Date of Award


Document Type

Union College Only

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Russian and East European Studies

First Advisor

Stephen Berk




Rostov-on-Don, Cossacks, Russia, conflict, war, WW2, Anti-Semitism


The purpose of this thesis is to briefly discuss the history of Rostov-on-Don and the surrounding region. Rostov-on-Don is a city that was established in 1749, and received its name from the fortress, which was named after Saint Dmitry of Rostov that stands where the city is today. There were a number of key developments before the establishment of Rostov-on-Don, including the birth of the Don Cossacks as well as the founding of other key cities in the region. Additionally, since the founding of Rostov-on-Don, the region has had a small and thriving Jewish community, which was able to exist despite anti-Semitic sentiments held by many in the region, especially by the Don Cossacks. Nevertheless, in the time leading up to the birth of the USSR, violence against Jews increased dramatically in the region. With the outbreak of Russian Civil War, following the Russian Revolution, the Rostov region played a decisive role, since it remained a White Army stronghold throughout most of the conflict. During the Civil War, anti-Semitism was prevalent and the Jews living in the Rostov region were treated horrifically by both the White Army as well as the Red Army. In 1920, the White Army was forced to give up Rostov-on-Don and the surrounding region to the Bolsheviks, ushering in an age of communist rule. The period following the Civil War was rife with construction and development in the Rostov region. New factories, rapid industrialization, and developments in the region’s educational system were the norm. Serving as a symbol of this industrialization, was the founding of Rostselmash, which was one of the largest factories specializing in farm equipment in the Soviet Union, in 1929 near Rostov-on-Don . Additionally, despite growing anti-Semitism amongst the Don Cossacks, who felt that both the Jews and the Communists were responsible for their misfortunes, there was a strong Jewish presence in Rostov-on-Don, which was composed of approximately 50,000 Jews in early 1941. Unfortunately, this only added to the tragedy that befell the region, when the Nazis took Rostov-on-Don for a week in November 1941, and then re-captured it in July 1942. During this time, it is believed that the majority of Rostov’s Jewish population was exterminated. It should also be noted that many Don Cossacks collaborated with the Nazis during the occupation. However, following the Nazi’s defeat at the Battle of Stalingrad, Rostov-on-Don was liberated by the Red Army on February 14th 1943. At this time the city and the region were in shambles, which warranted a large-scale reconstruction effort. Following the end of the Nazi occupation, reconstruction efforts began in the Rostov region. Although the demands from the Kremlin were to exceed pre-war production levels within a short period of time, it took the region decades to recover. In addition, it should be noted that most of Rostov-on-Don’s residential buildings were rendered uninhabitable due to the years of war in the region. Compounding the situation was the fact that crime skyrocketed. Nevertheless, the Rostov region was able to recover to the point where it became one of the most vital industrial areas of the Soviet Union. When the USSR began to collapse, the Don Cossacks were able to recover much of their culture, which had been buried during the Soviet period. And, despite the fact that there is still anti-Semitism in the Rostov region, there is currently a strong Jewish community in Rostov. Moreover, due to the area’s fascinating history, Rostov-on-Don and the Rostov Oblast require much future study, which will provide additional insights into the Russian soul.