Father Anastasy is an old priest from the Orthodox Church. He calls himself a “specialist” on Jewish religion, although most of his knowledge is incorrect. He helps Grubeshov build a case against Yakov. He and the other officials create emotional drama around the case by forcing Yakov to come face to face with Zhenia’s mother and making him go to the cave where the child’s body was found. There, Anastasy turns the occasion into a sermon against Jews.
Berezhinsky is the guard who replaces Zhitnyak after his arrest. Unlike Zhitnyak or Kogin, he feels no sympathy for Yakov.
B. A. Bibikov
Bibikov is the Investigating Magistrate for Cases of Extraordinary Importance. When Yakov is arrested for the Christian boy’s murder, Bibikov questions him. He is interested in the fact that Yakov knows the writings of Spinoza and that he has tried to improve himself through self-education. Bibikov becomes Yakov’s only hope for proving that he is innocent of the murder.
Colonel Bodyansky is an official who assists Grubeshov in questioning Yakov and finding evidence against him. His line of questioning reveals that he is staunchly anti-Semitic.
Yakov Bok is a thirty-year-old Jewish man who has grown tired of being poor and down on his luck. After his wife leaves him, he leaves his Jewish village to venture out into the world “beyond the Pale,” beyond the zone set out for Jewish settlers in Russia. Beyond the Pale is a dangerous world in which Christians do not tolerate Jews; in fact, many seek to annihilate Jews. Despite the fact that Yakov was born and raised as a Jew, he tries to make himself “unpolitical,” neither Jewish nor Christian, in order to find a better life beyond the Pale. His one wish is to find a good life and to educate himself beyond his poverty.
Marfa Golov is Zhenia’s mother. She passes herself off as a hardworking single mother, a good mother, although Bibikov finds evidence that she possibly killed her own son for financial gain. Grubeshov, however, uses her false testimony to build his case against Yakov.
Zhenia Golov is the Christian boy for whose murder Yakov is held. Before his death, Zhenia and another boy had been chased by Yakov for vandalizing the brickworks.
Warden Grizitskoy is the man in charge of the Kiev prison, where Yakov is kept for almost three years. He makes it clear that he, too, is strongly anti-Semitic, and he brutally punishes Yakov for the least transgression.
Gregor Gronfein is a counterfeiter held in the thirty-day-day common cell in which Yakov is kept before he is taken to solitary confinement. Gronfein pretends to be Yakov’s friend and talks Yakov into writing a letter asking for help with his case. Gronfein says he will deliver the letter when he is let out; however, he simply turns it over to the prison officials, who punish Yakov by sending him to solitary.
Prosecuting Attorney Grubeshov
Prosecuting Attorney Grubeshov is the man charged with accumulating evidence against Yakov and bringing forth an indictment against him. Grubeshov doggedly builds a case against Yakov—and takes almost three years to do it—including false testimony and invented evidence.
The Hasid is an old Jewish man whom Yakov saves from an attack by some boys. Yakov, against his better judgment, takes the man into his rooms in the brickyard and tends to his wounds. Yakov is strangely moved when the man observes Passover. When he thinks it is safe, Yakov sneaks the man out of the brickyard.
Kogin is one of the guards in the solitary confinement ward. He works the night shift. During his shift, Kogin listens as Yakov recites scripture that he has memorized from the New Testament. He eventually brings Yakov a candle to read by; he secretly enjoys hearing Yakov read. He confesses to Yakov that his own son is in prison, in Siberia. In the end, Kogin is shot by the Deputy Warden for defending Yakov against his brutality.
Aaron Latke is the Jewish man with whom Yakov lives when he goes to Kiev. Like Shmuel, he urges Yakov to trust that God will bring him luck in his life.
Nikolai Maximovitch Lebedev
Nikolai is an alcoholic Russian man whom Yakov finds face down in the snow one evening. Although Nikolai displays the badge of the anti-Semitic Black Hundreds, Yakov saves him from freezing to death anyway. Nikolai rewards Yakov with a job at his brickyard, not knowing that Yakov is Jewish.
“Zina” is Nikolai’s daughter. She is crippled and therefore unmarried, although she longs for a man to love her. She tries to seduce Yakov into making love to her, but he refuses. Like her father, she does not know that Yakov is a Jew.
Julius Ostrovsky is the first lawyer who takes on Yakov’s case. He explains to Yakov that history if against him—the whole country is in arms against the Jews—and this hysteria figures prominently in the case against Yakov. Ostrovsky has to resign as Yakov’s lawyer because the prosecution accuses him of bribing Marfa Golov.
Potseikin is another prisoner in the jail where Yakov is first kept. He is accused of treason. When he discovers that Yakov is a Jew accused of killing Zhenia Golov, he attacks Yakov.
Proshko is the foreman at Nikolai’s brickyard. Yakov discovers that he and other workers have been cheating Nikolai by keeping back bricks to sell for themselves. Yakov makes an enemy of Proshko by calling him to account.
Raisl is Yakov’s wife. Yakov stops sleeping with her when it becomes clear that she is barren, and she runs away with another man because her husband does not love her. She bears a child by that man and begs Yakov to claim the child to prevent the village from shunning her and the child.
Shmuel is Yakov’s father-in-law, the father of his wife Raisl. He is a poor peddler, but he is a faithful Jew. He tries to make Yakov see that throwing off his Jewish heritage and denying God will only lead to sorrow. He suggests that Yakov might be at fault as much as Raisl for the failure of his marriage. Yakov does not agree. Shmuel urges Yakov to have hope, but Yakov ignores him.
Skobeliev is the yardkeeper at the brickyard. Like Proshko, he does not like Yakov and watches him for mistakes.
Suslov-Smirnov is the second lawyer who takes on Yakov’s defense. He warns Yakov to be patient and to not do anything rash that might force prison officials to kill him before his trial.
The Deputy Warden assist the Warden at the Kiev prison. He goes out of his way to make Yakov’s stay there unbearable through deprivation and through relentless body searches.
Zhitnyak is one of the guards in the solitary confinement ward. He works the day shift. Zhitnyak sneaks a New Testament in for Yakov to read, saying it is from his mother. He also allows Shmuel to visit Yakov once, but Zhitnyak is found out and arrested for this favor.