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berdychiv zhytomyr oblast, berdychiv train station in 1900 in birdychiv
Berdychiv Ukrainian: Бердичів, Polish: Berdyczów, Russian: Берди́чев, Berdíchev is a historic city in the Zhytomyr Oblast province of northern Ukraine Serving as the administrative center of the Berdychiv Raion district, the city itself is of direct oblast subordinance, and does not belong to the district It is located 44 km 27 mi south of the oblast capital, Zhytomyr Population: 78,523 2013 est1


  • 1 History
    • 11 Jewish history
    • 12 Nazi massacre
  • 2 Demographics
  • 3 Notable people
  • 4 Berdychiv on stage
  • 5 See also
  • 6 Notes
  • 7 References
  • 8 External links


In 1430, Grand Duke of Lithuania Vitautas великий князь литовський Вітовт granted the rights over the area to Kalinik, the procurator намісник of Putyvl and Zvenigorod, and it is believed that his servant named Berdich founded a khutor remote settlement there However the etymology of the name Berdychiv is not known

In 1483, Crimean Tatars destroyed the settlement During the 1546 partition between Lithuania and Poland, the region was listed as a property of Lithuanian magnate Tyszkiewicz According to the Union of Lublin 1569, Volhynia formed a province of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth

The fortified Carmelite monastery built from 1627 to 1642 with funding from Janusz Tyszkiewicz Łohojski, captured and plundered by Bohdan Khmelnytsky in 1647, was dissolved in 18642

In 1764, Kazimierz Pulaski defended the city with his 700 men surrounded by royal army during Bar Confederation

The town underwent rapid development after king Stanisław August Poniatowski, under pressure from the powerful Radziwiłł family, granted it the unusual right to organize ten fairs a year This made Berdychiv one of the most important trading and banking centers in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and later, the Russian Empire At the time, the saying "Pisz na Berdyczów!" 'Send letters to Berdychiv!' had an idiomatic meaning; because merchants from all over Poland, Lithuania, Ukraine and the rest of eastern and central Europe were sure to visit the town within two or three months of each other, it became a central poste restante post office box of the region Later, because of the phrase being used in a popular poem by Juliusz Słowacki, "Pisz na Berdyczów!" acquired a second meaning as a brush-off; "send me a letter to nowhere" or "leave me alone"citation needed

The banking industry was moved from Berdychiv to Odessa a major port city after 1850, and the town became impoverished again in a short period of time

In 1846, the town had 1893 buildings, 69 of which were brick-made, 11 streets, 80 alleys, and four squares Honoré de Balzac visited it in 1850 and noted that its unplanned development made it resemble the dance of a polka as some buildings leaned left while others leaned right

Jewish historyedit

See also: History of the Jews in Ukraine Former synagogue in Berdychiv Jewish cemetery

According to the census of 1789, the Jews constituted 75% of Berdychiv's population 1,951 out of 2,640, of whom 246 were liquor-dealers, 452 houseowners, 134 merchants, 188 artisans, 150 clerks and 56 idlers In 1797, Prince Radziwill granted seven Jewish families the monopoly privilege of the cloth trade in the town Jews were a major driving force of the town's commerce in the first half of the 19th century, founding a number of trading companies some traded internationally, banking establishments, and serving as agents of the neighboring estates of Polish nobility szlachta

By the end of the 18th century, Berdychiv became an important center of Hasidism As the town grew, a number of noted scholars served as rabbis there, including Lieber the Great, Joseph the Harif and the Tzadik Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev the author of Kedushat Levi, who lived and taught there until his death in 1809 See also Berditchev Hasidic dynasty

In its heyday, Berdychiv accounted some eighty synagogues and batei midrash, and was famous for its cantors

Berdychiv was also one of the centers of the conflict between Hasidim and Mitnagdim As the ideas of Haskalah influenced parts of the Jewish communities, a large group of Maskilim formed in Berdychiv in the 1820s

In 1847, 23,160 Jews resided in Berdychiv and by 1861 the number doubled to 46,683, constituting the second-largest Jewish community in the Russian Empire The May Laws of 1882 and other government persecutions affected Jewish population and in 1897, out of the town's population of 53,728, 41,617 about 80% were Jewish2 58% of Jewish males and 32% of Jewish females were literate

Until World War I, the natural growth was balanced by the emigration During the 1917 October Revolution and Russian Civil War, the mayor of the town was the Bundist leader D Lipets In early 1919, the Jews of Berdychiv became victims of a pogrom, and in 1920, the advancing Soviet troops destroyed most of the city by the artillery fire

The Soviet authorities closed or destroyed most of the town's synagogues

In the 1920s, the Yiddish language was officially recognized and in 1924, the first in Ukrainian court of law to conduct its affairs in Yiddish was established in the city, but in the 1930s, the use of Yiddish was curtailed and all Jewish cultural activities were suspended before World War II

Nazi massacreedit

Most civilians from areas near the border did not have a chance to evacuate when the Nazis began their invasion on June 22, 1941 Berdychiv was occupied by the German Army from July 7, 1941 to January 5, 1944 An "extermination" German SS unit was established in Berdychiv in early July 1941 and a Jewish ghetto was set up It was liquidated on October 5, 1941, when all the inhabitants were murdered Eyewitnesses stated that Ukrainian auxiliary police aided the 25-member shooting squad in corralling Jews into the ghetto, policing it, and killing those who attempted to escape3 One witness to a mass killing of Jews in Berdychiv stated, "They had to wear their festivity-dresses Then, their clothes and valuables were taken The pits were dug and filled in by war prisoners who were executed shortly after"4

