Endangered Language Alliance
Juhuri is classified by linguists as belonging to a distinct Tat branch of the Southwestern Iranian languages, closely related to Muslim Tat and, at a greater distance, to Classical, Middle, and Modern Persian, with which it is not mutually intelligible. Tajik-Israeli researcher Michael Zand has identified at least four distinct dialects spoken in Derbent, Quba, Makhachkala-Nalchik, and Vartashan (now Oguz). Influences from Hebrew are apparently manifest in the lexicon and phonology of the language, while neighboring Caucasian languages and more recently Russian have also significantly influenced the language.
Written with semi-cursive Hebrew letters until the early Soviet period, Juhuri books, newspapers, textbooks, and other materials were later printed with a Latin alphabet and finally in Cyrillic, still most common today. During the Soviet period, early official support for the language, especially in Dagestan, gave way to a policy of Russification after the 1930s. Famous poets, playwrights, and prose writers have included Yono Semyonov, Mishi Bakshiyev, and Danil Atnilov, among others. The Theater of the Eastern Caucasus, the only Juhuri-language theater in the world, was founded in Derbent in 1923 and re-established in Israel in 2001.
ELA’s Jewish Languages Initiative is recording Juhuri speakers talking about their lives and the histories and customs of the community, in collaboration with leaders at the community synagogue in Brooklyn. These are among the first professionally made, multimedia recordings of the language to be made publicly available.