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Coordinates: 49°54′0″N 28°34′0″E / 49.90000°N 28.56667°E / 49.90000; 28.56667
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Carmelite Monastery
St. Barbara's Church
District House of Culture
Flag of Berdychiv
Coat of arms of Berdychiv
Berdychiv is located in Zhytomyr Oblast
Location of Berdychiv
Berdychiv is located in Ukraine
Berdychiv (Ukraine)
Coordinates: 49°54′0″N 28°34′0″E / 49.90000°N 28.56667°E / 49.90000; 28.56667
Country Ukraine
OblastZhytomyr Oblast
RaionBerdychiv Raion
HromadaBerdychiv urban hromada
 • Head of City
S. V. Orliuk
 • Total73,046

Berdychiv (Ukrainian: Бердичів, IPA: [berˈdɪt͡ʃ⁽ʲ⁾iu̯] ) is a historic city in Zhytomyr Oblast, northern Ukraine. It serves as the administrative center of Berdychiv Raion within the oblast. It is 44 km (27 mi) south of the administrative center of the oblast, Zhytomyr. Its population is approximately 73,046 (2022 estimate).[1]

The area has seen various cultural influences and political changes over time, from its early settlement by the Chernyakhov culture to its position within the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and later, the Russian Empire. Berdychiv was an important trading and banking center in its heyday, but the town became impoverished after the banking industry moved to Odesa in the mid-19th century. Berdychiv was also a significant center of Jewish history, with a large Jewish population and an important role in the development of Hasidism. However, during World War II, the Nazis brutally massacred thousands of Jews in Berdychiv. The city has seen continued conflict, with damage sustained during the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022.


In addition to the Ukrainian Бердичів (Berdychiv), in other languages the name of the city is Polish: Berdyczów, Yiddish: באַרדיטשעװ, romanizedBarditshev and Russian: Берди́чев, romanizedBerdichev.


Historical affiliations

Grand Duchy of Lithuania 1430–1569
Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth 1569–1793
 Russian Empire 1793–1917
 Ukrainian People's Republic 1917-1918
Ukrainian State 1918
Directory of Ukraine 1918-1919
Soviet Ukraine 1919-1920
 Second Polish Republic 1920
Soviet Ukraine 1920–1922
Soviet Union 1922–1941
 Nazi Germany 1941–1944 (occupation)
 Soviet Union 1944-1991
 Ukraine 1991–present


The territory on which the city is located was inhabited as early as the 2nd millennium BC. Bronze Age settlements and the remains of two settlements of the Chernyakhov culture were discovered here.

In the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth[edit]

In 1430, Grand Duke of Lithuania Vytautas (великий князь литовський Вітовт) granted the rights over the area to Kalinik, the procurator (намісник) of Putyvl and Zvenyhorodka, and it is believed that his servant named Berdich founded a khutor (remote settlement) there. However the etymology of the name Berdychiv is not known.

In 1483, Crimean Tatars destroyed the settlement. In 1545, Berdyczów was mentioned as a property of the Polish-Lithuanian magnate Tyszkiewicz family, and in a 1546 document settling the border between Poland and Lithuania within the Polish–Lithuanian union.[2]

According to the Union of Lublin (1569), Berdyczów passed to Poland within the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. It was granted city rights in 1593 and was a private town, administratively located in the Żytomierz County in the Kijów Voivodeship in the Lesser Poland Province.

