Chapter Four




By M. Volansky



According to Wilna's General Governor, Chancellery Acts Records[1] found in the Municipality of the city of Pruzhany, the Privileges were granted to the city by the following Polish Kings: 1) Anna Iagelonka (confirmed by Zigmund III) in May 6, 1589; 2) Jan Casimir, in 1649; 3) Michael, in 1669; 4) Jan III, in 1683; 5) August III, in 1748; 6) Stanislav August, in 1776 (and the inspectors who, in 1597, wrote the inventory of the Chief of Kobrin (printed in XIV's Volume of the Records of Wilna Commission) declare: "after our arrival to Pruzhany, the Chief of the city Jan Stavetzky and the peasants showed us two privileges on the freedom and Mandeburg rights of the city. One was given by the Queen Anna and the second is Zigmund III King confirmation, granted in Warsaw, May 6 1589"). The content of the Privileges is not mentioned in these records. We do find in the Records of the Commission of Wilna the following about these privileges.


" ...Privileges and Mandeburg rights of Polish King Zigmund III to the city of Pruzhany in year 1589. It was granted by their aunt's intervention, the Queen Anna. The privilege was confirmed then by Polish kings Vladislav IV, Jan Casimir, Michael Vishnievetzky, Jan III, and August III."


We do not have these documents in our city. Seemingly, they were taken to Russia together with the complete Pruzhany Archives at the beginning of WWI. A document, transmitted by our friend F. Golubovitsh, is preserved in our city.  It is the complete content of the privilege that was granted the Jews of Pruzhany, in particular in 1644 through Vladislav IV, and then confirmed by Jan Casimir in 1650, and Jan III in 1677. 


This document is the Russian translation from Polish, an edition of the Municipality of Brest. The complete text translated from Polish according to Their Majesty's order, Czar of Russia, in June 15th, 1679 is the following.


Before me, in the tribunal of Brest, Zigmunt Cashmere Yanovsky, Highest Chief of Smolensk, Vice Chief of Brest, MORDECHAI BEN SHMUEL and ZAVEL BEN HILEL, Chiefs of Their Majesty's city of Pruzhany, were presented and they gave him their Majesty, the King’s, privilege written on parchment about the issue that gives legal status in Brest Archives of the following:


JAN III, under the protection of G-d, King of Poland, great feudal of Lithuania, Prussia, Samogit, Mazovia, Kiev, Inflant, Podolia, Podlasia, Smolensk, Seversk and Chernigov, informs in writing to whom it may concern, to all in general and each one in particular:


We present a confirmation written on parchment to His Majesty, our conductor Jan Casimir who granted to us, the Jews of Pruzhany, free trade, work, places, and housings in our city. Some members of the Commission and our officials, presented an application on behalf of all the Jews of Pruzhany, represented by the Jew ABRAHAM BEN ITZHAK, that this privilege in all it's points, parts and items, be confirmed with our monarchic power, whose content is the following.


Jan Casimir under the protection of G-d, King of Poland, great feudal of Lithuania, Prussia, Samogit, Mazovia, Inflant, Smolensk, Seversk and Chernigov, and King of Sweden, Gatten, and Vandal. Through this writing we communicate to whom it may concern the following: We grant the privilege on behalf of their sacred memory, His Majesty our brother, who granted the Jews of Pruzhany trade freedom, work, lands and housings in our city. Some members of the commission and the officials of the yards presented an application on behalf of the Jews of Pruzhany, being this privilege with His Majesty's force, whose content is the following:


Vladislav, with the grace of G-d, King of Poland, great feudal of Lithuania, Prussia, Samogit, Mazovia, Inflant, Smolensk, and Chernigov, and also King from Sweden, Gatten, and Vandal, informs through this writing and to whom it corresponds, that we approve and we confirm the privilege that was granted to our predecessors and their sacred memory, our father His Majesty, Zigmund III, for the whole Lithuanian feud, to allow Jews to inhabit cities and towns, with the right and the freedom of having housings, free trade of different merchandises, businesses, work, drink establishments and groceries. All this is an application of Jews from Pruzhany, and by intervention of their members and of the officials of our yards in the city of Pruzhany, that is in the District of Brest.


