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date: 28 February 2024

The Image of the Karaites in 19th- and 20th-Century Literaturelocked

The Image of the Karaites in 19th- and 20th-Century Literaturelocked

  • Mikhail KizilovMikhail KizilovUniversity of Tübingen

Summary

The article analyzes the image of the Karaites in Karaite, Jewish, European, and Russian literatures in the 19th and the 20th centuries. The Karaites are Jews who do not accept the teaching of the Talmud and the Rabbinic concept of the “Oral Law.” Many well-known 19th- and 20th-century belletrists were attracted to the Karaites’ unusual Judeo-Turkic culture as well as their influential status in the Russian empire, their wealth, and their intellectual achievements. It appears that there was no unified image of the Karaites among the authors of this period: Men of letters of various countries, religions, and ethnicities presented the Karaites as marginal Jewish sectarians, a “nation of traders,” descendants of the Turkic Khazars and Cumans, true Israelites, and even as “sons of Japheth.” Why were these images so contradictory? There is no doubt that it was, at least in part, due to the Karaites themselves, who by altering their ethnic identity in the 19th and 20th centuries, transformed the perception of their community in the eyes of external observers—thus leading modern belletrists to portray them in such contradictory ways.

Subjects

  • Asian Literatures
  • 19th Century (1800-1900)
  • Poetry
  • Slavic and Eastern European Literatures
  • Western European Literatures

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