Until 1918, Estonia was part of Russia. From 1919 to 1940, it was an independent republic, and from then, until independence in 1991, it was part of the Soviet Union. In 1897, about 4,000 Jews lived in Estonia. By 1939, the number had increased to about 4,300. The following map from the Encyclopedia Judaica shows the principal areas of Jewish settlement.
After the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, about 3,000 Jews managed to escape to the Russian interior. All the Jews remaining in the zone of German occupation were murdered by the end of 1941. After the war, Jews returned to Estonia, and by 1959, the Jewish population was over 5,000. As of 1993, there were about 3,000 Jews in the country.
Tartu (Dorpat in Swedish) is a city in eastern Estonia. The Jewish community was founded in the 1860's, and the first synagogue was completed in 1876. At its peak, the Jewish population exceeded 1,700. The picture postcard below depicts the synagogue in Tartu.
Encyclopedia Judaica, CD-Rom Edition, Keter Publishing
Copyright © 1998-99 Edward Victor