The fortified Carmelite monastery was built from 1627 to 1642 with funding from Janusz Tyszkiewicz Łohojski. In 1643, Bishop Andrzej Szołdrski laid the foundation stone of the Church of the Immaculate Conception, Saint Michael Archangel and Saint John the Baptist.[3] Berdyczów became a Catholic pilgrimage destination and an important defensive fortress on the eastern flank of Western Christian civilization.[3]

The monastery was captured and plundered by Bohdan Khmelnytsky in 1647.[4]

In 1687, Teresa Tyszkiewicz married Krzysztof Stanisław Zawisza [pl], and Berdyczów passed to the Zawisza family of Łabędź coat of arms.[3] Krzysztof Stanisław Zawisza erected a new manor house in the city.[3] After the death of Krzysztof Stanisław Zawisza in 1721, the town passed to his daughter Barbara Franciszka, wife of Prince Mikołaj Faustyn Radziwiłł [pl], thus passing to the Radziwiłł family.[5] Berdyczów flourished during the rule of Kings Augustus III of Poland and Stanisław August Poniatowski.[5] In 1760 a printing house was founded at the monastery,[6] which in 1777 printed the oldest Polish encyclopedia for children.

18th-century view of the Carmelite monastery (by Teodor Rakowiecki)

In 1768, Kazimierz Pulaski defended the city with his 700 men surrounded by royal army during Bar Confederation.

The town underwent rapid development after king Stanisław August Poniatowski, under pressure from the powerful Radziwiłł family, granted it the unusual right to organize ten fairs a year. This made Berdychiv one of the most important trading and banking centers in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, and later, the Russian Empire. At the time, the saying "Pisz na Berdyczów!" ('Send letters to Berdychiv!') had an idiomatic meaning; because merchants from all over Poland, Lithuania, Ukraine and the rest of eastern and central Europe were sure to visit the town within two or three months of each other, it became a central poste restante (post office box) of the region. Later, because of the phrase being used in a popular poem by Juliusz Słowacki, "Pisz na Berdyczów!" acquired a second meaning as a brush-off; "send me a letter to nowhere" or "leave me alone".[citation needed]

Ohel (tomb-prayer house) Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev

According to the census of 1789, Jews constituted 75% of Berdychiv's population (1,951 out of 2,640, of whom 246 were liquor dealers, 452 houseowners, 134 merchants, 188 artisans, 150 clerks and 56 idlers). In 1797, Prince Radziwill granted seven Jewish families the monopoly privilege of the cloth trade in the town. By the end of the 18th century, Berdychiv became an important center of Hasidism. As the town grew, a number of noted scholars served as rabbis there, including Lieber the Great, Joseph the Harif and the Tzadik Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev (the author of Kedushat Levi), who lived and taught there until his death in 1809. See Berditchev (Hasidic dynasty). Berdychiv was also one of the centers of the conflict between Hasidim and Mitnagdim.

In the Russian Empire[edit]

In 1793, after the Second Partition of Poland and the annexation of Right-Bank Ukraine to the Russian Empire, Berdychiv became part of the Volyn Province as a town of Zhitomirsky Uyezd. In 1798, it had 864 houses and 4820 people. The town was the administrative centre of the Berdichevsky Uyezd, a part of the Kyiv Governorate (1796–1925).

Trade began to decline since 1798, however it revived during the Napoleonic Wars in 1812–1814.[6] Jews were a major driving force of the town's commerce in the first half of the 19th century, founding a number of trading companies (some traded internationally) and banking establishments, and serving as agents of the neighboring estates of Polish nobility (szlachta). As the ideas of Haskalah influenced parts of the Jewish communities, a large group of Maskilim formed in Berdychiv in the 1820s. In 1847, 23,160 Jews resided in Berdychiv and by 1861 the number doubled to 46,683. Berdychiv became the city with the largest share of Jewish population in Ukraine and the Russian Empire. The May Laws of 1882 and other government persecutions affected Jewish population and in 1897, out of the town's population of 53,728, 41,617 (about 80%) were Jewish.[4] 58% of Jewish males and 32% of Jewish females were literate. [citation needed]

In 1840 the Carmelite printing house was moved to Zhytomyr.[6] In 1831 local schools were closed down by Tsarist authorities as punishment for the unsuccessful Polish November Uprising, and in 1864 the Carmelite monastery was dissolved as punishment for the January Uprising.[4][7] In 1837, the Związek Ludu Polskiego [pl] Polish resistance organization was founded in the city. The banking industry was moved from Berdychiv to Odessa (a major port city) after 1850, and the town became impoverished again in a short period of time.

