Shtetl Routes. Vestiges of Jewish cultural heritage in cross-border tourism in borderland of Poland, Belarus and Ukraine


Shtetl Routes. Vestiges of Jewish cultural heritage in cross-border tourism in borderland of Poland, Belarus and Ukraine


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Davyd-Haradok Cultural Heritage Card

Дави́д-Городо́к [Rus.],

Давыд-Гарадок [Belarus.],

Davyd-Haradok [Eng.] is a town (since 1940) in Stolin district, Brest region in Belarus. It is situated on the river Goryn. Its population is 6 700 inhabitants (2009). It is the second biggest populated locality of Stolin district. Administrative area of the town is 1239 hectares. It is situated at the intersection of Stolin — David Gorodok — Turov — Zhytkavichy.

Landscape of this area is of flat and swamp nature.

The former Jewish quarter in Davyd-Haradok
The former Jewish quarter in Davyd-Haradok (Author: Sanko, Pavel)

Origin of the nameDirect link for this paragraphGo back to indexGo back to index

The town was named after Volhynian prince David Igorevich who obtained Pogorynye instead of Vladymyr Principality which was taken from him. The town hasn't been always called this name. Originaly the town was called just "Gorodok" (and probably it is the reason why even today its inhabitants identify themselves as "gorodchuki"). Later (in the 15th century) the town was called "Gorodok Davydov". And since the 17th century it has finally got its up-to-date name (Davyd-Haradok).

HistoryDirect link for this paragraphGo back to indexGo back to index

Davyd-Haradok was founded in 1100 by Prince David who was a grandson of Yaroslav the Wise. After his father Volhynian prince Igor Yaroslavovich died David didn't obtain any inheritance. He was one of the first in Rus who became an outcast prince i.e. a prince without a principality. In 1081 David conquered Tmutarakan (the present day Taman city of the Krasnodar Territory) and ruled there for a period of three years until the rightful prince Oleg Sviatoslavovich came back from the byzantine captivity.

After that David came back to Rus and started a perennial struggle for his patrimony his father obtained from Yaroslav the Wise. But in 1100 a congress of princes took place not far from Kiev where David was deforced of his right for Volynian Principality. And it is then that David founded his town (Gorodok). During a period of three centuries this town has been called Davyd-Haradok. Location of the town on banks of the river Goryn defined the line of activity of its inhabitants: trading related to river harbor, production of river vessels.

Starting from the middle 14th century Davyd-Haradok became a part of Grand Duchy of Lithuania and Lithuanian princes take possession of this town.

At the end of the 14th century Yaroslav's successors (Yaroslavichi) got the town back upon consent of the king of Poland Casimir the 4th. So the town came back to possession of the Riurikids.

After death of Yaroslav's successors their lands (Pinsk, Gorodok-Davydov, Klyetsk and Rogachev) were possessed by the Kingdom of Poland. The Grand Duke of Lithuania and the King of Poland Sigizmund the 1st passes these rich lands to his wife the queen of Poland Bona Sforza who was a representative of powerful Medici family. Queen Bona implements certain administrative and economic reforms promoting development of the entire Polesye region.

During her reign Tatars performed numerous plundering inroads to Polesye lands. In 1527 г. prince Konstantin Ostrozhskiy defeated Tatars 40 kilometers from Pinsk on the river Pripyat. After that Qeen Bona allowed to settle captive Tatars in Davyd-Haradok and in the neighborhood of the town. Tatars were given a right to marry local girls upon condition of entering the Orthodoxy. They gave the start of orthodox Tatars in Davyd-Haradok.

In the 16th century importance of Gorodok began to grow. It was evidenced by the fact that it was first marked on geographic maps of the First All-European "Atlas" composed by a major Dutch cartographer G. Mercator (issued in 1595).

During this period Davyd-Haradok ordination of Radzivill princes was formed (called also mayorat - meaning ownership passing under procedure of inheritance to the eldest son). Davyd-Haradok castle was a residence of the princes until 1875 when Davyd-Haradok ordination was joined to the Nesvizh one and Prince Antoniy Radzivill (1834-1904) started to use the Nesvizh castle as his residence.

When the town was in possession of Radzivills (the second half of the 16th - beginning of the 20th cc.) it served for several purposes: economic, administrative and military ones. Agriculture was very important during that period. According to lists of 1653 there were 362 homeowners and 53 of them possessed arable lands. Only those inhabitants who possessed lplots of land exceeding "poluvolochny" plot should be defined as farmers.  But this group of people cannot be considered as an exceptional group of land owners as far as inventory lists tell us that plots of the kind were also owned by merchants, craftsmen etc. 

Alongside with agriculture and farming handicraft industry was developed. According to the inventory list of 1665 at the end of the 17th century there were 35 craftsmen and 32 handicraft specializations are mentioned. Being the center of Radzivill's possession in Polesye Davyd-Haradok wasn't a major handicraft center but handicraft activities never died there. Castle craftsmen worked in the sphere of metal processing and production of arms. They worked mainly for fulfilling needs of magnates. Later some kinds of handicraft activity have got workshop organization. In the inventory list of 1670 shoe workshop master is mentioned and in 1692 fishery workshop master is mentioned. During that period a high level of proficiency was obtained by tailors, carpenters, wheelmen, coopers, stove makers. 

Trading was an important part of Davyd-Haradok life because it was conveniently situated on water transport route. In the beginning of the 16th century the town became a trading center of Volyn-Podolya region. Food commodities were the main items of trading. They included grain, fish, honey, mushrooms, berries, game, poultry, cattle, and craftsmen’s produce.  Traders included merchants, middlemen and tavern keepers. It is not occasionally that in 1760 shops in Davyd-Haradok are situated door to door in the middle of the market place forming a square where four gates led (information of written sources). There were 50 shops built by magnate administration which were sold or leased to inhabitants of the town.  More than a half of inhabitants were engaged in trading.  It is confirmed in inventory of 1753 where the following information is presented:  "All people in this town are engaged in trading and merchantry and try to get the most profit from boat trips".

