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Appendix A

Stopping the Settlement in the Western Provinces (In 1859)

Translated by Moshe Kutten

Edited by Yocheved Klausner

Czar Alexander the Second's manifest on the day of his coronation (26 August, 1856) concerning the cancellation of the compulsory service weakened the settlement movement substantially.

Only 47 families settled in the Western Provinces in 1857 despite the fact that a substantial number of government land plots were available for settlement. On the other hand, 253 families left, either under the influence of the manifest or for other reasons. The total number of settlers in the Western Provinces reached 2827 families before 1858.

The character of the settlement in Kherson and Ekaterinoslav was different from the one in the 9 Western Provinces. The conditions in southern Ukraine were quite severe: frequent droughts, locusts, diseases, cattle plague and a harsh climate. However, the concentration in large colonies, the supervision and the guidance by the government (despite the bureaucratic flaws), the assistance by the government for the establishment of the farm, the distance from the cities – all of these factors contributed to the colonies' agricultural character. Despite the distances between the colonies, they all had a uniform identity. In a journey of three to four hours it was possible to reach the most distanced colony in the provinces of Kherson or Ekaterinoslav.

Contrary to that, the conditions in the Western Provinces were more favorable. The settlers could avoid the three–months torturing journey on foot. They were allowed to reside in their own homes until they could move to their settlements, without suffering from the acclimatization difficulties in a new climate. They lived near their relatives, and could be helped by them at a time of need. The ban on leaving the farms was enacted in the Western Provinces as well; however, the authorities were not very strict about that, and the settlers were, more or less, free in their movements.

Despite all of these favorable conditions, the general picture, after 18 years of settlement in the Western Provinces, was quite bleak. The splitting into tiny settlements, and the lack of connection between the settlements, due to the distances, contributed to the weakening of the settlement movement, which consisted of about three thousands families.

At the end of the 1850's, the criticism

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by the senior officials and their assistants in the bureaus against the Jewish settlement in the Western Provinces strengthened. The officials pointed at the lack of progress of the settlement movement and its bleak state, claiming that the Jews were not able to work the land and that they did not have any inclination for it. Yet, we cannot ignore the obstacles which were piled up in abundance in the way of the settlers: the bureaucratic foot–dragging and corruption, the inferior soil, lack of pasture lands, lack of resources, unfitting family status, lack of guidance, shortage of credit for the crops cycle's cash flow, being a minority among the Christian villages, and especially the hostile and alienating attitude within the Jewish public.

The Minister of State Assets – Moraviov, turned to the provincial authorities to report about the state of the settlers in every Province and to submit proposals for improvement.

The responses and reports of the provincial committees were quite bleak:

The Vilna [Vilnius] minister wrote: “Out of the 227 settlers in the province of Vilna – 121 are owners of good farms, as good as those of the Russian farmers. There are 71 failed farms and 35 families have not begun to establish their farms as of yet”.

The Grodno's minister wrote: “Out of 201 settlers, there are only 72 established farms. All the other farms failed, among them there are farms which are not cultivated at all”.

The Kovno's [Kaunas] minister wrote: “The situation of the settlers in the province of Kovno is not good. Although it is important to introduce the Jews to agriculture, it is important to supervise them and concentrate them in special settlements”.

The Mohilev's [Mahilyow] minister wrote: “Most of the settlers are negligent and they neglect their farm. Many wander to the nearby cities to work as merchants. Those who do not have resources have not even started to establish their farm. The supervision over them is difficult. Wouldn't it be appropriate discontinue the settlements throughout the province”?

The rest of the reports were written in a similar style.

We have a special interest in the review of Vasilchikov – the Kiev's Provincial Minister. He too, counted the flaws of the settlement movement and said that during the harvest, many farmers were not present on location. They were all scattered in the surrounding towns, since they had leased their lands to the area's farmers in exchange for half of the harvest as they have not yet established their farm and built their houses. The houses that were built were usually built without a plan and order and were quite narrow. The settlers did not obey the authority and the village leaders. The Jewish village leaders were not very good at managing the public affairs, and the settlers treated them with contempt, since they were not used to see one of their brothers in an authoritarian role. Vasilchikov was not content with the situation, and offered a solution: Directing the Jews towards craftsmanship and handicraft. As a first step in that direction, he proposed to build a vocational school in every province and finance them from the cash collected from the “Meat Tax”.

