By: Herman Rosenthal
"The mother of Russian cities"; situated on the right bank of the Dnieper, in the government of the same name. In 1902 it had a population of 249,830, including about 20,000 Jews.Settled Under the Chazars.
It is difficult to decide when Jews first settled in Kiev. The city was probably built by the Chazars not later than the eighth century, and it is likely that Jews from the Byzantine empire, the Crimea, Persia, and the Caucasus settled there with the Chazars about the same time (see Malishevski, in "Trudy Tretyavo Arkheologicheskavo Syezda," Feb. 12, 1878; "Kievskiya Gubernskiya Vyedomosti," 1878, No. 24). Brunn is of the opinion that the Chazars derived "Kiev" from "Kioba" or "Kiaba," the name of three brothers ("Trudy Tretyavo Arkheologicheskavo Syezda," Feb. 12, 1878, p. 89). Zakrevski (in "Opisaniye Kieva," p. 311, Moscow, 1868) is also of the opinion that the Chazars were the means of bringing the Jews toKiev; this being so, the Jews antedate the Russians as citizens of that place. Malishevski, in "Yevrei v Kievye i na Yugye Rossii," published in the "Trudy Kievskoi Dukhovnoi Akademii," says that Jews from the Orient (776) and from the Caucasus emigrated to Chazaria, and thence to Kiev, where they found a community of Crimean Jews. Joseph ha-Kohen (in "'Emeḳ ha-Baka") is authority for the statement that Jews entered Russia in 690, after the defeat of the Persians by the Arabs. When Kiev was taken by the Varangians many of the Jews escaped to Chazaria and to the countries on the Volga and the Don, and after the defeat of the Chazars by Svyatoslav in 969 many Jews emigrated to the Crimea. According to Theophanus a numerous Jewish community existed in Kiev in the eighth century (Malishevski: 10th cent., ib. p. 44).
The Grand Duke Vladimir found there a large Jewish community, and although he was averse to adopting their religion, yet, according to the Arabic writer Ibn Ḥauḳal, he was favorably inclined toward the Jews. In the chronicles whose authorship is ascribed to Nestor it is related that Chazarian Jews went to Kiev in 986, immediately after the Bulgars and Germans, in order to induce Vladimir to accept their religion. Tatishchev remarks in regard to this that it does not exclude earlier arrivals of Jews, for the Jews taken captive by Svyatoslav were settled by him in Kiev, on the River Ross, and in numerous other places, and that their number was considerable ("Istoriya Tatishcheva," ii., note 176). Unfortunately there is no other source to corroborate Tatishchev's statement, as Harkavy has already pointed out ("Voskhod," 1881, i.).
Gatzuk mentions the current traditions according to which settlements of Jews in the vicinity of Kiev existed in the tenth century. In the eleventh century Jews from Germany settled in Kiev. When Russia celebrated the one thousandth anniversary of the founding of Kiev (1865), the Jews in an address mentioned that Jews had lived in Russia before the empire was founded. During the reign of Vladimir (d. 1015) and under Svyatopolk after him the Jews lived in Kiev undisturbed. The first bishop appointed by Yaroslav, in 1035, was called "Lucas, the Little Jew" ("Luka Zhidyata"), who evidently was either of Jewish descent or had some connection with the history of the Jews in Kiev. He always preferred in his teachings to dwell on the Decalogue, and often used Biblical quotations common among the Talmudic Jews (Harkavy, in "Voskhod," 1881, i. 73).
A Russian cleric, Philaret, in a review of Russian theological literature (in "Uchonyya Zapiski II Otdelyeniya Akademii Nauk," iii. 8, St. Petersburg, 1865), remarks that from the work of Illarion of Kiev it is evident that the Jewish missionaries from the Chazars, who had failed to convert him to Judaism, did not relinquish their hope of making proselytes among the Russians. Feodosi Pecherski (1057-74) certifies to the existence of a considerable Jewish community in Kiev in his time. During the reign of Grand Duke Izyaslav, the bazaar of Kiev was removed from the lower part of the city ("Podol") to the Kiev heights, where the Jews were settled. At that time the Jewish community was augmented by new arrivals, probably driven from Germany and other western countries by the persecutions of the Jews immediately before the First Crusade. In 1097 the Jews of Kiev are mentioned in connection with the salt monopoly, when Svyatopolk closed the road from Galicia and the Jews increased the price of salt (Zakrevski, ib. p. 28; Malishevski, ib. p. 102). Benjamin of Tudela (12th cent.), in his "Massa'ot shel Rabbi Binyamin," refers to Kiev.In the Twelfth Century.
