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In the 7th century, the Khazars founded an independent Khaganate in the Northern Caucasus along the Caspian Sea. Although the Khazars were initiallyTengri shamanists, many converted to the Abrahamic faiths through interaction with the Byzantine Empire and successive Islamic caliphates; during the 8th or 9th century, the Khaganate adopted Judaism as the state religion. At their height, the Khazars and their tributaries controlled much of what is today southern Russia, western Kazakhstan, eastern Ukraine, Azerbaijan, large portions of the Northern Caucasus (Circassia, Dagestan, Chechnya), parts ofGeorgia, the Crimea, and Northeastern Turkey.The Khazars (Turkic Dialect:Xazarlar) were a semi-nomadic Turkic people who dominated the Pontic steppe and the North Caucasus from the 7th to the 10th century. The name "Khazar" seems to be tied to a Turkic verb form meaning "wandering".
Between 965 and 969, their sovereignty was broken by Sviatoslav I of Kiev, and they became a subject people of Kievan Rus'. Gradually displaced by the Rus, the Kipchaks, and later the conquering Mongol Golden Horde, the Khazars largely disappeared as a culturally distinct people.
Origins and prehistory
The origins of the Khazars are unclear.
- Certain scholars, such as D.M. Dunlop and P.B. Golden, considered the Khazars to be connected with a Uyghur or Tiele confederation tribe called He'san in Chinese sources from the 7th-century (Suishu, 84). Remarkable is the fact that the Khazar language appears to have been an Oghurictongue, similar to that spoken by the earlyBulgars and corresponding to the modern dayChuvash dialects. P.B. Golden along with M. Artamonov and A. Novoseltsev even went further claiming that Khazars were a tribal union ofUyghur, Sabir, and some other Altaic Turkic people. That particular theory is the most favorite among most of the post-Soviet Russian scholars.
- A Hunnish origin has also been postulated particularly as akatzir tribe by such scholars as O. Pritsak and A. Gadlo. Khazars are mentioned after the fall of the Hunnic Attila Empire in 454. Since the Turkic peoples were never ethnically homogeneous, these ideas need not be deemed mutually exclusive. It is likely that the Khazar nation was made up of tribes from various ethnic backgrounds, as steppe nations traditionally absorbed those they conquered. Their name is accordingly derived from Turkic *qaz-, meaning "to wander, flee." Armenian chronicles contain references to the Khazars as early as the late second century. These are generally regarded as anachronisms, and most scholars believe that they actually refer toSarmatians or Scythians. Priscus relates that one of the nations in the Hunnishconfederacy was called Akatziroi. Their king was named Karadach or Karidachus. Some, going on the similarity between Akatziroi and "Ak-Khazar" (see below), have speculated that the Akatziroi were early proto-Khazars.
- Transoxiana origin
- Dmitri Vasilyev of Astrakhan State University recently hypothesized that the Khazars moved in to the Pontic steppe region only in the late 500s, and originally lived in Transoxiana. According to Vasilyev, Khazar populations remained behind in Transoxiana under Pecheneg and Oghuz suzerainty, possibly remaining in contact with the main body of their people. D. Ludwigclaims that Khazars were driven out of the region by the rising Hephthalites. Dr Simon Kraiz, an expert on Eastern European Jewry at University of Haifa, in September 2008, in connection with Vasilyev's findings in Samosdelka pointed out that no Khazar writings have yet been found: "We know a lot about them, and yet we know almost nothing: Jews wrote about them, and so did Russians, Georgians, and Armenians, to name a few. But from the Khazars themselves we have nearly nothing."
Following their conversion to Judaism, the Khazars themselves traced their origins to Kozar, a son of Togarmah. Togarmah is mentioned in Genesis (Chapter 10 verses 2 & 3) as a grandson of Japheth. Some scholars in the former USSR considered the Khazars to be an indigenous people of the North Caucasus mostly Nakh peoples. Argument is, that name 'khazar' from Chechen language translates 'beautiful valley'.
The Khazars' tribal structure is not well understood. They were divided between Ak-Khazars ("White Khazars") and Kara-Khazars ("Black Khazars"). The Muslim Geographer al-Istakhri 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". However, 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 himself confused by the name given to the two groups.