Vasilchikov also proposed to cease the settlement in the three provinces

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managed by him (Kiev, Podolia and Vohlyn). Concerning the existing settlement, he proposed to improve it by efficient supervision.

Vasilchikov's plan was received favorably by Moraviov, the State Assets Mnister, Lanski – the Interior Minister and Bludov – the head of the “Committee for Jewish Affais”. It wasn't yet clear how to convert the Jews to craftsmanship. [They were numerous]. The ratio between the Jewish and the Christian population was as high as 1:10 and in Vilna – 1:8.5. Lanski did not think that the proposal could be accomplished. However, all three [of the ministers mentioned above] accepted the proposal to stop the Jewish settlement. The proposal was transferred to the assembly of the “Committee for Jewish Affairs”, which was the highest authority for any Jewish affairs.

The “Committee for Jewish Affairs” expanded Vasilchikov's proposal and passed a resolution “to stop the Jewish settlement on government lands in the Western Provinces”, and proposed to anybody interested in settlement to settle in Kherson and Ekaterinoslav, on the reserve areas slated for Jewish settlement. Jews were still allowed to settle in the Western Provinces on private lands acquired by them, but not on scattered individual plots, only in concentrated settlements containing at least 15 families.

The resolution was approved by Alexander the Second on October 22, 1859. According to the usual custom, the resolution should have been also submitted, formulated and rationalized, to the senate for publication. However, the Chief Procurator [the head of the senate], raised the question as to whether they should publish the reasons for stopping the settlement. At the end of 1850, public opinion still carried some value. The procedural question was discussed by the three ministers involved in that matter, and it was agreed that the reasons for stopping the settlement should not be published. Therefore, the law was issued as a senate regulation without the detailed explanations and reasons.

That was how the end came to expanding the [Jewish] settlement in the Western Provinces beyond the borders of Kherson and Ekaterinoslav.

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Appendix B

The Agricultural Settlement throughout Russia in the Year 1856

In the year 1856 there were

Province Colonies / Settlements Families People
Kherson 19 Colonies 1,929 14,523
Ekaterinoslav 14 Colonies 427 9,596
Total in all of the Southern Provinces 2356 24,114
Podolia 24 Settlements 1,263 12,668
Kiev 45 Settlements 528 6,835
Volyn 28 Settlements 231 2,435
Minsk 2 Settlements 96 1,025
Vilna {Vilnus] 24 Settlements 217 2,236
Grodno 20 Settlements 305 3,174
Vitebsk 33 Settlements 130 1,1139
Kovno 8 Settlements 110 1,708
Mohilev 2 Settlements 159 1,684
[Total Western Provinces] 3,036 32,274
[Total] 5,395 56,393

Except for these colonies and settlements, there were hundreds who purchasedand settled in Tavria, Bessarabia, and Congressional Poland. We would not exaggerate if we estimate their number at a round figure of 1600 families (about 10,000 people). We can, therefore, summarize that during the beginning of the reign of Alexander the Second (1855 – 60), the Jewish settlement included about 100 large colonies and about 300 small settlements in which 7 thousand families resided, altogether – 66 thousand families, out of an overall Jewish population in Russia (including Poland) of close to 3 million people.

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Appendix C

The Settlement in Kherson and Ekaterinoslav at the end of 1885

Kherson Province Ekaterinoslav
  Settlement No. of
  Settlement No. of
1. Sdeh–Menukha ha'Gdola 11 1. Grafskoya 26
2. Sdeh–Menukha ha'Ktana 30 2. Zelenopolya 39
3. Nahar–Tov ha'Gdola 83 3. Nadezhnaya 40
4. Nahar–Tov–ha'Ktana 26 4. Sladkovodnaya 28
5. Bobrovi–Kut 104 5. Zatishya 40
6. Efingar [Yefeh–Nahar] 87 6. Rovnopol 45
7. Inguletz 128 7. Khlebodaravka 21
8. Kaminka 51 8. Novo–Zlatopol 59
9. Izlochista 53 9. Vesselaya 27
10. Novi–Berislav 46 10. Krasnoselka 41
11. Lvov 91 11. Mezherich 37
12. Novo–Poltavka 97 12. Trudoliubovka 32
13. Romanovka 88 13. Nechayevka 21
14. Novo–Vitebsk 47 14. Priyutnaya 30
15. Novo–Podolsk 32 15. Roskoshnoye 26
16. Novo–Kovna 36 16. Bogodrovka 36
17. Novo–Zhitomyr 30 17. Gorkaya 26
18. Dobroye 102  
19. Izraelovka 76  
20. Sehaidak 35  
21. Promukloya 16  
22. Volnaya 24  
  Total no. families
Total no. people
  Total no. of families
Total no. of people