In the "Sefer ha-Yashar" (pp. 52a, 522, Vienna, 1811) Rabbi Moses of Kiev is mentioned as one of the pupils of the tosafist Jacob Tam (d. 1170), the grandson of Rashi. This shows that in the twelfth century Russian Jews studied at the famous Talmudic academies of northern France. It is known that the Russian Grand Duke Svyatopolk (1093-1112) held the Jews of Kiev in favor. After his death, the rabble revolted against his widow and the supporters of her husband and attacked the Jews of Kiev (1113), but Vladimir Monomach induced the rioters to disperse. In 1124 the Jewish quarter in Kiev was destroyed by fire. In the "Ipatiev Chronicle" the "Jewish Gate" is mentioned (1146 and 1151). From facts collected from different sources it is quite evident that in the twelfth century Kiev was the center of trade between the East and the West, and that the Jews and the Italians controlled most of it. From the histories of South Russia it appears that Jews lived in Kiev in the thirteenth century, but when in 1239 the Tatars overwhelmed the southwestern cities of Russia and destroyed them the Jews shared the fate of the other inhabitants. In the following year (Dec. 6, 1240) Batu Khan captured and destroyed Kiev, which resulted in the subjection of Russia to the Tatar yoke. The Jews of Kiev suffered with the rest of the inhabitants, but when the "Grand Khan," after conquering South Russia, appointed the Russian Prince Daniil Romanovich as the regent of Kiev and South Russia, Daniil called (1259) Germans, Jews, Poles, and other foreigners to settle in Kiev. His son Mstislav Daniilovich also invited Germans and Jews to settle in his land. That Vladimir Vasilkovich also favored the Jews is evident from the fact that, according to the chronicles, in 1288 they were among those that lamented his death "as much as they had lamented the capture of Jerusalem." Kiev being a Tatar dependency at that time, the Jews there were allowed the privileges given them in other Tatar countries, and for this reason the other inhabitants of Kiev were ill-disposed toward the Jews.
When the Lithuanian Grand Duke Gedimin (d. 1325) conquered (c. 1320) South Russia, including Kiev, and founded the Lithuanian Russian empire, the Jews received many privileges (Solovyev, "History," book i., part iv., ch. iii.). According to Zakrevski (ib. ii. 216), the number of Jews in Kiev at that time increased considerably. During the reign of Withold (1392-1430), who granted privileges to all the Jews of Lithuania, they enjoyed great prosperity. Casimir IV. (1444-92) granted them additional privileges, knowing that through their commercialskill they would replenish his depleted funds (Zakrevski, l.c. ii. 313). In 1486 Mordecai Gadayevich and Perka Yudinovich, Jews of Kiev, are mentioned as the farmers of the customs duties at Bryansk.In the Fifteenth Century.
In 1488 the Jewish tax-farmers Simkha, Ryabichka, Daniilovich, and Samodyelka are mentioned in a message of Czar Ivan Vasillivich to King Casimir, in which the czar complains that the Moscow merchants were taxed too heavily ("Sbornik Imp. Istoricheskavo Obschestva," xxxv. 10-12). About 1425 the Judaizing Heresy originated among the Russians in Kiev, and spread thence to Novgorod and Moscow through Zechariah of Kiev, who went from Kiev to Novgorod in the suite of the Prince Mikhail Alelkovich (Solovyev, ib. book i., part v., ch. v.; see Aleksei). In the fifteenth century the Jewish community of Kiev contained many scholars, and the saying became current that "from Kiev learning is spread." Among these scholars was Moses ben Jacob Ashkenazi ha-Gole (b. 15th Kislew, 1449; d. Kaffa 1529). He wrote in Kiev his notes to "Gan 'Eden" and his work "Shushan Sodot." When the Jews were expelled from Lithuania by Alexander Jagellon in 1495, Moses ha-Gole with the rest of the Kiev Jews emigrated to the Crimea. As is evident from the statement of Abraham ha-Rofe of Troki, the Tatars invaded and plundered Kiev (1482) and carried many Jewish captives to the Crimea.