 During its longstanding history Davyd-Haradok witnessed dramatic events many times. In 1648 under slogans set by Bogdan Khmelnytskyi local rebellion started guided by Ivan Bogdashevich which was brutally crushed. Military actions during years of  the Russo-Polish war 1654-1667 also touched inhabitants of the town. In 1655 Moscow's prince Volkonskiy captured Davyd-Haradok and fired it.

It is known that Davyd-Haradok was under Magdeburg Law although documents confirming this fact are not preserved.  The right of autonomy of the town is confirmed by cooperation with magnates, availability of suburbanites’ class, electiveness of executive governing bodies, self-sufficiency in the sphere of economic life. Presumably the town obtained Magdeburg Law at the end of the 16th century from Prince Albrecht Radzivill.

After the second partition of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (Rzeczpospolita) in 1793 Davyd-Haradok was taken by Russia and became the center of Minsk governorate. In 1796 Davyd-Haradok uyezd (district) was liquidated and the town entered Mozyr district. The same year it was transfered to the category of "insignificant" ones and a bit later it was defined as "mestechko" (little town). On the 22nd of January 1796 Davyd-Haradok got its emblem. Description of the emblem: a river with a golden dock and two gates on each side and a ship coming here with goods in form of three packages are depicted on the black background. 

After implementation of an administrative reform Prince Radzivill transferred all inhabitants of the town (excluding Jews) to the category of serfs. Serious peasant disorders took place on this background. Finally according to the decision of Mozyr district court (1836) a certain part of inhabitants was released from serfdom. These inhabitants were defined as suburbanites. Inventory lists tell us that in Davyd-Haradok there were 413 houses of free people from the total number of 649 houses. So 236 yards were still dependent from Raszivills. 

During the following decade suburbanites living in the town made a significant contribution to its development.  It is thanks to these suburbanites that the town reached a significant economic and cultural level. During that period of time main suburbanites' occupations included fishery and some other kinds of handicraft such as carpentry, shipbuilding, shoe-making, tailoring, smithery and weaving. Gorodchuki also dealt in timber rafting. Local masters were well known for skillful plaiting of light carriages (so called "polukoshki"). By the way surname Polukoshko comes from here.

In the process of industry development larger enterprises came to existence.  The town gradually broadened its borders. It stepped to the left bank of river Goryn' where in the old course of the river two water mills were built.  And that's why it is not occasionally that even today the left bank side of the town is called "Melniki" (Millers) and the district between streets Krasnaya and Severnaya is called "Gamariya" - it is there that water mills were situated. Workshops were created where pots, jugs and other dishes for winery plants were produced of copper sheets.  There was a distillery in the town where "peysakhovskaya" vodka was produced.   Each year this vodka was produced in amounts of about 450 buckets. The distillery was stopped in 1881 as far as a new distillery was built in Mankovichi. In the report presented by the Minsk governor in 1860 a beer factory is mentioned producing beer for 690 rubles per year. The produce of this factory was sold at the local market.

 At the end of the 19th century major merchants of the town were Lutskiy and Muravchik and major manufacturers were Mokha (an owner of a shipyard), Finkelshtein (tannery), Borukhin (a mill and a creamery).

In the second half of the 19th century on a high hilly bank of river Goryn' in the area of Ukhabishe (Khabishe) a timber plant was built where a powersaw bench, circular saws and other woodworking machines were set in operation with a help of a  steaming machine. This plant mainly produced parts for production of oak casks and shingles for roofs. Manufactured produce was sent to England. During the First World War the plant was burned down was never restored.

At the end of the 19th century river Goryn' and the local dock played an important role in the life of the town. The river was convenient for timber rafting and shipping just in spring and autumn. In summer there were shoals, obstructions and milldams which discouraged active using of the river. Goryn', Pripyat and Dnieper were used for timber rafting, transportation of bread, agricultural products, resin, tar and other goods from Volynian region to Kiev and through Ogin water system goods were transported to river Neimen and further to the Baltic. That's why transportation of goods was under strict control of Kamora (Customs) which was situated at the inflow of Siozhka to Goryn'. 

The well-known traveler P.P. Semenov in his book "Picturesque Russia" in 1882 wrote about Davyd-Haradok:

"Trading is quite developed. Inhabitants from distant lands are flowing here in order to sell something or to pass something to dealers for further transporting their homemade preparings to other towns and cities. These preparings may for example include ham, dried fish, various kinds of game, mushrooms, dried cream etc. But the main point what shoe-makers of Davyd-Haradok were famous by are high boots with long bootlegs".  All these items are yearly brought to Vilno, Warsaw and other cities. Local inhabitants are also known for production of perfect plaited light carriages..."

We should also mention the fact that Davyd-Haradok performed trading both with Russian cities as well as with foreign cities such as Krakow, Koenigsberg Danzig etc.

Fairs regularly took place in the town. These Fairs were attended by inhabitants of Mozyr district and other neighboring districts. Main subjects of trading were cattle, bread, birds, woodenware leather etc. In 1914 Fairs were carried out Davyd-Haradok and on the 6th of August the total sum of sold goods was 7.5 thousand of rubbles and on the 26th of September the total sum was 10 thousand of rubbles.

Soviet power came to Davyd-Haradok in November 1917. During the period 1918-1920 Davyd-Haradok was occupied by German and later by Polish troops. From 1921 to 1939 it was a part of Poland.

During the war period Davyd-Haradok remained an important trading and economic center of Stolin region. He was included to Khorskaya gmina but still had some typically urban institutions.  There were a court, a police station, a private bank, two schools, 5 libraries, 5 hotels for several beds two restaurants here.  Industrial sector wasn't really developed in Davyd-Haradok. A brick plant was in operation here (from 1905) as well as Finkelstein tannery. Many inhabitants worked at the local shipyard. During the interwar period several mills were working in the town. They serviced Davyd-Haradok as well neighboring villages.

Davyd-Haradok was included to Belarus SSR in 1939. In 1940 it obtained status of a town and since January 1940 Davyd-Haradok has become a district center of Pinsk region Belarus SSR. 

On the 7th of July the Red Army left Davyd-Haradok and it was occupied by the Fritz On the 9th of July 1944 invaders were scoured from the town by troops of the 1st Belarus front during Belarus strategic offensive operation.

