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The Jewish Community of Kazan

Kazan

The capital of the Republic of Tatarstan, Russia

Kazan is located where the Volga and Kazanka Rivers meet, 450 miles (724km) east of Moscow. Kazan is a multi-ethnic city, and is known for its tolerance.

As of 2015, the Jewish community of Kazan numbered in the tens of thousands. Communal organizations included a Sunday school, a beit midrash for adults, a family club, a women's club, and a club for seniors. Hessed Moshe, a charitable fund, was established to aid the members of the community. The Jewish Street is the newspaper of the Jewish community and a local radio program about Jewish philosophy began airing in 2004. Creative programs include a community art studio and a dance group. The University of Kazan has a Center for Jewish Studies. A Chabad center serves the religious needs of the community, and runs a kosher restaurant.

An International Festival of Jewish Music was held in Kazan in June 2012. Additionally, a Limmud FSU conference focusing on Jewish learning and culture was held in Kazan on September 4-5, 2015.

HISTORY

Kazan was not included within the borders of the Pale of Settlement, the area defining where Russia's Jews were permitted to live; as a result, a Jewish community was not established in Kazan until relatively late. In 1861 there were 184 Jews living in the city, most of whom were veterans from the Czar's army. By 1897 their numbers had increased to 1,467 (1.1% of the total population). The Jewish population would continue to increase during World War I, when many refugees fleeing the front lines, as well as Jews from Lithuania, arrived in Kazan. In 1926, there were 4,156 Jews in the city (2.3% of the population.

A synagogue was dedicated in 1911. It was later confiscated by the Soviet authorities in 1928 and turned into a teacher's club.

During the Soviet era it became extremely difficult for the Jewish community to function. While a number of Kazan's Jews managed to practice their religion and preserve their Jewish identity, much of Jewish life during the Soviet era was conducted underground. However, the Jews of Kazan were luckier than most; the restrictions placed on Jews and on religious observance were more relaxed in Kazan than in many of the larger cities in the Soviet Union. A number of Jews came from Ukraine and other areas in Russia from the 1960s and '70s, taking advantage of the fact that the university's anti-Jewish quota was more relaxed. Jews could sometimes celebrate minor Jewish holidays while the local authorities would look the other way. Because of these advantages the groundwork already existed for a Jewish community in Kazan when the Soviet Union fell, and the community was reestablished much more quickly than in other areas in the former Soviet Union.

The Jewish population of Kazan was estimated at about 8,000 in 1970. One synagogue existed until 1962, when it was closed down by the Soviet authorities. The Jewish cemetery was still in use in 1970.

During the period of glasnost and perestroika under Mikail Gorbachev, approximately 4,000 Jews from Kazan left for Israel and the United States. Those who remained began to be more open about their Judaism. A youth choir was established, klezmer concerts began to attract crowds, and public Passover seders attracted hundreds of participants. In 1997, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the synagogue was returned to the Jewish community of Kazan and rededicated.
Place Type:
City
ID Number:
154907
Written by researchers of ANU Museum of the Jewish People
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The Jewish Community of Kazan
Kazan

The capital of the Republic of Tatarstan, Russia

Kazan is located where the Volga and Kazanka Rivers meet, 450 miles (724km) east of Moscow. Kazan is a multi-ethnic city, and is known for its tolerance.

As of 2015, the Jewish community of Kazan numbered in the tens of thousands. Communal organizations included a Sunday school, a beit midrash for adults, a family club, a women's club, and a club for seniors. Hessed Moshe, a charitable fund, was established to aid the members of the community. The Jewish Street is the newspaper of the Jewish community and a local radio program about Jewish philosophy began airing in 2004. Creative programs include a community art studio and a dance group. The University of Kazan has a Center for Jewish Studies. A Chabad center serves the religious needs of the community, and runs a kosher restaurant.

An International Festival of Jewish Music was held in Kazan in June 2012. Additionally, a Limmud FSU conference focusing on Jewish learning and culture was held in Kazan on September 4-5, 2015.

HISTORY

Kazan was not included within the borders of the Pale of Settlement, the area defining where Russia's Jews were permitted to live; as a result, a Jewish community was not established in Kazan until relatively late. In 1861 there were 184 Jews living in the city, most of whom were veterans from the Czar's army. By 1897 their numbers had increased to 1,467 (1.1% of the total population). The Jewish population would continue to increase during World War I, when many refugees fleeing the front lines, as well as Jews from Lithuania, arrived in Kazan. In 1926, there were 4,156 Jews in the city (2.3% of the population.

A synagogue was dedicated in 1911. It was later confiscated by the Soviet authorities in 1928 and turned into a teacher's club.

During the Soviet era it became extremely difficult for the Jewish community to function. While a number of Kazan's Jews managed to practice their religion and preserve their Jewish identity, much of Jewish life during the Soviet era was conducted underground. However, the Jews of Kazan were luckier than most; the restrictions placed on Jews and on religious observance were more relaxed in Kazan than in many of the larger cities in the Soviet Union. A number of Jews came from Ukraine and other areas in Russia from the 1960s and '70s, taking advantage of the fact that the university's anti-Jewish quota was more relaxed. Jews could sometimes celebrate minor Jewish holidays while the local authorities would look the other way. Because of these advantages the groundwork already existed for a Jewish community in Kazan when the Soviet Union fell, and the community was reestablished much more quickly than in other areas in the former Soviet Union.

The Jewish population of Kazan was estimated at about 8,000 in 1970. One synagogue existed until 1962, when it was closed down by the Soviet authorities. The Jewish cemetery was still in use in 1970.

During the period of glasnost and perestroika under Mikail Gorbachev, approximately 4,000 Jews from Kazan left for Israel and the United States. Those who remained began to be more open about their Judaism. A youth choir was established, klezmer concerts began to attract crowds, and public Passover seders attracted hundreds of participants. In 1997, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the synagogue was returned to the Jewish community of Kazan and rededicated.
Written by researchers of ANU Museum of the Jewish People