Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Krasnaya Sloboda

It really has nothing to do with the warm Israeli-Azerbaijani relations, but for cultural reasons thus Caucasian Jewish community is interesting:
"According to Jewish community leaders, a little over 16,000 Jews live in Azerbaijan today, of whom 11,000 are Mountain Jews with about 3,600 of them in Krasnaya Sloboda. They speak a dialect of the Tat language, which is related to Persian, and have lived in the Caucasus for generations.

"Krasnaya Sloboda is a prosperous place, which stands in sharp contrast to the surrounding area. The roads are in a good state and there are plenty of expensive foreign cars. Seen from high ground, the village has a reddish tint, due to the red tiling of the roofs - which may be the explanation for its name. Frequent signs in Hebrew and the wearing of skullcaps are the main clues to the different cultural identity of the place.

"'The village has two secondary schools, a college, synagogue, a house of culture, where we observe all our religious holidays and historical dates,' said Nisimov.

"Local residents are mostly well off, but few of them have jobs. Municipal official Pisah Isakov, said, 'There used to be a canning factory here, which employed at least a thousand people. Nowadays the plant is running at half capacity, and unemployment has grown. There are no lands to cultivate in the village either.'

"Explaining the secret of the village’s prosperity, Isakov said it was supported by benefactors, all wealthy natives of the village now living elsewhere He said these included three men Zahar Iliev, Telman Ismailov, Sergei Kokunov, who have fortunes estimated at between 350 and 540 million dollars and all of whom feature in Forbes Magazine’s list of the 100 richest people in Russia."

The linguisitic note interests me because since I don't know Russian or any member of the Turkic language family, I was expecting to have limited communication with people on my trip to the Caucasus a little over three weeks from now. If this Tat is close to Persian, however, these Mountain Jews might be worth a visit.


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