Borisov was part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in medieval times. When Lithuania merged with Poland in 1569, Borisov was part of that merged nation. The Jewish community dates from that period and followed the usual Polish pattern of settlement in the towns as merchants and craftspeople. In 1793 after the second partition of Poland, Borisov became part of the Pale of Jewish Settlement within the Russian Empire.
Borisov's big moment in secular history came in 1812 during the Napoleonic Wars when Napoleon's Army was being chased by the Russian Army and they crossed the Berezina River near Borisov. Tens of thousands died. Much of Borisov was destroyed. See Battle of Berezina for more information. An anecdote about the experience of the Borisov Jewish community during this time appears here.
A number of nineteenth century artists painted representations of the Battle of Berezina. Here is one by January Suchodolski.
The railroad from Moscow to Brest was built in 1871 and a railroad station was built near Borisov on the right bank of the Berezina. The railroad provided Borisovers with a path to the ports from which the transatlantic liners departed making emigration less difficult. This is an early 20th century postcard showing the Borisov railroad station.
After the 1917 Russian Revolution there were several years of disorder and death (Russian Civil War, Soviet Polish War) during which Borisov was sometimes under the control of Soviet Russia, Germany, or Poland. After the Peace of Riga (1921), Borisov was within the Belarussian SSR and subject to the deportations and occasional murders that characterized the Stalinist regime. From 1941 to 1944 Borisov was occupied by Nazi Germany, and the Jews of Borisov were murdered as in the rest of Nazi occupied territory. After the war the Belarussian SSR regained Borisov. In 1991 during the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Belarus declared itself an independent republic.
Some Historical Sources
The 1906 Encyclopedia Judaica article on Borisov tells how many synagogues, how many Jews, and so forth, were in Borisov at that time.
The 1972 Encyclopedia Judaica article offers a bit of detail on the Nazi murders in Borisov
Note that both Encyclopedia Judaica articles list Keneset Ha-Gedolah 1, 26-32, Warsaw (1890) as a source. This refers to an article by Borisov resident Yehuda Leib (ben Israel) Lipkind in the short-lived, Hebrew-language periodical Keneset Ha-Gedolah. Israel Pickholtz has kindly donated a scan of the referenced article and also another scan of some stories about Borisov published by the same Yehuda Leib Lipkind at the end of a small book about wine HeShetiyya KaDat published in Warsaw, 1898.
Updated January 15, 2019
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Content last updated Wednesday, January 23, 2019 at 04:41 PM Mountain Standard Time