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Russian or Tatar language - David M. Kokizov (1911)

None of the now known historical sources provide convincing evidence that the Turkic language, which (European) Karaites currently speak is their mother tongue, like Russian is the language for the Slavic population of the large part of the Russian Empire, French is the language of the Frenchman and Japanese is the language for the Japanese etc.

On the contrary, history provides us evidence (albeit only indirect evidence) that in the distant past wild hordes of Tatars subjugated our peace-loving ancestors and that under their rule our mother tongue - Biblical Hebrew was replaced by the Tatar language in a forced or voluntary way.

This substitution had no cultural benefit for our people, but rather the opposite.
It made it much more difficult for our ancestors to communicate with civilized nations to and to adopt the knowledge that these nations have achieved in various fields of science and art; it's time to ask a serious question.
Is it time to replace the uncivilized Tatar language with a civilized language, such as the Russian language?

The main reasons why the European Karaites should change their Tatar language with a cultural and civilized language are following:

(European) Karaites have used the Tatar language for several centuries, during this period they have written no scientific work or any other work which they could be proud of in the Tatar language.

Not only (European) Karaites, but also other nations that use the Tatar language have written no books that are worth anything. Even if such books existed among the Tatar nations, (European) Karaites would not be able to utilize these books because they do not know the Tatar script, and during the time that it takes to learn this script they can learn a more useful and modern cultural language.

Therefore, among (European) Karaites the Tatar language is still taught from an early age.
Teaching the Law of God and other religious subjects in the Tatar language doesn't bring the benefit that would result from teaching children a cultural language that would allow them to acquire extensive knowledge in various fields of science and art, that are directly written in that language or translated into that language from other cultural languages.

If any (European) Karaite ever wanted to conduct their own research on the Tatar language or wanted to write a literary work in this language, he/she will be forced to invent many new words, because the Tatar language has a very limited vocabulary. It would not make sense for a scientist or writer to publish his works exclusively in the Tatar language, which is only understood by a very limited number of (European) Karaites, especially when books published in the Russian language are understandable for thousands of readers.

The answer to the question of which language (European) Karaites should replace the Tatar language with should not cause any trouble, because this new language must be a language of cultural nation, where (European) Karaite communities currently abide in.

This means that the Karaites who live in the Russian Empire should learn the Russian language, so they will represent the majority of Karaites. There are much smaller Karaite communities scattered in countries that are less culturally developed.

The replacement of the Tatar language by the Russian language, which could recommend our congress to Karaites who live in Russia, would consist of the following.

Each (European) Karaite family should teach their children to speak mainly the Russian language.

The object of the teaching should also be to learn other foreign cultural languages.

The Law of God and other general subjects should be taught to Karaite children in the Russian language.

All official communication between (European) Karaites and the Karaite Spiritual Board, for example between the Hakham and the Karaite communities should take place exclusively in the Russian language.

The Karaite Spiritual Board should take all possible steps to ensure that all our schoolbooks, prayer books and other holy books should be published in Biblical Hebrew with parallel text in the Russian language.

The translation of prayer books and holy books into Russian language should have a positive impact on the strengthening of the religiosity of (European) Karaites and also on the relationships between the members of individual Karaite communities.

Currently, many of our kenasas (synagogues) are empty, even during the great feasts. This is largely due to a large number of (European) Karaites who have forgotten Biblical Hebrew over time, which they learned in their youth. Some (European) Karaites never even learned it and for this reason they feel embarrassed in the presence of co-religionists who still know how to pray.

David M. Kokizov

The statement of the editorial board: This topic, which the honoured author of this article opened, especially concerns the Karaites living in the Crimean towns where the midrashes continue to be taught in the Tatar language. Editors fully agree with the wishes of the venerable D. M. Kokizov, however, we believe that no artificial interventions are necessary, because the Tatar language will be pushed out from the life of Karaites naturally.