(No. 13/2004 - March 2004)
Editor: Fran Bock

In real estate, as the saying goes, location is everything. In Belorussia in the early decades of the 20th century, a location on the border was highly problematic, as Dr. Leonid Smilovitsky shows in his study of the shtetl of Turov.

This article originally appeared in Jews in Russian and Eastern Europe, Summer 2003, 1 (50), p. 109-137.

The Belarus SIG is grateful for the permission granted by Arkadi Zeltser, co-editor of Jews in Russia and Eastern Europe to republish Dr. Smilovitsky's article on the Belarus SIG Online Newsletter.

We also thank Dr. Smilovitsky for his scholarly contributions to our knowledge about the Jews in Belarus and for his permission to republish the article here.

This article is copyrighted by Jews in Russia and Eastern Europe, its publishers and Dr. Leonid Smilovitsky.

Reprinting or copying of this article is not allowed
without prior permission from the copyrightholders


A Belorussian Border Shtetl in the 1920s and 1930s:

The Case of Turov

by Leonid Smilovitsky, Ph.D.,

Diaspora Research Center, Lester & Sally Entin Faculty of Humanities,

Tel Aviv University


The Jewish community in Turov was founded in the 16thcentury. In 1897 it had 2,252 members, which was 52.3% of Turov's population. The Jews of the town were engaged in trade and crafts (1). Geographically, Turov was located far from the main roads and the closest railway station was in the town of Zhitkovichi, 25 km. away.

Historically Turov was divided into a central, Jewish part and Belorussian environs. This de facto division of the shtetl between "Jewish" and "non-Jewish" sections was maintained until 1923, when the former had 2,207 Jewish residents and 46 Belorussian ones (2).

During the period of World War I, the Revolution, and civil war, the Jews of this shtetl suffered a number of times from a change of regime. One ruler was rapidly followed by another: the Germans, the Bolsheviks, the Germans again, then the Bolsheviks returned, the Poles, then Bulak-Balakhovich and his forces. Often the change of regime was accompanied by requisitions and pogroms. Dozens were killed, more than one hundred women were raped and Jewish property was looted. In this border shtetl the threat of pogroms lasted until 1922 (3).

Until the outbreak of World War II, this border location had serious results for the population of Turov. There were restrictions on the entry of outsiders, people were not allowed to move about the region after dark, and there was inspection of goods brought into the shtetl. Thus, an atmosphere of suspicion was created and the population, especially the youth and even children, took part in identifying suspicious people. Such things hampered the economic development of the shtetl, particularly in regard to the importing of goods and the organization of commerce. On the other hand, the population was much better supplied with necessities than people living in the central part of Belorussia. This facilitated the preservation of the tradition shtetl way of life.

In the quarter century from 1897 to 1923 the Jewish population of Turov decreased slightly while the proportion of Jews out of the total population dropped considerably - from 52.3 to 35% (Table 1). Between 1923 and 1939 both the absolute number and the proportion of Jews continued to drop, partly as a result of emigration. A majority of the residents who left Turov between 1928 and 1931 (154 out of 217 or 81.3%) were Jews (4).. A similar trend held for other shtetlekh in the Mozyr okrug, e.g. Narovlia - 82.5%, Korma - 85.7%, and Poddobrianka - 100% (ibid.) Migration was mainly to Leningrad and Moscow, and secondarily to Kharkov, Kiev, and cities in Belorussia. Moving required giving up a traditional way of life, leaving property behind, and considerable effort to become settled in a new home. The Jews tended to be the most mobile stratum of the population, the one best able to give up old ways and adapt to new life.

Year No. of Jews % of Total Pop.
1897 2252 52.3


1926 2171 40.3
1931 1788 35.3
1939 1528 18.0

Table 1: The Jewish Population in Turov, 1897 - 1939

Sources: Ch. Shmeruk, Hakibutz hayehudi vehityashvut hahaqlait hayehudit bebelorusia hasovyetit (The Jewish Community and Jewish Agricultural Settlement in Soviet Belorussia, 1918-1932) (Jerusalem, 1961), p. 57; M. Altshuler, Distribution of the Jewish Population of the USSR, 1939 (Jerusalem, 1993), p. 41.

1. Profile of the Shtetl

The extremely difficult economic situation of the residents of Turov somewhat improved after the consolidation of the regime and the introduction of the NEP in 1921.

In Turov a steam-powered mill was constructed and there was an increase in the number of commodity stores and meat shops. Fairs were held twice a year, with an annual turnover of tens of thousands of rubles. The shtetl had crafts workshops with machinery for processing wool, tanning leather, hulling grain, producing wax and cheese, and processing other agricultural items (5). In terms of industrial enterprises, there was a sawmill, some small brick factories, a flour mill complex and a fulling mill (6).

Alongside private commercial enterprises there were nine cooperative commercial enterprises and one commercial-industrial one. By 1925 cooperative associations accounted for 50% of the consumption of the region's market. Prices were 25-35% lower for cooperatively manufactured goods and cooperatively provided services and those for other goods 5-10% lower than for private ones. Individual merchants bought manufactured goods and groceries at large markets outside the town. Supplies of food products and raw materials came from weekly markets and were brought by farmers from nearby locations (7).

A significant segment of the shtetl's population was comprised of destitute craftsmen who could not afford to pay the taxes levied on them. Retailers also suffered from heavy taxation. The situation was so difficult that in 1925 a commission that studied the economic state of Turov raion recommended that credit be extended to small shop owners. The authorities tried to encourage Jews to join coops (artels) with promises of giving them priority in receiving raw material and other commodities. According to official statistics, in 1925 ten shtetlekh in Mozyr okrug (including Turov) had 16 coops, which had an overwhelming majority of Jewish members (852 of 873). In Turov, itself, 105 craftsmen belonged to craftsmen's associations (8). These coops had savings and loan and mutual aid programs. The official statistics regarding coops did not always correspond to reality. Often, craftsmen who had family or friendship links would express to the authorities a desire to form a coop, choose a chairman, and approve a charter but, as soon as they received the credit or discount on raw material they sought, they would divide the "spoil" among themselves and continue to work on an individual basis.

In 1927, 112 Jews were working in Turov cooperatives. The largest were those of the shoe-makers (32 members), tailors (26), sock makers (21), sheepskin workers (13), orchard and garden workers (12), and smiths (8).

In order to improve the economic situation of local residents, in the second half of the 1920s, the Council of People's Commissars of the BSSR undertook a recovery program for the shtetl. It aimed at promoting handicrafts, developing local industry, increasing the number of coops, and helping people retrain in agriculture. For the latter purpose, plans were made to make land more arable, to resettle people outside the Republic, etc. (9). Within the framework of such programs, in March-April 1927 the Mozyr okrug Congress of Soviets and then, in May 1929, the 9th All-Belorussian Congress of Soviets (10) decided to raise the status of small-scale producers, broaden the coop network, and create additional jobs for young people and women. Efforts were also made to attract craftsmen to work in factories and in newly established orchard-garden, and fowl-raising associations, and farms to raise livestock, domestic fowl, and rabbits. During this period some of the cooperatives became "international" (i.e. multi-ethnic), although the majority of their members continued to be Jewish (11).

In 1930, under the auspices of the Republic's Gosplan (state planning agency), a commission was established to set the basic goals for economic development of small towns. With this purpose in March-April 1931 the Central Executive Committee of the BSSR, together with the Jewish sector of the Republic's Academy of Sciences, carried out a study of Gomel and Mozyr okrugs. (Turov was selected as an example of a border town). On the basis of this study the government of the Republic decided to integrate such towns into the general economic structure of Belorussia by the end of the second Five Year Plan (1937) (12).

Some of the problems of the shtetl's Jews involved those who worked in agriculture. The unfavorable soil of the southern part of the Turov region, the swamps and flooding of the Pripiat' Rivers, the lack of contiguous farming land and of decent roads - all led to low productivity of the land and to the overpopulation of the northern part of the region (13).

