The following passages from the Russian
sources have been selected for the vivid picture they provide of life on
The passages have been freely translated and where the
Russian construction was difficult, the general meaning, derived from the
context, has been précised. This free translation has been confirmed by
comparison to the Hebrew work `Jewish Agriculturalists on the Russian
Steppes' (Tel Aviv 1965) which is based largely on the same Russian
Agriculturalists 1807- 1887
N.Nikitin, St.Petersburg 1887
(Editor's Note: The first three hundred pages deal with the
historical background of Jewish agricultural colonization in Russia and
the establishment and development of the colonies in Kherson Government
from 1807 until 1846. Thereafter the Yekaterinoslav colonies are dealt
with until 1887, together with parallel developments in the Kherson
colonies. The passages quoted here refer, in the main, only to the
Yekaterinoslav colonies since there was very little contact between the
inhabitants of the two regions. Not only were they separated by a distance
of some 300 kilometers, there were basic differences in their development.
The Kherson colonies arose in response to oppressive government measures
in the early nineteenth century to expel tens of thousands of Jews from
the villages in northern Russia and divert them to agriculture. The Jews
who settled on the Kherson colonies came mainly from the Governments of
Vitebsk, Mogilev and Chernigov and there was a large proportion of
Chassidim, particularly Lubavitch. The Yekaterinoslav colonists were
mostly Misnagdim (opponents to the Chassidim) with a strong Lithuanian
background. Those from Lutzin, whilst also located in Vitebsk Government,
were of the Misnagdic element. The Yekaterinoslav settlers' decision to
leave the north was based largely on the need to save their sons from
conscription which threatened their survival as observant Jews.)
In 1846, it was reckoned that the applicants consisted of the following
numbers of Jewish families per Government: Mogilev 83, Vitebsk 175,
Courland 11, Kovno 41, and Kiev 14,altogether 324 families. A decree was
proclaimed, a categorical order, but Kisselev soon realized how difficult
it would be to find sufficient capital to cover this decree. In
consequence he excluded certain numbers who were amongst the awaiting
candidates, and there remained 285 families for whom Perov undertook to
assign 50,000 rubles.
Vronchenko was requested to release on account of future Korobka funds
(# the Jewish communal tax), in addition to the sum allocated from the
government treasury, initially 15,000rubles. But this was not to be spared
for the settlement and establishment of the Jews, such that Vronchenko
failed to satisfy Kisselev.
In order to select the Jewish families who were to be settled in the
Government of Yekaterinoslav, it was directed that certain principles be
maintained. One elementary principle was that the families had not been
located within 50 versts ( # one verst equals approximately one kilometer)
of the border (# as such they were regarded as a security risk). Nor were
there to be permitted those who had maintained inns (# considered to be a
demoralizing influence on the Russian peasants). These conditions were not
taken seriously in selecting the candidates. Whereas these principles were
stated literally, it was not always possible to discover who had been of
late an innkeeper, nor how many there were of these particular families.
Therefore the directives were dispensed with so as not to waste time.
The organizers of the settlers selected in 1846, 285 families out of
the total who desired particularly to go to Yekaterinoslav. These included
from Salant 30, from Rassein11, from Mogilev and Orsha 83, from Polotsk 1,
and from Lutzin 160, in all 285 out of the total of 324 candidate
families. From the various regions the settlers were directed specifically
to the city of Mogilev. From there the Vitebsk and Kovno Jews were due to
be directed in parties which had to appear in Mogilev no later than the
15th of May. There, clerks of the ministry collected and assessed the
ordinance supplies which were necessary for transportation from that
place, including tents which were the property of the Governments of
Vitebsk and Kovno. It was necessary to provide funds for the support of
the Jews whilst they were waiting there. The directive was to allocate 3
koppeks per soul per day, but the poor and destitute had to be given more.
Pages 302 -311:
Kisselev directed Gan to set up houses and farms along the lines of the
Kherson colonies, such that they would be ready for the 285 families by
September 1st. The assessor Kuleshovwas ordered to send off the first
party from Mogilev to Kiev and from Kiev to Yekaterinoslav.
The plan was, since it took 90-95 days to travel from Mogilev, they
would travel in summer and arrive so that houses would be ready for
winter. They were to be divided into parties of no more than fifty
families, about 500 souls, with twenty wagons for the young. In total, 120
wagons with horses were brought to Mogilev from Tsarakonstantinovka for 24
rubles 77 koppeks each and 120 horses which cost 2973rubles. In total, a
cost of 14,643 rubles.
