Khazar Khaganate, 650–850
|Political structure||Khazar Khaganate|
|Historical era||Middle Ages|
|•||7th century est.||1,400,000|
History of the Turkic peoples
|Turkic Khaganate 552–744|
|Khazar Khaganate 618–1048|
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|Karluk Yabgu State 756–940|
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|Gansu Uyghur Kingdom 848–1036|
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|Mamluk Sultanate (Cairo) 1250–1517|
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The Khazars (Turkish: Hazarlar,Tatar: Xäzärlär, Hebrew: כוזרים (Kuzarim), Arabic: خزر (khazar), Ukrainian: Хоза́ри, Russian: Хаза́ры, Persian: خزر, Greek: Χάζαροι, Latin: Gazari/Cosri/Gasani) were a semi-nomadic Turkic people, who created what for its duration was the most powerful polity to emerge from the breakup of the western Turkish steppe empire, known as the Khazar Khanate or Khazaria. Astride a major artery of commerce between northern Europe and southwestern Asia, Khazaria became one of the foremost trading emporia of the medieval world, commanding the western marches of the Silk Road and playing a key commercial role as a crossroad between China, the Middle East and Kievan Rus'. For some three centuries (c. 650–965) the Khazars dominated the vast area extending from the Volga-Don steppes to the eastern Crimea and the northern Caucasus.
Khazaria long served as a buffer state between the Byzantine empire and both the nomads of the northern steppes and the Umayyad empire, after serving as Byzantium's proxy against the Sasanian Persian empire. The alliance was dropped around 900. Byzantium began to encourage the Alans to attack Khazaria and weaken its hold on Crimea and the Caucasus, while seeking to obtain an entente with the rising Rus' power to the north, which it aspired to convert to Christianity. Between 965 and 969, the Kievan Rus' ruler Sviatoslav I of Kiev conquered the capital Atil and destroyed the Khazar state.
Originally, the Khazars were pagan Tengrist worshippers. The populace of the Khazar Khaganate appears to have been multi-confessional—a mosaic of pagan, Tengrist, Jewish, Christian and Muslim worshippers. The ruling elite of the Khazars was said by Judah Halevi and Abraham ibn Daud to have converted to Rabbinic Judaism in the 8th century, but the scope of the conversion within the Khazar Khanate remains uncertain. Proposals of Khazar origins have been made regarding the Slavic Judaising Subbotniks, the Bukharan Jews, the Muslim Kumyks, Kazakhs, the Cossacks of the Don region, the Turkic-speaking Krymchaks and their Crimean neighbours the Karaites to the Moldavian Csángós, the Mountain Jews and others.
In the late 19th century, a theory emerged that the core of today's Ashkenazi Jewry are genetically descended from a hypothetical Khazarian Jewish diaspora who had migrated westward from modern Russia and Ukraine into modern France and Germany. This theory still finds occasional support, but most scholars view it with skepticism. The theory is sometimes associated with antisemitism and anti-Zionism.
- 1 Etymology
- 2 Linguistics
- 3 History
- 3.1 Tribal origins and early history
- 3.2 Rise of the Khazar state
- 3.3 Khazar state: culture and institutions
- 3.4 Khazars and Byzantium
- 3.5 Arab–Khazar wars
- 3.6 Rise of the Rus' and the collapse of the Khazarian state
- 3.7 Aftermath: impact, decline and dispersion
- 4 Religion
- 5 Claims of Khazar ancestry
- 6 In literature
- 7 Cities associated with the Khazars
- 8 See also
- 9 Notes
- 10 References
- 11 External links
Gyula Németh, following Zoltán Gombocz, derived Xazar from a hypothetical *Qasar reflecting a Turkic root qaz- ("to ramble, to roam") being an hypothetical velar variant of Common Turkic kez-. With the publication of the fragmentary Tes and Terkhin inscriptions of the Uyğur empire (744-840) where the form 'Qasar' is attested, though uncertainty remains whether this represents a personal or tribal name, gradually other hypotheses emerged. Louis Bazin derived it from Turkic qas- ("tyrannize, oppress, terrorize") on the basis of its phonetic similarity to the Uyğur tribal name, Qasar. András Róna-Tas connects it with Kesar, the Pahlavi transcription of the Roman title Caesar.
D.M.Dunlop tried to link the Chinese term for "Khazars" to one of the tribal names of the Uyğur Toquz Oğuz, namely the Gésà. The objections are that Uyğur Gesa/Qasar was not a tribal name but rather the surname of the chief of the Sikari tribe of the Toquz Oğuz, and that in Middle Chinese the ethnonym "Khazars", always prefaced with the word Tūjué (Tūjué Kěsà bù:突厥可薩部; Tūjué Hésà:突厥曷薩), is transcribed with characters different from those used to render the Qa- in the Uyğur word 'Qasar'.
After their conversion it is reported that they adopted the Hebrew script, and it is likely that, though speaking a Türkic language, the Khazar chancellery under Judaism probably corresponded in Hebrew. In Expositio in Matthaeum Evangelistam, Gazari, presumably Khazars, are referred to as the Hunnic people living in the lands of Gog and Magog and said to be circumcised and omnem Judaismum observat, observing all the laws of Judaism.
Determining the origins and nature of the Khazars is closely bound with theories of their languages, but it is a matter of intricate difficulty since no indigenous records in the Khazar language survive, and the state itself was polyglot and polyethnic. Whereas the royal or ruling elite probably spoke an eastern variety of Shaz Turkic, the subject tribes appear to have spoken varieties of Lir Turkic, such as Oğuric, a language variously identified with Bulğaric, Chuvash, and Hungarian (the latter based upon the assertion of the Persian historian al-Iṣṭakhrī that the Khazar language was different from any other known tongue). One method for tracing their origins consists in analysis of the possible etymologies behind the ethnonym Khazar itself.
Tribal origins and early history
The tribes that were to comprise the Khazar empire were not an ethnic union, but a congeries of steppe nomads and peoples who came to be subordinated, and subscribed to a core Türkic leadership. Many Turkic groups, such as the Oğuric peoples, including Šarağurs, Oğurs, Onoğurs, and Bulğars who earlier formed part of the Tiĕlè (鐵勒) confederation, are attested quite early, having been driven West by the Sabirs, who in turn fled the Asian Avars, and began to flow into the Volga-Caspian-Pontic zone from as early as the 4th century CE and are recorded by Priscus to reside in the Western Eurasian steppelands as early as 463. They appear to stem from Mongolia and South Siberia in the aftermath of the fall of the Hunnic/Xiōngnú nomadic polities. A variegated tribal federation led by these Turks, probably comprising a complex assortment of Iranian, proto-Mongolic, Uralic, and Palaeo-Siberian clans, vanquished the Rouran Khaganate of the hegemonic central Asian Avars in 552 and swept westwards, taking in their train other steppe nomads and peoples from Sogdiana.
The ruling family of this confederation may have hailed from the Āshǐnà (阿史那) clan of the West Türkic tribes, though Constantine Zuckerman regards Āshǐnà and their pivotal role in the formation of the Khazars with scepticism. Golden notes that Chinese and Arabic reports are almost identical, making the connection a strong one, and conjectures that their leader may have been Yǐpíshèkuì (Chinese:乙毗射匱), who lost power or was killed around 651. Moving west, the confederation reached the land of the Akatziroi, who had been important allies of Byzantium in fighting off Attila's army.
Rise of the Khazar state
An embryonic state of Khazaria began to form sometime after 630, when it emerged from the breakdown of the larger Göktürk Qağanate. Göktürk armies had penetrated the Volga by 549, ejecting the Avars, who were then forced to flee to the sanctuary of the Hungarian plain. The Āshǐnà clan whose tribal name was 'Türk' (the strong one) appear on the scene by 552, when they overthrew the Rourans and established the Göktürk Qağanate. By 568, these Göktürks were probing for an alliance with Byzantium to attack Persia. An internecine war broke out between the senior eastern Göktürks and the junior West Turkic Qağanate some decades later, when on the death of Taspar Qağan, a succession dispute led to a dynastic crisis between Taspar's chosen heir, the Apa Qağan, and the ruler appointed by the tribal high council, Āshǐnà Shètú (阿史那摄图), the Ishbara Qağan.
By the first decades of the 7th century, the Āshǐnà yabgu Tong managed to stabilize the Western division, but upon his death, after providing crucial military assistance to Byzantium in routing the Sasanian army in the Persian heartland, the Western Turkic Qağanate dissolved under pressure from the encroaching Tang dynasty armies and split into two competing federations, each consisting of five tribes, collectively known as the "Ten Arrows" (On Oq). Both briefly challenged Tang hegemony in eastern Turkestan. To the West, two new nomadic states arose in the meantime, Old Great Bulgaria under Kubrat, the Duōlù clan leader, and the Nǔshībì subconfederation, also consisting of five tribes. The Duōlù challenged the Avars in the Kuban River-Sea of Azov area while the Khazar Qağanate consolidated further westwards, led apparently by an Āshǐnà dynasty. With a resounding victory over the tribes in 657, engineered by General Sū Dìngfāng (蘇定方), Chinese overlordship was imposed to their East after a final mop-up operation in 659, but the two confederations of Bulğars and Khazars fought for supremacy on the western steppeland, and with the ascendency of the latter, the former either succumbed to Khazar rule or, as under Asparukh, Kubrat's son, shifted even further west across the Danube to lay the foundations of the First Bulgarian Empire in the Balkans (c. 679).
The Qağanate of the Khazars thus took shape out of the ruins of this nomadic empire as it broke up under pressure from the Tang dynasty armies to the east sometime between 630-650. After their conquest of the lower Volga region to the East and an area westwards between the Danube and the Dniepr, and their subjugation of the Onoğur-Bulğar union, sometime around 670, a properly constituted Khazar Qağanate emerges, becoming the westernmost successor state of the formidable Göktürk Qağanate after its disintegration. According to Omeljan Pritsak, the language of the Onoğur-Bulğar federation was to become the lingua franca of Khazaria as it developed into what Lev Gumilev called a 'steppe Atlantis' (stepnaja Atlantida/ Степная Атлантида). The high status soon to be accorded this empire to the north is attested by Ibn al-Balḫî's Fârsnâma (c. 1100), which relates that the Sasanian Shah, Ḫusraw 1, Anûsîrvân, placed three thrones by his own, one for the King of China, a second for the King of Byzantium, and a third for the king of the Khazars. Though anachronistic in retrodating the Khazars to this period, the legend, in placing the Khazar qağan on a throne with equal status to kings of the other two superpowers, bears witness to the reputation won by the Khazars from early times.
Khazar state: culture and institutions
Royal Diarchy with sacral Qağanate
Khazaria developed a Dual kingship governance structure, typical among Turkic nomads, consisting of a shad/bäk and a qağan. The emergence of this system may be deeply entwined with the conversion to Judaism. According to Arabic sources, the lesser king was called îšâ and the greater king Khazar xâqân; the former managed and commanded the military, while the greater king's role was primarily sacral, less concerned with daily affairs. The greater king was recruited from the Khazar house of notables (ahl bait ma'rûfīn) and, in an initiation ritual, was nearly strangled until he declared the number of years he wished to reign, on the expiration of which he would be killed by the nobles. The deputy ruler would enter the presence of the reclusive greater king only with great ceremony, approaching him barefoot to prostrate himself in the dust and then light a piece of wood as a purifying fire, while waiting humbly and calmly to be summoned. Particularly elaborate rituals accompanied a royal burial. At one period, travellers had to dismount, bow before the ruler's tomb, and then walk away on foot. Subsequently, the charismatic sovereign's burial place was hidden from view, with a palatial structure ('Paradise') constructed and then hidden under rerouted river water to avoid disturbance by evil spirits and later generations. Such a royal burial ground (qoruq) is typical of inner Asian peoples. Both the îšâ and the xâqân converted to Judaism sometime in the 8th century, while the rest, according to the Persian traveller Ahmad ibn Rustah, probably followed the old Tūrkic religion.
