N. Tzukerman 

 

PRUZHANY'S POPULATION IN THE XVIII CENTURY (1700's)

(T.N.: according to different sources and calculation methods: 69 or 317 or 571?)

 

The Jewish community of Pruzhany, from its establishment until the XVIII century, had an outstanding growth and development. Official documents were not preserved that would give us facts about Jewish and gentile populations. Officially, data about the population in our city does not exist either in the Registers of the Chevra Kadisha (Jewish Community) or in local archives.

 

In the inventory published in the book Economy of Brest in the year 1786 we find a list of Jews and Russian peasants who were possessors of goods in the city of Pruzhany. Under the title "The City of Pruzhany" we read, "Description of the situation of the peasants and Jews, number of population, owners of goods, lands and orchards, and taxes they should pay."This list also mentions 264 inhabitants who were possessors of goods. From number 1 to number 195 Russian peasants are described and from 196 to 264 Jews are described.The information recorded includes: goods, family situation, and a general evaluation of the economic situation of each one of the proprietors.

 

Let's compare the description of this type of population in 1786, with another we find in the book Kobriner Economie about Pruzhany in 1563. We notice that there were not big changes in the number registered. In the list of 1563 there were 11 Jews and 262 gentiles, that is to say a total of 273 inhabitants. In 1786 they were 69 Jews and 195 gentiles, that is to say a total of 264 inhabitants. The number of holder of goods hardly changed in more of 200 years, but there was difference in the distribution of the goods among Jews and gentiles. If, in 1563, the number of Jewish proprietors was of 4.03% of the total, in year 1786 Jews were of 26.13%, which means a growth of six times for Jewish good holders. Another percentage is obtained when we calculate the population according to the number of souls. The number of Jewish souls was 317 and gentiles were 777; that is to say Jews were 28.9% of general population.

 

The numbers declared in Brisker Ekonomie are not to be considered absolutely accurate, especially with regard to the numbers of Jews. In the census carried out in 1786 only Jewish families that had goods were included and therefore should pay taxes, but they did not include poor Jewish families who had no goods.

 

The number of souls is not exact as it is only one part of the Jewish population. This may be deduced due to the rate of mortality in population in those days. In the book Sefer Ha'chaim (Life Book) that is in the Registers of the Chevra Kadisha (Jewish Community), we find the number of deaths in the population of Jewish people in the XVIII century. The average number of deaths in the period in which the census was carried out was 16 per year (see Table 1). If we consider that the population numbers of Jews of the time, according to Brisker Ekonomie, was 317, the rate of mortality obtained would be the incredible figure of 5 percent; which confirms that the registered figures are not completely realistic in my opinion.


 

Table I

 

(Pruzhany's mortality in Jewish population between years 1789/99)

 

Year

Men

Women

Total

Annual mortality average

1789

10

14

24

 

1790

4

5

9

 

1791

5

7

12

 

1792

6

8

14

 

1793

6

9

15

 

1794

2

9

11

 

1795

12

7

19

 

1796

10

13

23

 

1797

10

11

21

 

1798

8

6

14

 

1799

10

3

13

 

Total

83

92

175

16

 

The issue of the mortality rate

 

We will find the real numbers of the Jewish population, only when we know the percentage of deaths of Pruzhany Jews to the end of XVIII century. Knowing the two following facts - the number of deaths during the year and during that period would help us to produce a situational table of Pruzhany Jews at the end of XVIII century. We obtain from the Sefer Ha'chaim (Life Book) the number deceased during the period 1789 /99, the period that the census was carried out according to Brisker Ekonomie.

 

From that chart we note an average number of 16 deaths per year. According to notes registered in Life Book, we can affirm with certainty that the average of deceases before the end of XVIII century was 16 per year. Now we have to know the percentage of deceases in Pruzhany at the end of the XVIII century, so we may obtain the number of inhabitants in that time

.

A long time ago, it was demonstrated scientifically (Demography Pages, Statistic, Berlin, No. 3-4, 1923, note d, I. Leschinsky Problems Because of Jewish Population's Natural Movement) that the largest percentage of mortality depends on socio-economic and cultural factors. The percentage of mortality is different among towns of Europe and among us Jews. It is also different among urban population, towns and villages. Still more, the percentage can be different in those towns where the same conditions of life exist; for that reason we can't compare the percentage of mortality in other towns with that of Jews in Pruzhany.