Religion institutions Direct link for this paragraphGo back to indexGo back to index

Ordinary people unlike Polish gentry practiced Orthodox confession.  Orthodox schools were open for protection against pressure of Catholicism. These schools had 3-5 forms. One of such schools was organized in Pinsk in 1633. Davyd-Haradok being the second large town in the district had a branch of Pinsk school. 

Catholicism and Uniaticism were closed in the region of Stolin. One of main reasons of that consisted in the fact that local owners (Radzivills) were quite tolerant. They gave preference to Protestantism and never took part in religious conflicts.

By the beginning of the 17th century Davyd-Haradok became an important center where church decoration was manufactured for the south area of Polesye. Local icon-painters created peculiar works of Belarus school of icon-painting which were characterized by their unique type and saturated colors. Ethnographer I.A. Serbov (1871-1943) came to a conclusion that crosses and icons of the 16th – 18th centuries which can be met on the territory of Polesye belong to the number of works created by masters of Davyd-Haradok.

In accordance with the inspection carried out in 1559 there were 4 churches in Davyd-Haradok: Dmitriyevskaya church, Voskresenskaya church, Nickolayevskaya church and Kozma-Demyanovskaya church.

After annexation of Belarus lands to the Russian Empire the Orthodox church in Belarus obtained a strong support from the government.  At church livings parochial schools were opened. These were parochial schools of two types: one form schools (two-year schools) and two form schools (four-year schools) Learning at such schools was of religious faithful nature.  Half of the total time of learning was defined for religious learning and the other half was defined for writing, reading and arithmetics. During 1890-s a parochial school for girls was opened in Davyd-Haradok for not more than 50 schoolgirls.

In 1906 at the place of an old cemetery a chapel was built in honor of A.Nevskiy. And up to date it is still preserved near the Sviato-Kazanskaya church. The priest Timofey Stepanovich Yukhnevich (1877-1920) was the author of the project of this chapel and he was also the organizer of its construction. Svato-Kazanskaya church was mainly build for funds presented by congregation. Construction was started in June of 1910 and the church was finished and consecrated on the 4th of November 1912. Starting from this date there were three churches in Davyd-Haradok. These were Voskresenskaya church, Yuryevskaya church and Sviato-Kazanskaya church.

Jewish population attended synagogues. From century to century the number of synagogues was increasing. There was also a school where children learned. Boys attended primary Jewish school – heder. It didn't separate children from their families but was an addition to family life. If boys were brought there at the age of three heder was an infant school for them. Heders presupposed fee paying and were under control of community council. Learning was carried out in Yiddish as the mother tongue of schoolchildren. Melamed was the main person in heder. At the same time he acted as the director, a teacher, mentor and the manager of the educational unit.  Heders gave Jewish families an opportunity (even if these were very poor families) to perform their religious duty – to teach their sons the Law and prayers.

In order to define the number of heders and melameds on the 23rd of July 1844 power authorities executed the Statute "About Private Educational Establishments and Home Teachers" and demanded their obligatory registration with provision of information about location of heders their rank (primary or secondary) and lists of students. Parents had also to provide information about the level of their satisfaction with education provided. Melameds meeting all requirements who had paid 50 kopecks in silver (primary payment) and one ruble (secondary payment) obtained their teaching certificate alongside with their right to perform teaching. Certificate was valid during a year and then it should be substituted with a new one. As far as the process of receiving this certificate was quite easy many melameds made a claim about themselves.  So it became known that two melameds were teaching in Davyd-Haradok.

Secular institutionsDirect link for this paragraphGo back to indexGo back to index

Democratic reforms carried out during 1860-1870 gave a start to development to secular education institutions.  There were public schools opened by the ministry of National Education as far as district councils (Zemstvos) hadn't been yet organized in Belarus. Significant changes in development of education in Stolin region occurred in 1863 when five public schools were opened simultaneously including public schools in Davyd-Haradok.   In 1888 there were 107 pupils here and in Stolin school there were 54 pupils.

After long-lasting petitions of suburban council in 1908 a four-form school was opened in Davyd-Haradok with six-year long period of learning. In order to enter this school children had to pass a special examination. Learning in this school was fee-based (10 rubles per year). During the first year the examination was passed by 51 boys. The first head of this school was I.M. Chuvardinskiy. Two years later 7 teachers worked at Davyd-Haradok town school. The school staff also included a physician, a librarian and a manager. The library of the school was well known as the biggest one in the district (there were more than 2 thousand books in this library). Working conditions in this school were not really good. It was situated in small, comfortless premises leased from local merchants Mordukh Rymar and Anna Liadetskaya. 

On the eve of the First World War a handicraft school for girls was brought into operation in Davyd-Haradok. It had departments of cutting and sewing, needlework and weaving. General subjects, singing and painting were also taught at this school. During 2 years 29 girls learned in this school.  The learning fee was 8 rubles per year.

History of the Jewish communityDirect link for this paragraphGo back to indexGo back to index

Jews started to settle in Davyd-Haradok and the suburbs in the period from 1521 till 1551 when the town was owned by Bona Sforza. Legal status of Jews was legalized in the Constitution 1588. Obtaining significant privileges in the economic sphere Jews dealt in handicraft and trading. 

In the inventory of 1724 giving an explicit description of Davyd-Haradok it is stated that Jewish schools were in operation on the territory of the town.  In 1782 there was a synagogue in the town and in 1865 their number increased up to three. In the beginning of the 20th century there were 6 synagogues in Davyd-Haradok including one synagogue of Karlin-Stolin hasids.

Number of Jewish population in Davyd-Haradok was constantly changing.  In 1766 there were 408 Jews; in 1847 there were 1572 Jews and in 1897 there were 3087 Jews (39.5% of general population of Davyd-Haradok).

In the majority of Jewish communities ritual slaughter of cattle and birds as well as sale of cosher meat were subject to basket tax which was an intracommunity tax.  From 1840 to 1843 basket tax holder in Davyd-Haradok was suburbanite Mordukh Tektiner. The volume of basket tax in 1859 was 352 rubbles providing that the number of Jewish community members was 4530 people.

