History of the Jews in Kazakhstan

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The location of Kazakhstan (dark green) in Eurasia
Flag of Kazakhstan

The history of the Jews in Kazakhstan connects back to the history of Bukharan and Juhuro Mountain Jews. Kazakh Jews have a long history. There are approximately several thousand Jews in Kazakhstan right at present.

Most Kazakh Jews are Ashkenazi and speak Russian.[1][2]

Jewish history in Kazakhstan[edit]

Chabad-Lubavitch synagogue in Almaty, depicted on a postal stamp from Kazakhstan.

General Secretary Joseph Stalin evacuated thousands of Jews from other parts of the Soviet Union to the Kazakh SSR. During the Holocaust 8,218 Jews were evacuated to Kazakhstan between August 1941 and January 1942.[2][3]

A Chabad-Lubavitch synagogue in Almaty is named after Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Schneerson, father of the Rebbe, who is buried at the city's cemetery, close to the synagogue. Levi Yitzchak Schneerson was exiled to Kazakhstan from Ukraine, Dnepropetrovsk, where he was a chief rabbi.[4] Lubavitcher Jews from all over the world come to pray at his grave.[5]

Yeshaya E. Cohen, the Chief Rabbi of Kazakhstan, and leader of the Alliance of Rabbis in Islamic States told Kazinform on January 16, 2004 that a new synagogue would be built in Nur-Sultan. He thanked President Nazarbayev for "paying so much attention to distinguishing between those who truly believe and those who want to hijack their religion."[6] President of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress, presented Nazarbayev with a menorah on 7 September 2004.[7]

Historical Demographics[edit]

Kazakhstan's Jewish population rapidly increased between 1926 and 1959, being almost eight times larger in 1959 than in 1926. Kazakhstan's Jewish population slowly declined between 1959 and 1989, followed by a much larger decline after the fall of Communism between 1989 and 2002 due to massive Jewish emigration, mostly to Israel.[8]

Historical Kazakh Jewish population

Jewish Kazakh fencer Yakov Rylsky (1928 – 1999) was a Soviet Olympic and world champion sabre fencer.

Jewish life today[edit]

About 2,000 Jewish Kazakhs are Bukharian and Juhuro Mountain Jews. There are synagogues and large Jewish communities in Almaty where there are 1,000 Jews in Nur-Sultan (Astana) and Pavlodar. There are smaller communities in Karaganda, Shymkent, Semey, Kokshetau, Taraz, Oral, Aktobe, and Petropavl.

There are twenty Jewish Kazakh organizations, including the Mitzvah Association, Chabad-Lubavitch, the Joint Distribution Committee, Jewish Agency for Israel, and the All-Kazakhstan Jewish Congress (AKJC). The Jewish communities formed the AKJC in December 1999 in a ceremony attended by Kazakh government officials and United States Ambassador to Kazakhstan Richard Jones.

There are fourteen Jewish day schools attended by more than 700 students. There is a Jewish kindergarten in Almaty.[13] Between 2005 and 2006 attendance in religious services and education in Almaty among Jews greatly increased. The Kazakh government registered eight foreign rabbis and "Jewish missionaries" (see Jewish outreach.) It has also donated buildings and land for the building of new synagogues.[1][2]

According to the National Conference on Soviet Jewry, "Anti-Semitism is not prevalent in Kazakhstan and rare incidents are reported in the press," contrary to incorrect perceptions in popular culture caused by the country's portrayal in the 2006 film Borat as a "hot-bed of anti-Semitism."[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b International Religious Freedom Report 2006 Archived 2008-06-22 at the Wayback Machine U.S. Embassy in Astana, Kazakhstan
  2. ^ a b c The virtual Jewish history tour, Kazakhstan Jewish Virtual Library
  3. ^ "Эвакуация советского населения в Казахстан".
  4. ^ "New Kazakhstan Jewish Center revitalizes ex-USSR community". 5 September 1997.
  5. ^ "ShalomR53.pmd" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-04-14.
  6. ^ Chief Rabbi Says Kazakhstan "Symbol" for Others Press Box
  7. ^ Chief Rabbi Says No Anti-Semitism in Kazakhstan, Explains Why Embassy of Kazakhstan to the USA and Canada http://www.ncsj.org/AuxPages/081001Kazakhstan.shtml Archived 2012-02-05 at the Wayback Machine Kazakhstan’s Jews Celebrate] National Conference on Soviet Jewry
  8. ^ "tab30.XLS" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-07-14. Retrieved 2013-04-14.
  9. ^ "Приложение Демоскопа Weekly". Demoscope.ru. 2013-01-15. Retrieved 2013-04-14.
  10. ^ http://www.ajcarchives.org/AJC_DATA/Files/2002_13_WJP.pdf[bare URL PDF]
  11. ^ "Powered by Google Docs". Retrieved 2013-04-14.
  12. ^ YIVO | Population and Migration: Population since World War I. Yivoencyclopedia.org. Retrieved on 2013-04-14.
  13. ^ "Ohr Avner Chabad - Almaty, Kazakhstan". Chabad.org. Retrieved 2013-04-14.
  14. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-09-25. Retrieved 2009-09-26.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)

External links[edit]