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Jewish Agricultural Settlements - Yekaterinoslav Government


Boris D. Brutskus, St .Petersburg 1913)

The founding of the Jewish colonies of the Yekaterlnoslav Government began with a proclamation of legislation by the Emperor Nikolai I with the purpose of encouraging Jews to engage in agricultural labor. The legislation arose initially due to the fact that in the western region the economic situation of the Jews was proving difficult and this legislation provided exemption from taxes for fifteen years and from recruitment for twenty-five years. Thus for these two reasons and also economic motivation, Jews were prepared to become farmers.


Each family was granted a farm of 40 desyatlns per plot, of which 30 desyatins was granted for the direct use of the family and 10 desyatlns was for the reserve agricultural fund, revenue from which went to the secular capital of the colony. In order to receive this grant a family had to consist of three working males. But this arrangement caused problems due to Its complexity, dissent arose, and It soon broke down. It was difficult to strictly administer these decrees which specified the dimensions of settler families.


When the decrees were Issued it had not been calculated how much agricultural supplies would be necessary for the newly arrived Jewish farmers and there was sufficient only for four desyatlns per adult male. Whereas in the area the Jews settled, in the Alexandrovsk district, government peasants received 7-9 desyatlns per registered soul and government peasants in the Mariupol district received an additional allowance for exemplary achievement. Other groups received greater allotments: Azov Cossacks 9 desyatins per soul, Greeks 12-15, Germans 60-65 desyatlns per family.


 Because of the long distance which had to be traveled from the far off western provinces, which took three to four months, the travelers received an allowance for sustenance  on the journey of 7-15 kopecks per person. Some received wagons from the Kremenchug authorities. On the other hand, certain settlers (Colony Grafskoy) accomplished the journey without such assistance. (# See Nikltin p.311).


For the organization of the settlers on their sites, the government collected a fund in the assembling Government; for each emigrant colonist 175 rubles per family. 100 rubles was destined for the building of a house, 70 rubles for initial equipment and 5 rubles for additional expenses. On arrival the colonists seldom received a ready house. They settled in the neighborhood in tents until their houses were built. They soon understood that the 100 rubles was not destined for erecting houses and the colonists came to the conclusion that this vital factor was to be achieved on their own account. Similarly the colonists were supplied with materials and workers hired by the administration for the purposes of construction. In other cases the administration delivered the materials and the colonists had to build for themselves. Finally the administration allowed the settlers houses which had been improperly constructed with incomplete doors and other equipment. The 70 rubles designated for equipment was inadequate to set up a farm. For this sum the colonists received one horse and with the balance were given a cow. But a plough had to be shared between two farmers.


The village population surrounding the sites settled by the Jews was basically homogeneous, being of similar economic and cultural levels. Around the Jewish colonies were relatively well established villages settled by recent government peasants (serfs). These had been allotted to recent landowning (free) peasants who had been admitted there in limited numbers. In the Mariupol district the Jewish colonies were located adjacent to villages of newcomers who had arrived In the late 18th century, consisting of Crimean Greeks and also German colonies of Mennonites. These neighboring German colonists had particular significance for the Jews. The non-Jewish farmers were arranged in an agricultural economy on a new foundation. This type of economy was, for the Jews, far more respectable than the natural peasant economy. In addition, the Germans operated on a technically improved basis.

The Jewish colonies of Yekaterinoslav Government were founded during the reign of Nikolai I. Six colonies were located in the Novozlatopol Prikaz (Command) in the Alexandrovsk district, and one colony Grafskoy In the Mariupol district. These were set up between 1845-1848. The remaining ten
colonies were populated In the period 1852-1855. In the neighborhood was set up Colony Zatlshye Command. There was colonized Khiebodarovka finally as late as 1860. The latest arrivals found a place in the 1870's In Colony Nadezhnaya where fifteen new families were settled, the majority being soon taken care of by the agricultural estate.


Despite the relatively similar origin of the YekaterInoslav colonies. the north-west region was the source of most colonists, the people of three colonies In the Zatlshye command originated In the Government of Kiev and those of Sladkovodnaya were from Chernigov Government. The majority of the settlers came from five Governments in the north-west (except Minsk). Individuals came to the colonies from remote parts of Vitebsk Government. The predominance of origin in the far-off north-west region Indicates how the economic conditions were decisive factors, understandably for this movement, because the Jewish population In the north-west region at that time was In great want. Also at that time certain significance must be given to the Jewish population's situation, particularly to a large extent In Vitebsk Government.

Jewish settlers on the colonies were due to occupy their farms, to possess definite plots for sowing, to maintain definite amounts of livestock, and to have the use of implements. A family which upon Inspection was found not to in its correct place in  relation to Its neighbors, was directed by law to correct the situation or was subject to expulsion from the agricultural estate and Its land was confiscated by the treasury. The settlers took a long time adapting to their new conditions and many were attracted to the rapidly developing southern Russian towns. Therefore when. In 1874 the exemption from war service was rescinded, many settlers abandoned their holdings and moved to the towns. (This phenomenon was of particular significance to many families related to the Komesaroff family. At this time the Jewish communities In the towns and villages adjacent to the colonies developed. The Zhmood family moved principally l^1 villa^ ot Andreyevka near Berdyansk, several members later settling in Berdyansk and Marlupol; Levin settled In Marlupol; Gordon and Pogorelske settled In Tsarakonstantlnovka; Yovel settled In Tokmak.)

During the 1870's a commission was set up to investigate the situation of the agricultural estates. But the commission came to the conclusion that the situation of these estates did not justify the release of the farmers. But certain families whose economic situation was found to be in such a bad state, were found to be justified In leaving. In their place landless bourgeois settled in the colonies in significant numbers. As a result, they had a claim to ownership of the estates. As their numbers became widespread and significant, their presence began to be felt in its influence on the economy.. These Arendars (tenant farmers) became a source of trouble as they infiltrated the farming estates.