Despite the fact that in 1839 the fee on cult-objects was canceled in 1844 the Authorities introduced a peculiar candle tax for keeping official Jewish schools (on sabbatic candles and holiday candles) and up to 1839 this candle tax was included to the basket tax volume.  In 1861 the candle tax from Jews living in Davyd-Haradok was 163.81 providing that the number of the Jewish community members was 4460 people. Ammount of poll-tax paying was 103.97 rubbles.

In 1817 elections of rabbis and cagals for Mozyr district took place. In Davyd-Haradok Yankel Leybovich Shvartep (50 years old) was elected as the rabbi and Girsh Abramovich Avrusin (45 years old) was elected as the cagal. In 1852 Aaron Movshevich Rabinovich was the rabbi. Later this position was taken by Yozef Reizin (1890-1924).  Yakov-Ishiya Rosenblum (1890-1936), Dovid Berkovich (1849—?), Shneur-Zalman Shapiro (1924-1939), David Berkovich's son Jozef (1936-1941) (he died during the period of Holocaust).

Starting from the middle 19th century Davyd-Haradok became the center of the Hasidic dynasty which was founded by Zeyev-Volf Ginzburg. After Zeyev-Volf died his position was taken by his son David. After David's death the dynasty was headed by his son Isroel Josef (?—1899 ). During the period 1899—1921 the dynasty was headed by Isroel-Josef's son Zeev-Volf (?—1921), and during 1921-1941 the head of the dynasty was Moyshe-Ioshua (Zeev-Volf's son).

In the middle of the 19th century in Davyd-Haradok there were 4 preaching houses with 1234 parishioners. In 1852 servants of Jewish preaching institutions were Aaron Movshevich Rabinovich (rabbi) Berko Leybovich Tsyporko (warden), Mendel Shymonov (treasurer), Nevakh Yankelevich Kitaberg (scientist).  

Achievements of scientific and technological progress at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries brought changes to the life of the town. Steam engines were broadly used at sawmills mills and factories. There were owners of cargo steamers and passenger steamers. River transport was very important for development of economic activity in Davyd-Haradok. A small cargo and passenger steamer "Leontina" was running on Goryn' river. This vessel was used for transporting raw materials from Volyn to Finkelstein tannery where there were 20 workers (1926).

Many inhabitants worked at the local shipyard owned by Jew Mokha.

The main office of Russian Eastern-Asian Steamship line asked the governor of Minsk governorate for permission to appoint suburbanite Movsha Girshev Elperin as an agent of the Steamship line for selling passenger tickets in Davyd-Haradok of Mozyr district and in towns Luninets and Stolin of Pinsk district.     Obtained information about Elperin's personality were favorable but according to Pinsk district police officer agents of the steamship line supported secret emigration of peasants abroad and that's why population of the district didn't need such personalities. A long lasting exchange of letters was carried out and finally the Russian Eastern-Asian Steamship line informed the Minsk governor on the 2nd of June 1913 that Movsha Girshevich Elperin was discharged from the agency of the district.

The town also had print shops, book stores, gunpowder shops etc. owned by Jews.

In 1904 in Davyd-Haradok in the street Velimichskaya Shlioma Meyerovich Zagorodskiy opened a book store in his own house.  Documents say that Zagorodsky was born and lived in Davyd-Haradok, he was 45 years old, he was a person of good moral qualities and never broke censorship statute; he obtained his education at home and was semi-literate.

In the beginning of the 20th century a suburbanite of Davyd-Haradok community Yosel Yovnov Rymar and his father kept a stone shop with a stone cellar. There they sold iron goods. Later Rymar indicated his willingness to sell gunpowder as well. As of the 1st of March 1914 the shop was situated in Davyd-Haradok in street Bazarnaya; and starting from the 1st February 1915 it was situated in the street Mostovaya.

In 1910 merchant Solomon Bentsyanov Kozel from Mozyr opened a branch of his printing house in Davyd-Haradok.  There was an engine printing press in this printing house. He had been engaged in the printing trade for 11 years already was known as a well-educated and an intelligent person. He had got education at home and was at the age of 45.  In 1912 the Jewish loan-saving partnership was in operation.

Jew took the most active part in development of medical services.  Initially they had an opportunity to open pharmacy shops hospitals, dentist's offices to get higher and secondary medical education without any obstructions.  Jewish physicians practiced in the most distant districts of Noth-Western region. But as far as the number of Jewish owners, pharmacists, and pharmacy shops managers, practicing physician, dentists, medical assistants, nurses, veterinarians and barbers was constantly growing the authorities became altered. From officials' point of view competition with Jews could lead to monopoly in the sphere of health care and that's why by the beginning of the 20th century rights of Jewish medical workers were significantly restricted.

At the end of 1880-s there were seven staff physicians in Mozyr district including Zalman Mordukhovich Shereshevskiy from Davyd-Haradok.  Some duties of physicians (bloodletting, suctorial annelides etc) could be performed by barbers. Barber's services in the town were rendered by suburbanites Nisel Glinskiy and Shmerko Glinskiy. 

At the end of the 19th century social and political life was actively developing in Davyd-Haradok. There was a hobby group of "Hibat Zion" followers. In 1905 Bunda unit was organized. In 1905 a self-defense squadron was created by socialists-territorialists.

In November of 1917 the Soviet power was established in Davyd-Haradok. During 1918–1920 the town was occupied by German and later by Polish troops. During the period 1917-1920 there was a school where subjects were taught in Hebrew. From 1917 "Poaley Zion" department was in function. In 1918 a Jewish orphan home was opened with a help of "Joint". From 1921 till 1939 in accordance with Riga peace treaty Davyd-Haradok was included to the Republic of Poland. By 1921 population of the town was 9851 people and the number of Jews was 2832 people, i.e. 29%. In 1924 there were 2879 of Jews (29.9%), In 1928 there were 2986 of Jews (27.2%) and in 1931 the number of Jews was about 3.5 thousand.

