Written by two historians who were in personal contact with him, this biographical study on the ethnographer and bibliographer Zal’man Lvovich Amitin-Shapiro astutely addresses the political pressures that drove him to abandon the social anthropology of Central Asian Jews after his arrest and emprisonment in 1938-9, and to find refuge in an ‘ecological niche’ very typical, if useful of Soviet Central Asian academic institutions: the redaction of thematic bibliographies (most notably on the history and archaeology of present-day Kyrgyzstan).  Reconstructing with liveliness the poisonous climate of the late 1930s through reports from the NKVD, the authors also suggest the significance of Amitin-Shapiro’s work as a primary source, enriched by an original anthropological reflection, on the upheavals imposed upon Central Asian Jews during the two first decades of the Soviet period.  They also evoke, unfortunately through its perception by the NKVD and its informers, Amitin-Shapiro’s activity as a militant of the cultural rights of Central Asian Jews (notably in linguistic matters).

Stéphane A. Dudoignon, National Centre for Scientific Research, Paris
CER: I-1.2.B-57