Altogether – in all the colonies – 1, 967 families, and about 14, 071 people.

61,369 disiyatins [about 166,000 acres] land areas in the Jewish settlements.

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Appendix D

The State of the Jewish Settlement in the Western Provinces at the End of 1880's

The conditions for the settlement in the Western Provinces were very difficult. The soil was soft and of poor quality. The pasture fields had already been distributed to the Christian farmers and were not allocated to the Jewish farmers. Transferring the plots to the settlers and reassigning them from the list of city dwellers to the one for farmers suffered from a prolonged “feet–dragging”. The assistance from the fund of the “Meat Tax” was miniscule (initially 50 rubles and then 100 rubles), and was insufficient for the construction of the houses. An additional factor was the lack of knowledge in agriculture with all the blunders that resulted from it. Due to these difficulties, not all the settlers could proceed to receive their land, build houses and establish farms. Even those who built houses and purchased the inventory, albeit with great efforts, did not see the fruits of their work very quickly. Under these circumstances, it was understandable that many of the settlers continued to work as small merchants and as craftsmen in the nearby towns.

As stated [See Appendix A], the government in Petersburg decided, in 1859, to stop the settlement of Jews on government land in the above mentioned provinces. In 1864, a law was passed that forbade Jews to purchase [private] lands even using their own money. That law prevented the settlers who settled on private lands from purchasing additional land to enlarge their farms.

In 1865, a law was passed, allowing the Jewish settlers to transfer back from a status of an agriculturalist to a status of a city dweller. That law did not force the transferee to leave his land.

Although the Jews who transferred back to the status of city dwellers lost the right to be exempt from a compulsory military service, they were released from their legal dependency on the “Volast” (a district council of several villages), which was authorized to impose physical punishment. In the colony of Sofyovka, in the province of Vohlyn, a Jewish farmer was sentenced to flogging because he did not cultivate his farm. That punishment angered all of the colony's farmers, and they transferred from the status of agriculturalists and listed themselves as city dwellers.

In 1866, the Ministry of State Assets ceased handling the Jewish settlements, and they were transferred to the Ministry of the Interior. As such, their rights were equalized with the rights of all other farmers, and they became subjects of a new regime and institutions which were established to handle all of Russia's farmers. They became entitled to elect and be elected to the local and regional institutions.

The larger colonies had their own local management, but the smaller settlements

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were joined with the neighboring Christian villages. They had, theoretically, the right to be elected to the local institutions, even to the position of a Justice of Peace; however, in practice, the residents of the small settlements did not enjoy that right because they were a minority.

In 1872 the government lands were distributed to the farmers permanently. Many injustices and errors of the previous distribution were corrected. However, that final distribution deprived the Jewish settlers cruelly. The institutions that supervised the distribution used a regulation which allowed banishing every Jew who did not cultivate his land. The assembly of the Christian village's farmers was authorized to determine, seemingly democratically, who among the Jewish farmers was cultivating his land, and who was leasing it. Their subjective tendency was, in most of the cases, to evict the Jews in order to gain additional land. If a certain Christian farmer testified that he had leased land of a Jewish farmer, the Jew's land was taken away from him. In this “legal way”, more than half of their fields (62.7%) were robbed from the Western Provinces' Jews, and many of them remained landless, except the half disyatin [about 1.35 acres] piece of land around the house which was only suitable for growing potatoes and other vegetables.

The farmers who were not expelled from their land, persisted in cultivating their farms, acclimated to the life of working the land, and their children were born agriculturalists in every aspect. The farm sectors were cultivated and nurtured, not worse than those of their neighbors , the Russian farmers, and many of them, even excelled over the Russian farmers, although they also cultivated their farms using primitive methods.