 It should be noted that during the interwar period the industrial sector wasn't really developed in Davyd-Haradok as well as in the entire Stolin district it was a part of.   Jewish population of the town was engaged in the sphere of trading. They promoted exchange of goods between the urban area and the village. Numerous craftsmen (tailors and shoe makers) were servicing Jewish as well as the Christian society including peasants of surrounding villages. Tinsmiths and carpenters were mainly engaged in the sphere of construction.

In 1929 in the street Zarechnaya 18 a mill was in function. It was owned by Haim Borukhin. The mill was serving Davyd-Haradok, Maliye Orly, Remel. Another mill was owned by Mordykh Rymar. In summer Jews from Davyd-Haradok went to Warsaw to sell ice-cream.

As a rule Jews lived in the central part of the town.  It is the district of up-to-date streets Gorkogo, Tolstogo and Sovetskaya. Their houses can be easily recognized because of their multifunctionality. Jewish houses often combined living premises, a shop, a workshop or a warehouse and the door unlike doors of neighboring Christian houses led to the street.  In the central streets of the town Jew Ronkin lived who dealt in dressing and shoe making. His house was situated at the address str. Gorkogo 1. Muravchik kept a drapery (his house was in the building of up-to-date children's library); Kalman sold flour; Lutskiy kept a shop of fabric. Borukhins family had a mill. (Today the Town Council is situated in this building). Currying plant was kept by Filkenstein.  Zelik family had a big garden which was at the place where the Town bathhouse is now situated. Kalman family also owned a shop where vegetables were sold. Pharmacy shops of the town were owned by Yudovich and Kaplinskiy.  Yudovich's wife was a pharmacist and she worked at the pharmacy shop during the war time. She sold medicaments to partisans. And that's why she was executed by shooting at the order of the gebietscommissar. 

From 1924 "Tarbut" school was in operation. It was attended by 400 pupils. In 1934 Avram Olshanskiy was its director. From 1939 Yiddish became the language of instruction at the former "Tabut" school.

In 1939 Davyd-Haradok was included to the Belarus SSR. In 1940 it obtained status of a town and became a district center of Pinsk region. Before the war approximately 11.5 thousand of people including 7 thousand of Jews lived in the town.

On the 7th of July 1941 Davyd-Haradok was occupied by the Fritz. On the 10th of August about 3000 male Jews older than 14 were taken out of the town in the direction of villages Khinovsk and Olshany. They were executed by shooting in Khinovsk-Gorki district (about 2.5 km westwards from Olshany village).

After the tragedy in Khinovsk district all Jews living in Davyd-Haradok were driven to Stolin. Local population was forbidden to go out to the street and to look at Jews driven away. Jews were driven on foot to ghetto of Stolin which was already overcrowded. Some of people were appointed to ghetto; some other Jews were given shelter by relatives and friends.   German authorities promised work for all of them. The rest were driven back on foot to Davyd-Haradok where ghetto was already prepared for them (beginning of 1942). It was situated on the right bank of Snezhka river a feeder of Goryn' (in streets Yukhnevicha, Lermontova, Gorkogo). Here Jews were driven from Olshany village (about 40 people) and Semigostichi village (about 10 people).  The total number of Jews in the ghetto was 1.2 thousand of people.

On the 10th of September 1943 ghetto in Davyd-Haradok was liquidated. People from ghetto were driven to khutor Khabishe (Ukhabishe) and from threre they were sent to khutor Khinovsk (Zhabskoye) where they were shot.  Old-timers recollect that before shooting of Jews the rabbi read the prayer and gave a speech. He consoled poor people saying:

"Our souls will be in the heavens..."

About 100 Jews managed to run away. Some of them joined the partisans.  Jewish houses and synagogues were pulled down in order to pave the road Davyd-Haradok-Lakhva (the way of German retreat).

Jew Gittelman managed to survive. A local resident hid him in his shed during the years of war. Gitlman paid him with gold.  When bashings and shootings started he joined a partisan party in Merlin.  There Gitelman looked after partisans' horses and tended caws.  After war he joined communists and was the director of grain storage office in Davyd-Haradok.   He married a polish girl who worked in a bank.  They had a son who married a local girl and took her surname Chekh.  Father Gitelman and one of his sons later left for Israel but other members of their family (the wife and children) preferred to stay in Brest.

Urban planningDirect link for this paragraphGo back to indexGo back to index

Inventory of 1724 presents a detailed description of Gorodok Davydov. We can see that in fact the town is situated on islands. It had five bridges.  Alongside with administrative buildings Orthodox and Jewish schools, a hospital, a farm with a bakery and a shopping street are mentioned in the inventory. Streets were organized in accordance with a certain plan just in the center of the town. In its basis this planning has been preserved till now. Many names of streets of that period (such as Radichi, Komora, Bokova) are used today as well. The inventory mentions surnames of inhabitants which can be met in Davyd-Haradok even today. These are such surnames as Besan, Stadnik, Kulaga, Kaziolka, Grechikha, Tsuber, Sysa etc.

In the process of industrial development the town broadened its borders. It stepped to the left bank of river Goryn' where in the old course of the river two water mills were built. And that's why it is not occasionally that even today the left bank side of the town is called "Melniki" (Millers) and the district between streets Krasnaya and Severnaya is called "Gamariya" - it is there that water mills were situated. 

EthnographyDirect link for this paragraphGo back to indexGo back to index

During the post-reform period smithcraft became an independent occupation and was separated from the agricultural sphere. During 1860-s each village had a smith. In his publications researcher Yevgeniy Sakhuto noted that there had been an independent smith school in Davyd-Haradok. In the 19th century metal-sided chests with a peculiar folk's decor and pagan symbols were produced here. 

Natural conditions of Polesye made its inhabitants to deal in production of means for transportation on rivers. First they used to make small wooden rafts and light wooden dugouts. Later they started to build boats. During navigation periods boats were indispensable for inhabitants of the town. With a help of boats people got food, water and were able to move on rivers.    

