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Date: 2011
Abstract: A profound transformation of the cultural memory in the former Soviet Union has resulted in deep changes in the cultural identities of all Soviet—and ex-Soviet—ethnic and religious groups. This transformation led to a change of perceptions about sacred and profane spaces and the connections of these spaces to the urban landscape. As a result of complex historical and cultural processes, contemporary Russian Jewry is a highly heterogeneous community and its perception of traditional Jewish sacred places— synagogues, cemeteries, saints’ tombs—is that they have lost their function. During the Soviet era these places had often not been considered by Jews as sacred. Moreover, non-Jewish sacred places, like Christian churches, had, paradoxically,in some cases, become Jewish sacred places. The so-called Jewish renaissance in post-Soviet Russia has led to a revived interest in Judaism and Jewish traditions. Therefore, Jewish communal centers, philanthropic and youth organizations, centers for economic support, leisure time activities and places for Jewish sentiments and memories function as Jewish sacred places. This inversion of sacred and profane spaces, typical of post-modern culture, is visible, especially in small urban centers, where there are no synagogues and where the role of secular or semi-secular Jewish organizations is growing. In this article I will try to demonstrate the specifics of Jewish sacred and profane spaces in modern Russian urban centers.