Jewish agriculture in the Turov region took several forms: in areas around the shtetl there were separate Jewish colonies or villages, and single or collective farms. However, it should be stressed that agriculture was a marginal occupation for Jews. In 1925 only 2,942 Jews were engaged in agriculture in the region, and only eleven in Turov itself (14).

The rural Jews were closely tied to Turov in terms of economy and culture. They participated in Turov' s markets and fairs, provided it with raw materials, and ordered agricultural tools from it.

By the mid 1920s agriculture was viewed as one of the main means of solving the problem of overpopulation of the shtetl. As a result Belkomzet (the Belorussian branch of the Committee to Settle Jews on the Land) was established in 1924 (15). The Mozyr okrug was the main location in the Republic for agricultural resettlement. In April 1925 1,339 desiatinas of land (16) were allocated to 513 families (2,567 people) from 14 settlements in the okrug (including Turov). However, the majority of Jews who agreed to undertake work in agriculture did so under duress. A closed Party meeting in Turov in September 1926 noted that the Jews were not greatly attracted to work on the land. Although 100 desiatinas were offered in the Turov region, few Jews were ready to take up this offer (17). A fourth of the 60 Jewish families in Turov who expressed willingness to begin working in agriculture changed their minds (18). Furthermore, there was not much suitable land: most locations required the draining of swamps and thinning of forests. Part of the plots assigned to Jews had previously belonging to unprofitable, failed cooperatives. These lands were exhausted, the orchards were neglected, and there was insufficient livestock. In addition, the former shop-assistants, carters, craftsmen, and petty merchants who had left the shtetl lacked the requisite experience of working the land (19). The material and technical potential of the new farms was low and they could be maintained only with government subsidies (20).

Due to the lack of arable land, the introduction of Jews to farming caused dissatisfaction among the general population. These farmers were heard expressing sentiments such as the following:

The Jews are getting the best land while we are being settled on lousy land. They are also given money and we are given nothing . The Jews are settled in a warm climate, the Crimea, and are given 150 rubles aid while we are chased to Siberia and, besides, they want us to bring with us several hundred rubles in cash.

While only few Jews from Turov were occupied in agriculture, many raised domestic animals for clothing, meat and milk. In these supplementary economies Turov Jews had 260 head of cattle and 971 sheep (21). However, the lack of nearby pasturage at times lead to tension between Jews and non-Jews. In the spring of 1926 Beloru ssian farmers categorically refused to allow livestock from the shtetl into their pastures, demanding that the Jews pay 10-15 rubles for each cow for the summer. This led to serious conflict. The secretary of the Turov Party raion committee, one Kripets, informed the secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Belorussia, Alexander Krinitskii, that there was a danger of a real pogrom since some "dark elements had begun to win over the mob" after they had gained the sympathy of the farmers (22).

In order to defuse the situation, Turov's shtetl (mestechkovyi) soviet proposed a compromise. However, the non-Jews did not accept this and the matter was handed over to a judicial committee for land matters. The Turov raion executive committee yielded to the pressure of the Belorussian farmers, deciding that since the Belorussians lived exclusively from agriculture, priority should be given to their needs. Thus, the shtetl Jews were denied the right to pasture their animals together with the Belorussians on common grounds. However, the former were allowed to send there a maximum of 70 cows belonging to poor Jews of the shtetl, including the poorest craftsmen. The rest of the Jews' livestock would have to feed in the woods across the Pripiat' River or be kept in sheds (23).

Jewish farming coops in Belorussia specialized mainly in the areas of milk production and gardening, with which they were familiar (24). Jews joined collective farms at an increased rate starting in the fall and winter of 1930, when a policy was adopted (25) to force collectivization among the republic's ethnic minorities and to diversify the ethnic compositions of the kolkhozes (26). On the small kolkhoz Novaia zhizn' (established in Turov in October 1929) several Jews worked alongside the Belorussians (27).

Forced collectivization led to an antagonistic reaction: people could be heard uttering such antisemitic remarks as "Why don' t the workers, Jews, and employees join the kolkhozes?" (28)

The repressive Soviet policy of the 1930s affected Turov more than it did towns far from the border, i.e. proportionally it found more victims there. Any manifestation of dissatisfaction among the population entailed the danger of a person's being charged with counter-revolutionary, anti-Soviet, nationalistic activity or with sabotage. In 1935 the Party leadership of Turov raion announced that they had uncovered distorters of Communist values, opportunists, and careerists, who had been "hiding" in the town. Past or present activity or statements, social origin, or real or fictitious allegiance to the "opposition," etc. served as the basis for accusations. A certain Fridman, secretary of the Party organization of several small local factories, was accused of having participated in a "nationalist" organization, the " Jewish Communist Youth League" (Evkomol)(29) and for having been expelled from the Party in 1927 for "Trotskyite remarks." The head of the internal passport office Shnaidman was accused of concealing information about his father, who had been a "rich" (zazhitochny arendator) of gardens in Turov, while a certain Kvechman was accused of failure to note that his father was a lishenets (someone deprived of voting rights). Maler was found to be unfit to be the secretary of the Party organization at a school because his father had been a "well-off" merchant. Shusterman, a former Evkomol activist, Laikhtman, the secretary of the Komsomol organization of a consumer coop whose father had been arrested, Gutmanovich - the son of a former owner of a large footwear workshop, and some others were declared unnecessary "ballast" to be jettisoned from their posts (30).

A lack of vigilance, insufficient care for public property, etc., were also grounds for being fired. The blacksmith Lakhman was punished for believing that Trotsky was "a very good man" who desired the welfare of the works but was expelled from the Party and exiled from the USSR as a Jew since "here" Jews are not liked (31). This view of such Jews of Turov that they were not liked had a basis in reality. In March 1935 the local Party raion committee noted cases of grassroots antisemitism (32).

Repression also affected religious Jews. Shaia Golin, a bookkeeper at a Turov brick factory was arrested on August 24, 1937. A search of his home turned up a prayer book, tallis and a pair of tefillin. This was enough for a special session of the NKVD to sentence him the following October to seven years imprisonment, including exile in Khabarovsk krai (33). By late 1938 the local wave of repressions from which dozens of Jewish families suffered declined. Some of the families had to leave the shtetl, (34) while others, who had lost their jobs, had to survive on whatever part-time work they could find. Children of those found guilty were branded members of the family of a traitor to the country and became pariahs in regard to public life (35).

The invasion of German forces into Polish territory on September 1, 1939 directly impacted on the life of the population of Turov. After the Red Army occupied Western Belorussia, approximately 7,000 people marched with red banners to demonstrate their support for "the liberators." (36) However, in private conversation, some residents of Turov expressed the view that the new situation could lead to war between Germany and the USSR (37).

At the same time, the removal of the country's border hundreds of kilometers west of Turov radically changed the situation in the shtetl: the border regulations were rescinded, which in many ways improved the life of the people. Members of the Communist Party and government employees began to be sent away to nearby David-Gorodok and other locations in western Belorussia to sovietize these regions (38).

2. Social Stratification and the Legal Status of Jews in the 1920s

In social terms the Jewish population that remained in Turov in the 1920s can be divided into four main groups:

a- Craftsmen -the largest group. According to official statistics, 156 (or 36%) of the 435 Jewish households were classified as those of craftsmen. Among them forty two were those of shoemakers, thirty four - tailors, sixteen - carpenters and table makers and thirteen - smiths. Fourteen were involved in transporting goods or people by wagon. (In addition there were nine owners of leather shops and two of wool-worker shops; these two were sometimes also included among the craftsmen (39).

The majority of craftsmen were employed in seasonal work. Some of them hired additional help, totally ca. 50 employees (mostly smiths). The government divided craftsmen into classifications according to their earnings: the poor who earned 20-25 rubles/month comprised 50% of this group; the middle ones who earned from 25-50 rubles (35%), and the well-off, whose monthly earnings came to around 100 rubles (15%) (40).

