JEWS IN AZERBAIJAN





Azerbaijan, which is homeland to a sizable Jewish community for over two millenniums now, has never seen in its long history a single case of anti-Semitism. Any kind of discrimination based on Jewish origin of a citizen of Azerbaijan Republic is absolutely out of question.

Moreover, Azerbaijan, along with Turkey, are the only predominantly Muslim states to enjoy excellent and growing relations with Israel.

In order not to be excessively polemical, I herein include some recent news facts to prove my point. I can supply more if you are interested.

Adil Baguirov

Some websites:

http://www.virtual.co.il/communities/wjcbook/azerbai/index.htm

http://www.washingtonpost.com:80/wp-srv/WPlate/1999-02/09/049l-020999-idx.html

http://www.azer.com/AIWeb/Categories/Magazinehtml/62.folder/62.articles/62.mountainjews.html


From: AZERNEWS-AZERKHABAR newspaper, December 23-30, 1998


AMBASSADOR S.ESCUDERO: "NO ANTI-SEMITISM IN AZERBAIJAN"

US Ambassador to Azerbaijan Stanley Escudero, at a press conference held on December 17 at the US embassy in Baku, made a statement regarding the Azeri Government's policy towards Jews. He noted that no facts of anti-Semitism has been reported in Azerbaijan and there has been no discriminatory policy towards Jews. "On the contrary, Jews are very much respected here", he said. U.S. Ambassador denied rumours, reported earlier by the news agency Turan, that at a seminar on anti-semitism in Washington, Azerbaijan has been referred to as a country where anti-semitism is manifest. The organizers and participants of the conference already refuted this report. Ambassador Escudero called such reports as nothing but speculations: "There is no anti-Semitism or any kinds of pressure on Jews in Azerbaijan. "The Washington conference dedicated to problems of anti-semitism in the post-Soviet states listed Ukraine, Belarus, Armenia and Uzbekistan among countries where political and economic rights of Jews are being violated.


From: AZERNEWS-AZERKHABAR, December 2-8, 1998


JEWS OF AZERBAIJAN GAIN US JEWISH ORGANIZATION SUPPORT IN SECTION 907 REPEAL (By A. SAIDOV)

This was announced at a press conference by the board chairman of the Baku religious community of European Jews Mikhail Bekker who, together with Mikhail Palagashvili (Georgian Jews community leader in Baku), Semyon Ikhiyilov (upland Jew, community in Baku), Boris Simandiyev (upland Jews community in Quba) and Lazar Zukerman (chairman of the Jews association in Azerbaijan) visited the USA November 16 till 21, had numerous meetings in the US Congress, State Department representative, and Jewish communities in the USA. According to Mr. Palagashvili, the delegation's visit was a success. Asked when the Section 907 would be abolished, he named a rather concrete time - end of this year-early 1999.In reply to what prompted the visit to the USA, Mr. Bekker said: "It is our civil duty. Azerbaijan is our motherland and we can't stay away from its problems", he said. As was informed Mikhail Bekker, during the numerous meetings in the USA, an assistant of one of the congressmen, Mr. Sherman, as a proof of blockade of Armenia by Azerbaijan cited a statement of 5,000 Jews allegedly living in Armenia. Mr. Bekker stressed that the Jewish community in Azerbaijan is aware that not 5,000 but 56 Jews live in Armenia and that almost all of them are people of mixed matrimonies. No such statement has been made, nor could it have been made, he said. Nevertheless, it was announced to Mrs. Sherman that the Jewish community in Azerbaijan is always ready to send their representatives to Armenia to clarify the real situation. As was informed by the chairman of the religious community of European Jews in Baku, the community is going to nominate the professor of the Baku State University Maxim Abramov to the parliament in elections of February 1999. According to him, in Georgia the community comprises 12,000 people and two are MPs. In Baku, the community is three times as large. The only example of anti-Semitism in Azerbaijanis Tabloids. It was said to Azernews reporter by the chairman of the Jewish association of Azerbaijan, Lazar Zukerman. He added that the recent anti-Semitic statement by general Makashov caused a deep outrage of all Jews living in Azerbaijan. Moreover, as the Jewish delegation was convinced during its visit to the USA, this statement is condemned not only by Jews. Azerbaijani Jews had not experienced any form of anti-semitism even in the Stalin rule, probably because the internationalism of this land was a good barrier for it, L. Zukerman said. Today, there is no anti-Semitism problem in Azerbaijan at all, he said, but added that the "Bakinski bulvar" (The Baku boulevard) newspaper had published a story by R. Molchanov [a Russian] in summer, in which the author just attacked Jews. Nonetheless, neither K. Zukerman nor any other leaders of Jewish community voiced their resentment over this and stated that the newspaper has justified its name. Weekly "Bakinski bulvar" is published in Russian and is a supplement to "Istiglal" social-democratic newspaper.


