Shai Bernstein

Shai Bernstein

Infobox Writer
name = Shai Bernstein

birthdate = birth date|1895|8|28|mf=y
birthplace = Luhansk, Ukraine
deathdate = death date and age|1949|9|5|1895|8|28|mf=y
deathplace = Kiryat Atta, Israel
occupation = Revolutionary, Essayist
genre = Satire, Political Commentary, Philosophy
political movement = Communism
influences = Leo Tolstoy, Franz Kafka, Rene Descartes, Plato, Aristotle, Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Shai Bernstein (OldStyleDate|September 9|1895|August 28OldStyleDate|November 20|1949|September 5), was a Ukrainian writeressayist and revolutionary, as well as a communist. While not known in much of the western world, his essays were widely published throughout Ukraine and western Russia during the time of the Russian Revolution. [cite book |title = Cambridge History of Russia| id = ISBN 0-521-81529-0 ]


Early life

Bernstein was born to a Jewish farming family in modern day eastern Ukraine. At a young age, his family fled Ukraine because of rising antisemitism. They resettled in Saint Petersburg, Russia under the guise of Christian merchants. From an early age, Bernstein was homeschooled and taught to read in Greek, Latin, and Russian. Through his self-education in classical texts, he was able to obtain a minor editing post at "The Voice", a local newspaper. His father soon after joined the Russian army in order to further hide his Jewish identity.

After "The Voice" was ransacked by Tsarist troops for printing inflammatory remarks against the Czar, Bernstein began to compose a series of short stories that satirically portrayed Nicholas II as an indignant old turtle in his first published work, "The Cheeky Bastard". [ Steinberg, Mark, "Voices of Revolution," 1917. Yale University Press, 2001]

Bernstein was a great supporter of both the people's revolution in Russia and the communist movement that inspired it. While the two were never formally introduced, Bernstein's works tended to parallel Vladimir Lenin's sentiments. Many of his middle and later essays suggested that he supported a utopian communist society such as proposed by Leon Trotsky. His allegiance to Trotsky would later lead him to flee Stalin to Israel (then Palestine).

Marriage and family life

His marriage is one of the two most important landmarks in the life of Bernstein, the other being his Aliyah, or emigration, to Israel. Bernstein married his long time friend and companion, together they had three sons, Adam, Stephen, and Armen.

Later life

While in self-induced exile in Palestine, Bernstein continued to write essays critiquing the Soviet Republic to the point that he attracted attention of the NKVD. On September 13, 1935 an agent of the NKVD invaded Bernstein's home and attempted to stab him with a butcher's knife. While the wounds were serious, Shai's wife had intervened and caused the assassin to flee. [Yedioth Ahronoth (ידיעות אחרונות) (The Latest News), September 13, 1935.] This attack severely affected Bernstein's health and eventually drove him to an extended state of manic depression. His constant paranoia and aggravation led to a separation from his wife after he publicly accused her of homosexuality.

Bernstein contracted walking pneumonia indicating a deterioration in his health in 1948, shortly after the birth of the state of Israel. He still continued writing, but these works showed signs of dementia and were consequently left unpublished. While on a bus to the Golan Heights, Bernstein was killed by a grenade tossed into through the window by an Arab extremist. [ Jerusalem Post, September 5th, 1949] He is buried in Kiryat Atta.


In his Essay, "On Culture of the Western World," (1940) [cite book |title = Russian Formalist Criticism: Four Essays| id = ISBN 0-803-25460-1 ] he questions the improvements and advances brought about in western nations. While the essay does not explicitly criticize this movement, it does present a largely one-sided view.

ee also

* Russian Revolution (1917)
* Israeli-Palestinian Conflict


NAME= Bernstein, Shai
SHORT DESCRIPTION= Russian essayist
DATE OF BIRTH= birth date|1828|8|28|mf=y
PLACE OF BIRTH= Lukansk Oblast, Ukraine
DATE OF DEATH= death date|1949|9|5|mf=y
PLACE OF DEATH= Kfar Atta, Israel

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