The ruling stratum, like that of the later Činggisids within the Golden Horde, was a relatively small group that differed ethnically and linguistically from its subject peoples. This is thought to have been the Alano-As and Oğuric Turkic tribes, who were numerically superior within Khazaria. The Khazar Qağans, while taking wives and concubines from the subject populations, were protected by a Khwârazmian guard corps, or comitatus, called the Ursiyya. But unlike many other local polities, they hired soldiers (mercenaries) (the junûd murtazîqa in al-Mas'ûdî). At the peak of their empire, the Khazars ran a centralised fiscal administration, with a standing army of some 7-12,000 men, which could, at need, be multiplied two or three times that number by inducting reserves from their nobles' retinues. Other figures for the permanent standing army indicate that it numbered as many as one hundred thousand. They controlled and exacted tribute from 25-30 different nations and tribes inhabiting the vast territories between the Caucasus, the Aral Sea, the Ural Mountains, and the Ukrainian steppes. Khazar armies were led by the Qağan Bek (pronounced as Kagan Bek) and commanded by subordinate officers known as tarkhans. When the bek sent out a body of troops, they would not retreat under any circumstances. If they were defeated, every one who returned was killed.
Settlements were governed by administrative officials known as tuduns. In some cases, such as the Byzantine settlements in southern Crimea, a tudun would be appointed for a town nominally within another polity's sphere of influence. Other officials in the Khazar government included dignitaries referred to by ibn Fadlan as Jawyshyghr and Kündür, but their responsibilities are unknown.
It has been estimated that from 25 to 28 distinct ethnic groups made up the population of the Khazar Qağanate, aside from the ethnic elite. The ruling elite seems to have been constituted out of nine tribes/clans, themselves ethnically heterogeneous, spread over perhaps nine provinces or principalities, each of which would have been allocated to a clan. In terms of caste or class, some evidence suggests that there was a distinction, whether racial or social is unclear, between "White Khazars" (ak-Khazars) and "Black Khazars" (qara-Khazars). The 10th-century Muslim geographer al-Iṣṭakhrī claimed that the White Khazars were strikingly handsome with reddish hair, white skin, and blue eyes, while the Black Khazars were swarthy, verging on deep black, as if they were "some kind of Indian". Many Turkic nations had a similar (political, not racial) division between a "white" ruling warrior caste and a "black" class of commoners; the consensus among mainstream scholars is that Istakhri was confused by the names given to the two groups. However, Khazars are generally described by early Arab sources as having a white complexion, blue eyes, and reddish hair. The name of the presumed founding Āshǐnà clan itself may reflect an etymology suggestive of a darkish colour. The distinction appears to have survived the collapse of the Khazarian empire. Later Russian chronicles, commenting on the role of the Khazars in the magyarization of Hungary, refer to them as "White Oghurs" and Magyars as "Black Ogurs". Studies of the physical remains, such as skulls at Sarkel, have revealed a mixture of Slavic, other European, and a few Mongolian types.
The import and export of foreign wares, and the revenues derived from taxing their transit, was a hallmark of the Khazar economy, though it is said also to have produced isinglass. Distinctively among the nomadic steppe polities, the Khazar Qağanate developed a self-sufficient domestic Saltovo economy, a combination of traditional pastoralism - allowing sheep and cattle to be exported - extensive agriculture, abundant use of the Volga's rich fishing stocks, together with craft manufacture, with a diversification in lucrative returns from taxing international trade given its pivotal control of major trade routes. The Khazars constituted one of the two great furnishers of slaves to the Muslim market (the other being the Iranian Sâmânid amîrs), supplying it with captured Slavs and tribesmen from the Eurasian northlands. It was profits from the latter which enabled it to maintain a standard army of Khwarezm Muslim troops. The capital Atil reflected the division: Kharazān on the western bank where the king and his Khazar elite, with a retinue of some 4,000 attendants, dwelt, and Itil proper to the East, inhabited by Jews, Christians, Muslims and slaves and by craftsmen and foreign merchants. The ruling elite wintered in the city and spent from spring to late autumns in their fields. A large irrigated greenbelt, drawing on channels from the Volga river, lay outside the capital, where meadows and vineyards extended for some 20 farsakhs (ca. 60 miles?). While customs duties were imposed on traders, and tribute and tithes were exacted from 25-30 tribes, with a levy of one sable skin, squirrel pelt, sword, dirham per hearth or ploughshare, or hides, wax, honey and livestock, depending on the zone. Trade disputes were handled by a commercial tribunal in Atil consisting of seven judges, two for each of the monotheistic inhabitants (Jews, Muslims, Christians) and one for the pagans.
Khazars and Byzantium
Byzantine diplomatic policy towards the steppe peoples generally consisted of encouraging them to fight among themselves. The Pechenegs provided great assistance to the Byzantines in the 9th century in exchange for regular payments. Byzantium also sought alliances with the Göktürks against common enemies: in the early 7th century, one such alliance was brokered with the Western Tűrks against the Persian Sasanians in the Byzantine–Sasanian War of 602–628. The Byzantines called Khazaria Tourkía, and by the 9th century referred to the Khazars as 'Turks'. During the period leading up to and after the siege of Constantinople in 626, Heraclius sought help via emissaries, and eventually personally, from a Göktürk chieftain of the Western Tűrkic Qağanate, Tong Yabghu Qağan, in Tiflis, plying him with gifts and the promise of marriage to his daughter, Epiphania. Tong Yabghu responded by sending a large force to ravage the Persian empire, marking the start of the Third Perso-Turkic War. A joint Byzantine-Tűrk operation breached the Caspian gates and sacked Derbent in 627. Together they then besieged Tiflis, where the Byzantines may have deployed an early variety of traction trebuchets (ἑλέπόλεις) to breach the walls. After the campaign, Tong Yabghu is reported, perhaps with some exaggeration, to have left some 40,000 troops behind with Heraclius. Though occasionally identified with Khazars, the Göktürk identification is more probable since the Khazars only emerged from that group after the fragmentation of the former sometime after 630. Sasanian Persia never recovered from the devastating defeat wrought by this invasion.
Once the Khazars emerged as a power, the Byzantines also began to form alliances with them, dynastic and military. In 695, the last Heraclian emperor, Justinian II, nicknamed the slit-nosed (ὁ ῥινότμητος) after he was mutilated and deposed, was exiled to Cherson in the Crimea, where a Khazar governor (tudun) presided. He escaped into Khazar territory in 704 or 705 and was given asylum by qağan Busir Glavan (Ἰβουζήρος Γλιαβάνος), who gave him his sister in marriage, perhaps in response to an offer by Justinian, who may have thought a dynastic marriage would seal by kinship a powerful tribal support for his attempts to regain the throne. The Khazarian spouse thereupon changed her name to Theodora. Busir was offered a bribe by the Byzantine usurper, Tiberius III, to kill Justinian. Warned by Theodora, Justinian escaped, murdering two Khazar officials in the process. He fled to Bulgaria, whose Khan Tervel helped him regain the throne. Upon his reinstallment, and despite Busir's treachery during his exile, he sent for Theodora; Busir complied, and she was crowned as Augusta, suggesting that both prized the alliance.
Decades later, Leo III (ruled 717-741) made a similar alliance to coordinate strategy against a common enemy, the Muslim Arabs. He sent an embassy to the Khazar qağan Bihar and married his son, the future Constantine V (ruled 741-775), to Bihar's daughter, a princess referred to as Tzitzak, in 732. On converting to Christianity, she took the name Irene. Constantine and Irene had a son, the future Leo IV (775-780), who thereafter bore the sobriquet, "the Khazar". Leo died in mysterious circumstances after his Athenian wife bore him a son, Constantine VI, who on his majority co-ruled with his mother, the dowager. He proved unpopular, and his death ended the dynastic link of the Khazars to the Byzantine throne. By the 8th century, Khazars dominated the Crimea (650-c.950), and even extended their influence into the Byzantine peninsula of Cherson until it was wrested back in the 10th century. Khazar and Farghânian (Φάργανοι) mercenaries constituted part of the imperial Byzantine Hetaireia bodyguard after its formation in 840, a position that could openly be purchased by a payment of seven pounds of gold.
During the 7th and 8th centuries, the Khazars fought a series of wars against the Umayyad Caliphate and its Abbasid successor. The First Arab-Khazar War began during the first phase of Muslim expansion. By 640, Muslim forces had reached Armenia; in 642 they launched their first raid across the Caucasus under Abd ar-Rahman ibn Rabiah. In 652 Arab forces advanced on the Khazar capital, Balanjar, but were defeated, suffering heavy losses; according to Persian historians such as al-Tabari, both sides in the battle used catapults against the opposing troops. A number of Russian sources give the name of a Khazar khagan from this period as Irbis and describe him as a scion of the Göktürk royal house, the Ashina. Whether Irbis ever existed is open to debate, as is whether he can be identified with one of the many Göktürk rulers of the same name.
Due to the outbreak of the First Muslim Civil War and other priorities, the Arabs refrained from repeating an attack on the Khazars until the early 8th century. The Khazars launched a few raids into Transcaucasian principalities under Muslim dominion, including a large-scale raid in 683–685 during the Second Muslim Civil War that rendered much booty and many prisoners. There is evidence from the account of al-Tabari that the Khazars formed a united front with the remnants of the Göktürks in Transoxiana.
The Second Arab-Khazar War began with a series of raids across the Caucasus in the early 8th century. The Umayyads tightened their grip on Armenia in 705 after suppressing a large-scale rebellion. In 713 or 714, Umayyad general Maslamah conquered Derbent and drove deeper into Khazar territory. The Khazars launched raids in response into Albania and Iranian Azerbaijan but were driven back by the Arabs under Hasan ibn al-Nu'man. The conflict escalated in 722 with an invasion by 30,000 Khazars into Armenia inflicting a crushing defeat. Caliph Yazid II responded, sending 25,000 Arab troops north, swiftly driving the Khazars back across the Caucasus, recovering Derbent, and advancing on Balanjar. The Arabs broke through the Khazar defense and stormed the city; most of its inhabitants were killed or enslaved, but a few managed to flee north. Despite their success, the Arabs had not yet defeated the Khazar army, and they retreated south of the Caucasus.
In 724, Arab general al-Jarrah ibn Abdallah al-Hakami inflicted a crushing defeat on the Khazars in a long battle between the rivers Cyrus and Araxes, then moved on to capture Tiflis, bringing Caucasian Iberia under Muslim suzerainty. The Khazars struck back in 726, led by a prince named Barjik, launching a major invasion of Albania and Azerbaijan; by 729, the Arabs had lost control of northeastern Transcaucasia and were thrust again into the defensive. In 730, Barjik invaded Iranian Azerbaijan and defeated Arab forces at Ardabil, killing the general al-Djarrah al-Hakami and briefly occupying the town. Barjik was defeated and killed the next year at Mosul, where he directed Khazar forces from a throne mounted with al-Djarrah's severed head. Arab armies led first by the prince Maslamah ibn Abd al-Malik and then by Marwan ibn Muhammad (later Caliph Marwan II) poured across the Caucasus and in 737 defeated a Khazar army led by Hazer Tarkhan, briefly occupying Atil itself. The Qağan was forced to accept terms involving conversion to Islam, and to subject himself to the Caliphate, but the accommodation was short-lived as a combination of internal instability among the Umayyads and Byzantine support undid the agreement within three years, and the Khazars re-asserted their independence. The adoption of Judaism by the Khazars, which in this theory would have taken place around 740, may have been part of this re-assertion of independence.
Whatever the impact of Marwan's campaigns, warfare between the Khazars and the Arabs ceased for more than two decades after 737. Arab raids continued until 741, but their control in the region was limited as maintaining a large garrison at Derbent further depleted the already overstretched army. A third Muslim civil war soon broke out, leading to the Abbasid Revolution and the fall of the Umayyad dynasty in 750.
In 758, the Abbasid Caliph al-Mansur attempted to strengthen diplomatic ties with the Khazars, ordering Yazid ibn Usayd al-Sulami, one of his nobles and the military governor of Armenia, to take a royal Khazar bride. Yazid married a daughter of Khazar Khagan Baghatur, but she died inexplicably, possibly in childbirth. Her attendants returned home, convinced that some Arab faction had poisoned her, and her father was enraged. Khazar general Ras Tarkhan invaded south of the Caucasus in 762–764, devastating Albania, Armenia, and Iberia, and capturing Tiflis. Thereafter relations became increasingly cordial between the Khazars and the Abbasids, whose foreign policies were generally less expansionist than the Umayyads, broken only by a series of raids in 799 over another failed marriage alliance.
