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Chernigov, Ukraine

CHERNIGOV, district capital in the Ukraine. An indication that Jews were living in Chernigov in the Middle Ages is provided by a 13th-century manuscript which mentions "a R. Itze from Sarangov" ( *Isaac of Chernigov ). Their presence ended with the Mongol invasions. It was renewed in the 17th century, but the Jews were periodically expelled from the town. In 1623 the king of Poland, Ladislas IV, ordered the expulsion of the Jews from the districts of Chernigov and Seversk after complaints by the Christian merchants and craftsmen about Jewish competition. However, the decree was not implemented. The community of Chernigov is recorded among those destroyed during the *Chmielnicki massacres of 1648. Chernigov passed to Russia in 1667, and the Jewish community was not renewed until the partition of Poland at the end of the 18th century, when the town was included in the Pale of Settlement. There were 1,389 Jews living in the city and district in 1801 and 2,783 in 1847. The census of 1897 recorded a Jewish population of 8,799 in the city (31.7% of the total) engaged in commerce and crafts (such as tailoring and shoemaking) and also in tobacco growing and business connected with the orchards in Chernigov and the vicinity. *Ḥabad Ḥasidim had a strong following in the community, and from the middle of the 19th century, Pereẓ Ḥen, one of the outstanding Ḥabad Ḥasidim, officiated as rabbi of Chernigov, followed by his son, Ḥayyim David Ẓevi Ḥen. Apart from hadarim there were a talmud torah with 110 pupils, elementary schools, and a vocational school for girls. Chernigov was the birthplace of the poet and doctor Judah Leib Benjamin *Katzenelson (Buki ben Yogli, 1846–1917) and the poet *Zelda Shneurson-Mishkovsky (1914–1984). In October 1905 a pogrom was staged, several Jews were killed, many wounded, and shops and homes looted. The Jews in Chernigov organized *self-defense against pogroms. There were 13,954 Jews living in Chernigov in 1910. Under Soviet rule communal and religious life came to an end. Many Jews left the city, and in 1926 there remained 10,607 (approximately 30% of the total population), rising to 12,204 in 1939. During the Soviet period Jews were employed in government offices and stores and artisan cooperatives. Many worked in a large textile factory. Chernigov was taken by the Germans on September 9, 1941. By late October 400 Jews had been killed, and at the beginning of November 3,000 were executed on the grounds of the city jail. Jews returned to Chernigov after the war and were soon subject to the restrictions imposed on all Russian Jewish communities. In 1959 there were 6,600 Jews in the town, and the last synagogue was closed down by the authorities the same year. In 1970 the Jewish population of Chernigov was estimated at 4,000. Most left in the 1990s, but Jewish life revived with a full range of religious and community services and a full-time rabbi.


Jewish settlement in Chernigovshchina (the region of Chernigov), which ceased with the 1648 massacres, was again authorized in 1794. Subsequently, there was continual movement of Jews from Belorussia and Lithuania to the area. The communities in Chernigov and *Starodub were established at the end of the 18th century. From time to time the authorities issued regulations to prevent the settlement of Jews in the province, in particular in the villages. However, in 1865 the position of the Jews there was made to conform with that of Jews in other parts of the *Pale of Settlement . There were 1,113 Jews living in the area in 1797, and over 18,000 in the 17 communities of the province according to the census of 1847. In 1852, 28,919 were recorded (the increase shown probably reflecting the inaccuracy of the previous census), of whom 1,704 belonged to the merchant estate, 639 were agriculturalists, and the rest were classed as townsmen. In 1869 there were 35,624 Jews in Chernigov province (2.2% of the total population). The outbreak of pogroms in southern Russia in the spring of 1881 also spread to the south of Chernigov province, the communities of *Konotop and *Nezhin being the most severely affected. The census of 1897 recorded 114,452 Jews in the province (5% of the total population), a much lower proportion than in the provinces west of the Dnieper. A considerable number (approximately 39%) were scattered in the villages, where they had been living before the definitive prohibition on Jewish residence in the villages in 1882, and were employed in small businesses and crafts. The larger communities of the province were, besides that of the capital (see above), those of *Nezhin (numbering 7,630), Starodub (5,109), Konotop (4,420), Glukhov (3,853), *Novozybkov (3,836), and *Pochep (3,172). Because of the relatively small number of Jews in Chernigov province, many used the Russian language. Nearly half earned their living from trade, in particular in the sale of agricultural products, and approximately 30% from crafts. Severe pogroms broke out in 329 localities in October 1905, in which the communities in Nezhin, *Novgorod-Seversk , Novozybkov, Starodub, and Surazh suffered most. As a result, many Jews in the villages moved to the towns. In the spring of 1918 pogroms were perpetrated in the province by the Red Army during its retreat from the Germans in the Ukraine. Subsequently, in 1919 and 1920, the Jews in the villages were almost all butchered by local peasant gangs.


A. Harkavy, Ha-Yehudim u-Sefat ha-Slavim (1867), 14, 62; Die Judenpogrome in Russland, 2 (1910), 267–338; Slutzky, in: He-Avar, 9 (1962), 16–25; E. Tcherikower, Anti-semitizm i progromy na Ukraine (1923), 143–53; idem, Di Ukrainer Pogromen in Yor 1919 (1965), index. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: PK Ukrainah, S.V.

[Yehuda Slutsky / Shmuel Spector (2nd ed.)]

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.