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The Jewish Community of Soviet Union

The Jews of the Soviet Union

On Wednesday, July 14th, 1927, a car stopped before 22 Mochovaya Street in Leningrad. Out of the car came two brawny men in heavy fur coats and leather boots. The two, agents of the GPU - State Political Directorate, a branch of the NKVD, the Soviet secret police, climbed quickly to one of the top floors of the building. The arrest warrant they held was the culmination of a long period of surveillance on an individual suspected of anti-Communist activities. His name was Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson, the sixth rabbi and head of the worldwide Chabad Lubavitch Hasidic movement.
While the Rabbi did manage, after harrowing ordeals and breathtaking plot-twists, to evade arrest and flee the Soviet Union, his story is the essence of the struggle for Jewish identity in the Soviet Union, ruled with an iron fist by the Communist Party.
Seven years earlier – in 1920, three years after the Bolshevik (“October”) Revolution, the borders of Soviet Russia were set. The multitude of Jews within the jurisdiction of Mother Russia, some 2.5 million in total, were of mixed feelings about it all. On one hand, many of the leaders of the Bolshevik Revolution were Jews (among them the revolution's number two figure Leon Trotsky), official anti-Semitism was abolished and Jews were allowed to reside anywhere they pleased within the Soviet Union. On the other hand, the new regime decreed that anyone taking part in national or religious activity is “an enemy of the proletariat.” Thus the Bund movement and the Zionist movement were outlawed, speaking in Hebrew was banned and synagogues were emptied and turned into cultural centers serving Soviet propaganda. The Evsektsiya, the Jewish section of the Communist Party, most of whose members were Jews and loyal operatives of the Party, was designed in fact to suppress Jewish national sentiments in Russia. The organization published a newspaper, called “Der Emes” (“The Truth”) which offered Soviet propaganda in Yiddish – the only language recognized by the Communist regime as a national-Jewish language. The board members stopped at nothing to achieve their goal – the erasure of Jewish identity and the integration of the Jewish People into the international proletariat.

1926 | The Messianic Zionism of the Mountain Jews

They speak a Persian-Jewish dialect that incorporats Hebrew and Aramaic words, keep to Jewish traditions and religious rituals and maintain their famous and ancient custom of hospitality. The mountain Jews, who called themselves “Juhur” (“Jews”), lived in the Caucasus for many centuries and were an inseparable part of the Soviet Jewish community following the revolution.
Some believe that the Mountain Jews are descendants of the tribe of Judah exiled to Babylon in 586 BCE. Others claim that they are descendants of the Ten Tribes of the Kingdom of Israel exiled 140 earlier. One way or another, and despite long periods of isolation from Jewish communities elsewhere in the world, the Mountain Jews adhered strictly to Jewish matrimonial law, kosher slaughtering, circumcision, holidays and festivals.
Zionism in its Messianic sense was ingrained in their heritage forever, and over the years many of them made aliyah to Jerusalem, whether by vehicle or in foot, and were buried on the Mount of Olives. They donated money to yeshivas in the Holy Land, and emissaries from the Land of Israel were welcomed in their homes with great affection. At first many of the mountain folk looked askance at modern Zionism, mostly due to its predominantly secular nature, but over the years they have come to embrace Zionism in their own way. They sent delegates to Zionist Congresses, collected money for Zionist causes, and the fact that they were a rural, farming people drew the admiration of Theodore Herzl, who said that “they shall be the pioneers of working the soil in Eretz Israel.” In 1926 members of this community founded the settlement of Kfar Baruch near Nahalal, and 50 years later many of those who still remained behind in the Soviet Union joined the great aliyah wave of the 1970's.

