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Vsia Rossiia 1895 Database

The 1895 Vsia Rossiia for Poltava, Chernigov, Kiev, Volhynia, Podolia, Taurida and Bessarabia Gubernias
Compiled by Bert Lazerow

This is an index to entries for Chernigov, Poltava, Kiev, Volhynia, Podolia, Taurida and Bessarabia gubernias in the 1895 Russian business directory Vsia Rossiia.

This database is an index to the contents of Vsia Rossiia of 1895, for the gubernias (provinces) of Chernigov (2,227 listings), Poltava (2,397 listings), Kiev (4,418 listings), Volhynia (1,879 listings), Podolia (1,450 listings), Taurida (2,317 listings) and Bessarabia (1,482 listings).  Today, the first six gubernias are in Ukraine, and Bessarabia is primarily in Moldova.  There are a total of 16,171 separate listings, but fewer individuals are involved, as some persons are listed multiple times because they had several businesses.

Vsia Rossiia ("All of Russia") is a business directory covering all of Russia.  The portion indexed is arranged by guberniya (province), then by uezd (district) within each guberniya.  First are the listings for the capital city; then listings for the outlying area; finally, separate listings for any town with sufficient listings to justify it.  Within each listing, government officials come first, then manufacturing trades in alphabetical order, then retail trades.

Library Locations:  Copies of the 1895 Vsia Rossiia exist on microfilm at the Library of Congress (Washington, DC) [Microfiche 98/8336], UCLA (Los Angeles) [Microfilm DK14.V969], Stanford University Library (Palo Alto, California) [HF3623.V985 1895, HF3623.V985 MFILM], and the New York Public Library.  At the Library of Congress, the microfilm is hardly in mint condition from repeated usage, and their microfilm readers are not the best in the world.

Personal Names:  The directory is set up to convey the names in typical Russian fashion.  For most names, there is a surname, a given name, and a patronymic (the father's given name).  Thus, the reader can often discern the name of an individual's father.  One can deduce that two persons are probably brothers if they are located in the same region and have the same surnames and patronymics.  Unfortunately, in many cases the directory does not give a patronymic, and in far too many cases it does not even present the given name.

Database contents:  This index presents the individual surnames, the given name, the patronymic, the town, the column of the book (the book is numbered by column numbers, not by page numbers), and the occupation.  When an abbreviation for a title is given, that appears in parenthesis after the surname.  Likewise, nasledn., the abbreviation for "heir".  Most first names and patronymics are abbreviated.  For the patronymic, you must add "-ov" or "-ovich" (meaning "son of") in the case of a man, or "-ovna" ("daughter of") in the case of a woman.

Locations:  Most city names are followed by an abbreviation (after a comma) that indicates the official status of the place as of 1895.  If there is no abbreviation, the directory has provided no guidance, and I assume that the place is a gorod, or city.  It is not clear that we should attach any significance to the classification of the place.  It appears from the listings that there is much difference in commercial activity between a mestechko (M = a small city = shtetl), a poselok and a sele (S = village), though the level of activity in each seems greater than in a derevnya (D = small village), sloboda or khutor.  Most of the activity in a khutor (literally translated "farm") seems to be manufacturing.

Occupations:  I do not speak Russian, so I have solicited the aid of my dictionary and, more important, the aid of several Russian speakers.  Some terms have completely resisted a convincing translation, and I have left them in a transliterated Russian, in hopes that I will one day discover a translation that makes sense.  Readers must place the occupation in its own time.  For instance, "grocery" should probably not be read as though it were a modern supermarket.  It is more likely to be a greengrocer, selling chiefly produce.

In general, the precise jobs of government officials are omitted.  An attempt was made to obtain translations that both captured the meaning of the terms and described them in words that would be intelligble to Americans with no knowledge of the Tsarist system of government.  That attempt was an utter failure, and is not pursued herein except for the city of Nezhin, where the experiment was tried.

Caveats:  Users of this index should bear in mind that the typeface used in the original directory makes it difficult to distinguish between different Russian letters using two vertical lines.  When in doubt, I have transliterated those letters as "p", but they could also be "n", "i" or "ts".  It is always best to try alternatives in case an initial search is fruitless, and the above alternatives should be added to the usual admonition in genealogy about the interchangeability of vowels.

Further, I have been told that given names can create problems.  Our ancestors may well have had four different given names.  A Hebrew name might have been used for sacred purposes; a Yiddish name given at birth, and in everyday family use; a formal Russian name for use on official documents; and what we would call a nickname in everyday use in commerce.  Further, I am told that many Russian nicknames bear little relationship to the formal names they replace.  Examples include Nikolai/Kolya, Grigorii/Grisha, Aleksandr/Sasha, Mikhail/Misha, Olga/Alya, Maria/Masha, Stanislav/Slava.  So if you find an individual listed with the "wrong" given name, it may still be the right person.

Some conclusions can be drawn from the list of names.  First, it is clear that there is a mixture of cultures here.  While most surnames can be identified as either Russian or Jewish, there are French, German, Turkish, and Greek derivatives.  Given names reflect Islamic, Jewish and Christian roots.  Frequently, a Jewish-sounding surname is combined with a Christian-sounding given name.  One can safely say that surnames of Russian origin predominate among government officials, while surnames that seem to have Jewish origins seem to predominate the commercial listings.  The number of Jewish names attached to high government jobs adds a word of caution to my previous assumption that Jews were generally excluded from these jobs.

The communities within the guberniya were not identical.  While each town had pharmacy, grocer, fabric seller, and most had a variety of other occupations like hardware, tobacco, etc., there was quite a variety of commecial establishments in one uezd capital that might not be available in any other.

Transliteration:  A word is in order about transliterations.  Most transliterations follow the sounds of the Russian letters.  The following are used where there are some choices:

  • The Russian letter that looks like "x" is transliterated as "kh", not as "ch".
  • The Russian letters that look like "i" and the backward "n", both with and without the accent, are transliterated as "i".
  • The Russian letter that looks like "bl" is transliterated as "y".
  • The Russian letter that looks like "b" and has no sound itself but makes previous sounds softer is completely ignored.

Thanks:  My debt to native Russian-speakers is great.  I appreciate the efforts of Luda Berengolts of the University of San Diego Law Library, Professor Michael Bazyler of Whittier Law School, and especially the work of Dr. Gregory Borover of Calgary Alberta, a regular and helpful participant in JewishGen, whose efforts have made both the given name index and the list of trades much more useful.

Further Reading:  For more information about Russian Business Directories, see:

  • The article "Russian Business Directories", by Harry Boonin, in Avotaynu VI:4 (Winter 1990), pages 23-32.
  • The lecture "Russian Business Directories", by Ted Gostin, at the 15th Annual Summer Seminar on Jewish Genealogy, July 14-19, 1996, Boston.  Printed lecture notes including a directory inventory are available in the Seminar's syllabus, pages C-44 thru C-49; and an audio tape of the lecture is available (from AudioTapes.com, Crabapple Lane, Hobart, IN).

Bert Lazerow


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Last Update: 5 Dec 2003   WSB
Data compiled by Bert Lazerow
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