Early 20th-century view of the city

In 1846, the town had 1893 buildings, 69 of which were brick-made, 11 streets, 80 alleys, and four squares. Honoré de Balzac visited it in 1850 and noted that its unplanned development made it resemble the dance of a polka as some buildings leaned left while others leaned right. In 1857, Polish-British writer Joseph Conrad, regarded as one of the greatest novelists to write in the English language, was born in Berdychiv.

Around the turn of the 20th century, Berdychiv counted some 80 synagogues and batei midrash,[8] and was famous for its cantors.[9]

World War I and interwar period[edit]

Until World War I, the natural growth was balanced by the emigration. After the February Revolution, during the Russian Civil War and Ukrainian War of Independence, in 1918–19, Berdychiv's mayor and chairman of its Jewish community was the Bundist leader David Petrovsky (Lipetz). As mayor he managed to prevent a planned multi-day pogrom in Berdychiv by haidamaks from the Kuren Smerti (Clan of Death)[clarification needed], thus saving thousands of lives.[10]

Former Red Cross Hospital

After the fall of Tsarist Russia, the town was under control of the newly formed Ukrainian People's Republic from 1917 to 1919 (and briefly the Ukrainian State in 1918), before it eventually fell to the communists and was included within Soviet Ukraine in October 1919. On 26 April 1920, it was the site of a battle in which Poles defeated the Soviets and liberated the city during the Kyiv offensive and Polish–Soviet War.[11] Polish troops also liberated dozens of Polish hostages, who were brought by the Soviets to the town from Zhytomyr.[11] After another battle, on 7 June 1920, it was lost by the Poles to the Russian 1st Cavalry Army, which then carried out a massacre of hundreds of wounded Polish and Ukrainian soldiers plus Red Cross workers and nuns, who were burned alive in the local hospital.[12]

In the 1920s, the Yiddish language was officially recognized and, beginning in 1924, the city had a Ukrainian court of law that conducted its affairs in Yiddish.[13] In 1923, Berdychiv became the center of the district and district of the same name, and in 1937 it entered the Zhytomyr region.

The Soviet authorities closed most of the town's synagogues by the 1930s.[8] All remaining Jewish cultural and educational institutions were suspended in the second half of the 1930s, before the beginning of World War II.[14]

The city suffered from the man-made famine Holodomor of 1932-1933. In 2008, the National Museum of the Holodomor Genocide published the National Book of Memory of the Victims of the Holodomor of 1932-1933 in Ukraine. Zhytomyr region.[15] The book has 1116 pages and consists of three sections. According to historical records, more than 2490 people died during Holodomor in 1932-1933.

World War II and the Holocaust[edit]

Although this photograph is offen identifed as The last Jew in Vinnitsa it is in fact showing an unknown Jewish man—probably on 28 July 1941 in Berdychiv (Berditschew) and not Vinnitsya[16]—about to be shot dead by a member of Einsatzgruppe D, a mobile death squad of the Nazi SS. The victim is kneeling beside a mass grave already containing bodies; behind, a group of SS and Reich Labour Service men watch.
German occupation in 1941

Most civilians from areas near the border did not have a chance to evacuate when the Nazis began their invasion on 22 June 1941. Berdychiv was occupied by the German Army from 7 July 1941 to 5 January 1944. An "extermination" German SS unit was established in Berdychiv in early July 1941 and a Jewish ghetto was set up. It was stated in one of the Einsatzgruppen reports that on "Sept. 1, and 2, 1941, leaflets and inflammatory pamphlets were distributed by Jews in Berdychiv. As the perpetrators could not be found, 1,303 Jews, among them 875 Jewesses over 12 years, were executed by a unit of the Higher SS and Police Leaders".[17] The ghetto was liquidated on 5 October 1941, when all the inhabitants were murdered. Eyewitnesses stated that Ukrainian auxiliary police aided the 25-member shooting squad in corralling Jews into the ghetto, policing it, and killing those who attempted to escape.[18] One witness to a mass killing of Jews in Berdychiv said, "They had to wear their festivity-dresses. Then their clothes and valuables were taken. The pits were dug and filled in by war prisoners who were executed shortly after."[19]

