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Jewish Historical and Archaeographic Commission

(Rus., Evreiskaia Istoriko-Arkheograficheskaia Komissiia), Soviet research institute at the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences, specializing in the collection and study of archival materials dealing with Jewish topics. The Commission was founded in summer 1919 at the initiative of Jewish scholars, who submitted a memorandum to the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences stating, “The Jews have a centuries-long history in Ukraine. The fate of the Jews has been closely linked to the fate of the Ukrainian people. The Jews have played a significant role in the economic and cultural life of Ukraine. Nevertheless, a systematic portrayal of the history of Jews in Ukraine has not yet been written. The lack of such a history has fostered many misunderstandings and mistaken impressions about Jewish activities in Ukraine and relations between the Jewish and Ukrainian peoples.”

The idea of creating the Commission was accepted quickly because of support from Dmitrii Bagalei, Vice Chairman of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences and Director of its Philological and Historical Department, to which the Commission was affiliated. The Commission’s first chairman was the historian Il’ia Galant. Among its members were Iakov Izrael’son, A. Kogan, and Ben-Tsiyon Dinaburg (later Dinur). The Commission’s activities were paralyzed by the Civil War, and by 1923 Galant was the only founding member still at work. The others were replaced by David Brodskii, David Vanshtein, Victor Ivanitskii, and Valerii Ribinskii, who collaborated with Galant until the Commission’s closing in 1929.

The Commission collected, processed, and published a significant assortment of archival materials, most of which were deposited in the Kiev Central Archive. Galant’s own studies dealt with the history of the Jews in the Kiev region and in Volhynia and Podolia in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; Jewish agricultural settlements in southern Ukraine; ritual murder trials; pogroms of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries; the legal status of Jews in the Russian Empire; and Zionism. A major achievement of the Commission was the publication in 1928 and 1929 of a two-volume collection of its proceedings.

The Commission’s researchers engaged in an immense amount of work without ever being paid or receiving any other acknowledgment of their efforts. Moreover, as of early 1927 they were reviled and discredited in the Soviet press in every possible way. Eventually they were dismissed from the Academy of Sciences as “stooges of the bourgeoisie and White Guards.” The harassment was initiated by the Department of Jewish Proletarian Culture, established at the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences in 1927 by a decision of the Commissariat of Education at the instigation of the Evsektsiia. In this unequal struggle the Commission’s researchers were unable to defend themselves in the press. By 1928 they were no longer allowed to consult archival materials. Galant’s appeals to the Academy of Sciences leadership remained unanswered. The issue was finally settled on 24 September 1929 by the decision of the Presidium of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences to disband the Commission.

Suggested Reading

Mordechai Altshuler, “Jewish Studies in Ukraine in the Early Soviet Period,” Soviet Jewish Affairs 7.1 (1977): 19–30; Viktoriia Khiterer, “Documents of the Jewish Historical-Archaeographical Commission, 1919–1929,” East European Jewish Affairs 23.2 (1993): 73–77; Viktoriia Khiterer, Dokumenty sobrannye evreiskoi istoriko-arkheograficheskoi komissiei Vse-Ukrainskoi Akademii Nauk (Kiev and Jerusalem, 1999).



Translated from Russian by I. Michael Aronson