If Russia’s invasion of Ukraine feels familiar, look to Broadway in the 60s : NPR


Actor Zero Mostel, heart, who portrays Tevye within the musical “Fiddler on the Roof,” poses backstage with forged members after the play’s opening efficiency on the Imperial Theatre in New York on Sept. 22, 1964. Maria Karnilova, who performs Tevye’s spouse, Golde, is at far left. Enjoying Tevye’s daughters, from left, are, Tanya Everett, as Chava; Julia Migenes, as Hodel; and Joanna Merlin, as Tzeitel.

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Actor Zero Mostel, heart, who portrays Tevye within the musical “Fiddler on the Roof,” poses backstage with forged members after the play’s opening efficiency on the Imperial Theatre in New York on Sept. 22, 1964. Maria Karnilova, who performs Tevye’s spouse, Golde, is at far left. Enjoying Tevye’s daughters, from left, are, Tanya Everett, as Chava; Julia Migenes, as Hodel; and Joanna Merlin, as Tzeitel.

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“Why ought to we care about Ukraine?”

That is a query some commentators have been asking, and it is hardly new.

Here is a model from a 1964 stage traditional that centered on individuals of that area.

“Why ought to I break my head concerning the outdoors world? Let the surface world break its personal head.”

It is a giggle line, however humorous solely in its supply. Buried in a newspaper that is simply been introduced on stage, underneath “a narrative about crops within the Ukraine, and this and that,” is the worrisome information that in a close-by village, “all of the Jews have been evicted, pressured from their properties.”

A musical set in a city close to Sholom Aleichem’s birthplace

We’re close to the beginning right here of Fiddler on the Roof, having simply been schooled within the “Custom” that governs the city and its individuals.

The musical, based mostly on “Tevye and his Daughters” by Solomon Naumovich Rabinovich — higher identified by his pen identify, Sholom Aleichem — takes place within the fictional city of Anatevka, a extra singable identify for a city Aleichem modeled in town of Boyarka close to his birthplace in central Ukraine. And when the musical welcomes new arrivals, they have an inclination to have traveled from the closest massive metropolis, Kyiv.

Life in Anatevka is generally peaceable – the musical facilities on milkman Tevye’s makes an attempt to marry off his daughters — however there’s a lurking hazard represented by the presence of Russian troopers.

Pogroms for a century, then a revolution

In actual life, Jews within the space had been the targets of pogroms for the higher a part of a century by the 1905 depicted in Fiddler.

Not talked about within the present is that Imperial Russia was within the midst of turmoil of a broader kind – a political conflagration that may later be labeled the “First Russian Revolution.” In January of 1905, Tsarist forces had opened fireplace on a peaceable staff’ demonstration in St. Petersburg, and as information of that incident unfold, so did unrest all through the empire. When greater than 170,000 staff in Ukraine went on strike, the Russian military clamped down laborious.

Within the musical, they do this by claiming the Jewish properties in Tevye’s village for Russians and exiling the entire Jews. When an officer comes to inform the individuals of Anatevka they’ve three days to go away, the instinctive response of Tevye’s neighbors (“we are going to defend ourselves”) and the officer’s mocking response (“in opposition to our militia, our military? I would not advise it”) can not help resonating at present.

Nor can Tevye’s livid, if futile, last phrases to the Russian troopers earlier than he turns into a refugee himself: “Get off my land. That is nonetheless my residence, my land. Get off my land.”

A individuals displaced, a historical past ravaged. Sholom Aleichem’s tales of Anatevka have been simply fifty years previous after they have been musicalized as Fiddler on the Roof, however in one other sense, they have been as as previous as time — a factor of “custom” as a result of historical past, unhappy to say, repeats itself.

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