The main obstacles to developing handicraft industry were taxes, the lack of working capital, and the shortage of raw materials. In 1925, on the average, a craftsman paid taxes of 15 and 1/2 rubles per month (8 rubles for a license and 7 and 1/2 for income taxes. The majority of craftsmen lacked capital; most of the more qualified craftsmen, who did not have enough capital, were unable to cope with the competition and stay in the market. Those who did have capital were in a much better position. For one thing, they were better provided with raw materials, of which there was a great shortage in the 1920s (41).

b- Merchants - Jews comprised the preponderant majority of merchants, both in the raion (42) and in the shtetl. According to the authorities, in Turov 93 Jewish households (21% of the total) were those of merchants. They were divided into shopkeepers and peddlers (petty merchants who peddled their wares and retailers). The shopkeepers (33 families) owned 26 shops; 25% of them were considered poor, 40% financially stable, and 35% well off. Sixty households were classified as those of peddlers, among whom the majority (60%) were poor, 30% financially stable, and only 10% well off (43).

That the majority of Turov's merchants were poor is clear from the inventory of the goods in their shops (44) and from their tax assessments, which were lower than those of craftsmen. On the average merchants paid 32 rubles tax semi-annually (45). Merchants who worked privately faced competition from both the state and cooperative sectors. They were able to stay in business by flexibility in business practices and the quality of service to their clients. They provided customers with credit and utilized long-term acquaintance with customers. Often petty merchants would be supported in hard times by farmers with whom they had long-time associations. However, gradually, private business lost its position and yielded to cooperative and state enterprise.

c- Workers and Employees - This was the socially most privileged category of the Jewish population in the shtetl, comprising 86 households or 20% of the Jewish population. Some occupied high administrative and economic posts (46). In Turov 175 Jews belonged to inter-branch trade unions (47). Materially workers and employees were better supplied than the majority of craftsmen that were not coop members. The average monthly salaries of workers and employees was 35 rubles. Their work day was set at 8 hours, in contrast to the way craftsmen worked for all the daylight hours. Employees were also except from some taxes (48).

d- No defined occupation - Twenty three percent or 100 of the Jewish households in Turov were headed by people with no defined occupation. This included those who did not indicate official employment, incomplete families with one breadwinner, families headed by a invalid or widow, and the impoverished. Many in this category were dependent on their children or on relatives who sent aid from America (49).

This stratification of the Jewish population of Turov (as that of Jews throughout the country) radically changed at the beginning of the 1930s when town residents were formally divided into workers, employees, craftsmen, and collective farmers.

Soviet legislation of the 1920s divided Soviet citizens, including the Jewish population of Turov, into those who had the right to vote and those deprived of it (the lishentsy). The lishentsy were not only ostracized from political life. Members of their families were rejected for government service, nor could they receive loans or credit. Furthermore, access to middle specialized and higher educational institutions was blocked, as well as employment in the military, police forces, etc. In 1924 the Jewish part of the shtetl had 258 lishentsy (26.8% of the total population of voting age [over 18]) (50). This was attributable to the high percentage of Jewish entrepreneurs, merchants and middlemen, well-off craftsmen, and clergy . The distribution of Jewish lishentsy in Turov according to type of work in 1927/1928 is presented in Table 2.

Employment Total No. Percentage



Privately Employed











Table 2: Distribution of Jewish Lishentsy in Turov, 1927-28

Source: Compiled from statistics in NARB, f . 6, op. 1, d. 2564, pp. 147-148)

The majority of Jewish lishentsy in Turov were, in descending order: 1) merchants; 2) the privately employed, those who had refused to join coops or who engaged in private enterprise (leasees of gardens, stables, bakeries, small scale butchers); 3) entrepreneurs who had their own businesses (owners of windmills, wood processing shops, owners of inns); and, 4) members of the clergy (this included rabbis and ritual slaughterers). Overall, in Turov lishentsy comprised over one quarter of the Jewish population. On the basis of this high proportion of lishentsy, the Central Bureau of the Jewish section (Evsektsiia} of the Communist Party concluded that the lishentsy in Belorussia poses a serious obstacle to the achievement of government goals and warranted attention and dedicated efforts to deal with this phenomenon (51).

In the early 1930s there were few lishentsy in the shtetlekh; and within several years legislation was passed to abrogate this institution altogether. As a result the whole population had the right to vote for the soviets and, at least formally, social origin was not considered a barrier to socio-economic advancement.

3. Nationality and Cultural Policy

Cultural, as well as economic, services to the shtetl were provided via the local government council or soviet. In 1924 Turov was administered by three soviets - one Jewish, one mixed (Jewish-Belorussian), and one Belorussian. "National" or ethnic soviets, like Turov's Jewish one, were supposed to provide full development for its ethnic minority alongside that of the titular (majority) ethnic group of the republic (52)

Initially the town soviet in Turov was a purely ethnic institution. Only Jews took part in electing it, while non-Jews were affiliated with the other, rural soviet. By early 1926 the Jewish town soviet served 460 households, with 2,246 people (53).Its work and correspondence were carried out in three languages - Yiddish, Belorussian, and Russian (54). However, on February 24, 1927 the Mozyr okrug Party committee transformed the Turov ethnic soviet into a mixed Jewish-Belorussian one (55).

Within the framework of the policy of Belorussification, a refusal to learn the Belorussian language was considered "[Great] Russian chauvinism" and lack of desire or ability to master it led to sanctions, possibly including being fired from one's position (56). Nevertheless, in Turov only the bureaucracy of the soviet executive committee and its municipal and land departments worked in Belorussian; the court worked both in Belorussian and Russian, while the forestry and finance departments, bookkeeping staff, consumer coop, agricultural associations, the land judiciary commission and the police worked only in Russian (57). In the winter of 1929 a Party meeting in Turov noted that some Party members were exhibiting contempt for Belorussian and did not wish to learn the language (58).

As organs of local authority, the ethnic soviets amassed much experience; by 1929 the Belorussian Republic had 72 such ethnic councils. However, changes in nationality policy in the 1930s led to strengthening of "internationalist," i.e. supra-ethnic, tendencies. In 1934 the ethnic soviets, starting with the Polish ones, began to be combined with Belorussian ones (59). The last edict of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the BSSR about liquidating ethnic soviets was dated April 20, 1939 (60).

Soviet Jewish public cultural activity focused on the liquidation of illiteracy, for which special courses were established in "reading huts" (the izba-chital' nia), schools, and border-guard clubs (61). Daily routine and the lack of entertainment were partially relieved by the local amateur drama club, whose participants attempted to do their best to make up for the absence of a movie-house, itinerant circuses, and wandering minstrel-clowns (62). The local fire-brigade also had an amateur brass band mainly composed of Jewish youth (63).

In 1931 in the shtetl the newspaper Chyrvonaia Turaushchyna (Red Turov) began to appear and, from March 1933 it included material in Yiddish (64). Locals also read "imported" newspapers in Yiddish, Polish, and Belorussian, which regularly arrived in the shtetl (65). Newspapers, however, were not the only means of influencing the population, a significant part of whom were young people. In the shtetl the Pioneer movement originally began with the Jews. In 1924 a Jewish Pioneer division was the sole one in Turov. Moreover, despite the efforts of the authorities to attract Belorussian youth, in January 1925 Jews comprised 40 of the 50 members in the troop. A certain impact on the life of the shtetl was also exerted by the local lore organization, which was established by the local school and had 44 enthusiasts (66). In 1928, at the initiative of this association, a local lore museum was opened in Turov (67).

The school occupied an important place in the public culture life of the Jews in Turov. The Soviet schools, including the Yiddish ones, were accessible to all children and free, and instructed boys and girls together. Education was totally secular, with the influence of all religions excluded. The curriculum was based on a class ideology and the courses often linked to socially useful labor (68).

