Murder of Mountain Jewish leader could spell disaster for vanishing Dagestan community

Izgiyagu Pashayev died in hospital after being attacked by the brother of a woman he had offered shelter to


A Russian Jewish community leader and rabbi has been murdered in a tragedy that could prove fatal for his town's vanishing community.   

Izgiyagu Pashayev, chairman and local rabbi of the Jewish community of Buynaksk in Dagestan, an autonomous republic in the northern Caucasus, died earlier this week in the local hospital.

Mr Pashayev, 66, had been attacked and murdered by the brother of a woman to whom he had offered shelter after she became homeless, Russian media reported.

Mr Pashayev was buried last Thursday in a Jewish cemetery in Pyatigorsk, a regional capital.

The Mayor of Buynaksk, Islamuin Nurgaev, wrote a tribune  on his Instagram page: “Many residents knew him – both old and young. They speak of him only positively. He is a person who never committed nor wished evil to others, and has become a victim himself.”

Mr Nurgaev stated that the death was a loss to the town and the local Jewish community.

Russian media suggested that Mr Pashayev had been in a coma and had suffered multiple strikes to the head.

A man has been arrested and will be charged under the Russian Criminal Code.  

Buynaksk is home to a shrinking community of Mountain Jews, a Jewish community local to the Caucasus.

There are believed to be only seven Jewish families left in Buynaksk.

Numbering some 50,000 in Dagestan alone in the mid-1970s, there are now less than a few hundred left in Dagestan and neighbouring Chechnya.

Mountain Jews, who also live in Azerbaijan, speak a Hebrew-inflected Persian dialect called Juhuri and have emigrated en masse to Israel, the United States and Russia's main cities since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Most Mountain Jews fled Chechnya and Dagestan during the wars that engulfed the north Caucasus during the 1990s and early 2000s.

The community has been a target for jihadists, who have taken figures hostage, attacked synagogues and in 2013 staged an assassination attempt on a Dagestani Rabbi.

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive