Traditional occupations

Lithuanian Karaims made two estates – military and civil. In Trakai soldiers were in the Army and guarded the castles. Later, when the castles lost their military role, military service became unimportant. According to remained documents and Karaims who had the title of colonel, we can guess about the existance of a separate Karaim unit. Karaims who were in the Army had all the rights given to this estate.

The 600th anniversary of the settling down of Karaims and Tatars in Lithuania.
In Trakai castle’s yard, 1997

Army traditions always existed in Karaim society. In Karaim coat of arms there is double-end lance, called “senek” together with “kalkan” (shield). It is interesting that some military terms survived in Karaim language, while other Turkish nations replaced them with borrowings.

Karaim civils mainly worked on land. They were famous for gardening, cattle-breeding, especially horse-breeding. Like other inhabitants of towns, Karaims dealt with handicraft, trade, owned inns, etc.

Karaim children
in their national costumes

Among Karaims there were people of different professions, such as doctors, theologians, mathematicians and others. Famous Karaim Nisan’s son Ezra (1591-1666 ) is mentioned in historical documents. He was a doctor of Radvils’ noble family and later of Great Duke of Lithuania and Polish king Jonas Kazimieras. His contemporary Natan’s son Zarach (1595-1663 ) was famous poet and mathematician. The most famous Karaim of those times could be theologian Salomon of Trakai (1650-1715 ), who after the visit of Gustav Peringer was offered to make a report about Karaims in Upsala University. He is the author of many religious hymns. His “Syjyt jyry” written in 1714 to remember the victims of plague in Trakai, is sung every year nowadays in old cemetery in Trakai where the victims of plague are buried.

Special place among the scientists belongs to archeologist and theologian Abraham Firkovich (1786-1874). He collected the biggest part of old manuscripts, the part of which today is kept in the libraries of Saint Petersburg.