BELARUS


BELARUS, C.I.S. republic. For the region's earlier history, see *Belorussia.

Developments from the 1970s

In 1979 Belorussia's Jewish population amounted to 135,400 and in 1989 to 112,000 (with 39,100 in Minsk, 31,800 in Gomel province, and 18,400 in Mogilev province). Nearly 70,000 emigrated in the 1989–93 period, mainly to Israel and the United States, and the Jewish population was further reduced through emigration to 27,798 in 1999 and 24,300 in 2002. The main umbrella organization coordinating all Jewish activities in the country was the Belarus Union of Jewish Organizations and Communities, operating in 20 cities, most of them with synagogues and Jewish schools. Minsk had a Jewish People's University operating as an evening school and affiliated with the Belarus State University. In 1994 a Center for Jewish National Culture was opened in Minsk, as was a Center for the History of the Jews of Belarus in Vitebsk. In all, over 100 Jewish organizations were in operation throughout the country.

One Jew was elected to the republic's Supreme Soviet in 1990. Antisemitism within the Belorussian national movement militated against its receiving support from Jewish organizations. Antisemitic propaganda was rife in such publications as Politicheskii sobesednik, Slavianskie vedomosti, Sem'dnei, My I vremia, and Prognoz. The year 1991 saw the desecration of the Jewish cemetery in Borisov and in 1994 cemeteries were desecrated in Gomel, Mogilev, and Haradok, Vitebsk region. Antisemitic incidents continued to occur sporadically throughout the decade. Right-wing organized antisemitic activities in Belarus came mainly from pan-Slavic organizations which advocated a close union with Russia and were supported by their counterparts there. Such organizations included "Slaviane" (The Slavs), "Bratsva Slavian" (Brotherhood of Slavs), "Slavianskii Sobor – Belaia Rus" (Slavic Council – White Russia), On Independence Day in 1994 about 1,000 extremist nationalists marched through Minsk bearing slogans such as 'Belarus only for the Belorussians."

The monthly Jewish newspaper Aviv began to appear in 1992 and by 1993 there were five Jewish periodicals appearing in Belarus. In 1992 Rabbi Yitzḥak Volpin came from New York to occupy the long vacant pulpit in the Minsk synagogue. In the spring of the same year Belarus established diplomatic relations with Israel.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

U. Schmelz and S. DellaPergola, in: AJYB, 1995, 478; S. DellaPergola, "World Jewish Population 2002," ibid. (2002), 623ff.; Supplement to the Monthly Bulletin of Statistics, 2 (1995); Y. Florsheim, in: Jews in Eastern Europe, 1:26 (1995), 25–33; M. Beizer and I. Klimenko, in Jews in Eastern Europe, 1 (24) 1995, 25–33; Anti-Semitism Worldwide (1994), Tel Aviv University, 132–134. WEBSITE: www.worldjewishcongress.org; www.fjc.ru.

[Daniel Romanowski and

Michael Beizer]


Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.