History of the Jews in Ukraine

History of the Jews in Ukraine

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Jewish communities have existed in the territory of Ukraine
Ukraine
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

 from the time of Kievan Rus'
Kievan Rus'
Kievan Rus was a medieval polity in Eastern Europe, from the late 9th to the mid 13th century, when it disintegrated under the pressure of the Mongol invasion of 1237–1240....

 and developed many of the most distinctive modern Jewish theological and cultural traditions. While at times they flourished, at other times they faced periods of persecution and antisemitic discriminatory policies. Before World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, a little under one-third of Ukraine
Ukraine
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

's urban
Urban area
An urban area is characterized by higher population density and vast human features in comparison to areas surrounding it. Urban areas may be cities, towns or conurbations, but the term is not commonly extended to rural settlements such as villages and hamlets.Urban areas are created and further...

 population consisted of Jews.

Kievan Rus'



Jewish settlements
Hamlet (place)
A hamlet is usually a rural settlement which is too small to be considered a village, though sometimes the word is used for a different sort of community. Historically, when a hamlet became large enough to justify building a church, it was then classified as a village...

 in Ukraine can be traced back to the 8th century. Jewish refugees
Jewish refugees
In the course of history, Jewish populations have been expelled or ostracised by various local authorities and have sought asylum from antisemitism numerous times...

 from the Byzantine Empire
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

, Persia, and Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia is a toponym for the area of the Tigris–Euphrates river system, largely corresponding to modern-day Iraq, northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and southwestern Iran.Widely considered to be the cradle of civilization, Bronze Age Mesopotamia included Sumer and the...

, fleeing from persecution
Persecution
Persecution is the systematic mistreatment of an individual or group by another group. The most common forms are religious persecution, ethnic persecution, and political persecution, though there is naturally some overlap between these terms. The inflicting of suffering, harassment, isolation,...

 by Christian
Christian
A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament...

s throughout Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

, settled in the Khazar Khaganate.

By the 11th century Byzantine Jews of Constantinople
Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

 had familial, cultural, and theological ties with the Jews of Kiev
Kiev
Kiev or Kyiv is the capital and the largest city of Ukraine, located in the north central part of the country on the Dnieper River. The population as of the 2001 census was 2,611,300. However, higher numbers have been cited in the press....

. For instance, some 11th-century Jews from Kievan Rus participated in an anti-Karaite assembly
Deliberative assembly
A deliberative assembly is an organization comprising members who use parliamentary procedure to make decisions. In a speech to the electorate at Bristol in 1774, Edmund Burke described the English Parliament as a "deliberative assembly," and the expression became the basic term for a body of...

 held in either Thessalonica or Constantinople. One of the three Kievan city gates in the times of Yaroslav the Wise were called Zhydovski.

Halych-Volynia



In Halychyna, the westernmost area of Ukraine, the Jews were mentioned for the first time in 1030. From the second part of the 14th century, they were under subjects of the Polish kings and magnate
Magnate
Magnate, from the Late Latin magnas, a great man, itself from Latin magnus 'great', designates a noble or other man in a high social position, by birth, wealth or other qualities...

s. The Jewish population of Halychyna and Bukovyna, part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, was extremely large; it made up 5% of the world Jewish population.

Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth



From the founding of the Kingdom of Poland
Kingdom of Poland (1025–1138)
The Kingdom of Poland was the Polish state from the coronation of the first King Bolesław I the Brave in 1025 to the union with Lithuania and the rule of the Jagiellon dynasty in 1385.-Early Kingdom:The basis for the development of a Polish state was laid by the Piast, which were preeminent since...

 in the 10th century through the creation of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1569, Poland
Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

 was considered one of the most tolerant countries in Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

. It became home to one of the world's largest and most vibrant Jewish communities. The Jewish community in the territory of Ukraine during the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth
Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth
The Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth was a dualistic state of Poland and Lithuania ruled by a common monarch. It was the largest and one of the most populous countries of 16th- and 17th‑century Europe with some and a multi-ethnic population of 11 million at its peak in the early 17th century...

 became one of the largest and most important ethnic minority groups in Ukraine.

Cossack Uprising and the Deluge



The Ukrainian Cossack hetman Bohdan Khmelnytsky
Bohdan Khmelnytsky
Bohdan Zynoviy Mykhailovych Khmelnytsky was a hetman of the Zaporozhian Cossack Hetmanate of Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth . He led an uprising against the Commonwealth and its magnates which resulted in the creation of a Cossack state...

 incited the Cossacks to revolt by stating that the Poles
Poles
thumb|right|180px|The state flag of [[Poland]] as used by Polish government and diplomatic authoritiesThe Polish people, or Poles , are a nation indigenous to Poland. They are united by the Polish language, which belongs to the historical Lechitic subgroup of West Slavic languages of Central Europe...

 had sold them as slaves
Slavery
Slavery is a system under which people are treated as property to be bought and sold, and are forced to work. Slaves can be held against their will from the time of their capture, purchase or birth, and deprived of the right to leave, to refuse to work, or to demand compensation...

