Monday, December 31, 2018

Karaims of Crimea Now Being Persecuted by Russian Occupiers

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 30 – The Karaims, Jews of Turkic origin, who generally escaped persecution by the tsars and even the Nazis because of their ethnicity and despite their religion, are now being subject to legal sanctions by the Russian occupiers for violating Moscow’s harsh Yarovaya laws governing missionary activity.

            Six days ago, a Russian occupation court in Evpatoria fined the Karaim religious community for failing to put up a sign on its building as required by Russian law, according to the Crimean Human Rights Group (

            According to the Russian law the occupiers are applying, the small Karaim community will have to pay a fine of from 30,000 to 50,000 rubles (430 to 710 US dollars), a small amount in the abstract but a very large one for this group which now numbers fewer than 600 on the Ukrainian peninsula and whose ability to maintain itself is thus threatened. 

            The Karaims have a curious history. They are Jewish by religion but either Khazar or Turkish in origin. In the 19th century, they successfully sought exemption from anti-Semitic restrictions in the tsarist empire as Turks. And under the Nazi occupation, they largely escaped oppression despite their Jewish faith because of their Turkish ethnic roots.

            Nonetheless, the group which has its own distinctive language and culture (see its website at has long been in decline. There were some 6000 Karaim at the end of World War II. Now, their numbers are down to 600 in Crimea itself, after approximately 500 emigrated to Israel in the 1990s where they have citizenship under that country’s right of return laws.

            It is yet another indictment of the Russian occupation that instead of protecting this numerically small ethnic and religious group, the illegal powers that be have chosen to repress it – and to do so at a time when they assume their actions will be ignored, at the Christmas season and in the last week of the old year. 

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