HISTORY OF KARIATES
Mr. Oleg Belyi gave an overview of the history of the Karaites.
He said he was defending his dissertation at the Bakhchisarai State
Institute of Historical-Cultural Preservation, and that he was very busy
working in managing historiographical research at the Department of Karaite
History, and that much work needed to be done.The documentary historical work
is two-fold as the Karaite historian Firkovich had systematically re-written,
made-up pages of history, etc,. Now the task of unravelling the tangelled past
of the Karaite people is very complicated.
At the time when the Crimea was annexed by the Russian Imperial Government, the
people of the Crimea, those who were historically tied to the Crimea, among
them the Karaites, were made subjects of the Russian Imperial State.
Historically, the government's policies towards the Karaites had been to bunch
them together with the Jews, with Judaism. They were simply categorized as
members of Eastern Judaica and no more was said of them. The historical legends
lent themselves to the establishment of accepted literary traditions respective
to the Karaites, such as that of the author Gormchakov, that depicted the
Karaites in different manners. There were legends which led to the belief for
instance that said that the Karaites came to be in the Crimea prior to the
birth of Christ. Why was this tenet so formulated? Because, anti-semitism in
Russia was not one predicated on economic grievances, but on the moral pretence
that it was the Jews who gave up Jesus, the Savior to be crucified. The
Karaites had settled in the Crimea prior to the birth of Christ, and therefore
could not be held responsible for his death.
In the last few decades, the Karaites have developed their own traditions,
there has been instilled in them a self-identity that is non-Judaic. So that
the question which a Karaite is asking himself is not whether he considers
himself a Jew or not. It is simply not an issue.
The Karaite sect is known to have existed since the 8th century A.D. Prior to
the Karaites, some Judaic sects had rejected the Talmud. The essential facts
are that the Karaites are a branch of the Judaic religion. The majority of the
Karaites presently live in Israel. They consider themselves Jews. There are
Karaites who consider themselves a nationality, that they are the descendants
of the Khazars amd do not consider themselves Jews. Furthermore they consider
that their religion is no longer Judaism, but their own. These are Karaites
that have forgotten their past, that lived during the years of Soviet rule, who
were practically wiped out, and now they have dreamed-up a new identity. Their
written language is Hebrew. Its variation is that on the one hand it is the
normal Hebrew language, but on the other it is written in Hebraic but spoken in
Tatar, but called Karaite, which is similar to Tatar.
The Crimea had many rulers whose rule extended over portions of the peninsula.
No one knows when the Tatars came to Chufut-Kale. The Tatars believe that they
founded Chufut-Kale. Belyi believes that more than likely it was the Tatars.
Chufut-Kale was founded after the arrival of the Tatars, who established trade
with the Karaites, however this version is not accepted by the Karaites. The
Karaites consider this an insult, they consider themselves a warrior people who
had an independent principality. In the historical sources there is no mention
of this. Only the Karaites themselves believe this. The historical sources say
that in the 13th century, Chufut-Kale was part of the Alan (Crimean Gothia),
before that it was a Byzantine fortress, and their allies the Alans and Goths
held it. The Karaites made their appearance later. The tomb slabs that some
believe date from an earlier time, have been found to have been tampered with
in the professional opinions of the majority of noted area historians and
archaeologists. The Karaites are indignant at such findings, they argue against
this, and a political scandal grew out of the offer by Israeli scientists to
study the cemetary crypts, an offer which the Karaites rejected because they
said their own scientists could do this work. Oleg Belyi said that they do not
have any people qualified to do this work, and that political motives have no
place in scientific analysis.