JEWISH GENEALOGICAL RECORDS IN BELARUS. Archives and Other Resources Regarding Family History and Personal Genealogy

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Rechitsa is a small oil-producing town, 350 km (220 miles) south of the capital Minsk, Belarus. On a map of Minsk in volumes of Minsk Yizkor books, Yeshiah Metal, YIVO librarian found Chvonick in the deep southeast corner of Minsk gubernia, spelled with one vov where the landsmanshaft spelled it with two vovs. In the shtetl finder it is listed as Khoyniki, Khoiniki and Khojniki. The Yiddish spellings of Slavic place names is a wonderful opportunity for playing guessing games. The town of Chvonick has several spellings: Choiniki, Chojnicki, Khoyniki, Khojniki, Khoiniki, Khvoyniki, and is located about 170.5 miles SE of Minsk. Khoyniki was located in the Uyezd/District of Rechitsa and in the Gubernia/Province of Minsk. Khoyniki - Poles'ye Oblast-today the town is in the Gomel Oblast/ Province, Belarus. The Khoiniki region was founded on December 18, 1926. The administration center of the region is the town of Khoiniki which was first mentioned in 1512 as a village of the Bragin county of the Great Principality of Lithuania.

The Khoiniki region is one of the most contaminated regions by the Chernobyl catastrophe. As a result 40% of its population was resettled, 88,000 hectares of land were abandoned.

The Gubernias of the Russian Empire had been divided into uyezds and uyezd have been divided into volosts (earlier - povets). In 1869, Russian was declared to be the official language in all provinces of the Russian Empire. Polish language terminology that was used prior to that date was replaced by Russian.

Russian Empire: Gubernia = province; Uezd = district; Volost = smaller district including several villages; Gorod = town/city; Selo/Derevnaya = village

There is an article about Khoyniki in the Russian language Jewish Encyclopedia (Evreiskaya Encyclopedia). The article can be found in volume XV, page 653, and is 4 lines long. (contributed by Joel Spector)

A city in Gomel oblast, Belorussian SSR Rechitsa had one of the oldest Jewish communities in Belorussia. In 1648 the rampaging Cossacks murdered many of its Jews. The Jewish population in 1766 numbered 133, increasing to 1,268 in 1800 (two - thirds of the total population), and 2,080 in 1847. The city was a center for Habad Hasidism, whose theological doctrine stress the relationship between God and man. At the end of the 19th century Rechitsa had a yeshivah and was the residence of the hasidic leader, R. Shalom Dov Ber Schneersohn. In 1897 the 5,334 Jews of Rechitsa constituted 57% of the population. In October 1905 the peasants of the surrounding area participated in a pogrom which killed more than 50 Jews, among them members of the Jewish self - defense force. On the eve of World War I the Jewish population numbered about 7,500. Jewish communal and religious life began to decline under Soviet rule. In 1926 there were 7,386 Jews. On November 25, 1941, the Nazi invaders murdered about 3,000 Jews who had remained in the city. A few Jews returned after the war.

Today you will no longer see any visible signs of past Jewish presence in Rechitsa. They have not been preserved in the names of streets, squares or public gardens, there are no memorial plaques or monuments in public places. In this, Rechitsa is no different from the other small and mediumsize Belorussian towns which used to have rich Judaic traditions and were deprived of their distinct identity by the Soviet national policy. Synagogues, prayer houses and yeshivas, heders, secular Jewish schools and cultural establishments in the town and its environs were outlawed. Private Jewish trade and handicraft businesses meeting the demand of their Belorussian neighbors were nationalized by the Bolsheviks as part of their effort for a "more just world order".

Today there are 450 Jews in Rechitsa. At least 300 of them are elderly people.

1 January 2000 : The territory of Belarus is divided into 6 regions (oblasts) - the Brest, Vitebsk, Gomel, Grodno, Mogilev and Minsk regions, and 118 districts (rayons).

Courtesy of: "Encyclopedia Judaica" ©1972, Keter Publishing House Jerusalem Ltd Jerusalem, Israel

See, Jewish Addresses in Rechitsa by Leonid Smilovistsky, Ph.D., Diaspora Research Institute of Tel Aviv Uninversity



The October 21-24, 1905 Rechitsa pogrom was not an isolated episode. It became an additional factor in the general disillusionment of the Belorussian Jews as they assessed their future in Russia. The unwillingness and inability of the Tzarist regime to evolve into a constitutional government and to ensure equality before the law and equal economic opportunities for all the peoples in the country had become evident. The result was unprecedented Jewish emigration.

In 1904-1905 the number of Jews who emigrated to the United States alone was 92,383, or 50% of the total number of emigrants, and in 1905-1906, Jewish emigrants numbered 125,234, or 85% of the total. If one takes into account those who left for Argentina, Canada, Palestine, and other countries, this number would be doubled. See.V. Gornberg, Emigratsiia I immigratsiia (Emigration and immigration) (Vilna, 1907), Table 1; S. Fornberg, Evreiskaia emigratsiia (The Jewish emigration) (St. Petersberg, 1908).

Belarus is situated in the Eastern part of Europe. It covers 20.000 km2 (7.700 mile2) and stretches for 650 km (400 miles) from East to West and for 560 km (350 miles) from North to South. It borders on Latvia and Lithuania in the North, Russia in the East, the Ukraine in the South and Poland in the West. The population is over 10 million people. Kobrin district; Pruzhany district; Khvoyniki, Old name: Dobuchin, Modern name : Pruzhany. The Brest region is situated in the south-west of the Republic of Belarus. This region was formed on December 4, 1939. The modern boundaries were established after the January 1954 merging of all districts of the Baranovichi region and 4 districts of the Pinsk region. The area of Brest region is 32,300 km2 (12,500 miles2). Population is about 1,5 million people. Old name: Berestie Modern name Brest. The name Berestie was mentioned in chronicles and was in use up to 18th century. The village was merged to Brest in 1968.

The Lituania: Built by Harlan & Wolff Limited, Belfast, Northern Ireland, 1889. 4,248 gross tons; 400 (bp) feet long; 45 feet wide. Steam triple expansion engine, single screw.  Service speed 13 knots. Built for Bibby Line, British flag, in 1889 and named Lancashire. Liverpool-Middle East service. Sold to East Asiatic Company, Danish flag, in 1906 and renamed Kina. Transferred to Russian American Line, in 1907 and renamed Lituania. Sold in 1913. Scrapped in 1913.

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