Russian town in the government of Podolia; situated on the banks of the Bug. Vinnitsa was founded in the fourteenth century on the left bank of the Bug, and was protected by two castles. The town suffered much in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries from the depredations of the Tatars and the Cossacks. Jews lived probably in Vinnitsa in the fifteenth century, but 1532 is the date of the first documentary mention of them. In that year the local Jews carried on extensive business operations as cattle-drovers, and one of them, Michael of Vinnitsa, paid customs duties on a single drove of 2,000 head of sheep and cattle. Reference is also made to a Jew (name not given) who in 1552 held the lease of the local customs duties. In 1616 there were only fifty Jews in Vinnitsa who paid taxes on their houses. During the Cossacks' Uprising the town was taken and pillaged by Chmielnicki's followers and its Jewish inhabitants were massacred. It was retaken by the Polish troops, and then fell again under the power of the Cossacks and Tatars, changing hands several times. It suffered severely from the Haidamacks in the eighteenth century. The protecting castles had by that time disappeared, and the inhabitants, both Catholics and Jews, sought refuge in the Jesuit college founded by Ladislaus in 1649. In 1774 Vinnitsa was temporarily occupied by the Turks, and toward the end of the eighteenth century was almost entirely ruined.
Vinnitsa had 23,591 inhabitants in 1878, of whom 13,750 were Jews. The town was then an industrial center of some significance, possessing sixteen factories and other industrial establishments. Nine fairs were held there annually, though with but a limited volume of trade. The Jewish community possessed thirteen synagogues and houses of prayer, a Jewish two-class school, and a Jewish hospital. Most of the important distilleries (an ancient industry, to which the town owes its name) were owned by Jews. By 1879 the population of Vinnitsa had grown to 28,995, including more than 15,000 Jews. The town had in that year twenty-nine industrial establishments, and the Jewish community had added a Talmud Torah to its other communal institutions.
On April 3 (Old Style 16), 1905, the Jewish stores in the market-place in Vinnitsa were demolished by a drunken mob composed partly of reservists; several Jews caught on the streets were severely beaten. The conflict attracted the attention of a number of Jews organized for self-defense, who successfully repelled the assailants. Five soldiers and five Jews were injured. Order was restored by the police and the military.
- Entziklopedicheski Slovar;
- Bolshaya Entziklopedia;
- Russko-Yevreiski Arkhiv;
- Regesty i Nadpisi;
- Voskhod, 1905, No. 16, p. 28.