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Who are the Karaites? Origin of Karaites

Who are the Karaites? This is one of the most ancient peoples of our planet, the history of which is more than one dozen centuries. Representatives of this nationality today can be found in Poland, Lithuania and Ukraine.

History of the people

Back in the 4th millennium BC. E. The Iranian highlands were inhabited by Turkic-speaking tribes. Then they moved to the East, down to the middle of the Mesopotamia. On this territory, the tribes split. One part returned to the South, where the Sumerian state was formed. The second under the leadership of the Black Leader became the core of the future nationality - the Karaites. This part of the tribes settled in the junction of present-day Turkey, Syria and Iraq.

At that time the Karaites were the only people who knew the letter. According to scientists, hence its name took place. After all, the word "karaite" in the language of the Semites residing in the neighboring territories meant "reading."

Throughout the history of its existence, this people was part of various states. At first it was the Hittite kingdom. After his death - Assyria. Further, the Karaite people were part of Persia and the Parthian kingdom.

In the period from 2 to 1 century BC. E. Part of the Karaites separated from their people and settled over the territory of the Middle East. At the same time, it had a significant religious influence on the population of the region.

It is interesting that the Karaites preferred to settle in caves. An example of this can serve as cities such as Dzhuft-Kale and Mangup-Kale. Some scholars adhere to the hypothesis of the Karaite origin of the Virgin Mary, who wished to give birth to Christ in the cave.

The beginning of our era was marked by the further movement of this nation to the north. The Karaites crossed the Caucasus Range and settled the territory of present-day Dagestan. The activation of this process took place in the seventh century during the Arab invasion. The Karaites united with the Turkic tribes. At the same time, they created the Khazar Khaganate, which ceased to exist after it was attacked by Crimean Tatars. The Karaites lost most of their people.

Surviving representatives of this nationality fell under the rule of the invaders. Moreover, in the defeated, but more cultural people, not only customs and traditions, but also language, the Tatars borrowed. Karaites were not without reason considered the most literate people. This is confirmed by the fact that the language of the Crimean Tatars is still very different from the language of other representatives of this nationality.

The word "karaim" means not only the people. This term is used in relation to representatives of any nationality professing the Karaite doctrine.

Religious area

The fact that there is such a movement as the Karaites, first talked in the 8th century in Baghdad. It is this period that marks the first mention of a certain Jewish religious sect of Ananits. The aim of the community was to unite all the Jewish groups that had already lost their influence under the flag of anti-radicalism. The leader of this sect, Anan Ban David, promised all his followers complete freedom in the study of the Mosaic teachings, demanding in return a denial of the Talmud, as well as honoring the Torah as the only sacred book.

The origin of the Karaites, as well as descriptions of their dogma and life, are attested in the collection "Eshkol ha-Kofer", written by Yuhuda Hadassi (1147).

In this work the author summarized the ritual practice of this nationality, as well as the controversy that was conducted between representatives of this community and Christians.

About who the Karaites are, the book "Adderet Eliyahu", written by Eliyahu ben Moshe Bashyachi, tells us. This work, which was published at the end of the 15th century, contained exhaustive information about the ritual practice of the ethnos in question.


Originally, the word "karaite" in the territory of our country was designated only by a religious group. It belonged to the confession and had nothing to do with nationality. Everything changed during the times of Soviet power. This was a period when the religion was not mentioned anywhere. In this connection, the term "Karaites" was assigned to the name of the ethnic group of the people.
What does the word "karaite" mean today? They are determined by ethnicity without regard to religion. Sometimes the term "karaite" indicates belonging to the confessional, without taking into account the nationality of the person.

Semitic theory

According to some assumptions, the Karaite nationality comes from an ethnolinguistic Jewish group that preached pre-talmudic Judaism. This theory was unique until the end of the 19th century. And it was shared by the Karaites themselves. Today this theory is subject to sharp criticism from the leaders of the ethnic group. It is not supported by the majority of the members of the Karaite community. However, adherents of the Jewish theory of origin still exist now. They stayed in Ukraine and in the Crimea.

Türkic theory

There is an assumption that the nationality of the Karaites originated from the Khazars. This is the Turkic nomadic people (7-10 centuries), who accepted Judaism.

This theory, put forward by VV Grigoriev (Russian orientalist), has been spreading since 1846. In the 20th century, the Khazar version of the origin of the Karaites was recognized by Soviet science. Such a theory is also welcomed by those leaders of the ethnic group who deny any connection of their people with Judaism and Jews. However, by many religious Karaites the Khazar version was met with criticism. Without denying the existence of the Turkic elements in their origin, they still disagree with the Khazar theory. To date, many scholars do not agree with this version.

Descendants of the Khazars often consider themselves Karaites, Krymchaks and Mountain Jews. And this version also has a right to exist. The fact is that the Karaites, Krymchaks and Mountain Jews have some elements of Chuvash (Khazar) in their languages. In favor of this version says and belonging to the religion. Krymchaks, as well as Khazars, profess an orthodox Ravanistic Judaism.

Synthetic theory

There is another answer to the question of who are the Karaites. To date, there is a version that combines the Turkic and Semitic theories. According to her, this nationality arose as a result of a mixture of Crimean Khazar-Bulgarians and Karaite Jews. This theory was advanced by Yufud Kokizov and Ilya Kazas. These famous Karaites claimed that the ethnic group of which they were representatives could not be attributed to the pureblood Semites.

