“Hi!! Do you have any record of Crimean Karaite henna traditions? All I have to go on is your post about henna customs in Turkey/the Balkans, and also in an article about modern Crimean Karaites it said the woman being interviewed had hennaed hair.”
Henna traditions among Egyptian Karaites were previously featured here; now we’ll investigate henna among Crimean Karaites, known as Karaim or Krymkaraylar (there was also a Rabbanite Jewish community in Crimea, known as Krymchaks). How the Jews (Karaite or Rabbanite) got to the Crimean Peninsula is a blogpost for another time... Suffice it to say that according to the 1897 Russian Imperial Census there were 12,894 Karaites in the Russian Empire, of which 5,400 lived in the Crimean Peninsula, 800 in Lithuania, 200 in Volhynia, and the remainder elsewhere. Today there are perhaps four thousand European Karaites, with about a thousand living in Europe and the remainder living in Israel or North America.
|A Karaite kenesa [synagogue], Vilnius, built in 1921.|
It might be surprising that we would look for henna traditions among Crimean Karaites. After all, Crimea sits in the Black Sea between Russia and the Ukraine, not places traditionally associated with henna. But it’s important to remember that the Crimean peninsula was a vassal state of the Ottoman Empire under the Crimean Tatars until 1783, and even after it became part of Russia, there was still a heavy cultural influence from Turkey. And of course, no matter how much I learn about henna, I am always surprised by how far it has travelled and how diverse its traditions are!