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Smalyavichy and its Jews

The town of Smalyavichy is a small Jewish shtetl near Minsk in the past. The earliest mention of Smalyavichy dates back to 1448 and is in one of the charters issued at a time when this land was under the rule of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. It is believed that the name of the place comes from the word "resin". The resin has been mined and processed since ancient times by its inhabitants. It is worth saying that at different times half of them were Jews. 

In the annals of those years, the first mention of Jews dates back to 997, when European Jews began to massively move to the territory of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Smalyavichy Jews traded, built tenement houses, served passing people, were artisans and landlords. All this worked to strengthen the local Jewish community, and in general - for the economic development of Smalyavichy.

Between 1861 and 1917, the shtetl was a volost center and played a significant role in the life of the once Minsk province of the Russian Empire. This period is considered the most significant for the formation of the town and the well-being of the Jewish community, which accounted for almost half of the inhabitants. There was a post office, a telegraph office, a bank, a pharmacy, a zemstvo school, bakeries, sawmills, mills, forges, six taverns and other commerce. Most of the commercial enterprises and buildings were owned by local Jews. Some Jews were even in the public service.

During the First World War, Smalyavichy became a haven for many Jewish refugees from the territories where battles took place and pogroms were not uncommon. After the February Revolution, much has changed in the life of the Jews of the shtetl. When new, Soviet authorities began to be created in Smalyavichy, there were many Jews there, however, as well as in educational and medical institutions. And although during the period between the First and Second World Wars, Jews in Smalyavichy gradually became smaller, they still made up a significant part of its inhabitants.

The war brought grief and death to Jewish families. German troops captured the town on June 26, 1941. In early August, a Jewish ghetto was created in Smalyavichy, and in September all its prisoners (over 2,000) were shot near the village of Aputka in the Silichev forest near the Jewish cemetery. Today, a memorial has been erected at the place of execution, which is annually visited by the surviving Smalyavichy Jews, their descendants and local residents who keep the memory of those sad events.