1928 | The Anti-Semitic Hunting Season

In the 1920s Vladimir Lenin, then leader of the Soviet Union, instituted the “New Economic Policy”, or NEP, under which free enterprise was partially permitted. The Jews, whose main occupation was "bourgeois" small-scale commerce, enjoyed this policy at first, but the high taxes levied by the government impoverished them and they were forced to close their businesses in favor of farming or public administration work. During these years the Jews of the Soviet Union established a network of Yiddish-speaking schools, which at its peak provided education to 160,000 pupils, approximately one third of all school-age children in the Soviet Union. Also founded during this period were theaters which produced plays by Mendele Mocher Sforim and I. L. Peretz, as well as “Proletarian Jewish Culture Faculties” at the universities of Minsk and Kiev, where they taught Judaism, Stalin-style, which is to say “national in form and socialist in content.”
In 1928 Stalin implemented his five-year plan, and the Soviet Union was set once and for all in the form of a Communist dictatorship. Jewish schools were closed, the Jewish merchant class was eliminated and Yiddish literature died out (of 124 Jewish writers who took part in the Soviet Literature Convention held in 1934, only 24 wrote in Yiddish.) The Soviet solution to the “Jewish Problem” was the establishment of an “Autonomous Jewish Oblast (or administrative region)” called Birobidzhan, after its two major rivers. But this attempt failed, as only 20,000 Jews moved to the area, and 11,000 of these left not long after arriving.
In 1930 the regime began the systematic destruction of Jewish institutions it set up itself. In 1937 and 1938, during Stalin's “Great Purge” period, thousands of Jews were arrested, exiled, or executed. The “Anti-Semitic Hunting Period,” as it is known in research, ended only in 1953, upon the death of the tyrant.

Distribution of Jewish Occupations in the Soviet Union, 1926

Occupation %
Clerks 40.6
Laborers 30.6
Unionized Craftsmen 16.1
Independent Craftsmen 4.0
Kolkhoz Farmers 5.8
Other 2.9

The Holocaust of Bullets

In 1939 the Soviet Union and Nazi German signed the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact. Under this treaty, the Soviet Union annexed the three Baltic countries – Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia – parts of Romania such as Bessarabia, and parts of Poland. This added two million Jews to the population of the Soviet Union.
And so, on June 22nd, 1941, on the eve of the German invasion of the Soviet Union (Operation Barbarossa), it was home to over five million Jews. The Germans, for whom the annihilation of Jews was one of the objectives of the war, assigned the murderous Einsatzgruppen units to this task. Unlike the systematic murder machine employed in the extermination camps, these platoons employed “ordinary” means: They simply shot most of the Jews of the Baltic countries, Belarus and Ukraine to death. Immediately upon the occupation of a village, town or city, the Germans would appoint a Judenrat (a council charged with mediating between the Nazi authorities and the local Jews), and all the local Jews were ordered to register with it. After a few days the Jews were ordered to gather at a certain location, where they were told that they were being transported to Palestine. Soon they discovered that this particular route to the Promised Land goes through the shooting pits of Babi-Yar and Ponary. Other methods included the establishment of ghettos whose residents were employed in forced labor and murdered after several weeks or months, also in the shooting pits.
Some 1.5 million people were murdered in the Soviet Jewish Holocaust, also known as the “Holocaust of Bullets”. The ones to survive were those evacuated in time by the Soviet authorities or those living in areas the Germans failed to reach.
It should be noted that hundreds of thousands of Jews enlisted in the Soviet Red Army, and 161,000 of them were decorated for their valor in combat.

1953 | The Doctors' Trial

On November 29th, 1947 the United Nations voted in favor of the establishment of a Jewish state. The vote was preceded by fiery speeches made by the representatives of the world's nations. One of them, Soviet delegate Andrei Gromyko, waxed emotional on the right of the Jewish People to a corner of its own in its fatherland, the Land of Israel.
However, only the naïve took the philo-Semitic verbiage of the Soviet delegate seriously. While the voice was Gromyko's, the hands on the marionette strings were those of the “Father of Nations”, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin.
During WW2 the Soviet regime sought to integrate the Jews into the Communist mechanism and displayed zero tolerance towards any expression of Jewish religion or nationality. Following the establishment of the State of Israel, this policy was escalated to such a degree that the years 1948-1953 are known in historical research as “The black period of Soviet Jews.”
In January 1948 the Jewish director and social activist Solomon (Shloyme) Mikhoels was murdered in a staged car accident, under secret orders from Stalin. Four years later, in 1952, the 13 members of the Jewish anti-fascist committee were executed. In 1953 the “Doctors' Plot” libel was staged, in which a group of Jewish physicians at the Kremlin were accused of attempting to poison the heads of the Communist Party and the military. Stalin died in 1953, and after his death it was revealed that the charges against the physicians were bogus. This was but one of a long list of revelations regarding the departed leader's horrible actions, and the famous speech by Nikita Khrushchev exposing the crimes committed by his “great mentor” presaged a certain easing for the Jews as well. One of the expressions of this easing was the approval granted to the Great Synagogue of Moscow to publish a prayer book (“sidur”) and open a small yeshiva. This happened in 1957 and the synagogue became a national lodestone for religious and secular Jews alike.

1970 | The Zion Prisoners' “Wedding”

Israel's victory over the Arab armies in the Six Day War of 1967 aroused the national pride of Soviet Jews. “The Soviet citizens of Jewish Nationality,” writes Jewish author Elie Wiesel, “turned from Jews of Silence to Jews of Hope.”
And indeed, in the years following the war underground Zionist groups began working with all their might against the Soviet policy of repression, which limited permission to emigrate to Israel (or anywhere else). Their methods of action were varied: from sending thousands of personal and group letters to influential public figures in the West, expanding the activities of the “samizdat” (underground printing presses which copied banned Western literary works and news publications for covert distribution), house lectures at which Zionist activists met, and more. The activists who were caught were named “Prisoners of Zion,” and since Soviet law did not specifically ban Zionist activism, they were accused of “anti-Soviet propaganda”.
On June 15th, 1970 a group of Jewish activists was arrested at Leningrad's Shosseynaya Airport (now named Pulkovo Airport). The group members were caught in the midst of an adventurous operation, codenamed “Wedding”. The object of the plan was to hijack a passenger plane in Leningrad, fly it to Sweden and from there to Israel. The planners of the attempt were sentenced to death, but due to international pressure their sentences were commuted to 13-15 years.
While “Operation Wedding” failed, it was a great success in the battle for world public opinion. The Soviet Union yielded to international pressure, and many of those who applied were granted permission to make aliyah to Israel. Not all: Zion Prisoner Ida Nudel, a well-known “refusenik” (one denied permission by the authorities' to emigrate), hung a banner reading “KGB – Give back the visa to Israel”, and as a result was sentenced to four years of exile in Siberia.

Year Number of Immigration Permits to Israel
1970 3,000
1971 12,900
1972 31,900

1980 | Kafka at the OVIR Offices

In the early 1980's, at the peak of the Cold War and in the midst of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the “detente” period between East and West ended. Anyone applying to the offices of the OVIR (Russian initials for "Office of Visas and Registration"), the department in charge of issuing permits to leave the Soviet Union, learned the true Kafkaesque meaning of Soviet bureaucratic dictatorship firsthand. The officials denied requests for permits for all manner of strange reasons, from “Harm to state interests” to an arbitrary rejection, with no expiration date.
Most of the “refuseniks” waited up to nine years for an aliyah permit. The clerical tyranny brought a series of harsh social consequences with it. Many of those refused permission to emigrate found themselves unemployed, expelled from universities and forced to join the army. Upon release they discovered that they were still not allowed to leave the Soviet Union, this time under the excuse that they had been exposed to military secrets. Many of them felt socially isolated. Their friends and acquaintances shunned them in fear of losing their own jobs as well. Many families broke up when one spouse accused the other that their attempt to make aliyah was destroying the household. In some few cases refuseniks informed on others in a desperate attempt to win the desired permit.
At the same time, home-based seminars discussing Jewish history kept taking place, exhibits by Jewish artists were being held, underground libraries were established and the teaching of the Hebrew language kept spreading. In the early 1980s some 100 Hebrew teachers operated in Moscow. One of the most impressive expressions of this underground activity was a regular even held in a large forest clearing, some three miles from the Ovrazhky train station in Moscow. There, far from Big Brother's watchful eye, they held classes on Judaism and Jewish history, Jewish song competitions, marked Jewish holidays, played games and held picnics. The event reached its peak in May 1980, when over a thousand people came to Ovrazhky, but then the KGB cordoned the place and banned Jewish access to it.