 "into the hands of the accursed Jews." At that time it is estimated that the Jewish population in Ukraine numbered 51,325. In the name of Orthodox Christianity the army of Cossacks and Crimean Tatars massacred and taken into captivity a large number of Jews, Roman Catholics and Uniates during the years 1648–1649.

The precise number of dead may never be known, but recent estimates range from fifteen thousand to thirty thousand Jews killed or taken captive: 300 Jewish communities were totally destroyed.

Rise of Hasidism and internal struggles



The Cossack Uprising and the following the Swedish war
The Deluge (Polish history)
The term Deluge denotes a series of mid-17th century campaigns in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. In a wider sense it applies to the period between the Khmelnytsky Uprising of 1648 and the Truce of Andrusovo in 1667, thus comprising the Polish–Lithuanian theaters of the Russo-Polish and...

 (1648–1658) left a deep and lasting impression on the Jewish social and spiritual life.

In this time of mysticism
Mysticism
Mysticism is the knowledge of, and especially the personal experience of, states of consciousness, i.e. levels of being, beyond normal human perception, including experience and even communion with a supreme being.-Classical origins:...

 and overly formal rabbinism came the teachings of Israel ben Eliezer, known as the Baal Shem Tov, or BeShT, (1698–1760), which had a profound effect on the Jews of Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe is the eastern part of Europe. The term has widely disparate geopolitical, geographical, cultural and socioeconomic readings, which makes it highly context-dependent and even volatile, and there are "almost as many definitions of Eastern Europe as there are scholars of the region"...

. His disciples taught and encouraged a new fervent brand of Judaism
Judaism
Judaism ) is the "religion, philosophy, and way of life" of the Jewish people...

, related to Kabbalah
Kabbalah
Kabbalah/Kabala is a discipline and school of thought concerned with the esoteric aspect of Rabbinic Judaism. It was systematized in 11th-13th century Hachmei Provence and Spain, and again after the Expulsion from Spain, in 16th century Ottoman Palestine...

, known as Hasidism
Hasidic Judaism
Hasidic Judaism or Hasidism, from the Hebrew —Ḥasidut in Sephardi, Chasidus in Ashkenazi, meaning "piety" , is a branch of Orthodox Judaism that promotes spirituality and joy through the popularisation and internalisation of Jewish mysticism as the fundamental aspects of the Jewish faith...

. The rise of Hasidic Judaism
Hasidic Judaism
Hasidic Judaism or Hasidism, from the Hebrew —Ḥasidut in Sephardi, Chasidus in Ashkenazi, meaning "piety" , is a branch of Orthodox Judaism that promotes spirituality and joy through the popularisation and internalisation of Jewish mysticism as the fundamental aspects of the Jewish faith...

 had a great influence on the rise of Haredi Judaism
Haredi Judaism
Haredi or Charedi/Chareidi Judaism is the most conservative form of Orthodox Judaism, often referred to as ultra-Orthodox. A follower of Haredi Judaism is called a Haredi ....

, with a continuous influence through its many Hasidic dynasties.

A radically different movement was started by Jacob Frank
Jacob Frank
Jacob Frank was an 18th century Jewish religious leader who claimed to be the reincarnation of the self-proclaimed messiah Sabbatai Zevi and also of the biblical patriarch Jacob...

 in the middle of the 18th century. Frank's teachings were extremely unorthodox (such as purification through transgression, as well as adoption of elements of Christianity), and he was excommunicated along with his numerous followers. They eventually
converted to Catholicism.

Imperial Russian and Austrian rule


The traditional measures of keeping Imperial Russia free of Jews failed when the main territory of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was annexed during the partitions of Poland
Partitions of Poland
The Partitions of Poland or Partitions of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth took place in the second half of the 18th century and ended the existence of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, resulting in the elimination of sovereign Poland for 123 years...

. During the second (1793) and the third (1795) partitions, large populations of Jews were taken over by Russia, and Catherine II of Russia
Catherine II of Russia
Catherine II, also known as Catherine the Great , Empress of Russia, was born in Stettin, Pomerania, Prussia on as Sophie Friederike Auguste von Anhalt-Zerbst-Dornburg...

 established the Pale of Settlement
Pale of Settlement
The Pale of Settlement was the term given to a region of Imperial Russia, in which permanent residency by Jews was allowed, and beyond which Jewish permanent residency was generally prohibited...

 that included Congress Poland
Congress Poland
The Kingdom of Poland , informally known as Congress Poland , created in 1815 by the Congress of Vienna, was a personal union of the Russian parcel of Poland with the Russian Empire...

 and Crimea
Crimea
Crimea , or the Autonomous Republic of Crimea , is a sub-national unit, an autonomous republic, of Ukraine. It is located on the northern coast of the Black Sea, occupying a peninsula of the same name...

.

