Bukhara Jews – one of the oldest Jewish communities

During the times of the Soviet Union, a rather large Jewish diaspora lived in its Central Asian republics. However, Jews appeared there long before the appearance of the USSR, even earlier than the Russian Empire came. The people of this nationality are mainly representatives of one of the oldest ethnographic groups of this nation – the Bukhara Jews. This community was formed over 2 thousand years ago and for a long time led a separate existence from its European and North African compatriots. With the arrival of the Russian empire in Turkestan, the community of Bukharan Jews was supplemented by representatives of the Ashkenazi branch, but their number was insignificant, so they practically did not affect the established life principles of the Bukharians.

Appearance

The moment of the emergence of this branch so far causes debate. The myth of the Jewish ancestors, who were forcibly evicted by the Assyrians from the kingdom of Israel in 722 BC, is quite popular. er Even the termination area is called Khador, which the Bukharians identify as Bukhara. True, historians have questioned this version, putting forward their own point of view about the terrain in Northern Mesopotamia, which is now in Iraqi territory.

Resettlement

From Hador, the Jewish diaspora began to spread across the lands of the Assyrian state, which at that time was perhaps the largest in the world. A certain percentage of them migrated to the lands of present-day Iran, to Khuzestan (south-west of the Islamic Republic) and Media (north of the country, now Iranian Azerbaijan). This is supported by the fact that the mountain Jews living in the Caucasus are descended from the Khador Jews. Such a settlement had its reasons. They are mainly due to economic, political and social factors, but one more thing should not be disregarded. Jews were involved in military service in favor of the states that had controlled Israel for a certain period. When the Persian kings of the Achaemenid family came to power, the era of the most massive settlement of Jews, who had snuck into Central Asia, came.

This is supported by a number of testimonies. Fragments of pottery with Hebrew inscriptions were found by archaeologists near the Turkmen cities of Bairam-Ali and Merv in the mid-1950s, but most importantly, remains of an ancient synagogue were found. All discoveries belonged to the II. BC er – I in. n er The advancement of the Great Silk Road, through which Jewish merchants penetrated into the very depths of Central Asia, and then advanced in the direction of China all the way to the Pacific coast, contributed to the advancement of this nation to the east. An additional factor in their advancement into Central Asia was the consequences of the Judean Wars of 66-70, 132-135. A significant part of the population was forced to leave Judea and Jerusalem in order to avoid slavery. Thus, large Jewish communities appeared in Balkh, Merv and Termez.

Flourishing

Until the Arabs invaded Central Asia this region was inhabited by a multitude of Until the Arabs invaded Central Asia, this region was inhabited by a multitude of peoples, often belonging to various religious movements. Here Buddhism and Hinduism, Christianity and Judaism, Zoroastrianism, and various syncretic cults freely lived together. The situation changed with the arrival of Islam here, but the Jews were able to adapt to this state of affairs. Their incredible performance and education allowed them to occupy extremely honorable positions in the local community. For example, Sagl Al-Tabari, who was born in Tabaristan in the 800s, became famous as a mathematician and doctor. By his efforts in Arabic, the work “Almagest” of the famous astronomer Ptolemy was translated from Greek. Representatives of the Turkic dynasty of Ghaznavids, who ruled in the X-XI centuries, entrusted the Jews with the leadership of the Balkh and Khorasan mines. High positions were occupied by Jewish representatives in the Tajik Samanid dynasty in the tenth century, as well as among the Khorezmshahs in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. By this time, the number of people of this nation in Central Asia has reached the maximum number, and the culture – its truly “golden age”.

The appearance of the Bukhara-Jewish dialect

For a long time, living among the Iranian-speaking peoples, the Bukhara Jews had no choice but to join the Farsi language. Moving further to Central Asia, they saved it. This circumstance was helped by the fact that the Tajik language of the new regions was not too different from Persian. Gradually, he became a dialect, which began to be called Bukhara. The beginning of the existence of the Bukhara-Hebrew language is considered to be the X-XI century, and the writer Mawlana Shahin is recognized as its initiator. However, the Jews did not accept the Arabic script, continuing to use Jewish writing.

Decay

The turning point in the history of Bukharan Jews was the beginning of the thirteenth century. The Mongols, ruthlessly exterminating the Jews, moved to Central Asia. Only in the cities of Balkh, Merv, Khorezm managed to survive small groups of people of this nationality. The community living in Bukhara was relatively untouched, where the Jews who survived the war events reached. The decline of the Bukhara-Jewish culture lasted for 500 years, ending only in the XVIII century.

Development in new conditions

At the end of the 18th century, the negative situation with the Jewish population in Central Asia began to change for the better. This process was facilitated by a high birth rate in families, as well as a significant flow of immigrants who came from Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey and even Yemen. In addition, Spanish Sephardic Jews, who fled to Islamic countries after being expelled from their homeland in 1492, arrived here. A new period of life began for the Bukharan Jews after the arrival of the Russian Empire in the Central Asian region. In order to create gentle pressure on the leadership of the Bukhara Emirate the Russian government issued a series of official decrees that of the Bukhara Emirate, the Russian government issued a series of official decrees that gave the Bukhara Jews considerable privileges in their activities on the territory of the empire. Interestingly, such Russian liberties were not granted to indigenous Russian Jews. So, through Bukhara Jews, the flow of goods from Bukhara went unhindered into the country, which in the long run had a positive significance in relations between the empire and the emirate.

