November; the group of Yu. Kolker prepared it. The editorial was the article "Who Are We?" In accordance with the agreement to publish each new issue with various editors, the circle of G. Wasserman prepared the second issue, and M. Beizer and S. Frumkin edited the third issue; then, S. Frumkin became the permanent editor of "LEA". Later, V. Birkan, R. Zapesotskaya and D. Ioffe joined the editorial board. The third issue was published by Purim and its circulation surpassed in number all other samizdat publications of those years.
With its circulation and quality of published materials, "LEA" could be compared with only one Jewish samizdat Journal - "Jews in the USSR"; it was produced in Moscow and it was destroyed in the later Seventies - the early Eighties. The almanac could be called scholarly and cultural. For security reasons, articles on politics or sociology were published rarely in it. Materials were prepared by amateurs students of Jewish history, philosophy and culture in their free time. The best "LEA" publications met all requirements of scholarly research. The reports of the Seminar of Judaism and other Jewish seminars were the main source for "LEA".
So, for example, in the fifth issue of "LEA" (December'84), "The Pogroms and Jewish Self-Defense" article by L. Segal (the alias of Leonid Praisman), "Jewish Wedding Ritual" by A. Eizeri (T. Makushkina), "The Jews - Prisoners of Shlisselburg" by F. Nulin (S. Frumkin), "The Critical Approach to Historic Documents" notice by M. Beizer were published. The latter contained excerpts from declarations by the leaders of the German Jewish community in which the leaders vowed fidelity to the Reich as well as their protest against the propaganda to boycott Nazi Germany that had sounded very frequently in the USSR in those years. In the Seventh issue of "LEA" (September'85), articles by M. Goldina were published about the study of Jewish music in Russia (it was the subject of her degree thesis at the Leningrad Conservatory); there were also published the article "About the History of Political Misalliance. Zubatov - Vilbushevich" by F. Nulin (S. Frumkin), fragments of an unpublished collection of Jewish folklore collected by E. Raize during an ethnographic expedition, and other materials.
Issues by issue, the chapters of the book The Jews in Petersburg were published in "LEA". In 1986-1988, two collections-annexes of "LEA" were prepared - Modern Jewish Folklore (a collection of scenarios for home purimshpils) and a special collection for the Day of the Holocaust; the latter collection was distributed at the mourning meeting. The editorial board could not refuse social and political journalism completely. They published the letter of R. Zelichenok to writer V. Belov (the latter demonstrated his anti-semitism in those years already); the correspondence of Natan Eidelman and Victor Astafiev. Later, they published recollections of the camps by the otkazniks. All in all, they produced 19 issues of "LEA". It was the only Jewish samizdat journal that existed for so long. As M. Beizer recalled, the publishers had thought that the journal would be shut down after the very first issue.
The last 4 issues of "LEA", in 1989, were copied already in Israel and about 1,500 copies came back in USSR. In 1989, S. Frumkin decided to stop producing "LEA" because a legal Jewish press had appeared. The materials were passed to the Riga journal "VEK" (Vestnik Evreiskoi Kultury - "The Jewish Culture Herald"). Those materials became the base for one issue of VEK. In 1988 already, the Center of Research on Eastern European Jewry at Jewish University in Jerusalem produced the four first issues of "LEA". The next four ones were published in 1992. Almost all issues of the almanac are stored in the archive of the Center. The "Leningrad Jewish Almanac" is fixed in Jewish history as one of the brightest moments in the struggle for national rebirth.
The cover of "LEA" published in Jerusalem