Uprisings of the Cossack and Ukrainian
populations against the Polish nobility, and also against the Jews and
Jesuits. After Ukrainian territories were annexed to the Crown after the
Union of Lublin in 1569, the great magnate families that had been
granted large land holdings by the king quickly began making use of
those territories. At the same time, they attempted to impose feudal
dues and heavy taxes not only on the Ukrainian peasants, but also on the
Cossacks, who had been free up to that point.
Jews in the southeastern voivodships played an important economic
role, particularly in trade; they also leased mills and inns, and even
entire small towns and villages. They were involved in the collection of
customs, tolls and taxes, and provided various services to the courts
of the magnates and nobility. They had broad rights with respect to the
Christian population, which sometimes even included the right to judge
them and mete out punishment. This meant that the Jews were identified
with the institutions of power and oppression. Most of the magnates'
estates hired Jewish lease-holders, brokers, and agents. In everyday
life, one more often met the Jewish tax-collector than the lord in whose
name the taxes were being collected.
This situation led to serious tensions between
the local population and the Jews. There were anti-Jewish incidents as
early as the Nalewajko and Pawluk uprisings in 1595-96 and 1637, when
the synagogue in Poltawa (Poltava) was burned. The most tragic events
occurred during the Chmielnicki uprising in 1648-49, which affected
Volhynia and Podole, as well as part of Belarus and Red Rus'. Entire
Communities were massacred at that time. In 1650, the Jewish Sejm
proclaimed the date of the pogrom in Niemir�w to be observed annually as
a day of mourning. In some locations, Jews and Poles organized a joint
defense, such as in Tulczyn, Bar and Polonny. The Lw�w Community was
saved by a large ransom paid to the Cossacks.
The massacres during the Chmielnicki uprising forced many Jews to
flee from the Commonwealth to Western Europe, though many of them
returned to their homes after a few years. The incidents of 1648 and
1649 have been described by Jewish authors, including Natan Hanover,
Moshe of Narol, Shimshona of Ostropole, and Shabtaya ben Meir ha-Kohen.
In their accounts, they gave exaggerated reports of 60,000 to 100,000
victims-significantly higher than the actual figures. The number of
victims was nevertheless high-perhaps several thousand people.
The year 1648 is recognized as a watershed in
the history of the Polish Jews, marking the end of an era of peaceful
coexistence. This tragedy affected the later development of Jewish
communities in Poland, not only from a demographic and economic point of
view, but from a spiritual one as well. There were several pogroms
against Communities in Poland's eastern Kresy, such as the one in 1734.
At that time, the hajdamacy (armed robber bands, but also peasant and
Cossack rebels in Ukraine), led by Werlacz, Prince Lubomirski's military
commander, devastated the Braclaw voivodship, Volhynia and Podole.
In 1734-1737, detachments commanded by Wasko Woscilo, said to be
Chmielnicki's grandson, looted Communities in Belarus. In 1750,
Communities in Ukraine fell victim to the hajdamacy (Winnica, Radomysl