The final blow to the Jewish settlement was landed with the “Constitution of the 3rd of May 1882”, according to which it was prohibited for Jews to purchase or lease land throughout Russia (except for small plots in urban areas). Since that time, it was impossible for a wealthy Jew to settle on a permanently purchased or leased land. Furthermore, the right of the Jews on the land they leased had expired, and according to the law they were banished from them. From that point, if a Jew wished to develop an agricultural sector and needed more land, he had to bypass the law by bribing, or leasing the land under a Christian name.

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Appendix E

The Jewish Settlement in Bessarabia

The province of Bessarabia was not initially among the provinces where the government allocated lands for Jewish settlement; however, purchasing private lands was not prohibited there. Many of the Jews, particularly from the cities of Shargorod, Kupygorov and Proskurov [Khmelnytsky] in the province of Podolia, purchased land in the neighboring Bessarabia. Due to their limited resources and their lack of experience in working the land, the first few years were difficult. They were happy when Jewish settlers from Bessarabia joined them. Some of these settlers were experts in growing sheep and some in growing tobacco. They served as guides for Podolia's Jews.

The government did not provide any assistance to Bessarabia's settlers, neither land nor loans. On the other hand, it did not impose any supervision upon the settlers. They were not forced to follow harsh regulations, and were not subjected to corrupt authority officials. They were free in their actions, efforts and initiatives and also in their mistakes. That independence instilled self confidence in them.

During the initial stages of the settlement in Bessarabia, the attitude of the government circles towards the Jewish settlers was favorable and sympathetic. No special obstacles were placed in front of them. That was how 5 colonies were established on purchased land in the districts of Soroky [Soroca] and Bieltsy [Bălţi] – Dombroveny, Lyublin, Vertyuzhany, Brichevo and Blalalo–Blad and 4 colonies on land leased for 50 years – Aleksandreny, Zguritza, Kapresht and Markuleshti. After the publication of the law forbidding leasing of lands to Jews (May 3rd, 1882), the lease of three of these colonies was cancelled, and only one of them, Markuleshti, continued to exist, by–passing the law using various tricks.

The colonies continued to develop – albeit by suffering many troubles, poverty and distress – due to the nonintervention of the government, good climate and plenty of water as well as the assistance of the local Jews who were always close to agriculture.

In the beginning of the 1860's, when the government's attitude towards the Jews, in general, and towards their settlement, in particular, was still liberal, wealthy Jews began to purchase small plots, in their own localities, for growing tobacco or vineyards. The more they became accustomed to agricultural work, and the more successful they were in doing that – the stronger the settlement process in Bessarabia became. The right to purchase lands permanently, or lease them, also helped in this process. One of the main agricultural sectors in Bessarabia was growing tobacco.

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[Agronomist] Akiva Ettinger visited in Bessarabia at the end of the 1890's and the beginning of the twentieth century, when he served as the local consultor for agricultural affairs on behalf of the J.C.A. His stories, which were written with a substantial love for the farmers in Bessarabia, contain very interesting material. We learn from these stories that the Turks have introduced the tobacco cultivation 150 years earlier, and that the cultivation methods have been actually preserved since then. That continued until the sector was passed over slowly to the hands of the Jews, and they introduced several improvements, particularly in the methods of tobacco drying.

In 1889, the Russian scholar, Shcharbachov, published his research about tobacco cultivation in Russia during 25 years (1864 – 1889). According to him, 27 [%] of the tobacco areas were owned by Bessarabia Jews in 1864 and 62% in 1888. In 1888, 3431 Jews were working in tobacco related jobs, and only 289 Christians, which means that 92% of the sector's workers were Jewish.

Initially only the plot's owner and some hired workers worked in the tobacco sector. However, over the years, the sector passed over to the hands of Jewish families who resided on tiny plots, as small as one disiyatin [about 2.7 acres] each. That limited area was cultivated during all the months of the year, by the family itself – the husband, wife and children. Even the elderly found adequate work in the small farm, from among the many tasks available to them, starting from planting and ending in packaging.

