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(NB NOT Karaite Judaism)

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Karaimite Sabbatarianism or Karaimism, (also spelled Karaimism, Qaraimizm, Karaimizm, Caraimizm or Caraimism) is the correct translation of Караимство a Russian religion which literally means Karaim-ization. It refers to the adoption of certain ways of the Lithuanian Karaites and Crimean Karaites as either circumcised Karaims (Караимы) or uncircumcised Karaimites (Караимиты) -a missionary term[1]- without actually becoming either. People who practice Karaimism are not called Karaims but called Karaimites or Karaitizers (Караимствующие)[2]. Under the Russian authorities, Karaimizers who fully Karaimized were called Russian Karaims (Русские Караимы) but may more accurately be called Sabbatarian-Karaims (Субботников-Караимов) if circumcised or Sabbatarian-Karaimites (Субботники-Караимиты) if not.

The Karaimites are a "Priestess Old Believer" sect of Tatar Subbotniks documented by the Russian Imperial Church which noted they were settled in Vilno, Volinia, Lutsk, Kovno, Kherson, and the Taurida south of Simferopol. There were about 250 in the Polish republic and 800 around Trokai. The Karaimite Religious Union was recognized as a Church by the second Polish Republic and traces of Karaimites could also be found in Sejny. They practice a Judaized religion inspired by the Romaniote Karaite Minhag of Constantinople but they are distinct from Karaite Jews. They have been described as an ancient, local Lithuanian -Moslem ethnic and religious community. The Tsar's army did not consider them Jews and 15 mentioned serving. Marian Feldman did not consider them to be Jews. They used the Hebrew alphabet and a Kanesa they had in the ancient town of Chufut Kale has preserved a plaque illustrating their use of the Hebrew alphabet to write in their own language . Despite such exceptions, they are also sometimes referred to as Iudei in which case they would only constitute one Two Thousandths of the world Jewry. Circucumcision is not practiced among the laity and is reserved only for their Ministers who must be considered Jewish. They emerged from the gradual Judaization of a Molokan type of Alevi known as Keraites. They were formally allowed to establish a community under Isaac Boguslav Zaxarovich Kaplanovsky in 1868 having been inspired by Avraham Firkovich. They used the Порядок караимов by Avraham Firkovich Vilna 1870 (a redacted version by Nehemiah Gordon and Moshe Dabbah is view-able online) which was in turn based on the Siddur tefillot ke-minhag ha-Karaim by Isaak ben Solomon Ickowicz.

It was re-published for more Karaimites as the "Порядок молитв для караимов by Avraham Samoilovich Firkovich" in 1882 and again by Feliksas Maleckis as the "Порядок молитв для караимов, составленный вкратце гахамом и главным учителем караимов Авраамом Самойловичем Фирковичем. Перевод И. Б. Н. Фиркович" -Order of Prayers for Karaims translated by Isaac Boguslaw Nisanovich Firkovich, 2 vols Tsaritsyn (Volgograd) E.N. Fedorov 1892, 1896 and 1901.

Karaimites are normally described as a modern sect of Judaizers distinguished by their interest in Karaimism (Караимство the ways of the Qara'im) and the Pentateuch studying the Old Jewish religion, like Karaite Jews, through a plain reading of the Bible rather than just trusting Talmudic Judaism blindly. It is important to note that although interested in the methods of the Qara'im they did not actually adopt Karaite Judaism (Караизм not Караимство). Unlike Karaite Jews, common Karaimites are not circumcised and otherwise resemble other Sabbatarian Judaizers.[3] Nevertheless, the term Karaimites was applied to them by Jewish missionaries.[4]

Karaimizers are usually Christians but may be of any religious origin even Jewish and always retain aspects of their original religion. They were also called Besshapochniki (Бесшапочники) being one of the three sects of Molokan-Sabbatarians/Subbotniks (Молокане-Субботники) they derived from (Молокане-субботники) -who recognize the gospel while also striving to fulfill all the rules and precepts of the Old Testament including Talmudist-Subbotniks (Субботники-Талмудисты also called Gers Геры) and other Sabbatarians which comprised the so-called "Judaizers" (Жидовствующие) among Tambov Oblast's Spiritual Christians (Духовные Христиане). [5] The Subbotniks of Tambov were also called Karaimite-Sabbatarians as well as Besshapochnimi (Бесшапочными) and "Old Judaists" (староиудеи).[6] [7]

Most famous of the Christian Karaimizers were the Volga Tatar language-speaking Russian Karaits (Русские Караиты) who claimed descent from the Khazars some of whom settled parts of Crimea.


