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 Cherkasy (Ukrainian: Черкаси, transliterated: Čerkasy, pronounced [tʃerˈkɑsɪ]) or Cherkassy (Russian: Черкасcы), is a city in central Ukraine. It is the capital of the Cherkasy Oblast.

There have been Jews in Cherkassy for almost 500 years. Jews settled in the city in the 16th century. However it is known that Jews were in the city previously, from 1487-8, and from 1500. In 1581, Jewish wine merchants were beaten and robbed by Cossacks. In the days of the Decrees of 1647-8 – the Chmelnitsky massacres, Jews fled from the city.

The massacres began in June 1648. As the Cossack leader approached the city, in 1664, the local population murdered the Jews and the Poles. After this, no Jews lived in the city until the end of the 17th century.

Cherkassy. Postcard at the beginning of XX century

Cherkassy. Postcard at the beginning of XX century

The Jewish community re-appeared in the city at the beginning of the 18th century but suffered greatly from Haidamak attacks. Zhelezniak’s forces captured the city in the second half of May 1768. They killed many of the Jews and expelled the rest of them. This caused a huge drop in the Jewish population. However, the Jews did own property in the city.

A document of 1791 stated that Jews were forbidden to live in the city, to work as merchants or in trade, or to own real estate. Soon afterwards Cherkassy was annexed by Russia. Jewish community life developed, and the Jewish population rose rapidly.

Extract from Cherkassy metric book about the birth of Yacob Labsker, son of Bentsion and Dina in September 9, 1899.

Extract from Cherkassy metric book about the birth of Yacob Labsker, son of Bentsion and Dina in September 9, 1899.

In 1797 there were 783 Jews. Then there were 33 Jewish merchants in Cherkassy, in 1802, as opposed to 23 Christian ones.

The Jewish population grew greatly during the second half of the 19th century. The community flourished in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It supported a hospital with ten beds, a home for the aged, and a soup kitchen. A charity fund was founded in 1865. Later, a shelter for the poor was opened. Jews owned two of the three banks in the city. The Jews worked mainly as artisans, grain merchants, and traders. Some Jews were employed in the sugar or tobacco factories or in the flour mills. Brodesky’s sugar factory opened in 1854, Zeresky’s tobacco factory in 1878. There were 70 Jewish artisans in 1852, as opposed to 182 Christian ones.

There were seven fairs yearly, and a weekly market. As for the religious organization of the Jewish community, there was a synagogue, a study hall, a few smaller prayer houses, two Chedarim, one Talmud-Torah, the chief rabbi, two shochets, and one mohel in 1834. From 1905 and until 1917, Jewish life began to flourish in Ukraine.

Diploma of Pesya Avrumovna Krasnova about graduation of Cherkassy female gymnasium in 1919

In 1914, Jews played an important part in the economy and industry of Cherkassy. The Hassidic movement was prevalent in the city, developing in the second half of the 18th century. Approximately 60% of the men knew how to read and write, as opposed to 13% of the women. In 1910, Russian-controlled Jewish schools were opened.

Cherkassy. Postcard at the beginning of XX century

Cherkassy. Postcard at the beginning of XX century

The community grew to 10,950 in 1897 (37% of the total population) and 12,979 in 1910. Many were employed in grain dealing and crafts. A group of tailors organized a cooperative in 1910.

The community of Cherkassy suffered tragically during the civil war in Russia (1917–21): about 700 Jews were massacred there by followers of the ataman Grigoryev in pogroms in 12-20 May 1919, and some 250 perished at the hands of Denikin’s army the following August. Later a Jewish self-defense organization was established with the aid of the Soviet authorities. It continued in existence until 1921, and hundreds of families took refuge in Cherkassy from the surrounding towns and villages.

The Jewish population of Cherkassy numbered 10,886 in 1926 (28.2% of the total population) and dropped to 7,637 in 1939 (15%). In 1924, 67 Jewish families founded a farm cooperative, later turned into a kolkhoz. In 1925 a Jewish law court and police department were opened, operating until the beginning of the 1930s. Two Yiddish schools also operated in Cherkassy.

Local komsomol members Klara Drehlin, Roza Vekselman, * Voshinskaya, Roza Hala*, Manya Dobr*, Cherkassy 1925

Local komsomol members Klara Drehlin, Roza Vekselman, * Voshinskaya, Roza Hala*, Manya Dobr*, Cherkassy 1925

Jewish population of Cherkassy:
1765 – 171 jews
1847 – 1,568 jews
1897 – (37%)
1910 – 12,979 jews
1926 – 10,886 (28.2%)
1939 – 7,637 (15%)
1959 – 5,100 (6%)
2001 – 886 jews

The Germans occupied the town on August 22, 1941. Germans registred all jews at 10 October 1941 and ghetto was established. All jews moved to ghetto till 12 October 1941. I find 2 different numbers of jews in ghetto ~300 and ~900. Judenrat was created (3 persons). In the beginning of November all jews in ghetto was killed  by operative command №5. The rest of the ghetto inmates were massacred in 1942. Alexandra Shulejko Ukrainian women head of orphanage rescued 25 Jewish orphans.

Cherkassy were liberated 14 December 1943.

In 1959 there were 5,100 Jews in Cherkassy (6% of the total population). Most let in the 1990s, but Jewish life revived and a synagogue was opened in 2003.

More information about Jewish history of Cherkassy you can found here.





  1. Maybe Biala Czerkva?

  2. How can someone access the archives in Cherkasy? I have ancestors (named Dubiansky) from the town.
    Also, what is the “Wainer book” mentioned in the article “Research in Cherkassy”?
    Thank you

  3. Does anybody have genealogical information on Rabbi Zachariah Sabilsky / Zabilsky. He was a high-ranking Jew who worked Catholic Polish aristocrat Daniel Chaplinsky.Rabbi Zachariah Sabilsky / Zabilsky was involved in Arenda [land management]. Together with Daniel Chaplinsky, he confiscated property of Ukrainian Orthodox Clergyman and Cossack Bogdan Chelmnicki. His wife and son were detained and subsequently died in detention. Rabbi Yaakov Sabilsky / Zabilsky tried to make peace. Nevertheless, the Chmielnick Uprising and Massacre shortly ensued (please see THE JEWISH ENCYCLOPEDIA of Funk and Wagnall Publishers).


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