Occupations of Davyd-Haradok inhabitants in the beginning of the 20th century were described by Russian geographer V.P.Semenov in his book "Russia. Complete Geographic Description":

"Local suburbanites deal in growing vegetables, fishing; they serve as pilots on boats, prepare ham and sausages which are then brought to Warsaw and Vilno; they buy cheeses at the local cheese dairy and bring them even to Bessarabia. They also build boats".

Fishing was very popular among local inhabitants.  It wasn't always presented in its traditional form. During summer time fishers organized a temporary camp (kuren') on banks of Pripyat. Five to eight persons could find shelter in a single hut made of willow and brushwood. The season started in spring when high water abated and the river came back to its usual bed. And this season lasted till late autumn.

The main time of fishing was during hours of darkness. After sunrise fishermen came back to their kuren' where they had rest scaled fish they had caught and repaired their tackle. In case of a rich catch they called people from neighboring villages for help. The afternoon time until the sunset was devoted to rest and then the entire cycle was repeated. In kuren' there were two or three tubs with sodium chloride brine where the scaled fish was put. Several days later the caught fish was hanged in the open air and sun and wind completed the process of preparation. Depending on weather this process lasted from one to three weeks.

From the earliest times the town was inhabited by Tatars. And even today people with mongoloid traits and Tatar surnames can be met here.  Close contacts with cultures of outlanders was reflected in the appearance of local women. Before the war period women of the town wore a huge headdress called "golovach". It combined features of eastern turban and Polesye namitka.

Davyd-Haradok-Turov folk costume is a traditional complex of Eastern Plesye folk costume. It was widespread among inhabitants of small towns (Turov, Davyd-Haradok, Stolin), townships and big villages in the 19th and beginning of the 20th century.  This costume was distinct in its original design, complex silhouettes of women's costume and headdresses of married women. For manufacturing and ornamentation of inhabitants' clothes manufactory fabric was broadly used alongside with jewelry and skillfully processed leather etc.

Breast jewelry was a significant decorative element of the costume. Women wore massive brass crosses of local production, beads of natural stones and metal, little icons on chains as well as rings. Prosperous inhabitants could be able to afford expensive elements of ornamentation they ordered from local smiths. Broadening material and aesthetic needs of villages lead not just to increase of assortment of smith's articles but also to improvement of their quality and technology of production.

M. Romanuk noticed similarity of forms and motives used for decoration of cast stone sepulchral crosses produced in the middle of the 19th century with breast crosses. In his works this ethnographer wrote: 

"Headstones in form of crosses which were cast of sandy limestone mass is a rare phenomenon which is territorially limited by the territory of Stolin district... In fact it is the only known case when the composition of sepulchral cross repeats the form of the ancient (the 17th - 18th century) breast jewelry cross". 

So, on the basis of decoration and artistic forms of these headstones we can estimate possible variants of forms used in breast crosses. Tracery on one of cast crosses resembles cornflower inflorescence which is a typical Belarusian flower and on horizontal bars heads of angels with wings are depicted volumetrically like the figure of Christ. Crosses were the most widespread group of hanging ornamentation in Belarus during all periods of time. Known since the period of adoption of Christianity they are preserved in the up-to-date life.

Inhabitants of Davyd-Haradok (gorodchuki) were distinguished in the entire Polesye not just through their appearance, clothes but also through their temper and behavior.  As a rule they were not high, confident in their force, calm with an extremely developed sense of independence.  They loved to prove lawfulness of their old privileges and rights.

Jews dealt in handicraft and trading.  They kept shops, pharmacy shops, powersaw benches, barber's shops, various workshops and a bathhouse. Local inhabitants remember them as hardworking and well-skilled people.   Belarus people learned shoe making and hairdressing from Jews because they worked more accurately and results of their work were usually more pleasant. Jewish shoemakers were so skillful that they made shoes even for Yuzef Pilsudskiy. 

Inhabitants representing various confessions lived in friendship and that's why they could rely on help of their neighbors in case of problems. On Saturdays Jews called Belarus children to light a candle.  For help of the kind they tried to entertain children with something sweat for example with candies "Rachki".

But Christian people often had various superstitious beliefs concerning Jews. Old-timers recollect that when the rabbi was passing by people had to grasp their button. Once the rabbi saw that a Christian girl reacted like this and told her: "Grasp your tongue!". The girl was very ashamed with her behavior.

Local inhabitants are speakers of a unique dialect with some words which can be understood only by people living in the town.  Jews spoke to local people using this dialect. During the interwar period Poles lived on one bank of the river and Belarus people being their neighbors knew and understood the Polish language. Those who lived on the other bank knew the Polish language much worse. 

Before the war houses of Jews could be easily distinguished from houses of Orthodox people. Orthodox people roofed their houses with thatch and Jews shingled their houses.

Many houses in Davyd-Haradok are decorated with windows produced by local Belarus masters.

Archeology Direct link for this paragraphGo back to indexGo back to index

Davyd-Haradok was studied by archaeologists R.Yakimovich in 1937-1939 and P.F. Lysenko in 1967. Citadel (stronghold) surrounded by swells is situated in the area where Nepidvy river flows into Goryn'. The cultural layer of this citadel has thickness of up to 3.5 meter.  Planning of buildings was researched. Houses were fenced with palisades and internal yards had board flooring. There were several street pavements. All buildings were ground log houses of up to 20 sq. m. In buildings breakdowns of clay adobe stoves were studied. A wooden chirch was discovered.

In 1937—1938 diggings of Davyd-Haradok citadel were performed. Remnants of wooden living houses were found alongside with household buildings — Zarubinetskoye settlement, log pavements, wooden chapel; multiple fragments of clay vessels (some of them had a stamp of their master). Wooden craftworks, bone awls, spokes for netting as well as numerous craftsworks made of iron and bronze were found.  Glass bracelets and slate distaffs confirm the fact that the local settlement in the 11th - 12th century had an urban status.   During excavations performed by R. Yakimovich in 1937—1938 and F. Lysenko in 1967 remains of wooden houses, wooden church and wooden pavements were found alongside with several rich burial sites. Numerous craftsworks made of wood, bones, iron, bronze and glass were also found as well as fragments of clay vessels.