1989 | Communism, Over and Out

In 1987, seven refuseniks demonstrated near Smolny Palace in Leningrad. To the protesters' surprise, instead of being beaten and humiliated as usual, they were invited to a discussion at the Communist Party headquarters. Furthermore, a photo of the demonstration was published in an evening newspaper in Leningrad, which was unprecedented. What caused the change in the Communist regime's treatment of the Jews?
In 1985 Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in the Soviet Union and initiated the “Perestroika” (“Rebuilding”) and “Glasnost” (“Openness”) policies. The change was not instantaneous, as arrests of Zionist activists continued in the first years of Gorbachev's rule, but within two years new winds were blowing down the Jewish streets as well.
Between 1987-1989 most Prisoners of Zion were released from confinement, and in 1989 the nerve-wracking wait of the last refuseniks came to an end as well. The authorities stopped persecuting the Hebrew-teaching “ulpans”, the first independent Jewish newspaper, “Shachar”, was published in Talin, and the government permitted the registration of Jewish communities and cultural organizations. In December 1989, the founding convention of the “Va'ad” - the umbrella organization of all Jewish organizations and communities in the Soviet Union – was openly held.
The disintegration of the Communist regime and the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 led to massive migration of Jews to Israel. The one millionth oleh (new immigrant) arrived in Israel in 2003, marking the end of the “Great Aliyah” years.
Many of the CIS immigrants have and still do experience difficulties in their new homeland, but most have integrated into Israeli society with great success.
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Vago, Bela (1891- 1939), politician, born in Kecskemet, Hungary (then part of Austria-Hungary). He was educated in his hometown and then he attended Budapest University. As a youth he took part in the labor movement, and as a result he was expelled from the University of Budapest. He then devoted himself to organizational work for the Social Democratic party of Hungary and the trade unions. During World War I he joined the anti-militarist movement, later becaming one of its leaders. He advocated revolutionary methods and opposed the official policy of the party, which resulted in his expulsion from the party. Vago took part in the establishment of the Hungarian Communist Party.

After the WW 1 he was made a Commissar of Internal Affairs in Bela Kun's government of Soviets (1919), and subsequently took supreme command of the Hungarian Red Army. When this army was defeated, Vago, together with the rest of the communist government, fled to Austria. Subsequently he accompanied Bela Kun to Soviet Russia, where he played an inconspicuous part.

Vago fell victim of the Stalinist purges: on February 28, 1939, he was arrested on fabricated charges (espionage, counter-revolutionary activity) and on March 10, he sentenced to death, the sentence was carried out on the same day. Following the destalinization proceess, Vago was was rehabilitated post-mortem on February 25, 1956.
A boy, member of the Komsomol, handing out books
to the women of the "Stern" Kolhoz, during rest hours.
Crimea Peninsula, The Soviet Union, c.1930
(Tel Aviv, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Liaison Office)
Prayer for the welfare of the Soviet Union, at a Shtibl in Moscow, 1983.
Photo: Sidney Deutsch, USA
(Beth Hatefutsuth Photo Archive
courtesy of Sidney Deutsch, USA)
Vago, Bela (1891- 1939), politician, born in Kecskemet, Hungary (then part of Austria-Hungary). He was educated in his hometown and then he attended Budapest University. As a youth he took part in the labor movement, and as a result he was expelled from the University of Budapest. He then devoted himself to organizational work for the Social Democratic party of Hungary and the trade unions. During World War I he joined the anti-militarist movement, later becaming one of its leaders. He advocated revolutionary methods and opposed the official policy of the party, which resulted in his expulsion from the party. Vago took part in the establishment of the Hungarian Communist Party.

After the WW 1 he was made a Commissar of Internal Affairs in Bela Kun's government of Soviets (1919), and subsequently took supreme command of the Hungarian Red Army. When this army was defeated, Vago, together with the rest of the communist government, fled to Austria. Subsequently he accompanied Bela Kun to Soviet Russia, where he played an inconspicuous part.

Vago fell victim of the Stalinist purges: on February 28, 1939, he was arrested on fabricated charges (espionage, counter-revolutionary activity) and on March 10, he sentenced to death, the sentence was carried out on the same day. Following the destalinization proceess, Vago was was rehabilitated post-mortem on February 25, 1956.


Now called Sosnove

A small town on the banks of the Slucz river, Kostopol district, Ukraine. Until the Second World War in Wohlyn district of Poland.