During the 1821 anti-Jewish riots in Odessa
Odessa
Odessa or Odesa is the administrative center of the Odessa Oblast located in southern Ukraine. The city is a major seaport located on the northwest shore of the Black Sea and the fourth largest city in Ukraine with a population of 1,029,000 .The predecessor of Odessa, a small Tatar settlement,...

 after the death of the Greek Orthodox
Eastern Orthodox Church
The Orthodox Church, officially called the Orthodox Catholic Church and commonly referred to as the Eastern Orthodox Church, is the second largest Christian denomination in the world, with an estimated 300 million adherents mainly in the countries of Belarus, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Georgia, Greece,...

 patriarch in Constantinople
Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

, 14 Jews were killed. Some sources claim this episode as the first pogrom, while according to others (such as the Jewish Encyclopedia
Jewish Encyclopedia
The Jewish Encyclopedia is an encyclopedia originally published in New York between 1901 and 1906 by Funk and Wagnalls. It contained over 15,000 articles in 12 volumes on the history and then-current state of Judaism and the Jews as of 1901...

, 1911 ed.) say the first pogrom was the 1859 riots in Odessa. The term became common after a large-scale wave of anti-Jewish violence swept southern Imperial Russia, including Ukraine, in 1881-1884, after Jews were blamed for the assassination of Tsar Alexander II.

In May 1882, Alexander III of Russia
Alexander III of Russia
Alexander Alexandrovich Romanov , historically remembered as Alexander III or Alexander the Peacemaker reigned as Emperor of Russia from until his death on .-Disposition:...

 introduced temporary regulations called May Laws that stayed in effect for more than thirty years, until 1917. Systematic policies of discrimination, strict quota
Quota share
A quota share is a specified number or percentage of the allotment as a whole , that is prescribed to each individual entity ....

s on the number of Jews allowed to obtain education and professions caused widespread poverty and mass emigration. In 1886, an Edict of Expulsion
Edict of Expulsion
In 1290, King Edward I issued an edict expelling all Jews from England. Lasting for the rest of the Middle Ages, it would be over 350 years until it was formally overturned in 1656...

 was applied to Jews of Kiev
Kiev
Kiev or Kyiv is the capital and the largest city of Ukraine, located in the north central part of the country on the Dnieper River. The population as of the 2001 census was 2,611,300. However, higher numbers have been cited in the press....

. In 1893-1894, some areas of the Crimean peninsula were cut out of the Pale.

When Alexander III died in Crimea on October 20, 1894, according to Simon Dubnow
Simon Dubnow
Simon Dubnow was a Jewish historian, writer and activist...

: "as the body of the deceased was carried by railway to St. Petersburg, the same rails were carrying the Jewish exiles from Yalta
Yalta
Yalta is a city in Crimea, southern Ukraine, on the north coast of the Black Sea.The city is located on the site of an ancient Greek colony, said to have been founded by Greek sailors who were looking for a safe shore on which to land. It is situated on a deep bay facing south towards the Black...

 to the Pale. The reign of Alexander III ended symbolically. It began with pogroms and concluded with expulsions."

Odessa
Odessa
Odessa or Odesa is the administrative center of the Odessa Oblast located in southern Ukraine. The city is a major seaport located on the northwest shore of the Black Sea and the fourth largest city in Ukraine with a population of 1,029,000 .The predecessor of Odessa, a small Tatar settlement,...

 became the home of a large Jewish community during the 19th century, and by 1897 Jews were estimated to comprise some 37% of the population.

Political activism and emigration



Counterrevolutionary
Counterrevolutionary
A counter-revolutionary is anyone who opposes a revolution, particularly those who act after a revolution to try to overturn or reverse it, in full or in part...

 groups, including the Black Hundreds, opposed the Revolution with violent attacks on socialists and pogroms against Jews. There was also a backlash from the conservative
Conservatism
Conservatism is a political and social philosophy that promotes the maintenance of traditional institutions and supports, at the most, minimal and gradual change in society. Some conservatives seek to preserve things as they are, emphasizing stability and continuity, while others oppose modernism...

 elements of society, notably in spasmodic anti-Jewish attacks — around five hundred were killed in a single day in Odessa. Nicholas II of Russia
Nicholas II of Russia
Nicholas II was the last Emperor of Russia, Grand Prince of Finland, and titular King of Poland. His official short title was Nicholas II, Emperor and Autocrat of All the Russias and he is known as Saint Nicholas the Passion-Bearer by the Russian Orthodox Church.Nicholas II ruled from 1894 until...

 himself claimed that 90% of revolutionaries
Revolutionary
A revolutionary is a person who either actively participates in, or advocates revolution. Also, when used as an adjective, the term revolutionary refers to something that has a major, sudden impact on society or on some aspect of human endeavor.-Definition:...

 were Jews.

Persons of Jewish origin were over-represented in the Russian revolutionary leadership. However, most of them were hostile to traditional Jewish culture and Jewish political parties, and were loyal to the Communist Party
Communist party
A political party described as a Communist party includes those that advocate the application of the social principles of communism through a communist form of government...

's atheism
Atheism
Atheism is, in a broad sense, the rejection of belief in the existence of deities. In a narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities...

 and proletarian internationalism
Proletarian internationalism
Proletarian internationalism, sometimes referred to as international socialism, is a Marxist social class concept based on the view that capitalism is now a global system, and therefore the working class must act as a global class if it is to defeat it...

, and committed to stamp out any sign of "Jewish cultural particularism".

