Kavkazi Jewry


Kavkazi Jews go by many different names, such as “Gorsky Jews” or “Mountain Jews.” Similar to Bukharian Jews, Kavkazi Jews also descend from those that made their way from the Land of Israel to the area of modern-day Iran thousands of years ago. The Kavkazi Jews slowly migrated to the Caucasus Mountains, forming a distinct community there. The Caucasus Mountains have changed hands between numerous empires over the centuries — including the Ottomans, Russians, and Persians — leaving a lasting impact on Gorsky culture. For example, Gorsky Jews traditionally speak a language known as Judeo-Tat or Juhuri, which is a dialect of the Persian language with heavy Hebrew influence.

Originally primarily living in Azerbaijan, Dagestan, and a few other locations in the Caucasus, the vast majority of Kavkazi Jews now live in Israel. A small but significant population in Azerbaijan numbers about twenty thousand. Because of this, many Gorsky Jews speak Russian or Azerbaijani as their native language. Gorsky Jews are not to be confused with Georgian Jews, which are a completely distinct group of Jews in the Caucus.

Unlike in most areas of the Muslim world, Jews and Muslims were able to coexist peacefully — particularly in Azerbaijan — but relations were not always perfect. Even today, the position of Gorsky Jews in Azerbaijan is precarious because of Azerbaijan’s close alliance with Turkey, whose president, Tayyip Erdoğan, often maligns Jews and Israel.

Azerbaijan is also famous for containing “Red Town,” known as the only entirely Jewish settlement outside of Israel and America. It grew in size and prominence in the 18th century, as many Kavkazi Jews settled in the town for its position along a trade route, and many other economic opportunities.

Unfortunately, in other Muslim areas of the Caucasus, such as Chechnya and Dagestan, the situation is much worse. The Jewish population in these areas is practically nonexistant, due to most Jews in the area making aliyah, and the others fleeing because of antisemitism and violence.

Kavkazi 2

Kavkazi Jews also have a deep history with Zionism. Photos depict prominent Kavkazi Jews with Herzl, revealing the influential role many of these Jews have had since the beginning of the Zionist movement. There is also a sizeable number of Kavkazi Jews that have immigrated to America, with most settling in New York City.