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Jews in Balti, Moldova

Balti is a regional center of Moldova with a population of over 144 thousand people. Founded in the 15th century. It was part of the Moldavian principality. Since 1812 - part of the Russian Empire. From 1918 to the mid-1940s - part of Romania.

In 1779, the authorities invited Jewish merchants to settle in the city. Three years later, the statute of the Jewish community was approved. The city was located at the intersection of trade routes. In the 1880s, a railway appeared in Balti and the commercial importance of the city increased, which attracted the Jewish population of the surrounding area.

In the 19th century, the number of the Jewish population in the city increased. In 1841, 1.7 thousand Jews lived here. After 20 years, their number has grown to 3.9 thousand. By the end of the century - up to 10.3 thousand. Jews accounted for 56% of the townspeople. There were 72 synagogues in the city.

The first half of the twentieth century saw an increase in the Jewish population. By 1930, there were 14.2 thousand Jews in Balti, who accounted for 60% of the population. According to the recollections of old-timers, more than 30 synagogues worked in the city according to the guild principle. The Romanian authorities did not interfere in the religious life of the Jews.

In 1940, Soviet troops occupied Bessarabia. The Soviet government persecuted religious and communal institutions, and Jewish life in Balti ceased.

With the beginning of the Soviet-German war, Balti suffered from bombing. In the city, two thirds of the houses were destroyed. Some of the Jews tried to hide in neighboring settlements, but became victims of the local population.

On July 9, 1941, German troops entered the city. In the first days of the occupation, together with the Romanian gendarmerie, the invaders shot 450 Jews. Balti came under Romanian control. In the district, the Romanian authorities established several concentration camps in which Jews were kept before being deported to Transnistria.

In the post-war years, Jews returned to Balti. There was an underground synagogue here until the end of the 1950s. The Moldovan police terminated its activities.

From the late 1950s to the late 1980s, the city's Jewish population declined. In 1970, the proportion of Jews in the urban population fell to 12.7%. In 1989, there were 8.9 thousand Jews in Balti.

Since the late 1980s, Jewish life has revived in the city. The Jewish theater appeared, and then the synagogue. In the early 2000s, 2,000 Jews lived in the city.

Ethnographic expeditions record the interpenetration of cultures. The non-Jewish population invites Jews to become recipients at the baptism of children and orders prayers at the local synagogue.