 Non-hillock burial ground is situated 2 kilometers north-west of the town on the right bank of Goryn' river in Levanovshina district. It was found in 1979 at the depth of 0.7 m during earthworks.  It was studied by G.M.Zalashko. Eight vessels, moulded funeral urn, two plates (one of them was black-glazed), 4 pots with handles (one of them was black-glazed with a rim) a small light-yellow vessel were found.  The butial ground belongs to zarubenetskaya culture. Materials of excavations are stored at Stolin Museum of Local Lore, History and Economy

Samples of constructions and architectureDirect link for this paragraphGo back to indexGo back to index

(Only existing objects) 

Building of the museum (former town specialized school) built in 1908.

Georgiyevskaya church - the second half of the 17th century (1724 ?).

It is a wooden temple of longitudinal axial composition.  It consists of compact (almost square) log frames (the main and the altar frame) and a more prolonged "babinets". All the frames are cowered with four-ramp tents with "heads" on octahedral necks. The main frame has the tchetverik second floor which was separated from the lower one with a broad fracture. The vestry from the northern side aspides and tambours from the western side of the babinets were built later.  Walls are reinforced vertically and are strengthened in the center with broad shoulders and rectangular window apertures with three-sided endings were symmetrically cut. Tops of tents over babinets and the apside were a bit shifted relatively to geometric centers of their plans for creating a symmetric three-headed composition of tops.

A wooden fretted four-row iconostasis was performed in 1751 in Baroque style by an unknown master. The unity of this composition of works and their color score creates a unified image which corresponds to architectural style of a church.   The Iconostasis is decorated with gilded fretted covering plates.

The Church is a memorial of folk wooden architecture with an expressive volumetric and spacial composition. Its architectural solution is organically combined with a decorative design of the interior. 

Bell tower (at Saint Georgiy Church) was built in the 19th century.

Roman Catholic Church was built in 1935-1936.

Church of Kazan Icon of the Mother of God – a stone church built in 1913 in a retrospective Russian style.

Monument of David, sculptor Alexander Dranets, 2000.

Headquarters of the Polish Frontier Squadron – built during a period between 1918 and 1931.

Memorial placesDirect link for this paragraphGo back to indexGo back to index

In 1986 in the district of Davyd-Haradok where Jews were killed a typical obelisk was set up. Later in 1996 it was renewed.

In 2010 in Khinovsk district seven kilometers from Davyd-Haradok at the place where the Nazi killed Jews a memorial of Holocaust victims was set up. Its author is architect Leonid Levin. Behind the fencing there are seven white concrete candles. Paths paved with red tiles in form of a menorah lead to these candles. There are the following inscriptions on the candles in Russian and in Hebrew: "7000 Jews of Davyd-Haradok and the suburbs are buried in this common grave. They are men, women, children who were murdered by the Nazi in cold blood during two actions in 1941-1942. Blessed be their memory! Let their souls rest in peace!"

In 2005 a memorial plate was set up in the center of the town on the building of the library. There is the following inscription on this plate given in three languages (Russian, English and Hebrew): "In commemoration of Jews of the community who were tragically exterminated in 1941-1942. Blessed be their memory".

Intangible valuesDirect link for this paragraphGo back to indexGo back to index

Davyd-Haradok is the mother town of a certain number of well-known personalities who realized their potential in various spheres of activity.  Among them: 

Alexander Darkovich – a lieutenant colonel who lives now in Mowcow. For special operation in Chechnya he obtained the rank of the Hero of Russia.

Vladimir Glushakov – writer, laureate of state prize, author of ten books of prose and social and political journalism including such books as "Seeds", "Warm Leaves of Poplars", "Snowball in Blossom".

Grigoriy Marchuk – writer laureate of state prize of Belarus, in 2009 he was nominated for the Nobel Prize; he is the author of such novels as "Crying at the Khutor", "Flowers of the Province", "Without Angels" etc.

Grigoriy Rychagov – doctor of medical sciences.

Leonid Dranko-Maysuk – Belarus poet, a member of  the "Union of Writers of the USSR", laureate of the "Golden Apostrophe" prize (2005).

Pavel Andreyevich Misko (1931-2011) – Belarus writer, author of books of prose for children, fantasy writer.

Museums, archives, libraries, private collections Direct link for this paragraphGo back to indexGo back to index

Davyd-Haradok Historical Museum

Address: Davyd-Haradok, str. Yurchenko, 11, +375 (1655) 5-13-37

Working hours: Wednesday, Friday, Sunday 11:00 a.m. -02:30 p.m.

The Museum was created by Nickolay Pavlovich Berezovskiy, inhabitant of the town.   The museum is not big. Everything related to the history of the town is collected here:  household items brought by local inhabitants, information, photographs and works created by well-known personalities for whom Davyd-Haradok is a native town, works created by local painters. History of Davyd-Haradok Jewish Community is presented in form of photographs dated by the first half of the 20th century. 

Founder of the museum is also its guardian and guide.

Touristic infrastructureDirect link for this paragraphGo back to indexGo back to index

You can get to Davyd-Haradok by your own car as follows:

from Minsk (308 km): from MRHW 20 km to Samokhvalovichi, turn to М7-Р68 (33 km), turn to village Shyshytsy (25 km to village Shyshytsy), turn to Slutsk (22 km to Slutsk), turn to Saligorsk (32 km), turn to Mikashevichi (68 km to village Mikashevichi), turn to Luninets (53 km to Luninets), turn to Stolin (30 km to Stolin), turn to south-east (25 km to Davyd-Haradok).

"Davyd-Haradok" hotel:

Address: Republic of Belarus, Brest region, Stolin district, Davyd-Haradok, str. Kalinina  119 а/1

Geographic coordinates - 52°03.076' N, 27°11.608' E

How you can get there: on Р23 highway (Minsk-Mikashevichi) to intersection with М10 highway (border with Russia (Settlement)-Gomel-Kobrin) (about 193 km); to the left on М10 highway (border with Russia (Settlement)-Gomel-Kobrin) to intersection with Р88 highway (Zhitkovichi-Davyd-Haradok-border with Ukraine (Verkhniy Terebezhov)) (about 29 km); to the right on Р88 highway (Zhitkovichi-Davyd-Haradok-border with Ukraine (Verkhniy Terebezhov)) to Davyd-Haradok (about 66 km); in Davyd-Haradok (about 4 km): along street Sovetskaya to intersection with street Kalinina; to the right along the street Kalinina up to "Davyd-Haradok" hotel (str. Kalinina 119 а/1).

