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CHUFUT-KALE:

Suburb of Bakhchiserai, a town in the government of Taurida, Russia. It is called by the Tatars "Kirk-er" (Place of Forty), and by the Karaites. to which sect the greater part of its inhabitants belong, "Sela' ha-Yehudim" (The Rock of the Jews). There are many legends concerning the place. According to one, it was called "Kirk-er" because the khans Mengli-Girei and Takhtamish, the founders of the city, brought with them forty Karaite families, and in their honor called it the "Place of Forty."

Another legend, fostered by the Karaites to show the antiquity of their sect, says that Karaites were brought there from Persia at the time of the first Exile. The early settlers of the city exercised great influence upon their neighbors, the Chazars. The ḥakam Abraham Firkowitsch, who was very skilful in falsifying epitaphs and manuscripts, pretended to have unearthed at the cemetery of Chufut-Kale tombstones dating from the year 6 of the common era, and to have discovered the tomb of Sangari, which is still shown by the Karaites. According to Harkavy, however, no epitaph earlier than 1203can be seen at the cemetery of Chufut-Kale, called "Vale of Jehoshaphat"; and the tombs do not belong to Karaites, but to the old Rabbinite settlers called "Krimchaki." Chufut-Kale, however, existed as early as the seventh century. Abu al-Fida mentions it under the name "Kirk-er."

The Karaite community possesses two synagogues; it has a bet din consisting of three members, the ḥakam, the ḥazzan, and the beadle (shammash). A printing-office for Karaite works was established there in 1734. The first work published was the Karaite ritual, according to Aaron ben Joseph, the author of "Sefer ha-Mibḥar." For history of suburb see Crimea; Karaites.

Bibliography:
  • Semenov, i. 742;
  • Regesty, pp. 1023 et seq.;
  • Chwolson, Trudy Pyatavo, Archeologicheskavo Syezda v Tiflisye, pp. 95-100;
  • Beim. Pamyat o Chufut-Kale;
  • Beilinson, Ẓebi la-Ẓaddiḳ, refuting the legends related in the preceding work;
  • see also Harkavy's letter, in Nedyelnagaya Khronika Voskhoda, 1895, No. 15.
H. R. I. Br.
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