The borders of what is now the present-day Kyrgyz Republic, or Kyrgyzstan, were first drawn up after the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. After gaining some autonomy as the Kara-Kyrgyz Autonomous Oblast within the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, it then became a Soviet Socialist Republic – the Kirghiz SSR – within the Soviet Union in 1936. During the German-Soviet War it served as one of the USSR’s main evacuation hubs. On 31 August 1991, Kyrgyzstan declared independence.
On the eve of the German invasion, the Kirghiz Soviet Socialist Republic had an estimated population of one million people. About 2,000 Jews lived in the Kirghiz SSR, most of whom were Ashkenazi who had arrived in the region following the establishment of the Soviet rule. Bukharan Jews lived mainly in the Southern cities of Osh and Jalalabad. They were part of the indigenous populations of Central Asia. In 1941/42, approximately ten to twenty thousand Jews arrived in Kyrgyzstan as evacuees, refugees or exiles. Most of them returned when the war ended, but a considerable number chose to stay.
The Agency of Archives of the Republic of Kyrgyzstan is responsible for the country’s archives. In order to obtain access to archives in Kyrgyzstan, foreign nationals should submit a written application including a letter of recommendation on site. It is strongly advised to contact the archive in advance. Written permission is given by the director of the archive and is valid for one calendar year. There are no archival guides available online and only few printed available on site, but they are limited and fragmented.
EHRI has identified over fifteen archival institutions in Kyrgyzstan which hold Holocaust-related material. Four of them are located in the republic’s capital Bishkek. The most relevant archives for Holocaust research include the Central State Archive of the Kyrgyz Republic in Bishkek. Its collections include a fond on the evacuation authority and personal registration evacuation cards, and various files dealing with the Polish government-in-exile. Similar files of a more local provenance are conserved by the regional archives, mainly in Osh, Kant and Tokmak.
Outside of Kyrgyzstan, EHRI has identified and partially described archival institutions and/or collections relevant for research on Kyrgyzstan.
A. EHRI approach to Kyrgyzstan: Pre-existing research, available archival guides, expert support
For a general overview of the Central Archive in Kyrgyzstan, which is available in Russian only, see:
This site lists contacts to regional archives in Russian.
There is also a Kyrgyz web resource dedicated to the Second World War which contains many documents related to the role of the Kirghiz SSR in the war effort and the USSR’s evacuation policies (in Russian and Kyrgyz):
B. Characteristics of the Kyrgyz archival system and specific challenges
The majority of the central and regional Kyrgyz archives were founded during the pre-war Soviet period. Consequently, most of them are based on the Soviet system of cataloging and most of the inventory files are written in Russian to this day. There are other archival institutions that were established or restructured after Kyrgyzstan’s independence. The former Archive of the Communist Party of Kyrgyzstan was renamed the Central State Archive of Social-Political Documentation. It holds a considerable collection of decrees related to the evacuation, the war effort and the fate of the Jews. As a result of regime changes and administrative reforms, some archival institutions in Kyrgyzstan have been renamed, which may cause some initial confusion among researchers.
C. EHRI identification and description results
C.I. In Kyrgyzstan
In Kyrgyzstan, EHRI identified over fifteen archival institutions which hold or may hold Holocaust-relevant material. Four of the most important of them are concentrated in the republic’s former capital, Bishkek. The Central State Archive alone stores some 4,000 fonds, and the regional archives of Osh, Tokmok and Jalal-Abad hold a similarly impressive number of collections. Given the scale of mass evacuation and escape to Kyrgyzstan during the Second World War, many Holocaust-relevant collections are either known to be stored or can be expected to be found in the country’s archives.
C.II. In other countries
Outside of Kyrgyzstan, EHRI has identified and partially described archival institutions and/or collections that may prove relevant to Holocaust research on Kyrgyzstan. For instance, the State Archives of the Russian Federation and the Russian State Archives of Socio-Political History (former Central Communist Party Archive) in Moscow hold records and circulars sent to various Socialist Republics and have a large fonds on evacuation. In Israel, Yad Vashem holds documentation from archives in Kyrgyzstan from 1930 to 1960 and the Archives of the History of the Jewish people in Jerusalem also hold a handful of collections related to this period. Furthermore, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum stores selected records from the Central State Archive of Kyrgyzstan.