In the late mediaeval and early modern period scattered communities of the Karaites (i.e. non-Talmudic Jews) settled in several regions of Eastern Europe such as the Crimea, Poland and Lithuania. In the 18th and 19th centuries the Karaites printed their books (mostly exegetical and theological works in Hebrew) in several Karaite and Rabbanite typographies. Nevertheless, after 1917 the centre of Karaite printing shifted from the Russian Empire to interwar Poland and Lithuania. Surprisingly, a tiny Karaite community of interwar Poland and Lithuania (ca. 800 individuals) had been publishing as many as five periodicals in three languages! Furthermore, the Karaites also printed quite a number of separate brochures and leaflets, and published articles in non-Karaite periodicals. From the 1930s the Karaite community started losing its Judeo-Karaite identity and accepted a new Turkic ethnic self-identification which was based mostly on the use of the Turkic Karaim language and a few pseudo-scholarly theories testifying to the non-Semitic origins of the Karaites. The renaissance of Karaite printing was stopped in 1939, with the Soviet intervention in Poland and the beginning of the Second World War. The paper analyses the main tendencies in the development of the Karaite printing in Poland and Lithuania in the interwar period. A special emphasis is placed upon the role of printing in the unusual transformation of the East European Karaites’ ethnic identity — from pious non-Talmudic Jewish believers to an isolated ethnic enclave with a bogus Khazaro-Turkic identity.
Józef Sulimowicz (1913–1973), a Polish Karaite, Turkologist and passionate bibliophile, collected a large number of Karaite manuscripts, books and documents in his lifetime. His collection, which includes items originating from both western communities and Crimea, is the only one of its kind in Poland. However, neither an inventory list, nor a catalogue have ever been assembled for the collection. Therefore, its exact content has remained largely unknown. The present paper discusses archival materials of the Karaite community in Lutsk stored in the Sulimowicz collection. It also looks at their origin, status and their research value.
In this paper a short summary is given of the history of research into Karaim/Karaite religious music up to this day, and possible new horizons for future investigations are outlined. It is argued that a related field of research, namely lingustics, with its recent input into Karaite grammatical thought can help open new possibilities for musicological research, too. Two main figures of Karaite intellectuals from the Near East in the early 11th century, ʿAbū Yaʿqūb Yūsuf ibn Nūh and ʿAbū al-Faraj Hārūn ibn Faraj, are introduced. Their treatises on the Bible and its Hebrew language, together with other works of their followers, as discovered in the Firkovich collections from St. Petersburg, represent the Karaite way of theoretical thought on these subjects, including the way of reading (chanting) the Bible with the help of Masoretic accents. So an investigation into mediaeval theories and their comparison to living traditions of liturgical chant of modern Karaim/Karaite communities can bring new understanding of the Karaite musical heritage and can also be instrumental in pursuing the evolution of Karaite religious identity throughout ages in different geographical areas.