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MIR , town in Grodno district, Belarus. From 1569 until 1813 the town and the surrounding estates were the property of the Radziwill princes. Jews first settled in Mir at the beginning of the 17th century. To begin with they were under the jurisdiction of the community of *Nesvizh, but within a few years their numbers had rapidly increased, and it can be assumed that they then had their own communal organizations. The Jews became an important factor in local trade and at the two annual fairs held in Mir. Many of them also earned their livelihood as carters. Jewish merchants from every part of Lithuania and Poland were attracted to the fairs of Mir, where they carried on an extensive trade in furs (exporting them especially to Leipzig), horses, oxen, spices, grain, textiles, tobacco (from 1672), and wine. In the records of the Lithuanian council (see *Councils of the Lands) Mir is mentioned for the first time in 1662. The Council convened there four times: 1687, 1697, 1702, 1751. From 1673, the taxes owed by the Jews of Lithuania to state institutions and debts to other creditors were occasionally collected at the Mir fairs. In 1685, after complaints by the Jewish representatives, Catherine Sapieha of the Radziwill family instructed the administrator of the town to respect the rights of the Jews and to refrain from dispensing justice or arbitrating in their internal affairs.

During the early decades of the 18th century, the Jewish population of Mir increased considerably. The local Jewish contribution to the poll tax rose from 45 zlotys in 1673 to 1,160 zlotys in 1700 and 1,350 zlotys in 1720. During this period the merchants of Mir maintained fruitful commercial relations with *Leipzig, *Koenigsberg, *Memel, and Libau (*Liepaja). From the second half of the 18th century, the economic situation of the community declined. In 1760 the Jews of Mir paid 480 zlotys in poll tax; the census of 1765 recorded 607 Jews in the town and the vicinity who paid this tax.

Prominent rabbis officiated in Mir during the 18th century. The first av bet din known by name (in the late 1720s) was R. Meir b. Isaac *Eisenstadt, followed by R. Ẓevi Hirsch ha-Kohen Rappoport; during the middle of that century, R. Solomon Zalman b. Judah Mirkish, author of Shulḥan Shelomo (Frankfurt on the Oder, 1771), held rabbinical office for 15 years. He was succeeded by R. Ẓevi Hirsh Eisenstadt. During the rabbinate of R. Joseph David Ajzensztat (1776–1826), the famous yeshivah of Mir was founded, functioning there until the eve of wwii. At the beginning of the 19th century *Ḥabad Ḥasidism acquired considerable influence in the community.

In 1806 the Mir community numbered 807, including 106 tailors, five goldsmiths, six cord-makers, and about 30 merchants. In the 65 nearby villages, there were 494 Jews in 1818. The numbers in Mir itself rose to 2,273 in 1847 and 3,319 (about 62% of the total population) in 1897. From the second half of the 19th century, with the exception of the wood, grain, horse, and textile merchants who formed the upper class, the majority of the local Jews were craftsmen such as scribes, carters, butchers, and tailors. The wooden synagogue, which had been erected in the middle of the 18th century, was burnt down in 1901. With the threat of pogroms in 1904–05, Mir Jews organized a *self-defense organization. During this period, the *Bund and *Po'alei Zion movements won many adherents in the town. The Zionist movement was organized there in 1914. In 1921 there were 2,074 Jews (c. 55% of the population) living in the town. Their difficult economic situation deteriorated even further from the late 1920s. A Yiddish elementary school and kindergarten were founded in 1917; during the 1920s they were administered by cysho and during the 1930s by the Shul-Kult. During the same period, *Tarbut, Yavneh, and *Beth Jacob schools functioned in Mir. The Jewish library was founded in 1908.

