Centre for European and International Studies Research

Emigre Literary Journalism in 1920s Berlin

Much has been said about Berlin's role as staging post of Émigré Culture in the early 1920s when the city became the home for a short-lived but vibrant microcosm of both Russian and Yiddish publishing. Very little, however, is known about the aspect of its Émigré press that embraced a colourful and often contradictory variety of artistic developments from the remnants of the Russian Silver Age to the most radical European 1920s Avant-garde.

We have, for the first time, analysed in a comparative way, and set in context, artistic issues that were at the time publicised in both Russian and Yiddish journals. We have focused on parallel trends in German, Soviet and Émigré Russian, as well as Modernist Jewish art. We have scrutinized the Berlin Émigré Press landscape of the early 1920s with its multiplicity of concurrent intellectual and artistic trends in Russian, Jewish and German cultures ; and our research will contribute to a more nuanced picture of the interrelations between Russian, German, and Jewish arts and cultures during the 1920s.

Project Leader

Professor Susanne Marten-Finnis, School of Languages and Area Studies, University of Portsmouth.

Project Partner

Professor Igor Dukhan, Chair of Arts, Belarusian State University, Minsk.

This collaboration has been enabled by a British Academy research grant and an international research fellowship provided by Queen's University Belfast.

Emigre Journalism


Belarus State University lecture series:

Professor Susanne Marten-Finnis is a regular contributor to the series of invited lectures "Art-Design-Polis" at the Belarusian State University, Minsk as part of a bilateral German-Belarusian Seminar programme on art and architecture.

Professor Susanne Marten-Finnis has been awarded a British Academy / Leverhulme Senior Research Fellowship, which has allowed her to complete her monograph:

Der Feuervogel als Kunstzeitschrift.  Žar ptica: Russische Bildwelten in Berlin, 1921-26 (The Firebird as an Art Journal.Zhar ptitsa: Russia on Display in Berlin, 1921-26) Böhlau Verlag, Vienna, 2012.

During the years 1921-26, Berlin became the epicentre of Russian creativity, the chief centre of Russian publishing, and a Mecca of Russian art. While the activities of 'Russian Berliners' have been studied since the 1970s, their most spectacular output, the illustrated reviews, have been neglected, perhaps due to their multilingual nature. These are the topic of my monograph. Its focus is on the art journal Zhar ptitsa [The Firebird], a masterpiece of book art that combined Russian creativity, Jewish dissemination expertise, and German technology – a symbiosis unique in the history of publishing.

In der Kunst- und Verlagslandschaft des Russischen Berlin war Alexander Kogans Zeitschrift Der Feuervogel so bekannt wie das musikalische Märchen Igor Strawinskys und die mythische Figur östlicher Folklore, die russische Künstler als Symbol unerreichbarer Schönheit feierten. Dieser Vorstellung entsprang die Idee zum Feuervogel als Kunstzeitschrift, die mit ihren aufwändigen Farbtafeln als Meisterwerk russischer Buchkunst gilt. Dennoch fand Žar ptica, wie sie auf Russisch heißt, in der Forschungsliteratur nur marginale Erwähnung. Die Gründe dafür waren komplexer Natur und werden nun zum ersten Mal von Susanne Marten-Finnis offen gelegt. In einer umfangreichen Dokumentation enthüllt die Autorin die Geschichte eines einzigartigen Zeitschriftenprojektes, das wie kein anderes die kaleidoskopische Vielfalt und Internationalität eines Schauplatzes vermittelt, der für kurze Zeit Zentrum russischer Kreativität war.


Publications: Susanne Marten-Finnis

  • Der Feuervogel als Kunstzeitschrift. Žar ptica. Russische Bildwelten in Berlin (1921-1926) [Russia on Display: Zhar Ptitsa – The Firebird as an Illustrated Review in Berlin, 1921-26 (Böhlau, Vienna 2012) original in German.
  • 'Atavistische Rituale als Boten der Moderne. 100 Jahre Le Sacre du Printemps [Messengers of Modernism. The Rite of Spring at One Hundred]', 195-210. Osteuropa. Zeitschrift der Gesellschaft für Osteuropaforschung, Special Edition issued on the occasion of the journal's centenary in March 2013, 195-210.
  • 'The Return of Léon Bakst: Slav Magic or Oriental Other', Journal of Modern Jewish Studies, Vol 13, no. 2, July 2013, 276-297.
  • Susanne Marten-Finnis, '"A Beautiful Lie". Zhar Ptitsa - The Firebird. Sustaining journalistic activity and showcasing Russia in 1920s Berlin', in: Peter Wagstaff, Olga Tabachnikova, Jörg Schulte (Eds.) The Russian Jewish Diaspora and European Culture (1917-1937) (Leiden 2012) 121-142.
  • Susanne Marten-Finnis, Igor Dukhan, 'The Soviet Pavilion. Propaganda and Design', in: Susanne Marten-Finnis, Michael Nagel (Eds), The PRESSA: International Press Exhibition in Cologne 1928 and the Jewish Contribution to Modern Journalism (Bremen 2011) 151-172.
  • Susanne Marten-Finnis, 'Outsourcing Culture. Soviet and Émigré Publishing in Berlin and A. E. Kogan's Illustrated Review Zhar Ptitsa, 1921-26', in: Susanne Marten-Finnis und Markus Winkler, Presse und Stadt, City and Press(Bremen 2009) 61-86.
  • Susanne Marten-Finnis, Igor Duchan, 'Transnationale Öffentlichkeit im Russischen Berlin. Die Avantgarde-Zeitschrift Veš? – Gegenstand – Objet’, Osteuropa, 58, 3, 2008, 37-48.
  • Igor Dukhan, 'El Lissitzky - Jewish as Universal. From Jewish Style to Pangeometry', The Bar-Ilan Journal of Jewish Art, 3, 2007, 53-72.Susanne Marten-Finnis, Igor Dukhan: 'Dream and Experiment. Time and Style in 1920s Berlin Émigré Magazines: Zhar Ptitsa and Milgroym', East European Jewish Affairs Vol. 35, No. 2, December 2005, 225-244, ISSN 1350-1674.

