Balta has flown many flags since it was built on the Turkish side of the Turkish/Polish border in the 1500s. In the mid-18th century, Prince Lubomirski granted Magdeburg rights to the part of the town on the Polish side of the border. This would later be incorporated with Turkish Balta into the new Russian town of Balta. At that time, the town's emblem carried his initials. In the nineteenth century this shield was the registered emblem of Russian Balta. There are sketches from a nineteenth century publication that suggests it flew over the great fair at Balta at which Jews were the largest single group represented.
Balta has existed since the 16th century when it was built as a military fortress to defend Turkey from its Polish neighbor to the north of the Kodyma River on which it sat. A Polish community and the Turkish fortress existed on either side of the Kodyma in accordance with the various peace treaties.
The Polish town owned by the Lubomirski noble family had been named Yusefgrod for Prince Yusof Lubomirski. Jews had actually lived in the two separate towns in the Turkish and Polish periods. This situation continued until Poland was partitioned by Russia and Russia became the neighbor to the north.
In 1768-1774 Catherine the Great of Russia warred against the Ottoman Empire and her troops poured into Balta. The Haidamaks, one of her Cossack divisions, who had been leading attacks on Jewish communities throughout the area, took the war opportunity to assault the unarmed Jewish population of the city and the many Jewish refugees from acrosss the region who had sought protection there. The massacres of the Jews of Balta and of Uman are among the many Haidamak murders still commemorated from the first year of that war.
Balta remained a Turkish community until 1791 when the Russians took it again via the Treaty of Jassy. In 1797 it became part of Russia's newly formed Podolia gubernia, this time combining the two communities that had been formed on either side of the Kodyma River, and Jews continued to live in both parts of the town.
In 1865 the first railroad in Dnieper, Ukraine, was built; it connected Balta with the port city of Odessa. In 1880, 80 percent of its population was Jewish. Through the nineteenth century it was a wheat-growing and marketing area, grain shipments left there and went out of the country on Odessa-docked ships.
There was a substantial fair at Balta every year in which Jewish merchants played a significant role. It was said to be key to the agricultural development of the new Besserabian communities in the early to mid nineteenth century.
On April 10, 1882, a pogrom occurred in Balta. Every Jewish home was invaded: 40 Jews were murdered, 170 were wounded, and many women were raped and terrorized. Over 1200 Jewish homes and shops were completely destroyed. Jews began a steady outpouring out of the Russian Empire, but because of Balta's relative size to the rest of Podolian communities and closeness to Odessa, it continued to attract new settlement from the Podolian Jewish hinterland and the population remained steady at 15,000. Modern Zionists like Leo Pinsker cited this pogrom as proof that there could be no way for Jews and Russians to coexist in the same land.
Click on the photos to see a larger view.
Kleiman extended family in Balta.
"No. 2 Fanny; #4 Yankel KLEIMAN who was my great grandfather's brother; #5 Chaim KLEIMAN (Yankel's son); #6 Sarah, Chaim's wife.
We think the others are Yankel's children and though we have names, we are not sure that we are putting the right names with the pictures. My grandmother was Rose Kleiman; her parents were Chaya Riva and Moishe Kleiman. Moishe was a brother of Yankel Kleiman in this picture. All from Balta. Photo courtesy of Nisha Chirnomas.
Nisan and Rose (KLEIMAN) NISSENSON
They married in Balta in December 1899 and emigrated to Canada 1904. This picture was taken in Montreal in 1940s. Rose was born in Balta, Nisan in the nearby town of Olgopol. Photo courtesy of Nisha Chirnomas.
Dec. 1899 Ketuba of Nisen and Rose (KLEIMAN) NISSENSON
Document courtesy of Nisha Chirnomas.
The town of Balta
Balta town is in Russian, but has a link to translate the page into English. There are many resources here, including Balta citizens in 1914. They also have photos from Balta's old cemeteries which includes matseva [gravestone] pictures from 2 of 4 Jewish cemeteries. These are apparently only a fraction of the thousands of stones still standing.
At Jewish History on the Web, there are a series of articles by Max Lilienthal, who was an early leader of the Haskalah in Russia. He left the country when he realized that the government had no good intent towards even an "enlightened" Jewish population, did a series of reports that were published in an American Jewish paper (The Occident) in 1847-1848. Among numerous other observations covered in the multi-series report was an analysis of the appeal of training as skilled tradesman and as religious leaders among the Jews of Russia. He gives a specific report on teachers of children's religious classes there - "The three cities of Kaminiec, Balta, and Mohilev, in Podolia, alone give employment, according to strictly authentic records, to one hundred and twenty-six Melammedim, who teach over sixteen hundred children, at an annual expense of 10,392 silver rubles." Sketches of Jewish Life in Russia: A General Survey of the Condition of the Jews in Russia. By the Chief Rabbi Dr. Lilienthal, pub in American Occident Vol. V, No. 10 Tebeth 5608, January 1848.