Growing tobacco by self–work brought about 300 rubles annually, which was an average income for a working family. Families often also cultivated a vegetable garden for self–consumption.

The law of 1882, prohibiting the Jews from purchasing and leasing land, heavily burdened the tobacconists, who leased lands, and those who planned to purchase a plot for growing tobacco. The tobacconists bypassed the law by leasing plots under the name of a Christian person and by bribing the police. Despite the difficulties and the expenses, the Jewish tobacco growers did not abandon the sector.

A second agricultural sector that many Jews worked in was the cultivation of vineyards. Initially this sector was more like a hobby, or a second income occupation for the store owners. The first vineyards were cultivated primitively using methods that the Moldavians inherited from the Turks. The vines were not planted on straight lines but at equal distances. They were susceptible to diseases such as Oidium and Phylloxera. The first Jewish vineyards owners did not cultivate their vineyards by themselves and did not understand anything about the methods of trimming, names of the various varieties etc. Over time they learned to know the vine, and some of them began to dedicate themselves to the sector and realized that well cultivated vineyards could bring earnings at a level which was not lower than the income from a grocery store.

Over time, improvements have also been introduced in that sector, like in the other agricultural sectors in Russia. Akiva Ettinger, who was an agronomist and a guide on behalf of J.C.A. helped in the progress of this sector tremendously.

There were some Jews who worked in growing sheep. They processed the milk into butter and cheese and marketed their products in the cities. These people were called “milkmen” by the public.

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In a census that was conducted by Ettinger in 1898, on behalf of the J.C.A., we find the following statistics:

536 households were registered in the Jewish colonies in Bessarabia, 300 of them were working in general agriculture, 545 (251 people) worked in growing tobacco, 576 in cultivating vineyards and 364 in milk production and sheep growing. Altogether, close to 2000 families from among Bessarabia's Jews (about 7.5% of the total Jewish population in that province) worked in agriculture toward the end of the 19th century.

Bessarabia's agriculturalists continued to develop their farms, along the lines that were drawn in the beginning of the 20th century, namely, along three main types of self–reliant farms as follows:

  1. A tobacco plantation of the size of 20 – 30 dunam [about 6 – 9 acres], which were cultivated by an average family, with three workers. On average they produced an income of about 300 rubles annually, an amount which was sufficient for comfortable life in a village.
  2. Vineyards of edible grapes and medicinal grapes which were re–established by grafting on American rootstock on an area of about 20 dunam [about 6 acres], on the average. Self–work of the entire family and an investment of 800 rubles during the first three years, brought an income of 400–450 rubles annually per household. This was an amount which allowed for comfortable life near a city or town, and in a settlement.
  3. A field crops farm on an area of 60 – 90 disiyatins [about 162 – 243 acres] each, with the addition of 2–3 cows, or 20–30 sheep or goats (in a common herd), which enabled a modest sustenance for a household in a colony or a mixed village.

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Appendix F

A review of the Agriculture in the Jewish Colonies in the Ukraine (Until 1926)

The lands of the old colonies in the regions of Kherson and Nikolayev in Southern Ukraine stretched over a large region of more than 40,000 disyatins (450,000 dunams) [108,000 acres] in the most fertile areas of the chernozem soil.

The agricultural farm in these colonies was mainly based on field crops. The Ukrainian's fertile “black soil” – chernozem, rich with humus, was capable of producing high yields even without the addition of fertilizers, provided that the amount of precipitations was sufficient. There was no field irrigation in the colonies, and the yields were dependent on the “Grace of Heaven”.

The amount of rain and its distribution throughout the season determined the yields. The average annual precipitation there was 500 millimeter. If the amount of rain was sufficient and its distribution was good, the yield of the winter crops – winter wheat and rye – per disiyatin (11 Dunam) [2.7 acres] reached 200 pods [300 kilogram), and the yield of the summer crops – summer wheat, barley and corn, reached 150 – 180 pods per disiyatin (about 200–500 kilogram per dunam). However, years with a sufficient amount of rain and a proper distribution were few and far between. Years with insufficient amount of rain or improper distribution were more frequent, and the crops were actually lower. Some years, like 1921 and 1924 yielded very poor crops.