An ancient Jewish cemetery near a fortress in Hubkow shows that Jews were already living here in the 17th century. In the middle of the 18th century, after the fortress was destroyed in war, the Jews settled on the other side of the Slucz river, in the large village, Wielkie Siedliszcze. The nobleman, Siemaszek, began developing the village, and changed its name to Ludwipol.

In 1847, there were 286 Jews living in Ludwipol. The local population grew, and thanks to the riverways, brisk trading developed. Jews engaged in cutting down forest trees and sending them down the river on rafts to the Port of Gdynia on the Baltic sea. There was a local paper factory and ten Jewish stores. There were also Jewish craftsmen, and a local branch of the Association of Jewish Craftsmen, which was a country-wide organization.

Two pharmacies in the town were owned by Jews. The small town had an inn for itinerant Jews, where lumber merchants, in particular, found lodging.

At the end of the 19th century there were already 1,428 inhabitants in Ludwipol, of whom 1,210 were Jews. At that time there were five synagogues in the town, two of them brick structures. A rabbi and three religious slaughterers served the community.

During World War I (1914-1918) the community suffered from marauding bands and in 1918 a big conflagration broke out in the town and completely destroyed most of the dwellings, followed by a typhus epidemic, which claimed many lives. The population of the town dwindled to 1,293 souls, of whom 916 were Jews.

The community was rehabilitated with the help of the Joint distribution committee. Following World War I within independent Poland, the town administratively belonged to the Berzno community, where its record books were also kept.

A Hebrew school, which was opened by the teacher, Segal, in 1918, was closed within a short time, and only in the thirties was a Hebrew school inaugurated by the Tarbut network. In the mid-thirties, a trade school and public library were opened nearby. Lecturs and discussions were held in the library, and a drama group was active. In the early 1920s, several Zionist organizations established branches in Ludwipol. The local elections to the 16th Zionist Congress (1929) were disqualified; for the 18th Congress (1933) 153 voted for the list of the Eretz Israel Labor Party, and 54 for the Mizrachi list. 253 voters participated in the elections to the 19th Zionist Congress, but in 1937 the number of voters for the 20th Zionist Congress was only 74.

The Zionist youth movements Hashomer Hatzair, Hehalutz Hatzair, Gordonia and Beitar were active in Ludwipol. In the thirties, there was a hachshara of Gordonia which prepared its members for living in Eretz Israel. Some graduates from the youth movements immigrated to Eretz Israel.

In 1936, when the Polish authorities closed the Hashomer Hatzair branch which they considered to be a leftist organization, and dangerous because of the town's proximity to the Soviet border, the members of the organization transferred to the Chalutz Hatzair.

In 1939 there were about 2,000 Jews livng in Ludwipol, out of a total population of 2,150.

The Holocaust Period

Following the outbreak of the Second World War (1 September 1939) and the conquest of Poland by the Germans, the eastern region of Poland, including Ludwipol according to the German-Soviet agreement, came under the control of the Soviet Union. Jewish public life was paralyzed, community institutions closed down, the Zionist parties were dispersed and the Hebrew school became a Yiddish elementary school and high-school. The economy was nationalized, Jews were integrated into the Soviet officialdom, and Jewish refugees from Nazi-conquered Poland came to Ludwipol.

In 1941 there were 2,100 Jews living in Ludwipol.

Shortly after the German attack on the Soviet Union (22 June 1941) the Red Army began to retreat. On the advice of the Soviet military governor, many Jews joined the retreating army and fled eastward into the interior of the Soviet Union.

On the 6th of July the German army entered Ludwipol. Local Ukrainians fell upon the Jews; brutality, rape and robbery continued unceasingly for 24 hours. Several days later, eight Jews who were accused of being communists were murdered.

Jews were ordered to wear an identification mark which, at first, was an armband with the Star of David, and later, the yellow patch. The Judenrat, a Council of Jews designated by the authorities, was established, as well as a Jewish police force.

