IRKUTSK , city in Russia. Several Jews settled in Irkutsk at the beginning of the 19th century, of whom the majority were sent there as prisoners or exiles. Subsequently, Jewish soldiers discharged from the army of Nicholas i (see *Cantonists) settled in the city. The Jewish population grew from 1,000 in 1875, to 3,610 in 1897 (7.1% of the total), and 6,100 in 1909 (5.6%). Jews played a considerable role in the city's commerce and industry and in the development of the gold mines in the vicinity. After the 1917 Revolution, a Jewish political exile, P.M. Rubinstein, was appointed president of the newly founded Irkutsk University. There were 7,159 Jews in Irkutsk in 1926 (7.2% of the total population), 7,100 (2.8%) in 1939, and 10,313 in Irkutsk oblast in 1959. In 1970 the city's Jewish population was estimated at about 15,000. There was one synagogue, but no rabbi or cantor. In the early 21st century there were an estimated 5,000 Jews still in the city, with community life revolving around the synagogue and Chabad rabbi Aaron Wagner.
V. Voitinsky, Yevrei v Irkutske (1915).
Irkutsk (Ĭrkōōtsk´), city (1989 pop. 626,000), capital of Irkutsk region, S Siberian Russia, at the confluence of the Angara and Irkut rivers. It is an industrial center, a port, the site of a hydroelectric dam, and a major stop on the Trans-Siberian RR. Manufactures include aircraft, automobiles, machine tools, textiles, chemicals, food products, and metals. Founded as a Cossack fortress in 1654, Irkutsk became the capital of Eastern Siberia in 1822. It has been a place of exile since the 18th cent. Many of the Decembrists settled in Irkutsk after their imprisonment, and a few of their houses are now open as tourist sites. In the city are a university (founded 1918) and several agricultural, medical, and technical schools. The Irkutsk dam has raised the level of nearby Lake Baykal by 20 ft (6 m).