Kiev

Киев – Kiev (Russian), Київ – Kyiv (Ukrainian), קיִעוו (Yiddish), קייב (Hebrew)

Kiev or Kyiv is the capital and the largest city of Ukraine, located in the north central part of the country on the Dnieper River.

Beginning

Kiev’s central position on the river Dnipro at the commercial crossroads of Western Europe and the East attracted Jewish settlers (Rabbanites and Karaites) from the foundation of the town in the eighth century C.E. At first most of them were transient merchants from both east and west. According to letters dated 930 from the Cairo Genizah there were Jews in Kiev at this time. Ancient Russian chronicles relate that some Jews from Khazaria Visited Vladimir, the prince of Kiev, to try to convert him to Judaism (986). About that time a Jewish community already existed in the city.

Kievian Letter letter written by a Khazarian Jewish community in Kiev (early 10th century)
Kievian Letter letter written by a Khazarian Jewish community in Kiev (early 10th century)

Jewish merchants from the West took part in the trade of the city, and were called in Hebrew sources “goers to Russia.” The abbot of Kiev, heodosius the Blessed (11th century), is said to have visited Jewish homes at night and to have held disputations with the householders. There were two Jewish suburbs of Kiev, Kozary and Zhidove. A “Gate of the Jews” is mentioned at the time of the riots which broke out on the death of Prince Svyatopolk (1113), when the populace also attacked Jewish houses and burned them.