(1865 - 1936)
Rafael ben Shlomo Potelyahov
was born in 1865 in Bukhara. He studied in
yeshiva (Betamudrash), learning Hebrew and the Talmud until age 18.
After his father Sholomo
Potelyahov died in 1885, Potelyahov and his
wife, Pnina, moved to Kokand to start a drapery
business with a partner, Sholomo Musaev. After
a few years Sholomo Musaev left for Jerusalem and gave Potelyahov his share of 3000 roubles.
Potelyahov put that money in new trading business,
which soon brought him a huge income. This
merchant of 1st guild soon became one of the
richest and respectful people of Turkestan
and Bukharian Emirate.
Potelyahov had a network
of shops in Turkestan, Bukharian Emirate,
Moscow and Orenburg. He owned large number
of cotton factories, two cotton oil factories,
a soap factory, tea-packing and tobacco factories,
lands with coal and petroleum deposits, and
a railway from Margelan up to Shahrizana.
He was one of the largest providers of cotton
to Russian markets.
Despite being a businessman,
Potelyahov also gave a lot of attention to
the needs of Bukharian Jewish community. In
1905, he constructed and organized a Bukharian-Jewish
school or homlo, which was financed by him
and the Vadyaev brothers. Rafael Potelyahov
also had invited teachers from Odessa and rabbis from Jerusalem.
Hebrew and Russian were some of the subjects
studied at the school.
In 1907, Potelyahov built
a private residence in Kokand, which after
the Russian revolution was used as a communication
center. When Russian Finance Minister was
visiting Turkestan region, Potelyahov had
made a big impression on him as the highly
cultured and clever person, and the Minister
of Finance had awarded him with a medal. Next
time Potelyahov was in St. Petersburg, the
Russian tsar welcomed Rafael Potelyahov and
gave him a title of prince.
After the Communist Revolution in Russia in 1917, Potelyahov was appointed
as a minister of a capitalist government in Kokand. Subsequently the
Kokand government was defeated and Potelyahov was imprisoned on charges
of financing a revolt. His son Zion Potelyahov successfully petitioned
for a new trial. Potelyahov defended himself in court and proved his
innocence. As a free man, Rafael Potelyahov went to Moscow to his brother
Nathaniel, and from there together with his son and brother he went
to Baku (Azerbaijan).
In 1925, Potelyahov with
his family left for Jerusalem,
where they had bought a house. They later
moved to Berlin and then to London,
where Potelyahov died at age 71 in 1936.
Rafael Potelyahov is remembered
in Uzbekistan for his substantial contributions to the Bukharian