Archives of the Jewish heritage of Ukraine

Collection and preservation of archives and ensuring public access to them are crucial for the culture of human civilisation. Totalitarian and authoritarian polities have stepped from this path, denying access to their official records, keeping them classified, “top secret”, while restraining the creation of private archives. With a certain degree of freedom that emerged in the years of Gorbachev’s “perestroika”, when the Soviet Union was weakening, and expanded during the independence of Ukraine, our society faced a task of accumulating accurate information on the past, collecting and disclosing the archives of both well-known and ordinary people.

This was a complex challenge as the twentieth-century wars, as well as political persecutions of prosperous social groups, religion, and multiple ethnic communities, by no means facilitated the preservation of collective memory. The Holodomor and Holocaust terror years erased nearly everything that historical memory could have captured. While West European families often remember their past for many generations, the people who grew up during the Soviet era and their descendants usually are aware of no more than three generations of their ancestors.

That is why we at the Center for Studies in History and Culture of East European Jewry decided to start collecting various archives of Ukrainian Jewish history. The Center began to take possession of the archives of prominent Jewish historical figures: politicians, writers, theatre figures, and filmmakers, as well as materials regarding the objects of tangible Jewish heritage (synagogues, books, ritual items, etc.). The next stage was the collection of family archives (letters, photos, and personal documents) that had been preserved despite all historic turbulences. We also started to record oral stories of the older people and search for the documents related to the pre-Soviet period of Jewish history (books, posters of election campaigns, and photos).

Leonid Finberg

Archives of Jewish writers

Writers’ archives of the Center for Studies in History and Culture of East European Jewry contain original materials (manuscripts of writings, publications, letters, documents, and photos) of Jewish writers who started their careers during the Soviet era:

Art collection of the Center

The art collection of the Center contains the works and the materials (letters, documents, photos, slides, sketches, and printed items: catalogues, exhibition booklets, albums, postcards, etc.) related to the lives and creations of the following artists:

Archive of Jewish music

Inventory of the archive


Music and songs have always accompanied all significant events in Jewish life: weddings, childbirths, and funerals. Compositions were also performed on religious holidays. One can find the most complete collection of lyrics and notes of Jewish folk music in the manuscripts of Moisei Berevovsky.

Oral history archive

Card index of the interviews


In 1995–2003, the staff of the Institute of Jewish Studies in Kyiv (today’s Center for Studies in History and Culture of East European Jewry) worked on the project “Ukraine’s Jewish Fates: Twentieth Century”, which consisted in collecting oral history testimonies of Ukrainian Jews. Project manager Roman Lenchovsky and 10 interviewers, assisted by 20 volunteers (students of International Solomon University), recorded around 180 interviews with people aged from 50 to 95 on compact cassettes.

All interviews were transcribed, and the transcripts were printed and preserved in digital format. The archive has full e-versions of 177 interviews. The interviewers also filled out reference cards, which contain basic data about each respondent (date and place of birth, index of geographical names, institutions, and organizations mentioned in the interview, and whether the respondent or her/his family were victims/survivors of the Holocaust or Soviet repressions).

Family archives

Inventories of the archives


Family archives preserved in the Center for Studies in History and Culture of East European Jewry include materials that characterize the life of Jewish population of Ukraine from the late nineteenth to the early twenty-first century and reflect the most important events in social history of this period. The Center’s collection contains letters, photos, documents (birth and academic certificates, identification cards, employment records, references etc.), awards (medals, orders, diplomas), and memoirs. The majority of the materials are original, although archives of some families are present only in the form of printed or photo copies, which is understandable as some heirs have not been ready to part with family heirlooms. The Center’s collection includes 76 family archives. The largest collections in terms of the number of units are:

Archive of World War II letters

Guide to the digital collection of letters


Correspondence of the war years has long become not only a private family matter but also a part of history. Turning to epistolary sources, one can research little-known aspects of World War II and look at the events of the time through the eyes of immediate witnesses and participants. The Center’s collection of front letters contains unique material for historians, sociologists, psychologists, researchers of local history, and for everyone interested in the topics of war, the Holocaust and the fate of the Jewish people.

The collection of the Center includes more than 2,200 letters from the World War II period, which are present in family and writers’ archives as well as the archive of the painter Zinovii Tolkachov. The greatest part of these letters are original, yet printed copies are also present since not all descendants of front soldiers agreed to part with the letters, which had become heirlooms.

Collection of posters and leaflets of early 20-century Jewish parties and movements

Inventory: part 1, part 2


The collection contains unique campaign materials of the early twentieth century, for instance, 1904–1908 revolutionary proclamations, which denounced war and autocracy and called for an armed uprising, or 1917 posters and appeals to the Jewish population of Ukraine on the eve of elections to the Constitutional Assembly and the city council. The diversity of posters illustrates the variety of opinions present in Jewish communities before the 1917 Bolshevik coup as well as intense activity of Jewish socialist parties such as Poale Zion (Workers of Zion), the Bund (General Jewish Labour League in Lithuania, Poland, and Russia), SERP (Jewish Socialist Workers Party), and the Zionist Union.

Jewish theatre



The Center’s archive contains unique materials concerning the history of Sholom Aleichem Kyiv State Jewish Theatre (Kyiv GOSET), which was active in 1929–1950: posters, theatre programmes, photos of actors and scenes of the plays, documents (actors’ references, certificates, and orders), articles from newspapers and magazines about the tours of GOSET, and reviews of performances.

In addition, there are materials concerning:

  • the activity of contemporary Jewish theatres and theatre companies in Ukraine and abroad (programmes of performances, posters, and photos); for example, materials about Mazltov Kyiv Jewish Musical Drama Theatre (1989–1993);
  • the exhibitions and festivals of modern Jewish art (invitations, programmes, and posters), for example, those of Wandering Stars International Theatrical Art Festival (2000–2007);
  • the Jewish theme in modern Ukrainian theatre productions (1987–2019);
  • media reactions to the activity of Jewish theatre companies in Ukraine at the turn of the twenty-first century (articles, reviews, and interviews).