JEWISH Azerbaijan


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Heydar Aliyev Cultural Center

Azerbaijan is a modern and strong country attached to its past and advancing confidently into the future. Azerbaijan is a country cherishing its values. Respect for national and moral wealth, history, traditions, the human factor and citizens is our top priority. The modern Azerbaijan is recognized in the world through its nationwide leader Heydar Aliyev. And the Center bearing the name of Heydar Aliyev has become a symbol of modern Azerbaijan and modern Baku. The building of the Heydar Aliyev Center is an embodiment of the development of the present-day Azerbaijan and its attachment both to the past and to the future. The logo of the Heydar Aliyev Center also represents a reflection of this idea. The Center’s logo symbolizes Azerbaijan’s forward-looking aspirations, the progress and the future of the country. The silver color of the logo epitomizes the overcoming of obstacles and moving towards a goal. The silver color is a symbol of leadership, struggle, dynamism, wisdom, transparency, development and innovation. The lines of the logo harmonize with the building of the Heydar Aliyev Center and embody Azerbaijan’s dynamic development, the country’s aspirations to becoming an international leader and progress through perpetuation of values such as attachment to the Motherland and people. The Heydar Aliyev Center’s logo emphasizes the institution’s mission viewed through the prism of global and national values, nation building traditions and the message to be passed over to future generations. The Center’s slogan "To the Future with Values!" is based on this idea.

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World Jewish Travel
World Jewish Travel Official September 29, 2021

The Jewish Story of Baku

Jewish population of Baku consists mainly of Ashkenazi Jews, who started arriving in Baku in 1832. They are believed to be soldier-cantonists, underage sons of Russian conscripts, who from 1721 were educated in special “canton schools” for future military service. These schools were called garrison schools in the 18th century) and those who left the Pale of Settlement (the western region of Imperial Russia with varying borders that existed from 1791 to 1917, in which permanent residency by Jews was allowed and beyond which Jewish residency was mostly forbidden). The industrialization of Baku as a result of the oil boom attracted many qualified immigrants, including Ashkenazi Jews. In 1913, the population of Jews was 9,689 people or 4.5% and this number was constantly increasing.  Jews played an important role in the intellectual and artistic life of Baku. For example, 75 out of 238 lawyers, and 69 out of 185 doctors for Jews in the late 19-early 20th centuries. There were Jewish schools, religious schools for learning Torah, Talmud and Mishna, private musical and girls’ schools, and libraries. In 1910, there was a Jewish Cultural Society “Palestine”. They played an important role in the development of the oil industry in Azerbaijan. For example, the construction of the Baku-Batumi oil pipeline was predominantly funded by the Rothschilds. Baku-born engineer David Landau and his wife doctor Lyubov Veniaminovna Landau contributed to the scientific life of Baku. Their son Lev became one of the most prominent scientists of the 20th century and got nominated for the Nobel Prize in Physics.  Apart from the Ashkenazi, a small group of Georgian Jews had also emerged in Baku. They had moved to Baku from different cities of Georgia in late 19-early 20th centuries and emigrated to Baku for economic reasons. They spoke Georgian language and kept all Georgian traditions including food but strictly followed Jewish religious rule.   The fall of the Tsar Russia in 1917 was greeted with enthusiasm among the Jews of Baku as it meant elimination of many anti-Jewish rules. The establishment of Azerbaijan Democratic Republic in 1918 granted equal rights to all nationalities living in the territories of Azerbaijan. Jewish population of Azerbaijan contributed to the political life of the young republic. Moisey Gukhman was the first Jewish parliamentarian. The Minister of Health was E. Hindes, deputy Minister of Finance and the Chairman of the State Bank was M. Abeshaus.  With the establishment of the Soviet Union, the Jewish population of Baku was increasing due to the persecutions in Ukraine, Russia and Belarus and the outcomes of the civil war in the country, which made people look for better life elsewhere. The Soviet policy on fighting illiteracy facilitated opening of schools for Mountain Jews, clubs and libraries. However, schools in Jewish languages were being shut down by the Stalin regime of the 1930’s, as well as the synagogues, religious schools and other religious buildings. As a result of the mass propaganda of proletarian internationalism mixed marriages were increasing and Jews were increasingly assimilating with other ethnic and religious groups. Many lost their identity, language and traditions. The processes resulted in the formation of the phenomenon known as “Bakuvian” (бакинец) – an interesting symbiosis of cultures of different ethnic groups, in which the Jewish population of Baku was an integral part.  Jews joined the Soviet army, even participated in World War II. Many veterans recall stories when Jewish and Azeri people were held captive in the war and Azeri people saved the lives of their Jewish comrades saying they were Azeris. Jews of Azerbaijan also fought for the independence of Azerbaijan in the 1990’s. Among them Albert Agarunov became a national hero of Azerbaijan. However, the Jewish population of Baku and Azerbaijan in general has been decreasing even since it gained independence.   