Ukrainian People's Republic


At the start of 20th century the Anti-Jewish pogroms continued to occur in cities and towns across the Russian Empire
Russian Empire
The Russian Empire was a state that existed from 1721 until the Russian Revolution of 1917. It was the successor to the Tsardom of Russia and the predecessor of the Soviet Union...

 such as Kishinev (1905), Kiev (1911), and many others. Numerous Jewish self-defense groups were organized to prevent the outbreak of pogroms among which the most notorious one was under the leadership of Mishka Yaponchik
Mishka Yaponchik
Mishka Yaponchik was a Odessa gangster, Jewish revolutionary, and Soviet military leader.-Early years:Born as Moisei Wolfovich Vinnitskiy to family of a Jewish wagon-builder Meer-Wolf Mordkoich Vinnitskiy by some records in stanitsa Golta , Mishka was around 4 years of age, Vinnitsky's family...

 in Odessa
Odessa
Odessa or Odesa is the administrative center of the Odessa Oblast located in southern Ukraine. The city is a major seaport located on the northwest shore of the Black Sea and the fourth largest city in Ukraine with a population of 1,029,000 .The predecessor of Odessa, a small Tatar settlement,...

. During the Revolution of 1917 and the ensuing Russian Civil War an estimated 70,000 to 250,000 civilian Jews were killed in the atrocities throughout the former Russian Empire
Russian Empire
The Russian Empire was a state that existed from 1721 until the Russian Revolution of 1917. It was the successor to the Tsardom of Russia and the predecessor of the Soviet Union...

 in this period.

During the establishment of the Ukrainian People's Republic (1919–20), pogrom
Pogrom
A pogrom is a form of violent riot, a mob attack directed against a minority group, and characterized by killings and destruction of their homes and properties, businesses, and religious centres...

s continued to be perpetrated on Ukrainian territory. Only in Ukraine, the number of civilian Jews killed during the period was estimated to be between 35 and 50 thousand. Archives declassified after 1991 provide evidence of a higher number; in the period from 1918 to 1921, "according to incomplete data, at least 100,000 Jews were killed in Ukraine in the pogroms."

Disputes among scholars continue over Symon Petlura
Symon Petlura
Symon Vasylyovych Petliura was a publicist, writer, journalist, Ukrainian politician, statesman, and national leader who led Ukraine's struggle for independence following the Russian Revolution of 1917....

's association with these pogroms. He is often considered to be the perpetrator of pogroms due to his lack of action to stop the anti-Semitic events. Eventually Petliura was killed by Sholom Schwartzbard
Sholom Schwartzbard
Sholem Schwarzbard was a Bessarabian-born Jewish poet and anarchist, known primarily for the assassination of the Ukrainian nationalist leader Symon Petliura...

, who was acquitted in the Schwartzbard trial
Schwartzbard trial
The Schwartzbard trial was a sensational 1927 French murder trial that resulted in a mistrial of international proportions. At the trial Sholom Schwartzbard was accused of murdering the Ukrainian immigrant and head of the Ukrainian government-in-exile Symon Petlura in Paris...

 in Paris.

Among prominent Ukrainian statesmen of this period were Moisei Rafes
Moisei Rafes
Moisei Grigorevich Rafes was a prominent politician of the Ukrainian People's Republic as the Bundist representative...

, Pinkhas Krasny, Abram Revutsky, Moishe Zilberfarb, and many others. (see General Secretariat of Ukraine
General Secretariat of Ukraine
The General Secretariat of Ukraine was the main executive institution of the Ukrainian People's Republic from June 28, 1917 to January 22, 1918.It closely related to the today's Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine...

) The autonomy of Ukraine was openly greeted by the Ukrainian Jewish Volodymyr Zhabotinsky.

Jewish Settlement of Crimea


In 1921 Crimea became an autonomous republic. In 1923 the All-Union Central Committee passed a motion to resettle a large number of the Jewish population from Ukrainian and Belorusian cities to Crimea. 50400 families were moved. The plan to further resettle Jewish families was again confirmed by the Central Committee of the USSR on July 15, 1926 assigning 124 million roubles to the task and also receiving 67 million from foreign sources.

The Soviet initiative of Jewish settlement in the Crimea was opposed by Symon Petlura
Symon Petlura
Symon Vasylyovych Petliura was a publicist, writer, journalist, Ukrainian politician, statesman, and national leader who led Ukraine's struggle for independence following the Russian Revolution of 1917....

 which he regarded as a provocation. This train of thought was supported by Arnold Margolin
Arnold Margolin
Arnold Margolin is an American television producer, screen writer, and director.He shared composition credits for the theme song for Love, American Style, along with Charles Fox ....

 who stated that it would be dangerous to set up Jewish colonies there.

The actions of the Soviet government for the supported settlement in the Crimea with Jewish families by 1927 led to a growing anti-semitism in the area.

In 1944 it was suggested to Stalin to form a Jewish Soviet Socialist Republic in Crimea however the idea was not materialised.

