Table of Contents

[Pages VI-XXIII]

to the History of T-L

by Tovia Drori

Typed by Susan Dressler


This book is dedicated to two small neighboring villages – whose beginnings were in the Pale of Settlement period of Tsarist Russia and whose end during the Holocaust – amongst whom lived Jews whose livelihood was based on agriculture and its subsidiaries. Two thousand years exile of the people of Israel overflow with different and strange expressions for the will of the people to sustain and survive with whose help they were able to say every day, “Even though he tarries, with all this I will expect him every day that will come.” One of those expressions was the Jewish settlement in agricultural villages that were founded in two stages. In 1807the first settlements were established in South Russian in the district of Harson and in the second stage in West Russia in the Pale of Settlement, whose first village Antonovka – Gmina Tuchin, in the district of Rovno, was founded in 1833 and afte it Trucheonbrod (Sofyovka) in 1835 and they continued to set up new villages from 1837, one of the first ones being Lozisht (Ignatovka) which is joined to Truchenbrod and Osova by Stefan the district of Rovno.

The settlers in South Russia in the district of Harson also came from the Jews of the Pale of Settlement, an area that extended over about a million kilometers from the Baltic Sea in the North to the Black Sea in the South, that was formed after regions with a majority of Jewish inhabitants came under Russian rule after the partition of Poland.

Until that period it was forbidden for Jews to enter Russia, except for individual Jews who had special privileges. The annexation of large areas to the Kingdom of Russia which were populated by a considerable percentage of Jews, and the deep anti-semitic atmosphere in the Russian population and especially in government circles and in the Imperial Court were the main reasons for the search for solutions, the passing of prohibitive laws and the enacting of decrees, most of which harmed the rights of the Jews and aggravated their economical position and sometimes even endangered

[Page VII]

their very existence as Jews. We shall return again in great detail to the difficult problems that faced the Jews of the Pale of Settlement and their history, within the framework of our review, of how the above villages subsisted and what was the reason for their founding.

At first the “treatment” of the Jewish problem was felt by the Russian establishment circles at the second level namely, the district governors and the top officials in the Russian government. Only in the period of Tsar Alexander I (1801 – 1825) and after him Nicholas ( (1825 – 1855) were the legal conditions formed that led to the agricultural settlement of the Jews in Russia.

However, before this, it is worthwhile to bring a few examples of the “treatment” of the Jewish problem by the high officials, “experts” on the essence of the Jews and the reform of “their deviant path.”. At the end of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth century there was a terrible famine in Rayson and the Senator Gabriel Drazshavyn, the famous Russian poet, who succeeded for a time to be the “expert” on the question of the Jews, was sent by the Emperor Paul I with extensive authority to investigate the cause of the famine and the solution. In fact the drought of those days was not the only reason for the terrible famine, but also the abominable behavior of the property owners. These gentlemen used to leave their peasants without wages and send large crops abroad or to their wine factories where they brewed the wine, this being a fatal drug for the peasants. At the Emperor's behest, Drazshavyn had to stop the corruption and impose the severest punishment on property owners “who abandon their peasants without succor through excess greed, and he shall remove their property from them and he shall appoint administrators for them” (16th June 1800), but in the accompanying order that was given by the head of the Prokrorim this clause was added, “and as it is known that the Jews are one of the reasons for the impoverishment of the peasants in White Russia, your Excellency is com-

[Page VIII]

manded on behalf of the King to pay attention with open eyes to the occupations of the Jews and give your opinion as to how this obstacle can be removed.”

In his treatise “The opinion of the Senator Drazshavyn on the matter of removing the famine from White Russia through limiting the occupations of avaricious Jews and their reform and similar matters”, he practically imposed on the heads of the Jews the responsibility for the economic destruction of the province which the property owners ruled so oppressively. However, Drazshavyn was not content with an appraisal of the economic activity of the Jews, but wished to describe their private lives, their faith, their education and learning, their community customs and “their moral standing”.

The following is his description: “The Jewish occupations – trade, leasing, innkeeping, mediation – are nothing but sharp practices to defraud their neighbors with outward show, but in truth to decrease their wealth”; The Jews have no moral feelings at all; they have no conception of love for their fellow creatures, hatred of covetousness and other virtues. They are nothing but “money collectors for the building of a complete new building or for the pleasures of the flesh.” According to these conclusions, he suggests 88 clauses for “Reform of the Jews” and attached “Philosophical Comments” such as these, “The stubborn and rebellious Jewish people will return to the right path” and the Emperor Paul I who will enact these reforms will win fame and publicity because he did as was commanded, “Love your enemies and treat well those that hate you.”

This opinion was handed to the Senate in December 1800 and was needed to serve as material for the presentation of the principal law on the Jews, but the matter did not come to fruition in the days of Paul I. In the month of March 1801 the Emperor was killed and business of reform took another form. In the days of Alexander I, the Jews succeeded in seeing Drazshavyn removed from

[Page IX]

the “Jewish Committee” after he was forced to resign from the office of Minister of Law and since he left, his opinion was no longer decided law for the members of the committee. On the 9th December 1804 “The Laws of Reforms of the Jews was issued. During the reign of Victoria II (1762 – 1796) there were district governors who were accustomed to evicting the Jews of the village into the city “so that they wouldn't wander through the land to the detriment to society”, but, as mentioned, during the reign of Alexander I, on the 9th December 1804 “The Law of Reforms of the Jews” was issued. The Emperor Alexander I was educated in the spirit of the ideals of the Philosophy of the Rationalists and the humanitarian views in the spirit of Rousseau on the one hand, and on the other hand, he was influenced by his ruthless military tutor General Siltikov. These opposing influences fostered in him dualism and capriciousness. “The Law of Reforms of the Jews” reflects this duality being a mixture of classes of freedoms and restrictions. This came about as mentioned in the introductions as a result of “genuine diligence in reforming the Jews and the requirements for the good of the chief inhabitants in those regions where the Jews were allowed to settle.” This sentence ending already gave legal verdict regarding the Pale of Settlement, an area of thirteen districts (including the district of Vollin) where Jews had been settled until now, and three regions of New Russia. This expansion of the Pale was given partially only to those Jews who were to become farm laborers. They were also allowed to settle in the two eastern districts – the Astrakhan and Caucasus. Regarding economical professions the law decreed two extremes: veto – the leasing of inns in the villages, to be completely rooted out, and positively – farming, which has to be supported and expanded among the Jews. The law gave privileges to Jews who wished to work in agriculture: gave them the right to buy desolate land in the western districts including Vollin and the South and in the two eastern districts or, they could take possession of lands given to the settlers by the government in certain areas, and during the first years they would be exempt from the burden of taxes and rates. When the law of 1804 was proclaimed to

