BERDYANSK (in 1827–30 Kutur-ogly, in 1830–42 Novo-Nogaisk, in 1939–58 Osipenko), town in the Zaporozhie region of the Ukraine. Berdyansk was founded as a village by order of the governor-general of Novorossia, Count M.S. Vorontsov, whose attitude to Jews was fairly liberal. In 1842 it became a district capital. From the beginning the Jews formed part of its population, employed as tailors and merchants. In 1847 the Jewish population was 572 and in 1860 a Talmud Torah school was founded. In 1864, 703 Jews were registered in the town and 744 in the district. In April 1881, concerned over anti-Jewish acts in the wake of the assassination of Alexander II (see *Pogroms), the Jews requested the authorities to dispatch troops to prevent pogroms.
In 1890 there were three Jewish schools in Berdyansk. A vocational branch of the Talmud Torah was also founded. According to the 1897 census the number of Jews in the town was 3,306 (including 258 *Karaites), i.e., 12.9% of the total population; while in the district it was 9,171 (3% of the population). During World War I new schools were opened for the children of the Jewish refugees from the frontline area. In the period of the Civil War Berdyansk changed hands a number of times and the Jewish population suffered from violence and pillage. In June 1920 seven members of the Jewish Communist Party, *Po'alei Zion, volunteered for the Red Army. According to the 1926 census there were 2,138 Jews in Berdyansk in 1926 and 2,393 in 1939 (4.6% of the population). Berdyansk was occupied by German troops in October 1941. About a thousand Jews were shot in a gorge near the town; the rest were annihilated in 1942. Little is known about Jewish life under subsequent Soviet rule. However, in the early 1990s a Jewish cultural society was founded and a synagogue congregation was active. According to the *Jewish Agency there were 2,000 Jews in Berdyansk in 1994 (1.3% of the total population).
[Naftali Prat (2nd ed.)]
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.