On September 17, 1998 (message #13) Gayle Riley asked about the city
Chita for which she had a map.
It is only because I've been reading a lot Jewish history in general, and
about the Russian Revolution and the events that preceded it in particular
that I now know a little bit about Chita.
This city is located about 3000 miles ESE >from Moscow, on the Trans-
Siberian railroad line, at a point where the Igoda and Chita rivers meet.
(Coordinates are:52 5' N, 13 30.E'.) It is now an industrial center, and near
it are lignite mines. In 1939 it had a population of 102,555 and by 1949,
. It was founded in 1653 as a stockade for the Cossacks and for about
150 years consisted of only a few rough cabins.
During the eighteenth century, the agricultural and mining resources in
Siberia began to attract the attention of the government, which led to a
demand for labor. Some of this demand was satisfied by the exile of many
criminals who would have been put to death, had that penalty not been
abolished. But the list of crimes for which exile was the penalty grew. For
example, Jews were exiled for not paying their taxes for three successive
Later, after the 1825 failed attempt to establish a republic or
constitutional monarchyo, Chita was developed as a place of exile for many of
the "Decembrists," not so much by the government as by the money and efforts
furnished by the families and wives of the exiles, most of whom were of the
nobility. They not only had servants >from the local population, but started
an Academy at which literature, military science, physics, chemistry and
anatomy were taught. They set up a carpentry shop and forge, organized musical
groups and concerts, and introduced various vegetables for agricultural
development in the Transbaikal. They even established a rather large library
in "Petrovsky Savod, near Nerchinsk.
By 1878, the year in which Ekaterina Breshkovskaya ("The Little
Grandmother of the Revolution") was exiled, there was a hotel "May" in Chita,
owned by a Polish exile. (When George Kennan visited Chita, that hotel was
called the "Petersburg." ) It had what Breshkovskaya called a "drawing room"
and it was, I surmise, reasonably "civilized" or, at least a not too rude
During his tour of the exile system in Siberia in 1885, as George Kennan
(the elder) reported, on leaving Chita, the exiles there had "furnished me
with an English copy of "David Copperfield, a bound volume of a Russian
Magazine which contained an article upon the exile systems, and an old book
of logarithms." Chita had then about 4000 inhabitants and its own public
library, sometimes used as a theatre, and "fairly good schools." Some of the
homes were used as meeting places for exiled political activists.
In 1905, workers marched in protest to the Winter Palace in St. Peterburg
to petition the Czar, and on that "Bloody Sunday" many of them were
slaughtered. In that year discontent grew, and there were assassinations and
more demonstrations throughout Russia , including, of course, Chita.
Around 1919, there were mass arrests and executions all over Siberia,
many of them including both alleged and genuine Bolshevik Jews. By 1934,
Stalin had developed of the Gulag system with its forced labor working at
enormous projects under horrendous conditions.
I am not yet sure just when a Jewish community arose in Chita, but I
have the impression that it might have been around 1934, when Stalin decided
to establish a Jewish Autonomous Region, known as Birobidzhan. Even before the
"doctors' plot" of 1953, thousands of Jews had been deported to the banks of
the Lena River, and to Tayshet (or Taishet) the west Irkutsk part of Siberia
where many of them were found frozen to death in the trains that had
I hope that some other Jewishgenner can tell us about the Jewish
community in Chita.
BELKOWSKY of Tel-Aviv, Odessa, Kiev, Moscow, Berdichev; LEVY, WEIL, WILLARD
of Mulhouse, Altkirch, Seppois le Bas, Alsace; FELDMAN of "Chelsetz?" (
Kulczyce or Kulchitse or Kulcici?), near L'viv; MEEROVNA of Berdichev(?);
RAPPAPORT or RAPOPORT of Jaffa, Palestine, Podvolochisk and Ternopil; SAS, of
Podwolochisk; ROTHSTEIN, LIBERMAN >from Kiev and Moscow; ZUSMAN or SUSSMAN of
Tel-Aviv and Odessa.