[Page X]

evict all the Jewish villagers in three years time, there were some property owners who already took from their Jewish leaseholders the right to dwell and trade in the villages. The outcasts filled the towns which themselves did not have the wherewithal to provide a living for their own inhabitants. The social framework of the Jews and their economic status broke down, as a result of the severe collapse that occurred to their standing in the villages and their economic trade. In a proclamation that was published at that time for the Jews whose livelihood in the villages was destroyed it was said, “Grief for the worsening state of the poor of our people, who from day to day descend lower and lower…even more, those who used to dwell in the villages under whose patronage were also many of the poor of our towns – those who served them with their work…and those requesting mercy and donations. Now because they were evicted from the villages proper, they are lying at present naked, wrapped in twists of rags having worked extremely hard above a man's strength in the crushing of stones or doing other heavy work besides”. (B.O. Vinril Economic History of the Jews of Russia and Poland, second publishing 1972 in the German language.)

Certainly the government tried to attract the Jews to two new livelihoods – to found factories and farming settlements. Individual workshops for the production of wool were founded by Jews in Lithuania and in Vollin but, of course, were not able to employ the thousands of people who were driven out of the villages. And so all eyes turned to settling on the land. There are historians who maintain that with these reforms, Alexander did not intend to benefit the Jews but to bring them nearer to Christianity, in accordance with his religious-economic proclivity.) The number of requests to settle on the land came to 1500 families by the end of 1806, which is about 7,000 people. In 1807 the first settlements of Jewish farmers were founded in South Russia: Bubrubi-Koot, Sde-Menuchah, Dubraiya, Israelivka (all of them in the district of Harson) and in these were settled about 300 families which is about 1,000 people.

[Page XI]

The time fixed for the “uprooting of the Jews” from the inns and evicting them from the villages was February 1, 1808. Months before this appointed time (19th October 1807) the harsh order was given on behalf of the Emperor in the name of General- Goventor of the western province: to expel the Jews from the villages in stages during three years: one third in 1808, one third in 1809, and a third in 1810.

The spectacles of eviction began: “whoever didn't leave voluntarily was evicted forcefully, many were sent out without pity, accompanied by bullies from amongst the peasants or the army, like animals they were pushed and brought to the towns and townlets and there left in the streets of the town under the open sky. In the district of Vitbesk especially, the eviction from the villages became crueler.” Many of the evicted requested from the government to return them to New Russias to the farming settlements, which were already settled by hundreds of Jewish families, but the government didn't possess either sufficient land for planting or sufficient money so the requests were not fulfilled.

The number of requests to settle continued to increase throughout the year 1808 which is the year of eviction of the Jews from the villages, so that the district governors in White Russia asked the minister to open the gates of New Russia Southern regions for the relief of the masses of Jewish families. “The Jews of the villages”, communicated district governor Vitbesk, “were evicted too early, were ravaged and impoverished, many lacking food for even one meal and a place to sleep and therefore they increasingly proceed to New Russia. Many of the Jews who hoped to settle in New Russia sold all their belongings and beg in absolute desperation that they should at least be allowed to live there.”

[Page XII]

The pressure on the district rulers worked its part. This showed itself in the carelessness of the government officials that handled the transfer of the Jews. Some of those evicted reached the area without passports and licenses; they wandered from place to place lacking everything, hungry for food, with torn clothing, plagued by lice, weakened and infected by illnesses without anyone from the district officialdom coming to their aid. There are those who estimate their number as 10,000 souls. Their final lot is not known, some of them expired and died and from those that remained either they returned or were scattered in the towns of Harson. Only a few enterprising ones with money were successful in joining the settlements and in the year 1809, four more settlements were founded. Thus the number of settlers of the area of Harson reached 800 families.

At the time of these events there were introduced to St. Petersburg from the Settlement Department of New Russia and f rom the Duke Rishliya lectures on the necessity to halt the flow of settlers for even the first groups only managed to settle with difficulty and for the new ones there were neither tents nor equipment. In addition to this, because of the new climate to which the settlers were not yet acclimatized, the lack of homes and food illnesses were widespread. All this invoked the government to stop for the time being the settling of Jews in the colonies of New Russia (order of 6th April 1810). Thus part of a great program which professed itself able to transform tens of thousands of Jews into farmers and change their economic structure came to an end. The experiment to set up part of Jewry on the land would have been successful had the government designed such an important upheaval properly; ten thousand settlers immigrated to New Russia and after them more multitudes poor and hungry strove to enter. However, the government became alarmed by the difficulties of the scheme and suspended all movement. At the same time, the eviction of the Jews from the villages of the western region was stopped and thus the main reason for the exodus of the Jews to new places was cancelled.