The area of a farm unit in the Jewish colonies was initially quite large – 30 disiyatin per farm. However, over the years, the lands were divided among the sons and the area of a farm unit became smaller and smaller. Many families reached the stage when the land was insufficient to sustain them. Some farmers leased additional areas and paid with a third of the harvest for it, and the farm could not sustain the farmer's family. Some of the farmers turned to trade and craftsmanship.

After the end of the Civil War in Russia and the revolution, the Jewish colonies received, like the rest of the neighboring villages, additional land from the lands of the nearby estate owners. The number of farmers engaged in trade began to diminish anyway, and was almost eliminated after the war. The Jewish farmers

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began to reestablish their farms and cultivate them on a proper level with the assistance of the organizations “ORT” and “J.C.A.”.

According to the census of 1924, the following statistics was obtained about the occupations of the families residing in the colonies:

Occupations In Kherson's
In Nikolayev's
Agriculture 77.4% 75.9%
Agriculture with a secondary income
(craftsmanship in the area during the winter)
14.4% 10.2%
Permanently occupied in craftsmanship
(with agriculture as a secondary income)
5.3% 5.8%
People who did not seed at all 8.6% 2.4%
Total 100% 100%

The Jewish agriculturists cultivated their fields by using a strict seed cycle which enabled considerable eradication of weeds and preservation of the humidity, at least in part of the soil. The seeds cycle enabled rotation of the field cultivation, e.g. a fallow field, crops with rows of raised loose soil and autumn plowing for cultivation of summer crops.

The seeds cycle was also aimed at enabling increased seeding of the winter crops, particularly winter wheats, which brought higher yields and higher income.

The development of farming and its progress in the Jewish settlements was influenced greatly by the agricultural school established by the J.C.A. organization near the colony of Novo–Poltavka. The school was headed by the agronomist of a high stature and infinite dedication – Liubarski, who did a lot for the organization and advancement of the agriculture in the colonies. The objectives of the school were:

  1. To produce learned agriculturalists who would be able to serve as instructors and advanced farmers in every colony, and who would lead the way for the advancement of the agricultural farming [in the Jewish colonies].
  2. The school's farm demonstrated advanced farming in the following areas:
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The advanced farming in these areas and others served as an example and model, and thereby was an important means for the advancement of farming in the Jewish colonies.

That school was destroyed by the Makhno and Peliura gangs (after the Revolution) and was robbed and ransacked by the neighboring villagers. The wife of agronomist Liubarski, who lived in one of the school buildings, was shot by robbers when she tried to protect her husband with her own body. The school was abandoned and was not restored for many years.


Milk Sector

The second most important sector of the agricultural farm in the colonies was the milk sector. Initially, it was established to provide milk for the families themselves, blessed with many children. Over time, the farmers increased the number of cows in the cowsheds, for the purpose of producing and selling hard cheeses in the markets of the big cities.

After the Civil War, with the restoration of the colonies, the farmers organized and established cooperative milk and cheese factories, where they produced high quality milk products, especially the cheeses of the variety “Bekshtin”, which were sent to special warehouses in the cities where they were kept until they were cured and sold. The value of that cheese industry was very important. Most of the farmers in the colonies participated in it. The number of cows producing the milk reached thousands, and the yield of the best of them reached 3200 – 3500 liter per year.


The Vegetable Gardens

In 1921, after the most difficult drought, when seeds of wheat, barley and other crops had to be brought to the colonies from the outside, and only in very limited amounts, the value of the vegetable garden sector rose as a sector which could provide quick supply of food to the colonies, and could also provide employment and a nice income to the grower with a relative low investment.

In the Jewish colonies located close to rivers, where it was possible to use the river water for irrigation, cooperative groups were formed to develop commercial vegetable gardens. The “ORT” organization provided “Bulgarian” water–pumps that pumped the water from the rivers so that the gardens could be irrigated. Irrigated vegetable gardens developed and increased in number very quickly.

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In some of the colonies such as Yefe–Nahar and Sdeh–Menukha ha'Ktana, this sector played a major role in sustaining many families, especially during the first few years after the restoration of the colonies.

Over time, with the redevelopment of the other major farming sectors, the vegetable gardens sector declined slowly, and lost its economic value in most of the colonies.