In the sixteenth century (according to Zakrevski, ib. ii. 317) Jews lived in Kiev in great numbers. Zakrevski mentions also the grant to them by King Sigismund I. of Poland of a tract of land for burial purposes near the gate of
In 1585 the noblemen of the Greek Orthodox faith made a complaint before the Metropolitan of Kiev about the disorder reigning in his bishopric, and petitioned him to protect their coreligionists from the oppressions of the Roman Catholics and the Jews ("Acty Zapadnoi Rossii," iii. 88, Govorskavo, 1865). In 1618, and again in 1619, the merchants of Kiev made complaint to King Sigismund III. that the Jewish merchants who arrived in Kiev did not stay at the "Gostinny Dom" (the inn assigned to them) and trade with other outside merchants; that they had built houses in Kiev, had taken the local trade in their hands, and were getting rich at the expense of the local merchants. In response to this petition the king decided that as the frontier town of Kiev would be protected, not by Jews, who would do nothing to repel the enemy, but by the Ukrainian merchants, and since Jews had not before lived in Kiev, where they had no right to live, "they must henceforth stay at the town inn to trade exclusively with local merchants; that they may not remain more than one day; and that they may not settle there permanently, on penalty of losing their merchandise, half of which would be turned over to the crown and the other half to the merchant gild of the place." Notwithstanding these restrictions and the privileges granted the Christian merchants, the Jews gained possession of the most important trade of Kiev and other South-Russian cities. Being excluded from participation in the affairs of the city by the Magdeburg Rights, the Jews were placed directly under the jurisdiction of the waywode. In the frequent absence of this official his power reposed in his assistant, who regarded it as a source of income; in this way the Jews managed to attain their ends in spite of the restrictions ("Starozytnosci Polskie," ii. 257).
In 1628 a decree of Sigismund III. in part confirmed the decision of the Kiev municipal court in the suit of the Jew Missan Josephovich, the farmer of the water-taxes, against the burgher Khmel for unpaid water-taxes. By this decision Missan's demands were partly allowed, and Khmel appealed to the king, who confirmed the decision of the court. It is well known that, notwithstanding the restrictions imposed upon them, Jews lived in considerable numbers in Kiev during the first half of the seventeenth century, owning lands, houses, and factories there (Zakrevski, ib. ii. 315).Ruined by Chmielnicki.
The uprising under Chmielnicki destroyed the Jewish community in Kiev. Samuel Phoebus, the author of "Ṭiṭ ha-Yawen," is the only Jewish writer who mentions Kiev among the cities which suffered in the Chmielnicki uprising. He states that Chmielnicki went to the "great city of Kiev," where he found a man named Eliezer who was very wealthy ("like Korah"); that the Cossacks killed him and his family and took all his property. From Russian sources it is known that Chmielnicki and his Cossacks raged in Kiev for four days and killed off most of the Poles and the Jews. Even the graves in the cemeteries were opened and the bones thrown to the dogs. Only those Jews and Poles who had hidden in the vaults of the Greek Orthodox monasteries escaped death (Solovyev, ib. ii., book x., ch. iii.). According to the truce concluded by Chmielnicki with King John Casimir, the Jews were not to be permitted to live in Kiev or in the Ukraine. In the peace agreement made in 1661 at Byelaya Tzerkov, the king demandedthat the Jews be allowed to return to the Ukraine and to own property in Kiev. The Jews returned accordingly, but Chmielnicki soon turned over the Ukraine to Czar Alexis Mikhailovich, and they were again driven out from Kiev and the Ukraine. Thus from 1655 until near the end of the eighteenth century only a small number of Jews were to be found in Kiev, or in any part of the Ukraine.
Toward the end of the reign of Catherine II., by an order dated June 23, 1794, Jews were again permitted to settle in Kiev, and even to acquire property, conditionally, however, on their paying double the tax imposed on the Christians. From that year the Jews began to resettle in Kiev, and in the reign of Catherine's son Paul Petrovich the Jewish community numbered 452. At that time Judah Löb Löwenberg was granted by the governor-general Sherkov a tract of land for a cemetery; the governor-general, upon his representations, gave permission also for the building of a synagogue. The tract known as "Zwyerinetz," just outside of Pechersk, was assigned for a cemetery. At that time also a ḥebra ḳaddisha was organized and a constitution adopted (1797 or 1798). Among those resting in the old Kiev cemetery may be mentioned Meïr Lebush Malbim and Raphael Nata Rabbinovicz, author of the "Diḳduḳe Soferim."Under Alexander I.
With the accession to the throne of Alexander I. Jews were permitted to reside in Kiev unhindered by any restrictions. They were registered by the city magistrates with other citizens and received passports from them. As the Jews increased rapidly the Christian citizens of Kiev petitioned the government in 1810 to expel them, claiming that the privileges granted to the citizens of Kiev by Sigismund in 1619 excluded the Jews from residence in Kiev. Notwithstanding this petition and the money spent in its furtherance by the citizens (see Baratz, "Den," iii., No. 22), their attempts were not successful. The reply which they received (Jan. 13, 1810) pointed out that in the fifteen years which had elapsed since the permission of settlement by Catherine the Great the Jews had acquired property, and that justice did not permit the government to expel them, since they would thereby have lost their possessions: it is the business of government to see that justice is done between man and man. The conflicts between the Jews and Christians of Kiev were found by the government to be due more often to the Christians than to the Jews, and the administration of Kiev was ordered to see that no disturbances occurred between Jew and Gentile (ib.). The anti-Semites of Kiev made no further complaint for the time being.