[Page XIII]

Indeed, in 1812 the order of the eviction of the Jews from the villages, that was implemented according to the reforms of the law of 1804, was annulled, apparently because the army of Napoleon crossed the border of Russia and there posed the danger that the Jewish population who was persecuted ruthlessly would help the invaders. Perhaps, also, humanitarian reasons played a part in this annulment, as can be understood from the report that was presented by the committee whose head was the secret advisor of the Emperor – Popov, which was set up to examine the state of the Jews after the eviction. It recommended leaving the Jews where they are domiciled and that they should be allowed to work at their livelihoods which were forbidden to them in the law of 1804 and altogether the reason behind the decrees did not have an authentic and just foundation. In addition, Alexander I reconsidered and thus the status of the Jews reverted to its former position and they continued with their “despised” professions selling alcoholic drinks to the peasants, occupying inns on the main roads, wholesaling and peddling. At that time after years of suffering and hardship there was at last an improvement in the status of the settlers in the Harson region; the illnesses, the plagues and the dying lessened, the Jewish peasants adapted to field work, especially after the children matured and started participating in the expansion of the branches of the farm.

Furthermore, Alexander I returned from the Congress of Vienna without unkind thoughts regarding the Jews, remembering Jewish actions to the benefit of the State in the war of 1812 and also his promise “to improve their lot”. However, one cannot remain immune forever, especially in the history of the exile of the Jewish people. At the end of his days Alexander I regretted “the sin of his youth” that at the beginning of his rule he was if possible liberal and tolerant, and started showing a growing tendency towards reactionism and hatred of the Jews, and all his programs were intended to convert the Jews.

[Page XIV]

In the year 1819 and the following years the local rulers were commanded to forbid the type of agency that was called “Karstanzia” whereby a property owner transfers to the Jewish agent the years produce and the latter is entitled to make use of peasant labor in the harvesting of the produce and hay.

At the same time the government sought to have its wish applied, namely the eviction of the Jews from the villages which was already decreed in the edict of 1804, but was rejected because of its intrinsic cruelty, it being possible to bring about the annihilation of tens of thousands of families of Jews. Forgotten were all the discerning claims of the Jewish Committee, that convinced the Emperor in 1812 that the uprooting of multitudes like this by force from place to place was not possible.

In order to renew the war against village Jews they used the tried and tested prescription from the days of Drazshavyn. The year 1821 was a year of drought in White Russia and this misfortune has taught that the Jews are also stricken by it. The nobles of the land hastened to remove from themselves all liability for the impoverishment of the peasants and put all the responsibility on the Jews, the agents and the innkeepers. In the order of the Emperor dated April 11th, 1823 two district governors of White Russia were commanded, amongst other decrees, to evict the Jews from the villages. Multitudes of the evicted (more than 20,000 mean and women) were gathered into the towns and townlets that were full even without them. In their misery, they, with wives and little ones, wandered about the streets in their nakedness, crowded by tens into one dwelling, increasing amongst them illness and death. Also the shortage of food uprooted many families from their dwelling places and they flooded the authorities with requests to settle on the land (Nikitin, Jewish agriculturalists) but without results.

[Page XV]

But, in reality according to information in the Law Department the Jews became impoverished as a result of the eviction but the state of the peasants did not change for the better. At one and the same time as the order of eviction from the villages of White Russia there was set up (according to the enactment of 1st May 1825) a “Committee for the Reform of the Jews”, which was made up of the Ministers of Interior, Finance, Law, Religious and Education. The Committee for the Reform of the Jews”, which was made up of the Ministers of Interior, Finance, Law, Religious and Education. The Committee received a wide mandate, “To clarify everything appertaining to the reform of the civilian status of this people” but its hidden function, which became apparent in fact, is explained precisely in the later admission of an official source, “At the time of the founding of the Jewish committee it was charged to strive to reduce the number of Jews in the State”. This was, apparently, “the civil reform” of the Jews. The new committee was ordered to finish its work by the beginning of 1824, but its main work started in the reign of Nicholas I. In the meantime the legislative apparatus did not stop working. In 1825 two edicts were issued to distance all Jews living outside towns up to 50 varsetot from the borders except for house and landowners, this was to protect the state borders from tax evaders. Despite the explicit resolution in clause 34 of “Reform of the Jews” of 1804 to allow t hose evicted from the villages to transfer to farming, and despite the fact that the experiment in the settlements of Harson already demonstrated that the Jews were suited to agriculture and notwithstanding the please of many evicted to settle, the authorities, with the Emperor at their head, did not show this time any preparedness to allow even some of the wretched people to transfer to agriculture, and gave instructions to stop the relocation of the Jews to Harson. During 1822, 1780 families (8706 souls) wandered from White Russia to Harson. Of them, only 1016 families reached Harson and of the rest all trace has been lost. The new refugees flooded the settlements. The shortages and the illnesses caused havoc amongst them. However, they received considerate treatment from those appointed over the settlements amongst them General Einzov (head of the Bureau of Custodianship for the settlers) whose treatment of the refugees

[Page XVI]

was fairly humane, Fadyaim in the office of executor and Vidamov the principal inspector of the Jewish settlements who showed exemplary devotion. He used to rush from settlement to settlement even in freezing weather and snowstorms and during one of these journeys he became ill and died (27.4.1825) leaving behind a poor family and fond memories in the hearts of the Jewish settlers.

To conclude: From the stream of refugees from the first twenty years, about 300 families from about 2,000 families that travelled to Harson managed somehow to settle.

There is no doubt that one of the reasons for Jewish settlement on agricultural land was as a result of the awakening of Jewish self esteem, in the face of the impossible situation that was created as a consequence to the partition of Poland and the transfer of the Jews of the Pale of Settlement to the rulership of the Russians, as was mentioned above. The problems of poverty, privation and beggars in the Jewish community in the Pale of Settlement occupied the leaders of the people and its intellectuals not a little. In 1719 Menachem Mendel Lapin submitted to the special conluding Committee concerning the Jews in Poland a proposal to enable the Jews to transfer to crafts and agriculture and to grant the priests the authority to impose manual labor in special workshops established for this on those qualified for the work amongst the Jewish contractors.

