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. 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. At that time the town was only on the left bank. The area near the station was not annexed to the town until 1900.
After the 1917 Russian Revolution there were several years of disorder in which Borisov was sometimes under the control of Soviet Russia, Germany, or Poland. Eventually Borisov was within the Belarussian SSR. 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.
Borisov's big moment in secular history came 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.
Updated December 31, 2016
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Content last updated Tuesday, November 29, 2016 at 05:28 PM Mountain Daylight Time