For names and maps of Jewish settlements Jewish Agricultural Colonies of South Ukraine and Crimea

Early 20th Century


In 1905 a series of pogroms erupted at the same time as the 1905 Revolution against the government of Tsar Nicholas II. The chief organizers of the pogroms were the members of the Union of the Russian People
Union of the Russian People
The Union of Russian People — a loyalist right-wing nationalist party, the most important among Black-Hundredist monarchist and antisemitic political organizations in the Russian Empire of 1905–1917....

 (commonly known as the "Black Hundreds").

In June 1906 a pogrom in Bialystok
Bialystok
Białystok is the largest city in northeastern Poland and the capital of the Podlaskie Voivodeship. Located on the Podlaskie Plain on the banks of the Biała River, Białystok ranks second in terms of population density, eleventh in population, and thirteenth in area, of the cities of Poland...

, in which eighty people were killed, marked the end of three years of sporadic anti-Jewish violence.

From 1911-1913 the anti-Semitic tenor of the period was characterized by a number of blood libel
Blood libel
Blood libel is a false accusation or claim that religious minorities, usually Jews, murder children to use their blood in certain aspects of their religious rituals and holidays...

 cases (accusations of Jews murdering Christians for ritual purposes). One of the most famous was the two-year trial of Mendel Beilis, who was charged with the murder of a Christian boy (Lowe 1993, 284-90). The trial was showcased by the authorities to illustrate the perfidy of the Jewish population.

From March–May 1915, in the face of the German army, the government expelled thousands of Jews from the Empire's border areas, which coincide with the Pale of Settlement
Pale of Settlement
The Pale of Settlement was the term given to a region of Imperial Russia, in which permanent residency by Jews was allowed, and beyond which Jewish permanent residency was generally prohibited...



The February 1917 revolution brought a liberal Provisional Government to power in the Russian Empira. On 21 March/3 April, the government removed all "discrimination based upon ethnic religious or social grounds". The Pale was officially abolished. The removal of the restrictions on Jews' geographical mobility and educational opportunities led to a migration to the country's major cities.

One week after the 25 October/7 November 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, the new government proclaimed the "Declaration of the Rights of the Peoples [Nations] of Russia," promising all nationalities the rights of equality, self-determination and secession. Jews were not specifically mentioned in the declaration, reflecting Lenin's view that Jews did not constitute a nation.
In 1918 the RSFSR Council of Ministers issued a decree "On the Separation of Church from State and School from Church", depriving religious communities of the status of juridical persons, the right to own property and the right to enter into contracts. The decree nationalized the property of religious communities and banned their assessment of religious tuition. As a result, religion could be taught or studied only in private.

1 February 1918
The Commissariat for Jewish National Affairs is established as a subsection of the Commissariat for Nationality Affairs. It is mandated to establish the "dictatorship of the proletariat in the Jewish streets" and attract the Jewish masses to the regime while advising local and central institutions on Jewish issues. The Commissariat is also expected to fight the influence of Zionist and Jewish-Socialist Parties.


27 July 1918
The Council of People's Commissars issues a decree stating that anti-Semitism is "fatal to the cause of the ... revolution". Pogroms are officially outlawed.


20 October 1918
The Jewish section of the CPSU (Yevsektsia) is established for the Party's Jewish members; its goals are similar to those of the Jewish Commissariat. The Yevsektsia is at the forefront of the anti-religious campaigns of the 1920s that lead to the closing of religious institutions, the break-up of religious communities and the further restriction of access to religious education. To that end a series of "community trials" against the Jewish religion are held. The last known such trial, on the subject of circumcision, was held in 1928 in Kharkiv
Kharkiv
Kharkiv or Kharkov is the second-largest city in Ukraine.The city was founded in 1654 and was a major centre of Ukrainian culture in the Russian Empire. Kharkiv became the first city in Ukraine where the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic was proclaimed in December 1917 and Soviet government was...

. At the same time, the body also works to establish a secular identity for the Jewish community.


In July 1919 the Central Jewish Commissariat dissolves the kehillot
Kehilla (modern)
The Kehilla is the local Jewish communal structure that was reinstated in the early twentieth century as a modern, secular, and religious sequel of the Qahal in Central and Eastern Europe, more particularly in Poland's Second Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Ukrainian People's Republic,...

 (Jewish Communal Councils). The kehillot had provided a number of social services to the Jewish community.

From 1919-1920 Jewish parties and Zionist organizations are driven underground as the Communist government seeks to abolish all potential opposition.

31 January 1924
The Constitution of the USSR is confirmed. The USSR consists of the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic (RSFSR), Ukrainian SSR, Belorussian SSR and Transcaucasian SSR. The Commissariat for Nationalities' Affairs is disbanded.


29 August 1924
An official agency for Jewish resettlement, the Commission for the Settlement of Jewish Toilers on the Land (KOMZET), is established. KOMZET studies, manages and funds projects for Jewish resettlement in rural areas.


January 1925
A public organization, the Society for the Agricultural Organization of Working Class Jews in the USSR (OZET
OZET
OZET was public Society for Settling Toiling Jews on the Land in the Soviet Union in the period from 1925 to 1938. Some English sources use the word "Working" instead of "Toiling".- Background :...

