|Asty zaman, tiustiu kiermian,
Sahync kalat tiri jomach,
Kajsyn abrejdlar karajlar.
||The years passed by as water,
The island castle's tumbled down.
But the past is still alive,
As Karaims take care of it.
(House of Prayer)
This exhibit tells about the history, cultural heritage, and
current problems of the Karaims, who are the smallest ethnic group
characteristics of this Oriental culture and its relationship with its
Lithuanian environment are revealed through the photographs, texts, and graphics as well as audio video recordings presented here.
According to the ethnostatistical data collected in 1997, there are
257 Karaims living in Lithuania. Their social activity is directed, first
and foremost, toward the preservation of their distinctive culture,
language, customs, and religion.
600th anniversary of the
Karaims in Lithuania
During the 600 years that they have lived in Lithuania, this small
Turkic people have preserved a strong national consciousness. A rather
inward-looking community life, firm moral principles based on the
teachings of the Karaim religion, and steadfast adherence to tradition - all
these things have contributed to the survival of the people, of their basic
characteristics, such as language, customs, and rituals, and thus, of
their national identity. What also helped the Karaims of Lithuania survive
under difficult conditions was the tolerance and respect for them expressed
during all those centuries not only in the everyday contacts between people but
also in the official state documents of various periods.
- orientalist, philologist,
the former Karaim
An exceptional period in the history of Lithuanian
Karaims was the
Soviet occupation, which thoroughly shook up the accustomed foundations
of Karaim community life. The consequences of that time, which are still
felt today, make it much more difficult for people to "return to their roots,"
to the rhythms of their national life.
Many world scholars are interested in the cultural heritage that
Lithuanian Karaims have preserved to the present day. The still living Karaim language, which belongs to the West Kipchak subgroup of the
Turkic family of languages, receives the most attention. It is being studied
from several angles - as a language that has preserved rare old forms and
words that have disappeared from other languages of the Turkic family and also
as one that has borrowed and in its own way adapted some features of
vocabulary and syntax from neighboring languages (Lithuanian, Russian,