On the 13th of October a triangular area between two streets was demarcated as a ghetto, with approximately 1,500 Jews crowded into 70 houses. The men who were engaged in forced labor in the services, in a sawmill, in villages, and in paving the Ludwipol-Berezno road were separated from their families in the ghetto. Members of the Judenrat and a group of essential workers lived outside the ghetto. On the 14th of April 1941 the Jews were ordered to hand over to the Germans all the gold, silver and valuables in their possession. The inhabitants of the ghetto suffered from soup and 120 grams of bread. The overcrowding led to the outbreak and spread of diseases. From time to time the German soldiers and their Ukrainian allies murdered ghetto Jews. Many were slaughtered near their homes and many others in their hiding places which were discovered.

On the 13th of Elul 5702, 26 of August 1942, all the Jews of Ludwipol were led to the town's barracks, and on the following day, the 14th of Elul, they were all slaughtered. A few dozen Jews succeeded in escaping to the forests.

A short time before the destruction of the ghetto, a group of young people organized themselves, prepared weapons, and planned to break through the ghetto's fences and escape to the forests. The Judenrat objected to their plan, and in the end, because of informers, the members of the group were caught. They were taken to Kostopol, the district capital. On the way, two of them escaped, joined the nationalistic Ukrainian partisans, who murdered them.

The Jews who escaped to the forests were helped by Polish villagers, and the younger ones later joined Soviet partisan units

On the 10th of January 1944 Ludwipol was liberated by the Red Army. 72 Jews returned there from the forests, and found the town burned down. They moved to neighboring towns, and from there most of them left, via Poland, to settle in Eretz Yisrael. A few migrated to other countries.

In the Holon cemetery a monument was erected commemorating the Jews of Ludwipol who perished in the Holocaust.

In August 1933 a memorial was erected in Ludwipol on the site of the massgrave of the Ludwipol Jews, victims of the Nazis.

At the end of summer 1993 the names of the families which perished in the Holocaust were recorded in Beit Hatfutsot, Museum of the Jewish Diaspora.

The town's name was changed to Sosnova.


A town in Jász-Nagykun-Szolnok county, northern Hungary.

Jews first settled in the place in the second half of the 18th century. The majority were engaged in commerce and trades, and only a few of them worked in the free professions, or were land owners. The community was organized in the first half of the 19th century and was educational institutions. In 1910 a large and beautiful synagogue was built. In 1869, because of differences that arose between Haredim (orthodox) and Maskilim (enlightened) at the Jewish Congress, the community affiliated with the Orthodox stream which refused to accept the decisions of Congress.

In World War I seven Jews were killed in action.

During the period of the White Terror, pogroms against the Jews instigated by right wing military elements (1919-21) after the fall of the communist regime, 30 Jews were taken from their homes and tortured, on the pretext that they had participated in communist activities. In the spring of 1921, rioting gangs of Ivan Hejjas, one of the notorious leaders of the White Terror, came to Tiszafured. The Jews fled from the town but returned after some weeks, even though the antisemitic atmosphere hadn't abated.

In 1930 the community numbered 506; the 666 Jews in 1890 comprised 8.3% of the population.

The Holocaust Period

From 1940 the situation of the Jews deteriorated. In 1942, 15 Jews were arrested and detained in a concentration camp.

In March 1944, following the German occupation, the liquidation of the community began. On May 12, about two months after the German occupation, the Jews of the town were detained in a brick field together with 712 other Jews from neighboring places. Except for 80 sick Jews who were kept in four rooms, the remainder were kept in cellars which were used to dry bricks. Their food was confiscated, and the supply of other food was forbidden. Nevertheless, the Jewish council succeeded in organizing public prayers as well as a delivery room for babies.

At the end of May German police interrogated the detainees in order to find out whether, and where, they had hidden their valuables. At the beginning of June, about 70 men, aged 16-60, were taken for forced labor. On June 8 they were sent to a brick field in Kerecsend, where all the Jews of the district were concentrated. After a few days all of them were transported to Auschwitz.

After the war 70 survivors returned; they renewed communal life. In 1947 they renovated the synagogue and placed a memorial tablet on a wall with the names of the martyrs. The returnees began to leave the place, and in 1949 there were only 43 Jewish inhabitants. After the anti-Soviet revolt in 1956 almost everyone left.



A town in the Pechorsky District in the Oblast of Pskov, Russia.

