Grozny already boasts one of the largest mosques in Europe. Now, the Chechen capital is also due to become home to a new synagogue.
The foundation stone of the new Jewish place of worship is scheduled to be laid
on January 9 on the site of a 19th-century Ashkenazi synagogue, which was turned into a music school in 1937.
Like much of the rest of Grozny, the music school was destroyed during the first Chechen war in the mid-1990s.
The Jerusalem soccer club Beitar is also scheduled to arrive
in Grozny on the same day for a friendly match with the Russian team Terek Grozny. According to the Caucasian Knot news agency, the Israeli team will take part in the ceremony.
A Grozny town hall representative told Caucasian Knot that the idea to build a synagogue first arose in 2007 at an international forum called “Islam: Religion of Peace and Creation,” which was held in the Chechen capital.
At that event, Rabbi Zinovy Kogan, the chairman of the Russian Congress of Jewish Religious Organizations and Associations, suggested to Chechnya's leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, that a synagogue should be built in Grozny in order to revive the Jewish community.
According to the Jewish Virtual Library, the number of Jews in Grozny was estimated
to be around 10,000 in 1970.
However, during the first and second Chechen wars in the 1990s, the majority of Chechnya’s Jewish community emigrated to other parts of Russia and Israel.
Data on the number of Jewish families still residing in Grozny is not available. In 1995, in the middle of the first Chechen war, the Associated Press news agency reported
that Israel had "evacuated nearly all the Jews from strife-torn Chechnya.”
Details about the appearance or cost of the synagogue have not been disclosed, apart from the fact that the synagogue will be built close to the Akhmad Kadyrov Mosque.
Officially named Heart of Chechnya, this mosque is one of Europe’s largest
and can accommodate up to 10,000 worshippers.
Thanks to the billions of dollars of aid from Moscow, Chechnya and most notably, Grozny, have undergone a dramatic transformation
from a war-ravaged town to a city of skyscrapers and impressive boulevards.
It was only a decade ago that the UN described Grozny as "the most destroyed city on Earth,” as a result of the fighting during the first and second Chechen wars.
-- RFE/RL’s North Caucasus Service and Deana Kjuka