When the first group of Vitebsk Jews was ten days out of Mogilev, there
arose the problem of transportation for 200young between the ages of 1-12
and a large number of pregnant women and elderly since they had only 44
wagons. Kisselev appealed to the ministry for help but the finance was
unavailable. (# Since the Vitebsk Jews were almost exclusively from the
town of Lutzin, the above group may have included those families related
to the Komisaruks: Zmood,Levin, Amiton, Ezeritz and Lev.)
( Editor's Note: The following appears to be a description of the
migration of the group from Rassein, eleven families, who were the first
settlers in Grafskoy. It is of particular interest as it provides a vivid
picture of the conditions suffered en-route by the Komisaruk family.)
An inspector of forests, Major-General Tagaychinov, who was on his way
from his duties in the Government of Vitebsk, came across a party which
was traveling to the Government of Yekaterinoslav (# presumably after
leaving Mogilev), comprising eleven families. Upon inspection he found
"that they were unaccustomed to continuous walking, many were feeble in
the feet. For 29 young children,3 nursing women and 3 pregnant women there
were available only 9 horses and carts which had to carry all their
belongings as well." He provided three more wagons at his own expense, as
he reported to Kisselev, to relieve their suffering. Kisselev wrote in his
report: "Perhaps the number of wagons should be reviewed on account of the
itinerant expenditure." But the resolution was not considered and there
were no consequences, such that the Jews were given to understand that
despite the decree for fair regulations to function, there was however no
spirit to modify their plight.
In 1846, it was planned to settle in Yekaterinoslav sevensections on
24,050 desyatins (# one desyatin = 2.7 acres or 10 dunams = one hectare).
But meanwhile six sections were setup consisting of 15,342 desyatins
whilst later another twelve were to be established on 22,224 desyatins. (#
The seventh colony whose establishment was delayed was Grafskoy as
In 1846 Kisselev's report covered the 285 families. In 1847 they were
divided into six colonies which at that stage bore German names: Gross-Lutzin,
Guttgedanken, Gluckstahl, Mitteldorf, Filgnode, and Kronberg. However they
were to be renamed by translating these names into Russian:
Lutzinskago,Dobromislovkoya, Blagopolyuchnoya, Sredneyu, Milostivoyu, and
Koronoyu. But Kisselev insisted on completely new Russiannames: Novi
Zlatopol, Veselaya, Krasnoselka, Mezhirech, Trudoliubovka and Nechaevka.
(Editor's Note: These colonies were known throughout their existence
to the Jews under other names. Novozlatopol, being the first colony was
called Pervernumer; Mezhirech, the fouth was Ferternumer. Others were
known by names which may indicate the identity of the original German
supervisor who was set over the Jewish farmers in the early days:
Trudoliubovka was Engels, Nechaevka was Peness, and a later colony
Zatishye wasBakhers. One `nickname' indicated the place of origin of the
settlers: Nadezhnaya was called Der Vilner. In Trudoliubovka settled the
Namakshtansky family, a member of which married the daughter of Rabbi
PINKHAS Komisaruk; in Nechaevka settled the Gordon family; in Novozlatopol
the families Zmood, Levin, Ezeritz, Amiton and Lev. Sladkovodnaya, called
after the adjacent village Kobilnye, was established between 1852 and
1855. Its settlers included the families Pogorelsky and Vinnikoffsky.)
Thus in the census of 1848 six colonies had been established and bread
had been harvested. However only 192 houses had been built on these
Page 387 :
In order to provide an inventory which will provide information on the
way of life, the following is a description of the colonies:
Page 388 :
According to the committee reports of 1848 the colonists were organized
in villages Prikazs (# commands):
a )In Yekaterinoslav there were six Prikazs with five non village
Nachalniks (# headmen). They received a grant of 1083 rubles 33۫
b) In Kherson there were 13 Prikazs with four village Nachalniks which
were granted 1110 rubles.
The Nachalniks were German colonists and were reimbursed from revenue
which was designated for the Jews' freehold land. In the colonies
according to the audit there were the following number of souls:
a) In Yekaterinoslav: Novozlatopol 717, Krasnoselka 356,Mezhirech 339,
Veselaya 299, Trudoliubovka 216, and Nechaevka 137. All together there
were 2064 souls.
b) In Kherson: Bolshoy Sdemenukha 810, Bobrovoy Kut 796,Novopoltavka
603, Inguletz 541, Romanovka 456, Lvov 430, Efengar 4)8, Bolshoy Nagartov
403, Izrailovka 360, NovoBerislave 356, Kamyanika 341, Izluchisloy 249,
Maloy Nagartov 144, Maloy Sdemenukha 121, Gagaydak 58. All together
6076souls. (# The spelling of some of the names is at variance with the
In both governments there were 8140 souls.
