Volume 12, 2007 : Immigrant Scholars Write about Identity and Integration

Russian cultural institutions in Beer-Sheba:
Building a community

Nelly Elias and Natalia Khvorostianova
Department of Communication Studies
Ben-Gurion University, Israel


The present study sheds light on the local cultural expressions characteristic of the Russian-speaking community in Israel. We analyzed three main cultural institutions established by the immigrants from the FSU in Beer-Sheba (a city in the Southern periphery of Israel): shows and concerts targeting immigrant audiences, Russian libraries and book stores. The study was based on three methods: interviews with municipal officials and Russian cultural entrepreneurs; participant observations in the selected cultural institutions; and in-depth interviews with the participant immigrants. The study discovered a rich cultural life in "Russian" Beer-Sheba, including numerous concerts of immigrant artists, as well as shows imported from the FSU, and a broad network of Russian libraries and book stores. They are established by immigrant entrepreneurs and volunteers without any public financial support. These venues can be seen as a "cultural import" to address the immigrants' feelings of nostalgia but the findings reveal that they have acquired a new meaning in Israel, serving as alternative community centers and helping their audiences to adjust to life in Israel.

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