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World Jewish Travel
World Jewish Travel Official September 29, 2021

The Jewish Story of Oghuz

Oghuz is known as a place where the Muslims and Jews have always lived in peace. During the years 1930-1933, the Jewish population of Oghuz reached between 2000 and 2500. In the late 1930’s, the city fell victim to typhus infection, causing 200-250 of the residents to die. They were buried in the Jewish cemetery, which today can be found today near the graves of Nabat and Rabay Babayevs in the center of the cemetery. The second time when the Jewish population of Oghuz rapidly decreased was when they started leaving the city during World War II, when many families moved to Yevlakh, Ganja, Baku and Tiflis. The majority of the Jewish population of Oghuz moved to Israel in the early 1990’s when the USSR fell and the country was going through economic hardships of the Perestroika period.  Today some families remain in Oghuz, although they are closely tied to Israel and some Jewish settlements in Russia. They live in houses which are very similar to the Azerbaijani houses architecturally, but have some Jewish symbols such as the images of lions and menorahs on their walls. Another distinguishing feature of these houses is that they usually face Southwest, the direction of Jerusalem. The houses are built in Jewish districts and the closer to the synagogues, the more prestigious the place is considered. This place has always been proud of having peaceful relationships between the Jewish and Azerbaijani people. Eldar m. recalls a story that his grandmother told: “Many mass killings were happening in Oghuz in 1918-1920. My grandmother was a kid back then. Her mother was helping their neighbors to make vodka and they were also cooking chicken on a bonfire. Suddenly they heard that Turks (Turks may refer to Azerbaijanis or the Turkish soldiers) were coming and got scared. There were two reasons for that: 1) There is a famous belief that Jews use a child’s blood on Passover for carrying out some rituals and some kids were killed by the Armenians some time in advance Passover; 2) Some Armenians had killed some Muslims and blamed the Jews for that and there was some tension related to that. However, when the Turks arrived they realized that this was a Jewish group and declared that they had no problems with them. They only asked if they could take the chicken that was boiling on the bonfire, because they were hungry.” Today, apart from the Jewish homes, there are two synagogues, as well as a new and an old Jewish cemetery in Oghuz. The synagogues are named simply the Upper and the Lower due to their location in the city. Interestingly, there is only one mosque in the city.  According to the local rabbis and Imam Shovkat Jalilov (effendi), many traditions of Muslims and Jews in Oghuz are the same. The Muslim population of the town keep some traditions of Passover and the Jewish people do the same about Ramadan and Eid al-Adha. Mixed marriages are common and funerals and wedding ceremonies seem very similar.  Imam Shovkat also recalls a well-known man in Oghuz – Qarib Yuzbashi Mammadkarim oghlu (1870-) (Qərib Yüzbaşı Məmmədkərim oğlu), who was a member of the parliament of Azerbaijan Democratic Republic in 1918-1920 and a member of the Land Commission. He did a lot of philanthropic work and was well-respected for helping the Jewish community of Oghuz, even saving them from starvation a few times. Thanks to his deeds, the Jewish community of Oghuz saved him from prosecution during the Russian occupation in the 1920's. 