(Editor's Note: covers the problems of establishing houses between
1846 1849, the funds which were allocated, various reports and the system
of administration.) 10 rubles were to be paid per farm for the
erection of a stable.
Report of October 1849:
189 tents were supplied to the Jewish farmers. The committee reported:
"the residences are unreliable, in the walls there are visible cracks and
considerable damage has been taken into consideration for the coming
winter. However temporary houses were unsuitable in such a situation where
they were in danger of destruction. In 83 houses, due to the cold, the
cement had come apart from the walls both internally and externally. In
several there was no cement at all remaining in the tattered walls. In 29
houses the ovens had collapsed. In 18 the chimneys had crumbled. In 5 the
chimneys had burnt and in others there were big clefts in the ceilings and
In 1849 in the Kherson region the Minister was petitioned to allow the
establishment of twenty-four families from Kovno Government for whom a
number of tents were required. But it was necessary to borrow 170 rubles
per family for their establishment. 20,000 rubles was assigned to the
managing committee from the Odessa Korobka fund, on account of refunds
from the Kovno Government authority. The Ministry received an unfavorable
reply because, for some time, these families from the Kovno Government had
been living there for more than three years. It was proposed: "the
expenditure of establishing 24 families should be on account of funds from
(Editor's Note: After considerable dispute regarding the source of
finance, by 1850 26 houses were built on the Yekaterinoslav colonies for
those families who originated in the Kovno Government and had been
unsettled for a number of years in the Kherson region. As stated above,
their absorption probably boosted the numbers of the Grafskoy settlers who
also originated in Kovno Government.)
At the same time a group of Jewish agriculturalists in the
Yekaterinoslav Government (# 148 people) presented an address to Kisselev
in order to bring to his attention their lamentable conditions of cold,
disease, deaths of children and collapse of houses.
Page 394 :
In his report to the committee Stempel confirmed the need for reform in
order to relieve the suffering of the people who were taken ill by scurvy.
Out of 1709 people it had been reported that 354 has died. But actually
334 died in three colonies where they were housed in tents and only 20
died in the remaining three colonies. The report to the colonial
department stated that "medicine was hardly of help in the cold and wet
cottages as it might have been had they been living in dry and warm
houses. The lists and numbers of the sick and deceased from January 1st to
July 1st 1849 were published:
(Editor's Note: Reports of epidemics in 1848 and 1849 of
cholera and scurvy, cattle murrain, and unfruitful wheat. Compensation was
paid from the agricultural funds.)
(Editor's Note: Criticism was directed against the influence
of the Jewish religion , the Melamdim, the effect of time taken off work
due to the Jewish Holydays, and the restrictions on work due to the role
of the Jewish woman).
The report of Islavan in 1847 showed that on the 25 colonies there were
the following number of Kheders (# religious primary schools):
In Kherson - 69.
In Yekaterinoslav - 37.
In total - 106.
(Editor's Note: The settlers' concern for the provision of
Jewish education for their children can be gauged from the fact that 37
Kheders were established on the six Yekaterinoslav colonies in the first
year after arrival, despite the lack of proper housing, disease and the
general unsettled conditions.)
The number of synagogues and prayer houses:
Kherson - 21.
Yekaterinoslav - 3.
Rabbis and butchers received a salary from the association on a yearly
basis. In the Kherson colonies 1380 rubles 13 koppeks; in the
Yekaterinoslav colonies, one rabbi 203 rubles.(# As previously explained,
this one rabbi was RabbiShlomo Zalmen Komisaruk).
In the Yekaterinoslav colonies the butchers were paid on contract from
the association for each instance: for a fowl 2koppeks; for a small cow 15
koppeks; for a large cow 20-25 koppeks. (# This information is of interest
particularly since the first settlers included the Zmood and Pogorelsky
families who were butchers. Likewise Rabbi Pinkhas Komisaruk functioned as
Shokhet in Grafskoy.)
The number of Melamdim: Kherson - 8; Yekaterinoslav - 10. They were
paid by the parents.
Report of Rudnitsky - 1859:
With regard to the Yekaterinoslav colonies Grafskoy, Krasnoselka,
Trudoliubovka, Nechaevka, Novozlatopol, Veselaya, and Mezhirech, Rudnitsky
stated: "The general appearance was exceedingly good, the best houses were
constructed correctly from durable material, the courtyards were like town
yards and had trees. Several houses had stables. In the colony Grafskoy
the houses were of stone, but because of the great cost the Jews were not
prepared to continue building corresponding houses on the remaining
In 1859, the number of official souls on the Yekaterinoslav colonies
was 5090 men and 4433 women.
