According to The Virtual Jewish History Tour: Baku, is the home of the vast majority of Azerbaijan’s 16,000 Jews. The Jewish community has been able to grow in an
environment of governmental tolerance. The new Azerbaijan constitution grants religious freedom and asserts that there is no state religion. However, emigration to Israel, Russia, and Germany has decimated the Jewish community from the 80,000 people present in the early 1990’s. While Jews are able to practice their religion more freely today, economics has caused many to emigrate.
The Jewish community in Baku has twice as many Mountain Jews as Ashkenazim and about 500 Jews from Georgia. Mountain Jews speak their own dialect called Judeo-Tat and are believed by some to be descendents from the ten lost tribes who were exiled from Israel in 722BCE and settled in the Caucasus Mountains. Others believe that the Mountain Jews immigrated from what is now Iran in the mid-eighteenth century and established Krasnaya Sloboda, around the city of Kuba in the highlands of northern Azerbaijan.
According to some, all-Jewish Krasnaya Sloboda once had a population of 18,000, but today, following World War II and emigration, only 4,000 remain. The European Ashkenazi community arrived in Baku in the early nineteenth century, after the annexation of Azerbaijan to Russia.
Although some Azerbaijani Jews lived in relatively a small area of the old city, thousands more made their homes in several city blocks South of Fuzili Square and East of Azerbaijan prospect. Today, most of the community has gone but their homes and places of worship remain. Close to the main shopping streets, major concert halls and theatres, the area is full of old-world charm but it’s time is limited, as developers nibble at the edges and the huge new development called the “Winter Garden” covering several city blocks, has flattened the adjoining area.
Here are some images to show you what is in danger and may fall to the developers wrecking ball in the near future…
I intend to record as many of these old buildingas as I can because in ten-years time I doubt many will still exist.