AZERNEWS-AZERKHABAR, November 17-24, 1998


HEYDAR ALIYEV: "JEWS HAVE SAFELY LIVED IN AZERBAIJAN FOR CENTURIES AND SOWILL THEY"

Receiving leaders of Jewish religious communities functioning in Azerbaijan on their request, President Aliyev stated that Azerbaijan is a multinational country and that this represents the state's merit. Pointing to the special place of Jewish people among the nations living in Azerbaijan, the President pointed with satisfaction to the long-standing friendly relations between the Azeri and Jewish nations. Touching upon the anti-Jew processes on- going in Russia, Mr. Aliyev stated that he categorically condemns these chauvinist Leaders of Upland Jews communities, Ashkenazi Jews, Georgian Jews in Baku, Red Sloboda Jews in Quba, congratulated Mr. Aliyev on his being re-elected for the next new term and added that Jews living in Azerbaijan, fully support his policy. Speaking on behalf of the delegation, leader of the religious community of Red Sloboda Jews, Boris Simanduyev, stated that Jews living in Azerbaijan enjoy equal rights, that they are provided with state care and thanked the President for this.


The Azeri Times newspaper, December, 1998


Jewish Community Integral Part of Baku's History (By Fuad Akhundov)

The role of the Jewish community during the great industrial and cultural boom in Baku at the dawn of the twentieth century is really inestimable. In the 50-year period from 1870 to 1918, Baku's population skyrocketed from 15,500 people to 300,000, with Jewish settlers constituting a major portion of the influx. While the oil boom was a significant motivation for the large Jewish immigration to Baku, it was not the only reason for their arrival. Over the course of the millennium, there was not a single case of anti-semitism in the entire region then known as Azerbaijan. Many of the Jews coming to Baku were related to a people known as the Mountain Jews or Highland Jews, which are thought to have originally come up from Iran and settled in the mountains north of Quba. By the start of the twentieth century, many European Jews had moved to Baku from other parts of the Russian Empire that were not quite so tolerant. At the time, Russians were frequently holding pogroms against Jewish citizens. By 1913, the Jewish community made up 4.5% of Baku's population, making this the fourth largest ethnic community in the city after Azeris, Russians and Armenians. Of the city's 214,786 residents, 9,689 of them were of Jewish descent. As Baku's Jewish community increased, so did the amount of capital that members of the community continuously invested into the city as a result of their many successful business interests here. The results were remarkable. Families such as the Kagans, the Dembos, the Itskoviches, and the Rothschilds controlled more than 40% of Baku's kerosene production by the beginning of World War One. A large number of Jewish medical and legal professionals also made significant contributions to Baku. Older Jewish Bakuvians still remember one of the city's most famous pediatricians, Dr. Yevsey Guindes (1872-1954). While treating three generations of children during his 50years in Baku, he also served as the minister of health in the Azeri parliament during the country's independence from 1918-1920. He was also the founder of the first local philanthropic society in Baku, which worked to combat infant mortality and tuberculosis for Baku's children. He also organized the Institute of Maternity and Childhood Delinquency in themid-1920's.Dr. Guindes was only one of many Jewish doctors to practice in Baku. In fact, according to statistics from 1914, 69 of the 185 practitioners officially registered in Baku were Jewish. Members of the Jewish community were also greatly involved in practicing law in Baku - they comprised over one-third of the city's lawyers. As a result of the success of the Jewish communities' oil men and professionals, philanthropic and educational associations blossomed, with five of them registered between 1910 and 1913. The largest association was known as the "Baku Jewish Society." Located in the old Synagogue (which today is known as the Rashid Behbudov Theater), the group's charter declared that the society was "in charge of the material and spiritual needs of the Jews residing in the city of Baku and its environs." Along with the synagogue, which was financed by the society, a number of other schools were also constructed by the house of worship. A four year college for boys, a professional school for women, and the Jewish Public Library were all projects organized and implemented by the Baku Jewish Society. Another philanthropic organization known as "The Association in Charge for Dissemination of Education Between the Georgian Jews in Baku" was also quite active in the community. The group was headed by the talented journalist and satirist, I.Y. Glahengauss, who was better known under his pen-name IGLA, which in Russian meant "The Needle". Other charitable and cultural organizations around town at the time included "The Jewish Philanthropic Society," Palestine," and the Baku branch of the Jewish Literary Society. The Jewish Literary Society was primarily devoted to the study and development of ancient Jewish literature in Hebrew as well as spoken Jewish languages. Even after Azerbaijan fell to the Soviets in 1920, the Jewish community continued to make significant contributions to Baku. Despite the havoc that Stalin's regime inflicted on local Jews and other ethnic groups in Azerbaijan, the cultural, scientific and educational contributions of Baku's Jews continued to grow. Their impact during the Soviet period is symbolized in the Jewish Synagogue, built in 1962 to replace the Old Synagogue which had been turned first into a warehouse and then into at heater. The new synagogue was the only place of worship build in Baku during the Soviet's 70-year reign over the city. Today, there are three Jewish Synagogues that are open in Baku: Azhkenazi, and the synagogues used by the Highland and Georgian Jews. Jewish public organizations are still in operation as well, such as Sokhnut, Alef, and AzIz. While there is still a large Jewish community here in Baku, many have left the city because of the turbulence caused by the country's new independence. However, even those who are now abroad still consider themselves "Baku Jews" or "Azeri Jews." Given the rich, centuries-old Jewish historical tradition that their ancestors have handed down to them, it is easy to see from where such pride comes. 1