History of Izyaslav
JewishGen Kehilalinks

Izyaslav, Ukraine

Изяслав, Yкраïна

Yiddish name - Zaslov

Blood Libel
Chmielnicki Massacres
Haidamack Massacres


     Izyaslav, Ukraine is an old town currently situated in the Khmelnitski district. It was formerly situated in south central Volhynia, a province that was a major Jewish center. Much of the history of the Izyaslav Jewish community converges with that of Volhynia, which is covered separately on this page.

     Information relating to the Jewish community of Izyaslav dates from the 16th century, at which time Jews were present in large numbers. Most of its Jewish residents fled to neighboring cities during the Cossack Chmielnicki massacres of 1648. As many as 100,000 Jews may have been killed during this uprising with destruction of 300 Jewish communities. A testament to the resilience and tenaciousness of the Jewish spirit is the fact that Jews did return to their ancestral homes in Volhynia when the massacres receded at the end of 1648. Despite these events, this region remained one of the most densely populated by Jews during the 18th and 19th centuries.

     As another massacre took root in 1708, the Haidamack movement, the Jewish community was once again destroyed as most Jews were killed. A blood libel trial occurred in 1747 when 14 Jews from a neighboring village were put to death.
These massacres can be explained in different ways. Jews were managers of estates, which employed many of the serfs, who felt abused by their Jewish overseers. Jews were also seen as allies of the serfs’ oppressors. Religious difference also played a major role, especially on occasions when the Ukrainian Church railed against the Jews.
A fascinating and riveting account of the 1747 blood libel trial, which was held in Zaslav, was translated recently for JewishGen and can be seen here in its entirety.

     The Jewish population reached 2807 in 1765 and in 1897 almost 6000 (47% of the total population) Jews lived there. In 1917 the Jewish population suffered another pogrom and their population declined. Around the end of the Polish occupation in 1920, Izyaslav was center of "Hasidism," with almost 4000 Jews and after the Russian revolution of 1917, Zionism flourished.

     Between the world wars industrialization and urbanization in the Soviet Union took its toll on the Jewish population. During this time Jews worked as artisans as well as white and blue collar jobs in state-owned companies. By 1926, 3820 Jews – one third of the population - resided there. In 1939 the Jewish population was 3208. The total population of Izyaslav in 2009 was 17,232. Only about 60 Jews live there now.

     The Holocaust decimated the Jewish community of Izyaslav. After the Luftwaffe bombed the town, “The Germans captured Izyaslav on 5 July 1941 and the German Police Battalion 45 murdered 1000 Jewish townspeople on August 24, 1941. A ghetto was created in the town’s old quarter and Jews from neighboring towns were brought there. The Germans appointed Avraham Minevich as Director of the Jewish population. Many Jews died in the ghetto due to overcrowding and starvation.”

     During 1942, around 5000 Jews were murdered. “On June 27, 1942, around 3000 Jews from Izyaslav and the county, most of them elderly, women or children, were shot dead. “ - (D)  A group of essential workers consisting of skilled workers was put into a local concentration camp and executed on January 20, 1943.” (EJ – A)

     Religious life had its ups and downs depending on political and socio-economic circumstances. This topic will be covered on a separate page.


     Volhynia is a region of NW Ukraine, where Jewish communal and public life existed for about eight centuries. It once comprised a much larger area in Eastern Europe straddling Ukraine and Poland but is much reduced since WWI. Jewish communities were in existence there probably as early as the 12th century and were brought under a centralized organization in the 17th century (E). Volhynia was a seat of Jewish learning but this came to an end during the Cossack massacres of 1648-9 (D). In the 18th century, the province was a Hasidic center (D). There were 133 Jewish townlets in Volhynia in the 19th century. This region historically had one of the biggest Jewish populations in the world, consisting in 1897 of about 394,611 Jews.  In 1921, a Soviet-Polish treaty divided Volhynia between Poland and the Soviet Union. Poland took the larger part and established a Volhynian Voivodeship. Most of eastern Volhynia became part of the Zhytomyr District. (Wikip). Most of the Jews who survived pre-war pogroms by Ukrainian and Polish nationalists and did not escape in 1941 were exterminated by the Germans, in many cases with the assistance of the Ukrainians.

