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The earliest English language reference found so far is 1765, inThe Encyclopedia of Jewish Life (EJL, p. 1207). The area  was part of the still extant Polish Empire. It had a total of 281 Jews throughout the town and nearby villages. Following the final partition of Poland (1793), it found itself  in the Russian Empire, part of the restrictive Pale of Settlement. By 1897, after more than a century inside the Pale, the Jewish population had risen to 1,126 (39 per cent of the total population of 2,886). But in the wake of the great waves of emigration and the firming of the Soviet regime, by 1927 Snitkov's Jews numbered barely more than the 1897 generation - 1,181.
Administratively, the town was in the Mogilevskoye uyezd of the Podolia Gubernia, at least in the 1880s and 1890s. This according to the cover page of the 1892 tax poll,  the 1883 Box and Candle Tax records (RAF), the  Podolia Geographic Dictionary  at JewishGen, and my  late  Snitkov-born great-uncles.
The language spoken by Snitkov's Jews was a particular Yiddish dialect, called zhargon. This a genuine dialect, and the word is not a corruption of the French-English word 'jargon'.

Economic Activity
Snitkov was small, apparently lacked any distinctive feature or activity, and was distant from major waterways and the later 19th century railroads of the Empire's belated modernization period. Yet it was a dynamic town. With over 1,100 people, the late 19th Century and early 20th Century Jewish population ran the economic and social gamuts from well-off and balehbotisheh (educated leading citizens), to the ignorant and poverty-ridden.
It benefited from its situation at the center of a spider’s web of local paths and roads linking several small villages and hamlets, all in the middle of good farming land (1942 USSR Map ).  Four shtetlech were within four miles or less  in various directions: Dolinyany (Dol’nyany), Supovka, Barok, and Krivokizhintsy (see all in ShtetSeeker). There were several water mills nearby as well. Less than five miles to the northwest was the larger town of Mikhailpol (Mikhailovtsy) and only a bit further on, though it was not Snitkov's district, the district town of Letichev (with it's tiny 'dorf' of Snitovka, nothing to do with Snitkov). To the south was the large Murovannye-Kurilovtsy, today's ''raion' center.
Possibly this modestly central location - coupled with its residents’ energy - is what facilitated a level of economic sufficiency.

Reflecting the constant traffic of Snitkov's commercial activity, the town had room for competition among some of the various service businessesThere was more than one 'traktir' -  an inn with sleeping and possibly stabling accomodations, as well as  taverns where a bed might be negotiated. For the locals there were regular taverns, bakeries, general stores, fabric/clothing shops, and more.  Some were properly shops, some conducted in homes, and others on the street or marketplace.
Snitkov's businesses were owned variously by Jews and Christians, but unlike the Christian population overall, Jewish Snitkov engaged mainly in the town's commerce and not agriculture, though there were a few Jewish families in the rural farming population. This was not an unusual circumstance.[1]  But I have not learned yet if there was a Jewish agricultural colony involved.  
One side of Snitkov was bounded by two churches and a large field or "square". This apparently  served for livestock fairs and/or town market days.

Snitkov's many Jewish middlemen took local products that the local market couldn't absorb out to the more 'distant' markets, acting as agents or sub-agents. The rural and village populations included traditional craftsmen and -women who turned out wooden items, fabric work and weavings. These were also marketed by Snitkov's traders and merchants. In town, retailers offered a variety of goods and services to the rural population, as well as the townspeople.  Not surprisingly, farmers bought from Snitkov’s shopkeepers and merchants the implements and household goods they could not manufacture themselves, while the townpeople, Jewish or Christian, bought foodstuffs, fabrics and clothing, and household items.    

It was a thriving local market economy.   

And even here in this small and conservative place, the tradition of businesses run by Jewish women as well as men kept on. Depending on the trade, a woman’s male relations might act for her.

Despite all this and the presence of a relative upper class, life in Snitkov was hard. My father's "middle-class" childhood there was before World War One, and he recalled his successful trader grandfather in terms that at first struck us as snobbish: "He stood straight, tall, not like the others. His beard was white - clean.... I don’t remember him ever carrying anything."
This turned out to be a reference to the situation of nearly all Jewish traders and workmen. Most did not own wagons or horses, but were daily "carrying the Torah" as they called it with dark humour. They bore the heavy packs of goods and farm produce on their backs, walking the miles between town and the local villages and farmers, and out to the bigger markets. (As my father was one of the last of many grandchildren, his aged grandfather may well have carried the Torah in his younger years.)

Decent Jewish-Christian Relations
As to the Christian population, the EJL reports a fair presence. There certainly were Christians, as that is what makes a 'shtetl' rather than a ghetto.  My late father’s memoir, being edited for these pages, recalls the two churches as a Greek and a Russian Orthodox. There were also several Christian businesses. Sometimes,depending on the current laws governing Jewish business restrictions (i.e., selling alcohol), a trustworthy or influential Christian might be the owner of record or the 'face' of a business. Some of the Jewish traders or shopkeepers were sponsored by Christian landlords.

In Snitkov, there was active competition between Christian and Jewish business owners for the same local customers, but nothing that spilled over beyond the commercial level, whatever the undercurrents.  The inhabitants seemed to live in what Western society has considered normal compatibility.  At least one Jewish saloon-keeper may have been an arendator, that is, a lessee-cum-rent-collector for the Christian owner. Rent collection by Jews was a common undertaking(RJUTS) , and in many communities it fed anti-Semitic sentiments. But during his childhood, neither my father nor his parents worried intensely about his wandering alone through the streets. I have so far found no records of pogroms or similar activity in Snitkov.


Rev. Oct 2005
Copyright Michelle Frager  July 2004, Oct 2005