Rise of the Rus' and the collapse of the Khazarian state
By the 9th century, groups of Varangian Rus', developing a powerful warrior-merchant system, began probing south down the waterways controlled by the Khazars and their protectorate, the Volga Bulgarians, partially in pursuit of the Arab silver that flowed north for hoarding through the Khazarian-Volga Bulgarian trading zones, partially to trade in furs and ironwork. Northern mercantile fleets passing Atil were tithed, as they were at Byzantine Cherson. Their presence may have prompted the formation of a Rus' state by convincing the Slavs, Merja and the Chud' to unite to protect common interests against Khazarian exactions of tribute. It is often argued that a Rus' Khaganate modelled on the Khazarian state had formed to the east, and that the Varangian chieftain of the coalition appropriated the title of qağan (khagan) as early as the 830s: the title survived to denote the princes of Kievan Rus', whose capital, Kiev, is often associated with a Khazarian foundation. The construction of the Sarkel fortress, with technical assistance from Khazaria's Byzantine ally at the time, together with the minting of an autonomous Khazar coinage around the 830s may have been a defensive measure against emerging threats from Varangians to the north and from the Magyars on the eastern steppe. By 860, the Rus' had penetrated as far as Kiev and, via the Dnieper, Constantinople.
Alliances often shifted. Byzantium, threatened by Varangian Rus' raiders, would assist Khazaria, and Khazaria at times allowed the northerners to pass through their territory in exchange for a portion of the booty. From the beginning of the 10th century, the Khazars found themselves fighting on multiple fronts as nomadic incursions were exacerbated by uprisings by former clients and invasions from former allies. The pax Khazarica was caught in a pincer movement between steppe Pechenegs and the strengthing of an emergent Rus' power to the north, both undermining Khazaria'ìs tributary empire. According to the Schechter Text, the Khazar ruler King Benjamin (ca.880-890) fought a battle against the allied forces of five lands whose moves were perhaps encouraged by Byzantium. Though Benjamin was victorious, his son Aaron II faced another invasion, this time led by the Alans, whose leader had converted to Christianity and entered into an alliance with Byzantium, which, under Leo VI the Wise, encouraged them to fight against the Khazars.
By the 880s, Khazar control of the Middle Dnieper from Kiev, where they collected tribute from Eastern Slavic tribes, began to wane as Oleg of Novgorod wrested control of the city from the Varangian warlords Askold and Dir, and embarked on what was to prove to be the foundation of a Rus' empire. The Khazars had initially allowed the Rus' to use the trade route along the Volga River, and raid southwards. According to al-Masudi, the qağan is said to have given his assent on the condition that the Rus' give him half of the booty. In 913, however, two years after Byzantium concluded a peace treaty with the Rus' in 911, a Varangian foray, with Khazar connivance, through Arab lands led to a request to the Khazar throne by the Khwârazmian Islamic guard for permission to retaliate against the large Rus' contingent on its return. The purpose was to revenge the violence the Rus' razzia had inflicted on their fellow Muslim believers. The Rus' force was thoroughly routed and massacred. The Khazar rulers closed the passage down the Volga to the Rus', sparking a war. In the early 960s, Khazar ruler Joseph wrote to Hasdai ibn Shaprut about the deterioration of Khazar relations with the Rus': 'I protect the mouth of the river (Itil-Volga) and prevent the Rus arriving in their ships from setting off by sea against the Ishmaelites and (equally) all (their) enemies from setting off by land to Bab.'
The Rus' warlords launched several wars against the Khazar Qağanate, and raided down to the Caspian sea. The Schechter Letter relates the story of a campaign against Khazaria by HLGW (recently identified as Oleg of Chernigov) around 941 in which Oleg was defeated by the Khazar general Pesakh. The Khazar alliance with the Byzantine empire began to collapse in the early 10th century. Byzantine and Khazar forces may have clashed in the Crimea, and by the 940s emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus was speculating in De Administrando Imperio about ways in which the Khazars could be isolated and attacked. The Byzantines during the same period began to attempt alliances with the Pechenegs and the Rus', with varying degrees of success. Sviatoslav I finally succeeded in destroying Khazar imperial power in the 960s, in a circular sweep that overwhelmed the Khazar fortresses like Sarkel and Tamatarkha, and reached as far as the Caucasian Kassogians/Circassians and then back to Kiev. Sarkel fell in 965, with the capital city of Atil following, c. 968 or 969.
In the Russian chronicle the vanquishing of the Khazar traditions is associated with Vladimir's conversion in 986. According to the Primary Chronicle, in 986 Khazar Jews were present at Vladimir's disputation to decide on the prospective religion of the Kievan Rus'. Whether these were Jews who had settled in Kiev or emissaries from some Jewish Khazar remnant state is unclear. Conversion to one of the faiths of the people of Scripture was a precondition to any peace treaty with the Arabs, whose Bulgar envoys had arrived in Kiev after 985.
A visitor to Atil wrote soon after the sacking of the city that its vineyards and garden had been razed, that not a grape or raisin remained in the land, and not even alms for the poor were available. An attempt to rebuild may have been undertaken, since Ibn Hawqal and al-Muqaddasi refer to it after that date, but by Al-Biruni's time (1048) it was in ruins.
Aftermath: impact, decline and dispersion
Though Poliak argued that the Khazar kingdom did not wholly succumb to Sviatoslav's campaign, but lingered on until 1224, when the Mongols invaded Rus', by most accounts, the Rus'-Oghuz campaigns left Khazaria devastated, with perhaps many Khazarian Jews in flight, and leaving behind at best a minor rump state. It left little trace, except for some placenames, and much of its population was undoubtedly absorbed in successor hordes. Al-Muqaddasi, writing ca.985, mentions Khazar beyond the Caspian sea as a district of 'woe and squalor', with honey, many sheep and Jews. Kedrenos mentions a joint Rus'-Byzantine attack on Khazaria in 1016, which defeated its ruler Georgius Tzul. The name suggests Christian affiliations. The account concludes by saying, that after Tzul's defeat, the Khazar ruler of "upper Media", Senaccherib, had to sue for peace and submission. In 1024 Mstislav of Chernigov (one of Vladimir's sons) marched against his brother Yaroslav with an army that included "Khazars and Kassogians" in a repulsed attempt to restore a kind of 'Khazarian'-type dominion over Kiev.Ibn al-Athir's mention of a 'raid of Faḍlūn the Kurd against the Khazars' in 1030 CE, in which 10,000 of his men were vanquished by the latter, has been taken as a reference to such a Khazar remnant, but Barthold identified this Faḍlūn as Faḍl ibn Muḥammad and the 'Khazars' as either Georgians or Abkhazians. A Kievian prince named Oleg, grandson of Jaroslav was reportedly kidnapped by "Khazars" in 1079 and shipped off to Constantinople, although most scholars believe that this is a reference to the Cumans-Kipchaks or other steppe peoples then dominant in the Pontic region. Upon his conquest of Tmutarakan in the 1080s Oleg Sviatoslavich, son of a prince of Chernigov, gave himself the title "Archon of Khazaria". In 1083 Oleg is said to have exacted revenge on the Khazars after his brother Roman was killed by their allies, the Polovtsi/Cumans. After one more conflict with these Polovtsi in 1106, the Khazars fade from history.
By the end of the 12th century, Petachiah of Ratisbon reported traveling through what he called "Khazaria", and had little to remark on other than describing its minim (sectaries) living amidst desolation in perpetual mourning. The reference seems to be to Karaites. The Franciscan missionary William of Rubruck likewise found only impoverished pastures in the lower Volga area where Ital once lay. Giovanni da Pian del Carpine, the papal legate to the court of the Mongol Khan Guyuk at that time, mentioned an otherwise unattested Jewish tribe, the Brutakhi, perhaps in the Volga region. Though connections are made to the Khazars, the link is based merely on a common attribution of Judaism.
The 10th century Zoroastrian Dênkart registered the collapse of Khazar power in attributing its eclipse to the enfeebling effects of 'false' religion. The decline was contemporary to that suffered by the Transoxiana Sāmānid empire to the east, both events paving the way for the rise of the Great Seljuq Empire, whose founding traditions mention Khazar connections. Whatever successor entity survived, it could not longer function as a bulwark against the pressure east and south of nomad expansions. By 1043, Kimeks and Qipchaqs, thrusting westwards, pressured the Oğuz, who in turn pushed the Pechenegs west towards Byzantium's Balkan provinces.
Khazaria nonetheless left its mark on the rising states and some of their traditions and institutions. Much earlier, Tzitzak, the Khazar wife of Leo III introduced into the Byzantine court the distinctive kaftan or riding habit of the nomadic Khazars, the tzitzakion (τζιτζάκιον), and this was adopted as a solemn element of imperial dress. The orderly hierarchical system of succession by 'scales' (lestvichnaia sistema:лествичная система) to the Grand Principate of Kiev was arguably modeled on Khazar institutions, via the example of the Rus' Khaganate.
The proto-Hungarian Pontic tribe, while perhaps threatening Khazaria as early as 839 (Sarkel), developed its institutional models, such as the dual rule of a ceremonial kende-kündü and a gyula administering practical and military administration, under Khazar tutelage. A dissident group of Khazars, the Qabars, joined the Hungarians in their flight from the Pechenegs as they moved into Pannonia. Elements within the Hungarian population can be viewed as perpetuating Khazar traditions as a successor state. Byzantine sources refer to Hungary as Western Tourkia in contrast to Khazaria, Eastern Tourkia. The gyula line produced the kings of medieval Hungary through descent from Árpád, while the Qabars retained their traditions longer, and were known as "black Hungarians" (fekete magyarság). Some archeological evidence from Čelarevo suggests the Qabars practiced Judaism since warrior graves with Jewish symbols were found there, including menorahs, shofars, etrogs, lulavs, candlesnuffers, ash collectors, inscriptions in Hebrew, and a six-pointed star identical to the Star of David.
The Khazar state was, Oppenheim says, the only Jewish state to rise between the Fall of the Second Temple (67-70 CE) and the establishment of Israel (1948), and its example stimulated messianic aspirations for a return to Israel as early as Judah Halevi. In the time of the Egyptian vizier Al-Afdal Shahanshah (d.1121), one Solomon ben Duji, often identified as a Khazarian Jew, attempted to advocate for a messianic effort for the liberation of, and return of all Jews to, Palestine. He wrote to many Jewish communities to enlist support. He eventually moved to Kurdistan where his son Menachem some decades later assumed the title of Messiah and, raising an army for this purpose, took the fortress of Amadiya north of Mosul. His project was opposed by the rabbinical authorities and he was poisoned in his sleep. One theory maintains that the Star of David, until then a decorative motif or magical emblem, began to assume its national value in late Jewish tradition from its earlier symbolic use by Menachem.
The word Khazar, as an ethnonym, was last used in the 13th century by a people in the North Caucasus believed to practice Judaism. The nature of a hypothetical Khazar diaspora, Jewish or otherwise, is disputed. Avraham ibn Daud mentions encountering rabbinical students descended from Khazars as far away as Toledo, Spain in the 1160s. Khazar communities persisted here and there. Many Khazar mercenaries served in the armies of the Islamic Caliphates and other states. Documents from medieval Constantinople attest to a Khazar community mingled with the Jews of the suburb of Pera. Khazar merchants were active in both Constantinople and Alexandria in the 12th. century.
Direct sources for Khazar religion are not many, but in all likelihood they originally practiced a traditional Turkic form of cultic practices known as Tengriism, which focused on the sky god Tengri. Something of its nature may be deduced from what we know of the rites and beliefs of contiguous tribes, such as the North Caucasian Huns. Horse sacrifices were made to this supreme deity. Rites involved offerings to fire, water, and the moon, to remarkable creatures, and to "gods of the road" (cf. Old Türk yol tengri, perhaps a god of fortune). Sun amulets were widespread as cultic ornaments. A tree cult was also maintained. Whatever was struck by lightning, man or object, was considered a sacrifice to the high god of heaven. The afterlife, to judge from excavations of aristocratic tumuli, was much a continuation of life on earth, warriors being interred with their weapons, horses, and sometimes with human sacrifices: the funeral of one tudrun in 711-12 saw 300 soldiers killed to accompany him to the otherworld. Ancestor worship was observed. The key religious figure appears to have been a shamanizing qam, and it was these (qozmím) that were, according to the Khazar Hebrew conversion stories, driven out.