In 1921 two state schools were opened in Turov, a 7-year general school and a 4-year Yiddish school. The general school, where some of the Jewish children in town studied, was located in a two-story stone building; the Yiddish school was domiciled in the one-story wooden structure that had formerly been a post-office. The situation of the Yiddish school led to the necessity of renting room from the general school. The Yiddish-school pupils had to wait to enter classrooms until the latter were vacated by their peers at the other school. Also the Yiddish school lacked supplies and texts, with one book being shared by four pupils. Nor did all teachers in the Yiddish school have the appropriate qualifications; on the other hand, many of them were active in social matters (69).

In the early 1920s the Yidd ish school had 180 pupils, i.e. one third of all the Jewish children in Turov. This exceeded the proportion (23%) of those attending the general school. The remaining 44% did not attend Soviet schools: an estimated 34% attended the traditional Jewish primary school or heder, while 10% did not attend any school (70). During the 1927/1928 school year the Yiddish 4-year school was "reorganized" into a seven-year school. This was the result of the increase in the number of graduates of the 4-year Yiddish school for whom there was no room in the 7-year one. This step also served propaganda purposes since it could be touted to demonstrate to Jews on the other side of the border the concern of the Soviet leadership for the Jews of this shtetl (71). The number of Jewish pupils in Turov by type of school and level of schooling is presented in Table 3.

Type of School No. of Jews % of Total Pupils
Belorussian 7-year:



Lower Level



Higher Level



Yiddish 7-year:



Lower Level



Higher Level



Belorussian 3-year






Table 3: Jewish Pupils in Turov Schools in the 1928-1929 School Year

(Source: GAOOGO, f. 2736, op. 1, d. 3, p. 59)

Most of the Jewish pupils in the Belorussian 7-year school studied in the upper grades. In the Yiddish school most pupils were in the lower grades. Hardly any Jewish pupils attended the Belorussian 3-year elementary school.

The significant increase in the number of pupils in the early 1930s was connected with the law, adopted in 1929, regarding compulsory universal elementary education. Thus, between 1928 and 1932 the number of pupils in Turov's Yiddish school increased from 276 to 319 (153 girls and 166 boys (72). The shtetl also had an evening school for Jewish working youth, but its level was very low (73).

The seven year Yiddish school gradually became one of the shtetl's main cultural centers and source of influence on the Jewish population. In the mid 1930s the school was mobilized to reduce illiteracy (74). It provided premises for groups to study literature and language, history , and science, and also sponsored commemorative activities, such as those in honor of the 100th anniversary of the birth of the Yiddish writer Mendele Moikher Seforim (75). In the summer of 1934 members of the "Pioneers" from Turov's Yiddish school organized patrols to protect the harvest of a kolkhoz near the shtetl (76).

In 1936, 220 pupils attended Turov's Yiddish incomplete middle school and 110 - its Yiddish elementary school. In addition there were Yiddish pre-school institutions (77). However, there was a rapid decline in the Soviet Yiddish school. Some of the Jewish parents had a pragmatic orientation that favored their children learning in Russian. In addition, activity that encouraged people to send their children to Yiddish schools came to be considered a dangerous "deviation." In the summer of 1938 the People's Commissariat of Education implemented the July 3, 1938 resolution of the Communist Party of the Belorussian SSR "On the reorganization of Yiddish schools in Belorussia into Belorussian schools." (78) In line with this, the Yiddish incomplete middle school in Turov was closed and its pupils redistributed to non-Jewish educational institutions.

4. Independent Jewish Life and Government Policy

In the early 1920s religion had a significant place in the life of the shtetl. Turov had three synagogues: one of the mitnagdim and two of the Hasidim (Stolin and Koidanov). According to the local Party raion committee, not only older Jews but younger ones as well attended synagogue "in large numbers." It was also claimed that religious Jews received aid from American philanthropic organizations, that bankrupt "speculators" had become "rabbinical assistants" and ritual slaughterers, and that melamdim were illegally teaching children in hadorim, while it was noted antireligious propaganda was being conducted in an insufficiently active manner (79).

In June 1924 the Mozyr uezd executive committee required the religious Jews of Turov to officially register the charter of their religious community. Religious communities maintained synagogues, Jewish cemeteries, and mikvaot, and saw to it that repairs were carried out on prayer houses. They also supervised the kashrut of the ritual slaughter of cows and chickens, provided people with matza for Passover. The community paid the salary of the rabbi and the shokhtim , and sponsored the local Jewish burial society. Funding for the community came from membership fees, voluntary contributions, and payments for religious functions, including burial and the use of the mikva (80). In September of that year at a general meeting members of the three synagogues accepted the charter, with over 800 of them affixing their signatures to it. Shaia Glozman was elected head (gabbai) of the religious community, Meer Fishman - the cantor, and Naftale Meklin melamed. In the 1930s, Meklin was acting rabbi. As elsewhere, in Turov the practice of tsedakah (public charity) was carried out, with women making the rounds of the community weekly to collect contributions for the Jewish poor (81).

Passover traditions were maintained: people kept special sets of Passover dishes and baked matza. Other holiday practices were also observed, e.g. roofs of sheds were constructed so that they could be opened to make sukkot, the prescribed booths for the holiday of Sukkot. On Yom Kippur adults and children over 13 fasted and many of them attended prayer services (82).

The authorities' evaluations of the influence of religion in the mid 1920s in Turov were contradictory. On the one hand, they claimed that the influence of the rabbis had declined (83) but, on the other, noted that many of the shtetl youth were religious and attended synagogue rather than Komsomol-sponsored evenings (84). In fact, many of the activities of the local atheists were not popular and had no follow up.

In the summer of 1924 the shtetl's Jewish soviet attempted to take the premises of the local synagogues for a Yiddish school. Some of Turov's religious Jews protested to the Mozyr okrug executive committee, stressing that the synagogue was unsuitable for a school due to lack of room and of sanitary facilities. Instead, they proposed using the estate of a former landowner that had a large courtyard and garden, or building a new school. The proposal for using the synagogue was discussed at a meeting of the Turov Party organization and at a general meeting of local craftsmen. In October 1924 a court ruled that since the building did not belong to anyone, it should be allocated for use as a school. This decision was appealed by the religious Jews to the Republic's high court, but in 1925 they lost this last appeal (85).

The increased attendance of Jewish pupils at the Belorussian government school occurred at the same time as attacks against traditional Jewish schooling in the form of the heder. In April and September 1921 the People's Commissariat of Education issued a special order banning the operation of hadorim and yeshivot (86).

Nevertheless, with the general relaxation of pressure against religious institutions in the mid 1920s and some indifference on the part of local authorities, hadorim continued to function. In December 1925, Turov had 7 hadorim, where children learned in groups of 3-4. The attitude of non-Jewish teachers to pupils' observance of Jewish tradition was tolerant. In June 1923 the head of the Mozyr uezd department of education reported that in Turov the administration and teaching staff of the 7-year school did not oppose the influence of Judaism but, in fact, were reconciled to it. The majority of pupils refused to write on the Sabbath and the school council allowed this by arranging the schedule so that no written assignments had to be done then. The "Sabbath-observers" were led by 17-18 year old pupils (during this period the schools had many older students), who influenced their younger peers. The head of the Mozyr uezd department of education called for action to be taken against the "trouble-makers" by summoning them for "conversations" and, if that failed due to their "stubbornness and fanaticism," expelling them from school (87).

