Short Visit


Guided Tour

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Catalog of the Exhibition
Asty zaman, tiustiu kiermian,
Sarajlary tahaldylar.
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.

Vilnius Karaim kenesa, 1998
 (House of Prayer)


This exhibit tells about the history, cultural heritage, and current problems of the Karaims, who are the smallest  ethnic group in  Lithuania. 

The 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.

Seraya Shapshal 
 - orientalist, philologist,
 the former Karaim  
spiritual leader

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, and Polish)..

 This short excursion through the exhibit  "The Karaims of Lithuania" has been organized by the Cultural Society of Lithuanian Karaims.

Ekskursija  These and other themes introduced in this brief survey of the cultural heritage of Lithuanian Karaims  treated in greater detail in the exhibit  Lithuanian Karaims.We hope that this exhibit will help visitors understand the nature and historical background of Karaim culture, know themselves better, and perhaps find answers to important questions about how differences are expressed. 

  A Virtual Exhibition of a Millenium of Lithuanian Cultural Heritage:
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Institute of Mathematics and  Informatics, 1998-2001. To Exhibition Foyer
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