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World Jewish Travel
World Jewish Travel Official September 29, 2021

The Jewish Story of Guba

Quba Khanate (Guba) was ruled by Hussein Ali Khan in the 18th century. Under his rule, the capital was moved from Khudat to Quba which strengthened the economic foundation of his khanate. This included bringing in many craftsmen and tradesmen, many of whom were Mountain Jews from the destroyed settlement of Kulqat. They established a new settlement known as Qirmizi Qasaba (Red Town), which developed rapidly during the reign of the succeeding ruler of Quba, Fatali khan. Fatali khan joined south Dagestan and the entire north east of Azerbaijan under his state.  As a result of the economic rise and the friendly attitude towards Jews, the Jewish population of Qirmizi Qasaba, a small village in Quba, was rapidly increasing. Groups of Jews were coming here from different parts of Azerbaijan, as well as Iran, Turkey and Dagestan. Thus, the population of Qirmizi Qasaba was 3,000 in 1856, 5,120 in 1873, 6,280 in 1886 and 8,400 in 1916, which was the town’s record population. Since then, the population of the town has been constantly decreasing. Fatali khan’s period is considered a true renaissance of Qirmizi Qasaba and the Mountain Jews and even now, the central street of the town carries his name.  Today, 300 years later, Qirmizi Qasaba is a settlement with a population of 3,000, although many people, especially the youth, leave the town to pursue a better life in Russia, the USA and Israel. Qirmizi Qasaba is believed to be the world's only all-Jewish town outside Israel. The village is connected to the city of Quba via a bridge across the Qudyalchay River. The most widely spoken language in Krasnaya Sloboda is Juhuri. Azerbaijani and Russian languages are also widely used. The town, which stretches from south-west to north-east along Qudyalchay River, is divided into three main neighborhoods: Qusari, Gilaki and Qachayi. Qirmizi Qasaba used to have 13 synagogues though today, only two of them function and four are partially ruined.  All the houses in Qirmizi Qasaba are facing the main streets running parallel to the river. The houses are not built in accordance with a certain city plan but are rather crowded together. Most older buildings are made from flat brick and red-tiled roofs. Hillel Ben-Hayyim, who constructed many houses and synagogues in a unique, richly ornamented manner, has left his signature style in the entire village. Most houses have two, or more floors. The closed courtyards were used during the festival of Sukkot to make booths in which the families traditionally lived during the seven days of the festival.  The house of Aghababayevs was repurposed as a library and administrative building in Soviet times.  People of Qirmizi Qasaba have been engaged in small trades, crafts and played an important role in the carpet weaving school of Quba. Predominantly a female occupation, some women from Quba gained fame as first-class artisans. Most of them spun and dyed their own wool. The madder plant, from which a red dye was extracted, and the saffron, used for a yellow dye, were both cultivated by Jews. The indigo plant, which yielded a blue dye, was imported to the Caucasus by Jewish merchants. The Mountain Jews supplied markets with these goods until the mid-19th century, when they were forced to halt their operations because of the nomadic way of life imposed on them. However, after the Soviet regime established workers’ collectives and home industries in the 1930s, Caucasian Jewish women resumed the art of weaving.  Carpets with different Jewish motifs such as menorah and dragons from Quba. Such carpets will be displayed in the Mountain Jew Museum to be opened in October, 2019. Qirmizi Qasaba is the home of many well-known politicians, businessmen, scientists, and notable figures living and working in Russia, Israel, USA, Germany, the United Kingdom, and Azerbaijan. Among them are the Russian entrepreneurs Zarah Aliyev and God Nisanov, the Soviet orthopedist Gavril Ilizarov (who invented a special device for treating skeletal deformities), as well as the family of musicians Ilizarovs, the writer Vladimir Aghababaev, poet Yasha Mashiahov, Olympian fencer and trainer Zinaida Misheva and others.  The new development plans in Qirmizi Qasaba include restoring the ruined synagogues, as well as establishing many other attractions, such as the Museum of Mountain Jews, Tourism Information Centers, restaurants of Kosher food, and more.  

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Take a tour of the Anne Frank Museum, Auschwitz-Birkenau or Jewish Rome. 🇪🇺 These tours are just a small piece of the European Jews' history, which spans a period of over two thousand years ✡️

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"Let your bookcases and your shelves be your gardens and your pleasure grounds. Pluck their fruit that grows therein, father the roses, the spices, and the myrrh" Visit the Ets Haim Library, the oldest still functioning Jewish library (since 1639!) on your next visit to Amsterdam! #wjt #wjh #jewishamsterdam #amsterdam #jewishtravel #books #library #jewishamsterdam ...

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