Typical of the Russian revolutionary movement as a whole, Rappoport was drawn to "the simple life of the narod [the Russian folk, or lower class], it's naïveté, poverty, truth, its lack of malice," as he announced to his friend Chaim Zhitlowsky. Many roads then led to the Russian "folk," foremost among them the path laid out by populist theoretician Peter Lavrov. An unpaid debt, he preached, weighed on the conscience of the privileged groups toward the millions of Russian workers of this generation and those of the past. According to Lavrov, the intellectuals had first to prepare themselves before they could wage successful propaganda among the masses.

To this end, Rappoport set about educating himself on the life and reading habits of the peasants. He himself began reading to the illiterate peasants from the classics of modern Russian literature. What the "folk" read and what it was capable of absorbing became his abiding interest. The logical next step for a self-styled Jewish radical whose own people had no use for him was to become one with the "real" folk, the Russian narod.



From: David G. Roskies, ed. The Dybbuk and Other Writings. Copyright © 1992 The Fund for the Translation of Jewish Literature (New York: Schocken Books), pp. xiv-xv. Reprinted by permission of The Fund.

ANSKY Introduction



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