Haim Fridman <fridman@...>
In reply to several messages about Yekaterinoslav, I will briefly outline
some of my research of the Jewish communities in the Guberniya (government)
that was once called Yekaterinoslav and is now called Dyepropetrovsk.
In the late 18th century large areas of territories in south-east Ukraine
came under the control of the Russian Tsarist regime. This area was then
known a Novorussia (New Russia) and was divided roughly into three
Guberniyas: Kherson, Yekaterinoslav and Tavritch (the latter included the
Crimean peninsular and part of the adjacent mainland).
The Russian government was anxious to develop this region by settlement
from the rest of the Russian Empire. At the same time the government soughta way to relieve itself of the so-called "Jewish Question", particularly in
what is now Lithuania, Latvia and Belarus. With the ascent of Tsar
Alexander 1st legislation was passed to define and relieve in some part the
situation of the Jews. One aspect of this legislation was to encourage Jews
to leave the crowded and economically poor centres in the north and
establish new settlements in Novorussia. Those Jews who qualified to be
included in this enterprise were promised financial support to set up
agricultural colonies, with the added incentive of exemption >from military
service (the period varied at various times throughout the 19th century).
A number of agricultural colonies were established initially in Kherson
Guberniya >from the first decade of the 19th century. The Yekaterinoslav
colonies were established later. In 1846 the first
group of Jewish colonists set off >from the rallying point in Mogilev and
headed for a region in Yekaterinoslav Guberniya. This group was subdivided
according to town of origin. So several convoys underwent the arduous
journey by river and by wagon. The 285 families were divided into six
colonies. Subsequently other colonies were established bringing the total
to seventeen by the late 1860's. At the peak in the 1880's the
Yekaterinoslav colonies housed about 20,000 Jews.
The colony region was roughly north of the Sea of Azov, and the colonies
were situated in two uyezds, Alexandrovsk and Mariupol.
Much can be written about life in the colonies during the period of the
second half of the 19th century until their tragic destruction during the
civil war of 1917-1921. Thereafter most of the colonies were revamped by
Soviet regime and functioned as collectives incorporated as the
Nei-Zlatopol Jewish Autonomous Region. The Nazi invasion brought the end to
this unique episode in Jewish history.
The Jewish urban communities in Yekaterinoslav Guberniya were established
on a very small scale alongside the colonies. As time passed and many
families found themselves unsuited to rural life, the urban communities
were boosted by many who dropped out of the colonies. The major
communities, aside >from Yekaterinoslav the capital, included Alexandrovsk
(Zaparozhe), Pavlograd, Orekhov, Tokmak, Melitopol, Berdyansk, Mariupol and
In effect the original colonists drew in their wake significant numbers of
their hometown relatives or neighbours >from Lithuania, Latvia and Belarus
who constituted the majority in the developing urban communities in
I would point out that there are very few sources about this region's
Jewish population. English books refer briefly to the region. Most of the
other sources are in Russian, particularly a very detailed history of the
region which includes many statistical analyses. There is one book in
Hebrew devoted to the subject.
If further information is of interest I will be happy to expand.
For the record, my late mother's great-great-grandparents on all sides were
amongst the first colonists in the region, hence my involvement in
research over more than three decades.
Petah Tikvah, Israel
web page: http://www.avotaynu.com/gaonbook.html