History of the Kyrgyzstan Jewish Community
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History of the Kyrgyzstan Jewish Community

There is evidence of the first Jews settling in Kirgizia about a thousand years ago, but the Jewish community began forming in the second half of the 19th century as Central Asia was annexed by the Russian Empire, and both European and Bukharian Jews came to settle on the territory of today’s Kyrgyzstan. Ashkenazi Jews preferred the northern part of the republic, while Sephardic Jews settled in the south. In the 20th century the Bukharian Jews began migrating gradually to the northern regions.

The number of Ashkenazi Jews grew in the 1930-1940s, primarily with exiles and the evacuated. The number of evacuated Jews during the Great Patriotic War is estimated to 26 thousand. By the end of the ‘70s the Jewish population of the Republic had shrunk to 7.2 thousand. Along with European and Bukharian Jews, small groups of Karaites, Krymchaks, and Caucasus Jews lived in Kyrgyzstan, all suffering to some extent from Stalinist repression.

After the Jewish organizations were eliminated and most local Bukharian-Jewish intellectuals destroyed in the 1920–1930s, the only remaining institutional setting of the Jewish community was the synagogue, established in 1941.

Over 5 thousand Jews have emigrated from the country since the early 1990s.

Currently there are about 1,500 Jews living in the Republic (mostly in Bishkek). Smaller groups reside in the cities of Osh, Kyzyl-Kiya, Karakol, Tokmak, and Kant.