Formation of the Khazar state
Early Khazar history is intimately tied with that of the Göktürk empire, founded when theAshina clan overthrew the Juan Juan in 552 CE. It is known that in 515-516 hunnic-savirs attacked Armenia. The widow of the Hunnic-Savir prince Bolakh Boariks concluded a peace with Byzantine in 527. Worth of notice is the fact that in 529 PrinceKhosrau I of the Persian Empire fighting the social movement led by the Zoroastrianpriest Mazdak forced numerous Jewish families that supported the movement to flee the country north of Caucasus Mountains. In 552 a western-Turkic khaganate is mentioned led by khagan Tumyn (or Tumen) out of the Ashina clan. There are some speculations that the Western portion of the Göktürk empire in the west became to be known asAvars. During that time there is mentioning of Savirs' and Khazars' attacks on Caucasus Albania.
The first significant appearance of the Khazars in history is their aid to the campaign of the Byzantine emperor Heraclius against theSassanid Persians. The Khazar ruler Ziebel (sometimes identified as Tong Yabghu Khagan of the West Turks) aided the Byzantines in overrunning Georgia. A marriage was even contemplated between Ziebel's son and Heraclius' daughter, but never took place. During these campaigns, the Khazars may have been ruled by Mo-ho-shad and their forces may have been under the command of his son Buri-shad.
With the collapse of the Göktürk empire due to internal conflict in the seventh century, the western half of the Turk empire split into a number of tribal confederations, among whom were the Bulgars, led by the Dulo clan, and the Khazars, led by the Ashina clan, the traditional rulers of the Gok Turk empire. By 670, the Khazars had broken the Bulgar confederation, causing various tribal groups to migrate and leaving two remnants of Bulgar rule - Volga Bulgaria, and the Bulgarian khanate on the Danube River.
During the 7th and 8th centuries the Khazar fought a series of wars against theUmayyad Caliphate, which was attempting simultaneously to expand its influence into Transoxiana and the Caucasus. The first war was fought in the early 650 and ended with the defeat of an Arab force led by Abd ar-Rahman ibn Rabiah outside the Khazar town of Balanjar, after a battle in which both sides used siege engines on the others' troops.
A number of Russian sources give the name of a Khazar khagan,Irbis, from this period, and describe him as a scion of the Göktürk royal house, the Ashina. Whether Irbis ever existed is open to debate, as is the issue of whether he can be identified with one of the many Göktürk rulers of the same name.
Several further conflicts erupted in the decades that followed, with Arab attacks and Khazar raids into Kurdistan and Iran. There is evidence from the account of al-Tabari that the Khazars formed a united front with the remnants of the Gok Turks in Transoxiana.
Khazars and Byzantium
Khazar overlordship over most of the Crimea dates back to the late 7th century. In the mid-8th century the rebellious Crimean Goths were put down and their city, Doros (modern Mangup) occupied. A Khazar tudun was resident atCherson in the 690s, despite the fact that this town was nominally subject to the Byzantine Empire.
They are also known to have been allied with the Byzantine Empire during at least part of the eighth century. In 704/705 Justinian II, exiled in Cherson, escaped into Khazar territory and married Theodora, the sister of the Khagan Busir. With the aid of his wife, he escaped from Busir, who was intriguing against him with the usurper Tiberius III, murdering two Khazar officials in the process. He fled toBulgaria, whose Khan Tervel helped him regain the throne. The Khazars later provided aid to the rebel general Bardanes, who seized the throne in 711 as Emperor Philippicus.
The Byzantine emperor Leo III married his son Constantine (later Constantine V Kopronymous) to the Khazar princess Tzitzak (daughter of the Khagan Bihar) as part of the alliance between the two empires. Tzitzak, who was baptized as Irene, became famous for her wedding gown, which started a fashion craze in Constantinople for a type of robe (for men) called tzitzakion. Their son Leo (Leo IV) would be better known as "Leo the Khazar".
Second Khazar-Arab war
Hostilities broke out again with the Caliphate in the 710s, with raids back and forth across the Caucasus but few decisive battles. The Khazars, led by a prince namedBarjik, invaded northwestern Iran and defeated the Umayyad forces at Ardabil in December 730, killing the Arab warlord al-Djarrah al-Hakami and briefly occupying the town. They were defeated the next year at Mosul, where Barjik directed Khazar forces from a throne mounted with al-Djarrah's severed head, and Barjik was killed. Arab armies led first by the Arab prince Maslamah ibn Abd al-Malik and then by Marwan ibn Muhammad (later Caliph Marwan II) poured across the Caucasus and eventually (in 737) defeated a Khazar army led by Hazer Tarkhan, briefly occupying Atil itself and possibly forcing the Khagan to convert to Islam. The instability of the Umayyad regime made a permanent occupation impossible; the Arab armies withdrew and Khazar independence was re-asserted. It has been speculated that the adoption of Judaism (which in this theory would have taken place around 740) was part of this re-assertion ofindependence.