), is created to help recruit colonists and support the colonization work of KOMZET
Komzet
Komzet was the Committee for the Settlement of Toiling Jews on the Land in the Soviet Union. The primary goal of the Komzet was to help impoverished and persecuted Jewish population of the former Pale of Settlement to adopt agricultural labor...

. For the first few years, the government encourages Jewish settlements, particularly in Ukraine. Support for the project dwindles throughout the next decade.


In 1928, in an effort to establish a Jewish territorial region (see Jewish Autonomous Region), KOMZET sends a number of Jews to the confluence of the Bira and Bidzhan Rivers in the Far East. Colonization of this area will help to create a buffer between the Soviet Union and the Far Eastern countries, and to stimulate development in the remote region.

8 April 1929
The new Law on Religious Associations codifies all previous religious legislation. All meetings of religious associations are to have their agenda approved in advance; lists of members of religious associations must be provided to the authorities.


In 1930 the Yevsektsia is dissolved, and there is now no central Soviet-Jewish organization. Although the body had served to undermine Jewish religious life, its dissolution leads to the disintegration of Jewish secular life as well; Jewish cultural and educational organizations gradually disappear.

When the Soviet government reintroduced the use of internal passports in 1933, "Jewish" is considered an ethnicity for these purposes.

7 May 1934
Birobidzhan
Birobidzhan
Birobidzhan is a town and the administrative center of the Jewish Autonomous Oblast, Russia. It is located on the Trans-Siberian railway, close to the border with the People's Republic of China....

 Province, the Far Eastern area where Jews are being encouraged to settle, is granted the status of an Autonomous Region in an effort to revitalize the settlement program. Between 1928 and 1934, fewer than 20,000 Jews migrate there; approximately 60 percent return in the same period.


In 1938 OZET is disbanded, following years of declining activities.

The cities with the largest populations of Jews in 1926 were Odessa
Odessa
Odessa or Odesa is the administrative center of the Odessa Oblast located in southern Ukraine. The city is a major seaport located on the northwest shore of the Black Sea and the fourth largest city in Ukraine with a population of 1,029,000 .The predecessor of Odessa, a small Tatar settlement,...

, 154,000 or 36.5% of the total population; Kiev
Kiev
Kiev or Kyiv is the capital and the largest city of Ukraine, located in the north central part of the country on the Dnieper River. The population as of the 2001 census was 2,611,300. However, higher numbers have been cited in the press....

, 140,500 or 27.3%; Kharkiv
Kharkiv
Kharkiv or Kharkov is the second-largest city in Ukraine.The city was founded in 1654 and was a major centre of Ukrainian culture in the Russian Empire. Kharkiv became the first city in Ukraine where the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic was proclaimed in December 1917 and Soviet government was...

, 81,500 or 19.5%; and Dnipropetrovsk
Dnipropetrovsk
Dnipropetrovsk or Dnepropetrovsk formerly Yekaterinoslav is Ukraine's third largest city with one million inhabitants. It is located southeast of Ukraine's capital Kiev on the Dnieper River, in the south-central region of the country...

, 62,000 or 26.7%. In 1931 Lviv
Lviv
Lviv is a city in western Ukraine. The city is regarded as one of the main cultural centres of today's Ukraine and historically has also been a major Polish and Jewish cultural center, as Poles and Jews were the two main ethnicities of the city until the outbreak of World War II and the following...

's Jewish population numbered 98,000 or 31.9%, and in Chernivtsi
Chernivtsi
Chernivtsi is the administrative center of Chernivtsi Oblast in southwestern Ukraine. The city is situated on the upper course of the River Prut, a tributary of the Danube, in the northern part of the historic region of Bukovina, which is currently divided between Romania and Ukraine...

, 42,600 or 37.9%.

As the Soviet government annexes territory in Poland, Romania and the Baltic states, roughly two million Jews become Soviet citizens. Restrictions on Jews that had existed in the formerly independent countries are now lifted. [The Baltic states had begun their brief period of independence as democracies. Policies of "Latvianization" and "Lithuanization" also caused friction with all minorities, although the Lithuanian government at the same time supported minority-language schooling.] At the same time, Jewish organizations in the newly-acquired territories are shut down and their leaders arrested and exiled. Approximately 250,000 Jews escape or are evacuated from the annexed territories to the Soviet interior prior to the Nazi invasion.

World War II




Total civilian losses during the war and German occupation in Ukraine are estimated at seven million, including over a million Jews shot and killed by the Einsatzgruppen
Einsatzgruppen
Einsatzgruppen were SS paramilitary death squads that were responsible for mass killings, typically by shooting, of Jews in particular, but also significant numbers of other population groups and political categories...

 and some local Ukrainians supporters in the western part of Ukraine.

Independent Ukraine


In 1989, a Soviet census
Soviet Census (1989)
The 1989 Soviet census, conducted between January 12-19 of that year, was the last one conducted in the former USSR. It resulted in a total population of 286,730,819 inhabitants...

 counted 487,000 Jews living in Ukraine. Although discrimination by the state quickly all but halted after Ukrainian independence in 1991, Jews were still discriminated against in Ukraine during the 1990's. For instance, Jews were not allowed to attend some educational institutions. Anti-semitism has declined since.

