Minsk is the capital of Belarus, its political and cultural center, as well as the biggest city in the country. Minsk was founded on the banks of Nemiga and Svisloch rivers in 1067. Minsk is the cultural, economical and political center of Belarus.
Jews have inhabited the city starting from the 16th century. Although, the chronicles say that already in 1489, the one that was responsible for custom taxes was a Jew named Danilevich.
Throughout 16th-18th centuries, the Jews were given a privilege to trade, but then the right was taken. The pattern continued several times, while the trading right was given and taken back by the local authorities. During the Russian-Polish war, Jews left Minsk. However, they returned back under the Polish rule. After that, despite numerous religious conflicts between the Jews and local Christian population, as well as pogroms the community grew and developed.
Territorially, Minsk entered the Jewish-inhabited region in 1835, the fact that, along with Polish uprising of the same year, caused to growth of Jewish population within Minsk. Any settlement of Jews outside of the "Jewish line" was forbidden, so as for 1895, the Jewish population of Minsk comprised more than a half of the city's population, standing at 47,560 people.
During the WWII there were three ghettos established in Minsk. Along with local population, big amount of Jews from Hungary, Austria, Czechoslovakia etc. were brought to the ghettos and executed there. The victims number stands at 80,000 approximately. Although, according to historical statistics, thousands of Jews managed to escape the ghettos and join partisan battalions in the forests. After the war, 6,000 Jews returned to the city, while only 13 managed to survive hiding from the Nazis inside Minsk.
Religious life of the community:
The first of the two Minsk yeshivas was established in 1685. One of its significant teachers was rabbi Yechiel Alperin. The second yeshiva was opened in 1733 by Asher Ginzburg. Both yeshivas had been prominent in local religious life, enrolling students from Lithuania and Poland as well.
The local community of Minsk was comprised from the "mitnagdim" followers mostly, however there were hassids as well, that had their own synagogues.
In the 19th many of the community Jews followed the socialist wave, taking part in the political life of the city. There were followers of Zionism as well, whose target was buying lands in Palestine (Eretz Israel).
Y.L. Perelman, a prominent Rabbi was the head Rabbi of the city and the head of yeshiva in 1883-1896.
The Soviet anti-Semitic campaign started in 1948, after Solomon Michoels, the art figure, director and the People's Artist of USSR, was killed in Minsk. He had much cultural influence not only for the Soviet Jews, as well as for those living abroad. As a result, the Jewish theatre and the local synagogue were closed down in 1959, and the Jews were forbidden to bury their dead at the local Jewish cemetery.
The Jewish culture experienced revival since the late 1970's, when some unofficial courses for learning Hebrew were opened. The synagogue was reopened in 1980.
There are two Jewish newspapers, including "Aviv" established in 2002, and "Berega" ("Shores").
There are two Jewish schools, a kindergarten, a culture club, yeshiva and two synagogues in Minsk among the public organisations.
The population of modern Minsk is almost 2 million people, including Belarusians, Russians, Poles and Jews as well among others.
Places of interest:
• The "Yama" ("Hole") Holocaust memorial, established at the place of mass executions.