We confirm that we allow Jews to: buy houses, have places in the market and in surrounding streets, orchards, lands for cultivation, prairies, lands for the construction of housings, manufacture liquors, beer, wholesale and sell to the public products in private or rented homes, pay to the state treasure annually about 600 guilden, to have business in the market and to be in charge of all kind of works, to build and own slaughter houses, to buy livestock in the market and to sell meat in their slaughter houses without paying taxes, to use the benefits nominated in our general privileges, to buy appropriate lands for the construction of synagogues, with the condition that they don't have  external aspect similar to a church. If for some cause the building of a synagogue would be destroyed by fire, they are allowed to build a new synagogue on the same land or another that they find appropriate, or to reconstruct the previous one.


They will be able to have a cemetery to bury their dead, and to fence it according to their criteria, without paying any tax for the spaces of the synagogue and the cemetery. For places for use as housing, and freely acquired orchards they will contribute the corresponding taxes in our yard of Pruzhany. Trials should be carried out in our tribunals with current authorities or later representatives. They are free, and they are entitled to appeal to our judges. They can manufacture wax just as local peasants, and to use the shepherding fields for their livestock. They can also enter freely into the Pushka (forest), same as the peasants of Pruzhany, and to assume the same responsibilities without being bothered by our current or future Chiefs.


We certify all of the above and we order to place the Great Feudal Stamp of Lithuania, in Warsaw on the 22nd day of the month December 1644, fifteen years of our Queen's reign in Poland and fifteen years in Sweden. Next to the stamp is the signature of the Great Feudal of Lithuania with the following words: King Vladislav, Frantz Isaikovky, scribe of the great feudal from Lithuania.


According to the intervention of members of the Commission and to the right of soliciting of Jews, we certify and we approve with our monarchist power, the aforementioned privileges given by our brother predecessor His Majesty, blessed His memory, in all its points, parts and paragraphs, except for a paragraph on the synagogue.  We further decide the following: Jews should not dare to buy new spaces for their synagogue but rather they would conserve the previous place. In confirmation of this, we sign and we order to place the Great Feudal Stamp of Lithuania.  Granted in Warsaw, December 31, 1650, two years of Reign in Poland and three years in Sweden. Signed by the King Jan Casimir, and by Jan Dezhavisha, scribe of the Great Feudal of Lithuania.


In accordance with the fair application that ABRAHAM ben ITZHAK presented to us on behalf of all Jews of Pruzhany about the privilege for Jews to make different trade types; buy lands without having to pay taxes on the place where a the synagogue is built and the cemetery.  We certify, confirm,  ratify and approve with our monarchic power.  We order to place the Great Feudal Stamp of Lithuania, in Warsaw, March 20, 1677, three years of the exercise of the reign, and with His Majesty's manual signature, King Jan, whose confirmation by His Majesty was presented through MORDECHAI ben SHMUEL and ZAVEL BEN HILEL.  We order it to be registered in Brest and to be approved and registered in agreement with the application, and with the agreement of May 29 1630.


This application was granted by right and presented in official form, signed by TSHESLAV VIGANIVKSY, scribe of Brest, number 157. Translated from Polish by District Secretary ABRAMOVICH.


A synthesis of this privilege is mentioned in "Wilna Commission Acts". There it is registered that Jan Casimir certified the privilege in 1677 instead of 1650. The certification of Jan III is not named, and also says it was certified by August II in 1719.


We ignore where the scribe obtained the last note of the "Acts ". The privileges were synthesized of the document above mentioned and registered in year 1630. It is possible that the last time they were presented was in 1769, for that reason it doesn't mention the certification of  August II, and the scribe should have used another source of the one in Archives of Wilna.



[1] Extracted from Wilna National Archives (1840/1988-1873/1880). The Acts consist of writings from Pruzhany's Chief to Wilna General Governor in year 1868, whose title is "News of the Pruzhany city-district”.

2  Wilna 1871