In 1815 the Jewish population of Kiev numbered 4,500, and then a synagogue was built by special permission of the emperor. At the head of the Jewish community at that time stood Judah Löb ben Jacob Löwenberg, Ozer ben Bezaleel Rosenfeld, and Zeeb ben Abraham Segal. At the head of the ḥebra ḳaddisha was Moses ben Abraham. Beside the synagogue, the Jewish community built at that time two large houses of prayer, one on the Podol near the Prolovski monastery, and the other on the Pechersk, not far from the synagogue that burned down in 1829 (Zakrevski, ib. ii. 316). When Nicholas I. ascended the throne in 1825 he withdrew from the Jews the right of residence in Astrakhan and the concessions granted them in 1804 by Alexander I. The Christian inhabitants of Kiev availed themselves of the opportunity to petition the czar to expel the Jews from Kiev, basing their petition on the same ground as in 1810; the petition was granted, and a ukase was issued by Nicholas on Dec. 2, 1827. It reads as follows:
- "(1) Jews are strictly prohibited from building any house of prayer in Kiev, and the old building is to be sold at auction at once;
- (2) Jews who are registered with the city magistrates of Kiev must immediately leave the city and register in some town inside of the Pale. Those Jews who have residences, business houses, or factories in Kiev are given two years in which to settle their affairs; all the others to leave the city within six months."
The governor-general Zheltukhin did all he could to render unbearable the life of the Jews remaining in Kiev; the latter, however, applied to the czar through two of their prominent merchants, Berner and Kerner, and received permission to settle outside the city limits in the village of Lyebed; and through the efforts of the new governor-general, Levashev, who pointed out their usefulness in the development of commerce in Kiev, the czar was induced to write in his own hand a permit for them to stay until Feb., 1835, but he withdrew permission from them to settle in Lyebed. When Feb. 1, 1835, arrived, the Jews, who had hoped for a change for the better, were greatly disappointed. The administration would make no further concessions, and they were compelled to leave Kiev immediately and to sell their property for whatever they could get. Exception was made only in favor of the few Jewish contractors who had built the fortress of Kiev and the University of St. Vladimir.
The next governor-general, Bibikov, watched carefully to see that no Jews settled in Kiev. He organized a special gendarmerie to look after the Jews who came there on business, and who received permits to stay only from one to five days. To facilitate police supervision, two exclusively Jewish hotels were established, one in the Podol and the other in the Lyebedskaya; and all incoming Jews were compelled to stay in one of the two. The guests were obliged to pay exorbitant prices for food and drink, and the hotel-keepers, both Christians, could afford to pay the heavy license, which was soon raised from 3,600 to 6,500 rubles. When a Jew was found in the city without a permit to reside there he was dealt with as a criminal without passport. At ten in the evening every Jewish guest was obliged to return to the hotel, where as many as ten would be crowded into one room, and when the time of departure came the hotel servants would rudely hurry them out.Under Alexander II.
In 1856, about a year after Alexander II. ascended the throne, the condition of the Jews throughout Russia began to improve, and those of Kiev, in particular, felt the liberal spirit of the new legislation. The regulation requiring incoming Jews to stay at specified hotels was abolished and Jewish artisans were permitted to establish themselves in the city. Prince Vasilchikov, the governor-general,and Hesse, the civil governor of Kiev, advocated warmly the amelioration of the Jews' condition, and the abolition of Jewish disabilities in so far as circumstances would permit. An edict was issued Oct. 30, 1861, which made it permissible for Jewish graduates of universities, Jewish merchants of the first gild, and foreign Jewish merchants, with their families, clerks, and servants, to establish themselves in Kiev. The community of Kiev received a still larger accession through the ukase of 1866, which granted Jewish artisans the right to reside outside the Pale. The prosperity of the Jewish community added materially to the prosperity of the entire city. The activity of the Jewish merchants of Kiev stimulated the development of the sugar industry. Kiev became a prominent sugar market and an important general commercial center. Its Jewish merchants played a leading part in the establishment of banks, stimulated the development of navigation on the Dnieper, increased the export trade in grain, and thereby conferred a direct benefit on the farming communities of the entire government.
