Hasidism in Tsarist Russia: Historical and Social Aspects

David Assaf, Gadi Sagiv

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


It is difficult to ascribe to Hasidism sets of distinctive regional characteristics, because Hasidism transcended both communal and national boundaries. Aware of this problem, the authors of this article seek to characterize Hasidism in Russia, while eschewing the essentialist assumption that Hasidism in Russia had a Russian character. The article describes Hasidism in Tsarist Russia from several perspectives. From an internal Jewish perspective, it discusses features of dynasties of hasidic leaders and the courts they lived in. This is followed by a discussion of relations between hasidic centers (the courts) and hasidic peripheries (the local communities). Relations between Hasidism and the Russian administration are also analyzed, as are the various ways in which hasidim in Russia adapted to the challenges of modernity, while hasidic leaders in Galicia and Hungary were usually more hostile towards modernization. Finally, the article describes the consequences of the upheavals of the First World War, Bolshevik Revolution, and the Civil Wars that followed. During these dramatic events and in their aftermath, the majority of the hasidic leaders in Russia moved to other places in Europe, America, and Palestine, and only some of them remained under the Soviet regime.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)241-269
Number of pages29
JournalJewish History
Issue number2-4
StatePublished - Dec 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Dynasties
  • Eastern Europe
  • Hasidism
  • Nineteenth century
  • Political history
  • Tsarist Russia

RAMBI publications

  • Hasidism -- History
  • Hasidism -- Russia
  • Jews -- Russia -- History -- 1500-


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