coat of arms

Welcome to Rivne
50°37′ N, 26°15′ E


Alternate names:
Rovne (ואװנע) [Yid]; Rivne (Рiвне) [Ukr];
Rovno (Ровно) [Rus]; Równe [Pol]


In memory of Ted Kramer – first Rivne town leader



The first known reference to the town of Rivne dates back to the late thirteenth century when Rivne was part of the Ukrainian Princedom of Galytsko-Volynskoye. The princedom was formed as a result of the twelfth century unification of the principalities of Halych (Galicia) and Volhynia. After the collapse of the Kievan Rus' due to the Mongol invasion of 1239, the principality grew into a regional power (see Galicia-Volhynia).

By the fourteenth century, Rivne came under the control of the Duchy of Lithuania; and by 1569 the city was part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Earlier, in 1492, Rivne was granted Magdeburg rights, which gave the city some degree of self-rule (see Magdeburg Rights).

The region was subject to subsequent reorginazations. Poland was partitioned in 1793, the result of which Rivne came under the authority of the Russian Empire. Four years later Rivne was made a regional town of the Volhynian Governorate.

Jews were already in Rivne (Rowne) by the sixteenth century. The Chmielnicki massacres of 1648-1649 decimated the Jewish community, but the community was resilient and it recovered fairly quickly. The Jews of Rivne were associated with the Jewish Community of Ostrog until the eighteenth century, when it finally became independent.

The Hasidic leader Dov Baer (Maggid of Mezhirech) and his followers settled in Rivne in 1772 after the Gaon of Vilna banned the Hasidic movement.

Rivne's Jewish merchants were involved in the farm produce and lumber trades. By the nineteenth century, they were also involved in the building trades and in the importation of a variety of products including porcelain, glass, and shoes. The Jewish population nearly tripled during the twelve years beginning in 1885 – from 4,850 to 13,780 souls (56% of the total population of the city).

The twentieth century saw further economic growth within the Jewish community of Rivne. Economic development led to the construction and operation, by Jews, of the largest beer brewery in Volhynia Province, as well as a soap factory, flour mills, and brickyards. This growth required an expansion in community services; there were six synagogues, a hospital, and an old age home. Zionist activity also appeared in 1884.

All the economic and social advances of the early twentieth century were eroded as a result of The Great War, the subsequent revolution, and the civil unrest. The 1919 pogrom, instigated by Petlyura, resulted in the death and injury of many Rivne Jews.

Again, the Jewish community rebounded; by 1921, the population had expanded to 21,702 people and Jewish economic efforts expanded into various sectors – industry, trade and the crafts. Jews were also involved in the professions as doctors, lawyers, and engineers. To accomplish these advances, the Jewish community established elementary and high schools. There was also a business school, a talmud torah, and a yeshiva. Unfortunately, this was not to last.

Germany and Russia conspired to invade and dismember Poland. Under the terms of the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, the Soviet Army entered Polish Rivne, sovietized the economy, and closed Jewish cultural institutions. This was the beginning of the end of Jewish life in Rivne. Less than two years later the Germans abrogated the pact by preemptively invading Soviet territory; the Germans overran Rivne, killing many of the town's Jews.

In November 1941, 21,000 Jews were murdered in a pine grove in nearby Sosenki. The remaining 5,000 Jews were forced into a ghetto, which was liquidated on 13 July 1942; the 5,000 were taken to a forest near Kostopol and murdered. The Soviet Army liberated Rivne on 5 February 1944. Twelve-hundred Jews from around Volhynia Province remained; most of them left for the West.

For more information, see the Wikipedia entry for Rivne. There is also an Rowne entry in volume two of The Encyclopedia of Jewish Life, Before and During the Holocaust.

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December 2012

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