A SONG OF MOURNING FOR THE DISSOLVING JEWISH COMMUNITY OF SAMARKAND

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Abstract

Before 1991, approximately 60,000 Central Asian Jews lived in Uzbekistan. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, their centurieslong history in the region underwent dramatic changes. The lifting of emigration restrictions coupled with fear of economic chaos, political instability, growth of national movements and a rise in antisemitism, provoked massive Jewish emigration. Today, only about 4,000 Central Asian Jews remain in Uzbekistan. The others have emigrated primarily to the United States, Israel and Austria. The following piece is about the Central Asian Jews who still live in Samarkand, Uzbekistan's second largest city. Today, about one thousand—only ten percent of the city's former community—remain there. Those who have stayed have all watched while relatives and friends have packed their belongings, sold their homes and left the country. They have witnessed the community structure crumble and they have seen the city's old Jewish quarter been sold off, house by house, to outsiders. Today, they are each faced with the question: What is home and where is it now? The work is fiction, informed by an anthropological perspective. The narrative was woven from ethnographic data that I collected during field work among the Central Asian Jews in Samarkand.

A SONG OF MOURNING FOR THE DISSOLVING JEWISH COMMUNITY OF SAMARKAND

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