Appearance in Eastern Europe

There is a theory that several hundred Tatar and Karaite families were withdrawn by the Lithuanian prince Vitovt from the Crimea for their resettlement in their principality. However, some scientists (Peter Golden, Dan Shapiro and Golda Akhiezer) put forward a somewhat different theory. According to their assumption, the ancestors of the Karaites living today in Eastern Europe did not come from the Crimea at all. They left the lands on the Lower Volga and in Northern Iran, captured by the Mongols. In addition, some Karaites arrived in Europe from Byzantium, as well as from the Ottoman Empire.


To the question "Who are the Karaites?" Many people involved in human studies tried to get an answer. So, an anthropologist Konstantin Ikov in 1880 studied about three dozen skulls belonging to the Crimean representatives of this nationality. On the basis of the obtained data, an unambiguous conclusion was made that the Karaites do not belong to the Semites. They can be attributed to brachycephalus.

The anthropological dimensions of the representatives of the Lithuanian Karaites were investigated by Julian Talco-Grentsevich in 1904.

In 1910, scientist Witold Schreiber concluded that the racial attitude of the Karaites to the Semites is questionable. He attributed this nationality to the threat of the Finnish group.

In 1912 S. A. Weissenberg carried out new studies. The scientist compared the anthropological features of Krymchaks, Jews and Karaites. At the same time he came to a conclusion about the external similarity of the last two ethnic groups.

Polish and Lithuanian Karaites were investigated in 1934 by Corrado Gini. The scientist came to a conclusion about the connection of this nationality with the Chuvashes, and consequently, with the Kumans and Khazars.

In 1963 A.N. Pulyanos noted the Asiatic features of Lithuanian Karaites (see photo below).

Studies of the blood of representatives of this ethnic group were conducted in 1968. The data obtained indicated the similarity of the Karaites of Lithuania and Egypt, which confirmed the Mediterranean origin of the nation.

In 1971, academician VP Alekseev carried out a craniological study of the population living in the Khazar city of Sarkel. As a result, the scientist concluded that the Karaite people arose as a result of mixing Khazars with local tribes (Sarmatians, Alans, Goths).

In the period from 2005 to 2013, Genetic signatures belonging to twenty-eight Karaites were examined. The data obtained indicated the Middle Eastern origin of this nationality and its proximity to the eastern, Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jews. Confirmed the study of the similarity of Eastern European and Egyptian Karaites.

The main external differences of this ethnic group are in the middle growth, broad chest, smooth or slightly wavy hair and dark eyes. Many Karaites (see photo below) have a typical thickening nose and an almond-shaped incision of the eyes, which are somewhat protruding forward.

Skin covers of representatives of this nationality have a light yellow tinge.

Attitude towards the Jews

For a long time, the Karaites supported the Semitic theory of their origin. At the same time, they did not oppose their Jewish culture. However, everything changed after the territories inhabited by the Karaites were annexed to the Russian Empire. From this period, representatives of the ethnic group in question began to openly oppose themselves to the Jews. The leaders of the Karaite nationality, famous people in cultural and political circles, denied the Semitic theory of the origin of their people. Strengthening of this trend occurred in the early 20th century. This was favored by factors such as:

- Emancipation, when all the nationalities were equalized in rights, except for Jews;
- linguistic assimilation, replacing the Hebrew language in worship and replacing it with the Karaite language;
- the transition of the intelligentsia of the Karaites to Christianity;
- De-Judaization of the Karaite population.

Representatives of this nationality living in the post-Soviet space, and today continue to oppose themselves to the Jews.

Religious teaching

Karaimism is a syncretic system that includes beliefs, as well as ritual and cultic actions. And so far this teaching is close to the religious direction, which Anan ben David adhered to. Its main principles are:
- love of neighbor and God;
- the veneration of all moral standards that were given in the Holy Scriptures.

At the same time throughout the history of the people, the Karaites were distinguished by religious tolerance. They never experienced religious hatred for other teachings, believing that only in this case a person will deserve a paradise life. Such features of the confession allowed the Karaites to excel in the Lithuanian and Crimean environment and not merge with it. Without exaggeration, it can be said that religion has helped this people preserve their ethnic and cultural integrity.

In some cities of Crimea you can still see the temple (prayer house) of the Karaites. On its facade, it has a six-pointed star. However, he is not called a synagogue, but a kenass. Today, these houses are often abandoned or used for other purposes.

Famous representatives of the nation

At all times, the Karaites were considered cultural and literate people. Famous people of this ethnic group made a great contribution to the development of world science and literature. Among them is Andron the Senior Ha-Rofe ben Yosef, who lived in 1260-1320. He was a philosopher and lawyer, a writer and a doctor, a liturgical poet and exegete. From nature, Andron had a sober and bright mind. Using his profound and versatile knowledge, he wrote many valuable works. One of them is the book "Mivhar", in which the Torah's comments are given. This work is considered one of the best among the Karaite works.

Another vivid representative of the Karaite people is Abkovich Rafael Avraamovich (1896-1992). This last of the Polish gazans founded the Wrocław kenass in its time.

Famous Karaite public figure, patron and philanthropist was Simon Solomonovich Bobovich (1790-1855 gg.). In 1820 he held the post of mayor of Evpatoria. In 1837, he was approved for the post of the first Crimean gham, having accepted the rank of the highest cleric of the Karaites.

Among the outstanding representatives of this people there are famous mathematicians and ethnographers, generals and actors, architects, enlighteners, doctors, theatrical figures, etc.

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