Discovering Jewish Vladikavkaz: the Jewish History and Culture in the Local UrbanText
The expedition "Discovering Jewish Vladikavkaz: the Jewish History and Culture in the Local UrbanText" was held by the Sefer Center together with the Institute for Slavic Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences on August 25 – September 5, 2023. It was supported as a winning project in the competition “Rediscovering Russia Again", organized by the Higher School of Economics, the Presidential Platform “Russia – the Land of Opportunities” and ANO “More than a Journey”. The project was also supported by the Commission on Material Claims Against Germany ("Claims Conference"), Foundation "Remembrance, Responsibility, Future" (EVZ) and the German Federal Ministry of Finance.
The North Caucasus is a unique region remarkable by the active interaction and influence of different cultures, traditions and religions. Today, representatives of more than 90 nationalities live side by side in Vladikavkaz. The Jewish population of the city represented by the two distinct groups that drastically differ in their traditions, language and origins: Mountain (Eastern) and Ashkenazi (European) Jews. There are also several families of Georgian Jews and Subbotniks living in the city. Despite its relatively small size the Jewish community contributed a lot to the development of trade, industry, pharmacology in the city. The North Ossetian Medical Institute, various charitable societies and many educational and cultural institutions in Vladikavkaz were founded and supported by the Jews in the 19th century.
The purpose of the expedition was to study and to preserve the historical and cultural heritage of the Jews in North Ossetia, as well as to attract a wide audience to the original Jewish culture of the North Caucasus. A series of preparatory webinars for participants of the expedition was conducted by the Sefer Center before the field work. The following meetings took place within the series:
"Principles of Collecting and Processing Materials in Ethnographic Expeditions" by prof. A.B. Moroz (HSE, Moscow),
"How to work with the Questionnarie" by Dr. V.A. Dymshits ("Petersburg Judaica" of the European University in St. Petersburg) and A.B. Moroz;
"Jews of the Caucasus as a Multi-Ethnic Community" by V.A. Dymshits ;
"Modern Studies of Mountain Jewish Communities in the Caucasus for 2019–2023" by A. Aghababyan (independent researcher, Krasnodar);
"The Holocaust in the North Caucasus."Dr. K. Feferman (Director of the Center for the Study of the History of the Holocaust, Ariel University, Israel).
Our field research group (20 students, graduate students from Vladikavkaz, Vologda, Kostroma, Moscow, St. Petersburg) led by Dr. V.A. Dymshits and prof. A.B. Moroz recorded 50 interviews with the members of the Jewish communities of Vladikavkaz and Mozdok. The researchers also visited the Memorial Museum of the Memory of the Victims and Heroes of the Holocaust (Vladikavkaz), the memorial to the Jews who died during the Holocaust (Bogdanovka), explored the sights of North Ossetia in the Karmadon and Kurtatinsky gorges, learned about the culture and traditions of the multinational region.
The participants of the RSF grant "Jewish Cult building of the Russian Empire Beyond the Pale of Settlement (Preparation for the Publication of a Collection-catalog with Critical Comments)" (grant No. 23-28-01010, supervisor prof. V.Ya. Petrukhin, ISS RAS) A. Yudkina and S. Padalko worked in the local archives and collected material on the North Caucasian synagogues.
The field research materials will be presented at the upcoming conferences organized by the Sefer Center and the Institute for Slavic Studies. Also a series of papers based on the collected materials will be prepared and published in 2023-2024. Finally all the recorded interviews will be trancscribed and uploaded to our online database SFIRA.