Outline of Archival Resources in the Repositories of Belarus

by Nancy Holden

Historical Timeline as a basis for understanding Record Creation/Collection

History of Records and Records Collection

Time Period I: Pre-Russian records (before 1772 / 1795)

Time Period I: Record Repositories

Time Period II: Russian Imperial period 1772/95-1917 (The Russian principality)

Time Period II: Record Repositories

The Autonomous Jewish Community and the creation of Jewish records

Time Period III: Post-Imperial records Documents for 1917 - present 1

Time Period III: Specific Record Groups created

Time Period III: Records Repositories


1. The period of Polish-Soviet principality and independence of Belarus.

2. Other Jewish records sources: rabbis, Chevra Kadisha, pinkes, teachers, community board and treasurers etc.

3. Kehilla (Kehillot is the plural form), an officially recognized local Jewish community, dates to medieval times in Poland. In 1789, Austrian Emperor Joseph II divided Galicia Province into 140 official Jewish communities or kehillot to keep vital records, supervise education and collect special taxes among the Jewish population. All permanent Jewish residents of a town were members of its kehilla. Each kehilla was headed by a kahal, a three-man governing board elected by the men of the Jewish community, and a Chief Rabbi who was officially recognized by the government as the person in charge of keeping the vital records. Often, the kahal had employees and staff, which might include (depending on the kehilla’s size and wealth) additional rabbis, scribes and even a few civil servants to work in the Jewish neighborhood as street cleaners or watchmen. Over time, as the government wanted more and more to end the separateness of the Jews from the rest of Austrian society, the kehillot were stripped of their civil powers (for example, as of 1875 Jewish birth, death and marriage records were kept by civil authorities, but were still kept within the recognized Jewish community).

7. MVD:(literally from Russian and Belarusian meaning “Ministry of Internal Affairs”). These are Police records, storing information about persons who were involved with the police in criminal or civil cases since 1918.

Regional and Zonal Archives: Belarus today has 6 Provinces (“Oblast” in Russian, “Voblast” in Belarusian)

8. The National Library of Belarus in Minsk: Contains the majority of books and published documents before and after 1917.

9. The Library of Belarusian Academy of Sciences in Minsk: Almost the same as the National Library, but this depository is smaller.

10. The National State Museum of Belarus in Minsk: Contains almost nothing on personal history.

11. The State Museum of the Great Patriotic War (World War II) in Minsk: Contains a huge fund of information for the events of the war, but not too much on the Holocaust.

12. The State Museum of Religion in Grodno: Stores documents on confessional history, but it is relatively new, so it is of interest only for current times or the recent past.

13. Minsk: Collection #330 of the Minsk City Government for Town Dwellers. It contains a family list of Jewish town dwellers of Minsk in 1894 (884 families). These names were translated from Russian to English and appeared in the RAGAS Report.