 

It will be better if we consider the mortality rate among the Jewish population in Pruzhany a hundred years later, from 1873 up to 1880, which is the period at the end of the century, when we first began to evaluate to the true numbers of the Jewish and the gentile populations.The method of finding the largest number in mortality due to social, economic and cultural causes is easier. This allows us to obtain the change in the percentage of mortality in the same town for a one hundred year period, instead of looking for the differences due to the conditions of life.

 

In a report to the Wilna General Governor that included the years 1873-1880, it was stated that the Jewish population of Pruzhany had at that time 2575 souls. At the same time we find in the Life Book the number of deceased in the years 1873-1879 was 301 as is shows Table II

 

Table II

 

Jewish Mortality in Pruzhany

in the years 1873-1879

 

Year

Men

Women

Total

Annual average

1873

19

33

52

 

1874

23

19

42

 

1875

23.

27

50

 

1875

25

19

44

 

1877

16

20

36

 

1878

19

22

41

 

1879

10

26

36

 

Totales

135

166

301

43

 

 

If the deceases in Jewish population in the course of these years average 43 and the population during that period of time is 2575 the mortality rate among Jews in that period was 1.67% (43/2575). A mortality rate that small is an interesting phenomenon. This is a very isolated case, not only in Jewish towns where social and cultural situation was in a low level. Even in European centers where the percentage of mortality began to descend I did not arrive at this low percentage. We did not analyze the causes that gave this result. Interesting to us is that we can compare the mortality rate at the end of the XVIII century with the data of mortality rate to the end of XIX century.

 

To obtain another view of the descent of mortality among Jews in Pruzhany, we compared it with the number of deceases in years 1925-1929. Considering that the period among 1879-1925 (46 years) includes almost half of the deceases during that period 1786-1876 (87 years), this demonstrated the descending process of Jewish mortality in Pruzhany.

 

Table III

 

Jewish Mortality in Pruzhany

In years 1925-29[1][1]

 

Year

Men

Women

Total

Annual average

1925

22

13

35

 

1926

21

19

40

 

1927

22

23

45

 

1928

28

14

41

 

1929

22

24

47

 

Totales

114

94

208

41.6

 

 

As observed in Table Chart III, the average Jewish mortality per annum is 41.6. In comparison with the mortality rate of previous years it diminished.The Jewish population in 1928 was of 4,298 souls.

 

If we calculate the mortality rate in these 5 years we obtain a rate of 0.96%. If we compare the rate for the years 1925-29 with that of years 1873-1880, we see that mortality rate in last 50 years diminished more than 1.5 times, from 1.67% to 0.96%. The mortality rate diminished from the period 1786-90 until years 1873-1880. The social and cultural situation influenced the decrease in the mortality rate in the last 50 years in comparison to the period 1786/ 1873-1880. If we accept that the mortality rate in the 100-year period (1786 to 1880) diminished at the same rate (TN; same curve) as that from 1880 at 1929, we will conclude that mortality rate until the end of the XVIII century was of 2.8%. If we calculate the estimated population, we will obtain that it was 571 souls.

 

Table IV

 

The Jewish population at the end of the XVIII, XIX and mid XX centuries

 

Period

Average annual decease

Average annual rate

Jewish Population

1789-1799

16

2.8

571

1873-1879

43

1.67

2575

1925-1929

41.6

0.96

4298

 

If we compare the Jewish population, calculated according to the mortality rate with the number of souls registered in Brisker Economie, we see a difference of 254 souls. If we apply it to percentages, the result obtained is that only 63% of Jewish population was included in the census of 1786 Brisker Ekonomie. The exclusion of Jews in the census is due to two causes: a) Jews avoided any attempt to be registered and b) in the census of the Brisker Ekonomie only Jewish families that had goods were counted because they should pay taxes. The non-Jewish population, as we previously stated, were entered in the census because most of them had goods and they should pay taxes to National Treasury.

 

Size and economic status

 

If we compare the Jewish to the non-Jewish populations we see that the number of Jewish souls (571) compared with the total 1348 souls was 42%.

As we remembered, the Brisker Economie registered the social situation of the families, Jewish and gentile. The classifications included four levels: rich, almost rich, fair and poor. Table V shows the comparison of both groups by classification.