Many sources suggest, and a notable number of scholars have argued, that the charismatic Āshǐnà clan played a germinal role in the early Khazar state, though Zuckerman dismisses the widespread notion of their pivotal role as a 'phantom'. The Āshǐnà were closely associated with the Tengri cult, whose practices involved rites performed to assure a tribe of heaven's protective providence. The qağan was deemed to rule by virtue of qut, "the heavenly mandate/good fortune to rule."
Khazaria long served as a buffer state between the Byzantine empire and both the nomads of the northern steppes and the Umayyad empire, after serving as Byzantium's proxy against the Sasanian Persian empire. The alliance was dropped around 900. Byzantium began to encourage the Alans to attack Khazaria and weaken its hold on Crimea and the Caucasus, while seeking to obtain an entente with the rising Rus' power to the north, which it aspired to convert to Christianity.
On Khazaria's southern flank, both Islam and Byzantine Christianity were proselytising great powers. Byzantine success in the north was sporadic, though Armenian and Albanian missions from Derbend built churches extensively in maritime Daghestan, then a Khazar district, Buddhism also had exercised an attraction on leaders of both the Eastern (552-742) and Western Qağanates (552-659), the latter being the progenitor of the Khazar state. In 682, according to the Armenian chronicle of Movsês Dasxuranc'i, the king of Caucasian Albania, Varaz Trdat, dispatched a bishop Israyêl to convert Caucasian "Huns" who were subject to the Khazars, and managed to bring Alp Ilut'uêr, a son-in-law of the Khazar qağan, and his army, to abandon their shamanizing cults and join the Christian fold.
The Arab Georgian martyr St Abo, who converted to Christianity within the Khazar kingdom around 779-80, describes local Khazars as irreligious. Some reports register a Christian majority at Samandar, or Muslim majorities
The conversion of Khazars to Judaism, though doubts persist, is reported overwhelmingly by external sources and in the Khazar Correspondence, Hebrew documents whose authenticity was long doubted and challenged, but which specialists now widely accept either as authentic or as reflecting internal Khazar traditions. Archaeological evidence for conversion, on the other hand, remains elusive, and may reflect either the incompleteness of excavations, or that the stratum of actual adherents was thin. Conversion of steppe or peripheral tribes to a universal religion is a fairly well attested phenomenon, and the Khazar conversion to Judaism, though unusual, was not unique. A few scholars have theorized that the conversion of the Khazar elite to Judaism never happened. Moshe Gil  argues that the conversion of Khazars is a myth, that Arab sources do not mention Khazars as Jews, and that contemporary Jewish responsa show no trace of Khazarian Jews. He concludes that the conversion 'never happened'. Stampfer  has recently seconded Gil's heterodoxy.
Jews from both the Islamic world and Byzantium are known to have migrated to Khazaria during periods of persecution under Heraclius, Justinian II, Leo III, and Romanus Lakapēnos. For Simon Schama, Jewish communities from the Balkans and the Bosphoran Crimea, especially from Panticapaeum, began migrating to the more hospitable climate of pagan Khazaria in the wake of these persecutions, and were joined there by Jewish refugees from Armenia. The Geniza fragments, he argues, make it clear the Judaising reforms sent roots down into the whole of the population. The pattern is one of an elite conversion preceding large-scale adoption of the new religion by the general population, which often resisted the imposition. One important condition for mass conversion was a settled urban state, where churches, synagogues or mosques provided a focus for religion, as opposed to the free nomadic lifestyle of life on the open steppes. A tradition of the Iranian Judeo-Tats claims that their ancestors were responsible for the Khazar conversion. A legend traceable to the 16th century Italian rabbi Judah Moscato attributed it to Yitzhak ha-Sangari.
Both the date of the conversion, and the extent of its influence beyond the elite, often minimized in some scholarship, are a matter of dispute, but at some point between 740 and 920 CE, the Khazar royalty and nobility appear to have converted to Judaism, in part, it is argued, perhaps to deflect competing pressures from Arabs and Byzantines to accept either Islam or Orthodoxy. Christian of Stavelot in his Expositio in Matthaeum Evangelistam (ca. 860–870s) refers to Gazari, presumably Khazars, as living in the lands of Gog and Magog, who were circumcised and omnem Judaismum observat—observing all the laws of Judaism. New numismatic evidence of coins dated 837/8 bearing the inscriptions arḍ al-ḫazar (Land of the Khazars), or Mûsâ rasûl Allâh (Moses is the messenger of God, in imitation of the Islamic coin phrase: Muḥammad rasûl Allâh) suggest to many the conversion took place in that decade. Olsson argues that the 837/8 evidence marks only the beginning of a long and difficult official Judaization that concluded some decades later. A 9th-century Jewish traveller, Eldad ha-Dani, is said to have informed Spanish Jews in 883 that there was a Jewish polity in the East, and that fragments of the legendary Ten Lost Tribes, part of the line of Simeon and half-line of Manasseh, dwelt in “the land of the Khazars”, receiving tribute from some 25 to 28 kingdoms. Another view holds that by the 10th century, while the royal clan officially claimed Judaism, a non-normative variety of Islamisation took place among the majority of Khazars.
By the 10th century, the letter of King Joseph asserts that, after the royal conversion, "Israel returned (yashuvu yisra'el) with the people of Qazaria (to Judaism) in complete repentance (bi-teshuvah shelemah). Persian historian Ibn al-Faqîh wrote that 'all the Khazars are Jews, but they have been Judaized recently'. Ibn Fadlân, based on his Caliphal mission (921–922) to the Volga Bulğars, also reported that 'the core element of the state, the Khazars, were Judaized', something underwritten by the Qaraite scholar Ya'kub Qirqisânî around 937. The conversion appears to have occurred against a background of frictions arising from both an intensification of Byzantine missionary activity from the Crimea to the Caucasus, and Arab attempts to wrest control over the latter in the 8th century CE, and a revolt, put down, by the Khavars around the mid-9th century is often invoked as in part influenced by their refusal to accept Judaism. Modern scholars generally see the conversion as a slow process through three stages, which accords with Richard Eaton's model of syncretic inclusion, gradual identification and, finally, displacement of the older tradition.
Some time between 954 and 961, Ḥasdai ibn Shaprūṭ wrote a letter of inquiry addressed to the ruler of Khazaria, and received a reply from Joseph of Khazaria. The exchanges of this Khazar Correspondence, together with the Schechter Letter discovered in the Cairo Geniza and the famous platonizing dialogue by Judah Halevi, Sefer ha-Kuzari ('The Khazar'), which plausibly drew on such sources, provide us with the only direct evidence of the indigenous traditions concerning the conversion. King Bulan is said to have driven out the sorcerers, and to have received angelic visitations exhorting him to find the true religion, upon which, accompanied by his vizier, he travelled to desert mountains of Warsān on a seashore, where he came across a cave rising from the plain of Tiyul in which Jews used to celebrate the Sabbath. Here he was circumcised. Bulan is then said to have convened a royal debate between exponents of the three Abrahamic religions. He decided to convert when he was convinced of Judaism's superiority. Many scholars situate this c. 740 CE, a date supported by Halevi's own account. The details are both Judaic  and Türkic: a Türkic ethnogonic myth speaks of an ancestral cave in which the Āshǐnà were conceived from the mating of their human ancestor and a wolf ancestress. These accounts suggest that there was a rationalizing syncretism of native pagan traditions with Jewish law, by melding through the motif of the cave, a site of ancestral ritual and repository of forgotten sacred texts, Türkic myths of origin and Jewish notions of redemption of Israel's fallen people. It is generally agreed they adopted Rabbinical rather than Qaraite Judaism.
Ibn Fadlan reports that the settlement of disputes in Khazaria was adjudicated by judges hailing each from his community, be it Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or Pagan. Some evidence suggests that the Khazar king saw himself as a defender of Jews even beyond the kingdom's frontiers, retaliating against Muslim or Christian interests in Khazaria in the wake of Islamic and Byzantine persecutions of Jews abroad. Ibn Fadlan recounts specifically an incident in which the king of Khazaria destroyed the minaret of a mosque in Atil as revenge for the destruction of a synagogue in Dâr al-Bâbûnaj, and allegedly said he would have done worse were it not for a fear that the Muslims might retaliate in turn against Jews. Ḥasdai ibn Shaprūṭ sought information on Khazaria in the hope he might discover 'a place on this earth where harassed Israel can rule itself' and wrote that, were it to prove true that Khazaria had such a king, he would not hesitate to forsake his high office and his family in order to emigrate there.
Abraham Harkavy  noted in 1877 that an Arabic commentary on Isaiah 48:14, ascribed to Saadia Gaon or to the Karaite scholar Benjamin Nahâwandî, interpreted "The Lord hath loved him" as a reference "to the Khazars, who will go and destroy Babel" (i.e., Babylonia), a name used to designate the country of the Arabs. This has been taken as an indication of hopes by Jews that the Khazars might succeed in destroying the Caliphate.
In 965, as the Qağanate was struggling against the victorious campaign of the Rus' prince Sviatoslav, the Islamic historian Ibn al-Athîr mentions that Khazaria, attacked by the Oğuz, sought help from Khwarezm, but their appeal was rejected because they were regarded as 'infidels' (al-kuffâr:pagans). Save for the king, the Khazarians are said to have converted to Islam in order to secure an alliance, and the Turks were, with Khwarezm's military assistance repelled. It was this that, according to Ibn al-Athîr, led the Jewish king of Khazar to convert to Islam.
Claims of Khazar ancestry
Khazar origins for, or suggestions Khazars were absorbed by many peoples, have been made regarding the Slavic Judaising Subbotniks, the Bukharan Jews, the Muslim Kumyks, the Cossacks of the Don region, the Turkic-speaking Krymchaks and their Crimean neighbours the Karaites to the Moldavian Csángós, the Mountain Jews and others. Turkic-speaking Crimean Karaites (known in the Crimean Tatar language as Qaraylar), some of whom migrated in 19th century from Crimea to Poland and Lithuania have claimed Khazar origins. Specialists in Khazar history question the connection. Scholarship is likewise sceptical of claims that the Tatar-speaking Krymchak Jews of the Crimea descend from Khazars. Even certain European peoples, such as Hungarians and Bulgarians, are also believed to have Khazar ancestors.
Several scholars have suggested that the Khazars did not disappear after the dissolution of their Empire, but migrated West to eventually form part of the core of the later Ashkenazi Jewish population of Europe. This hypothesis is greeted with scepticism or caution by most scholars. The German Orientalist Karl Neumann, in the context of an earlier controversy about possible connections between Khazars and the ancestors of the Slavic peoples, suggested as early as 1847 emigrant Khazars might have influenced the core population of Eastern European Jews.
The theory was then taken up by Abraham Eliyahu Harkavi in 1869, when he also claimed a possible link between the Khazars and Ashkenazi, but the theory that Khazar converts formed a major proportion of Ashkenazi was first proposed to a Western public in a lecture by Ernest Renan in 1883. Occasional suggestions emerged that there was a small Khazar component in East European Jews in works by Joseph Jacobs (1886), Anatole Leroy-Beaulieu, a critic of anti-Semitism, (1893) Maksymilian Ernest Gumplowicz, and by the Russian-Jewish anthropologist Samuel Weissenberg. In 1909 Hugo von Kutschera developed the notion into a book-length study, arguing Khazars formed the foundational core of the modern Ashkenazi. Maurice Fishberg introduced the notion to American audiences in 1911. The idea was also taken up by the Polish-Jewish economic historian and General Zionist Yitzhak Schipper in 1918. Scholarly anthropologists, such as Roland B. Dixon (1923), and writers like H. G. Wells (1921) used it to argue that "The main part of Jewry never was in Judea", a thesis that was to have a political echo in later opinion. In 1932, Samuel Krauss ventured the theory that the biblical Ashkenaz referred to northern Asia Minor, and identified it with the Khazars, a position immediately disputed by Jacob Mann. Ten years later, in 1942, Abraham N. Poliak, later professor for the history of the Middle Ages at Tel Aviv University, published a Hebrew monograph in which he concluded that the East European Jews came from Khazaria. D.M. Dunlop, writing in 1954, thought very little evidence backed what he regarded as a mere assumption, and argued that the Ashkenazi-Khazar descent theory went far beyond what "our imperfect records" permit. Léon Poliakov, while assuming the Jews of Western Europe resulted from a "panmixia" in the Ist millennium, asserted in 1955 that it was widely assumed that Europe's Eastern Jews descended from a mixture of Khazarian and German Jews. Poliak's work found some support in Salo Wittmayer Baron and Ben-Zion Dinur, but was dismissed by Bernard Weinryb as a fiction (1962).