The Nazis likely killed 20,000 to 30,000 Jews in Berdychiv, but A 1973 Ukrainian-language article about the history of Berdychiv states, "The Gestapo killed 38,536 people" Ukrainian: "Гестапівці стратили 38 536 чоловік"5


Year Total population Jewish population
1789 2,640 1,951 75%
1847   23,160
1861   46,683
1867 52,563 41,617 80%
1926 55,417 30,812 556%
1941   0
1946   6,000
1972 77,000 15,000 est
1989 92,000  
2001 88,000 1000

Notable peopleedit

Alphabetically by surname Pseudonyms treated as one word

  • Jacob Pavlovitch Adler birthplace of his mother, Hessye Halperin
  • Honoré de Balzac married in ~
  • Joseph Conrad, Polish and British writer 1857 born in ~, Polish nobility
  • Der Nister, pen name of Pinchus Kahanovich 1884–1950, Yiddish author, philosopher, translator, and critic born and raised in ~
  • Abraham Firkovich, Karaite hakham lived in ~
  • Abraham Goldfaden 1840–1908, considered the father of the Jewish modern theatre lived in ~
  • Israel Grodner c 1848 – 1887, one of the founding performers in Yiddish theater lived in ~
  • Vasily Grossman 1905–1964, Soviet Russian writer and journalist born in ~
  • Felix Lembersky, fine arts, painter 1913–1970, born and raised in Berdychiv, worked as theater stage designer
  • Osip Mikhailovich Lerner Y Y Lerner, writer, critic, and folklorist
  • Mendele Mocher Sforim, pen name of Sholem Yankev Abramovich, Jewish author and one of the founders of modern Yiddish and Hebrew literature lived in ~
  • Antoni Protazy Potocki, szlachta owned and organized several factories in the village of Makhnivka, near Berdychiv
  • Anatoliy Puzach 1941–2006, Soviet football player and Ukrainian coach Lived and played in ~
  • Sholem Aleichem, pen name of Solomon Naumovich Rabinovich 1859–1916, leading Yiddish author and playwright lived in ~
  • Boris Sidis 1867–1923, Ukrainian American psychologist, physician, psychiatrist, and philosopher of education born in ~
  • Valeriy Skvortsov 1945 born in ~; Soviet high jumper; European champion
  • Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev Levi Yosef Yitzhak of Berdichev; 1740–1809, Torah commentator, chassidic rabbi, leader, religious song writer, and leader of the Berditchev Hasidic dynasty

Some sources erroneously claim that the great pianist Vladimir Horowitz was born in Berdychiv However, Horowitz's birth certificate unequivocally states Kiev as his birthplace6

Berdychiv on stageedit

See: Abraham Ellstein

See alsoedit

  • Shtetl
  • Names of European cities in different languages
  • History of the Jews in Russia and the Soviet Union
  • Berdichev machine-building plant


  1. ^ "Чисельність наявного населення України Actual population of Ukraine" in Ukrainian State Statistics Service of Ukraine Retrieved 21 January 2015 
  2. ^ a b  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed 1911 "Berdichev" Encyclopædia Britannica 3 11th ed Cambridge University Press p 767 
  3. ^ Carol Garrard and John Garrard 17 October 1996 "Ukrainians & the Holocaust" New York Review of Books Retrieved 20 January 2015 
  4. ^ "Yahad-In Unum Interactive Map" Execution Sites of Jewish Victims Investigated by Yahad-In Unum Retrieved 20 January 2015 
  5. ^ A Soviet article about the history of Berdychiv Archived April 25, 2005, at the Wayback Machine 1973, in Ukrainian language: Історія міст і сіл УРСР житомирська область Бердичів Є Громенко, О О Павлов
  6. ^ "Archived copy" Archived from the original on 2011-10-18 Retrieved 2011-12-30 


  • From Berdichev to Jerusalem by Miriam Sperber, 1980
  • The Bones of Berdichev: The Life and Fate of Vasily Grossman by John Garrand, 1996

External linksedit

  • Find out Berdychyv @ UkrainianTravel in English
  • "My Berdychiv" - history, present, people in Ukrainian language
  • Berdychiv on archival photo
  • Photo of Berdichev!
  • Photo from Berdichev
  • "The Berdichev Revival"
  • BerdichevLand
  • "Berdichev business" газета "Діловий Бердичів"
  • Jewish History of Berdichev, Part 1 and Part 2 at Jewishgenorg
  • Berdichev at Simon Wiesenthal Center
  • Berdychiv lands from the earliest times to the beginning of the 20th century 1999, in Ukrainian language: Бердичівська земля з найдавнішших часів до початку ХХ ст
  • PBS Independent Lens: "Berdichev"
  • Commemorative coin from Levi Yitzchok of Berdychiv, from recently discovered seal
  • History of Jewish Community in Berdicheva
  • The murder of the Jews of Berdychiv during World War II, at Yad Vashem website

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