In 1860, the population stood at 5100 men and 4452 women.
In that year 197 men and 247 women were married. 37 men and 27 women
The number of German colonists on Jewish colonies was 60.
The number of orphans was 2. There were no beggars, homeless or lame
(unlike the Kherson colonies).
In the Kherson region there were 6 synagogues and 26 Batei Midrash.
In Yekaterinoslav there were 2 Batei Midrash.
In Kherson there were 13 rabbis and 13 Khazanim.
In Yekaterinoslav there was one rabbi and one Khazan to serve10,072
(Editor's Note: At this period the only rabbi on the
Yekaterinoslav colonies was Rabbi Pinkhas Komisaruk and the only Khazan
was David-Moshe Bruser. This confirms traditions held by both families
about the leadership roles of both men and the close association between
them. Their's was an immense task to serve the needs of so many thousands
of people until other rabbis arrived.)
In the Kherson colonies the rabbis Zusman, Kheyvitz and Vunder were
decorated with gold medals for useful activity. A farmer, Mark Bograd was
awarded 400 rubles for praiseworthy sacrifice in helping the Nagartov
The ministry granted 5800 rubles for construction including prayer
houses in the colonies Novozlatopol, Priyutnaya,Roskoshnaya, Bogodarovka,
Gorkaya and Dobroy (# the latter in Kherson).
In 1851, Islavan recommended the establishment of a plantation of
trees. In 1865, 2000 trees were planted in Grafskoy from which
50,000 saplings were produced.
In 1851 the number of Nakalniks was as follows:
Kherson - 13 (for 20 colonies).
Yekaterinoslav - 3 (for 17 colonies) (# an error as there were only
seven at the time).
In 1865, the population of the Yekaterinoslav colonies was 5941 men and
Page 563 :
Synagogues and Prayer Houses
Kherson government: 6 synagogues and 26 prayer houses
Yekaterinoslav: 12 prayerhouses. During the course of the year one
more prayer house was established in each government.
Rabbis and Laymen
Kherson: - 13 rabbis and 32 laymen (one layman for 641 people and one
rabbi for 1577).
Yekaterinoslav: - two rabbis and one layman (one layman for11,379 souls
and one rabbi for 5689).
Kherson: 113 qualified Melamdim and 1005 apprentices. They received their
wages from the parents on contract.
Yekaterinoslav: two qualified Melamdim and 196 apprentices under the
supervision of the local rabbi. Aside from this, the parents taught the
On the 22nd of February 1869, there was a severe storm in
Grafskoy which destroyed the communal store. Half of the steel roof was
damaged, so much so that it was decided that anew one was necessary. The
ministry was of divided opinions but the regional committee considered the
colonists to be destitute and released 200 rubles for the repair of the
roof from the revenue of the reserves of the colony's communal plot.
Further attempts were made to reduce the influence of the rabbis and
Talmudic study. It was hoped that modern rabbis trained in the Vilna
Rabbinical College would introduce a modern approach to education, but
they had little influence. Particularly deplored was the existence of a
full scale Yeshiva in the Kherson colony Romanovka. (# another Yeshiva
later functioned in the Yekaterinoslav colony Zatishye (Bakhers) as
mentioned by Yehuda-Leib (Louis) Komesaroff of Melbourne who studied there
for a brief period during his childhood).
The Klaus Report:
In 1859, wells were dug in the Kherson colonies Dobroy and Novopoltavka
at a cost of 1200 rubles. In the Yekaterinoslav colonies use was made of
good quality water which was available in nine colonies. In Grafskoy there
was one well, water from which was saturated with minerals, such that it
was only used by less well- off farmers. The other better-off farmers got
water from the German colony Marenfeld.
Novozlatopol, Trudoliubovka and Nechaevka remained altogether without
water suitable for human consumption. They obtained their water from
neighboring villages, at a distance of from 3-7 versts. In Veselaya the
water was fit only when the weather was cool since it became bitter if
left for too long in vessels. Krasnoselka had to go for water for stock to
a dam but there was not one close to the colony and every year they sought
how to find a closer place to take the stock rather than have to stay
overnight. (# See Rokhel Luban's memoirs regarding her father bringing
water to Trudoliubovka from the village of Heitsur).
In general Klaus compared the achievements of the Jews favorably with
the Germans and the Bulgarians who had the advantage of more land.
In 1868, fires damaged several colonies and funds had to be allocated
to those made destitute.