Atheist activity in Turov was carried out within the framework of the general, national anti-religious policy. However, in contrast to the situation prevailing in most places, in this shtetl control over religion was given to the border guards. In December 1924 the head of the border unit, Anderson, noted that anti-religious propaganda and related cultural activity were not being carried out in Turov, as a result of which half of the 65 workers in the shtetl were religious. Anderson proposed that Turov's Party raion committee attend to this matter and present to the border unit a program of steps to be taken (88). One half year later, in March 1926, a new head of the border unit, Sen'kevich, notified the special department of the GPU (glavnoe politicheskoe upravlenie [security forces] )of the Zhitkovichi border unit that at the steam-run factory in Turov a majority of workers were still religious, regularly visiting the synagogue and keeping traditional customs (89).

The Jewish department of the Mozyr okrug Party committee issued some recommendations for conducting an anti-religious campaign: before Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur it should be explained that keeping old customs and laws led to spiritual slavery, increased clericalism and encouraged the rabbis, ritual slaughterers and other "clerical parasites." Maximum attention was to be directed to workers' wives since they comprised the most backward element. Jewish Party and Komsomol members, Jewish teachers, and other culture workers were to take an active part in the campaign (90).

In 1925 a branch of the Soiuz bezbozhnikov (Union of Atheists) was established in the shtetl, along with an Association of Friends of the Newspaper Bezbozhnik; in the library an atheists' corner was set up, and people were selected for carrying out atheistic propaganda among target groups of farmers, craftsmen, workers, teachers, and women. In addition an anti-religious group was set up, along with others (to attract interest to natural science, writing, and drama) intended to lead people away from religion (91).

Sometimes opposition to anti-religious pressure was manifested by religious Jews' breaking rules and regulations. For example, in December 1928 the raion executive committee of Turov noted that a certain construction supervisor named Chechik had deceived local official s by diverting 13 barrels of cement that had been intended for the floor of a slaughterhouse to repair a synagogue. Chechik was handed over to the prosecutor on criminal charges (92).

With the heightening of the struggle against religion in the early 1930s, the synagogues in Turov were closed. The premises of the great brick synagogue were first transferred for use as a club for craftsmen and then for use as a grain storage depot. Scandalized worshippers declared that this was sacrilege (93). Religious Jews in Turov continued to pray by meeting in minyanim or prayer groups. In 1934 the authorities noted that even some pupils were involved (94). Although official reports noted that "clericalism in Turov had weakened," religious Jews continued to meet in two private prayer houses and some forty or fifty children attended heder illegally. Although the local rabbis had left town, religious Jews collected money to help support the families of the remaining mohalim, shokhtim, and melamdim (95). During this same period the mikva was closed down and the slaughter of meat was transferred to non-kosher municipal auspices. As part of the latter step the shokhet Bregman was forbidden to carry out ritual slaughter; he was compelled to support himself as a chimney sweep. Another shokhet was arrested and exiled to Arkhangel'sk oblast' (96).

The anti-religious fight was linked to economic matters. The failure to meet economic targets and other failures in the shtetl were attributed to machinations on the part of religious Jews who, allegedly, undermined the policy of the Party. Before Passover in April 1932 Chyrvonaia Turaushchyna claimed that, exploiting Passover, the foreign Jewish bourgeoisie and a clique of rabbis connived with remnants of [Jewish] nationalist elements to sabotage the Soviet Five Year Plan. All non-religious citizens were called upon to exert a maximum effort to fulfill the industrial and financial targets of the plan. The fight against Passover was used to mobilize efforts in agriculture as people were urged not to follow ob scurantist rabbis who had weakened people's class vigilance, helped the kulaks, and distracted workers from struggling for a better future, including by refusing to work on religious holidays (97).

Government employees, Party members, and Komsomol members were punished for having their sons circumcised. Zilberbrand, chairman of the workers' committee of Turov, was expelled from the Party and removed from his post for "lacking political vigilance" as demonstrated by his marrying the daughter of a former NEPman, an incorrigible cleric and "honorary member of the synagogue." He was accused of not having broken off relations with hostile class elements and having agreed to a ritual which leads to inter-ethnic strife (98). The teacher Bliuma Margolina was expelled from the Komsomol for having her son circumcised. The town's newspaper wrote in sarcastic terms about Furman, the librarian and group leader of the Turov middle school, who "actively held on to Jewish tradition." He was referred to as a two-legged spider who was more harmful than the usual six-legged ones (99). At various stages the slogan of fighting clericalism was combined with that of fighting Jewish nationalism, especially Zionism.

In the first half of the 1920s, some Zionist groups continued to exist in Turov. During NEP the Zionists succeeded in having Hehalutz legalized and made efforts to gain influence in Jewish agricultural cooperatives and craftsmens' associations (100). In addition to Hehalutz, Hashomer Hatsair and Hatsofim also operated in Turov. Lazar Drozdinskii (who received Zionist literature from Zhitkovichi, Kalinkovichi, and Kopatkevichi) was the leader of Hatsofim. Young Jews were attracted not only by the Zionist ideas but also by the romantic spirit of the movement. The local Zionists went on excursions, overnights in the forest, learned Jewish songs, held discussions about the future of the Jewish movement and the situation in Palestine, as well as engaged in marches and other sports activities (101).

In 1926 the central committee of the Communist Party in Belorussia noted that the Zionist movement was a threat as the only organized group that still existed in the Republic. It was claimed that the Zionists were distributing illegal literature and that organizations like Hehaluts and Po' alei Zion were serving as fronts for other, illegal Zionist organizations. Zionist ideology influenced some of those Party members who had been removed from government positions as a result of Belorussification. According to the Evsektsiia, Zionism attracted not only Jewish youth and offspring of the better off parts of the population, but craftsmen, and workers as well (102).

The increase in the numbers of children's Zionist groups outpaced those for youths and adults. According to the Belorussian Evsektsiia, Hashomer Hatsair was trying to increase its influence in Soviet educational institutions and to compete with the Communist "Pioneer" children's groups (some Pioneer leaders were simultaneously members of Hashomer Hatsair). In many shtetlekh of Belorussia members of the latter group outnumbered the Pioneers.

In Turov, Zionist influence was felt not only in the Yiddish but also in the Belorussian school with its numerous Jewish pupils. The Belorussian teachers did not interfere. For example, a teacher of history and the theory of historical Marxism, named Golinevich, did not intervene in the "national" affairs of his Jewish students. Specifically, he did not object when Jewish pupils did not write on the Sabbath, nor did he make clear the harmfulness of Zionism or confiscate subversive literature. The local Communist Party warned Golinevich to deal with such matters and to discredit the popular Zionist slogans (103).

The Zionist activists in Belorussia clearly were more educated than the Communists and Young Communists in the shtetlekh (104). According to the authorities, in the 1920s Zionism spread widely because many teachers in the Yiddish schools in the shtetl were Zionists or had been members of Jewish petty bourgeois parties of a nationalist or socialist orientation (105). The demand was expressed to purge the school of Zionists and "reactionary" teachers (106). The Party line viewed Zionists as "hirelings of English imperialists" and oppressors of the Arabs who were fighting to liberate themselves from English capital (107).

At the end of the 1920s persecution of the Zionists intensified with arrests and exile (108). Mikhl Lutskii, Iakov Klugerman, and Sender Lel' chuk were arrested for smuggling illegal literature into Turov. Lazar Drozdinskii was apprehended in Kiev, where he had fled in an attempt to avoid arrest. Drozdinskii was brought to Mozyr for investigation. He was accused of anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda and membership in the Zionist counter-revolutionary organization Hashomer Hatsair. He and his accomplices were offered their freedom if they would promise in writing to desist from their activity (109). When they refused, they were exiled for three years to Novyi Urgench in the Karakum desert in the Uzbek SSR (110). In 1935, when Drozdinskii was released and decided to take his wife and 3-month old son to visit relatives in Turov, he was apprehended and sent out of town within 24 hours (111). Under such conditions, in the 1930s Zionist activity was practically ended in Turov.