     Volhynia was annexed after the Second World War into the Soviet Union as Ukraine pushed its borders westwards replacing the Polish and Jewish populations, and, since the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991, it now forms a part of western Ukraine (Wikip). Most of it now has been divided up into the districts of Zhitomir, Rovno and Volyn, in NW Ukraine (EJ 1971).

     When Volhynia was controlled by Lithuania, Jewish Communities were permitted. They were expelled by the grand duke of Lithuania in 1495 but allowed to return in 1503. Jews gained more rights during the 1500’s till the annexation of Volhynia into the territories of the Polish Crown (1569), following which there was a considerable increase in the Jewish population ((D).

     The Jews of Volhynia engaged mainly in commerce, but were also craftsmen, such as tailors and furriers. Their success depended on indulgence by political authorities and relations with local people, who often resented Jewish participation in some economic activities (B). They were even leasing inns during the 2nd half of the 16th century.

     After the annexation the Jews of Volhynia were granted rights equal to the Jews of Poland. As the 16th century ended, the noblemen began to lease out their estates to Jews. The Jewish owner during this time in effect governed the estate, including the serfs who performed the essential labor. Jews were even leasing inns, which gave them considerable administrative authority and economic influence, which embittered the peasants, the townsmen and the lower aristocracy.

     During this time (1569-1648), Jewish religious life also flourished.
The rebellion of the peasants and Cossacks in 1648 ended this Golden era of peace and prosperity. This assault on the Jews was led by a particularly evil individual, from the point of view of the Jewish population, named Bogdan Chmielnicki (Khmelnitski) (1595-1657). Ironicially Izyaslav is now located within Khmelnitski district. Chmielnicki was branded by Jewish historians as “Chmiel the Wicked.” The
Chmielnicki Massacres are described above. Jewish misfortune and persecution occurred recurrently during the following events: a rebellion of the Cossacks in 1702, the Great Northern War between Sweden, Poland and Russia; continued extortion by the Russian and Polish armies; repeated attacks by the Haidamacks beginning in 1768; and blood libels in various towns.

     Jews fled Volhynia en mass. Those who remained were killed or converted and had their property confiscated. Jewish life never completely recovered in this province, which was transformed into a border area of the kingdom (B). In the 1660’s and 1670’s Jewish settlement of Volhynia began to recover. 20,000 Jews were living there in 1670, and in 1765 51,736 were counted, and this was probably an underestimation of the total number. The Jews did well after 1660 mainly in small towns, where they leased estates, traded with farmers, and practices various crafts. Again their success, especially in urban areas, alienated and provoked many townspeople.

     After the Haidamacks revolts, Volhynia declined in importance and various Jewish communities found themselves at odds with one another, mostly relating to fair contributions toward the expenses of the regional community.
In the early 1800’s Haskalah was created in Volhynia. the Jewish Enlightenment, was a movement among European Jews in the 18th–19th centuries that advocated adopting enlightenment values, pressing for better integration into European society, and increasing education in secular studies, Hebrew language, and Jewish history (Wiki). This presaged the first Jewish political movements and striving for Jewish emancipation.

     The emancipation of the peasants in 1861 and the Polish rebellion of 1863 led to the decline of the estates of the Polish nobility. This prompted the Jews to develop industry and pursue crafts. In 1897 there were 395,782 Jews living in Volhynia, 13.2% of the total population. Jews constituted ½ the population of the population of the towns; 40% earned their livelihood from commerce.

     In the second half of the 18th century and early in the 19th, a number of Hebrew presses came into existence in the Ukrainian territories. Volhynia was in fact becoming an important Hasidic center. Multiple Hebrew presses were established throughout this territory. A gallery devoted to Hebrew printing in Ukraine may be found at George Washington University.

