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The Velizh Affair: Ritual Murder in a Russian Border Town
Nov 21 2013


THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 21, 2013 | 3pm
MAX WEINREICH FELLOWSHIP LECTURE | Workmen’s Circle / Dr. Emanuel Patt Visiting Professorship
Dr. Eugene M. Avrutin, UIUC

Click HERE to listen to the audio.

On April 22, 1823, in a small Russian border town by the name of Velizh, a three-year-old boy finished his lunch and went to play outside. Fedor never returned home, and several days later, a neighbor found his body at the very edge of town, punctured in numerous places. Now erased from historical memory, the Velizh Affair (1823-1835) was the longest ritual murder case in the modern world, and most likely in all of world history. The case unfolded in a town like any other town in the Russian Empire where people’s lives were intimately connected, where rivalries and confrontations were part of day-to-day existence, and where the blood libel was part of a well-established belief system.


Eugene M. Avrutin is Associate Professor of modern European Jewish history and the Tobor family scholar in the Program of Jewish Culture and Society at the University of Illinois. He is the author of Jews and the Imperial State: Identification Politics in Tsarist Russia (2010). Together with Harriet Murav (Professor of Slavic Literatures at the University of Illinois) and Petersburg Judaica (a Jewish Studies institute affiliated with the European University in St. Petersburg), he edited Photographing the Jewish Nation: Pictures from S. An-sky’s Ethnographic Expeditions (2009), which was a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award in the visual arts category. Most recently, he edited with Robert H. Greene (Professor of Russian history at the University of Montana) a critical edition of the memoirs of the educator and feminist Anna Vygodskaia (2012). Supported by a Charles Ryskamp fellowship from the ACLS, Avrutin is currently working on a microhistory of a sensational ritual murder trial that took place in Velizh in the second quarter of the nineteenth century (1823-1835).