Kiev Gubernia, Ukraine

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Local History

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.

The 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 as retrieved on Nov 16, 2004.

Also see Jewish Virtual Library

  • Last Modified: 05-23-2012

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