Despite the suppression of independent Jewish activity and the repression of the 1930s, to some degree the traditional Jewish way of life was maintained. Mixed marriages were rare in Turov (112). Yiddish was often heard on the streets. In 1936 an ethnographic expedition from the Academy of Sciences of Belorussia visited the shtetl, along with oth er locations, to study the history, ethnography, geography, and flora and fauna. It also paid attention to Jewish aspects of life there. The ethnographer Eduard Golubok commented "You have a regular Palestine here in Turov." (113)


During the Holocaust a large part of the Jewish population of Turov perished. According to incomplete data of the Extraordinary Commission of the USSR to Investigate the Crimes and Atrocities of the German-Fascist Occupiers on Occupied Territory, 1,785 civilians (including 520 women and 641 children) were killed, 685 of these were killed in the shtetl of Turov and the neighboring Zapesoch' e and Starozhovtsy. Jews accounted for 570 (83.2%) of those whom it was possible to identify (114).

After the war, with the exception of a few families, Jews did not return to Turov. This marked the end of the four hundred year history of this Jewish community.


1. Evreiskaia entsiklopediia, The Jewish encyclopedia (St. Petersburg, 1912, Vol. 15), p. 57

2. Otchet-spravochnik Mozyr' skogo okruzhnogo ispolnitel' nogo komiteta BSSR, Report of the Mozyr okrug executive committee of the BSSR (Minsk, 1925), p. 12. In 1923, in addition to Jews and Belorussians, the total population of 6,217, included 35 Poles, 7 Russians, 3 Ukrainians, and 1 German (Statisticheskii ezhegodnik, 1923-1924 [Statistical yearbook, 1923-1924] (Minsk, 1925), p. 8

3. A. F. Vishnevskii, A.M. Litvin, Turov: Kratkii istoricheskii ocherk (Turov: A Brief historical survey, Minsk, 1980, p. 24); Zonal' nyi gosudarstvennyi arkhiv v gorode Mozyre (Regional state archive in the city of Mozyr, hereafter ZGAM), f 293, op 1, d 3, p. 10; d. 7, p. 6; V.P. Pichukov, M.I. Starovoitov, Gomel' shchina mnogonatsional' naia, 20-30-e gg. XX veka(The Multi-ethnic Gomel region in the 1920s and 1930s), Vol. 1 (Gomel, 1999), p. 151; O. Latyszonek, "General Bulak-Bulachowicz - od armii carskij do armii narodowej"(General Bulak-Balakhovich - from the tsarist army to the people's army), Dyskusia (Byalystok), 1990, No. 2-3 (23).

4. Natsional'nyi arkhiv Respubliki Belarus' (National Archive of the Belarus Republic, hereafter NARB), f. 701, op. 1, d. 101, p. 543.

5. NARB, f. 6, op. 1, d. 2564, pp. 148-149.

6. ZGAM, f . 60, op. 1, d. 164, pp. 25-28.

7. Ibid., d. 69, pp. 47-53.

8. Gosudarstvennyi arkhiv obshchestvennykh ob" edinenii Gomel' skoi oblasti (State Archive of Public Association of Gomel oblast', abbreviated GAOOGO), f. 69, op. 1, d. 256, p. 19.

9. Dva gady natsiianal' nai raboty u BSSR (Two years of work with ethnic groups in the BSSR) (Minsk, 1929), pp. 154-159.

10. Deviatyi Vsebelorusskii s" ezd Sovetov rabochikh, krest' ianskikh i krasnoarmeiskikh deputatov. Stenograficheskii otchet (The 9th All-Belorussian Congress of the soviets of workers, peasants, and Red Army deputies. Stenographic report). Minsk, 1929, p. 387.

11. In Turov Jews accounted for 13 of the 15 members of the sheep-skin workers' coop, 32 of the 37 of the shoemakers' coop, 26 of the 27 of the tailors' coop, and 21 of the 25 of the sock makers' coop (NARB, f. 6, op. 1, d.2564, p. 148).

12. Svod zakonov BSSR (Collect ion of laws of the BSSR), No. 16, 1932, article 64, May 11; Miastechki BSSR u rekanstruktyuny peryod (The Belorussian shtetlekh in the period of reconstruction) (Minsk, 1932).

13. Shmeruk, op cit.

14. They cultivated 14 desiatinas of land and had 12 horses and 4 oxen (GAOOGO, f. 499, op . 1, d.19, p. 56).

15. Zbornik chynnykh zakonau BSSR za 1921-1924 (Collection of laws of the BSSR in force, 1921-1924) (Minsk, 1924), pp. 138-143.

16. GAOOGO, f. 69, op. 1, d. 258, pp. 84, 134; M. A. Bespalaia, Belaruskaia veska u pershyia gady NEPa, 1921-1923 (The Belorussian village during the first years of NEP, 1921-1923) (Minsk, 1999), p. 32.

17. GAOOGO, f . 2728, op . 1, d . 10, p. 7.

18. Ibid, f. 499, op. 1, d. 22, p. 5.

19. Ch. Shmeruk, p. 13.

20. See a document from the April 1925 investigation by the Mozyr okrug executive committee and its departments conducted by I. Shapiro and A. Korf, instructors from the Central Executive Committee of the BSSR (ZGAM, f. 60, op. 1, d. 692, p. 124).

21. GAOOGO, f. 3952, op. 1-a, d. 15, p. 21.

22. GAOOGO, f. 3952, op. 1-a, d. 9, p. 21.

23. Ibid., d. 16, pp. 46-48.

24. L. Smilovitsky, " The Jewish Farmers in Belarus during the 1920s," Jewish Political Studies Review, Vol. 9, No. 1-2, 1997, pp. 59-72.

25. At the Oct. 1930 plenum of the CC of the Communist Party of Belorussia and the December 5, 1930 Central Executive Committee of the BSSR.

26. Izvestiia zagranichnogo otdela sionistov-sotsialistov (News of the foreign divisions of socialist Zionists), No. 3, 1931, p. 6 (Central Zionist Archives, F30/64).

27. Archive of the author, record of conversation with Grigorii Raikhman, Kiryat-Bialik, Israel, Nov. 17, 2001.

28. R. P. Platonau, Na krutym pavarotse. Ideolagichnaia barats' ba na Belarusi u 1929-1931 gg. Dakumenty, materyialy, analiz (At a turning point: Ideological struggle in Belorussia 1929-1931: Documents, materials, analysis) Minsk, 1999, pp. 209-212.

29. Evreiiski komsomol' , molodezhnaya organizatsia Evreiskoi Kommunisticheskoi partii slivsheisia s Kompartiei Belorussii v 1923 g.

30. Chyrvonaia Turaushchyna , Aug. 25, 1935.

31. Ibid., March 2, Sept. 29, 1935.

32. Ia. Livshits, "Ukrepit' internatsional' noe vospitanie v shkolakh" (Strengthen inter-ethnic education in the schools), Ibid., March 13, 1935.

33. On July 10, 1956 the Presidium of the Gomel oblast' court, following an appeal of the deputy prosecutor general of the USSR, closed the case against Shaia Golin on the grounds that a crime had not been committee (Archive of the author, Document of Aug. 9, 1956 from the office of the Prosecutor General of the USSR about the rehabilitation of Golin).

34. After the confiscation of their home, the family of Lazar' Goberman moved to Kiev and then to the Crimea, where they worked on the Jewish kolkhoz named in Stalin's honor in the Fraidorf raion (Archive of the author, record of interview with Klara Goberman [Lazar's daughter], Jerusalem, Oct. 18, 2002).

35. After the arrest of her husband, Roshka Shifman was not able to find work for a long time, eventually she ended up as a public bath teller. At age 14, their son Beinish began to work in constructions. Samuil Shifman was rehabilitated by the prosecutor of Gomel oblast' on Nov. 3, 1989, in accordance with the Jan. 16, 1989 decree of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR "On additional measures to restore justice in regard to the victims of the repression which took place in the 1930s, 1940s, and early 1950s."

