For the first time ever, Lithuania Post has released stamps dedicated to the national minorities of Lithuania. The two stamps have been released to honour the Karaites.
Irma Balakauskaitė, the artist and the author of the new stamps, has used one stamp to depict Seraya Szapszal, a world famous orientalist and founder of the Karaites Museum. Another one features Vilnius Kenesa, the temple of the Karaim people. The both stamps issued in the edition of 40 thousand copies with a nominal value of LTL 2.15.
Along with the stamps, the first day cover was released.
Karaism, the religious movement, began in 8th-century Iraq. Their house of God is called 'kenesa'.
Building of Vilnius Kenesa started in 1911, and the foundation-stone was sanctified in October of the same year. Because of World War I, the building works were stopped and later renewed in 1921. On 9 September 1923, Vilnius Kenesa was sanctified.
After Soviet occupation, the kenesa was closed in 1949. The temple was turned into a trust, and later the archive of geodesy service was established. In 1989, Vilnius Kenesa was returned to the community of Karaites. After repairs made in 1993, it was re-sanctified.
Seraya Szapszal was born in 1973 in Bağçasaray (Crimea). Within the years 1894-1899, he studied at the Faculty of Eastern Languages of St Petersburg University (studies of Arabic, Persian, Turkish, and Tartarian Languages). In 1915, S.Szapszal got himself elected ḥakham of Tauris (chief priest of the then Crimea). However, in 1919 he emigrated to Caucasus and then, after a year, to Turkey. In 1927, he was elected as ḥakham of Karaites in Poland, and in 1928 he arrived in Vilnius.
Being spiritual and secular leader of the Karaites, S.Szapszal proceeded with scientific activities: he taught the Turkish Langue at the Institute for East European Studies and the School of Political Sciences, he also was a member of various scientific associations. After World War II, he used to work at the Institute of History under the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences. In 1940 and 1945, he was forced to resign from the position of the religious leader. Irrespective of the change, in the eyes of the Karaites, he maintained his authority and was considered be a chief leader of the nation scattered all around the world.
S.Szapszal died on 18 November in 1961. In the course of 60 years of scientific work, he wrote more than 100 scientific works.