Heritage Tours: Jews and Mennonites of Central Asia
Jewish Heritage along the Great Silk Road
Countries: Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan
Tour duration: 22 days
The Bukharan Jews trace their ancestry to Israelites who never came back from the Babylonian captivity after exile in the 7th century BCE. In Central Asia, they survived for centuries subject to many conquering influences. The community was essentially cut off from the rest of the Jewish world for more than 2,000 years and managed to survive in the face of countless odds. They are considered one of the oldest ethno-religious groups of Central Asia and over the years they have developed their own distinct culture.
Most Bukharan Jews lived in Emirate of Bukhara, currently Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, while a small number lived in Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan and some other parts of the former Soviet Union. In Emirate of Bukhara, the largest concentrations were in Samarkand, Bukhara, and Khokand. In Tajikistan, they similarly were mainly concentrated in the capital, Dushanbe. The term "Bukharian" was coined by European travelers who visited Central Asia around the 16th century. Since most of the Jewish community at the time lived under the Emirate of Bukhara, they came to be known as Bukharan Jews. Bukharan Jews used the Persian language to communicate among themselves and later developed "Bukhori", a distinct dialect of the Tajiki-Persian language with certain linguistic traces of Hebrew. This language provided easier communication with their neighboring communities and was used for all cultural and educational life among the Jews. It was used widely until the area was "russified" by the Russians and the dissemination of "religious" information was halted. Almost all Bukharan Jews today speak Russian& minority use Bukhori.
During this tour you will visit several Jewish communities in Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, you will get to know the life of Jews and local people, and enjoy views of amazing landscapes and charm of ancient mausoleums.
The History of Mennonites in Central Asia
Countries: Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan
Tour duration: 19 days
Mennonites of Central Asia are a group of Mennonites of German language, tradition and ethnicity, who are descendants from German-Dutch Anabaptists who settled for about 250 years in West Prussia and established colonies in the south west of the Russian Empire (present-day Ukraine) beginning in 1789. Since the late 19th century, many of them have come to countries throughout the Western Hemisphere. The rest were forcibly relocated, so that few of their descendants now live at the location of the original colonies.
Catherine the Great of Russia issued a Manifesto in 1763 inviting all Europeans to come and settle various pieces of land within Russia, especially in the Volga River region. For a variety of reasons, Germans responded to this in large numbers.
In the 1880's, Mennonite families in South Russia sold their prosperous estates and joined a migration to what is now Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. They were driven by hopes that the Second Coming would occur in Central Asia, and by the loss of their exemption from military service. They settled in the Talas Valley of Turkestan and in the Khanate of Khiva.
Mennonites had good relations with locals. They were familiar with local language, culture, traditions and almost didn’t use Russian language.
In Soviet period Mennonites were persecuted by religious and national reasons. Massive repressions were held during the Second World War as local state executives were recognizing them as Germans. Mennonites were registered as special migrants and their civil rights were restored only in 1950s.
Emigration of Mennonites from Central Asian states had a negative influence on economy of these countries.