» Articles » Jews in Saint Petersburg, Russia

Jews in Saint Petersburg, Russia

St. Petersburg is the second largest city in Russia and the second city in terms of Jewish population after Moscow. Founded at the beginning of the 18th century.

Until the first half of the 18th century, only baptized Jews could stay in the city. There are known cases of burning (1738) and repression (1748) of persons suspected of adherence to Judaism.

After the partitions of Poland, the Jewish population increased. From the late 1780s, deputies of Jewish communities came to the capital and settled with their families. They became the backbone of the Jewish community. At the beginning of the 19th century, a Jewish cemetery appeared in the city.

In the 1820s, the authorities tried to evict Jews from St. Petersburg. In 1827, the periods of stay of Jews in the capital were introduced. The latter could stay in the city for no more than six weeks, and in special cases, up to nine months.

In the late 1820s, Jews began to be drafted into the army. Jewish soldiers with their families appeared in St. Petersburg. Since the mid-1850s, retired Jewish soldiers, Jewish merchants of the first guild, and artisans have been allowed to stay in the city.

In the 1860s, a government rabbi appeared in St. Petersburg, and by the end of the decade, a community of 6.6 thousand people (1% of the urban population) received permission to build a choral synagogue.

By the end of the 19th century, St. Petersburg became the center of cultural and social Jewish activity. The Society for the Dissemination of Education, ORT, Zionist organizations, Jewish political parties were established here, meetings of the Rabbinical Commission were held, and periodicals were published.

In the first decade of the twentieth century, 34.9 thousand Jews lived in the capital of the empire, accounting for 1.8% of the townspeople. By 1917, their number had increased to 50 thousand, and by 1928 - to 102.5 thousand.

In the 1920s, the tzadik I. Shneerson came to Leningrad. The city became the center of Chabad Hasidism. Illegal cheder and yeshiva were operating. Only 3 out of 17 synagogues remained in the city by 1932 in the course of the anti-religious campaign of the Soviet government. The post-war anti-Semitic campaign damaged the Jewish intelligentsia of Leningrad.

In 1959, the city was home to 168 thousand Jews, who accounted for 5.1% of the city dwellers.

Since the 1970s, the Jewish population has declined. The Jews of Leningrad took an active part in the campaign for permission to emigrate to Israel.

From 1989 to 2002, the number of Jews in the city decreased from 106.8 thousand to 36.6 thousand.