During the 1990's some 266,300 Ukrainian Jews emigrated to Israel. The 2001 Ukrainian Census
Ukrainian Census (2001)
The first Ukrainian Census was carried out by State Statistics Committee of Ukraine on 5 December 2001, twelve years after the last Soviet Union census in 1989....

 counted 106,600 Jews living in Ukraine (the number of Jews also dropped due to a negative birthrate).

In November 2007, an estimated 700 Torah
Torah
Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five books of the bible—Genesis , Exodus , Leviticus , Numbers and Deuteronomy Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five...

 scrolls previously confiscated from Jewish communities during the Soviet Union's Communist rule were returned to Jewish communes in Ukraine by the state authorities.

The Ukrainian Jewish Committee was established in 2008 in Kiev
Kiev
Kiev or Kyiv is the capital and the largest city of Ukraine, located in the north central part of the country on the Dnieper River. The population as of the 2001 census was 2,611,300. However, higher numbers have been cited in the press....

 with the aim to concentrate the efforts of Jewish leaders in Ukraine on resolving strategic problems of the community and addressing socially significant issues. The Committee declared its intention to become one of the world’s most influential organizations protecting the rights of Jews and "the most important and powerful structure protecting human rights
Human rights
Human rights are "commonly understood as inalienable fundamental rights to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being." Human rights are thus conceived as universal and egalitarian . These rights may exist as natural rights or as legal rights, in both national...

 in Ukraine".

In Ukraine violent against Jews and anti-semitic graffiti remains.

Jewish communities


At present Ukraine contains the fifth-largest Jewish community in Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

 and the tenth-largest Jewish community in the world. The majority of Ukrainian Jews live in four large cities: Kiev
Kiev
Kiev or Kyiv is the capital and the largest city of Ukraine, located in the north central part of the country on the Dnieper River. The population as of the 2001 census was 2,611,300. However, higher numbers have been cited in the press....

, Dnipropetrovsk
Dnipropetrovsk
Dnipropetrovsk or Dnepropetrovsk formerly Yekaterinoslav is Ukraine's third largest city with one million inhabitants. It is located southeast of Ukraine's capital Kiev on the Dnieper River, in the south-central region of the country...

, Kharkiv
Kharkiv
Kharkiv or Kharkov is the second-largest city in Ukraine.The city was founded in 1654 and was a major centre of Ukrainian culture in the Russian Empire. Kharkiv became the first city in Ukraine where the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic was proclaimed in December 1917 and Soviet government was...

, and Odessa
Odessa
Odessa or Odesa is the administrative center of the Odessa Oblast located in southern Ukraine. The city is a major seaport located on the northwest shore of the Black Sea and the fourth largest city in Ukraine with a population of 1,029,000 .The predecessor of Odessa, a small Tatar settlement,...

. Rabbis Yaakov Dov Bleich
Yaakov Bleich
Yaakov Dov Bleich is an American-born rabbi and member of the Karlin-Stoliner Chassidic group. He has been widely recognized as Chief Rabbi of Kiev and all of Ukraine since 1990....

 of Kiev
Kiev
Kiev or Kyiv is the capital and the largest city of Ukraine, located in the north central part of the country on the Dnieper River. The population as of the 2001 census was 2,611,300. However, higher numbers have been cited in the press....

 and Shmuel Kaminetzky of Dnipropetrovsk
Dnipropetrovsk
Dnipropetrovsk or Dnepropetrovsk formerly Yekaterinoslav is Ukraine's third largest city with one million inhabitants. It is located southeast of Ukraine's capital Kiev on the Dnieper River, in the south-central region of the country...

 are considered to be among the most influential foreigners in the country.

There is a growing trend among some Israelis to visit Ukraine on a "roots trip" to follow the footsteps of Jewish life there. Among the place of interest are usually mentioned Kiev
Kiev
Kiev or Kyiv is the capital and the largest city of Ukraine, located in the north central part of the country on the Dnieper River. The population as of the 2001 census was 2,611,300. However, higher numbers have been cited in the press....

, where it is possible to trace the paths of Sholem Aleichem and Golda Meir
Golda Meir
Golda Meir ; May 3, 1898 – December 8, 1978) was a teacher, kibbutznik and politician who became the fourth Prime Minister of the State of Israel....

; Zhytomyr
Zhytomyr
Zhytomyr is a city in the North of the western half of Ukraine. It is the administrative center of the Zhytomyr Oblast , as well as the administrative center of the surrounding Zhytomyr Raion...

 and Korostyshiv
Korostyshiv
Korostyshiv is a city in Zhytomyr Oblast, Ukraine. Population is 26,068 ....

, where one can follow the steps of Haim Nahman Bialik; Berdychiv
Berdychiv
Berdychiv is a historic city in the Zhytomyr Oblast of northern Ukraine. Serving as the administrative center of the Berdychiv Raion , the city itself is of direct oblast subordinance, and is located south of the oblast capital, Zhytomyr, at around .The current estimated population is around...

