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The Jewish population of Abkhazia consisted of Ashkenazi, Georgian and other Jews. It grew after the incorporation of Abkhazia into the Russian Empire in the middle of 19th century. Most of the Jews left or were evacuated from Abkhazia as a result of the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict of 1992–1993.

Number of Jews in Sukhumi[1]
Year Total Georgian Jews
1897 134
1915 356 80
1922 1,012
1926 916 201
1939 1,545
1959 1,281

A Russian garrison was installed in Sukhumi in the 1840s, as its fortress was part of the Black Sea defence line, and Jews from many regions of Georgia, particularly from Kulashi, settled in the town. As the 1897 census results indicate, there were also many Ashkenazi Jews in Sukhumi. A synagogue was built in the first decade of 20th century.

In Soviet times, the Jewish population of Abkhazia increased greatly, but the Sukhumi Jewish community remained the largest in Abkhazia. According to the 1926 census, there were about 1,100 Jews in Abkhazia, most of them Ashkenaz (702) or Georgian (215).[2] The Jewish community of Sukhumi was officially recognised by Soviet authorities in 1945, at the very end of World War II. Abkhazian Jews suffered like the other Jews of the Soviet Union during the massive anti-Jewish campaign in the late 40s and early 50s. Sukhumi synagogue was razed in October, 1951 (according to the official version, its territory was needed for urban development).[3] The Jewish population increased to about 3,500 in 1959,[4] but many of them emigrated to Israel and elsewhere in 1970s.

As the Soviet Union was disintegrating in the late 1980s, ethnic tensions began to grow in Abkhazia and the number of Jewish emigrants increased greatly. There were still many Jews in Abkhazia at the outbreak of the armed conflict with Georgia in August, 1992. Then the Jewish Agency for Israel arranged the evacuation of all the Jews who wished to leave the republic.[5][6][7] Those who remained had to endure the occupation of Sukhumi by Georgian forces and then its capture by the Abkhaz and their allies.[7]

As of 2009, there are about 150 Jews in Abkhazia, nearly all of them Ashkenazi. The community maintains a synagogue in Sukhumi.[7]

Rivka Cohen, Israel's ambassador to Georgia, visited Abkhazia in July, 2004.[7]

See also

References

  1. ^ Altshuler, Mordechai (2007). יהדות במכבש הסובייטי : בין דת לזהות יהודית בברית-המועצות, 1964–1941. Merkaz Zalman Shazar le-toldot Yiśraʼel. pp. 480. ISBN 9789652272256.   (Hebrew)
  2. ^ 1926 Census results, breakdown by ethnicities (Russian)
  3. ^ Ro'i, Yaacov; Lili Baazova (1995). Jews and Jewish Life in Russia and the Soviet Union. Routledge. pp. 291. ISBN 0714646199. http://books.google.com/books?id=bJBH5pxzSyMC&printsec=frontcover#PPA292,M1.  
  4. ^ 1959, 1970, 1979 census results for Abkhazia, breakdown by mother tongues (Russian)
  5. ^ Jewish Agency for Israel, Interview with Lev Shchegolyov, (Russian)
  6. ^ Memorial (society), Положение беженцев из Абхазии в Краснодарском крае (Situation with the refugees from Abkhazia in Krasnodar Krai), December, 2000 (Russian)
  7. ^ a b c d Leonid Landa, Еврейская община Абхазии в круговороте кавказских событий, (Jewish community of Abkhazia in the Caucasian whirl of events), 28.09.2004 (Russian)
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