Tluste/Tovste, Ukraine – Jewish History

Posted By on May 27, 2015

History of Tluste/Tovste from a Jewish Perspective Quick Navigation - select section The Polish Era Under Austrian Rule The Interwar Years Tluste and the Holocaust The Beginning of the End The End Notes


The following pages give an overview of the history of Tluste/Tovste and of the region in which it is situated from the perspective of the Jewish population, one of three principal ethnic groups that co-existed there. Polish and Ukrainian perspectives each receive their own treatment elsewhere in dedicated overviews; while the section Tluste - Life and Times attempts to give an overall impression of what the town was like between 1880 and 1930.

While their histories are necessarily intertwined, a case can be made for presenting these ethnic perspectives separately. For, although they lived side-by-side for many centuries, persistent tensions among these communities ensured that they maintained distinct identities and separate affiliations throughout their long co-existence.

Each of these overviews is a work in progress. They will be supplemented by additional information as it comes to light. Indeed, there are many rich sources of historical information already at hand, waiting to be translated into English from the original Hebrew, Polish or Ukrainian texts. While no claim is made that the information presented here is comprehensive, it should nonetheless give a fairly good sense of the social interactions, over time, among these three communities.

The Polish Era

From the 14th to 18th centuries, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth expanded to cover a huge territory in northern Europe. During this period, Tluste was part of the fertile province of Podilia (also written as Podole in Polish, Podillia in Ukrainian). Ruthenian (Ukrainian) peasantry made up the vast majority of the populous, while Jews settled in newly created towns and were heavily involved in the administration of large tracts of land granted to noblemen. These formed the basis for the latifundia, vast estates characterised by primitive agriculture and indentured labour.(1).

The existence of a Jewish population in Tluste can be documented at least as far back as the early part of the eighteenth century, and probably much earlier. Though few, if any, Jews live in Tovste today, this belies the fact that from at least the middle of the nineteenth century until well into the first few decades of the twentieth century, Tluste was predominantly a Jewish town.

According to Rosman (2) , the mid-seventeenth century Jewish community of the Commonwealth enjoyed a large measure of freedom in economic, religious and internal communal affairs owing to a tradition of Polish tolerance as well as compelling utilitarian reasons. However, sporadic anti-Jewish violence fostered an undercurrent of insecurity. This was manifested most dramatically in the peasant uprising of 1648, led by the Cossack Bohdan Khmelnytsky, which had profound effects for Podolia and its Jewish population. Although initiated as a protest by Cossacks against their treatment by Polish landlords, it was transformed into a widespread campaign of violence against anyone identified with the establishment, particularly Jews who lived in urban areas (3). Some estimates put the number of Jewish victims in the whole of Ukrainian territory at up to fifty percent of the total population of 40,000 (4).

Though the situation in Podolia eventually stablised, the last three decades of the century saw further economic and social decay, as the territory was ceded to the Ottoman Empire through the 1672 Treaty of Buczacz. It was not until the end of the seventeenth century, when Poland recovered Podolia once again, that prosperity began to return. Magnate latifundia owners solicited Jews and other townspeople to re-establish life in towns; and a modified Jewish-dominated leasing system was revived (5).

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Tluste/Tovste, Ukraine - Jewish History

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