Crimea

Sebomenoi in the Taurian Peninsular evidence that Ezraḥim must have been present around the turn of the era, but the nature of the Torah-based religion promoted by these Ezraḥim can not be known at this point.


According to Yehuda ha Levi, the Khazars adopted some sort of Qaraism in 740 CE after being conquered by the Umayyads in 737CE. Not much is know about that, although it is known that the Aq-Khazars adopted Jidi Talmudism from 861CE.


The South-eastern shores of the Taurian Peninsular at least were doubtless anyway a center for "Caffa Rite" Mishnaic Qaraism from the times of the Byzantine Dynasties especially the Empire of Trebizond and Republic of Genoa. Then from 1475 to 1783 the Mishnaic Qaraites of Crimea lived under the Ottomans.


Crimea was annexed by the Russian Empire in 1783 then Trakai was annexed 1795. In the same year, Mar Benjamin Aga was successful in petitioning Catherine the Great to grant Mishnaic Qaraites certain entitlements leading Evpatoria to become the center of Mishnaic Qaraite life in the 19th century. At that time a Judaizing Molokan-Subbotnik ethnic group (descended from Kyrgyz Christians coincidentally named Karaites who had arrived in Eastern Europe in the 1200s under Batu Khan claiming descent from Kara-Khazars) being inspired by Mar Abraham Firkovich (and the success of Sima Babovich) started to demand recognition from the Russian state as "Qaraims" which was granted in Lithuania from 1864 -leading others in Astrakhan to demand the same rights. They infiltrated Crimea where the most famous of their "Khans" Seraya Shapshal was born. The original Mishnaic Qaraites of Crimea referred to those people as "Russian" Qaraims to emphasize their Christian origin. After being elected Hakham in Crimea, Seraya Shapshal, inspired by Ilya Kazas, led a de-Judaization movement among his "Karaylar-Karaites" to reverse the influence of Avraham Firkovich, until evicted by the Bolsheviks.


Following the Bolshevik revolution, Mishnaic Qaraite consciousness in Crimea deteriorated terribly. Tuvia Levi-Babovich tried to maintain traditional Mishnaic Qaraism in Egypt at that time but only a Sadducee version of the religion was discussed in Eastern Europe during communist times [A. Tokarczyk (2006), Karaimizm. Saga polskich Karaimów, Warszawa. pp. 66-78]. The distinction of Russian Qaraims from the original Mishnaic Qaraites of Crimea was completely forgotten along with the Sevel ha-Yerushah. Nevertheless, some new Qaraites around the world have recently begun to re-discovering the Sevel Ha-Yerushah of the Mishnah again.


Victor David Tiriyaki is the current leader of Kenesa life in Evpatoria. You can download a copy of his Prayerbook in Russian and Crimean language to study here:

http://www.qypchaq.unesco.kz/Docs/KaraiMol/KaraiMol.pdf


Abraham Kefeli is an Israeli composer famous for trying to preserve some of the melodies of Crimea's Mishnaic Qaraites:

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLF72D44745AD0733C

Comments