Ukrainian folk songs record numerous abusive practices from this period, including a possibly mythical description of the practice of paying a fee to Jewish authorities to gain access to the church for ritual functions, and the attempts of Catholic Poles to wean the overwhelmingly Eastern-rite Ukrainians from their Orthodox tradition.
This resentment boiled over in several revolts, culminating in a major uprising in 1648 under the leadership of Bohdan Khmel’nyts’kyi, who led a Cossack army seeking to end Polish domination in the region.
Under this system, Jews in Ukraine flourished, reaching a population of approximately 40,000 by the middle of the seventeenth century.
It is apparent that Karaism had some influence on the Kievan Jewish community as well.
Jews were expelled from Kiev at the end of the fifteenth century.
The exact number of Jews is a matter of some controversy: the 1989 census listed 487,300 Jews, but only 104,300 were recorded in the first post-Soviet census of 2001, a figure that is questioned by some but that certainly reflects the massive emigration of Jews in the 1990s.
Jewish settlement in Ukraine predates the beginnings of recorded history in the region.
Much more often, the contract was for the local right of propinatsiia, the exclusive privilege of distilling and selling alcohol—lucrative trade that fit naturally with the business of innkeeping and small moneylending.
While Jews were engaged in a variety of economic pursuits, many as artisans and merchants, with a smaller number of farmers, income from the arenda constituted the backbone of the Jewish economy.
Although his principal targets were Poles, especially noblemen and Catholic priests, the local Jewish population was far more accessible, and horrific massacres took place throughout right-bank Ukraine.
The devastation of the period, known among Jews as , or the Evil Decrees of 1648–1649, resulted in the deaths of up to half of the Jewish population.
Particularly after 1569, Jews were frequently employed by nobility to manage the system, under which they sometimes administered large Ukrainian landholdings called latifundia for absentee Polish landlords.