In a sharp-witted manner R. Pinhas Eliahu Horovits criticizes the Jewish community in that “most of our people do not want to teach crafts to their sons, saying with pride and arrogance, that craftsmanship is shameful to us.” He saw in trade a factor in the increasing hatred of Jews. In the search for productiveness amongst the Jewish community, agriculture was seen as the most acceptable means by most Jews. This idea caught the imagination of the Jewish army contractor and rich merchant Nathan Notte Nuttkin whose influence was felt both by members of the government and by the heads of the Community who, in 1797 submitted

[Page XVII]

The intellectuals did not deal much with the subject of agriculture, perhaps because they saw the difficulties involved on the financial side and, in the earlier period on the side of the law.

The advocation of agriculture by Riv'l (Reb Itzhak bar Levinson), whose home town was in Krimenitz in the region of Vollin, a well known writer in intellectual circles, in his book “Mission in Israel” (“Te'udah Beyisrael”) which he finished writing in 1823, came after the first experiments of Jewish Settlement on the land in Russia ended in harsh disappointments. However, he strove to convince the Russian authorities of the necessity of renewed efforts to settle the Jews on government land and the beginning of the renewed settlement in the reign of Nicholas I that started in 1835-6, he saw as his personal achievement. “I am the one who caused this state of affairs.” Also the writer B. Mendelshtamm advocated for the solution of the Jewish problem within the framework of settlement on the land. One intellectual called Yaakov Peres wrote a book call, “Legacy without Egypt”, in which he demonstrates the advantages of farming from the Bible.

However, not all the intellectuals took the positive course in order to solve the Jewish suffering. Among them were those who offered advice to the Emperor how to “improve” the Jews by removing their strange clothing that causes their isolation and even stood at the right hand of the authorities as regards the decrees against the Jews. Those who were discouraged with working the land and those leaving the village without a permit, or those who returned after the date fixed for them in the permit were to be recruited and later also liable to a whipping.

[Page XVIII]

Nicholas I (1825-1855) was destined to be a warrior and only as a result of a series of events ascended the throne. He had no interest in the question of the Jews until his royal appointment. During his youth he had an opportunity once of seeing the Jewish population in the course of his tour when he travelled in the year 1816 all over Russia for the purpose of perfecting his knowledge. In his travel records the Grand Prince notes the impression that this strange people made on him. “The peasants of this region are being exterminated; the Jews here are the sub-owners and wherever they turn this miserable people will get poorer. They are everything her. They are the merchants, the contractors, the holders of the inns, the mills and the ferryboats, they are the craftsmen…like leeches, in fact, do they cling to the place of their sucking and drain the vigor of those wretched serfs. It is a wonder, that in 1812 they were enormously loyal to us and also helped us in every way that they could even to offering up their lives.”

Afterwards when Nicholas I was required to decide the lot of the Jewish population, he didn't change his mind that they are “a harmful element” and there is no place for them in a Christian State. It is a duty to fight against this element, to remove the harmful aspect in it and to conquer it with military operations as is fitting for a State authority built on strict administration. Thus a unique program was accepted by government circles, “to reform”

[Page XIX]

the Jews by imposing military service on them, that they would no longer be exempt from it by means of a monetary tribute as was the case. Military service according to this program was necessary to fulfill the role of education and discipline. The military camp was designated to raise a new generation of Jews who would be free of their national characteristics and perhaps even converts. Twenty-five years military service under the harsh discipline of those days; the taking of young boys to the army and distancing them from Jewish surroundings for a long time – all this must play a role in turning the members of the army into Russians and to prepare the way for absorbing the Jews bit by bit into the ruling people and even into the reigning church.

The program of changing the demeanor of the Jews by military means occurred to Nicholas I already in the first year of his reign. In the year 1826 the Emperor ordered his ministers to compose a motion for army regulations for the Jews with modifications from the general laws. When rumors spread in the Pale of Settlement concerning the edict that was about to be issued, the whole Jewish population was shocked. This group, which had only recently entered the territory of the Russian State, who were true to t heir faith, far in spirit from theRussian people and also deprived of civilian rights, were not able to reconcile themselves with a future of 25 years military service, which would distance the sons from the inheritance of the fathers, their language, their way of life and their principles and throw them into an alien surrounding which was hostile towards them. What was hidden in the minds of the designers of the proposal that the aim was conversion, was felt immediately by the soul of the people and it seized with horror. The heads of the community tried with all their might to cancel the evil decree but without success and on the August 26, 1827, the evil decree was signed by the Emperor, the day on which began the very worst days in the history of the Jews of Tsarist Russia.

[Page XX]

To the Russian authorities an all-encompassing program for settling the Jews in the fertile plains of South Russia, so that they could occupy themselves with agriculture, raising flocks and plantations and also raising silk worms, etc. together with two Jews from the upper class of St. Petersburg – Avraham Peretz, a wise and educated man, a ship building contractor and Leib Nachomoviz, a writer and philosopher, an intimate of the higher echelons in the government top ranks, but he was not privileged to see even the beginning of the settlement of Harson. In the year 1823 the high commissioner in the Polish Congress issued a decree in the name of the government of St. Petersburg whereby Jews were allowed to lease lands for an unspecified period and could benefit from tax exemption for a number of years depending on their lease. A number of rich Jews leased large properties and worked them. The wealthy Leib Shaffir leased from Count Zamoisky three tracts and worked them mainly with the aid of Jewish laborers who became skilled and adapted to fieldwork and afterwards they themselves leased lands and worked them with success. The wealthy man S. Posner acquired the large property Kumra, allotted parcels of land with all stock to 31 Jewish families without charge on the condition that they work the land and enjoy its produce.

