|A View of Chufut-Kale, Crimea|
Here you will find a fascinating history of Karaims or Karailar (sing. Karai), their language, culture, and heroic struggle to survive.
Crimean Karaims are people of Turk(ic) descent who have adopted Karaism. This movement could be described as a return to the roots or sola scriptura. Although the Karaite reformation never became a mass movement, an ethnic mixture of Alans, Cumans and a number of Turkic Kipchak tribes in Crimea and northern steppes of Black Sea, as well as the ruling junta of Khazaria (not all the Khazars) converted to Karaism. These people became known as Karaims, thus combining the religious denomination with ethnonym. The following pages are about the native people of Crimea, their ancestors, the Khazars, and the areas they settled.
Religion has played an important part in forming the Karaim people. In the 8th century, Karaism was initiated by Anan ben David in Mesopotamia. From the 8th to the 10th centuries, the Karaims were subjected to the rule of Khazar Kagan. It is recorded in the 13th century that the Karaim congregation practised in Solkhat, the capital city of the Crimean Tatars. Karaism is Mosaism, an independent, non sectarian, monotheistic religion of Abraham. Anan Ben David, the founder of the actual Karaite religion, preached about a return to the written word of the Old Testament. He refused to recognize the Talmudic thought. This religion is distinct from Rabbinical Judaism.
Khazars and Karaims
Prince Bulan, the ruling Khagan of the Turkish Khazar Empire (not the whole Khazar population) was converted to Karaism by Isaac Sangari, whose grave is in the Karaim cemetery, Balti timez, in Josophate valley of Chufut-Kale (Qirq Yer) in Bakhchisarai, Crimea.
There is another supposition that the conversion of local inhabitants of Crimea to Karaism occurred not in Khazar times, but later, during or after the Mongol rule, under the influence of the newcomers from Byzantium. This could explain the Turkish language of the local Karaites, their Tatar appearance and way of life, and the political independence of the Karaites of Chufut-Kale. However, the genetic studies, point to their Khazar origin. Today Turkic Karaims are nearly all from Crimea. Over the years, they moved and settled in Lithuania, Poland, other parts of Ukraine, Russia, Turkey, Israel, France, and the United States. It is assumed that the number of Karaims in the world is less than 5,000 today.
Origins, History, and Culture
|The Karaim Web site is sponsored by SOTA, Research Center for Turkistan and Azerbaijan, located in Haarlem, The Netherlands. Established in 1991 by Mehmet Tutuncu, the Center is dedicated to research on the Turkic Peoples of former Soviet Union and the promotion of human rights, democratic governments and peace in the Turkic World. SOTA maintains an active publications program, sponsors conferences, and has an extensive library and archives. For additional information, please contact SOTA.|
Last update: 25 January 1999