“Before Genovese…”: A letter of Abraham Firkovich to Prince Mikhail S. Vorontsov about the origins of Crimean Karaite community

Boris Rashkovskiy

Vostok/Oriens '2018, №1

DOI: 10.7868/S0869190818010144

The article examines a small complex of documents dealing with the research work made by Russian Karaite intellectual and community leader Abraham Firkovich (1787–1874) in the Crimea and Northern Caucasus in 1840s. One of the documents – a letter to Prince M. S. Vorontsov – Russian general-governor of Crimea and Novorossiya (1823–1844) and Caucasus (1844–1854) is published in this article. In this letter, Firkovich gives the text of an epitaph from Chufut-Kale Karaite tombstone. The text of this epitaph contains a story of certain Eliahu who died (according to Firkovitch) in 1259 during the Genoes siege of Chufut-Kale. This story was totally falsified by Firkovich, because the above-mentioned tombstone never existed. But nevertheless the article demonstrates why the idea of Karaite presence in the Crimea (especially in Chufut-Kale and Kaffa) before the coming of the Genoese was important for Firkovich’s conception of Karaite history.

Keywords: Crimea, Karaites, Firkovich, Michael Vorontsov, History of Russian Orientalistics, Genoese colonies in Crimea, Chufut-Kale, Kaffa (Feodosiya)

Pages: С. 152–166

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