Similarly, the founder of the Chabad Movement, Rabbi Shneur Zalman also advocated working the land and immigrating to the Land of Israel, an unusual phenomenon in the Hassidic Movement. The Rabbi, Rav Dov Ber of Merzeritz also associated himself in the encouragement of would-be settlers amongst the Hassidim, who arrived in Harson with the second wave. So did Reb Menahem Mendel, the “Zemek Zedek”, a number of whose followers founded the agriculture village Shebechecherin in the year 1842. But these were few and individuals, and most of those with authority and from distinguished families in the Jewish communities viewed the Jewish farmer with scorn, and especially the religious circles saw in farming a danger that would lead to assimilation and conversion.

[Page XXI]

Following the military decree there was an increase of limiting laws and the enslavery increased. The Jews were beaten by military rods and civilian whips jointly. In the same year of suffering two edicts were signed: to evict the Jews from all the villages of the Horodna region and the city of Kiev with the aim of limiting the belt of cities in which Jews within the Pale of Settlement were allowed to live.

From the hour that the military edict was published, the Secret Service Bureau in St. Petersburg worked diligently on the new “civil law” for the Jews to take the place of the edict of 1804 which had become outdated. At first the proposal was composed of 1,230 clauses – a complete code of subjugation inspired by the barbaric principle: everything that is explicitly allowed by law is forbidden for the Jews. The proposal of the ministers was so severe that the Law Office decided to moderate it. In the spring of 1835 in the month of April, the new “Law of the Jews” was signed.

This charter of oppression that was in effect for several score years abolished the old “principle laws” in addition to the new limitations that were issued after 1804. “The Pale of Settlement” was greatly reduced, all the belts of the villages that were a distance of 50 versatot from the Western border were again forbidden for settlement, and other harsh and eccentric decrees which because of their deviation from our subject I do not mention here.

Furthermore, in “the law of recruitment to the army” from 1794 – 97, there was a clause regarding the recruitment of Jews according to which the Jews of Russia like the Christian merchants were able to release themselves from military duty by paying the sum of 500 rubles.

This law enables the Jews to be exempt from military service for 34 years. Nicholas' edict from the 26th August 1827 determined “that all Jews from the ages of 12 to 25 were obliged to be enlisted for 25 years and boys that were enlisted had to serve 6 additional

[Page XXII]

Jews from the towns were allowed to transfer to agricultural settlements with the approval of the general assembly of the farmers of the village to whom they presented their candidacy, and also an endorsement from the heads of their community that they held sufficient funds to set up a farm without government help and that they are suited to farming. These settlers would benefit from tax years of preparation and training. Those exempt from enlistment against a ransom of 1,000 rubles are only merchants who are registered in the merchant union, craftsmen registered in a professional guild, those in charge of the machines in factories, farmers, rabbis and graduates of Russian schools.

Jewish farmers are exempt from obligatory enlistment from the date of the issue of the edict or the date of settlement on the land for a period of 50 years, if they live in large villages, and those settled singly for 25 years. Those who leave farming are obliged to enlist.

Amongst the clauses of the Ministerial Committee was said: 1)The peasants must work regularly in agriculture. 2) Without permits and passports they are allowed to go only to the adjoining villages.

exemption for a number of years, according to the edicts of 1804 and the members of their family were released from army service for a period of 50 years from the date of their settlement.

The tendency of the Russian authorities in those days except for a small number of humanitarian circles within the Russian leadership, was to cause quite intentionally the assimilation of the Jews within the Christian community, either by force, by enlisting the Jewish youth for as may years as possible and arranging thus that they became assimilated or in pleasant ways, namely to settle them on the land with two aims:

[Page XXIII]

Those lax in their work and those who left the farm without permission or those who returned after the date set in their permit will be conscripted and later liable to flogging.

  1. The Jews must make flourish uncultivated and barren land like in Novo Russia the enormous tracts near the Black Sea which were captured from the Turks, and were almost uninhabited, (this tendency continued also in the days of the Communist rule: Birobidjan).

  2. As a result of working the land, so they thought, through force of circumstances the Jew would be assimilated by the society amongst whom he lives. As a result of this claim and as one of the reasons, the rabbis, who were the dominant force and had the greatest influence in the Jewish congregation, were against Jewish settlement of the land in Russian exile, except for a number of intellectuals who sided with the idea for their own reasons as was mentioned above. If one is allowed to be non-conformist (not in the classic context) or quote a saying in Yiddish: “ah mensch tract, und Gott lacht…(man makes plans and G-d laughs).
But behold, the course of history took a different path from that planned or thought by those factors concerned who were influential at that time. For under the surface of the misfortunes of the Jews of Tzarist Russia, the evictions, the evil decrees, the poverty and the distress, the physical degradation and the spiritual humiliation, lived the kernel, the seed of the will of survival of the Jewish people that sought a way from the darkness of the depths in the dry earth, to send a bud into the air of the world and command it to continue the existence of the chain of generations of the people of Israel.

[Page XXIV]

The Agricultural Settlement
of the Jews in the West of Russia

Already in the edict of 1804 Jews were given permission to acquire and to buy good uncultivated land within certain regions amongst which was included the region Vollin. However, besides the settling of Jews in the district of Harson and surroundings as mentioned above, no other Jewish settlement was implemented in Western Russia within the Jewish “Pale of Settlement” until the year 1833. The law of 1804 did not affect the settlement in Western Russia, inasmuch as the state lands did not become free and as far as acquiring private land was concerned even the few wealthy Jews did not have it within their means, and they were just the ones for whom it was not absolutely necessary (“Hamelitz” 5628 page 160, dissertation by the Maggid of Chelm, Hacarmel 5630 page 10, Hacarmel 5630 page 130). It is possible that the difficulties encountered in the Jewish settlement in the Harson region and the lack of willingness on the part of the Tsarist authorities to devote suitable resources to additional settlement, is another reason for this. Another reason (perhaps) is that political events and the wars in Europe (invasion of Russia by Napoleon 24.6.1812) caused the inexecution of Jewish settlement in those regions that were in the midst of the crisis areas and altogether very little material exists on the agricultural settlement in the western region of Russia except for Nikotin's book. But limited research on this subject by Jews who researched most of the data from the above, amongst them the extremely detailed book by Zvi Livne from Nahalal. Jewish farmers in Russia(1) and also a number of statistics from later years in the journal of “ORT”. However, interesting detail in the earlier statistics even in Nikotin, is that Sofyovka and Ignatovka are not mentioned despite their being two of the first colonies founded in Western Russia in the “Pale of Settlement”, except for Yaybrayski Encyclopedia.

