BALTA, city in Odessa district, Ukraine. At the beginning of the 16th century, when Balta lay on the border between Poland and Turkey, there were Jews living in both sectors of the city (in the Józefgrod quarter on the Polish side). Many of the Jewish inhabitants together with refugees who had fled there from other districts were massacred by the *Haidamacks in 1768. The city was incorporated into Russia in 1791. Balta's importance as a commercial center increased after the construction of the Odessa-Kiev railroad in 1866. The Jewish population, which numbered 8,413 in 1863, mainly engaged in wholesale and retail grain dealing, the processing of agricultural products, tobacco and soap, tanning, flour milling, and liquor distilling. A pogrom broke out in 1882 in which over 1,200 Jewish houses and shops were pillaged; an attempt to organize Jewish *self-defense was suppressed by the police. Balta subsequently became the center of the Zionist movement in Podolia, Volhynia, and Bessarabia. The Zionist leader M. *Sheinkin served there as a government-appointed rabbi (rav mi-ta'am) in 1901–1904. Pogroms again broke out in the wake of the October revolution of 1905. The community was severely affected during the civil war of 1919, in which Balta repeatedly changed hands between the Bolsheviks and the troops of *Petlyura, the Ukrainian nationalist leader. Threatened by general pillage and massacre, many Jews fled to Odessa. The Jewish population, which numbered 13,234 in 1897 (57% of the total), had decreased to 9,116 by 1926 (39.6%). Owing to emigration to the big cities the Jewish population decreased further to 4,711 in 1939 (total population 17,945). At the beginning of the Soviet period the *He-Ḥalutz movement was still active and operated a farm, but during mass arrests on September 18–22, 1922, including He-Ḥalutz members, it was liquidated. In 1924 there were two Yiddish schools with 530 pupils in the city. Among the artisans there were many shoemakers. About 30 Jewish agricultural cooperatives operated in Balta county. Some were liquidated and the rest were turned into kolkhozes.
During World War II Balta was incorporated in the Romanian-occupied zone of *Transnistria . On August 8, 1941, 140 Jews were executed. About 1,500 who remained in Balta were confined in a ghetto together with deported Jews from Bessarabia and Bukovina, and a number were later executed. With the help of money received from Bucharest the Judenrat opened workshops. two orphanages, and inexpensive restaurants. About 1,795 Jews (including 175 from Bukovina) remained after the liberation on March 29, 1944. Fourteen hundred Jews were listed in Balta in the 1959 census. Most of the Jews emigrated in the 1990s. A number of small Jewish communities formerly existed in the vicinity of Balta, of which the largest were Bogopol, Krivoye Ozero, and Golovanevsk.
Dubnow, Hist Russ, 2 (1918), 299–304, 314–7; S. Bernfeld, Sefer ha-Dema'ot, 2 (1920), 296–7; M. Altman, in: He-Avar, 3 (1955), 60–85; 10 (1963), 83–105; Judenpogrome in Russland, 2 (1909), 420–4. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: PK Ukrainah, S.V.
[Yehuda Slutsky /
Shmuel Spector (2nd ed.)]
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.