UZBEKISTAN, one of the independent CIS republics from 1990, formerly a U.S.S.R. republic in Soviet Central Asia.
The Jews in Uzbekistan were affiliated with two communities: (1) the ancient one, the Jews of *Bukhara, who speak a Tajik-Jewish dialect; (2) the new one, of Eastern European origin.
According to their tradition, the Bukharan Jews emigrated from *Persia at the time of the persecutions of King Peroz (458–485), while some consider themselves descendants of the exiles of Samaria, on the assumption that "Habor" (II Kings 17:6) is Bukhara. Anthropological examinations undertaken by L.V. Usbanin in 1926–29 proved that they originated in the Middle East, although there is no information on their exact non-Jewish origin. Precise information on the spiritual works of the Jews of Uzbekistan is, however, available only from the 14th century onward.
Jews of Uzbekistan emigrated to Khazaria and *China because of their location at the crossroads of the caravans that traveled there. The principal traffic between the Muslim world and Itil (*Atil), the capital of Khazaria, passed through northern Uzbekistan, and the information on "many Jews who came to the king of the Khazars from the towns of the Muslims" (the author al-Masʿūdī, of the tenth century) and the Jews who came "from Khurasan and strengthened the hands of the inhabitants of the country" (the anonymous "Cambridge Document") refers essentially to the Jews of Uzbekistan, which was considered an annexed territory of Iranian Eastern Khurasan.
There is a tradition concerning another wave of Jewish emigration from *Iran to Uzbekistan as a result of the Mongolian conquests of the 13th century, and the surnames of the Jews of Uzbekistan show that even during subsequent periods emigrants from Iranian-speaking communities of the west and the south were integrated among them. In modern times, however, the fanatical Muslim domination severely prejudiced the growth and economic development of the community. The Russian conquest of the 19th century came as a blessing, especially in those regions subjected to direct Russian rule, where the local Jews were granted complete judicial equality with the native Muslims and enjoyed rights which the Russian government withheld from the Jews of Eastern Europe (such as the freedom to acquire real estate). A migration from Bukhara to *Tashkent continued through several generations. The economic progress of these Jews was also reflected in their considerable contribution to the Jewish settlement of Ereẓ Israel. The Soviet regime, which liquidated private commerce, brought about the transfer of the more than 200,000 local Jews into administrative positions, industry and agriculture.
The Soviet regime did not bring about any considerable emigration of East European Jews to Uzbekistan because of linguistic difficulties and the warring gangs of Muslim insurgents (Basmachi) of the 1920s and 1930s. World War II, however, suddenly converted Uzbekistan into an important Jewish center. The Jews of the western and central European U.S.S.R. found refuge there, and Tashkent accommodated some of the Jewish institutions of Moscow. Many Jews who had been deported by the Soviet regime between 1939 and 1941 from the annexed eastern parts of Poland and the Baltic states to labor camps or exile in Siberia because of "bourgeois" class origin or political affiliations (Zionist or socialist) also migrated to Uzbekistan upon their release from the camps or places of exile. Some succeeded in continuing on to Palestine through *Persia, either as Polish soldiers in General Anders' army or as orphaned children (the so-called "Teheran children"). With the retreat of the German army from Eastern Europe, many of the refugees and evacuees returned to their places of origin,
[Abraham N. Poliak]
In Independent Uzbekistan
In 1979 Uzbekistan had 99,900 Jews and in 1989 94,900, including 51,400 in Tashkent. A large proportion of Jews in the republic were Central Asian (Bukharan) Jews who mainly lived in Samarkand, Tashkent, and Bukhara and spoke the Jewish dialect of Tajik. They preserved their identity more than the local Ashkenazi Jews.
Emigration in 1989 was recorded at 4,358 Jews (with 2,379 from Tashkent, 218 from Fergana province, and 772 from Samarkand province). Emigration to Israel in 1990 totaled 20,192, with 9,786 from Tashkent. Emigration rose from Fergana province and Andizhan in the wake of the violent ethnic conflicts there. After the pogrom against Jews and Armenians in Andizhan in May 1990, emigration from that province jumped to 2,202. In 1991, 13,515 Jews went from Uzbekistan to Israel, including 7,179 from Tashkent and 1,220 from Andizhan. In 1992, 5,533 immigrants to Israel from this country constituted 9.1 percent of the entire immigration wave from the former U.S.S.R., and in 1993, Uzbekistan, with its 8,471 emigrants to Israel, contributed 14.0% to the whole "Soviet" aliyah of that year. At the end of the process of emigration during the 1990s around 5,500 Jews remained in Uzbekistan, mostly in Tashkent. Tashkent had a Jewish culture center. The monthly newspaper Shofar in Russian and Tajik began appearing in Samarkand in 1992. Two Jews were elected to the Supreme Soviet of the republic in 1990.
An air route from Tashkent to Israel via Varna was inaugurated in June 1991. The Jewish Agency has been operating openly since January 1992. Diplomatic relations were established between Uzbekistan, independent since 1991, and Israel in 1992.
R. Loewenthal, The Jews of Bukhara (1961); Z.L. Amitin-Shapiro, Ocherk pravovogo byta sredneaziatskikh yevreyev (1931); idem, Ocherki sotsialisticheskogo stroitelstva sredi sredneaziatskikh yevreyev (1933); U. Schmelz and S. DellaPergola, in: AJYB (1995), 478; Supplement to the Monthly Bulletin of Statistics, 2 (1995); Mezhdunarodnaia Evreiskaia Gazeta (MEG), 1993–94.
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.