By the middle of the XIX century, Jewish communities settled in almost every major Central Asian city. The largest of them, occupying two quarters, was located in Bukhara. The next in size was the Samarkand community, living in the Mahallan Yahudien quarter. Very quickly, modern civilization trends have penetrated into the Jewish environment. Representatives of this nation very quickly switched to wearing European clothes and using goods manufactured in England and Russia. And although officially the Bukhara Emirate was not yet joined to Russia, local Jews, who joined the merchant guild, could receive Russian citizenship. This decision allowed the empire to get a large number of wealthy dynasties, which played a positive role in the development of the country. Having serious means, they developed economy, creating the finished production cycles. For example, the Vadyaev dynasty in 1916 acquired the Ivanovo-Voznesensk manufactory, thereby completing the creation of a huge combine producing textiles. Cotton plantations of the Fergana Valley, railways, factories for the cleaning of raw cotton and the manufacture of textile products were included in the single complex. Tens of thousands of people were involved in the production process. With the final accession of the Bukhara Emirate to Russia, the living conditions of local

At the end of the 18th century, the negative situation with the Jewish population in Central Asia began to change for the better. This process was facilitated by a high birth rate in families, as well as a significant flow of immigrants who came from Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey and even Yemen. In addition, Spanish Sephardic Jews, who fled to Islamic countries after being expelled from their homeland in 1492, arrived here. A new period of life began for the Bukharan Jews after the arrival of the Russian Empire in the Central Asian region. In order to create gentle pressure on the leadership of the Bukhara Emirate the Russian government issued a series of official decrees that of the Bukhara Emirate, the Russian government issued a series of official decrees that gave the Bukhara Jews considerable privileges in their activities on the territory of the empire. Interestingly, such Russian liberties were not granted to indigenous Russian Jews. So, through Bukhara Jews, the flow of goods from Bukhara went unhindered into the country, which in the long run had a positive significance in relations between the empire and the emirate. By the middle of the XIX century, Jewish communities settled in almost every major Central Asian city. The largest of them, occupying two quarters, was located in Bukhara. The next in size was the Samarkand community, living in the Mahallan Yahudien quarter. Very quickly, modern civilization trends have penetrated into the Jewish environment. Representatives of this nation very quickly switched to wearing European clothes and using goods manufactured in England and Russia. And although officially the Bukhara Emirate was not yet joined to Russia, local Jews, who joined the merchant guild, could receive Russian citizenship. This decision allowed the empire to get a large number of wealthy dynasties, which played a positive role in the development of the country. Having serious means, they developed economy, creating the finished production cycles. For example, the Vadyaev dynasty in 1916 acquired the Ivanovo-Voznesensk manufactory, thereby completing the creation of a huge combine producing textiles. Cotton plantations of the Fergana Valley, railways, factories for the cleaning of raw cotton and the manufacture of textile products were included in the single complex. Tens of thousands of people were involved in the production process. With the final accession of the Bukhara Emirate to Russia, the living conditions of local Jews have seriously changed. European and Russian culture began to penetrate here, Russian Ashkenazi Jews reached out. The latter led to the Russification of local surnames. The national intelligentsia began to emerge, defending the interests of its own people. Russian was gradually becoming the spoken language, although the Bukhara dialect did not go anywhere. This is confirmed by the fact of publication in Skobelev (now Fergana) in the first half of the 1910s of the Bukhara-Jewish newspaper called “Rakhamim”.

Soviet period

After the fall of Russian tsarism in 1917, the new leadership of the country paid close attention to the Bukhara-Jewish diaspora. A number of secondary and higher educational institutions were opened for its representatives in the 1920s in Tashkent, Kokand, Samarkand. The Tashkent Institute of Education, created thanks to the efforts of Rakhmin Badalov, who later became its director, became the most famous. Interestingly, the Bukhara Jews, considered to be a national minority, could study for free in universities. The means of communication were not forgotten. Already in the 1920s, newspapers and magazines designed specifically for Bukharian Jews were mass-published in the region. True, the Jewish graphics replaced the Cyrillic alphabet.

Highly educated Bukhara Jews were actively involved in management work and service in military structures. In the Government of the Tajik SSR were Bukharians. One of them, Ilya Leviev, worked as secretary of the Supreme Council of the Republic. A representative of the diaspora Zina Kuraeva in the late 1930s was even elected deputy of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR. The army was practically no kind of troops, in which the Bukhara Jews would not serve. During the Great Patriotic War, up to 30,000 Bukharians left to defend the country. About a third lay down on the battlefield. Representatives of this diaspora made a great contribution to the economic and cultural development of the country in the postwar period. Professionals who developed the agricultural industry, the oil and gas industry, who made a significant contribution to the construction of Central Asian irrigation facilities, emerged from their midst. From among the Bukhara Jews came a whole galaxy of wonderful actors, musicians, poets, journalists, artists, athletes. The well-known kinodilogiyu “The exploits of Rustam”,
created based on the Persian-Tajik epic “Shah-name”, was shot by the Bukharan Jew
Bension Kimyagarov.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union into separate republics, most of the Bukharan Jews went to Israel.

Author: Marina Slivina

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