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How It Was Sung in Odessa: At the Intersection of Russian and Yiddish Folk Culture

Robert A. Rothstein
Slavic Review
Vol. 60, No. 4 (Winter, 2001), pp. 781-801
DOI: 10.2307/2697495
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2697495
Page Count: 21
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How It Was Sung in Odessa: At the Intersection of Russian and Yiddish Folk Culture
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Abstract

Odessa has played a significant role in Russian and Yiddish folklore and popular culture. Although the city has changed with the times, the Odessa variant of the Russian language and the Russian and Yiddish songs created in and about Odessa are the lasting product of a unique brand of multiculturalism. The Russian of Odessa shows the influence of Yiddish and Ukrainian in grammar, lexicon, and phraseology, and Odessa folk humor reflects Jewish sensibilities. Odessa Yiddish is permeated with Russianisms. The repertoire of Russian and Yiddish songs about Odessa reveals the mixed character of the respective languages. The songs portray a unique city: one that is more impressive than Vienna or Paris; one that embodies progress and the carefree life but is also dangerous. These songs deal with various aspects of the Jewish experience but also with the life of the underworld, employing the stylistic conventions of the so-called blatnaia pesnia.

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