History of the Tajikistan Jewish Community
The first Jews, belonging to a Bukharian (Farsi-speaking) community, appeared on the territory of today’s Tajikistan in the 17th-18th centuries. Ashkenazi Jews join them in the 20th – most of them specialists and their families, arriving in Soviet times. In 1959, the Jewish population of Tajikistan was estimated at 13.4 thousand people. This number dropped to 11,000 in 1989. The only institutional setting functioning in the Soviet period was the synagogues in Dushanbe and Khujand (then Leninabad).
Because of the general instability in the late 1980s and early 1990s (there was a civil war between 1992 and 1997), most of Tajikistan’s Jews have emigrated, mainly to Israel, and some to the USA and Russia. Now after the mass emigration, the Jewish population of Tajikistan is estimated between several hundred and 2,000. According to official data, there are 600 Jews living in the state, most of them concentrated in Dushanbe (approx. 350), Khujand, and other regional centers of the country. Until recently the only functioning synagogue was in Dushanbe, but its building has now been dismantled. The synagogue in Khujand was closed in 1999.
Two Jewish public organizations were established in Tajikistan at the end of the 1980s: the Khaverim Society of Friends of the Jewish Culture and the Religious Community of Tajikistan Jews. The goal of the Khaverim Society (later – the Jewish Cultural Center) was to revive the Jewish culture, language, traditions, and customs. After the JCC director Gavriel Gavriilov was murdered in 1998, the center has ceased to exist.