List of Khazar rulers

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The following is a list of Khazar rulers.

Early Khazar rulers[edit]

Name Reign Comments
Khozarig Eponymous folk-ancestor of the Khazars
Karadach 450 AD Karadach was the king of the Akatziroi, a steppe nation allied to the Huns. He is described in the accounts of Priscus.

Khazar Khagans (Ashina dynasty)[edit]

See also: Ashina and Göktürk Khagans.

The Khagans were supreme chiefs of the people, holding positions of much influence and spiritual authority, but with little day-to-day command.

Name Reign Comments
Ziebel 618–630 Tun Yabgu Khan of the West Göktürks
Böri Shad? 630–650
Irbis? 650
Khalga? mid 660s? During the period between 650 and 680, one will sometimes see references to a Khalga, mid 660s, and Kaban, late 660s. Researchers should be aware that these names are derived from a single document, the Cäğfär Taríxı, and that a great many scholars have severely attacked this document as a mixture of factual data and outright fabrication.

The Cäğfär Taríxı purports to be a compilation of early Bulgar historical material, assembled (or at least written in its present form) in the late 17th century. It has been used by Volgan Tatars to document that their antecedents in their region extend back in time by many centuries.

Critics claim the Cäğfär Taríxı to be a forgery, created by or at the behest of the Soviet Secret Police (then the NKVD) in the 1930s for the purpose of creating divisiveness and factionalism within the ethnic Tatars of that era. The Soviet government did create spurious historical documents on several occasions. The historicity of the people that it refers to is therefore questionable, so until additional documentation comes to light, Khalga and Kaban should be regarded warily at best.

Kaban? late 660s?
Busir (Ibuzir Glavan) c. 690–715 Busir Glavan took in the exiled Byzantine Emperor, Justinian II, and gave him his own sister (baptismal name Theodora). He later tried to kill Justinian to placate Tiberius III, causing Justinian's flight to Bulgaria and his ultimate restoration to the throne.
Barjik late 720s–731
Bihar c. 732 Bihar is the name given in some sources to the Khazar Khagan whose daughter Tzitzak married the future Byzantine Emperor Constantine V. The son of Constantine and Tzitzak was Leo IV the Khazar.
Prisbit late 730s Female. Regent?
Under the Caliphate 737–c. 740
Baghatur c. 760
Khan-Tuvan
(a.k.a. Dyggvi)
c. 825–
830 (died?)
Tarkhan 840s Arab sources speak of "Tarkhan, King of the Khazars" during this period. "Tarkhan" can be both a proper name and a military rank. It is unclear whether the sources refer to a Khagan named Tarkhan or make a confusing reference to a general.
Zachariah c. 861

Khazar Beks[edit]

The Khagan Beks were war chiefs, military commanders who exercised considerable day-to-day authority, and were sometimes regarded by outsiders as the supreme lords of the Khazar nation.

Name Reign Comments
Yazir Bulash It is not entirely clear that these individuals were or were not Bulanids. They may have been simply warlords. Nevertheless, their activity parallels that of the later Beks, and so are included.
Chorpan Tarkhan c. 630
Alp Tarkhan early 700s
Tar'mach c. 730
Hazer Tarkhan ?–737
Under the Caliphate 737–c. 740

Conversion to Judaism[edit]

Hazer Tarkhan's army was annihilated at Itil in 737 AD, and the Caliphate imposed Islam upon the Khazars. Nevertheless, the Caliphs could not adequately garrison Khazaria, and within a few years the Khazars were once again independent. The famous conversion to Judaism seems to have occurred about this time. The date of the actual conversion to Judaism is a matter of some controversy. According to Yehuda Halevi in Kuzari, it occurred around 740 AD, though some Arab sources point to a date closer to the end of the 8th century or early 9th century, and more recent scholars have postulated that 861 AD, the date of St. Cyril's visit to Khazaria, was the year of the conversion to Judaism.

The 2002 discovery of a coin hoard in Sweden further complicates the issue, as some of the coins bear dates from the early 9th century and the legends "Ard al-Khazar" (Land of the Khazars) and "Moses is the Prophet of God". Since the coins date from 837 AD or 838 AD, some scholars think the conversion occurred in 838 AD. Bulan Sabriel was the Khazar ruler at the time of the conversion, but in the list below all the dates up to Aaron I are based on a presumed 740 AD conversion date.

Bulanid dynasty[edit]

Name Reign Comments
Bulan Sabriel c. 740 Joseph corresponded with Hasdai ibn Shaprut, a Jewish vizier to Abd al-Rahman III, Caliph of Córdoba. It is from that correspondence that this list is taken. It is not entirely ruled out that the Bulanids were in fact Khagans rather than Beks, though their power certainly appears to be that of the Beks. Moreover, it is possible that the positions merged in the 10th century, as Joseph makes no reference to a colleague, instead referring to himself as "king of the Khazars."
Obadiah c. 786–809
Hezekiah
Manasseh I
Chanukkah
Isaac
Zebulun
Manasseh II
Nisi ben Menasseh
Aaron I c. 900
Menahem
Benjamin c. 920
Aaron II c. late 920s
–940
Joseph 940–965

Late Khazar Rulers[edit]

In 969 AD, Sviatoslav I of Kiev sacked Itil, the capital of the Khazar Khaganate. Khazar successor states appear to have survived in the Caucasus and around the Black Sea. We know of two later Khazar rulers:

Name Reign Comments
David c. 986–988
Georgius Tzul (of Kerch) ?–1016

Collapse of Khazar power[edit]

Georgius Tzul was captured by a joint Rus'-Byzantine expedition and his state was destroyed. Shortly thereafter, the Kipchaks became masters of the Pontic steppe (see Cumans). However, there continue to be tantalizing references, in Muslim sources, of battles against "Khazars" in the Caucasus well into the late 11th century. Whether Khazar states continued to survive or their name was used generically to describe Caucasian highlanders is unclear.

The fate of the Jewish Khazars is unclear. Jewish travelers of the 12th century continue to refer to them in passing. Khazar Jews are known to have lived in Kiev and even to have emigrated to Spain, the Byzantine Empire and Iraq. According to some sources the majority may have gone to Hungary, Poland and the Crimea, mingling with Jews in those areas and with later waves of Jewish immigrants from the west.

References[edit]

List largely adapted from Bruce Gordon's Regnal Chronologies - Eurasian Nomads

Sources[edit]

  • Artamonov, Mikhail. Istoriya Khazar. Leningrad, 1962.
  • Brook, K.A.. The Jews of Khazaria. 2nd ed. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc, 2006.
  • Christian, David. A History of Russia, Mongolia and Central Asia. Blackwell, 1999.
  • Golden, Peter Benjamin. Introduction to the History of the Turkic Peoples. Wiesbaden: Harrasowitz, 1992.
  • Golden, Peter Benjamin. Nomads and Sedentary Societies in Medieval Eurasia. Washington, D.C.: American Historical Society, 1998.
  • Klyashtorny, S.G. and T.I. Sultanov. Kazakhstan. Alma-Ata, 1992.
  • Mango, C. & R. Scott (trans.), The Chronicle of Theophanes Confessor, Oxford University Press, 1997.