Belarus, or 'White Russia,' was part of the Lithuanian Kingdom from the early 14th century until the mid 16th century, when it came under the control of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.  In 1793, the Russian Empire acquired Belarus during the Partition of Poland. From 1920 to 1991, it was a Soviet province - the Belorussian Soviet Socialist Republic (BSSR). Today, the Republic of Belarus is an independent country, and Minsk is its capital city.

Byerazino, also known as Beresin (Yiddish), or Березино (Russian), is 65 miles east of Minsk, about halfway between Minsk and Mogilev on the M4 highway. The town lies on the Berezina River, from which it takes its name. Before WWI, Byerazino was in the Igumen district, Minsk region, Russian Empire. Between the wars, it was assigned to the Mogilev district. Now Byerazino is the county seat of the Byerazino district, Minsk region.

Pahost, also spelled Poghost (Yiddish) or Погост (Russian) is 6 miles east of Byerazino on the road to Mogilev. It is one of several small shtetlekh associated with the larger Byerazino kehila (community). Because the word ‘pogost’ means ‘churchyard’ or  ‘enclosure’, it is a fairly common place-name in this part of the world. The particular shtetl memorialized here is the only Pahost in the former Igumen district. Pahost had extensive economic and matrimonial ties to ‘Beresin’ - in modern terms, it was a 'suburb' of the larger town. If major events took place in Byerazino, we can assume that Pahost was also affected.

There may have been a settlement at Byerazino as early as the 8th to 11th centuries C.E. According to Sergey Babitsky, Tourist Manager of the Berezinsky Biosphere Reserve, "the shortest way of Vikings from Scandinavian countries to Byzantium ran through this territory" (p.6). Byerezino is thought to have been a trading post on this overland passage. Scandinavian Vikings (known as the Varangians) used the trade route, exchanging slaves, furs, beeswax and forest products for silver dirhams in Constantinople and other Black Sea ports. Archaeological finds from villages near Byerazino, such as Bogushevichi, Duleby, Kaplantsy and Dmitrivichi, suggest that the region was controlled by the kingdom of the Kievan Rus in the early middle ages.

The town of Byerazino is first mentioned in a document from 1501, issued by the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. It seems likely that the first Jewish settlers came to Byerazino at some point in that century.

Sources and Additional Reading

Babitsky, Sergey. "Case Study: Ecotourism in Berezinsky Biosphere Reserve" Paper presented at the International Workshop for CEE Countries "Tourism in Mountain Areas and the Convention on Biological Diversity," Sucha Bedskidska, Poland, 1 - 5 October, 2002.

Bemporad, Elissa. 2010. "Minsk." YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe.

Lokotko, A.I., Knyazeva, O.N., Morozov, E.V., Isotova, O.V. 2013. Tourist Mosaic of Belarus. Minsk: The National Academy of Sciences Belarus.

Rosman, Moshe. 2011. "Poland: Poland before 1795." YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe. 

Wikipedia contributors. "Byerazino." Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 13 March 2016.

Wikipedia contributors. "Trade Route from the Varangians to the Greeks." Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 13 March 2016.

Zeltser, Arkadi. 2010. "Belarus. "YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe. 


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