Wladimir Kaminer and Jewish Identity in 'Multikulti' Germany
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Wladimir Kaminer has become something of a poster-boy for the ‘Kontingentflüchtlinge [Quota Refugees]’, the term applied to Jews from the former Soviet Union who immigrated to Germany between 1990 and 2006, as a result of a decision made first by the GDR and then adopted by the reunified Federal Republic. Kaminer writes little about his Jewishness in his work, but, in his first book, Russendisko (2000), he discusses the Jewish identity of Russian-speaking Jews living in Germany, viewed through the lens of Multikulti [multicultural] Berlin. Kaminer depicts them as just another of Germany’s ethnic minority groups and, as such, nothing special. Given both Germany’s past and the reasons offered by the German government for allowing these Jews to emigrate in the first place, Kaminer’s opinion is undoubtedly controversial. This article investigates how and why Kaminer adopts this position. It examines the pre-migration experiences of Jews from the former Soviet Union, which include: antisemitism, attitudes towards religion and discourse about the Holocaust in the Soviet Union, as well as the experiences (more unique to Kaminer) of Berlin in the 1990s, the heyday of multicultural optimism. Although Kaminer is an unusual case study who deliberately subverts the reader’s expectations of his identity politics, this article aims to show that his writings on Russian-speaking Jews, while highly subjective, have a wider application than might first appear.
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