ქართველ ებრაელთა მიერ დანახული ქუთაისი
ივანე ჯავახიშვილის სახელობის თბილისის სახელმწიფო უნივერსიტეტის გამომცემლობა
Historical tradition speaks of the first Jews coming to Mtskheta, the ancient capital of Kartli, the East Georgian Kingdom, as early as the end of the 8th century BC. However, later, as a result of external and internal migration waves the Jewry spread all over Georgia. In Western Georgia, their spiritual and cultural center was Kutaisi, one of the most important cities in Georgia with its interesting history from the capital of Aia-Colchis Kingdom to the reign of Bagrat III and David IV Aghmashenebeli and thereafter … The purpose of the present paper is to clarify the role of Georgian Jewry in the development of Kutaisi and demonstrate the ways in which Kutaisi and the Jewish community of Kutaisi are described in historical sources and in the works of contemporary Georgian Jews. Obviously, the strategic location of Kutaisi and the growth of trade accelerated the urbanization of Kutaisi and eventually contributed to the formation of Jewish community that was actively involved in the development of the city. However, up until the 17th century there are only the barest hints of information of Georgian Jews and, consequently, very little is known about the Kutaisi Jewry and their contribution to the economic life of the city throughout the period. From the 17th century the picture becomes clearer thanks to the information scattered in historical sources and official documents. In particular, Vakhushti Bagrationi is the first historian and geographer to have mentioned Kutaisi Jews. It was supplemented by numerous documents referring to them as serfs owned by their feudal lords. Based on the sources, it can be assumed that at that time the Jewish population of Kutaisi was quite small but it gradually increased due to the internal migration. Starting from the 18th century, many Jews of Akhaltsikhe, Oni, Lailashi, Kartli and other regions moved to Kutaisi. Given the lack of historical information, the accounts/descriptions of Kutaisi Jews contained in travelogues could prove highly valuable but the analysis shows that they are less reliable sources because they provide inaccurate demographic data. Therefore, the significance of the study of Georgian printed sources (scholarly works, periodicals, fiction and non-fiction writings etc.) issued in Israel can hardly be overestimated. The paper discusses the works of two Kutaisi writers, Daniel Khakhanashvili and Irakli Kokuashvili from this point of view. The contribution of Daniel Khakhanashvili, an outstanding scholar/historian, who worked fruitfully on the lifestyle, customs and traditions of the Jewish community in Georgia as well as on the history of Kutaisi and Georgian Jewry over decades, is invaluable in this regard. His rich heritage includes unique material for the book „The Gates of Prayer: The Jewry of Kutaisi“ published in Tel Aviv in 2009. The book provides a coherent and in-depth account of the life of Kutaisi Jewry. This book can well serve as the primary and reliable source for the study of various aspects of social and cultural life of the Jewish community in Kutaisi including demographic data, the origins of Kutaisi Jewry, trade, involvement in politics, their religion, Kutaisi synagogues etc. Irakli Kokuashvili is an author of many books. He has published several books in Israel. Some of them are anthologies of selected poems, while others are based on real events and situations and contain the author’s memories of childhood and youth, his parents, family members and his hometown of Kutaisi. The book also includes dedications to family members and relatives in poetic as well as prosaic form. The poems devoted to Kutaisi show much affection for the city. His latest books are concerned with the spiritual leaders of the Jewish community, outstanding historical and contemporary figures, artists, writers, friends and acquaintances. The book „Jews in Kutaisi“ narrates the history of Kutaisi Jewry and provides demographic data as well as comprehensive information on their lifestyle and traditions. Both authors have preserved a sense of Georgian as their native language and, most importantly, some of their writings contain significant accounts of the life and occupation of the Kutaisi Jewry. Given the insufficient information provided by historical sources and travelogues, these writings are particularly valuable for the study of the role of the Jewry in the urban development of Kutaisi.
კულტურის ისტორიისა და თეორიის საკითხები XXXVII, თსუ ისრაელის ცენტრი, თბილისი, 2023, გვ.: 94-118/ ISSUES OF HISTORY AND THEORY OF CULTURE XXXVII, TSU Center for Israel Studies, Tbilisi, 2023, pp.: 94-118