Karaites - Economy

During the Middle Ages and afterward, Karaites were principally engaged in trade. They facilitated the development of trade between Poland and Turkey, and their trade routes stretched from the Podolsko-Volynia lands and Lithuania to the Crimea, to Constantinople, and to the Near East. In the nineteenth century a few businessmen among the Karaite traders founded companies in Odessa and Petersburg and became leaders in international trade. Besides merchants, there were a significant number of farmers among the Karaites who cultivated gardens and orchards and were particularly successful with crops that were brought from the Crimea and were new to Lithuania. By the nineteenth century there were a fair number of educated Karaites who became doctors, lawyers, and scholars. In the 1930s Karaites ceased almost entirely to work in agriculture. At the same time, the number obtaining a university education rose significantly. After World War II Karaites abandoned their traditional occupations, taking up professional careers in engineering, medicine, education, music, and the like.

Clothing. Traditional Karaite dress was similar to Tatar dress. In Poland Karaites wore European-style clothing. An indispensable object of masculine attire was the small Kolpak hat. Hakhamim wore high hats, Klobuk, and large gowns ( djubbe ) . Wide pants were included in both women's and men's costumes.

Food. The Karaite kitchen was constructed according to the laws of kashrut, as were the kitchens of Talmudic Jews. Karaite cooking was subject to a strong Turkish influence, however. For example, Karaites prepared katlaina (a cheese cake consisting of several layers), tutmac (a kind of macaroni), umach (dumplings), and other dishes.

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