The Khazar-Ashkenazi hypothesis came to the attention of a much wider public with the publication of Arthur Koestler's The Thirteenth Tribe in 1976. which was both positively reviewed and dismissed as a fantasy, and a somewhat dangerous one. Israel's ambassador to Britain branded it "an anti-Semitic action financed by the Palestinians", while Bernard Lewis claimed that the idea was not supported by any evidence whatsoever, and had been abandoned by all serious scholars. Raphael Patai, however, registered some support for the idea that Khazar remnants had played a role in the growth of Eastern European Jewish communities, and several amateur researchers, such as Boris Altschüler (1994) and Kevin Alan Brook, kept the thesis in the public eye. The theory has been occasionally manipulated to deny Jewish nationhood. Recently, a variety of approaches, from linguistics (Paul Wexler) to historiography (Shlomo Sand) and population genetics (Eran Elhaik, a geneticist from the University of Sheffield) have emerged to keep the theory alive. In broad academic perspective, both the idea that the Khazars converted en masse to Judaism, and the suggestion they emigrated to form the core population of Ashkenazi Jewry, remain highly polemical issues.
One thesis, held that the Khazar Jewish population went into a northern diaspora and had a significant impact on the rise of Ashkenazi Jews. Connected to this thesis is the theory, expounded by Paul Wexler, that the grammar of Yiddish contains a Khazar substrate.
Use in anti-Semitic polemics
Maurice Fishberg and Roland B Dixon's works were later exploited in racist and religious polemical literature in both Britain, in British Israelism, and the United States. Particularly after the publication of Burton J. Hendrick's The Jews in America (1923) it began to enjoy a vogue among advocates of immigration restriction in the 1920s; racial theorists like Lothrop Stoddard; anti-Semitic conspiracy-theorists like the Ku Klux Klan's Hiram Wesley Evans; anti-communist polemicists like John O. Beaty and Wilmot Robertson, whose views influenced David Duke. According to Yehoshafat Harkabi (1968) and others, it played a role in Arab anti-Zionist polemics, and took on an anti-semitic edge. Bernard Lewis, noting in 1987 that Arab scholars had dropped it, remarked that it only occasionally emerged in Arab political discourse. It has also played some role in Soviet anti-Semitic chauvinism and Slavic Eurasian historiography, particularly in the works of scholars like Lev Gumilev. Although the Khazar hypothesis never played any major role in anti-semitism, it came to be exploited by the White supremacist Christian movement  and even by terrorist esoteric cults like Aum Shinrikyō.
The hypothesis of Khazarian ancestry in Ashkenazi has also been a subject of discussion in the new field of population genetics, wherein claims have been made concerning evidence both for and against it. Eran Elhaik argued in 2012 for a significant Khazar component in the paternal line based on the study of Y-DNA of Ashkenazi Jews, using Caucasian populations, Georgians, Armenians and Azerbaijani Jews as proxies. The evidence from historians he used has been criticized by Shaul Stampfer and the technical response to such a position is dismissive, arguing that, if traces of descent from Khazars exist in the Ashkenazi gene pool, the contribution would be quite minor, or insignificant.
According to Nadia Abu El-Haj, the issues of origins are generally complicated by the difficulties of writing history via genome studies and the biases of emotional investments in different narratives, depending on whether the emphasis lies on direct descent or on conversion within Jewish history. The lack of Khazar DNA samples that might allow verification also presents difficulties.
Crimean Karaite claims
In 1846, the Russian orientalist Vasilii Vasil'evich Grigor'ev (1816–1881) theorized that the Crimean Karaites were of Khazar stock, an allegation quickly taken up outsiders though unfamiliar to the Karaites themselves at the time.
The Kuzari is an influential work written by the medieval Spanish Jewish philosopher and poet Rabbi Yehuda Halevi (c. 1075–1141). Divided into five essays (ma'amarim), it takes the form of a fictional dialogue between the pagan king of the Khazars and a Jew who was invited to instruct him in the tenets of the Jewish religion. The intent of the work, although based on Ḥasdai ibn Shaprūṭ's correspondence with the Khazar king, was not historical, but rather to defend Judaism as a revealed religion, written in the context, firstly of Karaite challenges to the Spanish rabbinical intelligentsia, and then against temptations to adapt Aristotelianism and Islamic philosophy to the Jewish faith. Originally written in Arabic, it was translated into Hebrew by Judah ibn Tibbon. Benjamin Disraeli's early novel Alroy (1833) draws on Menachem ben Solomon's story. The question of mass religious conversion and the indeterminability of the truth of stories about identity and conversion are central themes of Milorad Pavić's bestselling mystery story Dictionary of the Khazars. H.N. Turteltaub's Justinian, Marek Halter's Book of Abraham and Wind of the Khazars, and Michael Chabon's Gentlemen of the Road allude to or feature elements of Khazar history or create fictional Khazar characters.
Cities associated with the Khazars
Atil, Khazaran, Samandar; in the Caucasus, Balanjar, Kazarki, Sambalut, and Samiran; in Crimea and the Taman region, Kerch, Theodosia, Yevpatoria (Güzliev), Samkarsh (also called Tmutarakan, Tamatarkha), and Sudak. In the Don valley Sarkel. A number of Khazar settlements have been discovered in the Mayaki-Saltovo region. Some scholars suppose that the Khazar settlement of Sambat on the Dnieper refers to the later Kiev.
- List of Turkic dynasties and countries
- Gog and Magog
- History of Kiev
- List of Khazar rulers
- Rus' Khaganate
- Rus'–Byzantine War (860)
- Rus'–Byzantine War (907)
- Rus'–Byzantine War (941)
- Rus'–Byzantine War (968-971)
- Turkic peoples
- Wexler 1996, p. 50
- Brook, pp. 107
- Herlihy 1972, pp. 136–148;Russell1972, pp. 25–71. This figure has been calculated on the basis of the data in both Herlihy and Russell's work.
- Marshall Cavendish Corporation (2006). Peoples of Western Asia. p. 364.
- Bosworth, Clifford Edmund (2007). Historic Cities of the Islamic World. p. 280.
- Borrero, Mauricio (2009). Russia: A Reference Guide from the Renaissance to the Present. p. 162.
- Luttwak 2009, p. 152.'Khazars - Yiddish Language - based on Hebrew Characters (Not Hebrew Language).'
- Meserve 2009, p. 294, n.164.
- Golden 2007b, p. 139.'The Gazari are, presumably, the Khazars, though this term or the Kozary of the perhaps near contemporary Vita Constantini . . could have reflected any of a number of peoples within Khazaria.'
- Judah Halevi's Sefer ha-Kuzari was translated into Latin as Liber Cosri: continens colloquium seu disputationem de religione, habitam ante nongentos annos, inter regem cosarreorum, & R. Isaacum Sangarum Judæum.(1660)
- Golden 2001a, p. 33.'Somewhat later, however, in a letter to the Byzantine Emperor Basil I, dated to 871, Louis the German, clearly taking exception to what had apparently become Byzantine usage, declares that 'we have not found that the leader of the Avars, or Khazars (Gasanorum),'
- Petrukhin 2007, p. 255
- Sneath 2007, p. 25.
- Noonan 1999, p. 493.
- Golden 2011, p. 65.
- Noonan 1999, p. 498
- Noonan 1999, pp. 499,502–3.
- Golden 2007a, p. 28
- Golden 2007a, p. 149
- Kizilov 2009, p. 335
- Patai & Patai 2987, p. 73.
- Wexler 1987, p. 70.
- Wexler 2002, p. 536: 'Most scholars are sceptical about the hypothesis (that has its roots in the late 19th century) that Khazars became a major component in the ethnogenesis of the Ashkenazic Jews'.
- Rubin 2013.
- Davies 1992, p. 242.
- Vogt 1975.
- Golden 2007a, p. 15
- Golden 2007a, p. 16 and n.38 citing L. Bazin, 'Pour une nouvelle hypothèse sur l'origine des Khazar,' in Materialia Turcica, 7/8 (1981–1982): 51-71.
- Golden 2007a, p. 16.Compare Tibetan dru-gu Gesar (the Turk Gesar).
- Dunlop 1954, pp. 34–40
- Golden 2007a, p. 16
- Golden 2007a, p. 17.Kěsà (可薩) would have been pronounced something like kha'sat in both Early Middle Chinese/EMC and Late Middle Chinese/LMC while Hésà (曷薩) would yield γat-sat in (EMC) and xɦat sat (LMC) respectively, where final 't' often transcribes –r- in foreign words. Thus, while these Chinese forms could transcribe a foreign word of the type *Kasar/*Kazar, *Gatsar,*Gazr,*Gasar, there is a problem phonetically with assimilating these to the Uyğur word Qasar/ Gesa (EMC/LMC Kat-sat= Kar sar=*Kasar).
- Shirota 2005, pp. 235,248.
- Brook 2010, p. 5
- Golden 2007b, p. 148: Ibn al-Nadīm commenting on script systems in 987-8 recorded that the Khazars wrote in Hebrew.
- Erdal 2007, pp. 98–99: "The chancellery of the Jewish state of the Khazars is therefore also likely to have used Hebrew writing even if the official language was a Turkic one."
- Erdal 2007, p. 75, n.2.'there must have been many different ethnic groups within the Khazar realm ... These groups spoke different languages, some of them no doubt belonging to the Indo-European or different Caucasian language families.'. The high chancery official of the Abbasid Caliphate under Al-Wathiq, Sallām the interpreter (Sallam al-tardjuman), famous for his reputed mastery of thirty languages, might have been both Jewish and a Khazar.Wasserstein 2007, p. 376, and n.2 referring to.Dunlop 1954, pp. 190–193.
- Golden 2006, p. 91.'Oğuric Turkic, spoken by many of the subject tribes,doubtless, was one of the linguae francae of the state. Alano-As was also widely spoken. Eastern Common Turkic, the language of the royal house and its core tribes, in all likelihood remained the language of the ruling elite in the same way that Mongol continued to be used by the rulers of the Golden Horde, alongside of the Qipčaq Turkic speech spoken by the bulk of the Turkic tribesmen that constituted the military force of this part of the Činggisid empire. Similarity, Oğuric, like Qipčaq Turkic in the Jočid realm, functioned as one of the languages of government.'
- Golden 2007a, pp. 13–14, 14 n.28. al-Iṣṭakhrī 's account however then contradicts itself by likening the language to Bulğaric.
- Golden 2001b, p. 78.'The word tribe is as troublesome as the term clan. It is commonly held to denote a group, like the clan, claiming descent from a common (in some culture zones eponymous) ancestor, possessing a common territory, economy, language, culture, religion, and sense of identity. In reality, tribes were often highly fluid sociopolitical structures, arising as "ad hoc responses to ephemeral situations of competition," as Morton H. Fried has noted.'
- Whittow 1996, pp. 220–223
- Golden 2007a, p. 14
- Szádeczky-Kardoss 1994, p. 206
- Golden 2007a, pp. 40–41;Brook 2010, p. 4 note that Dieter Ludwig, in his doctoral thesis Struktur und Gesellschaft des Chazaren-Reiches im Licht der schriftlichen Quellen, (Münster,1982) suggested that the Khazars were Turkic members of the Hephthalite Empire, where the lingua franca was a variety of Iranian.
- Golden 2006, p. 86
- Golden 2007a, p. 53,
- Zuckerman 2007, p. 404.Cf.'The reader should be warned that the A-shih-na link of the Khazar dynasty, an old phantom of . . Khazarology, will . .lose its last claim to reality'.
- Golden 2006, p. 89.
- Golden 2006, pp. 89–90. In this view, the name Khazar would derive from a hypothetical *Aq Qasar.
- Kaegi 2003, p. 143 n.115, citing also Golden 1992, pp. 127–136,234–237.
