The rise of Karaim cultural nationalism as part of the European movement

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Tapani Harviainen

Abstract

In the nationalistic-revivalist atmosphere which prevailed in Eastern Europe in the second half of the 19th century and the first four decades of the 20th century, it would indeed be a real miracle if the Karaims, with all their ethnic characteristics, had remained untouched by nationalist movements. In the framework of the essential definitions of nation, nationalism and ethnicity, their religion, languages, calendar, endogamic family ties, social organization, leadership and etiological myths represent the most characteristic markers of an ethnic group or ethnic minority. This conclusion is supported by a great number of ethnic symbols which distinguish the Karaims from Jews and other neighbouring peoples. For their part, the decisions of the Austrian and Russian authorities in favour of the Karaims after 1774 constituted the basis for their status as a juridically independent ingroup. The recurrent negative definitions of the Karaims as a Jewish sect etc. can be considered neither appropriate nor up-to-date.

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How to Cite
Harviainen, T. (2013). The rise of Karaim cultural nationalism as part of the European movement. Karaite Archives, (1), 45–58. https://doi.org/10.14746/ka.2013.1.04
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Articles
Author Biography

Tapani Harviainen, University of Helsinki

(b. 1944), Professor Emeritus of Semitic Languages andDocent of Semitic Languages and Cultures at the Faculty of Arts at the University of Helsinki, has conducted Karaite and Karaim studies at the Firkovich Collections in the National Library of Russia in St. Petersburg as well as among the Karaims in Eastern Europe from the 1980s on. The linguistic history of the Hebrew language, Aramaic incantation bowls and oriental ethnic groups living in Europe have constituted another part of his academic activities.

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