Bershadski, Sergey Alexandrovich°

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BERSHADSKI, SERGEY ALEXANDROVICH° (1850–1896), historian of Lithuanian Jewry. He became interested in the history of the Jews in Lithuania through his teacher, F. Leontovich. Bershadski, who for many years worked in official archives, in particular those of the archduke of Lithuania, also lectured in law at the University of St. Petersburg. His first historical study of Lithuanian Jewry was published in the series Yevreyskaya Biblioteka, where he also published a collection of sources relating to Jewish history in southwest Russia and Lithuania. In 1882 he published two volumes of documents relating to Jewish history in Lithuania from 1388 to 1569, and in 1883 his book Litovskiye Yevrei ("The Lithuanian Jews"), a history covering the same period. His other works on this subject include a Russian history of the Jewish community in Vilna from 1593 to 1649 (Voskhod, nos. 10, 11, 1886, and nos. 3–8, 1887), and studies on Abraham Jesofovich, the Lithuanian treasurer (1888), and on Saul Wahl (ibid., nos. 1–5, 1889).

In the 1890s Bershadski began to interest himself in the history of the Jews in Poland, for which he collected material from the central archives in Warsaw. He published several articles on the subject, the documents upon which he drew being published posthumously in Russko-Yevreyskiy Arkhiv (vol. 3, 1903). In response to the growing antisemitism of the time, Bershadski also undertook a study of the blood libel in Poland and Lithuania in the 16th to 18th centuries, published in Voskhod (nos. 1, 9, 11, 12, 1894). Before his death he began publication of a work on the "Jewish Statute" of 1804, but did not complete it.

After he began his researches, Bershadski, who had been formerly radically anti-Jewish, developed an appreciation of the Jewish people and became their warm supporter. In his wish to promote their integration into the Russian state and culture, he attempted to show the antiquity of the Jewish settlement there and that the Jews had made a positive contribution to Russian life and the Russian language. He attributed the isolation of the Jews by the rulers of Poland to the annexation of Lithuania in 1569. Bershadski considered that the union had brought Lithuania "the Talmud, Jewish autonomy, and Kahal solidarity." He was, however, not an expert in the internal developments in Jewish history.


M. Vinaver, in: Voskhod, 17 no. 5 (1897), 49–54 (second pagin.); Vengerov, in: Kritiko-Biograficheskiy slovar', 3 (1892), s.v.

[Shmuel Ettinger]