Baku, Azerbaijan, Feb. 14
The city of Guba in Azerbaijan is not the only place in the world where Azerbaijanis and Jews have been coexisting peacefully. Prior to the ethnic cleansing carried out by Armenian nationalist forces, they lived in religious and ethnic harmony in Armenia in the village of Yeghegis (known in Azerbaijani as Alayaz) of Armenia’s former Yeghegnadzor district (now a part of Vayots Dzor Province). This village is located about 18 km from the city of Yeghegnadzor and 135 km from Yerevan, on the slopes of the ridge of Daralayaz, at an altitude of 1,640 m above sea level.
Important archaeological discoveries in these parts of Armenia were made by scientists back in 1996. Tombstones which, besides having inscriptions in Azerbaijani, also contained inscriptions in Hebrew and Aramaic, were among the finds. The graves date back to the middle of the 13th century – with some dating even to the year 1337 – and are not only a convincing evidence of the existence of the Jewish community in Armenia from ancient times to the modern period, but also of its coexistence with the prevailing Azerbaijani population of the province.
It is clear that the contributing factor to the exodus of the oldest Jewish community from Armenia was the exodus of their neighbors, the Azerbaijanis of Yeghegis, the indigenous population of the historical Daralayaz province. The exodus of the Jews, on the backdrop of the flourishing Jewish communities in Georgia and Azerbaijan, is a dark spot in the history of the Armenian people, as is the genocide of Azerbaijanis.
Due to a policy of methodical ethnic cleansing against Azerbaijanis, Turks, Kurds, Assyrians, Yezidis, Molokans, Greeks and Jews, Armenia has turned into a monoethnic state, where more than 99 percent of the population is made up of Armenians from various parts of the Middle East. But the miraculously preserved old Azerbaijani-Jewish cemetery is a tangible evidence of the actual history of these lands. On the outskirts of the village, a shaky bridge leads to the other side of the river, separating the Jewish cemetery from ... the Azerbaijani one, which, in a way, relates Yeghegis to Guba, where, to this very day, Jews and Azerbaijanis live as one family.
Elkhan Alasgarov, Ph.D., Head of Expert Council of Baku Network
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