The author looks at one of the least studied pages of Caucasian history—Judaism and its spread in the region.
He has covered the main versions of why the Jews arrived in the Caucasus in the first place and describes the stable and largest communities of Caucasian Jews.
In Judaism God has no image, which explains the Judaic ban on any representations of God and people.
Services include individual and collective prayers, reading of the Torah and singing; Saturday and holyday services include a sermon. It is believed that later they were moved to the Median Mountains frequently associated with the Caucasus.1 Prince Vakhushti’s History of Georgia2 tells a different story.
While over time the former became one of the pillars of Christianity, the Talmud was and is limited to Judaism.
As the main text of Judaic practice and theology it includes the Mishnah (interpretation of the Torah), Gemara (interpretation of the Mishnah), and legal (Halacha) and folklore (Aggadah) interpretations of the Biblical texts.
The first Caucasian Judaists may have been Semitic Jews who came as traders, usurers, merchants, and missionaries. The same sources describe Jew Eviatar (Abiatar) from Urbnisi and his sister Sidonia (canonized by the Georgian Orthodox Church), as well as Jewess Salome who left us the life history of Nina of Cappadocia, the Enlightener of Georgia, as the first Christian missionaries in Georgia of the early 4 th century.
Georgian sources3 in particular speak of the Jews who lived in 1 See: Gorskie evrei: Istoriia, etnografiia, kultura, DAAT/Znanie, Moscow, 1999. Today there are several equally popular versions of how Judaism came to the Caucasus.
The synagogue is the center of Jewish religious and public life; the Menorah (copies of a seven-branched candelabrum used in the Temple in Jerusalem) is the most typical attribute of all synagogues.
Those who support the third version7 insist that despite the linguistic evidence the Tats and the Mountain Jews are ethnically unrelated; they were merely driven to the Caucasus at the same time by Chosroes I Anushirva who, in the 6th century, suppressed the movement of the Mazdakids in Iran.
Indeed, according to Seder Olam Zutta, a Jewish document of the 9th century, the Jews of Babylonia rebelled together with the Persians. THE CAUCASUS & GLOBALIZATION Yangikent, Tarki, Durgeli, Erpeli, Arage, Zharage, and Bildakhi 100 years ago discovered this fact and pointed out that the rituals associated with the fire deity and the faith of its purifying force, as well as the Shagme vesal (Spring Fire) holiday that marked the beginning of spring, were the most interesting from the point of view of religious syncretism.
The king treated the Mazdakid leaders cruelly and deported rank-and-file Persians and Jews to the Caucasus (200 thousand people in all).8 This information comes from Mediaeval Arab sources according to which the Chosroes settled the Mazdakid Persians and Jews in many places in the Caucasus. Gumilev, “Skazanie o khazarskoi dani,” Russkaia literatura, No. The information about the mutual influence of Judaism and the Khazar cults is just as interesting.
The Caucasian Tats of today descended from the former, the Mountain Jews from the latter. In his article “Skazanie o khazarskoi dani” (A Tale about the Khazar Tribute), Lev Gumilev wrote: “Those Mazdakids who managed to avoid the Sassanian wrath fled to the Caucasus; a group of Jews who observed Shabbat and circumcision but forgot all the other laws settled in the wide valley between the Sulak and Terek. According to Khazar King Joseph, Jewish scholars were invited to Khazaria to interpret the Torah, Mishnah, and Talmud for the Khazar rulers; the Khazars borrowed many of the Jewish tradi-tions—circumcision and the Shabbat as well as holidays—Sukkoth, Pesah, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Simhath Torah, Hanukah, Purim, and Lag b’Omer.
The West, in turn, is pursuing its interests in the region under the guise of democratization of the Central Caucasian states.