In the interwar period the Karaite community of Poland and Lithuania comprised not more than 800-900 souls. The process of modernization of the Karaite community was of a rather exotic and unusual nature and set the Karaite community apart from other ethnic minorities which inhabited Poland at that time. Starting from the beginning of the twentieth century and especially during the interwar period the identity of this ethnic group underwent rapid and rather unexpected change. During this period the Karaites lost their identification with Jewish civilization and began to admit to their Turkic-Khazar origin. The article analyzes the process of the transformation of the Karaite identity which could be best defined as the 'internal dejudaization'. In case of the Polish-Lithuanian Karaites, the process of modernization (or dejudaization) led the community to a complete loss of Jewish identity and eventually resulted in emergence of a new ethnic entity formed on the basis of the idea about non-Jewish origin of the Karaites. The article demonstrates that the theory about non-Jewish, Turkic-Kypchak origin of the Karaites is not based on any historical evidence and is a result of the general political changes which took place in European countries in the interwar period.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.