CHUFUT-KALE

CHUFUT-KALE (Turk. "Jew Castle"), ancient town in Crimea near Bakhchisarai, between Sevastopol and Simferopol, now in ruins. It was probably originally a Greek fortress dating from the time of Justinian I (sixth century C.E.) and perhaps identical to Phyllae (Phyll), later mentioned as a khazar possession. It had a settlement of karaites who probably made their appearance there before the Mongol invasion (13th century). Chufut-Kale retained its importance as a Karaite center until the Russian conquest of Crimea in 1783. It is referred to in Karaite sources as Sela ha-Yehudim ("Rock of the Jews"). The Karaite community numbered over 300 families in the middle of the 17th century. A Hebrew press was established by the Karaites in 1734, for publishing Karaite works; the press continued to function until 1741. Under the Russians, another press operated from 1804 to 1806. In the second half of the 19th century the Karaites abandoned Chufut-Kale. Attention was directed to Chufut-Kale in the 19th century as the most important source for the material gathered by A. Firkovich : 546 of the 751 Hebrew epitaphs published in his Avnei Zikkaron (Vilna, 1872) were from Chufut-Kale, and biblical manuscripts from there are included in the Second Firkovich Collection, purchased after his death by the Imperial Public Library in St. Petersburg. During World War II the Karaites there were not killed by the Nazis, since in Berlin it was decided that they were of the Jewish faith but not of Jewish blood. -BIBLIOGRAPHY: M.I. Artamonov, Istoriya Khazar (1962), 193–4, 256, index; D. Chwolson, Corpus Inscriptionum Hebraicarum (1882), 15ff., 235ff.; J.T. Reinaud, Géographie d'Aboulféda, 1 (1848), 319 (Arabic text 214–5); I. Halpern, Yehudim ve-Yahadut be-Mizraḥ Eiropah (1969), 401–4.

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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