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Jews in Pridnestrovie

Just over 100 years ago, almost a third of the population of Tiraspol were Jews. There were no less of them in other settlements of Transnistria. Breeders, merchants, shopkeepers, merchants, financiers, musicians, writers - the contribution of Jews to the economy and culture of the region is difficult to overestimate.

Jews have long lived in the territory of Pridnestrovie. They lived mainly in ancient cities. Many Jews came to our lands together with the Romans already in the 1st century AD. This is evidenced by archaeological excavations near the ancient city of Tyre, located on the right bank of the Dniester Estuary since the 6th century BC. Jewish graves were found on the site of this policy.

Subsequently, during the invasion of the barbarians in the 4th-5th centuries AD, most of the Jews left these places.

However, the Pridnestrovian land, located at the crossroads of the most important trade routes, continued to be attractive to Jewish merchants, as mentioned in the documents of the XII century.
At the beginning of the 16th century, a mass migration to our territory of Ashkenazi Jews began - immigrants from Germany, Poland and Lithuania.

Jewish communities of Pridnestrovie

    Map of the Jewish communities of Transnistria

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    One of the oldest settlements in Transnistria is the village of Rashkov. It was founded in 1600 as a defensive border town of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The first mention of the Jews of Rashkov dates back to the second quarter of the 17th century. In the central part of the village, the walls of an ancient Hasidic synagogue, built in the second half of the 18th century, have been preserved. It was preached by Rabbi Yakov Yosef, the author of the first Hasidic book, the closest student of Beshta, the founder of the Hasidic movement in Judaism. At this time, Rashkov became the center of the spiritual life of a large Jewish community. Here is the residence of the Hasidic rabbis of the Rashkov dynasty.

    In the early 1930s, during an anti-religious campaign, the vaults of the synagogue were destroyed. It has not been restored so far. Beshta taught that "every person lives in a mirror room, in which other people are his own reflection, only in different projections: a deceiver, a thief, a flatterer or a kind heart."

    Rashkov was one of the oldest Jewish settlements in Pridnestrovie, about 2,000 Jews (about half of the total population) lived in Rashkov before World War II.
    Historically, Rashkov belongs to Podolia, and the Jews of Rashkov were an integral part of the Jews of Podolia.
    In Rashkov, two Jewish cemeteries have been preserved, one of which dates back to the beginning of the 20th century, and the second is an old one with numerous tombstones of the 18th–19th centuries.

    Places and objects

    In the works of researchers of our region, one can find statements that in the middle of the 17th century, Jewish settlements were attacked by the Cossacks of Bogdan Khmelnitsky, and then by his son Timothy. However, the appearance of Jews in many places of Moldova and Transnistria also dates back to this time, where they had not been at all before, since simultaneously with emigration, they were also resettled in this territory.

    The main flow of Jews rushed to Pridnestrovie in the 70-90s of the XVIII century after the divisions of Poland (the Commonwealth) between Russia, Prussia and Austria.

    After the entry of Pridnestrovie into the Russian Empire, our region was included in the Pale of Settlement and, thus, the Jewish population of the region was actively growing. Jews from Poland, Ukraine, Belarus and other European countries came here.

    Pridnestrovie, and, subsequently, Bessarabia, which at that time included the Pridnestrovian Bendery with the surrounding villages, differed from other regions of the Russian Empire in a more loyal attitude towards Jewish communities, Jews and their culture. At least during the 19th century, pogroms were not observed in this territory. In addition, Jewish agricultural colonies arose and existed on the territory of Pridnestrovie and Russian Bessarabia. This phenomenon, unique for the Russian Empire, allowed the Jews to engage in, and in many cases very successfully, tobacco growing, farming, processing agricultural products, growing new varieties of grapes, etc. One of these colonies existed in the Bendery district in the 30-50s of the XIX century.

    The Jewish population was involved in most areas of activity: business people, artisans, merchants, workers, people of free professions - they contributed to the economic and cultural development of the region. Synagogues and prayer houses, charitable societies, hospitals and gymnasiums, melameds and pharmacists, editors and photographers, musicians and artists - this was what Jewish life in Tiraspol and Bendery consisted of.

    The isolated position of the Jewish population, closed to non-Christians, contributed to the preservation of traditions and culture. Compact living practically excluded the possibility of assimilation and made mixed marriages extremely rare. Children from Jewish families studied at a public elementary school and at the same time at a cheder, where they studied Hebrew and the basics of Judaism. Community projects were funded by the Jewish population.

    In general, according to some sources, about 40 thousand Jews lived on the territory of the MASSR, which was part of Soviet Ukraine from 1924 to 1940. The repressions of the 1930s in the USSR also affected the Jewish population of the MASSR. About 20% of the Jewish population of the region suffered from them.

    In 1940, after the annexation of Bessarabia to part of the MASSR and the formation of the Moldavian SSR, there were about 300,000 Jews in the republic.

    The first post-war census was conducted in 1959. According to her data, 96,000 Jews lived in the MSSR. To a large extent, these were those who survived the war, returned from evacuation and from state camps. In Moldova there was a very high percentage of the Jewish population in relation to all Soviet republics.

    According to the 1970 census, about 100,000 Jews lived in the MSSR. Subsequently, the share of the Jewish population in the total composition of the population of Moldova was constantly decreasing. So, according to the 1989 census, there were already 65,800 Jews left in Moldova. After the collapse of the Soviet Union and until the beginning of the 21st century, all data on the Jewish population of Moldova are mostly estimates.