36. Archive of the author, record of the interview with K. Goberman.

37. The lack of information gave birth to contradictory rumors. The population of Turov understood events in their own way. According to the authorities, Ginzburg stated that Germany already had a plan that had been agreed upon with England and other countries, while the USSR wants to please Hitler. Murashko said that after Germany's attack on it, Poland would soon surrender its territory, thus enabling Germany to move closer to the USSR and launch war against it. Naumenko supposedly said that Germany had concluded the non-aggression pact with the USSR in order to catch the Red Army off guard. Prikhod'ko, who had been present at military exercises on Sept. 14, 1939, expressed skepticism about Soviet preparedness for war: " The USSR is strong but there are many people ready to betray us." Il' enia was even more doubtful about Soviet readiness, allegedly stating that in the event of war the Soviet citizen would not have anything worth fighting for since he only had one cow and from that he had to supply meat to the state (GAOOGO, f. 702, op. 1, d. 64, pp. 16, 33, 69, 71).

38. Nazausedy razam. Da 60-goddzia uz' iadnannia Zakhodniai Belarusi z BSSR (Always together: For the 60th anniversary of the union of Western Belorussia with the BSSR) (Minsk, 1999), pp. 6-7; ZGAM, f.463, op. 3, d. 15, pp. 267, 302; d. 25, p. 183.

39. In the shtetl there were also 7 hatmakers, 7 shoe top-makers, 2 harness makers, 1 photographer, 2 barbers, 2 tin smiths, 1 butter maker, and 1 forester.

40. GAOOGO, f . 499, op . 1, d . 22, pp. 5-6.

41. Ibid., f. 1, op. 1, d. 2181, p. 77.

42. In the summer of 1926 the Jewish share in commerce in the Turov raion was at least 50%.

43. GAOOGO, f. 3952, op. 1-a, d.16, pp. 76-78.

44. The majority of the merchants had very small inventories, e.g. 3 glass lamp shades, 2 clay pots, 8 combs, 1 tin grater, 1/2 pound of paint, 6 tin jugs, 12 pieces of paper for rolling cigarettes, 1 plate, 6 doz. buttons, 6 pounds of soap, 1 mirror, 2 strings of glass beads, 4 funnels, etc.

45. 10 rubles for a license, 12.5 rubles for income taxes, a 3 ruble tax to help poorer people compete, 1.5 ruble fine for failing to file income form in time, 6 rubles to the city council's municipal department to rent a stand . (GAOOGO f. 1, op. 1, d. 2181, p. 78).

46. The first secretary of the Party raion committee was Babitskii, who was succeeded by Dvorkin. The chairman of the raion executive committee was Zilber, the prosecutor - Kacherovskii, director of the machine-tractor station - Vikhnes, the chief bookkeeper of the raion branch of the State Bank Zingman, et al.

47. 50 members of the construction union, 34 of the union of government employees, 23 of the education union, 3 of "Medsantrud" (the medical and sanitary workers' union), et al. (NARB, f. 6, op.1, d. 2564, pp. 148-149).

48. GAOOGO, f. 499, op. 1, d.22, p. 5.

49. Ibid., f. 3952, op. 1-a, d. 16, pp. 76-78.

50. From a report on Jewish work in Turov, as of Jan. 23, 1926 (ibid., f. 499, op. 1, d. 22, pp. 5-6).

51. Ibid., f. 1, op.1, d. 2181, p. 83.

52. A. Stashevskii, "Deiatel' nost' Sovetov rabochikh, krest' ianskikh i krasnoarmeiskikh deputatov" (The Activitiy of the Soviets of workers, peasants, and Red Army deputies), "Sovetskoe stroitel' stvo," No. 5, 1927, p. 132.

53. Of the 11 members and 2 candidate members of the shtetl's Jewish soviet of Turov in the summer of 1926, 2 were members of the Communist Party, 9 were not, and one, a woman, was a member of the Komsomol (the Young Communist League).

54. The Soviet had four commissions. Their respective functions were: to supervise schools and health care (dealing with the elimination of illiteracy, sanitary conditions, public health, and hospitals); the construction of public baths, the repair of two bridges, and the repair of sidewalks; the enrollment of craftsmen in coops and provision of aid to the families of Red Army service personnel; supervision of pasture lands and provision of the population with wood. The commissions were almost completely made up of members of craftsmens' associations and local Jewish teachers (GAOOGO, f. 3952, op. 1-a, d. 16, pp. 76-78; ibid., f. 2736, op. 1, d. 3, p. 48.

55. ZGAM, f. 60, op. 1, d. 697, p. 38.

56. For details see: A. Zel'tser, "Belorusizatsiia 1920-kh gg.: dostizheniia i neudachi" (Belorussification in the 1920s: Achievements and failures), Evrei Belarusi: Istoriia i kul'tura (The Jews of Belarus: History and culture) , Vol. III-IV (Minsk, 1998), pp. 60-92.

57. ZGAM, f. 60, op. 1, d. 695, p. 126.

58. GAOOGO, f. 499, op. 1, d. 37, p. 33.

59. P. Laz'ko, "Pytanne ab pol' skai men' shastsi u Belarusi u kantekstse savetska-pol' skikh adnosin 1920-1930" (The issue of the Polish minority in Belorussia in the context of Soviet-Polish relations, 1920-1930), Natsyianal' nye menshastsi Belarusi (Ethnic minority of Belorussia), Vol. 2 (Brest-Minsk-Vitebsk, 1996), p. 61; M. Iwanow, Pierwszy narod ukarany. Polacy w Zwiarku Radzieckim, 1921-1939 (The First punished nation: Poles in the Soviet Union, 1921-1939) (Warsaw-Wroclaw, 1991), p. 368.

60. Zakony Belorusskoi SSR i ukazy prezidiuma Verkhovnogo Soveta BSSR za 1938-1955 (The Laws of the Belorussian SSR and the decrees of the presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the BSSR, 1938-1955) (Minsk, 1956), p. 81.

61. Vishnevskii, Litvin, Turov, p. 26.

62. In 1922, 7 plays were performed in Turov, including 3 in Yiddish, 2 in Russian, and 2 in Belorussian. In 1925, 25 people participated in three drama groups, which performed 14 plays (7 in Yiddish, 3 in Russian, and 4 in Belorussian. (GAOOGO, f. 3952, op. 1-a, d. 15, p. 21; d.16, pp. 59-61).

63. Some of the members of the orchestra were Zinovii, Khaim, and Srolik (Izrail' ) Vager, Hershl and Lazar Khrapunskii, Iankel' nicknamed "Der doych," someone named Kaliuzhnyi. The band was directed by Zalman Ginzburg (Archive of the author, letter from Zionvii Vager from Pinsk, July 25, 2001).

64. The newspaper appeared for the last time before the war on June 18, 1941 (Gazety Belorusskoi SSSR, 1917-1975, Bibliograficheskii ukazatel' v 2-chastiakh) [Newspapers of the Belorussian SSR, 1917-1975, Bibliographical guide in two parts], Part 1 [Minsk, 1984], p. 84).

65. The following periodicals appeared in Yiddish: "Der Emes" (Moscow, " Oktyabr" (Minsk, until 1924 was called "Der Veker" ), "Der Shtern" (Minsk), "Pioner veker" (Minsk), "Yunger arbeter" (Minsk), and "Der Komunistisher veg" (Gomel). Party and government bodies attempted to increase subscriptions and broad the circle of readers (GAOOGO, f. 499, op. 1, d. 5, p. 60).

66. N. E. Brui, "Turau i navakol' e" (Turov and its environs), Belorusskai lingvistika, No. 5, 1974.

67. P. F. Lysenko, "Rannefeodal' nyi gorod Turov po letopisiam i arkheologicheskim issledovaniiam" (Early feudal Turov according to chronicles and archaeological researchers), Turaushchyna: minulae, suchasnasts', buduchynia (Turov region: past, present, future), Vol. 1 (Minsk, 2000), pp. 41-43.

