Kharkiv Newest Jewish Cemetery
The exact period of the cemetery’s establishment is unknown. Given the oldest preserved tombstone dates to the first half of the 20th century, it can be gathered the cemetery was founded in that era.
Kharkiv (Ukr. Харків, Rus. Харьков, Yid. כאַרקאָוו) had a Jewish presence in the early 18th century. The city was beyond the Pale of Settlement, so Jews were not officially allowed to settle here. Exceptions were made, however, for cantonists discharged from military service or merchants. The two groups formed separate congregations, each with its own synagogue. The city also had a Karaite community of a few hundred. Kharkiv’s important fairs attracted thousands of Jewish traders, and a large number of Jews lived in Kharkiv without residence permits despite the continued efforts by the police to deport them. In 1882, Kharkiv students founded Bilu, one of the earliest Zionist groups to settle in Palestine, and the city remained a major Zionist centre until the 1920s. During the late 19th century the Jewish population grew from 775 in 1863 to 11,013 (6% of the city) in 1897.
In the early 20th century, the city had 5 synagogues, a Jewish hospital as well as various Jewish charities and schools. Thousands of Jewish refugees from German-occupied western parts of the Russian Empire arrived in 1915. Unlike most communities in Ukraine, Kharkiv did not experience a pogrom during the revolutions of 1917 and the ensuing Civil War. In 1919, Kharkiv became the capital of Soviet Ukraine, although this was transferred to Kyiv in 1934. The Jewish population grew to over 81,000 (20%( in 1926.
The Soviet authorities persecuted Jewish religious activities and Zionist groups and promoted Yiddish-language secular Jewish culture. The city had Jewish press and a Jewish theatre, Yiddish was the language of instruction in 4 elementary schools, a high school, a teacher-training college, and a Jewish department of a technical school for newspaper personnel.
In 1939, there were 130,250 Jews (16%) in Kharkiv. Apparently, most of them were able to evacuate before the German army captured Kharkiv in October 1941. A Judenrat was established in November 1941, and around -10,000 Jews were forced into a ghetto in December. The majority of them were killed at Drobytskyi Yar in January 1942. Around 400 sick or elderly Jews were locked in the synagogue on Meshchanskaia Street, where they died of cold and hunger.
After WWII, the Jews began to return and a Jewish religious congregation was reestablished in 1945. In 1959, the Jewish population of Kharkiv was around 65,000. The 70s & 80s saw a revival of Zionist activism and a mass emigration to Israel and the USA. The Jewish population dropped from around 90,000 in 1979 to around 49,000 in 1989, another 15,000 Jews emigrated in the 1990s. Today Kharkiv has several Jewish religious, cultural and educational institutions. According to the 2001 census, Kharkiv had a Jewish population of 11,176.
It is not known when exactly Jews began using this section of the cemetery. The earliest Jewish tombstone dates back to 1926.