, where one can trace the life of Mendele Mocher Sforim
Mendele Mocher Sforim
Mendele Mocher Sforim , December 21, 1835 = January 2, 1836 , Kapyl — November 25, 1917 = December 8, 1917...

; Rivne
Rivne
Rivne or Rovno is a historic city in western Ukraine. It is the administrative center of the Rivne Oblast , as well as the administrative center of the surrounding Rivne Raion within the oblast...

, where one can follow the course of Amos Oz
Amos Oz
Amos Oz is an Israeli writer, novelist, and journalist. He is also a professor of literature at Ben-Gurion University in Be'er Sheva....

; Buchach
Buchach
Buchach is a small city located on the Strypa River in the Ternopil Oblast of western Ukraine...

 - the path of S.Y. Agnon; Drohobych
Drohobych
Drohobych is a city located at the confluence of the Tysmenytsia River and Seret, a tributary of the former, in the Lviv Oblast , in western Ukraine...

 - the place of Maurycy Gottlieb
Maurycy Gottlieb
Maurycy Gottlieb was a Jewish painter, of Polish-speaking Galician Jews from the western part of Ukraine. He was born in Drohobych , Galicia, modern Lviv region, western Ukraine....

 and Bruno Schulz
Bruno Schulz
Bruno Schulz was a Polish writer, fine artist, literary critic and art teacher born to Jewish parents, and regarded as one of the great Polish-language prose stylists of the 20th century. Schulz was born in Drohobycz, in the province of Galicia then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and spent...

.

Notable Ukrainian Jews

  • Moysey Fishbein
    Moysey Fishbein
    Moysey Fishbeyn is an influential Ukrainian poet and translator of Jewish origin. He was born in 1946 in Chernivtsi, in the Ukrainian SSR of the Soviet Union .-Biography:...

  • Mikhail Turovsky
    Mikhail Turovsky
    Mikhail Turovsky is an American artist-painter, and writer-aphorist, resident in New York since 1979.-Early life and education:Mikhail Turovsky was born in 1933 in Kiev. During the Second World War, he was evacuated to Samarkand with his mother and an older brother...

  • Isaak Babel
  • Eduard Bagritsky
    Eduard Bagritsky
    Eduard Bagritsky , real name Dzyubin , was an important Russian and Soviet poet of the Constructivist School.He was a Neo-Romantic early in his poetic career; he was also a part of the so-called Odessa School of Russian writers...

  • Bruno Schulz
    Bruno Schulz
    Bruno Schulz was a Polish writer, fine artist, literary critic and art teacher born to Jewish parents, and regarded as one of the great Polish-language prose stylists of the 20th century. Schulz was born in Drohobycz, in the province of Galicia then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and spent...

  • Golda Meir
    Golda Meir
    Golda Meir ; May 3, 1898 – December 8, 1978) was a teacher, kibbutznik and politician who became the fourth Prime Minister of the State of Israel....

  • Mila Kunis
    Mila Kunis
    Milena "Mila" Kunis is an American actress. Her work includes the role of Jackie Burkhart on the TV series That '70s Show and the voice of Meg Griffin on the animated series Family Guy...

  • Semion Mogilevich
    Semion Mogilevich
    Semion Yudkovich Mogilevich is a Ukrainian-born organized crime boss, believed by European and United States federal law enforcement agencies to be the "boss of bosses" of most Russian Mafia syndicates in the world...

  • Leon Trotsky
    Leon Trotsky
    Leon Trotsky , born Lev Davidovich Bronshtein, was a Russian Marxist revolutionary and theorist, Soviet politician, and the founder and first leader of the Red Army....

  • Dmitry Salita
    Dmitry Salita
    Dmitry Salita is a Ukrainian-born Jewish-American boxer from Brooklyn, New York in the welterweight division.He has a 33–1–1 record, with 16 KOs. He is , and his reach is 69".He is a practicing Orthodox Jew, and became so after he moved to Brooklyn...

  • Leonard Nimoy
    Leonard Nimoy
    Leonard Simon Nimoy is an American actor, film director, poet, musician and photographer. Nimoy's most famous role is that of Spock in the original Star Trek series , multiple films, television and video game sequels....

  • William Shatner
    William Shatner
    William Alan Shatner is a Canadian actor, musician, recording artist, and author. He gained worldwide fame and became a cultural icon for his portrayal of James T...

  • Noam Chomsky
    Noam Chomsky
    Avram Noam Chomsky is an American linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, and activist. He is an Institute Professor and Professor in the Department of Linguistics & Philosophy at MIT, where he has worked for over 50 years. Chomsky has been described as the "father of modern linguistics" and...

  • Roseanne Barr
    Roseanne Barr
    Roseanne Cherrie Barr is an American actress, comedian, writer, television producer and director. Barr began her career in stand-up comedy at clubs before gaining fame for her role in the sitcom Roseanne. The show was a hit and lasted nine seasons, from 1988 to 1997...

  • Isaac Stern
    Isaac Stern
    Isaac Stern was a Ukrainian-born violinist. He was renowned for his recordings and for discovering new musical talent.-Biography:Isaac Stern was born into a Jewish family in Kremenets, Ukraine. He was fourteen months old when his family moved to San Francisco...


External links