The yeshivah of Mir, founded by Samuel b. Ḥayyim *Tiktinski in 1815 and directed by his son Abraham after his death, played a central role in the spiritual life of the community. From 1836 it was headed by Moses Abraham b. Joseph Ajzensztat and later by Ḥayyim Zalman Bresler, rabbi of the town, who resigned as the result of a dispute. From then on, the offices of town rabbi and rosh yeshivah were separated. From the 1880s, the rabbi was Yom Tov Lipman (R. Lipa). In 1903 he was succeeded by R. Elijah David *Rabinowitz-Teomim, who served until his aliyah to Ereẓ Israel. The last rabbi of Mir was Abraham Ẓevi Kamai (from 1917 until the Holocaust). During World War i, the yeshivah of Mir was transferred to Poltava but returned to the town in 1921, and was then headed by R. Eliezer Judah Finkel. Mir was the birthplace of Zalman *Shazar (Rubashov).

[Arthur Cygielman]

Holocaust Period

Under Soviet rule (1939–41) private enterprise was gradually stifled and factories, businesses, and even large buildings were taken over by the state. The yeshivah students and rabbis, headed by R. Eliezer Judah Finkel, moved to Vilna in still independent Lithuania (Finkel managed to reach Palestine and founded the Mir Yeshivah in Jerusalem). The Germans captured Mir on June 27, 1941. They immediately executed scores of Jews on charges of Soviet collaboration. On Nov. 9, 1941, 1,300 Jews were murdered on the outskirts of the town. The surviving 850 Jews were segregated into a ghetto and transferred in May 1942 to the ancient fortress in the city. A young Jew, Shemuel (Oswald) Rufeisen, born in the Cracow district, played a key role in the Mir resistance movement. He posed as a Volksdeutscher, Joseph Oswald. After the removal of the Jews to the Mirski fortress, a resistance movement of 80 members was organized to offer armed resistance to the imminent Aktion ("action") against the Jewish population. Working in groups of five, they acquired weapons and trained themselves. Their central command was made up of Ha-Shomer ha-Ẓa'ir, Deror, Bund, and Communists.

Early in August 1942 Rufeisen informed the underground that the Germans would begin their liquidation campaign on Aug. 13. On Aug. 9 about 300 young people left for the forests on the assumption that no effective resistance action against the Germans could be taken inside the ghetto. On August 13 the liquidation action began, and all those who had remained in the ghetto were murdered in Yablonoshchina and buried in mass graves. Those who had escaped to the forests were confronted with many difficulties. Russian partisan units often refused to accept Jews into their ranks, and many of the Mir Jews who came to the forests were killed by antisemitic Russian partisans. Despite all these difficulties, Mir Jews managed to join Soviet partisan units, mainly the Brothers Bielski brigade, and took part in sabotage activities. Following the arrival of the Soviet army, the Jewish partisans from Mir joined the Soviet forces to continue the fight against the Nazis up till the end of the war.

The student body of the yeshivah was saved during the war by escaping to *Shanghai. After the war (1947), the yeshivah was transferred to Brooklyn, New York (Mirrer Yeshivah Central Institute). Some of its scholars later joined the Mir Yeshivah in Jerusalem.

[Aharon Weiss]


S. Dubnow, Pinkas Medinat Lita (1925), 197, 240–1, 257–9; Halpern, Pinkas, index; idem, Tosafot u-Millu'im le-"Pinkas Medinat Lita" (1935), 31–33, 40–44, 51–52, 66–67; Regesty i nadpisi, 2 (1899), nos. 1184, 1232, 1235, 1596; S. Maimon, Autobiography, ed. by M. Hadas (1967); I. Schiper, Dzieje handlu żydowskiege na ziemiach polskich (1937), index; R. Markgraf, Zur Geschichte der Juden auf den Messen in Leipzig von 1664–1839 (1894), 29–30; N. Blumenthal (ed.), Sefer Mir (Heb. and Yid., 1962). add. bibliography: S. Spector (ed.), pk Polin, vol. 8, North-East (Vilna, Grodno, Bialystok) (2005).

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The word mir means "peace," but to millions of Russians it is associated with a symbol of national pride. The space station Mir claimed a number of distinctions that are unmatched, even in the early twenty-first century, by the spacecraft of other nations. This station, once a national symbol of the Soviet Union, is gone, replaced by the joint effort of numerous countries to create the new International Space Station.

The History of Mir

The first component of Mir, its core module, was launched on February 20, 1986. It would take ten years for Mir's construction to be completed, a time frame that does not include the continual supply missions to the station. Mir's main component had six ports for the attachment of other modules. These ports were placed in key locations, allowing the station's configuration to be changed.

