Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Where Did Jews in Ukraine Come From?

Nadene Goldfoot                                                                     
Between the 9th and 12th Centuries CE, Jews immigrated to Ukraine in waves from Khazaria, the Caliphate and Byzantium.

Khazaria was established in the 630's and 640's between the Volga River and the fortress city of Derbent.  It was multiethnic and multireligious.  They assimilated with other tribes and confederation of the Caucasus as early as the 7th century.  .  The Sabirs living in Khazaria intermarried with a large portion of both the Khazar and Magyar tribes.   Kiev, a city in Ukraine,  is over a millennium old, inhabited by Khazars and Magyars in the early days.

The Royal House of Khazaria converted to Judaism.  Since Roman times Jews had lived in the Caucasus and other areas of eastern Europe.  Khazaria became a refuge for persecuted Jews.  The Khazars lost their kingdom because of military actions of the Rus', Pechenegs, and Byzantines.  The 10th century started their decline. with the Rus'.  By the 960's they had lost power, but they had political independance until at least 1016.  In January of that year the Byzantine emperor,  Basil II,  and the Rus'ian army sent a force against Khazaria.  Some historians say they lasted 2 more centuries after that.  It was then that the Jews of eastern Europe  no longer had a nation of their own.  Golden Horde Mongols controlled a large area of the former Khazar Empire around the Caspian Sea in the late Middle Ages.  The Eastern part of Crimea was controlled by the Khazars from the 7th century to 1117.  The Germans wiped out 50,000 Jews living there in 1941.  Some 300 Karaites survived.  The Jewish population in 1980 was 25,614.

 The Byzantium was the eastern Roman Empire with the capital being in Constantinople, Istanbul, a Turkish city.  .  It covered a vast geographical area up to the year 637, including Palestine.  Jews lived there from its foundation in the 4th century.  Emperor Justinina (527-565) had elaborate anti-Jewish laws in his Code and issued a decree in 553 which interfered with the conduct of the synagogue services.  Emperor Heraclius in 614 issued an edict ordering the conversion of the Jews.  Judaism was formally forbidden by successive emperors.  Jews were present in the Byzantine Empire until the last remnant was conquered by the Turks in 1453.

The Byzentines and the Khazars had a long period of relations starting in the 7th century.

The Caliphate was the Islamic States ruling after Muhammad died in 632 CE.  They included Abu Bakr, Umayyads of 7th and 8th centuries, the Caliphate in Hispania, the Abbasids of the 8th to 13th centuries and the Fatimids of the 10th to 12th centuries.  They were all Muslims and against Jews, who were treated as 2nd class citizens with penalties, "dhimmis."

Between the 14th-15th centuries Jews came from Central Europe, and from the 16th to 17th centuries they came from Poland.  There were uprisings from the 17th-18th centuries where severe massacres occurred during the Chmielnicki and Haidamak uprisings.

In 1791 Catherine II decreed that all Jews had to live in the Pale of Settlement.  That meant that 25 provinces of Czarist Russia became a prison for Jews.  They were only allowed to live in Poland, Lithuania, White Russia (Belorussia) , Ukraine, Bessarabia,a province, formerly Romanian, now in the Moldavian and Ukrainian Republics,  and Crimea, a Russian peninsula in the Black Sea. .  Latvia was annexed in 1795 and included in the Pale except for Jews in Courland as in 1835 it was excluded from the Pale along with Livland.  .  The Pale wasn't abolished until 1915 and legally March 1917.  No Jew was ever allowed outside this confine unless he was a member of the liberal professions with a high school diploma, big businessmen, or skilled artisans.  It rarely happened.

The Ukraine was always an anti-Semitic center, and was the scene of pogroms in 1905 and 1918-1920.  About half of Soviet Russia's 3 million Jews lived there before WWII, but under Nazi rule, and were wiped out by both the Nazis and the Ukrainians in 1941-1942.  The Jewish population was 777,126 in 1970 and 484,129 in 1989.  Russia had outlawed the practice of any religion.  Jews didn't know much about their religion except that people didn't like them.

The New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia
The Jews of Khazaria 2nd Edition by Kevin Alan Brook

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