This prosperity continued until the outbreak of the anti-Jewish riots in South Russia. On May 8, 1881 (April 26) anti-Jewish riots broke out in Kiev, as they had elsewhere, and there is sufficient evidence to show that the riots were premeditated. Prominent members of the Jewish community had been warned personally by Von Hübbenet, the chief of police, who advised them to take measures for their protection, and even offered, in some cases, to place cannon at their doors. Rumors that anti-Jewish riots were being planned were circulated in Kiev several weeks before Easter, and Von Hübbenet himself had informed members of the community that a trainload of Great Russians, all wearing red shirts, had arrived in the city, the purpose of their coming being the organization of the riots. The police in the synagogues on May 7 thought it would not be safe for the Jews to keep their stores open on the following day. When the outbreak began on that day the police and military were evidently in sympathy with the rioters, and some of the Christian merchants looked on with pleasure while property valued at about 2,000,000 rubles was being destroyed. This does not take into account the enormous loss incurred through the enforced idleness of the Jewish artisans. Not content with the destruction of stores and houses, the rioters attacked the synagogue and tore into shreds the scrolls of the Law. Thousands were rendered homeless, men once wealthy were reduced to poverty and despair, and many were seriously injured. In all 3,150 persons, or 750 families, were reduced to absolute want, among them being 403 families of artisans and laborers. The riots spread to the neighboring towns and villages, particularly Smyela, where 20 Jews were killed and 40 wounded.
The riots were followed by repressive police measures—directed against the victims of the riots. The military tribunal, whose duty it was to examine the persons accused of attacking the Jews, openly sympathized with the suspects instead. The procureur général, Major Strielnikov, repeatedly evaded his duty during the trials, and instead of raising his voice against the authors of the disorders spoke against the victims. He went so far on one occasion as to express a desire to see all the Jews driven over the frontier. The openly expressed wish of the procureur général was followed by numerous expulsions, by the police, of Kiev Jews. A deputation of Jews from Demiyevka, a suburb of Kiev, which went to seek the intervention of Drenteln, the governor-general, was dismissed with the sneering remark that they were at liberty to emigrate to Jerusalem if not satisfied with existing conditions. A member of the deputation retorting that they could not even leave the country without the permission of the government, the governor-general replied hastily that the government was quite ready to grant the authorization.
The measures of the police authorities led to the emigration of a considerable number of Jews from Kiev and vicinity in July and August of the same year (1881). Some of these were enrolled as members of the first Jewish agricultural colony established in Louisiana in the fall of 1881. Forced emigrations continued throughout the latter part of 1881 and during 1882, and factory employees and artisans were continually expelled by the police without any authorization by existing laws. The emigration assumed much larger proportions after the issue of the "May Laws" in 1882.
Since 1881 the condition of the Jews in Kiev has not improved. A large proportion of the Jewish population is subject to expulsion at the pleasure of the police authorities, and the Jews are often in dread of anti-Jewish disorders, as at the time of the Kishinef massacre (1903), when the members of the Kiev community entertained well-grounded fears of similar disorders.
Among the Hebrew scholars of Kiev may be mentioned Herman (Hirsh) Baratz, Abraham Baer Dobsewitch, Judah Löb Levin (now resident at Tomashpol), Max Mandelstamm, M. A. Shatzkes, Eliezer Schulman, Isaac Jacob Weissberg, Joshua Zuckerman (government rabbi). Among other prominent members of the Kiev community may be mentioned the Brodski family, Abraham Kupernik and his son Lev, Moses Weinstein, Max Rathaus, Mayer Greben, and Leon Ashkenazi.
- Harkavy, in Voskhod, Jan., 1881, and Jan., 1882;
- Berkhin, in Voskhod, 1887, vii.-viii. 213; 1888, xii. 182;
- Darevski, Le-Ḳorot ha-Yehudim be-Kiyov, i., Berdychev, 1902;
- Kostomarov, Bogdan Chmielnicki, St. Petersburg, 1884;
- Zakrevski, in Opisaniye Kieva, Moscow, 1868;
- Trudy III Arkheologicheskavo Syezda, i., Kiev, 1878;
- Baratz, Kirilo-Mefodovskiye Voprosy, in Trudy Kievskoi Dukhovnoi Akademii, Kiev, 1891;
- Harkavy, in Ha-Mizpah, i. and ii.;
- Malishevski, in Trudy Kieovkoi Dukhovnoi Akademii, Kiev, 1878;
- Bershadski, Litovskiye Yevrei, passim;
- Regesty i Nadpisi, i., St. Petersburg, 1899;
- Ha-Shaḥar, vi. 547;
- Zarya, April 27-May 30, 1881;
- Razsvyet, 1881, passim;
- Levanda, Polny Khronologicheski Sbornik Zakonov, p. 23, St. Petersburg, 1874.