Grand Duchy of Lithuania

From the beginning of the 14th century the Lithuanians gained control over western Russia. Under Lithuania the first extensive privileges were granted to Jewish communities in the region at the end of the 14th century. Under Poland-Lithuania the wave of Jewish emigration and large-scale settlement from Poland to the Ukraine, Volhynia, and Podolia from the middle of the 16th century laid the foundations at the close of this century for most of the Jewish communities of the Ukraine and Belorussia, and their Polish-Jewish culture and autonomy. In 1648–49 the Chmielnicki massacres devastated the Jews of the Ukraine, and some years later the Muscovite armies annihilated the Jews in the cities of Belorussia and Lithuania that they had captured. During the 18th century the Jews suffered severely during the revolts of the Haidamacks. With the partitions of Poland at the end of the 18th century most of the Jews of Lithuania and the Ukraine, and at the beginning of the 19th century also those of Poland, found themselves under Russian rule. During the 19th and 20th centuries Russian Jewry was, however, essentially an organic continuity of the Jewry of Poland and Lithuania in the ethnic as well as cultural respects.

Kiev under Lithuania and Poland

In the 14th century what was left of Kiev and its surrounding area came under the control of the powerful and expanding grand duchy of Lithuania, which captured it in 1362. For a long time thereafter Kiev had little function except as a fortress and minor market on the vaguely defined frontier between Lithuania and the steppe Tatars, based in the Crimea. It frequently came under attack from the Tatars; in 1482 the Crimean khan, Mengli Giray, took and sacked the town. Almost the only survival of Kiev's former greatness was its role as the seat of an Orthodox metropolitan. A step forward came in 1516, when the grand duke Sigismund I granted Kiev a charter of autonomy, thereby much stimulating trade.

In 1569 the Union of Lublin between Lithuania and Poland gave Kiev and the Ukrainian lands to Poland. Kiev became one of the centres of Orthodox opposition to the expansion of Polish Roman Catholic influence, spearheaded by vigorous proselytization by the Jesuits. In the 17th century a religious Ukrainian brotherhood was established in Kiev, as in other Ukrainian towns, to further this opposition and encourage Ukrainian nationalism. Peter Mogila (Petro Mohyla), a major theologian and metropolitan of Kiev from 1633 to 1646, founded there the Collegium (later the Academy of Kiev), which became a major focus of the struggle with Roman Catholicism.

In the 17th century there was also increasing unrest among the Zaporozhian Cossacks of the Dnieper downstream of Kiev and an ever-growing struggle between them and the Polish crown. This eventually culminated in the revolt of Bohdan Khmelnytsky, who, assisted by the Crimean Tatars, entered Kiev with his insurgent Cossacks in 1648. He came under heavy pressure from the Polish forces, and in 1654 Khmelnytsky and the Cossacks signed the Pereyaslav Agreement, in essence submitting Ukraine to Moscow; this was followed by a prolonged and confused period of strife and destruction leading in 1667 to the Treaty of Andrusovo, by which Kiev and the Dnieper left-bank part of Ukraine became an autonomous Cossack state under the suzerainty and protection of Moscow. Thereafter further struggle ensued against the Turks, with the Cossacks constantly changing sides and engaging in internecine disputes. In 1686 Kiev was finally yielded to Muscovy by Poland and stood as the sole Muscovite outpost on the right bank of the Dnieper.

"Kiev." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2004.  Encyclopædia Britannica Premium Service.
21 July 2004  <>.

Copyright H. David Marshak, All Rights Reserved