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Jewish Poltava

The number of Jews in Poltava never exceeded 20% of the population in the history of demographic observations. At the same time, relations with the non-Jewish population developed peacefully. It is enough to say that in the 19th century the Jew Abraham Zelensky was the mayor of the city, in the 1860-1870s 9 members of the City Council were Jews, and in the reference book of the Poltava province for 1900, 10 Jews were listed in various government posts.

In 1792, this territory of the Poltava region fell into the "Pale of Settlement".

Poltava did not attract Jews as a place of settlement, since it was far from trade routes. According to 1802, 18 merchants and 285 bourgeois Jews lived here. In the 19th century, Jews began to play an important role in the life of the city. There is evidence that Jewish merchants allocated funds to combat the plague in 1844 and saved many citizens.

In 1852, the Ilyinsky Fair was moved to the city. With the development of fair trade, the Jewish population also increased. A tragic episode in the life of Poltava Jewry is also associated with the fair. In 1811, during the fair days, someone set fire to the Great Choral Synagogue, and the Jews were forced to bury the burnt Torah scrolls in the cemetery.

By 1897, Jews accounted for 20% of the 54 thousand population of Poltava. The city had 10 synagogues and houses of worship, a yeshiva, a Talmud Torah, a female vocational school, a Jewish library, a hospital and a nursing home.

In the Provincial Reference Book for 1900, 2 Jewish owners of steam mills, 5 owners of printing houses and 5 owners of a chain of large stores are mentioned.

During the revolution of 1905-1907, there were no pogroms in the city. Local Jews learned about it later, when Poltava was captured by Denikin’s troops.

Soviet power proclaimed the equality of Jews with other citizens. Their opportunities in traditional fields of activity (trade, finance, and craft) were limited, but the doors were open for participation in party and Soviet authorities. The payment for the promotion of the social ladder was the rejection of national traditions. In the 1920s, synagogues were closed or converted to Jewish clubs. Until the end of the 1930s, schools with teaching in Yiddish worked.

By 1939, Jews made up 9.9% of the city’s population. During World War II, the Nazis captured Poltava in September 1941. By this time, a significant part of the Jews (from 50 to 70%) managed to evacuate.

During the period of occupation, more than 2.5 thousand Jews were killed in Poltava. Eight Poltava citizens received the title “Righteous Among the Nations” for saving Jews.

After the war, the Jewish population of the city decreased. In 1959, Jews accounted for 3.4% of citizens. Then the last synagogue was closed in the city.

Since the late 1980s, Jewish life in Poltava began to come to life. The city has communities of Chabad supporters and reformists. According to 2001 data, 1.8 thousand Jews lived in the city. This is 0.3% of citizens.