Updated: May 4, 2021
Last summer I decided to take my daughter to the village of her ancestors. The road to the village lies through Pskov and Nevel - a small rural town on the border with Belarus.
Nevel is situated 240 kms away from the capital of Pskov oblast - Pskov. It’s a transport center of all settlements around, so it has a bus station and two train stations.
The history of Nevel dates back to a few centuries. The first mentions in chronicles are dated by 1185, the first mention as a town in 1502 and in 1773 as a Russian town officially. At different times Nevel belonged to the Principality of Moscow and Lithuania, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth and the Russian Empire.
Nevel was a typical Jewish majority country town within the Pale of Settlement.
72,5% of inhabitants were Jewish in 1916. It was related to the state policy that forced Jewish people to leave rural areas and go to towns.
Jewish people were the majority for around 2 centuries and it left an impact on the whole city life. There were active synagogues, Jewish clubs, libraries and schools.
Watercolor by K. Brzhushkevich
In the 30-s all synagogues were destroyed, Jewish education became illegal.
Nowadays Jewish culture is almost gone. Most of them were murdered during the WW2 by Nazi germans. There is a memorial “Golubaya Dacha” a few kilometers away from Nevel where according to different data from 800 to 2000 Nevel's Jews were murdered in 1941 by Germans. Unfortunately I didn't get a chance to visit it this time.
Recently Nevel became a town of "Partisan Glory" and got additional funding. Nevel Partisan detachment by Chkalov is considered one of the first ones in Pskov and North-Western regions. The inhabitants keep the memories about these horrific events and the WW2 memorial is one of the major sightseeing there.
During the 27 months of the Nazi occupation, 23785 civilians were killed, 9787 people were taken into captivity, 215 Nevel villages were burned, 800 Jewish residents of Nevel were murdered at the "Golubaya Dacha", 8000 did not return from the front.
Holy Trinity Church
Was built by Nevel’s trader Zhdanko at the place where his dad is buried in 1850. Was closed during Soviet times.
On the 7th of May 1993 the building of the former post station was fixed and the administration of the town opened a museum there.
I’ve been there in summer so they were just preparing the exhibition related to the Great Patriotic war, but I managed to see and you can see with me in my video on youtube:
Other than this the museum holds a good exhibition of household items of local inhabitants, as well as it covers different epochs and the history of the town through major events.
Entrance fee is 15 rubles.
How does the town live now?
In the second half of the 19th century, there were three tanneries, two brick factories, 7 Orthodox churches, 9 Jewish schools, more than 850 houses in Nevel.
Nowadays the main industries in the town are: 2 sewing factories, a compound feed plant of the Velikie-Luki meat-packing plant, a shoe factory, a branch of the Luga abrasive plant, 3 metalworking enterprises.
But the population is declining, people don’t give birth that much and they are leaving the town for the bigger cities (Pskov and Saint-Petersburg).
My best friend’s mom, who works in administration said to me that youth don’t want to work in factories, however salaries are around 35.000-45.000 rubles ($500-600). But when I did my own research I saw salaries range 18.000-20.000 rubles per month ($200-260).
Usually people leave not only because of salaries, but because of lack of infrastructure, education, business opportunities etc. As it happens all over the world.
What do people eat in the area?
Official site of the town: http://nevel.reg60.ru/
The local community pages in social media: https://vk.com/nevel4
Thank you for reading!
If you can, please consider supporting me with a regular amount each month. Every contribution, however big or small, makes a difference. Support me on Patreon from as little as $1 and get an access to exclusive content that I don’t post anywhere.
Your support is essential and it helps me to produce this content without thinking about what I’m gonna eat tomorrow.❤️