2009 | 1-2 (228-229) | 9-16
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SERAYA SHAPSHAL'S LETTER WRITTEN IN THE OTTOMAN LANGUAGE (Z historii polskiej orientalistyki w polowie XX w. List Seraii Szapszala pisany po turecku do Tadeusza Kowalskiego)

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Seraya Shapshal (1873-1961) was a turkologist and a religious leader of the haham Karaim community. He came from Crimea and studied in Saint Petersburg (Russia) and Istanbul. He also spent some time in Iran and in 1928 he came to Vilnius (Wilno) in Poland. From 1929 to 1939 he worked with the Polish Oriental Society. He corresponded with the Cracow turkologist professor Tadeusz Kowalski on scientific matters. Shapshal's letters to Kowalski written between 1929 and 1947 are kept in the Archives of Science of the Polish Academy of Sciences (PAN) and the Polish Academy of Arts and Sciences (PAU). In 1945, Shapshal sent from Vilnius a letter in the Ottoman language written with the use of the Arabic alphabet. He was certain that Kowalski would be the only person to read it. The letter was delivered by a person who was arranging the Karaims' journey to Poland, as in 1945 Vilnius and its county was incorporated into the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic. Shapshal wrote about arresting former Polish citizens and he asked whether Kowalski was able to find him a job for the Jagiellonian University. The letter contained two parts: the first one was written on the 3 May 1945 and the second one - one day later. Shapshal wrote the dates in an extremely unusual way: he used the Arabic numerals to write the day of the month as well as the year (19 -1945, 20 -1945) while he placed an Arabic letter (g) and a vertical dash between them. It meant 'gemadi elula 1', the fifth month of the Muslim year. By doing so, he combined Arabic calendar with the year according to the Christian age. Scholars used to help each other. T. Kowalski and S. Shapshal wrote to a Russian scientist from Leningrad (Saint Petersburg), Ignacy Kraczkowski, who supported Shapshal's efforts in Vilnius. S. Shapshal started to work for the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences and he became a curator for the Karaim Museum in Vilnius, where he displayed the collection he had gathered in Poland between 1930 and 1938.
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  • Jan Tyszkiewicz, Uniwersytet Warszawski, ul. Krakowskie Przedmiescie 26/28, 00-927 Warszawa, Poland
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