Thursday, August 8, 2013


On October 8, the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the Mendel Beilis trial in Tsarist Russia, I plan to post my translation of the trial transcript from Russian.  This will take 34 days, the length of the trial.

The transcript and an impressive range of other information on the case and the blood libel in general, is available mostly in Russian, here:

I decided to do the translation since most of you have only limited access to classes in Russian language; even if you want to use the material on the ldn-knigi site, it will take you a couple of years to be able to read the transcript there. 

Also there is a book circulating on the Internet called "The Killing of Andrey Yushchinsky" which uses all the anti-Semitic excerpts in the transcript.  Quoting out of context is a fallacy as well as a heck of a good way of telling lies.  I thought people deserved the whole story in English.

The trial ran 14 hours a day, 7 days a week, for the entire 34 days.  It consumed almost 200 witnesses.  The transcript has 1100-plus two-column pages of "eyewitness" and "expert" testimony, and 300 pages of closing arguments.  As you can see, you might not actually read each day's translation on the day it is posted.  The translation will run over 2000 pages before it is complete.

Along with the translation, I plan to provide a chronology of events starting slightly before the murder, and continuing through to the verdict.

I will blog summaries of what I thought were important parts of each day's proceedings, and a list of each day's witnesses.  I will post links to PDFs of the translation for that day.

I thought of writing a novel based on the trial, but I found out that the Beilis family (of whom there are still survivors) were less than pleased with the last experiment in that direction, Bernard Malamud's The Fixer.  As I worked on the translation, I realized to heck with fiction, fact is better!

So I have also written a "murder mystery" based on various resources I found on the Internet.  I'll give that list of sources in coming weeks.  This book is about the length of a romance novel and tries not only to tell what happened, but also to explain it in terms of Tsarist legal practice and the habits of thought of those involved.  It was a very different time and legal procedure than anything you have ever heard of, unless you are a historian specializing in the period.  If you are interested in it, contact me and we'll arrange something.

My background for this includes a degree in Russian language from Penn State (class of 1977), and Associates and Bachelor's degrees in legal studies, as well as research into legal decisions of the 21st century.  I've tried to make the "murder mystery" read more like a novel than a textbook.  If you read it, you can tell me whether I've succeeded.

Read the next installment in this series

© Patricia Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

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