This article shows that anti-essentialism was a pivotal ideological feature of Russian Zionism – the idiom of Zionism that lay behind Russian Zionist periodicals such as Rassvet in Late Imperial Russia. For Russian Zionists, the Jewish nation was the social field that existed as a social fact. While Russian Zionists’ concept of the Jewish nation was inevitably influenced by their political context, nonetheless, it was primarily a result of the convergence of the following two ideological movements. First, there emerged a sense that a socioeconomic foundation was crucial in forming a nation. The transformation of Jewish socioeconomic positions in Eastern Europe and Russia was the background of this consciousness. The second is the ideological claim that any collective entity or social field should be respected regardless of its merit and utility vis-agrave-vis others. More specifically, for Russian Zionists, the Jewish raison d’ecirctre was the simple existence of their own social field; they believed that no further definition was required. The emergence of this viewpoint can be understood as a reaction to the Zionists’ perception of Jewish history where Jews pursued the recognition and validation of their place among non-Jews by virtue of their merit or utility vis-agrave-vis non-Jews.
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