The Tat people
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The Tat of Azerbaijan number about 22.000. The majority of the Tat live in Dagestan, in Kaitag, Magaramkend, Derbent and Makhachkala. A small number have settled in North Caucasia - Gorny and Nalchik. The Tat descend from Iranian tribes that moved into the Caucasian mountains in the 5th and 6th centuries.

The six-domed synagogue - Krasnaya Sloboda - Azerbaijan (photo: Federation of Jewish Communities of Azerbaijan /FJC)The Tat of Azerbaijan live in the mountain valleys of the north and north-eastern parts of Azerbaijan, along the Russian border, with important concentrations in Krasnaya Sloboda, Lahic and Oguz. A large number also live in and around Baku. 

The Tat include three groups: Muslim (90% Shia), Christian and Jewish Tats - the latter also known as Mountain Jews or Juhuro. There's some debate on the origin of the Jewish Tat, with some defending that they are not Tat at all but simply Jews that took the Tat language, while others argue that they are the descendants of Tats that converted to Judaism.

Azerbaijan - Lahic / Lahuj (Ismailly Rayon): street scene (photo by Austin Kilroy)The Turks originally coined the term 'Tats' to designate settled groups of non-Turkic origin. Alternative designations for the Tatsare 'Tatians' and 'Dagchufuts'. Muslim, Christian and Jewish Tats speak a unique New-Persian (so Indo-European) language known as Tati or Tat (ISO 639-3: ttt). Because no alphabet exists for Tati, they use Russian or Azeri for their written and literary language. The dialect spoken by Jews is often called Juhuri.

Although the Tat have been an agricultural people from the beginning of their history, they have also developed a strong urban community. Farmers living in the valleys raise wheat, barley, maize, grapes and cattle. Those living in mountain villages raise sheep, bulls and buffaloes. In the north-eastern area, communities consisting of 80 to 120 households are located in mountain settlements built on ledges. The availability of water determines the villages' location, each village contains a religious building, a bath area, a well, as well as family dwellings.

Azerbaijan - Lahic / Lahuj (Ismailly Rayon): passage on a cobbled street (photo by Rashad Khalilov)The rural Tat usually live in one or two story homes, which are constructed of rectangular shaped natural stones cemented with clay mortar. The houses feature flat roofs and front porches supported by wooden pillars. Families living in two-story homes use the upper floor for living quarters and the lower floor for working space. 

The Tat are considered a closed society because they insist on maintaining ethnic purity by allowing marriage only within the tribe. Anyway, for such a small ethnic group, this is the only strategy for survival.

sources: multimap, bethany, Red Book of the Peoples of the Russian Empire

see also: Quba, people, synagogues, summary, places, photos
A to Z of Azerbaijan / A dan Z ye Azerbaycan