It is said in it that Sofyovka (Truchenbrod) was founded in 1835 and Ignatovka (Lozisht) and Osova Stefan the Rovna region in 1838 on private land(2).

Perhaps this is the place to clarify: a) the years of the founding of Truchenbrod (and it is not by chance that I do not mention the actual name of the place Sofyovka as it was called officially).
b) What is the reason for the two names, the popular one Truchenbrod and the official name Sofyovka?
c) What were the causes for its founding?

Regarding the year of its founding, survivors of the village disagree with the date mentioned in the Yaybrayski Enclyclopedia. The strongest objector is Reb David Schwartz who was born in Truchenbrod and emigrated to the United States, visited Truchenbrod together with his wife in 1934 and published a pamphlet in Yiddish “Mein Shteitle T.B.”. According to him, Motti Shayus was the first child to be born in T.B. and he died in 1913 and was 100 years old at his death (Mein Shteitl T.B., David Schwartz, page 19). According to his assertion it appears that the year of the founding of T.B. was at least before 1813. Eliezer Barkai, of blessed memory, a native of T.B. who was one of the first immigrants to Israel, a living encyclopedia of the history of T.B. also disagrees on the date specified in the Encyclopedia and he bases his arguments on the factual data “A Jew by the name of Motti Shayus who died in T.B. in 1925 and he was 100 years old at his death. Motti told that he was brought to T.B. when he was two years old”. According to simple arithmetic this turns out to be 1827 and because Eliezer did not delve into the historical background of the period, he saw in this date a contradiction to what was said in the Yaybrayski Encyclopedia. It appears to me that precisely the data of Eliezer solves all the above three problems.

As aforementioned, the edict of Nichola from the 26th August 1827 regarding the enlistment of boys and youths to the army created a nightmare for every Jewish home. The Jews of the “Pale

[Page XXVI]

of Settlement” who were for the main part observers of religion and tradition saw in this edict not only a humanitarian problem, of enlisting young children into the army, but also a danger of conversion from the point of view of “every son that is born shall be thrown into the army”. Zvi Livne from Nahalal (author of the book “Jewish farmers in Russia') writes to me that it is reasonable to suppose that after the announcement by Nicholas I that Jewish farmers and their children were exempt from enlistment to the army, a Jew of the class of Levi Eshkol was found who negotiated with a property owner to buy his estate. He organized several hundred Jews, parents of young children, and thus founded this village at the approximate date a short time after the announcement of the Tsar in 1835. According to what has been said above, it appears to me that in the year 1827 immediately accompanying “the Edict”, a number of Jews from the adjoining villages got together and bought from a certain squire whose name was Truchen a parcel of land covered with forests and a swamp which was known by the name of Brod (swamp in Russian) of Truchen and in Yiddis “truchenbrod” and so the place was called by the local people until the bitter end – the holocaust. (One shouldn't take seriously the story of a peasant by the name of Truchen was drowned there in the swamp, and the place was called by his name and accident. One cannot accept that Jews during the course of generations would call the place where they lived by a name based on such a banal story.)

Accompanying the wide scale cutting down of forests, that continued to spread in government and private properties, parcels of cut down forestry land made up of many thousands of morgim were formed, which other Christian settlers among them Germans who came to Poland, refused to accept because they were considered to be privileged as a result of their being experts on agriculture and claimed top quality soil and not rocky ground or forestry plots that demanded much work. Matters were different as regards those of the Jewish population who turned to agriculture. They had no choice except to accept those lands that landowners or the authorities saw themselves prepared to sell or allocate to them. Jewish

[Page XXVII]

settlers whose heads were in the noose – the demoralizing poverty and later the dread of compulsory service in the army of the Tsar. Therefore they didn't pick and choose amongst the plots of land presented to them and accepted everything they could get. (Julian Bartish, “Zion” a quarterly dealing in research in Jewish history 32nd year, Iyar 5726).

Such was the state of affairs till 13th April 1835, the date of the Emperor's signature on the new “Law of the Jews” amongst all the edicts of which were found also some positive clauses, mainly clause 23 dealing with Jewish farmworkers. It was said that “The Jews are entitled to settle on lands belonging to the government or on lands bought by themselves permanently and also on areas of leasehold land in all the districts of the “Pale of Settlement”. The transfer to settlement is free, according to each man's wish and without force. The settlers benefit from personal taxes for a period of 25 years, will be freed from compulsory enlistment to the army and also exempt from “Hazamstabu” taxes for 10 years.”

Until that date in 1835 the Jews in T.B. worked with extreme caution, and as regards settlement on private land no registration was approved since the Jews did not want things to be published and cause complications with the authorities. On the other hand the law of 1835 encouraged settlement on private land, (Mordechai Levin, An Appraisal of Society and Economics in the period of the Enlightenment. Bialik Foundation, Jerusalem). It appears, that out of mistrust of the “evil monarchy” being likely to work for the good of the Jews, it was only after settling on the land of the village Antonovka, the area Tuchin, the Rovna region in the “Pale of Settlement” did also T.B apparently dare to come out from underground in the year 1835 and then was approved officially as a Jewish agricultural village and received the official name “Sofyovka” that was in use only for contact by the Jews with official sources as against the name T.B which was accepted by all the people, also in communal documents and religious institutions, etc.!


