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The Jews of Russia: Part I
By Mike Martin - February 15, 2009


Jewish Dancers: Conference of Presidents
There are records showing the existence of Jews in southern Russia and the surrounding areas of Ukraine, Armenia and Georgia as early as the 4th century. These included settlements of Jews from Armenia to the Crimea and they likely came to these parts of the world following their release or escape from Babylonian captivity. As these Jewish communities grew they influenced other people to convert to Judaism in the late 8th and early 9th centuries, including the Khazars who controlled much of what today is southern Russia including parts of Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and large portions of the Caucasus.

Once the Khazarian kingdom was overthrown many of these Jews migrated to Kiev and during the 11th and 12th centuries they occupied a separate part of Kiev which became known as the Jewish town. Jews from Babylonia and Palestine continued to migrate north to join this community and were later joined by their Ashkenazi cousins from southern Europe. This trickle of Ashkenazi migrants became a torrent after Jews became expelled from Spain, Portugal, England and France in the 14th and 15th centuries.

Some of these exiled Jews also accepted an invitation from Casimir III, the Polish ruler to move to Poland and the areas it controlled in Eastern Europe and became middlemen for the Polish ruler and were involved in collecting taxes and tolls for the Polish nobility. As in many other places they also became involved in money lending and other commercial enterprises.

Jews are first recorded in Moscow or the territory of Muscovy as it was known at the time in 1471 and for a period it appears that they lived peacefully and without many restrictions on their trades or movements.
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