Karaim mejumas in Eupatoria

Karaim mejumas in Eupatoria

Henryk Jankowski

(53rd Annual Meeting of the PIAC, St. Petersburg 2010)

Mejuma, the adaptation of the Turkish word mecmua ‘collection’, is a type of handwritten and bound book, copied by Crimean Karaims in the 19th, some also in the 20th century. These manuscripts were mostly written in Crimean Turkish, but also included works written in a language more similar to Karaim, as well as Crimean Tatar and even imitation of Crimean Noghai. The contents of mejumas are mixed, they mostly include poems, songs, stories, tales, riddles, plays, proverbs and sayings. Some manuscripts are short, some quite voluminous. According to Shapshal, once almost each Karaim family possessed a mejuma. The first critical edition of a mejuma came out in 2009, although a non-critical edition was published by Radloff in 1888 and 1896.

With regard to the origin, it seems that most works in the mejumas are the adaptations of Turkish literature, quite popular in the Crimea. The number of Crimean Tatar works is not high. There are also translations from Hebrew literature, e.g. a theatre play of King Saul. The most interesting works are those composed by Karaims.

As our study shows the mejumas are very important for they contain all pieces of Karaim secular literature, first described by Shapshal in 1918.

Probably the most numerous collection of mejumas is among the holdings of the Library of Lithuanian Academy of Sciences in Vilnius. It is unknown how many of them were preserved in private collections in the Crimea. I have copies of two of them. Ten mejumas are housed in the collection of the Karaim congregation in Eupatoria.

This paper intends to give a short presentation of ten mejumas of Eupatoria which have never been yet examined.