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IRKUTSK, city in Russia. Several Jews settled in Irkutsk at the beginning of the 19th century, of whom the majority were sent there as prisoners or exiles. Subsequently, Jewish soldiers discharged from the army of Nicholas I (see *Cantonists) settled in the city. The Jewish population grew from 1,000 in 1875, to 3,610 in 1897 (7.1% of the total), and 6,100 in 1909 (5.6%). Jews played a considerable role in the city's commerce and industry and in the development of the gold mines in the vicinity. After the 1917 Revolution, a Jewish political exile, P.M. Rubinstein, was appointed president of the newly founded Irkutsk University. There were 7,159 Jews in Irkutsk in 1926 (7.2% of the total population), 7,100 (2.8%) in 1939, and 10,313 in Irkutsk oblast in 1959. In 1970 the city's Jewish population was estimated at about 15,000. There was one synagogue, but no rabbi or cantor. In the early 21st century there were an estimated 5,000 Jews still in the city, with community life revolving around the synagogue and Chabad rabbi Aaron Wagner.


V. Voitinsky, Yevrei v Irkutske (1915).

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