Besides Tambov they also lived in Saratov Oblast, Astrakhan Oblast, Volgograd Oblast, Stavropol Krai, Samara Oblast, Khakassia, Irkutsk Oblast along the Molochna River in New Russia, in Krasnodar Krai, Armenia and Azerbaijan and along the Russian Empire's borders with Persia. While not all statistics for all provinces are readily available, there are more than 2500 in Privolnoye, Azerbaijan alone.[8][9]


The history of the Karaimites is an interesting testimony to how araimizm rather than Western Protestantism influenced the development of low-Church Christianity in Russia. The Judaizers entered Russia from Lithuania in the XV century as a mixture of Judaism and Christianity.[10] This gives Karaimites a very distinct origin from other groups such as the Staroiudeyami (староиудеями) and Karaims (Караимы) which could include the Lithuanian Karaites and Crimean Karaites. Under Russian authority these three groups could be treated together with the names Karaims (Караимы), Russian Karaims (Русские Караимы) and possibly also Russian Karaites (Русские Караиты) sometimes making it difficult to distinguish exactly which group is intended without careful examination of the context.


From 1870 they began to use the "Everyday Prayers for Karaims" by Avraham Firkovich (Vilna 1870) for their liturgy, which in 1882 they were allowed to publish in Russian as "Порядок молитв для караимов".[11] It was based on the Siddur tefillot ke-minhag ha-Karaim by Isaak ben Solomon Ickowicz. In 1935, Simon Firkovich introduced The Lord's Prayer into the Karaite Siddur under such inflluence.[12] Unlike Crimean Karaites the Russian Karaites used the term karaimskii iazyk (Karaim language) to designate Hebrew and not the Turkic Karaim language.[13] which is significant because unlike the Judaized Turkic of the Karaims, the Tatar language among Russian Karaites of the Volga had not the slightest trace of Hebrew loan words.[14] Ironically it was the Crimean Karaites not the Karaimized Sabbatarian Christians who escaped the Holocaust. At Babi Yar it was reported that they were singing "Let us face death bravely as Christ did" on their way to extermination.[15] This may be because the Karaimites while not denying their Russian origins, do regard themselves as Israelites albeit only in the Spiritual sense unlike modern Crimean and Lithuanian Karaites, though this was not always the case. The Karaimites' contacts with the Crimean and Lithuanian Karaites, who, to a degree, exemplified for them “a Jewish model to be imitated”, "were occasional and never formally arranged since, in particular, normative Karaism denied the acceptance of proselytes and regarded the very existence of a community of Karaites of non-Jewish origin senseless."[16]


A "Central Spiritual Board" for the Russian Qaraim Abroad is mentioned in 2010 and again in 2011 [17][18]

Other Prayerbooks

"Молитвы перед обедом, и после обеда за целый год по обряду Караимов" 1896

Prayers before meals and after meals for the whole year after the manner of the Karaims.

The Russian Siddur compiled by Eliezer Aaronovich Semyonov 1907 (500 pages, no Hebrew)

Prayer book according to the customs of the Karaites 1, by Feliksas Maleckis, Vilnus, 1891-1892 Edited by Mikolas Firkovich 1998

Prayer book according to the customs of the Karaites 2, by Feliks Malecki, Vilnus, 1892 Edited M Firkovich 1999 Psalter translated by Mikolas Firkovich 1993

Everyday Prayers Simon Firkovich 1935 edited by Mikolas Firkovich 1993 Jacob's Voice by F. Maleckis 1910


Also based on the 1870 Порядок караимов by Avraham Firkovich (Vilna) is the Crimean Prayerbook abridged by Viktor Tiriyaki 2002 translated by Garkavets in 2004 was an attempt to document the extinct Karaimite dialect and rite of Crimea wiped out by the Bolshevik revolution and Holocaust.