According to figures from the Soviet Extraordinary State Commission, a total of 10,656 individuals had been murdered here by the end of 1943.[20]

The Nazis likely killed 20,000 to 30,000 Jews in Berdychiv, but a 1973 Ukrainian-language article about the history of Berdychiv says, "The Gestapo killed 38,536 people." (Ukrainian: "Гестапівці стратили 38 536 чоловік.")[21]

The Germans operated a Nazi prison, a forced labour camp, a Jewish forced labour battalion and temporarily the Stalag 339 prisoner-of-war camp in the town.[22][23][24][25]

Berdychiv was the hometown of Soviet novelist Vasily Grossman, who worked as a war correspondent. Grossman's mother was murdered in the massacre. He wrote a detailed description of the events for publication in The Black Book, edited by Grossman and Ilya Ehrenburg, which dealt with the German treatment of Soviet Jews in the Holocaust. Originally meant for publication in the Soviet Union, it was banned there; one volume was eventually published in Bucharest in 1947. The original manuscript is in the archive of Yad Vashem, Jerusalem.[26] A detailed account of the massacre as told by the narrator's mother appears in a fictionalized context in Grossman's novel Life and Fate, which is widely available in an English translation by Robert Chandler.

21st century[edit]

During the Russian invasion of Ukraine that began in 2022, on March 16, 2022, Berdychiv was damaged by Russian air strikes. A few buildings were torn down.[27]


Year Total population Jewish population
1789 2,640 1,951 (75%)
1847 ? 23,160
1861 ? 46,683
1867 52,563 41,617 (80%)
1926 55,417 30,812 (55.6%)
1941 ? 0
1946 ? 6,000
1972 77,000 15,000 (est)
1989 92,000 ?
2001 88,000 1000


Distribution of the population by native language according to the 2001 census:[28]

Language Percentage
Ukrainian 88.96%
Russian 10.59%
other/undecided 0.45%

Notable people[edit]

Alphabetically by surname. Pseudonyms treated as one word.

Some sources erroneously claim that the pianist Vladimir Horowitz was born in Berdychiv. Horowitz's birth certificate unequivocally gives Kyiv as his birthplace.[29]


Berdychiv on stage[edit]