The Vineyards

The J.C.A. organization introduced the first vineyards to the colony of Lvovo [Lvov] on the banks of the Dnieper as early 1911. The varieties and the rootstocks conformed nicely to the soil conditions and the climate and the vineyards began to expand in the Jewish colonies. In 1914, commercial vineyards were also planted in Novo–Poltavka, the colony near the agricultural school, and on smaller areas in other colonies.

The commercial vineyards were planted in a concentrated manner in large enough areas for each farmer (about one disiyatin, or 11 dunam [2.7 acres] per family). They had the potential of producing a nice income and became one of the major sectors in the farm. They enjoyed a good and timely cultivation and proper care. Their owners specialized in this sector under the continuous guidance from the school. Most of the fruit was processed as wine in the small cellars of the owners.

As customary in southern Ukraine, every house in the Jewish colonies had a cellar with a convex ceiling, dug deeply in the ground. The temperature in these cellars was cool in the summer and warm in the winter, and they served as warehouses for food accumulated during the summer and fall for the purpose of feeding the family members throughout the year and particularly during the long and cold winter months. These cellars served as private wineries for the production of the wine from the grapes that grew in their vineyards and the wine was sold nicely bringing a high income.

With the restoration of the colonies after the Civil War and the harsh drought that followed, the planting of the vineyards in the colonies, on a commercial basis, began to widen again. In 1923, The J.C.A. organization sent American varieties of grapevine plants from France, and grapevines grafted on American rootstocks which were resistant to the grape disease – Phylloxera. “ORT” organized groups of farmers, guided them and helped in planting a unified vineyard of 80 disiyatins [2160 acres] – a disiyatin for every farmer in the colony of Dobroye, and began to prepare additional planting in other colonies. According to the information we had, planting of vineyards continued to expand in all of the Jewish colonies, and the vineyard sector became one of the most important of the agricultural farms there.


The Fruit Tree Orchards

The only irrigated areas, before the vegetable gardens, were the fruit tree orchards in a few colonies. These orchards were planted along the banks of the Inguletz River, in the colonies of Sdeh–Menukha

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ha'Ktana and ha'Gdola [The big Sdeh–Menukha and the small one] as well as in the colony of Bobrovi–Kut. The J.C.A. organization was the one who initiated that planting and implemented it in the years 1904 and 1907. The method of planting, keeping correct distances between the trees and matching the varieties, could serve as an example and a model for the whole region. As opposed to the orchards that have existed previously in the German as well as the other villages in the area, which were planted densely with summer fruit trees of a lower economic value – the orchards in the Jewish colonies had a higher commercial value (about 70%) with big apples varieties, which enabled easier cultivation and more efficient pest control.

The J.C.A. instructors brought more efficient methods from the orchards in France. Although they were not 100% suitable for the local conditions, they, nevertheless, helped in growing trees of higher value, which brought nice incomes to their owners.

In 1918 the above mentioned colonies widened the areas of their orchards, corrected the errors made in the previous orchards, and increased the distances between the trees to 8 x 8 meter from 8 x 6. They fitted and further restricted the varieties of the apples and their owners saw blessing in their yields.

With all of that, the fruits suffered from pest attacks, which was difficult to address without an overall organization of all of the local orchards owners.


Growing Poultry and Bees

Like in all of the neighboring villages, primitive growing of poultry existed also in the Jewish colonies. Here and there some small hobbyists' beehives peeped through the trees. There were also a few bigger beehives – those which had a commercial value.

In summary[1] it can be said that the agricultural sectors in the Jewish colonies were more advanced than those in the neighboring villages, and some of them – such as the milk sector, vineyards and the fruit trees orchards, excelled and could easily serve as an example and model for the whole area.

Due the continuous direction by guides and agronomists of the J.C.A organization during all of the years that the colonies existed and the dedicated and efficient work of the “ORT' organization and its agronomists in restoring

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the colonies after their destruction during the Civil War and the horrible drought of 1921, the agricultural farm in the Jewish colonies began to make its agricultural–cultural character more and more prominent.

During WWII, with the advance of Hitler's armies, the ax came down on the Jewish colonies. Most of the Jewish farmers were annihilated, and the rest spread throughout Russia. The colonies, with all of their advanced sectors were destroyed.

May these lines serve as their eternal memorial.

