views updated


JUDEO-TAT (Zuhun Tati ; Zuhun Juhuri ), Iranian language derived from a spoken form of New Persian and heavily influenced by Azeri Turkic; traditionally spoken in Jewish communities of the eastern and northern Caucasus, known as the Mountain Jews (dağ-çufut; gorskie jevrei; yehudim harariyim /qavqaziyim). Judeo-Tat does form a dialectal unity with neighboring Tati dialects spoken in the past by a Muslim population; these "Tati" Muslim dialects of Azerbaijan and Dagestan, in turn, are to be distinguished from the so-called Southern Tati dialects of northern *Iran. On the other hand, Judeo-Tat is close to a dialect of the New Persian type spoken, in the past, by a small Armeno-Grigorian community in northern-western Azerbaijan. During the 19th and 20th centuries, Judeo-Tat was adopted by smaller Jewish linguistic minorities of Transcaucasia and northern Caucasus (Neo-Aramaic, Kurdish, Azeri, Adyge-Circassian). The Mountain Jews migrated to Transcaucasia and the eastern and northern Caucasus from Iran during the post-Mongol and, especially, Safavid periods. There is no linguistic evidence to support the claim that they are presumably descended from Iranian military colonies established during the Sassanid period (226–641 c.e.) on the northern frontier of the empire. From the early 19th century, the Mountain Jews were established chiefly in the towns of Makhachkala / Mahaç-Qal'ah and Derbend (Darband, Dagestan), in villages situated in the Caucasian foothills of southern Dagestan and in the district of Qubba (northern Azerbaijan). In the early 21st century the Mountain Jews are to be found chiefly in well-organized communities in Israel, Qubba, Moscow, New York, and Derbend. Before 1917 only two books existed in Judeo-Tat, both translated from Hebrew ("What is Zionism?" and the Sephardi prayerbook, both printed in Vilna). During World War i a newspaper appeared, Hed Harim. In the Soviet period the Mountain Jews were recognized as one of the nationalities of the republic of Dagestan, and their language ("Tati") became one of the five official languages of the Dagestan Republic. In 1929, as a secularization measure, the Latin alphabet was imposed on this language in place of the Hebrew one; this was done as part of the general "Latinization politics" in the U.S.S.R.; however, by 1939 the language politics had changed and all the Latin scripts were replaced by the Cyrillic alphabet. In the Soviet period, especially in the 1920s–1960s, there were many Judeo-Tat schools, newspapers and other publications. In the 1960s, some community leaders in Soviet Dagestan (but not in Azerbaijan) promoted the politics of "Tatization," claiming non-Jewish origin of the Mountain Jews and encouraging them to register as "Tats." (There were, however, no other registered "Tats" except the Mountain Jews"). Though withering, this language is now one of the nine literary and official languages of Dagestan; in the 1959 Soviet census about 30,000 Jews declared Judeo-Tat as their mother tongue. Judeo-Tat is an endangered language, and almost all Mountain Jews now speak Russian and/or Hebrew. There are publishing activities in Israel and Russia, but this is either in Russian or in Hebrew.


V.F. Miller, Materialy dlya izucheniya yevreyskotatskogo yazyka; Vvedenie, teksty, slovar (1892) / Materials for Study of the Judeo-Tat Language. Introduction, Texts, Glossary); idem, Ocherk morfologii ievrejsko-tatskago narechia (1901); idem, Tati studies. Part i. Texts and Tat-Russian dictionary, 1905); idem, Tati Studies, Part ii. An Attempt at a Grammar of the Tati Language (1907); idem, "Tati texts," in: The Iranian languages, vol. 1 (Moscow-Leningrad, 1945); N.A. Anisimov, Grammatik zuhun tati (1932 [in Judeo-Tat]; Z. Bakhshiev et al. (eds.), Antologiya tatskikh poetov (1932); eis, 4 (1934), s.v.Tāt; Kh. D. Avshalumov, Folklor Tati (1940) [in Judeo-Tat]; A. Bennigsen and M. Carrère d'Encausse, in: Revue des études islamiques, 23 (1955), 7–56; A.L. Griunberg, Yazyk severo-azerbaydzhanskikh Tatov (1963); idem, Sistema glagoda v Tatskom yazyka (1963), 121–49 (these two works treat not the Judeo-Tat, but the Muslim Tati dialects); E. Yar-Shater, A Grammar of Southern Tati Dialects (1969) (treats the Tati dialects of northern Iran, non-related to Judeo-Tat or to Muslim Tati dialects of Azerbaijan); M. Zand, "The Literature of the Mountain Jews of the Caucasus," in: soja, 15:2 (1985), 3–22; 16:1 (1986), 35–51; idem, "The Culture of the Mountain Jews of the Caucasus and the Culture of the Jews of Bukhara during the Soviet Period," in: jcsu (1973), 134–47; idem, "Hityashevut ha-Yehudim be-Asya ha-Tikhona bi-Yemei Kedem u-vi-Yemei ha-Beinayim ha-Mukdamim," in: Pe'amim, 35 (1988), 4–23; J.M. Agarunov (Aharonov) and M.J. Agarunov (Aharonov), Tati (Jewish)-Russian Dictionary (1997).

[Dan Shapira (2nd ed.)]