 


 

Table V

 

Jewish and non-Jewish families patrimonial status in Pruzhany

at the end of XVIII century

 

Classification

Jews

(total)

Jews

(percentage)

Non Jews

(total)

Non Jews

(percentage)

Rich

11

16

6

3

Almost rich

11

16

14

7

Middle

19

28

52

27

Poor

28

40

123

63

Total

69

100

195

100

 

 

Let's compare the numbers of rich among Jews and non-Jews. If we calculate the percentages by classification, then, of the total number rich families in Pruzhany (17), Jews were 64.7%; of the total numbers of poor families in Pruzhany (151), Jews were 18.5% and non-Jews 81.5%. Letís compare the numbers by classification to the total number. In this calculation, we note that for the rich and almost rich the Jews were 32% of total, while poor and middle were 68% of the total. For non-Jews the proportion for rich and almost rich it was 10% of the total while middle and poor was 90%.

 

The census does not register the numbers corresponding to each group. An answer will be obtained to this question in the second item of population, the proprietorís census.

 

Table VI

 

Inventory of live beings. average by family, Jews and non-Jews,

Pruzhany, end of XVIII Century

 

Classification

Average

Jews

(units)

Average

Non Jews

(units)

Rich

4

18

Almost rich

3

13

Middle

1.5

7

Poor

0.9

3

 

(T.N.- meaning of live being and units are not clear in the original, see below)

 

Considering Table VI - we should reach the conclusion that the classification of Jews and non-Jews was different. If the number of live beings among rich non-Jews was 18, it can help us in certain form to calculate their wealth, but this cannot be applied with regard to the population average number for rich Jewish families that were 4. Comparing the live beings average among rich Jews (that was 4) and the average of poor non-Jews (that was of 3), we observe that rich Jews families differed very little from poor non-Jews families. We will have to reach the conclusion that population's calculations of non-Jews and Jews were not taken according to the same basis. We should calculate that among non-Jews population most of volume was in the goods group, while the Jewish population apart from goods had other occupations like business, taverns, rural and other work. Therefore this caused the volume to be different.

 

Table VII

 

Livestock in Jewish and non-Jewish populations

Pruzhany at end of the XVIII century

 

Inventory

Jews

(total)

Jews

(percentage)

Non Jews

(total)

Non Jews

(percentage)

Horses

27

18

52

9

Bulls

8

6

63

11

Cows

81

56

61

10

Calves

10

7

198

33

Sheep

3

2

94

15

Pigs

--

--

133

22

Goats

16

11

--

--

Total

145

100

600

100

 

Let's see the number of bulls in each group. It stands out clearly that among non-Jews there were a great number of bulls that were not found among Jews. The number of horses is significant, but the horses served as communication means and not as work instrument.In other species we find in Jews a great percentage of cows, and among non-Jews a great percentage of pigs, sheep and calves. Diverse species of domestic animals are useful for rural work, and cows in particular offer multiple benefits.

 

Another important item that is registered in the census is the number and size of families that are included in Table VIII.

 

Table VIII

 

Size of Jewish and non-Jewish families

at the end of XVIII Century

 

Members per family

Jews (number of families)

Jews

(percentage)

Non-Jews (number of families)

Non Jews

(percentage)

1

--

--

2

1

2

6

7

18

9

3

10

15

55

28

4

22

32

58

30

5

15

22

32

16

6

9

13

23

12

7

5

7

4

2

8

1

2

2

1

Over 8

1

2

1[2][2]

1

Total

69

100

195

100

 

In the census the real status of each family was not registered. It only registered the number of souls who were proprietors of goods. Because of this the view of the Table is not completely exact. It is interesting that the average number of members of each family, among Jews and non-Jews is the same. Among Jews it is something more than 4, and among non-Jews something less. This data reflects that the average size of families is almost same; it is also observed in the most frequent number of members in families. The number of 4 members in a family is 32% of Jewish families, and 30% in non-Jews. This demonstrates that this aspect of the Jewish population's family situation was at the same level as that that of non-Jews.

 

All these statistics tell about the part of the Jewish population that was included in the census of Brisker Ekonomie. The Jewish population's social and family situation that was not included in the census and their occupations, are issues that are not reflected in the data.

 



[1][1] The numbers in Table III were obtained from municipal archives. The figures of these are not the same as those registered in Life Book. This difference is due to annual totalizing process.

[2][2] In one family is not registered members number