- Whittow 1996, p. 221. The word Türk, Whittow adds, had no strict ethnic meaning at the time: 'Throughout the early middle ages on the Eurasian steppes, the term 'Turk' may or may not imply membership of the ethnic group of Turkic peoples, but it does always mean at least some awareness and acceptance of the traditions and ideology of the Gök Türk empire, and a share, however distant, in the political and cultural inheritance of that state.'
- Kaegi 2003, pp. 154–186.
- Whittow 1996, p. 222.
- Golden 2010, pp. 54–55 The Duōlù (咄陆) were the left wing of the On Oq, the Nǔshībì (弩失畢: *Nu Šad(a)pit), and together they were registered in Chinese sources as the 'ten names' (shí míng:十名).
- Golden 2001b, pp. 94–5.
- Somogyi 2008, p. 128.
- Zuckerman 2007, p. 417
- Golden 2006, p. 90.
- Golden 2007a, pp. 11–13.
- Golden 2007a, pp. 7–8
- Golden 2001b, p. 73
- Golden 2007b, pp. 155–156. Several scholars connect it to Judaization, with Artamonov linking its introduction to Obadiyah's reforms and the imposition of full Rabbinical Judaism and Pritsak to the same period (799-833), arguing that the Beg, a major domo from the Iranian *Barč/Warâ</Bolčan clan, identified with Obadiyah, compelled the Qağanal clan to convert, an event which putatively caused the Qabar revolt. Golden comments: "There is nothing but conjecture to connect it with the reforms of Obadiyah, the further evolution of Khazar Judaism or the Qabars ... The fact is we do not know when, precisely, the Khazar system of dual kingship emerged. It could not have come ex nihilo. It was not present in the early stages of Khazar history. Given the Old Türk traditions of the Khazar state ... and the overall institutional conservation of steppe society, one must exercise great caution here. Clear evidence for it is relatively late (the latter part of the ninth century perhaps and more probably the tenth century)- although it was probably present by the first third of the ninth century. Iranian influences via the Ors guard of the Qağans may have also been a factor"
- Noonan 1999, p. 500
- Olsson 2013, p. 2.
- Dunlop 1954, pp. 97,112. There was a maximum limit on the number of years of a king's reign, according to Ibn Fadlan; if a Qağan had reigned for at least forty years, his courtiers and subjects felt his ability to reason would become impaired by old age. They would then kill the Qağan.
- Noonan 2001, p. 77.
- Golden 2006.
- Petrukhin 2007, pp. 256–257 notes that Ibn Fadlan's description of a Rus' prince (malik) and his lieutenant (khalifa) mirrored the Khazarian diarchy, but the comparison was flawed, as there was no sacral kingship among the Rus'.
- Golden 2007b, pp. 133–4.
- Shingiray 2012, pp. 212
- de Weese 1994, p. 181,
- Golden & 2006 pp. 79–81.
- Golden 2007b, pp. 130–131: "the rest of the Khazars profess a religion similar to that of the Turks."
- Golden 2006, p. 88
- Golden 2007b, p. 138. This regiment was exempt from campaigning against fellow Muslims, evidence that non-Judaic beliefs was no obstacle to access to the highest levels of government. They had abandoned their homeland after the onset of Islam and sought service with the Khazars, according to al-Masudi.
- Olsson 2013, p. 13 writes that there is no evidence for this Islamic guard for the 9th century, but that its existence is attested for 913.
- Golden 2006, pp. 79–80,88.
- Olsson 2013, p. 1.
- Noonan 2007, p. 211,217 gives the lower figure for the Muslim contingents, but adds that the army could draw on other mercenaries stationed in the capital, Rūs, Ṣaqāliba and pagans. Olsson's 10,000 refers to the spring-summar horsemen in the nomadic king's retinue.
- Koestler 1977, p. 18
- Dunlop 1954, p. 113
- Dunlop 1954, p. 96
- Brook 2010, pp. 3–4
- Patai & Patai 1989, p. 70.
- Brook 2010, p. 3
- Golden 2006, pp. 86 n.39,89The ethnonym in the Tang Chinese annals, Āshǐnà (阿史那), often accorded a key role in the Khazar leadership, may reflect an Eastern Iranian or Tokharian word (Khotanese Saka âşşeina-āššsena 'blue'): Middle Persian axšaêna ('dark-coloured'): Tokharian A âśna ('blue', 'dark').
- Luttwak 2009, p. 152.
- Oppenheim 1994, p. 312.
- Brook 2010, pp. 3–4.
- Barthold 1993, p. 936.
- Zhivkov 2015, p. 173.
- Golden 2011, p. 64.
- Noonan 2007, pp. 208–209, 216–219. A third division may have contained the dwellings of the tsarina. The dimensions of the western part were 3x3, as opposed to the eastern part's 8 x 8 farsakhs.
- Noonan 2007, p. 214.
- Noonan 2007, pp. 211–214. Outside Muslim traders were under the jurisdiction of a special royal official (ghulām).
- Luttwak 2009, p. 52
- Róna-Tas 1999, p. 282: Theophanes the Confessor around 813 defined them as Eastern Turks. The designation is complex and Róna-Tas writes: 'The Georgian Chronicle refers to the Khazars in 626-628 as the 'West Turks' who were then opposed to the East Turks of Central Asia. Shortly after 679 the Armenian Geography mentions the Turks together with the Khazars; this may be the first record of the Magyars. Around 813, Theophanes uses - alongside the generic name Turk - 'East Turk' for the designation of the Khazars, and in context, the 'West Turks' may actually have meant the Magyars. We know that Nicholas Misticus referred to the Magyars as 'West Turks' in 924/925. In the 9th century the name Turk was mainly used to designate the Khazars.'
- Many sources identify the Göktürks in this alliance as Khazars, for example, Beckwith writes recently: 'The alliance sealed by Heraclius with the Khazars in 627 was of seminal importance to the Byantine Empire through the Early Middle Ages, and helped assure its long-term survival.'Beckwith 2011, pp. =120,122. Early sources such as the almost contemporary Armenian history, Patmutʿiwn Ałuanicʿ Ašxarhi, attributed to Movsēs Dasxurancʿ, and the Chronicle attributed to Theophanes identify these Turks as Khazars (Theophanes has: 'Turks, who are called Khazars'). Both Zuckerman and Golden reject the identification. Zuckerman 2007, pp. 403–404.
- Kaegi 2003, pp. 143–145.
- Róna-Tas 1999, p. 230.
- Kaegi 2003, p. 145.
- Zuckerman 2007, p. 417. Scholars dismiss Chinese annals which, reporting the events from Turkic sources, attribute the destruction of Persia and its leader Shah Khusrau II personally to Tong Yabghu. Zuckerman argues instead that the account is correct in its essentials.
- Bauer 2010, p. 341.
- Ostrogorsky 1969, pp. 124–126.
- Cameron 1984, p. 212.
- Bauer 2010, pp. 341–342.
- Luttwak 2009, pp. 137–8
- Piltz 2004, p. 42.
- Noonan 2007, p. 220.
- Beckworth 2009, p. 392,n.22.
- McBride & Heath 2004, p. 14.
- Mako 2010, p. 45
- Brook 2010, pp. 126–7
- Brook 2010, pp. 127
- Wasserstein 2007, pp. 375–376
- Moss 2002, p. 16. Over 520 separate hoards of such silver have been uncovered in Sweden and Gotland.
- Abulafia 1987, pp. 419,480–483.The Volga Bulgarian state was converted to Islam in the 10th century, and wrested liberty from its Khazarian suzerains when Svyatislav razed Atil.
- Shepard 2006, p. 19.
- Petrukhin 2007, p. 245
- Noonan 2001, p. 81.
- Whittow 1996, pp. 243–252 argues however that:The title of qaghan, with its claims to lordship over the steppe world, is likely to be no more than ideological booty from the 965 victory.'
- Korobkin 1998, p. xxvii citing Golb & Pritsak 1982, p. 15 notes that Khazars have often been connected with Kiev's foundations. Pritsak and Golb state that children in Kiev were being given a mixture of Hebrew and Slavic names by c. 930. Toch 2012, p. 166 on the other hand is sceptical, and argues that 'a significant Jewish presence in early medieval Kiev or indeed in Russia at large remains much in doubt'.
- Golden 2007b, p. 156.The yarmaq based on the Arab dirhem was perhaps issued in reaction to fall-off in Muslim minting in 820s, and to a felt need in the turbulent upheavals of the 830s to assert a new religious profile, with the Jewish legends stamped on them.
- Petrukhin 2007, p. 247, and n.1: Scholars are divided as to whether the fortification of Sarkel represents a defensive bulwark against a growing Magyar or Varangian threat.
- Petrukhin 2007, p. 257.
- Kohen 2007, p. 107.
- Noonan 1999, pp. 502–3.
- Kohen 2007, p. 106.MQDWN or the Macedon dynasty of Byzantium;SY,perhaps a central Volga statelet, Burtas, Asya; PYYNYL denoting the Danube-Don Pechnegs;BM, perhaps indicating the Volga Bulgars, and TWRQY or Oghuz Turks. The provisory identifications are those of Pritsak.
- Noonan 1999, p. 508.
- Olsson 2013, p. 13: Al-Masudi says the king secretly tipped off the Rus' of the attack but was unable to oppose the request of his guards.
- Petrukhin 2007, p. 257. The letter continues:'I wage war with them. If I left them (in peace) for a single hour they would crush the whole land of the Ishmaelites up to Baghdad.'
- From Klavdiy Lebedev (1852–1916), Svyatoslav's meeting with Emperor John, as described by Leo the Deacon.
- Petrukhin 2007, p. 259.
- Petrukhin 2007, p. 262.
- Petrukhin 2007, pp. 262–263.
- The Russian Primary Chronicle (Laurentian text), trans. and edited by Samuel Hazzard Cross and Olgerd P. Sherbowitz-Wetzor, p. 97.
- Petrukhin 2007, p. 263.
- Dunlop 1954, p. 242.
- Dunlop 1954, p. 248. Dunlop thought the later city of Saqsin lay on or near Atil
- Gow, p. 31, n.28.
- Sand 2010, p. 229
- Golden 2007b, pp. 148.
- Brook 2010, p. 156. The Caspian Sea is still known to Arabs, and many peoples of the region, as the 'Khazar Sea' (Arabic Bahr ul-Khazar)
- Noonan 1999, p. 503.
- Golden 2007b, pp. 147–8.
- Kohen 2007, p. 109.
- Shapira 2007a, p. 305.
- Dunlop 1954, p. 253.
- Sand 2010, p. 227.
- Dubnov 1980, p. 792.
- Golden 2007a, p. 45, and n.157
- Golden 2007b, p. 130:'thus it is clear that the false doctrine of Yišô in Rome (Hrôm) and that of Môsê among the Khazars and that of Mânî in Turkistan took away their might and the valor that they once possessed and made them feeble and decadent among their rivals'.
- Golden 2007b, p. 159.
- Peacock 2010, pp. 27-35, 27-28,35 for details.Some sources claim that the father of Seljuk, the eponymous progenitor of the Seljuk Turks, namely Toqaq Temür Yalığ, began his career as an Oghuz soldier in Khazar service in the early and mid-10th century, and rose to high rank before he fell out with the Khazar rulers and departed for Khwarazm. Seljuk's sons, significantly, all bear names from the Jewish scriptures: Mîkâ'il, Isrâ'îl, Mûsâ, Yûnus. Peacock argues that early traditions attesting a Seljuk origin within the Khazar empire when it was powerful, were later rewritten, after Khazaria fell from power in the 11th century, to blank out the connection.
- Peacock 2010, p. 35.
- Erdal 2007, p. 80, n.22:Wexler 1987, p. 72 Tzitzak is often treated as her original proper name, with a Turkic etymology čiček ('flower') Erdal, however, citing the Byzantine work on court ceremony De Ceremoniis, authored by Constantine Porphyrogennetos, argues that the word referred only to the dress Irene wore at court, perhaps denoting its colourfulness, and compares it to the Hebrew ciciot, the knotted fringes of a ceremonial shawl tallit.
- Golden 2001a, pp. 28–29,37.
- Golden 1994b, pp. 247–248.
- Róna-Tas 1999, p. 56
- Golden 2007a, pp. 33.