Author's Notes

  1. This review details the status of the colonies until 1926. The author of this review made Aliya to Ertez Israel in 1927, and his connection with the colonies stopped then.
    Agronomist B. Gurstein Return

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Appendix G

Birobidzhan – The autonomous Jewish District
From the Encyclopedia of Social Study, Volume A, Sifriyat haPoalim, 1962

Birobidzhan, known as the “Autonomous Jewish District”, is located in the Khabarovsk province of the Soviet Union. A substantial part of its area stretched between the Bira and Bidzhan Rivers (and that is where the name came from). The total area of the district is 36,000 square kilometers and its population (according the census from January 15, 1959) is 163,000 people including: Jews, Russians, Ukrainians, Belarusians, Tatars, indigenous people (mainly Gulds and Tunguses), and other nationalities. On its southern and south eastern sides, along the Amur River, the district borders with Manchuria (China). In its northern part, the Trans–Siberian Railroad crosses it from west to east.

The Jewish settlement in Birobidzhan began in May 1928, based on the resolution by the Central Executive Committee of the Soviet Union passed in March 28, 1928. According to this resolution, the region was handed over to the KOMZET [“The Committee for the Settlement of Toiling Jews on the Land of the Soviet Union”] for the exclusive settlement of Jews. In December 1934, the district was established, and its official name appeared in the Soviet Constitution (paragraph 22) as the “Autonomous Jewish District”.

There were various motives for the resolution regarding the Jewish settlement in Birobidzhan: a) The intent of the authorities to settle and develop the Soviet Far East for economic and security reasons b) The desire the resolve the painful problem of the Soviet Union's Jewry, a substantial part of which has not integrated, as of yet, into the new Soviet economy c) The desire to divert the Soviet Jewish public opinion away from Eretz Israel and the Zionism d) The hope to win the empathy and financial support of the Jews abroad, similar to the support received by the Jewish settlement in Crimea and Southern Ukraine.

At the time, the Birobidzhan plan stirred up a storm in the Jewish public opinion throughout the world and acquired both enthusiastic supporters and harsh opponents. Despite the effort and the vast amount of money invested in it, both by the Soviet regime and by Jewish organizations abroad (ICOR [“The Jewish Colonization Organization in the Soviet Union”], ORT and others), the plan did not bring with it the desired outcomes. Natural disasters, lack of roads, organizational failures, climate problems, and especially the political instability during the 1930's fraught the progress of the settlement. After the elimination of KOMZET [Russian government's “Committee for Assisting Jewish Agriculture”'] and OZET [“Society for Settling Toiling Jews”] (in 1938) the flow of the emigration weakened and ceased completely during the years of the Second World War.

[Page 422]

During the 33 years of the settlement, it is estimated that about 60 thousands Jews (about a thousand from countries abroad), came to Birobidzhan in the beginning of the 1930's; however, most of them left. The number of Jews there today has not been published by the authorities. It is estimated that the number reaches 20 to 25 thousands people, concentrated in the two cities – Birobidzhan and Obluchye.

The number of Jewish agriculturalists in the district was very small. Only in one kolkhoz (“Illych's [Vladimir Lenin] Wills”, previously “Waldheim”), most of the residents were Jewish. Theoretically, the Yiddish language is one of the two formal languages of the district; however, all of the administration affairs are done in Russian. Not even one Jewish school has survived, and the Jewish theater was closed. The district Jewish newspaper – “Birobidzahnishe Shtern” [“Birobidzhan Star”] (2 pages), published three times a week, bi–lingual signs (Yiddish and Russian), a street named after Shalom Aleikhem, and a district library (mainly Russian books) also called after the Jewish author are virtually the only signs of the “Jewishness” of the district today.

The main reasons which led to the failure of the plan for the Jewish settlement in Birobidzhan were: a) lack of interest by the Jewish masses, for whom it was designed b) the political cleansing which destroyed the little of what has been established as an autonomous unit.

The Soviet authorities have not shown any interest in continuing the settlement of Jews in Birobidzhan since 1948, although the Soviet Union's radio broadcasting in foreign languages, which is aimed towards listeners abroad, continued to emphasize the Jewish character of the “Jewish Autonomous District”

Y. L. [Livneh]


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