The first settlers came mainly from the surrounding areas. In the lists of Eliezer Borak the names of the first families who came to settle in T.B. appear. The area of the land and the size of the family provide recognizable signs of their being among the first families in the place, like family Antorg who came to TB from Shpitovka, all of them being craftsmen: builders, carpenters, apparently men of substance. The first Scroll of the Law in the 'Homilner” Synagogue was a present from the heads of the family. The area of land made available to the extensive family was almost 600 dunam. All the families that founded the village were in a similar position; and from her the inference.

  1. That the first settlers did not arrive in TB. As a result of their bad economic position, but only the edict of recruitment motivated them towards it.
  2. There were also no ideological considerations from the school of “the enlightenment” since they were for the main part religious people who kept the commandments and followers of “Rebbis” and it is most doubtful if they had even heard of the enlightenment movement. Thus, the single conclusion is that T.B. was founded not before the edict of 1827 as said above. The original settlers were joined from time to time by new families (details in the lists of Eliezer Barkai). I know of two brothers Alter and Izik who arrived in T.B. from the village of Mikov, that one of them was adopted by the family Borak (Hatsalyukis) and accepted their name and from here family Borak branched out one of whose grandsons being Eliezer Borak mentioned above and his widespread family. The second brother was adopted by family Shaul Roytenberg and accepted their name and from him – the families of Nahum Alters and Moshe Hirsh the teacher whose grandchildren Yitzhak and Nahman and family Gershon, of blessed memory, are living in Israel (from a personal conversation that I had in Boston, U.S.A. – with an emigrant from T.B. from family Borak who heard the story at home (the man died in 5744-1984 when he was nearly 100 years old). What the reason was for adoption and not known
[Page XXIX]

to me, it is worth mentioning that affiliation to families was in the place of children from those families who had died without the authorities being informed of it. It could be because according to the renewed “Law of the Jews” from the year 1844 only an applicant with a family of six people or including three men was given permission to settle. If this is the reason one must presume that family Borak and Roytenberg arrived in T.B. not before 1844.

One can presume that there were other cases of affiliation on the ground of the recruitment edicts until 26th August 1856 the coronation day of Alexander II who published the manifesto cancelling the cantonist compulsory military service as formed by Nicholas.

There remained the regular compulsory enlistment for five years that applied to all the inhabitants of Russia including the Jews. Only a sole son in a family was not obliged to enlist. But in family Blitshin who were rich and apparently had influence there were two sons. In order that they should not be taken to the army, one of the sons detached himself from the family and received a new family name, namely Kerman and this is family Kerman that the head of the family in our times was “Hershel Leib der Klieger (the wise)”.

In statistics of agricultural settlement in Russia in the year 1856 (Zvi Livner, “Jewish Farmers in Russia”) one finds that in the Vollin region there were 28 settlements which included 231 families and 2435 people. It is worth mentioning that in all the statistics known to me, T.B. Lozist Osova etc. do not appear. In the Yuraiska Encyclopedia they are listed as those that settled on private land. Perhaps since the settlers were men of substance and didn't get special treatment and so did not enter the statistics or that the above were situated in areas not easily reached by transport and were not visited and therefore were not taken into statistical account.

At this stage the period of Jewish settlement in the western areas was almost concluded, moreover under the influence of the mani-

[Page XXX]

festo or for other reasons, 253 families out of 3039 who were in the western region of Russia left the settlements.

In order to be scrupulous with the facts, one must mention also the other motives and mainly the economic ones that brought about Jewish settlement on an agricultural basis; poverty and degradation were the lot of the Jewish population especially at this time and added to this were also elements such as the knowledge on the part of the property owners who did not find until now people who were anxious to lease their land – and “the demand” on the part of Jews who did not have the capacity to buy lands and also the authorities did not support them, and they were forced to lease lands from property owners in order to free themselves from poverty and hunger. Descriptions of the destitution that was the lot of the great majority of the Jewish population in the Kingdom of Poland are known usually from publications from that time (Hashachar, a Jewish weekly in Poland).

A description of the condition of the Jews of that time is found in an encyclopedia essay written in German in 1843, that is not known to many, “The poor amongst the Jews (and this class is the largest in number) go about very often in torn shoes and socks in extreme cold, many families live in one dirty flat right next to each other, with only low partitions or roofs made of tin boards between them. Raw onions in salt and bread is the usual diet. Salt fish made in vinegar oil and onion is in the category of luxuries. Fish they eat only on Shabbat, meat they taste rarely because its price is too high resulting from the kashrut tax.

The royal commissioner in the order of 1843 that deals with ways to increase the agricultural settlement of the Jews, defined their situation thus, “the inhabitants of the Kingdom from the children of the law of Moses because they occupy themselves exclusively with all kinds of speculations and also because of their natural growth which exceeds normal limits have become harmful to society. The majority have reached such poverty that only through unlawful profits as a result of sinful assault on the law do they earn

[Page XXXI]

a living, which is corroborated by the practice of smuggling without taking account of the severe punishment those who do this are liable to receive, and also the number of the children of the law of Moses who are imprisoned in prisons for different criminal offences. The author calculated and found that for every million population there were amongst the Jews 22,516 guilty of all kinds of crimes.”

The numerical growth of the poor of the Jewish people that intensified from year to year is one of the most important causes that brought the authorities and the progressive from amongst the property owners, to devise on the one hand ways to improve the living conditions of the population, and on the other hand as part of the effort to curb the manufacture of brandy, and the need for the complete dismissal of Jews from trade in alcoholic drink and also from several other forms of trade.

