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Encyclopaedia Judaica

Jews in Azerbaijan

Persian rule - Hūlāgū Khān - persecution - Czarist rule - Soviet times

from: Azerbaijan; In: Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971, vol. 3

presented by Michael Palomino (2008)


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AZERBAIJAN.

I. Persian. [Persian rule - Tabriz under Hūlāgū Khān - Karaites - persecutions since 17th century]

Former northwestern province of Iran. There have been Jewish settlements in Azerbaijan ever since Jews first settled in Persia. However, their presence is attested by documentary evidence only from the 12th century. *Benjamin of Tudela (c. 1165) refers in his "Travels" to a chain of "more than a hundred congregations in the Haftan mountains up to the frontiers of Media", which included Persian Azerbaijan. *Samuel b. Yaḥyā al-Maghribī relates that David *Alroy (12th century) found adherents for his messianic movement in such cities as Khoi, Salmas, *Tabriz, Maragha, and Urmia (*Rizaiyeh).

When after 1258 Hūlāgū Khān established his residence in Tabriz, the new center attracted many Jewish settlers. Sa'ad al-Dawla (d. 1291) made his career there as courtier. Tabriz, Sulṭāniyya, and other places in Azerbaijan continued to be a scene of Jewish events in the 13th and 14th centuries. Azerbaijan was also a *Karaite center. Under the Safavids, Jews are mentioned in several districts.

The Jews in Azerbaijan survived persecutions in the 17th century. Between 1711 and 1713 an emissary (shali'aḥ) from Hebron, Judah b. Amram Dīwān, visited many communities in Azerbaijan. The sufferings of the Jews under the Kajar dynasty (from 1794) in Maragha, Urmia, Salmas, and Tarbiz [[?]] is graphically described by Christian missionaries and various travelers of the 19th century, including *David d'Beth Hillel. The dialect of the Jews in various communities in Azerbaijan has been the object of investigations by western scholars such as *Noeldecke, *Socin, Duval, *Gottheil, Maclean, and J.J. *Rivlin.

[W.J.F.]

II. Russian. [Mountain Jews with Tat language - persecution by Muslims - isolation under Czarist rule]

Soviet Socialist Republic, eastern Transcaucasia, from 1921.

It was ceded to Russia in 1813 and finally incorporated in it in 1828; before the 1917 Revolution it formed the governments of (provinces) *Baku and Yelizavetpol. Up to the late Middle Ages this region was called Albania, Azerbaijan then comprising only the present Persian area. When the region was first annexed by Russia the Jewish population mainly consisted of Tat-speaking mountain Jews. Their main centers were the city of *Kuba and district as well as the villages of Miudji and Miudji-Aftaran in the government of Baku, and the village of Vartashen in the government of Yelizavetpol.

The Jewish residents in Kuba and district number 5,492 in 1835, of whom 2,718 lived in the city itself, which had a separate Jewish quarter. In 1866 a Jewish traveler reported 952 Jewish households in Kuba, 145 in Miudji, and 190 in Vartashen, while a Russian traveler recorded that year 6,282 Jews in Kuba, 957 in Miudji, and 1,396 in Vartashen.

The Jews of Azerbaijan generally engaged in agriculture, petty trade, and manual labor; on average, their economic position was poor. They also suffered from persecution by the local Muslim population, and were often the victims of violent attacks.

The region was closed to residence for Jews from European Russia during the czarist regime (see *Pale of Settlement).

[...] The census of 1897 records 12,761 Jewish residents in Baku government and 2,031 in Yelizavetpol. The largest urban communities were in Kuba (6,662 Jewish residents) and (col. 1005)

Baku (2,341). A secular Jewish-Russian school was opened in Kuba in 1908.

[since 1917: Communist Azerbaijan: flight into the towns - Baku becomes Jewish center - sovietization - oil times]

During the civil war following the 1917 revolution and in subsequent years, many Jews in Azerbaijan left their villages, mainly for Baku, which also attracted Jews from European Russia. Miudji was completely deserted, and about 3,500 Jews left Kuba; Baku then became the most important Jewish center in Azerbaijan. After the establishment of the Soviet regime, all Jewish traditional schools were closed and government schools were opened for the Jewish population.

[...] With Baku's rapid growth as an oil-producing center, however, a considerable number of European Jews took an active part in developing the industry. [...]

By the end of the 1920s there was a Turkish-Jewish school in Vartashen and a school for Mountain Jews in Baku; a Jewish club was functioning in Kuba, and a group of Tat-speaking writers was active in Kuba and in Baku. Attempts were made to settle Jews on the land, and 250 Jewish families were occupied in agriculture by the end of 1927. The census of 1926 recorded 19,000 European Jews and 7,500 Mountain Jews in Azerbaijan. [...]

[[During Second World War Azerbaijan was one of the main objects of Hitler's strategy. He wanted to win the war with the oil of Azerbaijan region. All the events during Second World War are missing in this article:
-- the Big Flight from Barbarossa in 1941 with the withdrawal of the Red Army and the shifting of the industries, including many Jews (see: Holocaust, Rescue from; map: Martin Gilbert: "9,000,000 Russians, Poles, Ukrainians and Jews fleeing eastwards from the German armies in 1941. Most of them had returned to their homes by 1946"; see: Martin Gilbert: Soviet History Atlas1972 p.56)
-- and the mass movement back to Europe is not mentioned in this article either
It seems this article is incomplete]].

[[Also the destruction of Jewish culture after 1948 and the anti-Jewish propaganda and "integration policy" by the "Soviet" regime is not mentioned in this article. It seems this article is incomplete]].

[[The census of 1959 shows figures of Jews who had the courage to indicate that they were Jews despite of the anti-Jewish propaganda of the Regime, so the real number of Jews must by much higher than indicated, see: *Russia]].

The census of [...] 1959 showed 40,204 Jews in Azerbaijan (1.1% of the total population); of the 38,917 living in urban communities, 29,197 were settled in Baku and its environs; 8,357 declared Tat their mother tongue and 6,255 Yiddish [[they came from eastern Europe in 1941 and had not returned in 1946]]. A religious congregation was reported to exist in Baku in 1955, and a congregation of Mountain Jews was active in Kuba in 1964, but the synagogue was then under threat of closure. In 1959 one Jew was serving on the Supreme Soviet of the Republic (out of 325 members). See also *Caucasus.

[Y.S. / E.F.]






Bibliography
-- Fischel, Islam, passim
-- idem, in: PAAJR, 22 (1953), 1-21
-- Lowenthal, in: HJ, 14 (1952), 61-62
-- J.J. Chorny: Sefer ha-Massa'ot (1884), 106-25, 263-4, 324-31
-- Benyamini, in: Ahdut, 3 (1912), 14-15, 47-48
-- V.F. Miller: Materialy dlya izucheniya yevreysko-tatarskogo yazyka (1892), includes bibliography.> (col. 1006)



Sources
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Azerbaijan,
                        vol. 3, col. 1005-1006
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Azerbaijan, vol. 3, col. 1005-1006


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