Kulashi Jewish Cemetery
The village of Kulashi is in the municipality of Samtredia in Western Georgia and was first mentioned in historical sources in the 16th century. One legend about the settlement’s establishment is related to Jewish settlers who were gifted to the landlord of the area. Historically, the village was mostly populated by Jews who were involved in local and international trade. Jews came to Kulashi from Akhaltsikhe, Lailashi, Bandza, Sujuna, as well as from Racha in different periods of its history and settled in separate districts of the village. The German scholar and traveler Johann Anton Güldenstädt, who traveled to Georgia in the 1770’s, mentioned the Jewish population of Kulashi in his writings. In the 1870’s, the Tbilisi-Poti railway was built and Samtredia, the town neighbouring Kulashi, became an important place for trade, and Jews from Kulashi conducted trade in its marketplace. According to the documents of the USSR’s Council for Religious affairs, there were 4 synagogues registered in Kulashi, three of which were built in the beginning of the 20th century, and one which was wooden and constructed in 1862. According to archival information from 1916, there were about 300 Jews living in Kulashi at the start of the 20th century. The Kulashi Jewish community was actively involved in the struggle for aliyah from the USSR at the end of 1960’s. After the ban on the emigration of Jews to Israel in 1969, 18 families sent a letter to the UN Commission on Human Rights requesting repatriation to their historic homeland. Most of those who signed the letter had familial connections with Kulashi or came from Kulashi. As a result, most of Kulashi’s Jews left for Israel in the 1970s.
The Kulashi Jewish cemetery is located close to the centre of the village, opposite from the synagogues. This suggests that the cemetery was established in the early period of Kulashi’s history. The earliest visible tombstone is dated 1872, while the most recent one is dated 2011.