AQMESCIT/ SIMFEROPIL, 21.05.11 (QHA) – Crimean Karaites will celebrate the birthday of the Karaite philosopher, philologist, Ph.D., professor, hakham (the supreme hierarch), the head of the Karaite religious community Haji Haji Seraya Hachan Shapshal. This is reported by the Head of the All-Ukrainian Association of Karaites ‘Krymkaraylar’ Vladimir Ormeli.
According to him, on May 21, a meeting of the young generation of Karaites with the older one will take place on a cliff Qırq Yer (Çufut Qale mountain).
“We will hold a prayer service, worship oaks and carry communication,” Mr. Ormeli said.
In addition, he reported that the Turkish Republic has provided help to hold the event, which is to be attended by about 80 people.
Reference: Seraya Shapshal or Haji Seraya Hachan Shapshal (1873-1961) was a hakham and leader of the Crimean and then Lithuanian Karaite community.
Shapshal was born in Bağçasaray (Bakhchisarai) and studied at St. Petersburg University, where he received a doctorate in philology and Oriental languages. He was invited to serve as the personal tutor of the Iranian crown prince, Mohammad Ali Shah, and became a minister in the Persian government in 1907 (rumor had it that he was a Russian spy). In 1911 he returned to Crimea and became Chief Hakham of the Crimean Karaite communities.
From 1920 to 1927 he lived in Istanbul. Here he was active in the pan-Turkic movement. In 1927 he moved to Vilna, and became the head of the Karaites in Poland and Lithuania. Although he wrote a Letter to the Falashas in 1905 identifying Karaim as Jews, following the success of Chaimberlain's The Foundations of the Nineteenth Century Shapshal began to safeguard his people's future by beginning to deny any connection between Karaites and Rabbinic Jews. In 1941 he met with Nazi authorities and was instrumental in the formulation of their policy towards the Karaite. As Hakham of Vilna he was infamous for his confrontations with such Jewish community figures as Zelig Kalmanovich. He was also known for having been forced (under penalty of endangering his own community) to give to the Nazis a detailed list of the members of the Karaite communities of Troki and Vilnius, allowing them to easily discover and arrest Jews who had forged papers stating that they were Karaites.
After the war he lived in Troki and later Vilna, teaching at the Soviet-dominated Lithuanian Academy of Sciences. He co-authored of a Karaite-Russian-Polish dictionary (published in 1974) and wrote a number of articles on the Karaites of Crimea. His "History of the Karaites" remains unpublished. Part of his collections and books are kept in a small museum in the old kenesa of Troki, where he died in 1961.

Hayder Ha Hacımambet – Aliye Bekir


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