Karaite Trakai
Zbigniew Kosc
Trakai is inhabited by the Karaites (Karaimes) who settled here at the turn of 14th and 15th centuries. Lithuanian Grand Duke Vytautas (Witold) resettled a number of Karaite families from the Crimea for his guard purposes and granted them various privileges. A small community remains there to this day, which has preserved its language, distinctive customs and its houses with three windows - one for God, one for the family, and one for Grand Duke Vytautas.

Their religion of Karaites is the reformed version of Judaism, their sacred language has been Hebrew, knowledge of which is on the verge of extinction, and their vernacular is the Turkic Karaim language. Since the second half of the 19th century Karaim has been the language of literature and at present it is also used in the liturgy in the kenesa temples.

There are only a few hundred Karaites left in Europe. They died in the Holocaust even though they were officially exempted from Hitler's final solution. According to statistics issued in the Republic of Lithuania in 1989, 289 persons identified themselves as Karaims by nationality; of these 73 % considered the Karaim language to be their native language. Approximately 130 Karaims live in Vilnius (Vilna), one hundred in Trakai (Troki) and thirty in Panevezys. The majority of the one hundred and fifty Karaims in Poland (Warszawa, Kraków, Gdansk) are relatives of the Lithuanian Karaims.

Kenessa (synagogue)


Cemetery 1

Cemetery 2

Cemetery 3

Castel and Lake Galve

Trakai village

Karaite links

other projects by Zbigniew Kosc



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Amsterdam 2006

mail to z.kosc@chello.nl