Russia: Jewish presence already in sharp decline between 2010 and early 2021 – study

JTA — The exile of Russian Jews sparked by the invasion of Ukraine by Vladimir Putin’s forces has drawn particular attention over the past year. But according to statistics recently released by Russia’s official statistical office, the country’s Jewish population had already declined markedly long before the conflict.

The figures, which were released last month by Russia’s Federal State Statistical Service, revealed that only 82,644 people identified as Jewish in the national census conducted in 2021.

Almost 2,000 people presented themselves as belonging to related categories: Mountain Jews (originating from Azerbaijan and the Caucasus Mountains), Israelis living in Russia, Georgian Jews, Bukharian Jews (originating from Uzbekistan and Central Asia), Karaites and Krymchaks (originally from Crimea), according to Russian Jewish news outlet Lechaim.

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In contrast, the previous census that was carried out in Russia – that was in 2010 – showed that 160,000 people presented themselves as Jewish or as belonging to related groups, which suggests a drop in the Jewish population of more than 50 % over the past decade. During the same period, the total population increased by 3.5%.

The only Jewish groups on the rise, according to, are the Karaites – a 7th century sect that had split from rabbinic Judaism – and the Krymchaks. These two populations have always been concentrated, throughout history, in the Crimean peninsula, an area that was annexed by Russia in 2014, which means that they were not included in the 2010 census.

These figures do not take into account the mass exodus of Russian Jews since the start of the war in Ukraine. They would have been 20,000 to leave Russia in the first months which followed the beginning of the offensive and this exile suggests that the Jewish population could represent less than 60,000 people in total today.

A majority of Russian Jews who left the country appear to have gone to live in Israel. According to the Jewish Agency, which facilitates immigration to the Jewish state, around 66,800 Russians made aliyah between 2010 and 2019. The group is currently subject to sanctions over its activities in the country under the Putin’s crackdown on foreigners, measures decided in response to Russia’s isolation on the world stage since its invasion of Ukraine, without justification.

The influx of Russians and Ukrainians arriving in Israel last year has sparked a dispute within the Jewish state over immigration rules that allow anyone with a Jewish grandparent to apply for citizenship. These rules mean that immigrants from Russia did not necessarily identify themselves as Jews in the country’s census.

There may have been other Russian Jews who escaped the census. Lechaim noted that 17 million people either did not give their nationality or identified as having no nationality — a move that Jews, whose national identity can be complicated regardless of the country where they reside, may have. were likely to take in a country which, not so long ago, still practiced state anti-Semitism.

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Russia: Jewish presence already in sharp decline between 2010 and early 2021 – study