All in all there were 888 families who constituted a considerable number of settlers on the colonies. In the 1870's there were excluded from the estates 318 families (36%). Relatively the largest exclusion was In the Zatishye Command, in the colony Khlebodarovka the largest numbers were excluded from the estates. In a resolution of the standing committee there were to remain on the colonies 570 families This number was decreased again when 49 families left the colonies.

In the administrative arrangement of the colonies up until 1904 they were preserved as a special department in the State Ministry of Property. Responsible for the administration of the colonies was the Trustee in the proximity of the colonies, in the town of Mariupol. He was dependent on the direction of the Agricultural and State Property, Bessarabia and Kherson Governments, in Odessa. The authority of the trustee was rather wide and defined by law. In 1905 the colonies were subordinated under the control of the general peasant institutions.

The colonies were arranged In four Prikazs (Commands). In the main Command colony resided the village officer who served the same function as the former officers. In each colony was the elected 'Shultz' - clerk and two assistants. The village officers were not elected but administratively appointed. So the self-governing colonists were allowed to be curtailed more so than the self government of the peasants.

With the necessity for more space the colonies were expanded, other than the Jewish ones. 57 German colonists were settled, Mennonites, who showed exemplary farming techniques.

The seventeen Jewish agricultural colonies In the Government of Yekaterlnoslav are to be found at the boundaries of two south-eastern districts of that Government: Alexandrovsk and Mariupol. In the former of these districts are to be found ten colonies, grouped for administrative purposes in two Commands. The Priyutnaya Command is comprised of the colonies Priyutnaya, Gorkaya, Bogodarovka and Roskoshnaya. The Novozlatopol Command is comprised of Novozlatopol, Veselaya, Krasnoselka, Trudoliubovka, Nechaevka and Mezhirech. The colonies are adjacent to the south-east border of the district, separating it from the Mariupol district. In the neighboring west part of the latter district are situated the seven remaining colonies comprised of two Commands. In one, the Grafskoy Command, are located the colonies Grafskoy, Sladkovodnaya, Nadezhnaya, and Zelenoepole. In the Zatlshye Command are Zatlshye, Khiebodarovka and Rovnopol. All the colonies constitute a rather intimate group and the entire colony region is not spread over more than sixty versts.

The situation of the colonies and the ratio to the town population and the proximity to the railway lines is of importance. The colonies of the Mariupol district are located at a distance from the appropriate district town ranging from 45 versts (Khlebodarovka) to 80 versts (Sladkovodnaya). The colonies of the Alexandrovsk district are more distant, ranging from 90 versts (Mezhirech) to 120 versts (Trudoliubovka, Nechaevka). A few are near, although not less than 70 versts, to the neighboring towns Mariupol, Berdyansk and Orekhov. The location of the colonies In relation to the railway line enables improved communications. Two Yekaterlnoslav routes pass by: 3/4 verst from Khlebodarovka (Station Khiebodarovka) and 8 versts from the other two colonies in the Zatlshye Command. Grafskoy Command is passed 22-28 versts from the same line ( Station Rozovka). Novozlatopol Command is passed by a different line with the station 18-25 versts away. More distant from the railway line is located Priyutnaya Command, 35-45 versts from the station.

Notwithstanding the distances of these colonies from the railway lines and stations, the local economic conditions provide a favorable market for the grain produce as well as the proximity to the important export centers such as Mariupol, Berdyansk and Taganrog. In addition there are available some large local markets such as Pavlovka, where steam mills operate and some trading railway stations. The flat steppe provides favorable routes for dispatching wheat and only in winter are deliveries frequently hampered. The cost of delivery of wheat from the colonies to the ports varies from 7-9 kopeks per pud.

The natural conditions of the region In which the colonies are situated Is typical of the steppe region of southern Russia, brush land and continual dampness. But the scarcity of natural water supplies means widespread range pasture is almost non-existent. Special seed suited to these conditions is required. The flat steppes, devoid of rocks, is favorable for the use of the typical village agricultural machinery for seed planting and ploughing.

In the Alexandrovsk and Mariupol districts the black earth predominates. But in the areas closer to the sea in the Alexandrovsk district the soil does not have the usual black earth characteristics and soil analysis in the colonies shows a lack of loess component types.

An Important factor for the colonies is the question of water supply. Except for Zatishye which is passed by the stream Yala, the other colonies are not supported by flowing water. Water is obtained by the cutting of Balkas (channels). Drinking water is obtained from wells but not everywhere is water available or suitable for drinking. Often water is salty and of foul taste, so much so that even the livestock is reluctant to drink it. Of all the seventeen colonies, six are not supplied with their own household drinking water. They had to receive a great deal from the neighboring villages, often at a distance of 7-8 versts. Particularly badly off are the colonies in Novozlatopol Command (except for Mezhlrech) and likewise Grafskoy. The latter colony and also Novozlatopol tried to arrange artesian wells and outlayed for this undertaking four thousand rubles. But this project was not very successful. After the inspection of several colonies, loans were received from the Jewish Colonization Association (I.C.A.) for the digging of artesian wells .

The farmhouses usually occupy the central position in the colonies such that they are no more distant from the fields than 2-3 versts. From the external view, the colonies are of attractive appearance. They consist mainly of one wide street. The farmhouses are laid out along the street with wooden or stone fences and often a sand pavement. In summer the farmhouses are drowned in vegetables in small garden plots and fruit trees. Frequently there are flowers in front of the houses.

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Research Contact: Chaim Freedman
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