See: Abraham Ellstein

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Чисельність наявного населення України на 1 січня 2022 [Number of Present Population of Ukraine, as of January 1, 2022] (PDF) (in Ukrainian and English). Kyiv: State Statistics Service of Ukraine. Archived (PDF) from the original on 4 July 2022.
  2. ^ Słownik geograficzny Królestwa Polskiego i innych krajów słowiańskich, Tom I (in Polish). Warszawa. 1880. p. 134.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  3. ^ a b c d Słownik geograficzny Królestwa Polskiego i innych krajów słowiańskich, Tom I. p. 135.
  4. ^ a b c  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Berdichev". Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 3 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 767.
  5. ^ a b Słownik geograficzny Królestwa Polskiego i innych krajów słowiańskich, Tom I. p. 136.
  6. ^ a b c Słownik geograficzny Królestwa Polskiego i innych krajów słowiańskich, Tom I. p. 137.
  7. ^ Słownik geograficzny Królestwa Polskiego i innych krajów słowiańskich, Tom I. pp. 137–138.
  8. ^ a b Lukin, Benyamin (15 July 2010). "Berdychiv." The YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe. "During the 1920s and 1930s, almost all of the synagogues and prayer houses (about 80) were closed." Retrieved 11 April 2020.
  9. ^ "Berdychiv: History Archived 26 July 2020 at the Wayback Machine". Virtual Shtetl. POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews. Retrieved 11 April 2020. "In 1907, there were 78 synagogues and a beit midrash in Berdyczów; cantors from the town were famous all around Ukraine."
  10. ^ Archive of Jewish History, Volume 8, p.p. 156-177 (Rosspen, Moscow, 2016)
  11. ^ a b Rupniewski, Włodzimierz (1929). Zarys historji wojennej 61-go pułku piechoty wielkopolskiej (in Polish). Warszawa. p. 10.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  12. ^ Łukasz Zalesiński. "Lato z czerwonym terrorem". Polska Zbrojna (in Polish). Retrieved 25 October 2023.
  13. ^ "Berdychiv: History Archived 26 July 2020 at the Wayback Machine". Virtual Shtetl. POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews. Retrieved 11 April 2020.
  14. ^ Lukin, Benyamin (15 July 2010). "Berdychiv." The YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe. Retrieved 11 April 2020.
  15. ^ "National Book of Remembrance of the Victims of the Holodomor of 1932-1933 in Ukraine. Zhytomyr region. — Zhytomyr: «Polissia», 2008. — 1116 pp". 3 October 2019. Retrieved 17 April 2023.
  16. ^ Matthäus, Jürgen (2024). ""The last Jew in Vinnitsa": Reframing an Iconic Holocaust Photograph". Holocaust and Genocide Studies. 37 (3): 349–359. doi:10.1093/hgs/dcad053.
  17. ^ "Einsatzgruppen Operational Situation Reports #88 www.HolocaustResearchProject.org". Holocaustresearchproject.org. Retrieved 8 May 2022.
  18. ^ Carol Garrard and John Garrard (17 October 1996). "Ukrainians & the Holocaust". New York Review of Books. Retrieved 20 January 2015.
  19. ^ "Yahad-In Unum Interactive Map". Execution Sites of Jewish Victims Investigated by Yahad-In Unum. Retrieved 20 January 2015.
  20. ^ Tyaglyy, Mykhaylo; Burmistr, Svetlana. "Голокост у Бердичеві і пам'ять про нього" (PDF). /www.holocaust.kiev.ua.
  21. ^ A Soviet article about the history of Berdychiv Archived 25 April 2005 at the Wayback Machine (1973, in Ukrainian language: Історія міст і сіл УРСР (житомирська область) Бердичів Є. Громенко, О. О. Павлов)
  22. ^ "Gefängnis Berdyciv". Bundesarchiv.de (in German). Retrieved 3 December 2023.
  23. ^ "Arbeitserziehungslager Berditschew". Bundesarchiv.de (in German). Retrieved 3 December 2023.
  24. ^ "Jüdisches Arbeitsbataillon Berdyciv". Bundesarchiv.de (in German). Retrieved 3 December 2023.
  25. ^ Megargee, Geoffrey P.; Overmans, Rüdiger; Vogt, Wolfgang (2022). The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos 1933–1945. Volume IV. Indiana University Press, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. p. 335. ISBN 978-0-253-06089-1.
  26. ^ Grossman, Vasily (1944). "HOLOCAUST IN BERDICHEV". The Berdychiv Revival. Retrieved 22 March 2018.
  27. ^ "Ворог завдав авіаудару по Бердичеву, доруйновує Маріуполь, але отримує відсіч ЗСУ - ситуація в регіонах". Українська правда (in Ukrainian). Retrieved 16 March 2022.
  28. ^ "Рідні мови в об'єднаних територіальних громадах України".
  29. ^ "Полновластный король, вечный странник-артист… - Владимир Горовиц - Музыка и театр - Знаменитые киевляне - Интересный Киев". Archived from the original on 18 October 2011. Retrieved 30 December 2011.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]