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TROKI (Lith. Trakai; Ger. Traken), city in S.E. Lithuania; annexed to Russia after the third partition of Poland (1795), under Polish rule from 1922 to 1939. Troki is known as the site of an extended struggle between *Karaites and *Rabbanite Jews. It was the most ancient and important of the Karaite communities in the kingdom of *Poland-Lithuania, having apparently been founded by Karaites brought from the Crimea by the Grand Duke of Lithuania, Witold (Vitovt). In 1388 Witold gave the Troki Karaites a charter of rights (in which they were called Jews) which assured them the status of freemen, commercial and professional freedom, religious liberty, and the right to their own jurisdiction. These privileges were confirmed and even extended by the Lithuanian dukes and Polish kings of the 15th to 17th centuries. In 1441 Casimir IV (see *Poland) granted the status of a city with *Magdeburg rights to that half of Troki occupied by the Karaites, under a special judge who was to deal with their internecine quarrels. After 1625 some Rabbanite families settled in Troki and engaged in trade, but in 1646 the Karaites obtained from Ladislaus IV an order banning those Jews from living in Troki and competing with the Karaites in commerce.

The Karaites of Troki, who up to recent times spoke a peculiar Tatar dialect, were comfortably situated, some of them becoming very wealthy. Although they were expelled along with the Jews of Lithuania in 1495, they resettled after the decree was canceled in 1503. They cooperated on many occasions with the Rabbanite communities in matters of taxes and confirmation of privileges, and lent Troki charters of rights to those communities for purposes of intercession with the authorities. The representatives of Troki were the acknowledged leaders at the councils of all the Lithuanian Karaites. The regulations of the all-Lithuanian Karaite Council, which met in Troki in 1553, were handed over to the heads of the Rabbanite communities for their approval in 1568, when the latter assembled at *Grodno. In 1579 the Karaite community of Troki was called on to join the discussions of the organization of Lithuanian Jewish communities concerning taxation; during the activity of the Council of Lithuania (see *Councils of the Lands), Troki paid the royal taxes through the Council. Up to the *Chmielnicki massacres of 1648 good relations obtained between the Karaites of Troki and the communities of Lithuania. Among the learned Karaites of Troki in the 15th and 16th centuries were Isaac b. Abraham *Troki, author of Ḥizzuk Emunah (against Christianity); his pupil Joseph b. Mordecai *Malinovski; *Zerah b. Nathan; Ezra b. Nisan (d. 1666); and Josiah b. Judah (d. after 1658). The last three were influenced by Joseph Solomon *Delmedigo.

Troki was so severely affected by the Russian-Polish struggle over the Ukraine in 1654–67 that by about 1680 there were no more than about 30 families in the declining Karaite community, divided by disputes with the other Karaite communities and with the Council of Lithuania regarding taxation demands. With the encouragement of King John III Sobieski, in 1688 a number of householders moved from Troki to Kukizov (Krasny Ostrov) near Lvov, to establish a Karaite community there. At the beginning of the 18th century Troki was again hit by war, famine, and plague, so that only three Karaite families remained. About that time another conflict broke out over the Rabbanites' right of domicile (permission was granted in the end). But in 1765 there were about 150 Rabbanites and 300 Karaites in Troki and its environs.

After Troki passed to Russia, many Jews who had been expelled from the villages settled there in 1804. In the same year the Karaites began to fight for the expulsion of those refugees, and in 1835, after protracted legal debates, the Rabbanites were ordered to leave the city within five years. In 1862 this order was rescinded and the Rabbanites returned to Troki. In 1879 there were about 600 Karaites there and in 1897, 377 Karaites and 1,112 Rabbanites (out of a total population of 3,240). Some of the Troki Karaites left the town and established a new community in Vilna. In the 19th and 20th centuries relations between Karaites and Jews were strained and hostile.


Y. Luria, in: He-Avar, 1 (1918): M. Balaban, in: Ha-Tekufah, 25 (1929); J. Brutzkus, in: YIVO Bleter, 13 (1938; repr. in Lite, vol. 1, 1951); S. Shomroni-Shtraz (ed.), Troki-Sefer Zikkaron (Heb. and some Yid., 1954); M. Nadav, in: KS, 33 (1957/58), 260–8; Mann, Texts, 2 (1935); S. Bershadski, Litovskiye yevrei (1883), 178–82; Yu. Hessen, in: Yevreyskaya Starina, 3 (1910); I.A. Klienman, ibid., 13 (1930); I. Schiper, Dzieje handlu żydowskiego na ziemiach polskich (1937), index.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.