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Jewish cemetery of Mogilev

Mogilev is the third most populous Belarusian city. At the beginning of the twentieth century, 50% of its citizens were Jews. During the twentieth century, the number of the Jewish population of Mogilev decreased significantly. According to the 2009 census, Jews make up only 0.2% of the population.

According to written sources, Jews have lived in the city since the 16th century, and the first mention of a Jewish cemetery dates back to 1724. By the 21st century, the city has preserved one Jewish cemetery on the eastern outskirts, in the Yubileiny microdistrict. It is localized in the area of ​​Natsionalny Spusk and Olchinskaya streets. A third of its area (5 thousand square meters) is occupied by the historical part.

The cemetery operated from 1809 to 1995. From 1937 to the 1960s, D. Basharaimov and his daughter-in-law worked as guards of the cemetery.

A document dated October 23, 1928 with the conclusion of the Mogilev Jewish Bureau at the People’s Commissariat for Education that transferring the cemetery for rent to the Jewish community is a “political mistake” has been preserved in the National Archives of the Republic of Belarus. It served as the basis for the decision of the city authorities to return the cemetery to communal property.

The cemetery was damaged by hostilities. In the postwar years, part of its territory was in the development zone. Here appeared residential buildings with gardens and garages. In the 1960s and 1970s, local residents used the monuments from the cemetery for ritual and household purposes, and in 1979, the city authorities made the cemetery public and buried all the citizens of Mogilev, regardless of nationality.

Only at the beginning of the XXI century, the Jewish community with the help of American sponsors put the cemetery in order. In 2002, the Mogilev city executive committee decided to prohibit burials in the ancient part of the cemetery.

In 2013, a program began to study cemeteries and systematize the graves of the Mogilev region. At the city Jewish cemetery, the matzevas of the 19th and early 20th centuries were described and cataloged. A list of 609 graves is available on the site of the Jewish community of Mogilev.

In Belarus, cemeteries are not considered part of the historical and cultural heritage. In 2015, a new threat loomed over the cemetery. The new edition of the Law on Burial and Funeral Case stipulated that a state-owned enterprise that monitors the state of a cemetery have the right to destroy tombstones that cannot be restored. Ancient burial places were at stake.

The Israeli embassy intervened, and by 2018, joint efforts of diplomats and the Jewish community, the regional authorities recognized the Jewish cemetery as a historical and memorial complex.

Shmaryahu Mordechai Zuckerman (1878-1907), an honorary citizen of Mogilev, a merchant of the first guild, a native of the famous dynasty who built a synagogue in the city, Babovik Movsha Girsch Wulfov (1851-1903), who built a number of houses in the city, and the building of Mogilev State University, and several other prominent citizens of the past were buried in the cemetery.