Soyuz spacecraft, similar to U.S. Apollo spacecraft, were used for transporting cargo to and from the station. Cargo included people, equipment, food, and even trash. During its life a total of forty-six missions were made by the United States and Russia to Mir, including the missions to bring more modules to the spacecraft.

The five additional modules were the Kvant-1, Kvant-2, Kristall, Spektr, and Priroda. Kvant-1 contained astrophysics research equipment. Measuring 5.7 meters (19 feet) long and 4.3 meters (14 feet) wide, it studied neutron stars , quasars radar, X-ray emissions, and active galaxies. Kvant-2 was a multipurpose module that housed the air lock as well as scientific equipment. It enabled biotechnology research, as well as photography. Kvant-2 was over 12.2 meters (40 feet long) and 4.3 meters (14 feet) wide. Kristall housed a zero-g greenhouse and produced high-technology equipment, including semiconductors , in the microgravity environment, and processed biological material. Spektr, which was delivered in June 1995, was used for surface studies of Earth and atmospheric research. The last module, Priroda, was launched in spring, 1996, and employed radar systems, spectrometers for ozone research, and infrared detectors.

By the end of construction, Mir weighed 135 tons, offered 283 cubic meters (9,900 cubic feet) of space, and measured 1.8 meters (6 feet) by 26 meters (85 feet). This meant that with the exception of the Moon, Mir was the heaviest object in Earth's orbit. Over its lifetime, its maintenance cost continued to sky-rocket, and Mir ultimately cost $4.2 billion to construct and maintain. The station was not designed or constructed to last for the 15 years it spent orbiting Earth. It far surpassed the records set by Skylab or the space shuttles for time in space.*

Problems Plague Mir

With the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, Mir became more expensive than the former superpower could afford. Over the next 10 years Mir deteriorated with age and become more difficult to fix. It suffered from problems with its insulation and glitches during docking and undocking procedures with Soyuz supply craft.

On January 14, 1994, cosmonauts ignored weight limitations on the Soyuz craft and caused a collision with the station. On February 23, 1997, a fire ignited onboard. Luckily, no one was harmed and the fire was extinguished. Less than six months later, on June 25, 1997, Soyuz craft again collided with the station. This time the craft punctured Mir's skin, and air began to escape. Luckily, both cosmonauts and the American astronaut onboard were quick enough to take corrective action, sealing off the breached segment so that there was enough oxygen left for their survival.

As the cost of keeping Mir operable and the risk factor to the astronauts continued to increase, it became apparent that Mir's days were numbered. Attempts were made by both nonprofit and for-profit groups to save the station. As the International Space Station (ISS) began to require the funding on which Mir was dependent, offers came in from different groups to try to save the station. One group of entrepreneurs tried to turn Mir into a destination for wealthy tourists. Wealthy financial analyst Dennis Tito, founder of the investment firm Wilshire Associates, had agreed to pay a rumored $20 million for the experience, but the deal fell through and Russia kept postponing what seemed to be inevitable.*

Mir was damaged, aged, and outdated, but it was not worthless. However, Russia ultimately decided to end the 15-year saga of the Mir space station. By that time Mir's orbit was degrading by almost a mile a day.

The End of Mir

On March 23, 2001, the story of Mir came to an end. After much planning, the Russian space agency decided to send Mir through Earth's atmosphere, breaking it apart into small pieces before its final splashdown in the South Pacific. The area had been used previously to destroy more than eighty other Russian craft.

Everything went according to plan, and Mir broke up into several large pieces and thousands of small ones. The larger pieces made a splashdown in the ocean, with no injuries resulting from the debris.

see also Government Space Programs (volume 2); International Space Station (volume 1 and 3); Long-Duration Spaceflight (volume 3); Space Stations, History of (volume 3); Space Stations of the Future (volume 4).

Craig Samuels


Linenger, Jerry M. Off the Planet: Surviving Five Perilous Months Aboard the Space Station Mir. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2000.

Internet Resources

NASA, "MIR Station." <http://www.liftoff.msfc.nasa.gov/rsa/mir.html>.

