Trakai

The Karaite

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Not to be confused with the much larger world Judaic Karaite movement, the Karaite (or Lithuanian Karaite, or Karaim) are as perplexing as the confusion surrounding their name suggests. Settled in Trakai from the Crimea by Grand Duke Vytautas at the end of the 14th century, the Lithuanian Karaite form a link in a bizarre chain connecting the two distant and contradictory worlds of Lithuania and Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq), the birthplace of the original Karaite movement. The original Karaite were a puritanical Jewish splinter group who among other things rejected the Talmud and who somehow initiated the conversion to the Karaite faith of several Turkic tribes living on the Black Sea shores. It was some of these ethnically Turkic families who came to Trakai and other parts of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, first as bodyguards and later as successful farmers. Today’s Karaite population is dwindling fast, and it’s unlikely that the culture will survive for much longer.
 

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