by Deborah G. Glassman copyright 2005
Boguslav, also called Boslov by its Jewish community, began its existence
as a Lithuanian city in the twelfth century, passed to Polish control
by the end of the fifteenth century, and the Jews were already present
there from at least the early 1600s. A large and substantial synagogue
was part of the city's notable architecture from the 16th century period
of Jewish settlement.
Jews were active in all spheres of town business
during the Polish period, and though the town tried to restrict them
from certain activities, they were not successful in the face of the
opposition of the local nobleman who owned the city outright. Although
Russians and Poles note that in both the Polish-Muscovy wars and the
Khmilnitsky Massacres, Boguslav took heavy losses, no Jew wrote of the
community's losses here, so it is not recorded in Jewish sources.
eighteenth century saw the ambitions of Russia's Empress Catherine the
Great played out in Boguslav's front yard with the Haidamaks being incited
to attack vulnerable Jewish and Polish settlements throughout the Ukraine.
The city was not defensible, and the Jewish population fled to safer
havens in 1768. Their homes were destroyed, and their movable property
largely vanished. The 1765 tax receipts had recorded a flourishing community
of 574 head of households able to pay the poll-tax, but just three years
later in the wake of the 1768 Moscow-supported attacks, only 251 remained.
Boguslav remained a Polish city until the last of Poland was divided
by its neighbors when they found themselves Russian subjects. According
to the Jewish Encyclopedia, a Jewish printing press was established in
the year 1809 in Boguslav, but according to the Wiesenthal Center's Museum
of Tolerance Online, "The
Hebrew printing press was established there in 1820 - 21. ... Jewish-owned
enterprises included textile and tanning factories, and that Jews engaged
in handicrafts and dealt in grain and fruit. The Jewish population numbered
5,294 in 1847 and 7,445 in 1897 (65% of the total)." *
The Jewish Encylopedia,
printed in the early twentieth century says "The town has a population
of about 12,000, of which 10,000 are Jews." In support of its statement
of the dating of the Jewish printing office is its assertion that the
first work published on that press was "Besamim Rosh," by Joseph Katz.
The Wiesenthal page goes on to say that the town's Jews caught the brunt
of the attacks by both armies and a peasantry incited to pogrom in the
Civil War that followed World War I.
Denikin's forces, which were known
for their vicious attacks on Jewish populations, was able to attack
and kill forty of the most vulnerable members of the Jewish community,
before a Jewish self-defence force organized the Jewish population. They
wer so successful at this that Boguslav became a place
of refuge for smaller Jewish communities throughout the Kiev area. The
self-defense force continued in existence until the Soviets outlawed
it several years later in 1923.
Half of the pre-war (WWII) population
was Jewish, around 6,500 of around 12,000. During WWII, many of the
Jewish young men were serving in the Soviet Army so were saved from
the devastation of their community. However, the old, the ill, and
those who were not allowed to flee to the interior, were in the jaws
of the Nazi killing machine in 1941.
* The Wiesenthal information was found on a search of cached Google
pages http://motlc.wiesenthal.com/text/x03/xr0392.html as retrieved on
Nov 16, 2004.
Jewish Virtual Library