The city of Irkutsk, which is located in Eastern Siberia, is steeped in Jewish history. In the 18th century, a Jewish cemetery called ‘the Mountain of Jerusalem’ was opened near the Catholic and Lutheran cemeteries. Over the next century, more than 120,000 Jews were buried there until its closing at the end of the 19th century. Even after the cemetery was closed, Jews continued burying their deceased in the vicinity of the cemetery.
The Soviet Revolution brought with it hatred towards all things religious and Jewish. In their vigor to destroy the memory of religion, they destroyed everything that reminded its citizens of their past. The Mountain of Jerusalem cemetery was destroyed, wiping out the local Jews connection to their ancestors in the process.
The resting place of the Jewish ancestors became the ‘Central Park of Culture and Relaxation’. A Jew who refused to stroll through the park, walking on the remnants of his grandparents, was considered an enemy of the state. Therefore, the grandchildren forgot and the memory of their ancestors was erased as the Soviet’s evil plan took form.
Tremendous effort by the Interfaith Council bore fruit and the park was renamed ‘the Mountain of Jerusalem Memorial Complex’. An important decision was agreed upon that memorial structures and signs would be constructed in the area. In October 2018, during the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the Irkutsk Jewish community, the President of FJCR, Rabbi Alexander Borod, laid a stone from Jerusalem on the future site of a memorial monument.
Construction of the memorial monument, which is a replica of the original monument that stood on the site in the 19th century, began on July 19, 2019. It is due to be unveiled late this summer. Opening is scheduled for late summer. The sculptor is a local architect named Andrei Krasilnikov.