Area in Lower Kishinev most affected by the pogrom

Area in Lower Kishinev most affected by the pogrom. Urussov writes in his memoirs that on the day of his arrival as Raaben’s replacement as governor general in June 1903, the Jews were by far the most excited of the crowds welcoming him. Of course, they were looking for an authority that could protect them in the face of rumors of much more horrific attacks to come.

Area in Lower Kishinev most affected by the anti-jewish pogrom

Urussov: “We passed through the more interesting parts of the city and descended to its lower portion, adjoining the bed of the Byk, where the poverty stricken Jewish inhabitants had established themselves.”

On Asia and adjacent streets, I noticed amazing images of Jewish life. The open windows in the little houses allowed one to glimpse the complete contents of the rooms. There were sleeping children, grownups ready to sleep, a late lunch, an elderly Jew reading aloud to his family, and so on. Many slept on the verandas of the houses.

The majority of the neighborhood’s Jewish people were working poor, employed in the local garment trade or as petty clerks, teamsters, coachmen, artisans, grape pressers, or harvesters. Because of the ferocity with which the attacks were carried out in this neighborhood, the information gathered about its residents’ occupations, the dimensions of its courtyards, the stock on the shelves of their looted stores, and their sparse domestic possessions is more comprehensive and intimate in its concrete details about Jews than is available anywhere else in the Russian empire at the time.

Prior to 1903, the average Jewish-owned shop in market squares or elsewhere was understocked. This held true throughout Bessarabia. And as the Jewish population grew, poverty increased: Between 1895 and 1900, the number of people living off charity doubled. Most Jews who bought and sold grain were destitute, living from deal to deal.

Supporters, such as Kishinev’s Mayor Schmidt, saw these agents as a positive force in local trade and commerce; others countered that Jews, including the Jewish poor, were exploitative and an impediment, blocking roads to town and cajoling peasants hauling grain or hay to the city’s markets to sell their goods on the spot at lower prices than they would yield if brought to market. Such critics despised not only the region’s itinerant salesmen, nearly all of whom were Jews who went from town to village as peddlers, frequently also acting as moneylenders.

Beginning in the 1880s, regulations banning Jewish residence in rural districts resulted in an influx of Jews into Bessarabia’s cities, particularly Kishinev; by 1897, 54,910 of the district’s 280,000 population, which encompassed a greater swath than just the city itself, were Jewish. Rural residence for Jews was not impossible; the restrictions could be circumvented through bribery or special arrangements with noblemen or others, but they were fraught with contradictions, as well as ordinances allowing Jews to live temporarily without specifying what “temporary” meant.

Thus, even after Jews were driven from villages, it was usual for them to continue to live there by leasing properties and then subleasing them to peasants. Such deals were even more common in Bessarabia due to the prevalence of bribery and the desire of Jews, many of whom were recent newcomers, to maintain their newfound footing.

With few structures taller than four or five stories, many Jews in Kishinev lived on village-like streets in flats packed around little courtyards surrounded by fruit trees; others lived in ornate, attractive, one-story Galician-inspired cottages, many of which were close to the New Market.

Wealthier Jews lived in spacious mansions and hired top architects to design their enterprises, including pharmacies, print shops, and the like, which were among the best in town. For example, the Kogen pharmacy was a local icon, richly decorated and filled with natural light thanks to its large windows; its wedding-cake-like structure was prominently positioned on one of the city’s greatest streets.

Despite significant economic growth at the turn of the century, Kishinev maintained the feel of a small town, with its largest, shaded park adjacent to the city’s Holy Gates and the Cathedral of Christ’s Nativity, a place where non-Jews and Jews walked side by side on Sundays and during festivals. A few blocks away, the Museum of Ethnography and National History, founded by one of the city’s more distinguished figures (rumored to be of Jewish descent) and built in Moorish style in the 1870s, remained a popular destination.

Pleasures were generally modest, and the local rich were rarely known to flaunt their wealth in comparison to those in Odessa, as was frequently remarked in Kishinev.