Until 1924, today’s Kropyvnytskyi was called Yelisavetgrad, in the years 1924-1934 – Zinovyevsk, and in the years 1934-1939 – Kirovo. The first Jews began settling there in late 18th century. The migration of Jews from northern governorates to Novorossiya resulted in the rapid growth of the Jewish population of Yelisavetgrad. In 1851, there were 8,073 Jews living in the town. According to the census conducted in 1897, Yelisavetgrad had 23,967 Jewish residents (39% of the total population).

On the night of 15 April 1881, during the Orthodox feast of Easter, a pogrom of Jews took place in Yelisavetgrad. The perpetrators were local burghers, lumpenproletariat, and peasants from the neighbouring villages, who came to the town after the pogrom with the intention of looting Jewish property. Many Jewish shops and houses were plundered and one Jew was murdered. The pogrom was suppressed by the army, which opened fire at the rioting crowd.

In 1880, Jakub Gordin established a Bible Society in Yelisavetgrad with the intention of reforming the Jewish religion and customs. Towards the end of the 19th century, many local Jews supported Russification and assimilation. This tendency was opposed by Zionist activists led by Vladimir Temkin, born in Yelisavetgrad.

At the end of the 19th century, Jews from Yelisavetgrad were mainly engaged in trade and industry. Most of the local mills, distilleries and tobacco factories were owned by Jews. Among Yelisavetgrad’s Jews, 522 worked in the tobacco industry, 383 were auxiliary labourers, and 3,164 were craftsmen (mostly tailors and shoemakers). The Jewish community ran a number of charities, including the Society for the Relief of the Poor, the Loan Fund, and the Jewish Hospital with a clinic. Following the manifesto of 17 October 1905, another pogrom of Jews occurred in Yelisavetgrad, perpetrated mainly by industrial workers. In 1909, there were 17 Jewish schools in the town, as well as several cheders, a Talmud Torah school, and the Secondary Technical and Vocational School.

During World War I, many Jews fleeing from the front line found shelter in Yelisavetgrad. In the years of the revolution and civil war, several pogroms took place in the town. One of them occurred on 15 May 1919. It was carried out by a military formation under the command of Ataman N. Hryhorjev, rebelling against the communist rule. Within two days, the perpetrators murdered between 1,500 and 3,000 Jews. The pogrom was stopped by the Red Army's troops entering the town. In the years 1917–1919, Jewish magazines and newspapers were published in Yelisavetgrad, but their editorial offices were soon closed down by the communist authorities. Jewish organisations met the same fate. In the 1920s, the religious life of Jews was subject to numerous persecutions. In 1926, about 18,500 Jews lived in the town (27.6% of the total population).

On 14 August 1941, German troops entered Kirovograd. From August 1941 to January 1942, Jews who had not fled from the town were shot dead by Wehrmacht soldiers and the Ukrainian Auxiliary Police. In August 1941, the Nazis set up a POW camp for Soviet soldiers (stalag) near Kirovograd. As in other camps of this type, Germans searched out Jewish prisoners and shot them on site.

After the war, the Jewish survivors returned to the city. Soviet authorities continued to impose limitations on Jewish religious and social life. In 1957, the Kirovograd synagogue was closed down. In 1970, about 10,000 Jews lived in the city. In the years 1989–2004, most Jewish residents left the city and migrated to Israel, USA, Germany and other countries.