- Golden 2007b, p. 150.
- Brook 2010, p. 167.
- Brook 2010, pp. 113, 122–3 n.148. 'Engravings that resemble the six-pointed Star of David were found on circular Khazar relics and bronze mirrors from Sarkel and Khazarian grave fields in Upper Saltov. However, rather than having been made by Jews, these appear to be shamanistic sun discs.'
- Oppenheim 1994, p. 310.
- Schweid 2007, p. 286.
- Brook 2010, pp. 191–192, n.72 says this thesis was developed by Jacob Mann, based on a reading of the word "Khazaria" in the Cairo Geniza fragment. Bernard Lewis, he adds, challenged the assumption by noting that the original text reads Hakkâri and refers to the Kurds of the Hakkâri mountains in south-east Turkey.
- Baron 1957, pp. 202–204,p.204.
- Wexler 2002, p. 514.
- Golden 2007b, p. 149.
- Brook 2010, pp. 177–178
- Noonan 2007, p. 229.
- Golden 2007, pp. 131–133
- Whittow 1996, p. 220
- Golden 2007b, p. 133. Whittow 1996, p. 220 notes that this native institution, given the constant, lengthy, military and acculturating pressures on the tribes from China to the East, was influenced also by the sinocentric doctrine of the Mandate of Heaven (Tiānmìng:(天命), which signaled legitimacy of rule.
- Golden 2007b, pp. 124, 135.
- Golden 2007b, p. 125.
- de Weese 1994, pp. 292–293.
- Golden 2007b, p. 124:Alp Ilut'uêr is a Turkish subordinate title.
- Golden 2007b, pp. 135–6:Shapira 2007b, pp. 347–348 thinks the evidence from such Georgian sources renders suspect a conversion prior to this date.
- Golden 2007b, pp. 135–136, reporting on al-Muqaddasi.
- de Weese 1994, p. 73 during Islamic invasions, some groups of Khazars who suffered defeat, including a qağan, were converted to Islam.
- Stampfer 2013, pp. 1–72.
- Kohen 2007, p. 112. Johannes Buxtorf first published the letters around 1660. Controversy arose over their authenticity: it was even argued that the letters represented: 'no more than Jewish self-consolation and fantasmagory over the lost dreams of statehood' (Kohen ibid).
- Dunlop 1954, p. 130:'If anyone thinks that the Khazar correspondence was first composed in 1577 and published in Qol Mebasser, the onus of proof is certainly on him. He must show that a number of ancient manuscripts, which appear to contain references to the correspondence, have all been interpolated since the end of the sixteenth century. This will prove a very difficult or rather an impossible task.'
- Golden 2007b, pp. 145–6:'The issue of the authenticity of the Correspondence has a long and mottled history which need not detain us here. Dunlop and most recently Golb have demonstrated that Hasdai's letter, Joseph's response (dating perhaps from the 950s) and the "Cambridge Document" are, indeed, authentic.'
- deWeese 2010, pp. 171,305:'(a court debate on conversion)appears in accounts of Khazar Judaism in two Hebrew accounts, as well as in one eleventh-century Arabic account. These widespread and evidently independent attestations would seem to support the historicity of some kind of court debate, but, more important, clearly suggest the currency of tales recounting the conversion and originating among the Khazar Jewish community itself' … 'the "authenticity" of the Khazar correspondence is hardly relevant'.(p.171): 'The wider issue of the "authenticity" of the "Khazar correspondence", and of the significance of this tale's parallels with the equally controversial Cambridge document /Schechter text, has been discussed extensively in the literature on Khazar Judaism; much of the debate loses significance if, as Pritsak has recently suggested, the accounts are approached as "epic" narratives rather than evaluated from the standpoint of their "historicity".
- Szpiech 2012, p. 102.
- Toch 2012, pp. 162–3:'Of the intensive archaeological study of Khazar sites (over a thousand burial sites have been investigated!), not one has yet yielded finds that yet fit in some way the material legacy of antique European or Middle Eastern Jewry.' Shingiray 2012, pp. 209–211 noting the widespread lack of artifacts of wealth in Khazar burials, arguing that nomads used few materials to express their personal attributes:'The SMC assemblages-even if they wee not entirely missing from the Khazar imperial center-presented an outstanding instance of archaeological material minimalism in this region.'
- Golden 2007b, pp. 150–1, and note137'But, one must ask, are we to expect much religious paraphernalia in a recently converted steppe society? Do the Oğuz, in the century or so after their Islamization, present much physical evidence in the steppe for their new faith? These conclusions must be considered preliminary.'
- Golden 2007b, pp. 128–9 compares Ulfilas's conversions of the Goths to Arianism;Al-Masudi records a conversion of the Alans to Christianity during the Abbasid period;the Volga Bulğars adopted Islam after their leader converted in the 10th century; the Uyğur Qağan accepted Manichaeism in 762
- Golden 2007b, p. 123 taking exception to J. B. Bury's claim (1912) that it was 'unique in history'.Koestler 1977, p. 52);Golden 2007b, p. 153 cites from Jewish history the conversion of Idumeans under John Hyrcanus; of the Itureans under Aristobulus I; of the kingdom of Adiabene under Queen Helena; the Ḥimyârî kings in Yemen, and Berber assimilations to North African Jewry.
- Gil 2011, pp. 429–441
- Stampfer 2013, pp. 1–72
- Golden 2007b, pp. 141–145,161
- Noonan 2001, pp. 77–78.
- Schama 2013, p. 266.
- Golden 2007b, p. 126:'The Șûfî wandering out into the steppe was far more effective in bringing Islam to the Turkic nomads than the learned 'ulamâ of the cities.'
- Wexler 1987, p. 61.
- Szyszman 1980, pp. 71,73).
- Dunlop 1954, pp. 122–124.
- Brook 2009, pp. 95,117 n.51,52.
- Cahen 1997, pp. 137–139 argues the conversion was restricted to the elite.Wexler 2002, p. 514:'the Khazars (most of whom did not convert to Judaism, but remained animists, or adopted Islam and Christianity), …'
- Golden 2007b, p. 127:'In much of the literature on conversions of Inner Asian peoples, attempts are made, "to minimize the impact" … This has certainly been true of some of the scholarship regarding the Khazars.'
- Olsson 2013, p. 2:'scholars who have contributed to the subject of the Khazars' conversion, have based their arguments on a limited corpus of textual, and more recently, numismatic evidence … Taken together these sources offer a cacophony of distortions, contradictions, vested interests, and anomalies in some areas, and nothing but silence in others.'
- Noonan 1999, p. 502:'Judaism was apparently chosen because it was a religion of the book without being the faith of a neighbouring state which had designs on Khazar lands.'
- Salo 1957, p. 198:'Their conversion to Judaism was the equivalent of a declaration of neutrality between the two rival powers.'
- Golden 2007b, p. 139:We are not aware of any nation under the sky that would not have Christians among them. For even in Gog and Magog, the Hunnic people who call themselves Gazari, those whom Alexander confined, there was a tribe more brave than the others. This tribe had already been circumcised and they profess all dogmata of Judaism (omnem Judaismum observat).'
- Olsson 2013, p. 3. The idea of a forced general conversion imposed on the Qağanal dynasty in the 830s was advanced by Omeljian Pritsak, and is now supported by Roman Kovalev and Peter Golden.
- Olsson 2013, p. 13. He identifies this with the onset of Magyar invasions of the Pontic steppe in the 830s, the construction of Sarkel, and the Schechter letter's reference to Bulan, converted to his Jewish wife Serakh's faith, wresting power, in a period of famine, elements which undermined the qağan, and allowed the creation of the royal diarchy.Olsson 2013, pp. 13,19–23.
- Brook 2009, p. 6
- Dunlop 1954, pp. 140–142
- Zhivkov 2015, p. 42
- Shingiray 2012, pp. 212–214.
- Szpiech 2012, pp. 92–117,104.
- Golden 2007b, pp. 143,159:wa al-ḥazarwa malikuhum kulluhum yahûd('The Khazars and their king are all Jews')
- Golden 2007b, p. 143, citing his comment on Genesis 9:27:'some other commentators are of the opinion that this verse alludes to the Khazars who accepted Judaism', with Golden's comment:'Certainly, by this time, the association of Khazaria and Judaism in the Jewish world was an established fact'.
- Golden 2007b, pp. 137–138,
- Spinei 2009, p. 50.
- Shapira 2007b, p. 349, and n.178 and Zuckerman 1995, p. 250 disagree, consider there was only one stage and place it later. Shapira takes stage 1 as a Jewish-Khazar reinterpretation of the Tengri-cult in terms of a monotheism similar to Judaism's; Zuckerman thinks Judaisation took place, just once, after 861.
- Golden 2007b, pp. 127–128,151–153.Dunlop 1954, p. 170 Dunlop thought the Ist stage occurred with the king's conversion c. 740; the second with the installation of Rabbinial Judaism c. 800.
- DeWeese 1994, pp. 300–308.
- Melamed 2003, pp. 24–26.
- Schweid 2007, p. 279. Arabic original: Kitâb al-ḥuyya wa'l-dalîl fi naṣr al-din al-dhalîl (Book of the Argument and Demonstration in Aid of the Despised Faith).
- Korobkin 1998
- Brook 2010, pp. 30; 41, n.75 mentions also a letter in Hebrew, the Mejelis document, dated (985–986), which refers to "our lord David, the Khazar prince" who lived in Taman. As Brook noted, both D. M. Dunlop and Dan Shapira dismiss it as a forgery.
- Shapira 2009, p. 1102. The name is commonly etymologized as meaning 'elk' in Türkic. Shapira identifies him with the Sabriel of the Schechter letter, and suggests, since Sabriel is unattested as a Jewish name, though the root is 'hope, believe, find out, understand' that it is a calque on the Oğuz Türkic bulan(one who finds out) or bilen (one who knows)
- Szpiech 2012, pp. 93–117,102, citing the letter of Letter of King Joseph:et ha-qosmim ve-et'ovdei 'avodah zarah('expelled the wizards and idolators').
- DeWeese 1994, p. 302. This detail is in Halevi's Sefer Ha-Kusari. Golden has identified Warsān as Transcaucasian Varaˇc'an (Olsson 2013, p. 18) Ḥasdai ibn Shaprūṭ's letter also mentions a legend that the Chaldaeans, under persecution, hid the Scriptures in a cave, and taught their sons to pray there, which they did until their descendants forgot the custom. Much later, a tradition has it, a man of Israel entered the cave and, retrieving the books, taught the descendants how to learn the Law.(De Weese 1994, pp. 304–5).
- Korobkin 1998, p. 352, n.8.
- Dunlop 1954, p. 170.
- De Weese 1994, p. 303;Golb & Pritsak 1882, p. 111:The Schechter document has officers during the religious debate speak of a cave in a certain plain (TYZWL) where books are to be retrieved. They turn out to be the books of the Torah.
- Golden 2007b, p. 157.
- DeWeese 1994, pp. 276,300–304. The original ancestral cavern of the Türks, according to Chinese sources, was called Ötüken and the tribal leaders would travel there annually to conduct sacrificial rites.
- Dunlop 1954, pp. 117–118.
- DeWeese 1994, pp. 304–305.
- Róna-Tas 1999, p. 232.
- Maroney 2010, p. 72
- Golden 2007a, p. 34.
- Kohen 2007, pp. 107–108, refers to Khazar killings of Christians or the uncircumcized in retaliation for persecutions of Jews in Byzantium, and Khazar reprisals against Muslims for persecutions of Jews in Caucasian Albania, perhaps under Emir Nasr.
- Golden 2007b, p. 161.
- Koestler 1977, p. 63;Leviant 2008, pp. 159–162,162:'If indeed I could learn that this was the case, then, despising all my glory, abadndoning my high estate, leaving my family, I would go over mountains and hills, through seas and lands, till I should arrive at the place where my Lord the King resides, that I might see not only his glory and magnificence, and that of his servants and ministers, but also the tranquillity of the Israelites. On beholding this my eyes would brighten, my reins would exult, my lips would pour forth praises to God, who has not withdrawn his favour from his afflicted ones.'
- Abraham Harkavy,Ha-Maggid (1877) p.357.
- Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906.
