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What was the topic of chapter 4 of The Jewish Century by Yuri Slezkin?

The topic of the fourth chapter of The Jewish Century by Yuri Slezkine is the migration of Jews residing in the so-called Pale of the Settlement to other parts of Russia, America, and Palestine. Most of the chapter is devoted to a description of the role these Jews played in Russian society after the October Revolution.

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Chapter 4 of Yuri Slezkine's The Jewish Century describes the three options available for Jews leaving their homes in the Pale of Settlement in modern-day southern Russia and the Ukraine at the turn of the twentieth century. These were America, Russia, and Palestine. Slezkine paints the USA as the most attractive of these destinations, as it offers a place to settle which does not demand assimilation as the price of prosperity. It was uniquely a place where a Jew could "be an equal citizen and a Jew at the same time." Plotting the peregrinations of Sholom Aeichman's character Tevye the Milkman's multitudinous extended family, there are many who choose Bolshevik Russia as a beginning only to end up in Palestine, and, in some cases, return to Russia. Some chose Zionist Israel after first alighting in America. There are no examples of his progeny or their mates abandoning America in order to return to Russia. America, and especially areas of New York City, were an echo of the shtetl with Yiddish to be heard everywhere on the streets and whole families who had immigrated there as a unit.

In this chapter, Slezkine draws many parallels between Palestine and Russia at the time. Both are based on revolutionary ideologies, Zionism and Bolshevism respectively, and both "shared a messianic promise of imminent collective redemption and a more or less miraculous collective transfiguration." Both places were rife with youth organizations marching, laboring, and living communally. Russia was the cradle of the Jewish presence in Palestine; this manifested itself in everything from the melodies sung by young settlers to the organization of their communities.

Slezkine enumerates the growing Jewish population in the larger Russian cities in the first half of the 1900s. The Jewish intellectuals in their midst mocked and reviled their contemporaries in unenlightened America. Jews had become substantially overrepresented in both the Russian bureaucracy and in the professions by the end of the 1930s. Slezkine names and quotes this new cultural elite at great length. Throughout his book, he separates the figures in it into Mercurians and Apollonians. The former are amongst other things intellectuals and creative types, the latter are the majority: makers and workers. In this chapter, he chronicles how the Apollonian Jews of the Pale transformed themselves into Mercurians as they moved into the larger Russian cities after the Revolution. He also recounts how anti-semitism was countered and sought eradicated by the authorities to such a degree that those accused of it were summarily executed on several occasions.

Slezkine turns to America, chronicling the material success of Jewish immigrants there as just as impressive as the ascension of Jews in Russia to the ruling and cultural elite in that country. He devotes less space to the Jewish presence in the USA and Palestine than he does to describing their situation in Russia. His account of the Jews establishing themselves in Palestine focuses largely on the response of their fellow Jews in Russia.

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