- History of the Jews in Abkhazia
Jewish population of Abkhazia consisted of
Ashkenazi, Georgian and other Jews. It grew after the incorporation of Abkhazia into Russian Empirein 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.
Russian garrison was installed in Sukhumi (its fortress was part of the
Black Sea defence line) in 1840s. Then Jews from many regions of Georgia and particularly from Kulashicame to and settled in the town. As the 1897 census results indicate there were many Ashkenazi Jews in Sukhumi also. A synagogue serving the needs of the community was built in the first decade of 20th century.
In Soviet times total Jewish population of the republic increased greatly and Sukhumi Jewish community remained the largest in Abkhazia. According to the the 1926 census there were about 1,100 Jews in Abkhazia, most of them were Ashkenaz (702) and Georgian (215). [ [http://demoscope.ru/weekly/ssp/sng_nac_26.php?reg=2346 1926 Census results, breakdown by ethnicities] ru icon] The Jewish community of Sukhumi was officially recognised by Soviet authorities in 1945, at the very end of
WWII. Abkhazian Jews suffered like the other Jews of 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). [cite book |title= Jews and Jewish Life in Russia and the Soviet Union|last= Ro'i|first= Yaacov|coauthors=Lili Baazova|year= 1995|publisher= Routledge|isbn= 0714646199|pages= 291|url= http://books.google.com/books?id=bJBH5pxzSyMC&printsec=frontcover#PPA292,M1] Jewish population increased to about 3,500 in 1959 [ [http://www.ethno-kavkaz.narod.ru/abkhyazik.html 1959, 1970, 1979 census results for Abkhazia, breakdown by mother tongues] ru icon] however many of them emigrated to Israel and elsewhere in 1970s.
As the Soviet Union was disintegrating in late 1980s the 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 Israelarranged the evacuation of all the Jews who wished to leave the republic. [ Jewish Agency for Israel, [http://www.jewishagency.org/JewishAgency/Russian/Home/About+us/Publications/SHEGOLEV.htm Interview with Lev Shchegolyov] , ru icon] [ Memorial (society), [http://www.memo.ru/hr/discrim/ethnic/abhaz/index.htm Положение беженцев из Абхазии в Краснодарском крае] ("Situation with the refugees from Abkhazia in Krasnodar Krai"), December, 2000 ru icon] Those who remained had to endure the occupation of Sukhumi by Georgian forces and then its capture by Abkhaz and their allies.
Now there are about 150 Jews in Abkhazia, nearly all of them Ashkenaz. The community maintains a synagogue in Sukhumi.Leonid Landa, [http://www.jew.spb.ru/ami/A332/A332-051.html Еврейская община Абхазии в круговороте кавказских событий] , ("Jewish community of Abkhazia in the Caucasian whirl of events"), 28.09.2004 ru icon]
Rivka Cohen, Israel's ambassador in Georgia, visited Abkhazia in July, 2004.
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