Author Topic: How Historically Accurate is "Fiddler on the Roof"?  (Read 182533 times)

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Offline CorisCapnSkip

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Re: How Historically Accurate is "Fiddler on the Roof"?
« Reply #15 on: October 26, 2008, 11:05:30 PM »
Thanks for the fascinating information.  It's interesting to note that Topol, who played Tevye in the movie, was born in Palestine.  Does anyone know whether his ancestry might trace to Russian Jews?

Offline CorisCapnSkip

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Re: How Historically Accurate is "Fiddler on the Roof"?
« Reply #16 on: November 12, 2008, 03:40:35 AM »
This is really a Russian Orthodox Church question, but so as not to start a new thread I'm placing it here.  As I understand, the Catholic church does not require conversion for a person to be married in their church, but those being married must agree that any children will be raised Catholic.  Does the Russian Orthodox Church have the same rule?  Would Chava, the daughter who married the Russian man, merely have to consent to raise her children in the church, would she have to convert, or would the church marry her to Fyedka without requiring any special agreements on her part?

Offline historylover

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Re: How Historically Accurate is "Fiddler on the Roof"?
« Reply #17 on: November 14, 2008, 10:05:14 PM »
I don't know the answers but I'd like to know too!  They're interesting questions.

Offline CorisCapnSkip

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Re: How Historically Accurate is "Fiddler on the Roof"?
« Reply #18 on: February 04, 2010, 03:25:26 AM »
Again, not a Fiddler on the Roof subject, but I finally looked up this incident from The Railway Children, by E. Nesbit, dealing with a British subject's view of Russia.  As a child, my only impressions of the Russia of Nicholas II came from picking at bits of books and movies such as Dr. Zhivago and Nicholas and Alexandra, reading a children's short story in which "cossacks" was the worst insult a boy could hurl at bullies, the wedding scene from Fiddler on the Roof, and this passage from The Railway Children, in which the family has found a Russian lost at their local train station:

Later on, when the Russian stranger had been made comfortable for the night, Mother came into the girls' room.  She was to sleep there in
Phyllis's bed, and Phyllis was to have a mattress on the floor, a most amusing adventure for Phyllis.  Directly Mother came in, two white
figures started up, and two eager voices called:--

"Now, Mother, tell us all about the Russian gentleman."

A white shape hopped into the room.  It was Peter, dragging his quilt behind him like the tail of a white peacock.

"We have been patient," he said, "and I had to bite my tongue not to go to sleep, and I just nearly went to sleep and I bit too hard, and it
hurts ever so.  DO tell us.  Make a nice long story of it."

"I can't make a long story of it to-night," said Mother; "I'm very tired."

Bobbie knew by her voice that Mother had been crying, but the others didn't know.

"Well, make it as long as you can," said Phil, and Bobbie got her arms round Mother's waist and snuggled close to her.

"Well, it's a story long enough to make a whole book of.  He's a writer; he's written beautiful books.  In Russia at the time of the Czar one
dared not say anything about the rich people doing wrong, or about the things that ought to be done to make poor people better and happier.  If one did one was sent to prison."

"But they CAN'T," said Peter; "people only go to prison when they've done wrong."

"Or when the Judges THINK they've done wrong," said Mother.  "Yes, that's so in England.  But in Russia it was different.  And he wrote a beautiful book about poor people and how to help them.  I've read it.  There's nothing in it but goodness and kindness.  And they sent him to prison for it.  He was three years in a horrible dungeon, with hardly any light, and all damp and dreadful.  In prison all alone for three years."

Mother's voice trembled a little and stopped suddenly.

"But, Mother," said Peter, "that can't be true NOW.  It sounds like something out of a history book--the Inquisition, or something."

"It WAS true," said Mother; "it's all horribly true.  Well, then they took him out and sent him to Siberia, a convict chained to other convicts--wicked men who'd done all sorts of crimes--a long chain of them, and they walked, and walked, and walked, for days and weeks, till
he thought they'd never stop walking.  And overseers went behind them with whips--yes, whips--to beat them if they got tired.  And some of them went lame, and some fell down, and when they couldn't get up and go on, they beat them, and then left them to die.  Oh, it's all too terrible!  And at last he got to the mines, and he was condemned to stay there for life--for life, just for writing a good, noble, splendid book."

"How did he get away?"

"When the war came, some of the Russian prisoners were allowed to volunteer as soldiers.  And he volunteered.  But he deserted at the first
chance he got and--"

"But that's very cowardly, isn't it"--said Peter--"to desert?  Especially when it's war."

"Do you think he owed anything to a country that had done THAT to him?  If he did, he owed more to his wife and children.  He didn't know what had become of them."

"Oh," cried Bobbie, "he had THEM to think about and be miserable about TOO, then, all the time he was in prison?"

"Yes, he had them to think about and be miserable about all the time he was in prison.  For anything he knew they might have been sent to prison, too.  They did those things in Russia.  But while he was in the mines some friends managed to get a message to him that his wife and children had escaped and come to England.  So when he deserted he came here to look for them."

"Had he got their address?" said practical Peter.

"No; just England.  He was going to London, and he thought he had to change at our station, and then he found he'd lost his ticket and his purse."