Russian: Печоры, Печеры (Pechory)

Estonia: Petseri

Latvia: Petzuria

From 1918 to 1940 it was part of independent Estonia. Since then until 1991 it was in the Pskov district of the Federal Russian Republic, USSR

21st Century

The town of Pechory around five casualties in the Holocaust according to the Estonian Jewish Museum. One resident of the town who had converted to Lutheranism in the early 20th century and only conversed in Estonian and German was sent to a concentration camp in World War II.

From recent Estonian national statistics which conducted their first census in the early 1880s we read that the town of Pechory which was part of the Setomaa region was not included in the nation’s census until 1922.

Estonian language policy was aimed at restoring its widespread use in the early 2000s. Historically the Estonian language had been sidelined by the former USSR through Russianisation. At the end of 1944 the territory of Pechory and its surroundings, ethnically heterogeneous populations of ethnic Estonians, Russians and Ingrians, were handed over to Russia. Jews were also considered a minority group. In 1989, 78% of Estonian Jews were native Russian speakers.


Prominent Figure

The uncle of the infamous Russian poet Alexander Pushkin (1799-1837) was buried in Pechory. While Pushkin was not of Jewish descent, upon leaving for the south of the Russian Empire, Pushkin was influenced by the large Jewish population, conveyed in his lyrics and in his humorous poem Gavriiliada (1821).



Between the two world wars there were just a few Jews in Pechory.

The Holocaust Period

Following the signing of the accord by Ribbentrop and Molotov on behalf of Germany and the USSR respectively (August 23, 1939), Estonia was annexed by the USSR in the summer of 1940.

After the German invasion of the USSR, only one Jewish family remained in the town. All the members of the family were murdered by a local Estonian policeman in the summer of 1941, shortly after German forces had captured the town.



Ukrainian: Гусаків (Husakiv)

Poland: Hussaków

Hebrew: הוסאקוב

Yiddish: Husakov

Russian: Gusakov

A town in the district of Lvov, western Ukraine, till World War II eastern Galicia, Poland.


21st Century

Index books of vital records including of Hussakow, covering births, deaths, marriages and community records exist. While dates are detailed, geographic origin is lacking though mostly assumed to be from towns of historic Galicia.

Two recordings of the surname Hussakow appear from the late 18th and early 19th century.


Prominent Figures

A prominent admor of the Teitelbaum family was Rabbi Mordecai David of Hussakow. Amongst letters from prominent admors, a letter written and signed by the Admor of Hussakow was auctioned in 2018 by an Israeli auction house.



Jews settled in Hussakow in 1628 at the invitation of the owners in order to revive the town which had been abandoned during the period of the Tatar invasions.

After the partition of Poland in 1772, it was under Austrian rule. The Jewish community grew and in 1880 there were 564 Jews there. In 1900 there were 630 Jews in the town, 40% of the population.

During the first half of the 18th century there was an organized Jewish community with its institutions. Rabbi Mayer, the son of Rabbi Moshe of Zamosc served as the town rabbi for many years. Rabbi Mayer was the father of Rabbi Levi Yitzhak of Berdichev, one of the pillars of the Hasidic movement.

At the end of the 19th century a Hasidic court was established by an admor who had settled in the town. During the twenties and thirties of the 20th century there were two rabbis serving the community at the same time.

During World War I (1914-1918) many left the town and at the time of independent Poland after the war there were only 250 Jews in Hussakow, a quarter of the population.

The Jews leased land, were active in trade, including peddling, were innkeepers and craftsmen. The interest-free loan society gave loans to the needy.

The first Zionists in Hussakow were organized in Agudat Tzeirim at the beginning of the 20th century. After World War I branches of the Mizrachi and General Zionists were active.

In 1934 a branch of Poalei Zion was organized.

On the eve of World War II there were 250 Jews in Hussakow.

The Holocaust Period

After the outbreak of World War II (September 1, 1939) and as a result of the pact between Germany and the Soviet Union eastern Poland came under Soviet rule.

Hussakow was occupied by the Germans on the first day of the invasion of the Soviet Union (June 22, 1941). That same day there were attacks on the Jews organized by the local Ukrainians. A few scores were murdered and the synagogue set on fire..

The Jewish community in Hussakow came to an end in November 1942. The Jews were deported to the ghetto in Jaworow where the Jews of the area were concentrated in preparation for their destruction, their fate was the fate of all the Jews of Jaworow.