Spivak, Eliahu

Spivak, Eliahu [Співак, Елі or Ілля; Illia], b 22 October 1890 in Vasylkiv, Kyiv gubernia, d 12 August 1952 in Moscow. Jewish-Ukrainian philologist; corresponding member of the Academy of Sciences of the Ukrainian SSR from 1939. A graduate of the Hlukhiv teachers' institute (1919), he taught in Yiddish secondary schools in Kyiv, Kharkiv, and Odesa in the 1920s; at the Odesa Institute of People's Education (1927–30) (later Odesa University); and at the Kyiv Institute of Professional Education (1930–2; see Kyiv Institute of People's Education). In the early 1930s he was head of the philological section of the Institute of Jewish Culture of the All-Ukrainian Academy of Sciences in Kyiv and then director of the AN URSR Cabinet for the Study of Soviet Jewish Literature, Language, and Folklore (1936–48). He was arrested during Andrei Zhdanov’s purge of Jewish intellectuals in 1949 and condemned to death with 25 other Yiddish cultural figures by a secret Military tribunal. He was executed in Lubianka Prison. Spivak wrote a Yiddish textbook (1923) and articles on the history of the Yiddish language, on Yiddish lexicology and lexicography, and on the language and style of Sholom Aleichem and Mendele Mocher Seforim. In 1935 he initiated the academic Russian-Yiddish dictionary project. The manuscript of the dictionary was confiscated after his arrest, and was not published until 1984, in Moscow.

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 4 (1993).]

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