"Oh, DO you think he'll find them?--I mean his wife and children, not the ticket and things."

"I hope so.  Oh, I hope and pray that he'll find his wife and children again."

Even Phyllis now perceived that mother's voice was very unsteady.

"Why, Mother," she said, "how very sorry you seem to be for him!"

Mother didn't answer for a minute.  Then she just said, "Yes," and then she seemed to be thinking.  The children were quiet.

Presently she said, "Dears, when you say your prayers, I think you might ask God to show His pity upon all prisoners and captives."

"To show His pity," Bobbie repeated slowly, "upon all prisoners and captives.  Is that right, Mother?"

"Yes," said Mother, "upon all prisoners and captives.  All prisoners and captives."

Naslednik Norvezhskiy

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Re: How Historically Accurate is "Fiddler on the Roof"?
« Reply #19 on: March 21, 2010, 08:57:09 AM »
A bit more Fiddler on the Roof-related here:
What was the Pale of Settlement (Черта оседлости, תחום המושב, der Ansiedlungsrayon) called in its native Yiddish?

Candidate for Yiddish anthem of the Pale of Settlement: YouTube: Mayn shtetele Belz?

« Last Edit: March 21, 2010, 09:02:35 AM by Fyodor Petrovich »

Offline Превед

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Re: How Historically Accurate is "Fiddler on the Roof"?
« Reply #20 on: January 23, 2015, 02:00:50 PM »
What was the catch all, however, was what is called the "kartavitz".  For many reasons, the Jews in the countryside learned and heard the Russian of the noble famlies that surrounded them.  These Russian nobles, approximately 200 years ago, and for approximately 100 years thereafter, spoke Russian with a gutteral French "r" as everyone what to appeared as if they had spent long periods of time in France.  Ce fut la mode.  The Jewish population followed in their stead.

This is probably an urban legend (on par with the French nobility starting to grasseyer / грассировать in imitation of a king's speech impediment.) Jews would have very little contact with Russian court nobility who had adopted a a French accent. At most Jews in the Pale of Settlement (far away from St. Petersburg and Moscow) would have daily contact with provincial nobles (Russian and Polish!) who probably spoke French with a strongly rolled Slavic r. Their main contact with Slavic speakers would have been with Ukrainian, Belarussian and Polish peasants and Baltic Lithuanians.

The main point is that the mother tongue of Jews in the Pale of Settlement was Yiddish and /r/ is actually usually pronounced [ʁ], i.e. uvular r, in Yiddish. Why, one could ask. None of the surrounding Slavic languages has a uvular r and German probably* had no uvular r when the Eastern Jews, speaking the Middle High German that evolved into Yiddish, left Germany in the Middle Ages. My best explanation is that the emergence of a uvular r often seems to be connected to language contact and migration (e.g. Portuguese and especially Brazilian Portuguese) and urbanisation (Occitan southerners settling in Paris). All this applies very well to Yiddish, which was the result of an eastwards migration, spoken in multilingual environment and by an inherently urban population living closely together in towns and small towns.

* Some scholars claim that Yiddish is evidence that uvular r was present in medieval German and that modern German did not get its uvular r from French.

So, because the Jews of the Pale of Settlement had a uvular r in their native Yiddish, many were unable to pronounce a properly trilled r when they learned Russian. Hence the картавить. The same when Hebrew was resurrected as a living language. Although the traditional rolled Hebrew r was planned as standard, the number and prominence of German- and Yiddish-speaking Azhkenazi Jews led to their uvular r becoming standard in modern Hebrew.

Lenin, for one, was never able to get over his "kartavitz" nod did Dzhersinky nor did Trotsky nor did Beria nor Sverdlov nor did Zinoviev.
Lenin, Dzherzhinsky and Beria did not grow up in Yiddish-speaking environments. So in their cases it was likely a congenital speech impediment (not at all uncommon), perhaps furthered by the multilingual environments in which they grew up.

À propos the Pole Dzherzhinsky: Comparing different r's in different languages can be more tricky than you'd think. Why is German Marienburg (seat of the Teutonic Order in West Prussia) Malbork in Polish, when Poles were dealing with this troublesome spot since the Middle Ages and Germans and Poles shared the same r untill the 19th century?

NB I think I've read that there are some Southern Russian dialects (Tver?) which have a uvular r. Anybody's guess if it's the result of influence from Yiddish or vice versa.
« Last Edit: January 23, 2015, 02:25:41 PM by Превед »
Берёзы севера мне милы,—
Их грустный, опущённый вид,
Как речь безмолвная могилы,
Горячку сердца холодит.

(Афанасий Фет: «Ивы и берёзы», 1843 / 1856)

Offline JamesAPrattIII

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Re: How Historically Accurate is "Fiddler on the Roof"?
« Reply #21 on: January 24, 2015, 02:38:33 PM »
Some books you might want to read on anti-Semitism ect:
Easter in Kishenev Ed H Judge a very good account of the Kishenev Pogrom
Pogroms Anti jewish Violence in Modern Russian History John D Klein & Shlomo Lambroza deals with the Pogroms of 1881-3, 1903-6 and 1919 and other Pogroms
Civil Rights in Imperial Russia Olga Crisp & Linda Edmonson deals with property, Jews, crime, Women's rights, the Police ect.