Conference Papers: Susanne Marten-Finnis

  • Susanne Marten-Finnis, 'A E Kogan: The Berlin Years, 1921-25: Book Art - Fund Raising - Consultancy', International Conference on Fine Arts, Architecture and Art Criticism of Russia Abroad, 18-20 Sept 2007, European University of St.Petersburg.
  • Igor Dukhan, 'Space and Body in Jewish Avant-garde Art: El Lissitzky versus Chaim Soutine', Conference of the British Association of Jewish Studies, 11-13 July 2007 at UCL.
  • Susanne Marten-Finnis, 'Art and the Publishing Endeavors of Russian Berliners in 1922. Collaboration and Competition', Conference of the British Association of Jewish Studies, 11-13 July 2007 at UCL.
  • Susanne Marten-Finnis and Igor Dukhan, 'Modern Jewish Art and Émigré Journalism in 1920s Berlin', given at the VIIIth Congress of the European Association for Jewish Studies 'Past and present perspectives in Jewish Studies', 23-27 July 2006, Moscow, Russia.
  • Susanne Marten-Finnis, 'Rachel Wischnitzer, the Journal Milgroym, and Berlin Émigré Culture', given at the international conference on 'Jewish Intellectual Women in Europe: Gendering, History, Politics and Culture', Central European University, Department of Gender Studies, Budapest 17-18 March 2006.
  • Susanne Marten-Finnis, 'Russian Journals of Literature and Art in Berlin, 1921-26: The Legacy of Reluctant Émigrés', given at the VIIth World Congress of the International Council for Central and East European Studies 'Europe - Our Common Home?', 25-30 July 2005 in Berlin, Germany.
  • Sub-project on Exile as a Factor for the Construction of National Identity among Byelorussian Jewry, 1917-37, examined by Claire Le Foll; this project has been funded by the Rothschild Foundation (Europe). Project period: 1 April 2006 - 31 March 2007.

Publications: Claire Le Foll

  • Claire Le Foll, 'Miestchaninoff, Pann, Zadkine : trois artistes juifs biélorusses de l'Ecole de Paris', Cahiers du  judaïsme , 2005, No. 18, 24-39.
  • Claire Le Foll, 'The 'Belorussianisation' of the Jewish population during the Inter-war period: Discourses and Achievements in Political and Cultural Spheres', [submitted to East European Jewish Affairs].
  • Claire Le Foll, 'Exile as a factor for the construction of Belorussian-Jewish Identity. Comparative study of the works by Moyshe Kulbak', [forthcoming].

Conference Papers: Claire Le Foll

  • Claire Le Foll, 'Zmitrok Biadulia, a Belorussian nationalist of Jewish origin', Conference about Jewish Identities in Central and Eastern Europe, IEP Dijon (France), December 2006. This paper will be published in the proceedings of the conference.
  • Claire Le Foll, 'The Regional Factor in the History of Jews in Multiethnic Russia: the Case of Byelorussian Jewry', VIIth Congress of the European Association for Jewish Studies, Moscow, July 2006.
  • Claire Le Foll, 'From Vitebsk to Paris: Artists as Mediators of Cultural Transfer From the Byelorussian Province to Early 20th Century France', ICCEES World Congress in Berlin: panel 'Russian Émigré culture in Berlin and Paris', chaired by Prof. Susanne Marten-Finnis, July 2005. This paper was published in Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin10 (2005): 71-75.
  • Claire Le Foll, 'The Jews in Belarus, past and present: acceptation or hostility', Journées d'études "L'Ukraine et la Biélorussie 'quels voisins pour l'Union Européenne'" at the Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris, March 2006.