Historical Consciousness, Haskalah, and Nationalism among the Karaites of Eastern Europe

Karaite Texts and Studies, Volume 10

Author: Golda Akhiezer
The present study is the first of its kind to deal with Eastern European Karaite historical thought. It focuses on the social functions of Karaite historical narratives concerning the rise of Karaism from the Middle Ages to the nineteenth century. The book also deals with the image of Karaism created by Protestants, and with the perception of Karaism by some leaders of the Haskalah movement, especially the scholars of Hokhmat Israel. In both cases, Karaism was seen as an orientalistic phenomenon whereby the “enlightened” European scholars romanticized the “indigenous” people, while the Karaites (themselves), adopted this romantic images, incorporating it into their own national discourse. Finally, the book sheds new light on several conventional notions that shaped the study of Karaism from the nineteenth century.

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Golda Akhiezer, PhD (2008) in Jewish history, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, is a senior lecturer in the Israel Heritage Department at Ariel University. She has published extensively on the history and culture of Eastern European Jewry with main emphases on Karaism; Jewish-Christian and Karaite-Rabbanite polemics; modernization, Haskalah, and Jewish studies in the Russian Empire. She has recently published the book The Conquest of the Crimea by the Russian Empire through the Eyes of Karaite Chroniclers (Jerusalem • Moscow: Gesharim 2015).
List of Abbreviations

General Introduction
 1 Research Methods and Their Ramifications
 2 Reconstructing Historical Thought
 3 Types of Sources
 4 Pseudo-Scholarship, Forged Documents, and Their Significance for the Research

Introduction to Terminology
 1 Historical Consciousness and Traditional Writing
 2 History versus Historical Narrative
 3 Identity
 4 Sect
 5 Authors’ Identity: Elites versus Everyman

1 The Study of Karaism and Its Paradoxes
 1.1 The Research of Ḥokhmat Yisrael and Protestant Scholarship
 1.2 The Ideology of Ḥokhmat Yisrael Scholars and the Study of Karaism
 1.3 The Karaite Paradigm: Authentic or Imagined Karaism?

2 History or Historical Narratives? Formative Traditions in Karaite Literature and Their Social Function
 2.1 Karaite Historical Narratives as Reflections on the Schism
 2.2 The Karaite “Chain of Tradition” and the Schism in Rabbanite Sources
 2.3 Historicization of Rabbanite Sources—Karaite Historical Writing in the Early Modern Period

3 Karaite Intellectual Life in the Fifteenth- to Seventeenth-Century Poland-Lithuania
 3.1 Early Karaite Settlement in Eastern Europe: Historical Background
 3.2 Halakhah, Polemics, and Libraries as Influences on Karaite Identity in Fifteenth-Century Poland-Lithuania
 3.3 The Polemics of Yitzhak ben Avraham of Troki, His Cultural Milieu, and the Question of Karaite Identity
 3.4 The Intellectual Profile and Identity of the Seventeenth-Century Karaite Scholar

4 The Interaction between the Karaites and the Protestant Hebraists in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries

5 The Karaite “Chain of Tradition” in Eastern Europe and the Resurgence of Schism Literature
 5.1 The Historiographical Writing of Mordecai ben Nisan
 5.2 Solomon ben Aaron and His View of History
 5.3 Simḥah Isaac Lutski: The Schism and the History of Kabbalistic Tradition

6 Karaite Chronography in the Crimea and Eastern Europe
 6.1 Cultural and Historical Features of the Crimean Karaite Communities
 6.2 The Chronographic Texts and the Method of Their Analysis
 6.3 Features of Chronographic Writing in Poland-Lithuania

7 Karaites and Their Neighbors in the Nineteenth Century: The Attempt to Construct a Karaite History
 7.1 The Polish-Lithuanian National Narratives and Karaite Historical Writing
 7.2 “Modern-Traditional” Historical Writing

8 The Haskalah, Hokhmat Israel, and the Evolution of Karaite Identity in the Russian Empire
 8.1 The Advent of Modernity
 8.2 The Historical Theories of Abraham Firkovich
 8.3 Historical Writing in Russian Society and Firkovich’s Ideas

Appendix A: Sources in the Polemical Writings of Isaac ben Abraham of Troki
Appendix B: List of Books from the Register (Pinqās) of the Karasubazar Rabbanite Community (1717–33)
Appendix C: List of Disciples and Books Studied in the Chufut-Kaleh Study Hall, 1751–53
Appendix D: Fragment of a Chronicle by Abraham Leonowicz
Appendix E: Abraham Firkovich, Remarks on the Sadducees and on the Origins of the Karaites of Eastern Europe
Index of Names
Readers interested in the intellectual history of the East European Karaites, in Christian Hebraism, the Haskalah movement, the emergence of modern nationalism, and the construction of national narratives.