The “Khazarian Myth": The National Identity of the Crimean Karaites
Ukrainian-Jewish Voices series
The Crimean Karaites, also known as ‘Karaim’, are an ethnicity of Turkic-speaking adherents of Karaite Judaism in Central and Eastern Europe, found primarily in the territory of the old Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and in Crimea.
Turkic-speaking Karaite Jews have lived in Crimea for centuries. Their origin is a matter of great controversy. Most modern scientists regard them as descendants of Karaite Jews who settled in Crimea and adopted the Kipchak language. Others view them as descendants of Khazar or Kipchak converts to Karaite Judaism. Today, many Crimean Karaites reject ethnic Semitic origin theories and identify as descendants of the Khazars. Yet some specialists in Khazar history question the Khazar theory relating to the origin of the Karaim.
This lecture is dedicated to a complex interdisciplinary study of the so-called "Khazar theory" concerning the origin of the Crimean Karaites. We will examine the theory as a historiographical concept and as an integral part of the national identity of the Crimean Karaites. We will look at the trajectory of the development of the Khazar theory in historical thought, from dominance in historiography to criticism, and, finally, to complete revision and denial.
The lecturer will deconstruct the Khazar theory as a historiographical myth that for several decades existed only due to an established tradition, ignoring the data of known sources. The connection of the Karaites with the Khazars is not confirmed, and directly contradicts most written sources, which clearly indicate the Talmudic nature of Judaism in Khazaria.
However, it will be shown that the adoption of the Khazar version of the origin story by Karaite intellectuals was accompanied by two parallel and interconnected processes of identity change, namely militarization and Turkification.
The research used for this lecture is based on Khazar historiography as well as Karaite periodicals and historical journalism from the 20th and 21st centuries.
Maksym Martyn is a Ukrainian historian from Lviv. Since 2003 Maksym has been employed at the Lviv Museum of the History of Religion, in the Department of Judaism, where he has served as a junior researcher, senior researcher, and, finally, head of department. His exhibitions and catalogue based on the Jewish collection of the museum were granted awards from the mayor of Lviv and from the National Museum Contest. His sphere of academic interests includes the historiography of Eastern European Karaites and Jewish epigraphy. Maksym received a PhD in history in 2021 from Drohobych University, after finishing a PhD program in Jewish Studies at Ukrainian Catholic University (Lviv).
Sunday, November 27, 8 pm Israel / 7 pm CET / 6 pm UK / 1 pm EST
Sunday November 27th 3 Kislev 08:00 - 09:15
Maksym Martyn, Ph.D.
Online Zoom Event Map
Karaim leader Serajah Shapshal with representatives of the Karaim clergy. Originally published (1929) in Myśl Karaimska. @Karaimska baza literacko-bibliograficzna