SARATOV , capital of Saratov district, Russia; before the 1917 Revolution, capital of Saratov province on the west bank of the R. Volga. Until 1917 the province of Saratov was outside the bounds of the *Pale of Settlement. Shortly before the middle of the 19th century a small Jewish community was formed by Jewish soldiers stationed in Saratov. A few of these had families and even engaged in trade and crafts. By the middle of the century, there were 44 such Jewish soldiers stationed in the city. Besides these, a few Jews who were not in the army resided in Saratov, despite the restrictions. In the spring of 1853 this tiny community was projected into the forefront of Russian Jewish affairs when three Jews in Saratov, one of them an apostate, were involved in a *blood libel in which it was alleged that they had murdered two Christian children. This incident brought a renewal of the blood libel throughout Russia. When special investigators sent from St. Petersburg failed to prove the guilt of the Jews, the government appointed a legal investigation commission whose task it was not only to investigate the murders, but also to seek information about the "secret dogmas of Jewish religious extremism." This commission, too, was unable to cast guilt upon the Jews. Though its findings were confirmed by the Senate, the State Council, in May 1860, concluded that guilt had been established, even if no motive for the murders could be shown. The three found guilty were sentenced to hard labor. During the course of the investigation a large number of Jewish books were confiscated. In December 1858 a commission of experts, including Daniel *Chwolson, was appointed to examine these books and indicate whether they contained evidence of the ritual use of Christian blood by Jews. The commission concluded that the works contained nothing to support the libel.
During the second half of the century Jews were permitted to live outside the Pale of Settlement in Saratov. By 1897 there were 1,460 Jews in Saratov (1.1% of the total population). The wave of pogroms of October 1905 reached Sara-tov, where a number of Jews were killed. During World War i many refugees from the battle zone found sanctuary in Sara-tov. From 1919 to 1921 a group of *He-Ḥalutz members, calling themselves "Mishmar ha-Volga" ("The Volga Guard"), stayed in Saratov while preparing to settle in Ereẓ Israel. In 1926 Saratov had a Jewish population of 6,717 (3.1%), and in 1939 there were 6,982 Jews in the district, most of them in the city. During wwii Saratov was not occupied by the Germans. The baking of maẓẓot was prohibited in 1959. In the late 1960s the Jewish population was estimated at 15,000. There was one synagogue. In 2002 around 3,500 Jews remained in the entire district. The city of Saratov had a full range of community services and a chief rabbi.
Aharoni, in: He-Avar, 9 (1962), 150–9; 10 (1963), 188–201; Ha-Me'assef (1902), 245–67; Die Judenpogrome in Russland, 2 (1910), 520–4; Y.J. Hessen (Gessen), Krovavy navet v Rossii (1912), 17–23; Perezhitoye, 4 (1913), 2119.