In 1868, the community association of Grafskoy paid dues for three
years. As a consequence of the failure of the crop yield and stock
disease, the settlers sank into calamity and were unable to pay their
arrears to the establishment fund of 1434 rubles. As a consequence they
sought this sum as a loan without interest from the Capital Secular Fund
for repayment over three years. The Ministry was satisfied with the
request and viewed it with favor. It was witnessed by the committee that
the situation was one of valid poverty as a result of crop failure and
stock illness. The loan arrears were paid unconditionally.
Colony Krasnoselka drew from the Peasant Fund in the years1848-1850 the
sum of 3527 rubles to establish the colony and build the houses. Also 2000
rubles were allocated for a store for that colony and likewise 2680 rubles
for Mezhirech. The same committee attested the distress of the colonists
when their synagogue (constructed in 1861) was threatened with
destruction. The cost of 1075 rubles was augmented from the Secular Fund.
Colony Nechaevka likewise requested 1000 rubles for a synagogue but
there was a scarcity of funds in the Secular Fund due to that colony of
800 rubles. Also the colony owed 2450 rubles towards the construction of
the store for both Nechaevka and Trudoliubovka and therefore the Minister
refused the grant.
The colonists had been granted 40 desyatins: 30 for personal ownership
and 10 on lease, from which funds were collected for the Secular Fund.
Between 1867 and 1872 the Alexandrovsk district collected 2871 rubles.
Pages 631- 633:
The Bartholemew Report of 1872
Each Jewish Arendar (# Lessee as distinct from the original settlers)
paid 1 ruble 50 koppeks per year per desyatin. In Zelenoepole and
Trudoliubovka where there were German colonists there were favorable
effects on the Jewish colonists who were trained in agricultural labor and
the German conditions influenced their way of life.
Far less progress in the sphere of national culture was made in the
Yekaterinoslav colonies than in the Kherson colonies. In the former there
were absolutely no Russian schools. In the Kheders, Talmudic instruction
was taught by the Melameds uncontrolled by any regulations, for instance
in Grafskoy, Nechaevka and the neighbourhood.
The terrible murrain of stock late in 1872 left perished animals heaped
close to the houses and at the rear of the yards. Not only did the
Nachalnik refrain from inspecting or exercising his authority, he was of
little consequence to the Jews who regarded him merely as a trustee.
Page 640 :
Living in the Jewish colonies
16 rabbis and 38 laymen.
Yekaterinoslav: 5 rabbis and 16 laymen -
7246 men and 6352 women, a total
The population of the Yekaterinoslav colonies (# in 1875) was (#
probably the population peak).
In 1870, loans were granted totaling 6898 rubles to cover stock losses
and store construction in the colonies Zatishye, Nadezhnaya, Khlebodarovka,
Sladkovodnaya, Grafskoy, Rovnopol and Zelenoepole.
In 1881, the question of reform of the colony administration was not
accepted by the Ministry and the proposals were abandoned without
Meanwhile southern Russia became infamous for that sad occurrence, the
Pogroms which were perpetrated in certain colonies. On May 6-8, 1881 the
colonies Trudoliubovka, Nechaevka, Grafskoy and Mezhirech were subjected
to plundering. The belongings of the colonists were carried off and the
livestock was driven away. The Jew were dismayed and sought refuge with
their families on the steppe. This was of no use and only provided
temporary shelter. By the supplication of the women to the local
authorities, the nobleman Count Pabelsky sheltered them at the manor house
Stepanovka and others at the neighboring German colonies. But in the
plundering of colony Trudoliubovka participated German colonists from
Gottland and Kaiserdorf. Marenfeld colonists firstly sheltered the Jews
and afterwards drove them out into the streets with their belongings which
thus were plundered.
In evidence given to the local headman the pogroms were claimed "to
have been precipitated by the Jews' own situation". The trustee of the
colonies Count Kovalsky cared for the crowd, gave them provisions on his
own account, and established a place for aid for the sick and the
children. By law, in order to control the distribution of government
property, the Shultzs (# clerks) purchased supplies and selected the
colonists who were given bread in that month: Nechaevka 286 people,
Trudoliubovka 383, Mezhirech 210, and Grafskoy 60. For the
re-establishment of houses funds were allocated to the following numbers:
Trudoliubovka 46, Nechaevka 31, Mezhirech 37. (# From the above figures it
would appear that Grafskoy was effected by the pogrom to a relatively
lesser extent.) 2250 rubles from insurance of houses was distributed to
colonists specified by name in the four colonies. In that year a loan of
2461 rubles was distributed for the re-establishment of the fields.