Legal situation

After Karaims settled in Lithuania they established separate community (Džymat). The rights given by the sovereign regulated the legal status of it and its members. The first legal act which has survived, as a historical document is the one issued by King of Lithuania Jonas Kazimieras in 1441 giving Trakai Karaims’ community the right of self-government. The originals of any earlier issues did not survive, but are mentioned in some historical documents of 17th century.

“Karaims – wrote 19th c. Polish writer Wladyslaw Syrokomla, – ipso iure were as half-noble, considered true citizens of the land in its full meaning, not a foreign tribe”.

Only best-educated, most respected and honourable people of the General Meeting had opportunities to be elected to the very responsible vaitas post. The elected vaitas was confirmed by the Ruler, or upon his authorising- by the Trakai city vaivada. Upon the tradition of that days the vaitas had to perform his duties lifelong. The vaitas’ duty included the civil cases and more rarely the criminal cases for small crimes.

Privileges at the Grand Duchy of Lithuania were issued for separate persons also. The historian Jozef Wierzynski wrote about a document that was issued in 1706 by the executive official called “kaštelionas”, hetman of the grand Duchy of Lithuania, duke Mykolas Kaributas Wishniowieckis: “to the old servant of my house and now – doctor of my palace, Abraomas Moskevicius, the Karaim of Pasvalys, who is under my special patronage”. The document cites that the person under patronage today and for all times is exempted from any taxes and military service. And the one who will seek this person’s property or will disobey the document shall not only be punished, but also sentenced to death.

Karaims living in Trakai occupied a separate part of it, which was held as a separate town, even with its own “city” stamp. The vaitas (elected leader of the community) as well as Spiritual board always had residence in Trakai which was the centre uniting all Karaims.