  1. "Overview of Russian sects and persuasions" by T.J. Boutkevitch pages 382-384
  2. [hca.ge/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/bulletin5_ru.pdf РУССКИЙ КЛЮЧ (Русский мессианизм: истоки, смысл, перспективы) Юрий СИЛАЕВ]
  3. S.V. Bulgakov "Handbook of heresies, sects and schisms" under Karaimites
  4. Brockhaus and Efron Encyclopedic Dictionary Жидовствующие: * Субботники (в миссионерской литературе — субботники-караимиты)(Karaimites is a missionaries' name for Subbotniks); в Тамбовской губ. их называют староиудеями или бесшапочными. Бесшапочные не признают Талмуда, а считают единственным источником веры Ветхий Завет.
  5. "Overview of Russian sects and persuasions" by T.J. Boutkevitch pages 382-384
  6. Brockhaus and Efron Encyclopedic Dictionary Жидовствующие:
    • Субботники (в миссионерской литературе — субботники-караимиты)(Karaimites is Missioner name for Subbotniks); в Тамбовской губ. их называют староиудеями или бесшапочными. Бесшапочные не признают Талмуда, а считают единственным источником веры Ветхий Завет.
  7. S.V. Bulgakov "Handbook of heresies, sects and schisms" under Karaimiti
  8. Valvl Chernin "The Subbotniks"
  9. Velvl Chernin, "Subbotnik Jews as a sub-ethnic group"
  10. S.V. Bulgakov "Handbook of heresies, sects and schisms" under Judaizers
  11. Alexander Lvov, "Plough and Pentateuch: Russian Judaizers as Textual Community" excerpts available online 1, 2, 3
  12. Mikhail Kizilov "Karaites in North-Eastern Europe: The Karaite Community of Troki between the Two World Wars"
  13. Mikhail Kizilov "The Sons of Scripture: The Karaites in Poland and Lithuania in the Twentieth Century" page 91
  14. Grigoriev V, Jewish sects in Russia . // Журнал Министерства внутренних дел. — ., 1846.P. 15. — p. 11-49 «…Заметим только, что наречие татарского языка , которым говорят Русские Караиты, не заключает в себе ни малейшей примеси еврейских слов… » («…We note only that the Tatar language, spoken by Russian Karaites, does not contain even the slightest impurity of Hebrew words…»)
  15. Babi Yar: A Document in the Form of a Novel by Anatoly Kuznetsov translated by David Floyd (London: 1. Cape, 1970), p. 95
  16. Velvl Chernin, "Subbotnik Jews as a sub-ethnic group"
  17. Hannelore Müller "Religionswissenschaftliche Minoritätenforschung. Zur religionshistorischen Dynamik der Karäer im Osten Europas" page 74
  18. Barry Dov Walfish "Библиография Караитика: Аннотированная Библиография Караимов И Караимизма" pages xxi and 764

Further reading

  • А. Львов (2002). Геры и субботники - «талмудисты и караимы», Материалы Девятой ежегодной международной междисциплинарной конференции по иудаике. [Gers and Subbotniks: "Talmudists and Karaites". In: Papers of the Ninth Annual International Interdisciplinary Conference on Jewish Studies.]. Part 1 pp. 301–312. Moscow.
  • А. Львов (2003). Субботники и евреи. Предисловие к публикации очерка Моисея Кузьмина «Из быта субботников» [Subbotniks and Jews. Foreword to the reedition of the essay by Moisei Kuzmin Life of Subbotniks] (in Russian). In: literary magazine Параллели ##2 and 3.
  • А. Л. Львов, А. А. Панченко, С. А. Штырков. (February 2001). Полевые исследования культуры сектантов-субботников: экспедиция «Петербургской иудаики» в Ставропольский край

Mniejszośći narodowe i etniczne w Polsce po II wojnie światowej: wybrane elementy polityki państwa Bernadetta Nitschke Nomos, 2010

See Also

External Links