     The Jews of Volhynia did not suffer directly by pogroms in Russia during the 1880’s and in 1905-06 (B). However, they did suffer from WWI disasters and in 1915 Russian soldiers committed pogroms in Volhynia and other regions and enforced expulsion of the Jews due to the believe of Jewish disloyalty to Russia. In 1917 Jews fleeing from the front murdered and robbed Jews in various part of Volhynia. These pogroms reached a peak following the Bolshevik revolution in 1918 and many pogroms were initiated against the Jews. In the 1926 census 65,589 Jews were counted in Russian Volhynia, while some 300,000 Jews lived in Polish Volhynia during the 1930’s. Despite anti-semitism, Jewish life in Polish Volhynia prospered (B).

     The situation in Russian Volhynia stands in contrast. While Judaism saw some advance in the 1920s, the ‘30s saw decline and apathy as Jews emigrated to the larger towns. After Poland was divided in September 1939, the whole of Volhynia was annexed by the Soviet Union and a policy of liquidation of Jewish Parties, organizations and institutions was pursued until the German attack on the soviet Union June 1941 (B).

Here is some more information regarding Volhynia sent me by Dan Kazez:

     My Hammond Historical Maps show that Volhynia was part of Rus (Русь)  in 1000 AD. At that time, Galicia was also held by Russia and was south of Volhynia. Galicia was in Poland by 1559, and it looks like Volhynia was split between Poland and Lithuania. By 1848, Poland held all of Lithuania, including Volhynia. Part of what we call the Pale of Settlement was taken from Poland by Russia in 1677. In 1772, the partition of Poland began. Austria took Galicia at that time. Russia took additional parts of what we now call White Russia (Belarus). In 1793, Russia took additional land from Poland, including Podolia, eastern Volhynia, Minsk, and other parts of Belarus. In 1795, the remainder of Poland was partitioned between Russia, Austria, and Prussia. At that time, Russia took Grodno, the remainder of Volhynia, Vilna, Courland, etc. So, Galicia went from Polish to Austrian control. Volhynia went from Polish to Russian control and became part of the Pale of Settlement. Volhynia was never part of Galicia, it was adjacent to Galicia. In 1880-1890, Volhynia was in the Russian Empire. I can't tell for certain from my maps, but it was probably considered as part of Ukrainia at that time.

     My old Columbia-Lippincott Gazetteer's entry for Volyn says that this oblast
was formed in 1939 out of parts of Polan's Wolyn and Polesies provinces after
the Soviets moved in to occupy those areas. It was held by the Nazis during
WW II and ceded to the USSR in 1945.

     In 1946 the area had a population 1,100,000, no doubt virtually Judenrein.
For a description of the area's geographical features (soils, marshes, etc.,)
and its industries, a "Google" search would probably turn up a lot of
information. If one narrow downs the search by using the terms "Volyn and
Jews" and "Wolyn and Jews" and "Volhynia and Jews" more relevant facts will
turn up


     In 2001 the Jewish population of Ukraine was 103,600 – 0.2% of the population of 48,457,000. Historically Jews had been engaged in small scale manufacturing, the sugar beet industry, producing and selling alcoholic beverage, crafts, commerce and management of estates (Weiner). Most Jews currently in Ukraine are white collar workers, engineers, technologists, academicians and middle-class businesspeople. Since the end of the Soviet era many Jewish institutions have sprung up, including schools and Yeshivas. State anti-semitism has been eliminated but anti-semitic organizations still exist. Since WWII Ukrainian Jewry has declined in numbers, due to emigration, aging, intermarriage and a high mortality rate. The Encyclopedia of the Jewish Diaspora, volume 3, 2009, gives a good account of current Ukrainian Jewry.

     Ukrainian Jews saw different masters depending on political events and successively lived under Polish-Lithuanian, Austro-Hungarian, Russian, Polish or Soviet domination. Jews did not tend to identify themselves as Ukrainians, rather consider themselves from Volhynia, Galicia or even Russia. My grandfather, who emigrated from Izyaslav, Russia, identified his home or origin in the 1920 census as “Volink” or Volhynia. Jews tended not to use the Ukrainian indigenous language, considering it as a peasant language, and in fact did not identify themselves much with the peasantry, which results in alienation and disaffection from the peasant class. “A little over a century ago, Jews commonly referred to their own language not as Yiddish but as zhargon (jargon).” (Weiner).