- Golden 2007a, p. 9
- Róna-Tas 1999, p. 232:Rabbinic Judaism rather than Qaraism was the form adopted. Small Karaim communities may have existed, but the linguistic and historical evidence suggests that the Turkic-speaking Karaim Jews in Poland and Lithuania, one branch also existed in Crimea, descend from the Khazars. 'At most, it is conceivable that the smaller Karaite community which lived in Kharazia gained the Kipchak type Turkic language, that they speak today, through an exchange of language.' Khazars probably converted to Rabbinic Judaism, whereas in Karaism only the Torah is accepted, the Talmud being ignored.
- Brook 2010, pp. 227–228.
- Wexler 2002, p. 536."Most scholars are sceptical about the hypothesis". Wexler, who proposes a variation on the idea, argues that a combination of three reasons accounts for scholarly aversion to the concept: a desire not to get mixed up in controversy, ideological insecurities, and the incompetence of much earlier work in favour of that hypothesis.
- Golden 2007a, p. 56:"Methodologically, Wexler has opened up some new areas, taking elements of folk culture into account. I think that his conclusions have gone well beyond the evidence. Nonetheless, these are themes that should be pursued further."
- Mariner 1999, pp. 95–96:"Arthur Koestler's book The Thirteenth Tribe which claimed that the converted Khazars were the progenitors of today's Ashkenazi Jews, has been largely rejected by serious scholars. However, the disputed theory that the stereotypical European Jew is descended from an Eastern European nation of Jewish converts, has been sufficiently unwelcome as to render study of the Khazars an area of research largely off limits for Jewish as well as Russian archaeologists, the Russians being unhappy with the prospect that their empire was initially ruled by Jewish kings as the Ashkenazim were that they might not have a genetic connection with the freed slaves who met with God at Sinai."
- Kizilov 2014, p. 389 citing Karl Neumann, Die Völker des südlichen Russlands in ihrer geschichtlichen Entwicklung, (1847) 2nd ed.Teubner 1855 pp.125-6.
- Rossman 2002, p. 98: Abraham Harkavy, O yazykye evreyev, zhivshikh v drevneye vremya na Rusi i o slavianskikh slovakh, vstrechaiuschikhsia u evreiskikh pisatelei, St. Petersburg.
- Barkun 1997, p. 137: Ernest Renan, "Judaism as a Race and as Religion." Delivered on the January 27, 1883.
- Rossman 2002, p. 98.
- Singerman 2004, pp. 3–4, Israël chez les nations (1893)
- Polonsky, Basista & Link-Lenczowski 1993, p. 120. In the book Początki religii żydowskiej w Polsce, Warsaw: E. Wende i S-ka, 1903.
- Goldstein 2006, p. 131. Goldstein writes: "The theory that Eastern European Jews descended from the Khazars was originally proposed by Samuel Weissenberg in an attempt to show that Jews were deeply rooted on Russian soil and that the cradle of Jewish civilization was the Caucasus". Weissenberg's book Die Südrussischen Juden, was published in 1895.
- Koestler 1976, pp. 134,150. Die Chasaren; historische Studie, A. Holzhauen,Vienna 1909.2nd ed., 1910.
- Koestler 1976, pp. 134,150.
- Goldstein 2006, p. 131. Maurice Fishberg, The Jews: A Study of Race and Environment.
- Litman 1984, pp. 85–110,109 Schipper's first monograph on this was published in the Almanach Žydowski (Vienna) in 1918. While in the Warsaw ghetto before falling victim to the Holocaust at Majdanek, Schipper (1884–1943) was working on the Khazar hypothesis.
- Brook 2010, p. 210.
- Wells 2004, p. 2:"There were Arab tribes who were Jews in the time of Muhammad, and a Turkic people who were mainly Jews in South Russia in the ninth century. Judaism is indeed the reconstructed political ideal of many shattered peoples-mainly semitic. As a result of these coalescences and assimilations, almost everywhere in the towns throughout the Roman Empire, and far beyond it in the east, Jewish communities traded and flourished, and were kept in touch through the Bible, and through a religious and educational organization. The main part of Jewry never was in Judea and had never come out of Judea."
- Singerman 2004, p. 4
- Morris 2003, p. 22: Pasha Glubb held that Russian Jews "have considerably less Middle Eastern blood, consisting largely of pagan Slav proselytes or of Khazar Turks." For Glubb, they were not "descendants of the Judeans ...The Arabs of Palestine are probably more closely related to the Judeans (genetically) than are modern Russian or German Jews" ..."Of course, an anti-Zionist (as well as an anti-Semitic) point is being made here: The Palestinians have a greater political right to Palestine than the Jews do, as they, not the modern-day Jews, are the true descendants of the land's Jewish inhabitants/owners".
- Roland Burrage Dixon The Racial History of Man, 1923; H. G. Wells, The Outline of History (1921)
- Malkiel 2008, p. 263,n.1.
- Golden 2007a, p. 29. "Poliak sought the origins of Eastern European Jewry in Khazaria". First written as an article, then as a monograph (1942), it was twice revised in 1944, and 1951 as Kazariyah: Toldot mamlaxa yehudit (Khazaria:The History of a Jewish Kingdom in Europe) Mosad Bialik, Tel Aviv, 1951.
- Sand 2010, p. 234.
- Dunlop 1954, pp. 261,263.
- Poliakov 2005, p. 285:"As for the Jews of Eastern Europe (Poles, Russians, etc.,) it has always been assumed that they descended from an amalgamation of Jews of Khazar stock from southern Russia and German Jews (the latter having imposed their superior culture)."
- Sand 2010, pp. 241–2. Sand cites Salo Wittmayer Baron,Baron 1957, pp. 196–206, p.206:"before and after the Mongol upheaval the Khazars sent many offshoots into the unsubdued Slavonic lands, helping ultimately to build up the great Jewish center of Eastern Europe"; and Ben-Zion Dinur, Yisrael ba-gola 5 vols., 3rd ed.(1961–1966)Tel-Aviv: Jerusalem:Dvir;Bialik Institute, 1961. (OCLC:492532282) vol.1 p.2,5:"The Russian conquests did not destroy the Khazar kingdom entirely, but they broke it up and diminished it And this kingdom, which had absorbed Jewish immigration and refugees from many exiles, must itself have become a diaspora mother, the mother of one of the greatest of the diasporas (Em-galuyot, em akhat hagaluyot hagdolot)-of Israel in Russia, Lithuania and Poland."
- Golden 2007a, p. 55:'Salo Baron, who incorrectly viewed them as Finno-Ugrians, believed that the Khazars "sent many offshoots into the unsubdued Slavonic lands, helping ultimately to build up the great Jewish centers of eastern Europe"
- Golden 2007a, p. 55:"dismissed ... rather airily".
- Sand 2010, p. 240.
- Lewis 1987, p. 48:"Some limit this denial to European Jews and make use of the theory that the Jews of Europe are not of Israelite descent at all but are the offspring of a tribe of Central Asian Turks converted to Judaism, called the Khazars. This theory, first put forward by an Austrian anthropologist in the early years of this century, is supported by no evidence whatsoever. It has long since been abandoned by all serious scholars in the field, including those in Arab countries, where Khazar theory is little used except in occasional political polemics." Assertions of this kind has been challenged by Paul WexlerWexler 2002, pp. 538 who also notes that the arguments on this issue are riven by contrasting ideological investments:"Most writers who have supported the Ashkenazi-Khazar hypothesis have not argued their claims in a convincing manner ... The opponents of the Khazar-Ashkenazi nexus are no less guilty of empty polemics and unconvincing arguments."(p.537)).
- Patai & Patai 1989, p. 71: "it is assumed by all historians that those Jewish Khazars who survived the last fateful decades sought and found refuge in the bosom of Jewish communities in the Christian countries to the west, and especially in Russia and Poland, on the one hand, and in the Muslim countries to the east and the south, on the other. Some historians and anthropologists go so far as to consider the modern Jews of East Europe, and more particularly of Poland, the descendants of the medieval Khazars."
- Brook 2010
- Toch 2012, p. 155,n.4.
- Wexler 2007, pp. 387–398.
- Sand 2010, pp. 190–249.
- Elhaik 2012, pp. 61–74.
- Spolsky & 2014 174-177.
- Golden 2007, pp. 9–10.
- Wexler 2002, pp. 513–541.
- Goldstein 2006, p. 131.
- Singerman 2004, pp. 4–5.
- Goodrick-Clarke 2003, p. 237.
- .Boller 1992, pp. 2,6–7. Barkun 1997, pp. 141–2. Beaty was an anti-Semitic, McCarthyite professor of Old English at SMU, author of 'The Iron Curtain over America, (Dallas 1952). According to him, 'the Khazar Jews . .were responsible for all of America's – and the world's ills, beginning with World War 1. The book 'had little impact' until the former Wall Street broker and oil tycoon J. Russell Maguire promoted it.
- Barkun 1997, pp. 140–141. Cf. Wilmot Robertson Dispossessed Majority(1972)
- Wexler 2002, p. 514 has a more detailed bibliography.
- Harkabi 1987, p. 424:"Arab anti-Semitism might have been expected to be free from the idea of racial odium, since Jews and Arabs are both regarded by race theory as Semites, but the odium is directed, not against the Semitic race, but against the Jews as a historical group. The main idea is that the Jews, racially, are a mongrel community, most of them being not Semites, but of Khazar and European origin." This essay was translated from Harkabi Hebrew text 'Arab Antisemitism' in Shmuel Ettinger, Continuity and Discontinuity in Antisemitism, (Hebrew) 1968 (p.50).
- Shnirelman 2007, pp. 353–372:'in the very late 1980s Russian nationalists were fixated on the "Khazar episode." For them the Khazar issue seemed to be a cruial one. They treated it as the first historically documented case of the imposition of a foreign yoke on the Slavs, .. In this context the term "Khazars" became popular as a euphemism for the so-called "Jewish occupation regime." (p.354)
- Rossman 2007, pp. 121–188.
- Barkun 1997, pp. 136–7:'The Khazar theory never figured as a major component of anti-Semitism. Indeed, it receives only scant attention in Léon Poliakov's monumental history of the subject.'
- Barkun 2012, p. 165:'Although the Khazar theory gets surprisingly little attention in scholarly histories of anti-Semitism, it has been an influential theme among American anti-Semites since the immigration restrictionists of the 1920s,'.
- Barkun 1997, pp. 142–144.
- Goodman & Miyazawi 2000, pp. 263–264.
- Elhaik 2012, pp. 61–74: "Strong evidence for the Khazarian hypothesis is the clustering of European Jews with the populations that reside on opposite ends of ancient Khazaria: Armenians, Georgians, and Azerbaijani Jews".
- Stampfer 2016.
- Ostrer 2012, pp. 24–7,93–95,124–125.
- Nebel, Filon & Brinkmann 2001, pp. 1095–1112.
- Behar, Skorecky & Hammer 2003, pp. 769–779.
- Nebel, Filon & Faerman 2005, pp. 388–391.
- Atzmon & Ostrer 2010, pp. 850–859
- Costa, Pereira & Richards 2013, pp. 1–10.
- El-Haj 2012, pp. 1–2,28–9,120–123, 133:'if the genome does not prove Sand wrong, neither can it prove him right. It is the wrong kind of evidence and the wrong style of reasoning for the task at hand.'(p.28):'They (researchers) will never be able to prove descent from Khazars: there are no "verification" samples.'(p.133).
- Shapira 2006, p. 166.
- Blady 113–130.
- Róna-Tas 1999, p. 232:Rabbinic Judaism rather than Qaraism was the form adopted. Small Karaim communities may have existed, but the linguistic and historical evidence suggests that the Turkic-speaking Karaites in Poland and Lithuania, one branch also existed in Crimea, descend from the Khazars. 'At most, it is conceivable that the smaller Karaite community which lived in Kharazia gained the Kipchak type Turkic language, that they speak today, through an exchange of language.' Khazars probably converted to Rabbinic Judaism, whereas in Karaism only the Torah is accepted, the Talmud being ignored.
- Lobel 2000, pp. 2–4.
- Baron 1957, p. 204.
- Wachtel 1998, pp. 210–215.
- Cokal 2007.
- Róna-Tas 1999, p. 152:'Kiev in Khazar is Sambat, the same as the Hungarian word szombat,'Saturday', which is likely to have been derived from the Khazar Jews living in Kyiv.'
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