Йоханан Петровський-Штерн. Право на чарку: корчми, шинкарі й горілчана війна в штетлі (Волинська, Подільська та Київська губернії, 1790–1840)

The Right to Drink: Taverns, Inn-Keepers, and Vodka Wars in the Shtetl (Volhynia, Podolia, and Kiev Provinces, 1790–1840)

By Yohanan Petrovsky-Shtern

(Northwestern University)

Source: Judaica Ukrainica 2 (2013): 58–79

Publication date: December 1, 2013

Publication type: article

Language: Ukrainian

Full text: 



This essay, originally chapter 4 of The Golden Age Shtetl: A New History of Jewish Life in East Europe (Princeton University Press, 2014), explores the late 18th — early 19th century tavern as one of the key socio-cultural institutions in a Ukrainian shtetl market town. It reconstructs the material culture of drive-in taverns; pubs, roads, forests, and village inns, all of which mainly Jews ran. The tavern is not only an important institution directly connected economically to the shtetl marketplace; it is also a locus of intense interaction between Jews and Gentiles in the shtetl.
In the Slavic imagination, the Jew was a quintessential inn-keeper: cunning but ready with low prices on high-quality vodka. The Jewish tavern evolved into a multi-purpose shtetl institution, where Poles, Russians, Ukrainians, and Jews made deals, arranged marriages, heard and discussed news, listened to music, played billiards and cards — and smoked, drank, ate, and danced. Since liquor-trade revenues yielded between 65 and 85 % of the shtetl’s income, both the Russian administration and Polish nobility did their best to control and tax liquor. 
When the Russian regime tried to control the liquor trade, it allowed its monopolist excise-tax collectors to introduce fixed — and high — prices on vodka. The shtetl rebelled and the rebellion transformed itself into genuine vodka wars. For the ordinary Jew of the shtetl, outwitting the monopolists and the regime became a quest for freedom. Jews enjoyed that freedom until Russia stopped the Jews from producing and selling liquor — and ruined one of the shtetl’s key industries.

Keywords: Ukrainian-Jewish Discourses, Jewish Shtetl, Jewish Life in East Europe, Economic History of the Jews


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