Russian Space Web, "Mir Close Calls." <http://www.russianspaceweb.com/mir_close_calls.html>.

*Mir housed cosmonaut Valery Polyakov, who has the distinction of living in space for the longest period of time in the twentieth century: 438 days.

*In May, 2001, Dennis Tito became Earth's first space tourist, spending ten days on the International Space Station.

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The word mir in Russian has several meanings. In addition to "community" and "assembly," it also means "world" and "peace." These seemingly diverse meanings had a common historical origin. The village community formed the world for the peasants, where they tried to keep a peaceful society. Thus mir was, in all probability, a peasant-given name for a spontaneously generated peasant organization in early Kievan or pre-Kievan times. It was mentioned in the eleventh century in the first codification of Russian law, Pravda Russkaya, as a body of liability in cases of criminal offense.

Over time, the meaning of mir changed, depending on the political structure of the empire, and came to mean different things to different people. For peasants and others, mir presumably was always a generic term for peasant village-type communities with a variety of structures and functions. The term also denoted those members of a peasant community who were eligible to discuss and decide on communal affairs. At the top of a mir stood an elected elder.

Contrary to the belief of the Slavophiles, communal land redistribution had no long tradition as a function of the mir. Until the end of the seventeenth century, individual land ownership was common among Russian peasants, and only special land holdings were used jointly. All modern characteristics, such as egalitarian landholding and land redistribution, developed only as results of changes in taxation, as the poll tax was introduced in 1722 and forced upon the peasants by the landowners, who sought to distribute the allotments more equally and thus get more return from their serfs.

In the nineteenth century, mir referred to any and all of the following: a peasant village group as the cooperative owner of communal land property; the gathering of all peasant households of a village or a volost to distribute responsibility for taxes and to redistribute land; a peasant community as the smallest cell of the state's administration; and, most importantly, the entire system of a peasant community with communal property and land tenure subject to repartitioning. The peasant land was referred to as mirskaya zemlia.

Only at the end of the 1830s did a second term, obshchina, come into use for the village community. Unlike the old folk word mir, the term obshchina was invented by the Slavophiles with the special myth of the commune in mind. This term specifically designated the part of the mir's land that was cultivated individually but that was also redistributable. The relation between both terms is that an obshchina thus coincided with some aspects of a mir but did not encompass all of the mir's functions. The land of an obshchina either coincided with that of a mir or comprised a part of mir holdings. Every obshchina was perforce related to a mir, but not every mir was connected with an obshchina, because some peasants held their land in hereditary household tenure and did not redistribute it. With increasing confusion between both terms, most educated Russians probably equated mir and obshchina from the 1860s onward. Obshchina was also used for peasant groups lacking repartitional land.

Although the mir was an ancient form of peasant self-administration, it was also the lowest link in a chain of authorities extending from the individual peasant to the highest levels of state control. It was responsible to the state and later to the landowners for providing taxes, military recruits, and services. The mir preserved order in the village, regulated the use of communal arable lands and pastures, and until 1903 was collectively responsible for paying government taxes. Physically, the mir usually coincided with one particular settlement or village. However, in some cases it might comprise part of a village or more than one village. As its meaning no longer differed from obshchina, the term mir came out of use at the beginning of the twentieth century.

See also: obshchina; peasant economy; peasantry


Grant, Steven A. (1976). "Obshchina and Mir." Slavic Review 35:636651.

Moon, David. (1999). The Russian Peasantry 16001930: The World the Russian Peasants Made. London: Longman.

Robinson, Geroid T. (1967). Rural Russia under the Old Regime. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Stephan Merl

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Mir Soviet space station orbiting the Earth. The main part of Mir launched in 1986. It weighed c.21 tonnes, and had six docking ports for the attachment of scientific modules or cargo vessels. Over the years, various modules attached to Mir, which was permanently manned by a succession of three-person crews. In 2001, Russia decommissioned the ageing space station and allowed it to burn up in Earth's atmosphere.

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Mir a Soviet space station, launched in 1986 and designed to be permanently manned. The name is Russian, literally ‘peace’.