Conversely, the property owners were interested for economic reasons in the development of Jewish agricultural settlement. Leasehold fees for land that until then it was impossible to find a demand for it, flowed regularly into the pockets of the owners. Moreover, the settlers were compelled quite frequently to fulfill different obligations and to send to the property owners “grants” that were fixed in the leasehold contract in advance, the money that came from the lease flowed regularly into his pocket. The settlers paid on average 45-75 kopeks per morag per year and in most cases each farm had to give 4 days compulsory work in the harvest season and every farm had to bring grants to the court, 2-3 chickens, eggs and butter. Those very same property owners who did not wish the Jews well, helping government officials who came to remove the Jews from the profits of alcoholic drink and trade in the villages and townlets, they were the ones who had good relations with the Jews who intended to settle on their private lands.


Agricultural Settlement in Tsarist Russia

To conclude the history of the agricultural settlement of the Jews in the Kingdom of Poland, there is inherent also the material interest of the medium and large property owners in this problem. The action of the authorities and the progressive groups of the property owners was basically suitable to the economic – social condition of the Kingdom of Poland at that time for it was intended essentially to improve the living conditions of the poor Jews and rescue them from the petty trade that only secured for them a wretched existence in penury.

Despite the atmosphere of indifference and lack of suitable support on the part of the central authorities, the agricultural settlement achieved considerable attainments both in the number of farms that were set up and also in the standard of their agriculture.

The Jewish agricultural population which reached about 30,000 people in the middle of the 19th century was within an important professional group amongst its brethren and contributed a considerable contribution to the progress of the village farm and also contributed no negligible contribution to the national income through turning uncultivated rocky land and cut down forestry plots to productive farms.

One of the most important reasons for the stoppage of the development of the agricultural settlement amongst the Jews especially among the poor of the people was that the Jews were not used to working the land and were not trained for it neither from the physical aspect nor the professional aspect. Added to this that treatment by the governmental representatives who dealt with the Jewish agricultural settlement, treatment that was far from sympathetic to Jewish agriculture and very often was even hostile. (Julian Bartish, Zion, a quarterly for the research of Jewish history 32nd year, Av 5726)


One must presume that also to the villages T.L. came Jews who did not have the capacity to acquire land and worked mainly by providing services to the population who was experienced in the work with trade and religious offices (about this in the list of Eliezer Barkai).

In the year 1859 the St. Petersburg government decided to stop Jewish settlement on government land in the western districts and in 1864 an edict was published that forbade Jews in that region of acquiring land even with their own money. This law prevented settlers on bought land from acquiring additional areas to complete the farm. Thus the Jewish settlers who were interested in lands bought them using the names of non-Jews in the area.

I still remember the case that was at the beginning of the twenties in the 20th century in the period of the Polish rule that the Jews of T.B. conducted a court case against squire Korolenko with whose name they bought land and he denied the fact and won, because the Jews did not have any documents to prove their claim.

One can also see from this that the lives of the Jews of T.B. were stable from the economical aspect and also from the communal aspect (see the list of Eliezer).

The second fact to prove this: In the year 1865 a law was published according to which Jewish settlers were allowed to return from the status of agriculturist to the status of town dweller without being obliged to leave their land, also those that lived on government land. However, those that returned to the register of the town dwellers lost the privileges of exemption from military service. Nevertheless on the other hand they were freed from judicial dependence on the Vallust (regional council) who was entitled to inflict also “corporal punishment”.

A Jewish farmer from T.B. who did not work his land was punished with a whipping and this aroused the anger of the farmers in the village and they withdrew from the status of farmers and re-

[Page XXXIV]

gistered as town dwellers. From then onwards T.B. is called a townlet and not a village as compared with Lozisht which remained a village. However, this change expressed itself in the lack of maintenance that also Jewish institutions gave to agricultural farms in Poland like “ORT”, etc. Since T.B. did not appear in their lists as an agricultural settlement as compared with Lozisht, which received help also in agricultural training and financial support from banks who stood to help the men of the agricultural settlements and T.B. was forced to be “polished” by Lozisht in order to receive any sort of support from these sources.


  1. See Zvi Livne, “Jewish Farmers in Russia” published by Aleph 5727, 106-72. Return
  2. Encyclopedia Yaybrayski edited by Dr. Katzenelson (Buki ben Yigli) Leningrad 1908. Return


  1. Bartish Episode of the Agricultural Settlement of the Jews in the Kingdom of Poland in the Period before the Release of the Farmers. Zion 32 5727, pages 46-75.
  2. Alek: De Yiddish Kalaniman in Russland ve Frankfort Damin 1886.
  3. Nicotin Tikhin Victor Siuvrai Zamliadeltsia 1807-1883.
  4. Nikitin: Avrahchkaim Posalania Savarna Yugozavdanich Gover 1835 – 1890.
  5. Yavreisky Mir “Journal A.” 1909.
  6. Russian-Jewish Encyclopedia Part I.
  7. Yav”a – Blatte 1, page 234.
  8. Mordechai Levin – An Appraisel of Society and Economics in the Ideology of the Enlightenment Period. Bialik Foundation, Jerusalem.
[Page XXXV]
  1. Bar-bar-hai – The Jewish Agricultural Settlement in Old Russia. Moscow 1928.
  2. Brodkosvy – Jewish Agriculture in Eastern Europe, Berlin 1926.
  3. De Yiddishe Landwirtsheft in Rusland Kiuvwarfart, 1918, Z.Brunin.
  4. Akiva Ettinger, With Jewish Farmers in the Diaspora.
  5. Jewish Farmers in the Plains of Russia.
  6. Dubnov Shimon D.Y. see further chapter 8, page 211 onwards.
  7. The Hebrew Encyclopedias, Jerusalem: Alexander I, Nicholas I, Enlightenment: The Pale of Settlement.
  8. Kagan Marcus – Jewish Farmers in the Region of New Russia, 1880.
  9. Jewish Agricultural Colonization in Russia “ORT” 1926.
  10. “Gilad” volume II, Yaakov Levovi (Luvitski) 179 – 207.
  11. “Gilad” IV, V Levovi, The Jewish Population Census, 1921, pages 265-276.


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