Chmielnicki Massacres

     Bogdan Chmielnicki (Khmelnitski) (1595-1657), led Cossacks, Crimean Tartars and peasants against Polish rule in the Ukraine in 1648, results in the destruction of hundreds of Jewish communities and thousands of Jews. It resulted in the expulsion of the Poles and the incorporation of Ukraine (lands located eastward from the river Dnieper) into the Tsardom of Russia (1667) (Wiki).
Chmielnicki is branded as “Chmiel the Wicked” and perpetrator of the holocaust of Polish Jewry during this era. Jews were seen as agents of the Polish nobility and this incurred the hatred of the Ukrainian serfs, although there is no clear cut historical evidence Jews abused their position or the serfs under their control.
Most of the massacres took place between May and November 1648. The killings occurred initially east of the Dnieper River but in the summer spread to its West. By the middle of June there were no more Jews in the villages and open cities (Wiki). Up to 100,000 Jews were massacred, 300 communities destroyed, and countless refugees created. A new wave of massacres occurred in 1654, perpetrated by the Cossacks allied with the Muscovites and these were as destructive as the earlier ones.

     The Jewish settlement in Ukraine west of the Dnieper was continued (EJ). The Polish King issued declaration protecting religious expression, and occupational livelihoods and forced converts were allowed redemption. Despite his viciousness and cruelty, Ukrainians still see Chmielnicki as a symbol of the awakening of the Ukrainian people, and Russians revere him as someone who reunited Ukraine with the Russian homeland. (EJ). A statue of Chmielnicki still stands in in a main square in Kiev, Ukraine, representing “Ukrainian national pride and the struggle for independence.” (Weiner)

     The story of this uprising is told in great detail in the Encyclopeida Judaica (2007).

Haidamack movement

     The Haidamacks (haida means ‘move on’ in Turkish) were paramilitary bands that robbed and killed Jews and other Ukrainian citizens during the 18th century. They were mainly peasant serfs, joined by poorer townspeople, ‘sons of the impoverished nobility and clergy, members of heretical sects who had fled from Russia and even Jewish renegades.’ ( Encyclopeida Judaica). Their attacks helped erode the power of the Polish kingdom.

     Their raids began in earnest in 1734 but in 1768 the most violent attacks took place. This movement was encouraged in part by the aim of the Ukrainian insurgency to expel or destroy the Jews, and by the writings of the monks, the chroniclers of the day, who glorify murder of the Jews and confiscation of their property. (EJ). The Jews, who had little support amongst the Ukrainians, were a convenient target, against the Jews who were helpless against the marauding brigands. An increased number of blood libels against the Jews during this time, stoked in part by rivalry between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches contributed to the Haidamack excesses. (EJ). The Encyclopedia Judaica gives a detailed account of various massacres and the towns in each they occurred.

Notable massacres in Volhynia by date

Jewish Population of Izyaslav

5998 – 1897, 3208 - 1939

Population of Izyaslav (Wiki)

 Jewish Population of Volhynia at various eras.
       1670’s – 20,000
       1765- 51,736
       1897- 395,782

Jewish Population of Ukraine at various eras.

End of 16th century – 45,000
 1648 – 150,000 – 300,000 (many evaded the census due to the 1648 massacres)
1764 – 258,000
1847 – 600,000 – 900,000 (many evaded the census)
1897 – Census records 1,870,000 Jews living in the Ukraine or 9% of population of Ukraine.
1926 – 1,574,391 – (excluding Volhynia, Eastern Galicia & Bukovina)
1939 – 1,532,827
1941 - Early– 2,400,000 – (excluding Transcarpathian Ukraine and the Crimea)
1959 – 840,000 Jews in Ukraine, or 2% of the population.
1970 – 777,000 Jews
1989 – 486,000 Jews (massive emigration begins here)
2001 census – 103,600 – 0.2% of the general population of 48,457,000

If you have any questions regarding this site, or have some information or suggestions, please contact Barry Sieger. Or if you have any original vital records from Izyaslav in Russian - birth, death or marriage certificates - please let me know or send me an example of each, so we can post some of them as examples on this web site. We would like to include family trees of Izyaslav descendants, photos and stories from visits there, or tips regarding searching for related genealogical information.

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Updated April 24, 2013

Copyright © 2013 Barry Sieger


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