Russia Acts to Raze Ancient Jewish Ghetto in Derbent

The Soviet government today instructed the city administration of Derbent, a fortified seaport in the Soviet republic of Dagestan (Caucasus) to abolish the Jewish ghetto there which dates from medieval times and to let the 500 Jews living in this ghetto to find better quarters. The destruction of the ghetto will be a further step in the emancipation of the Jews of Derbent.

The city of Derbent was founded by the Persian king Kohbad at the beginning of the sixth century to protect Persian territory against the raids of the Chazars who were later converted to Judaism. In 733 the entire city was converted to Islam. The Jewish population is descended from the military colony established between 530 and 578 A. D.

When Derbent was one of the leading cities of the Chazar empire, the Jewish population was an important element. The number of Jews decreased when the Tartar raids began and later when Shah Nadir forced the Jews to accept Islam on the pain of death. In 1813 Derbent came into the possession of Russia.

Until recently Derbent was the religious and cultural center of the Caucasian mountain Jews. A century ago Derbent boasted of 435 jews and this number was tripled by 1886. During the Russian Revolution the residents of many neighboring villages fied to Derbent, thus further increasing the Jewish population.

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