More details you can find on the website:


The following ecological routes including the territory of Davyd-Haradok district are proposed for tourists:

Route "Floating on Pripyat"

(From village Korobye – on river Pripyat to Davyd-Haradok or to village Olshany)

Rout type: water route

Route length: 45 km.

The most favorable time: April-September.

Number of tourists: 5 persons, duration - 2 days.

For information: GPU has got an opportunity to provide one rowboat and two motor boats. Except for the necessary tourist equipment participants of this floating should have gumboots.  Workers of GPU accompany the group of tourists along the entire route. Food – independently or in accordance with preliminary agreement nutrition is organized by GPU.

The rout starts in village Korobye. Ecologic and educational center of the reserve is situated in the village. It is equipped with all necessary items for accommodation of 7-9 persons. Ecological path "Korobeynaya" is organized in the neighborhood of village Korobye. Its length is 2.3 km.

During your journey you can see a great diversity of birds including some rare species (great egret, black stork, bittern, terns etc.). Fifteen kilometers from the start of the route in the district of river Vetlitsa there is a place for the first stop.

The main goal of the route  – to get acquainted with life of aquatic and swamp animals and birds, vegetation, landscape of the reserve and its specific features. Program of the route presupposes familiarization with every-day life of people living in village Korobye, Davyd-Haradok, village Olshany.


Route "Stolin-Davyd-Haradok-Tereblichi"

Rout type: combined route

Length – 60- 100 km.

The most favorable time: April-October.

Number of tourists: up to 20 persons.

This route from Stolin towards Davyd-Haradok includes visiting many interesting and diverse historical and natural units. Tourists will learn about the well-known Radzivills family.  They will see the place of execution of Jews urochishe Stasino where an obelisk is set up. They will visit palace and park ensemble in Novo-Berezhnoye; learn about old Olesha family who lived here over four centuries ago.  Tourists will also visit Palace mountain and the main square of Davyd-Haradok where they will see the monument to the founder of the town David Igorevich who was a grandson of Yaroslav the Wise. The picturesque wooden church built in 1724 will remind about the past years.

Tourists will have an opportunity to get acquainted with every-day life of Polesye inhabitants and their rituals in the Ethnographic museum in village Tereblichi. The founder and the head of this museum is I.F.Suprunchik, laureate of the special prize of the President of the Republic of Belarus. Excursionists will also learn about village Olshany which can also be called "The Vegetable garden of Belarus".

There is also an opportunity to visit "Borodok" farm, "Sredniaya Pripyat" reserve, "Olmansk Swamps" reserve in particular the former command center of the military polygon "Merlin" situated in the reserve and the look-out tower 52 m. high.

A worker of GPU accompanies the group of tourists along the entire route. Food – independently or in accordance with preliminary agreement nutrition is organized by GPU.

ReferencesDirect link for this paragraphGo back to indexGo back to index

1.     Беларусь, Давид-Городок Режим доступа – Дата доступа 05.06.2014

2.     Ботвинник, М. Памятники геноцида на территории Брестчины // Евреи Беларуси: история и культура: сб. научн. тр. / под ред. И. Герасимовой. – Минск: «Четыре четверти», 2000. – Вып. 5. – С. 164-181.

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7.     Давид-Городок – Режим доступа – Дата доступа 05.06.2014

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9.     Давид-Городок / Davyd-Haradok. – Режим доступаДавид-Городок. – Дата доступа 05.06.2014

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11.            Дело о назначении мещанина Эльперина агентом Русского Восточно-Азиатского Пароходства в Давид-Городке (1909-1913 гг.) // НИАБ. Ф. 295. – Оп. 1. – Д. 8370.

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15.           Дело о разрешении Белану С.Г. открыть книжку лавку в мест. Давид-Городок Мозырского уезда // НИАБ. Ф. 295. – Оп. 1. – Д. 7589.

16.           Дело о разрешении Загородскому открыть книжную лавку в местечке Давид-Городок Мозырского уезда // НИАБ. Ф. 295. – Оп. 1. – Д. 7469. – Л. 9.

17.            Дело о разрешении купцу Козлу С.Б. открыть книжную типографию в мест. Петриков и Давид-Городок // НИАБ. Ф. 295. – Оп. 1. – Д. 8009.

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23.            Иоффе, Э.Г. Страницы истории евреев Беларуси / Э.Г.Иоффе. – Мн.: Арти–Фекс, 1996. – 294 с.

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27.            Рапорты Городовых Магистратов о предоставлении сведений в Департамент мануфактур и внутренней торговли о численности купцов в уездах (1833-1835 гг.) // НИАБ. Ф. 295. – Оп. 1. – Д. 358.

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AddendumDirect link for this paragraphGo back to indexGo back to index

Table 1: Dynamics of Jewish population increase in Davyd-Haradok


Year Number of inhabitants
1766 408
1784 386
1808 325
1847 1572
1861 4460
1897 3087
1921 2832
1928 2986
1931 3500
1941 about 7000


Table 2: The list of rabbis of Davyd-Haradok (Mitnagdim)

Year Rabbi's name
1817 Yankel Leibovich Shvartep
1852 Aaron Movshevish Rabinovich
? Joseph Reizin
1890-1924 Yakov Ishia Rozenblum
1890-1936 Dovid Berkovich
1924-1939 Shneur Zalman Shapiro
1936-1941 Joseph Berkovich


Table 3: The list of rabbis of Davyd-Haradok (Hasidim)

Year Rabbi's name
middle of the 19th century  Zev Wolf Ginzburg
? David Ginzburg
? - 1899 Israel Josef Ginzburg
1899-1921 Zev Wolf Ginzburg
1921-1941 Moishe Yoshua Ginzburg


Author: Margarita Kozhenevskaya & Tamara Vershitskaya