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The Karaites of Crimea: Turks and Jews?
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A series of documentaries on the history of all Turkish peoples up to the present day – Zaman Yolcusu. Türklerin Izinde (“A Journey through Time in the Footsteps of the Turks”) – traces a wide geographical arc, starting in Mongolia and southern Siberia, passing through Central Asia and the Central Volga, and extending to Istanbul. But before reaching the final destination of this journey to the West, it comes to the Turkish population living in Eastern Europe, particularly in the Crimea, who were originally neither pagan nor Muslim: they are the Karaites, who profess the Jewish religion.

In Turkish they are called Türk Museviler (“The Turkish followers of Moses”), but also Hazarlar, Karaylar (“Karaites”), and Kırımçaklar. They call themselves Karai or Karailar. The term is derived from the Hebrew word “read” and refers to those who read Holy Scripture.

It is interesting that to this day there is debate as to who these Karaites really are. According to some, they are Jews who profess a religion other than Judaism. Others believe that they are descended from a Turkish population that adhered to Judaism, but with some variations. Finally, others claim that they are Turks who rejected Islam.
© Union of Catholic Asian News 2022
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