Reviews

This well informed historical study, based notably on personal notebooks by Seraya Szapsał (Bahçesaray, 1873 – Vilnius, 1961), sheds light on the role of this Karaite communal leader and Turkologist in the shaping of Crimean Karaite Jews as remnants of an imagined ancient Turkic race. Relocating Szapsał’s work in the context of the late nineteenth-century secularisation of Eastern European Karaites, the author deals at length with his hero’s contribution to the historical construction of Karaites as a Turkic people connected to the Khazars, and practicing a form of ‘Paganism’ unconnected to Judaism. While neglecting Northern Karaites of Poland and Lithuania, Szapsał did portray, for a Turkish audience, those of the Crimea as a subgroup of Crimean Tatars. The bulk of the study is devoted to the innumerable historical inaccuracies and omissions of Szapsał’s article “Qırım Qaray Türkleri” as it was edited by Yusuf Akçura in his collective volume Türk Yılı (Istanbul, 1928; also separatum). The author insists in particular on the exclusive use by Szapsał of secondary sources, primarily of Russian specialists of Oriental studies. His conclusion is that Szapsał was in fact advancing a new, takiye-like, strategy of Karaite survival ― making them appear as Turks while keeping the inner secret hidden inside.

The Redaction
CER: II-1.2.B-43