68. L. Smilovitskii, "Shkola na idish v pervye desiatiletiia sovetskoi vlasti v Belorussii, 1921-1941" (The schools in Yiddish in the first decades of Soviet rule in Belorussia, 1921-1941), Novaia evreiskaia shkola (St. Petersburg), No. 11, 2002, p. 171.

69. From a Jan. 12, 1925 document of the Turov Party raion committee sent to the Mozyr okrug Party committee (GAOOGO, f. 3952, op. 1-a, d.15, p. 21).

70. Ibid., f. 499, op. 1, d. 22, p. 5.

71. Ibid, f. 2728, op. 1, d. 14, p. 9.

72. Ibid., f. 2728, op. 1, d. 21, p. 14.

73. Ibid., f. 499, op. 1, d. 39, pp. 35-36. There was a loose connection with enterprises that had a kind of sponsorship relation - i.e., that of a local industrial combine to a kolkhoz; there was a lack of aid to the school from the shtetl soviet. To improve the situation of Turov's working youth school, an addition two teachers who had specialized training in particular fields an exchange program was begun with the Belorussian school for youth of farming families. Also organized were evening programs of inter-ethnic friendship, meetings, and joint excursions; in Chyrvonaia Turaushchyna articles about the school for working youth appeared in Yiddish.

74. In March 1932 in Turov 33 activists participated in this work. Sof'ia Fleitman and Mira Goikhman - at the center to eradicate illiteracy on Kolkhoznaia St (working with 44 people), Lea Shnaidman - on Uritskii St (with 39), Fania Shnaidman on Komsomol' skaia St (38), Khaim Glouberman - also on Uritskii St (39). (GAOOGO, f. 2728, op. 1, d . 21 , p.14).

75. Chyrvonaia Turaushchyna, Apr. 1, 1936.

76. "Surovo karat' zlodeev" (Punish the wrongdoers harshly), ibid., Aug. 18, 1934.

77. V. Khochinskii, "Staryi i novyi Turov" (Old and new Turov), ibid., Oct. 7, 1936.

78. NARB, f. 4, op. 3, d. 407, p. 299-a.

79. From the report of the Turov raion Party committee for the period Dec. 1924-March 1925 (GAOOGO, f. 3952, op. 1-a, d. 16, pp. 23, 32, 39.

80. ZGAM, f. 60, op . 1, d. 55, pp. 93-94.

81. Ibid., pp . 95-146.

82. Archive of the author, letter from Tat' iana Levina from Haifa, May 20, 2002.

83. GAOOGO, f. 3952, op. 1-a, d. 16, pp. 76-78.

84. Ibid., f. 2728, op. 1, d. 10, p. 7.

85. ZGAM, f . 60, op . 1, d . 107, pp. 39-40.

86. Narodnoe obrazovanie v SSSR: Sbornik dokumentov, 1917-1973 (Education in the USSR: Collection of documents, 1917-1973) (Moscow, 1974), pp. 7-9.

87. NARB f. 42, op. 1, d . 226, p. 91. The head of the department of education informed the People' s Commissariat of Education of the BSSR of this matter and received its approval (ibid.).

88. GAOOGO, f. 3992, op.1-a, d . 4, p. 146.

89. Ibid., f. 499, op. 1, d. 19, p. 123.

90. Ibid., f. 3952, op. 1-a, d. 2, p. 32.

91. Ibid., d. 7, pp. 2, 3, 12, 15-16.

92. Ibid., f. 2736, op. 1, i d. 5, p. 3.

93. In 1940 the top floor of this synagogue was handed over for use by the regional consumer association and the lower one - for a store. During the war Belorussian took apart Turov's brick synagogue to use the materials for stove and chimneys. The synagogue onthe banks of the Strumen burned down during the war. Only the building of the third synagogue, on the corner of Uritskii and Komsomol' skaia St. survived. After the war the premises of the latter was used, first as a bakery, then as a residence of the chief physician of the Turov hospital (See archive of the author, record of interview with Mikhail Lel'chuk in Turov, Aug. 17, 2002).

94. Ia. Livshits, "Ukrepit' internatsional' noe vospitanie v shkolakh," Chyrvonaia Turaushchyna, March 13, 1935.

95. NARB, f. 6, op . 1, d. 2564, p. 147.

96. Chyrvonaia Turaushchyna, Sept. 9, 1936.

97. Chyrvonaia Turaushchyna, Apr. 10, 1932, Apr. 14, 1933.

98. Ibid., Feb. 27, 1936.

99. "Emu v shkole ne mesto" (He doesn't have a place in the school), ibid., Mar. 21, 1935.

100. GAOOGO, f. 1, op. 1, d.1229, pp. 81-83.

101. Archive of the author. Materials relating to the confirmation of Lazar' Drozdinskii as a "prisoner of Zion" (Hertzliya, June 26, 1979).

102. GAOOGO, f. 1, op . 1, d. 2181, p. 71.

103. Ibid., d. 82, pp. 206-208; f. 42, op. 1, d. 226, p. 91.

104. NARB, f. 4, op. 21, d. 91, pp. 40-41.

105. See, especially, the warning of a 1927 Party meeting in Gomel: GAOOGO, f. 1, op. 1, d. 1578, p. 5). In Turov the head of the Yiddish school was Iakov Shnaidman, who was a member of the from 1917-1921, and of the Jewish Communist Party Po' alei Zion in 1921 and 1922. On this account the Mozyr okrug committee of the Party several time rejected Shnaidman for membership in the Communist Party (ibid., f. 2728, op. 1, d. 12, p. 14).

106. Ibid., f. 1, op. 1, d. 1578, p. 6.

107. NARB, f. 4, op. 21, d. 91, pp. 40-41.

108. In Dec. 1929 a meeting was held in Turov devoted to a discussion of "counter-revolutionary role of the Zionist organizations and the harm they are causing to the Jewish population" (GAOOGO , f. 3952, op. 1-a, d.14, p. 166).

109. R. P. Platonov, ed., Pered krutym povorotom: Tendentsii v politicheskoi i dukhovnoi zhizni Belarusi (1925-1928 gg.), Otrazhenie vremeni v arkhivnykh dokumentakh (Before a sharp turn: Tendencies in the political and intellectual life of Belorussia, 1925-1928: Reflection of the time in archival documents) (Minsk, 2001), pp. 222-230.

110. In exile Drozdinskii and his comrades met Zionists from Russia and Ukraine and established ties with ones who were serving sentences in Aktiubinsk, Kzyl-Orda, Semipalatinsk, and Tashkent. In Jule 1932 Drozdinskii was arrested again, this time charged with aiding Zionists in other exile locations, with organizing escapes, and even of contacts with the local "anti-Soviet" Basmachi nationalists. For these "crimes" three years were added to his exile and he was dispatched to the city of Krasnoiarsk.

111. B. Bykhovskii, "Sem' desiat iz sta" (Seventy out of one hundred), }Evreiskii kamerton, July 11, 1997 After this, Drozdinskii's parents moved from Turov to Kursk. They estranged his younger sister Klara from Jewish tradition, assuming that this will help protect her from the harm that had affected her older brother (Archive of the author, letter from Klara Drozdinskaia, from Ariel, Mar. 13, 2000).

112. Archive of the author, Letter from Tat'iana Levina, Haifa, May 20, 2002.

113. Eduard Golubok (1906-1943), Belorussian ethnographer, staff member of the ethnographic and folklore section of Institute of History of the Belorussian Academy of Sciences.

114. Calculated by the author; ibid., f. 310, op. 1, d. 9, pp. 1-79, d. 19, pp. 1-64.

Copyright 2004 Belarus SIG, Jews in Russia and Eastern Europe and

Dr. Leonid Smilovitsky

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