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Jews in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

Bishkek is the capital of Kyrgyzstan with a population of over 1 million people. Founded in 1878 as Pishpek. From 1926 to 1992, it was called Frunze, then Bishkek.

Ashkenazi Jews appeared in Kyrgyzstan along with the Russian colonial authorities. These were Russified Jews, oriented towards a secular lifestyle. In 1885, there were eight Jews in Pishpek. After 25 years, the number of Jews in the city increased to 18 people.

The influx of Jews increased with the establishment of Soviet power. Russified Jewish specialists arrived in the city. At the same time, Bukharian Jews appeared in the city. According to the data of local historians, along with the arrival of the Bukharian Jews, literature published in Tashkent in the dialect of Bukharian Jews was also distributed in the republic.

The arriving Soviet specialists occupied key positions in the cultural life of the republic. Therefore, the founder and director of the Republican Museum of Local Lore, organized in 1926, was S. Abramzon. Poet S. Lipkin participated in the translation into Russian of the Kyrgyz folklore monument "Manas".

From 1933 to 1937, the head of the Kyrgyz regional committee was Maurice Belotsky (Chernyi), a Russified Jew from Ukraine. In 1937, he was repressed. In the 1930s, many Jews who worked in Kyrgyzstan, who came to create the institutions of Soviet power in the republic, were repressed.

By 1939, more than a thousand Jews lived in Frunze. With the outbreak of World War II, Kyrgyzstan became a place of exile for Jews from the Romanian and Polish territories occupied by the USSR. With the beginning of the Soviet-German war, 26 thousand evacuated Jews arrived in Kyrgyzstan. Thanks to the influx of Jewish refugees, Jewish life began in Frunze. In 1942, a synagogue was opened in the city. In 1945, the evacuated Jews registered the Frunze religious community.

According to the memoirs of Rabbi Arye Raikhman, in the 1950s the Jews of Frunze provided themselves with matzah.

In the postwar years, the number of Jews in the republic declined. Therefore, in 1970, there were 7.7 thousand Jews in the republic, of which 5.8 thousand lived in Frunze. In addition to the Ashkenazi, 66 Bukharian, 1 Mountain Jew and 11 Karaites lived in the city.

In the late 1980s and the first half of the 1990s, Jewish structures revived in Bishkek. The Menorah Society was registered, a Jewish school appeared, and a Jewish newspaper began to be published. As of 2019, 329 Jews lived in the city, accounting for 0.04% of the local population.