In 1660, Konotop had 474 properties, whose owners paid taxes. Wheat farmers held 210 properties, 107 properties sustained handicrafts and trade, and the rich owned six flourmills. Mills required access to water for processing the grain. There were 801 men; women were not counted. The principal economies were grain, flour milling, and wines. Trade fairs flourished and were visited by merchants and traders from Orel (120 km E of Bryansk), Kursk (88 km SW of St. Petersburg), and Gomel (277 km ESE of Minsk).
By 1711, Konotop recorded 701 properties and 3,000 inhabitants. The Cossack Sotnya consisted of 297 properties that included four troop units called Kurens. Kurens were units of the Zaporozhian Cossack troops that were often headed by Ottomans. In 1751, “Articles” enacted by Hetman Rozumovsky converted Konotop into a private town. The town was owned and ruled by Kochubey (bey is the Ottoman suffix that means mister).
Konotop became a district center of Novgorod-Siversky region, which was governed by the Duma and a Court that was appointed in 1782. Because of the trade routes to Kiev, Moscow, and Odessa, Konotop’s economic success played a great role in the development of Ukraine.
Foreign influence was evident in Konotop since the 16th century. Dutch landowners purchased estates. They also influenced the art and architecture of the region. Dutch architects built large palaces for the Cossack leaders, such as Rozumovsky. There were also Scottish and Italian architects.
In the 17th century the opportunity to participate in trade fairs brought Jewish traders to Konotop. In addition, other Jews served the Polish nobility, who were often absentee landlords, and provided management of the properties and collected the rents and taxes. Later on in the 19th century, Jewish immigrants evicted from the larger cities arrived in Konotop. A few were prosperous and owned properties and businesses.
History of the Jewish Communityvii
The region of Konotop was part of Malorussia in 1796. In 1805 a Coat of Arms was displayed, which celebrated the Christian victory over the Tatar and Ottoman Muslims. It displayed a red field on which a golden cross was placed and a silver moon facing upward. In 1865, the Coat of Arms was changed to include a golden cross in the form of a nail and a red shield with a golden six-pointed star at each corner of the cross. The curve of the crescent was placed under the cross. The Coat of Arms of Chernigov Gubernya was displayed in the free corner. The top of the shield had a silver tower with three picks and a crown. The shield was surrounded with two golden ears, which were united with Czar Alexander’s emblem.
Prosperity was related to the new railroads, which was the primary stimulus to the economy. By 1850, a successful bee industry developed and two honey plants were built. A factory was built to make machinery for sugar beet processing and a brewery was opened. Three brick factories and a plant to make agricultural machines were constructed. There was also a machine repair workshop in town, a grain mill, and other small enterprises by 1880.
Immigrant workers arrived from elsewhere in Russia, where unemployment was severe due to destruction of farms and jobs. A new railroad depot was built in 1868. By 1875, the rail lines were completed between Konotop and Moscow and also from Konotop to Kiev and Voronezh. There was much trading and shipping to other parts of Russia. The biggest firm was owned by merchants of the 2nd guild, who exported bran, sunflower seeds, and oil. Novik and Cherkinsky owned the large textile-manufacturing firm. Ainbinder and Feldman arranged sales and exports of shoes. Rubin, Klichin, Nosovicky, and Meskhin owned food shops. The town pharmacists were Logun, Bernstein, and Sheinikin. Alotin, Kozlovsky, and Narinsky families owned the mills and factories, which were necessary to process agricultural products. There were also agents, who traded and transported goods from Konotop or nearby towns.
Widespread destruction of farmland and unemployment occurred in Russia during the 19th century, which resulted in migration of the populace. The inhabitants of Konotop in 1900 increased to 30,000. Foreign domination had suppressed the Ukrainian population in the 18th century, but the 19th century brought forth Ukrainian social and national traditions. A few Russian officials and 40 railway workers also lived in Konotop.
Jews lived separately from Christians. Within the Jewish community, the Jews owned and operated most of the shops, became doctors and craftsmen, or became employees or assistants in the merchant shops. However, the majority of Jews were poor. Occasionally, the poorer people became resellers of goods that were crafted or produced by others. There was a professional beggar class of the poorest inhabitants and the handicapped.