Karaite in Ukraine

Main Language
Largest Religion
Progress Gauge

Introduction / History

Karaites are a relatively small subset of world's 15 million Jews. Karaites reject the authority of the Oral Law of the Talmud and Mishnah. These commentaries on the Old Testament are regarded as essential to Rabbinic Jews who make up a vast majority of the Jews in the world.

The Karaite form of Judaism is so strange that Russian Tsars categorized them as non-Jews. The Karaites were able to convince the Tsar's government that no Karaites were in Palestine at the time of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. So, they were not accused of being "Christ killers," as were other Jews. The Nazis of Germany followed the Russian ruling so the Karaites were not persecuted. Thus, they escaped Russia's pogroms and the Nazi holocaust. The great Jewish medieval teacher Maimonides regarded the Karaites as Gentiles.

Most Karaites migrated to Israel after the founding of the Jewish state in 1948. Very small populations of Karaites live in Eastern Europe in Russia, Lithuania, Ukraine and Poland. A tiny population of Karaites still lives in Ukraine. Most live in the larger cities of the Ukraine. With the recent Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022, many Jews in Ukraine are moving to Israel to begin a new life.

What Are Their Lives Like?

In non-religious matters, Karaites tend to adopt the language and customs of their host country. Since most of the Karaites now live in Israel, they are starting to assimilate into mainstream Israeli society.

Most Karaites in Ukraine live in the cities. Most fall into the Ukrainian middle class working as teachers, owners of small businesses, and government administrators. As a tiny minority the Karaites try to keep a low profile. They tend to keep to themselves in social matters. Most Karaites marry within their group. Some young people marry mainstream Jews and Gentiles. Most Jewish parents have small families of two to three children. Parents encourage their children to attend university and to enter the professions.

Karaite follow only the Tenach (Old Testament) rejecting rabbinic interpretations, which in itself is very rare for anyone with a Jewish background.
What Are Their Beliefs?

Karaites claim to be true Jews. They follow only the Tanakh, not the commentaries on the Old Testament. Some scholars link them with the ancient Sadducee sect that only accepted the Torah as authoritative.

The Karaites reject rabbinic interpretations or commentaries on the Torah and other books of the Jewish Bible. They allow each believer to make his/her own interpretation. Unlike most Jewish communities, men and women can exercise authority in their groups. They often prostrate themselves in prayer, which is rare for any Jewish community.

Still, the Karaites have important commonalities with mainstream Judaism. They observe the Sabbath. Karaites practice separation from Gentiles. They engage in ritual washing. Their prayer books come almost exclusively from passages in the Tanakh.

But just when we think we can pigeonhole the Karaites as Orthodox Jews, they surprise us. They do not wear phylacteries attached to forehead or hand in any form. Karaites believe the Scriptures refer to these only in metaphorical terms. Instead, they hide the Word of God in their thoughts and let it guide their actions.

Rabbinic Judaism accepts a matrilineal program. If one's mother is a Jew, the child is considered a Jew. The Karaites follow a patrilineal system where one's Judaism is determined by having a Jewish father.

What Are Their Needs?

Like all other Jews, Karaites need to understand that Jesus Christ is their Messiah. Only through Jesus can their sins be forgiven. In Christ alone can they find eternal life.

Prayer Points

Pray that Ukrainian believers will reach out and share the gospel with their Karaite friends.
Pray that leaders in the Karaite movement become interested in investigating the claims of Jesus Christ.
Pray the Spirit opens the eyes of the Karaites as they read the Torah to see a prophet greater than Moses.
Pray that God brings many in the Ukrainian Karaiteish community to the knowledge of their Messiah.

Scripture Prayers for the Karaite in Ukraine.



Profile Source:   Joshua Project  

People Name General Karaite
People Name in Country Karaite
Pronunciation KARE-uh-ite
Alternate Names Karaim; Karaite Jew
Population this Country 1,000
Population all Countries 1,600
Total Countries 4
Indigenous Yes
Progress Scale 1
Unreached Yes
Frontier People Group Yes
Pioneer Workers Needed 1
People ID 12523
ROP3 Code 104635
ROP25 Code 303706
ROP25 Name Karaite
Country Ukraine
Region Europe, Eastern and Eurasia
Continent Europe
10/40 Window No
National Bible Society Website
Persecution Rank Not ranked
Location in Country L’vivs’ka oblast’: Luts’k town; Chernivets’ka oblast’: Halych town.   Source:  Ethnologue 2016
Country Ukraine
Region Europe, Eastern and Eurasia
Continent Europe
10/40 Window No
National Bible Society Website
Persecution Rank Not ranked
Location in Country L’vivs’ka oblast’: Luts’k town; Chernivets’ka oblast’: Halych town..   Source:  Ethnologue 2016

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Primary Religion: Ethnic Religions
Religion Subdivision: Judaism
Major Religion Percent
0.00 %
Christianity  (Evangelical 0.00 %)
0.00 %
Ethnic Religions
85.00 %
0.00 %
0.00 %
15.00 %
Other / Small
0.00 %
0.00 %
Primary Language Karaim (1,000 speakers)
Language Code kdr   Ethnologue Listing
Language Written Yes   ScriptSource Listing
Total Languages 1
Primary Language Karaim (1,000 speakers)
Language Code kdr   Ethnologue Listing
Total Languages 1
People Groups Speaking Karaim

Primary Language:  Karaim

Bible Translation Status  (Years)
Bible-Portions Yes  (1841-1842)
Bible-New Testament No
Bible-Complete No
Possible Print Bibles
World Bibles
Forum Bible Agencies
National Bible Societies
World Bible Finder
Virtual Storehouse
Resource Type Resource Name Source
None reported  
Photo Source Tamar Hayardeni תמר הירדני - Wikimedia  Creative Commons 
Profile Source Joshua Project 
Data Sources Data is compiled from various sources. Learn more.

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