Around 729, Arab sources give the name of the ruler of the Khazars as Parsbit or Barsbek, a woman who appears to have directed military operations against them. This suggests that women could have very high positions within the Khazar state, possibly even as a stand-in for the khagan.
Although they stopped the Arab expansion into Eastern Europe for some time after these wars, the Khazars were forced to withdraw behind the Caucasus. In the ensuing decades they extended their territories from the Caspian Sea in the east (many cultures still call the Caspian Sea "Khazar Sea"; e.g. "Xəzər dənizi" in Azeri, "Hazar Denizi" in Turkish, "Bahr ul-Khazar" in Arabic, "Darya-ye Khazar" in Persian) to the steppe region north of Black Sea in the west, as far west at least as the Dnieper River.
In 758, the Abbasid Caliph Abdullah al-Mansur ordered Yazid ibn Usayd al-Sulami, one of his nobles and military governor of Armenia, to take a royal Khazar bride and make peace. Yazid took home a daughter of Khagan Baghatur, the Khazar leader. Unfortunately, the girl died inexplicably, possibly in childbirth. Her attendants returned home, convinced that some Arab faction had poisoned her, and her father was enraged. A Khazar general named Ras Tarkhan invaded what is now northwestern Iran, plundering and raiding for several months. Thereafter relations between the Khazars and the Abbasid Caliphate (whose foreign policies were generally less expansionist than its Umayyad predecessor) became increasingly cordial.
Originally, the Khazars practiced traditional Turkic shamanism, focused on the sky god Tengri, but were heavily influenced by Confucianideas imported from China, notably that of the Mandate of Heaven. The Ashina clan were considered to be the chosen of Tengri and the kaghan was the incarnation of the favor the sky-god bestowed on the Turks. A kaghan who failed had clearly lost the god's favor and was typically ritually executed. Historians have sometimes wondered, only half in jest, whether the Khazar tendency to occasionally execute their rulers on religious grounds led those rulers to seek out other religions.
Conversion to Judaism and relations with world Jewry
Jewish communities had existed in the Greek cities of the Black Sea coast since late classical times. Chersonesos, Sudak, Kerch and other Crimean cities possessed Jewish communities, as did Gorgippia, and Samkarsh / Tmutarakan was said to have had a Jewish majority as early as the 670s. Jews fled from Byzantium to Khazaria as a consequence of persecution underHeraclius, Justinian II, Leo III, and Romanos I. These were joined by other Jews fleeing fromSassanid Persia (particularly during the Mazdak revolts), and, later, the Islamic world. Jewish merchants such as the Radhanites regularly traded in Khazar territory, and may have wielded significant economic and political influence. Though their origins and history are somewhat unclear, the Mountain Jews also lived in or near Khazar territory and may have been allied with or subject to Khazar overlordship; it is conceivable that they too played a role in the conversion.
At some point in the last decades of the 8th century or the early 9th century, the Khazar royaltyand nobility converted to Judaism, and part of the general population followed. The extent of the conversion is debated. Ibn al-Faqih reported in the 10th century that "all the Khazars are Jews." Notwithstanding this statement, some scholars believe that only the upper classes converted to Judaism; there is some support for this in contemporary Muslim texts.
Essays in the Kuzari, written by Yehuda Halevi, detail a moral liturgical reason for the conversion which some consider a moral tale. Some researchers have suggested part of the reason for conversion was political expediency to maintain a degree of neutrality: the Khazar empire was between growing populations, Muslims to the east and Christians to the west. Both religions recognized Judaism as a forebear and worthy of some respect. The exact date of the conversion is hotly contested. It may have occurred as early as 740 or as late as the mid-800s. Recently discovered numismatic evidence suggests that Judaism was the established state religion by c. 830, and though St. Cyril (who visited Khazaria in 861) did not identify the Khazars as Jews, the khagan of that period, Zachariah, had a biblical Hebrew name. Some medieval sources give the name of the rabbi who oversaw the conversion of the Khazars as Isaac Sangari or Yitzhak ha-Sangari.
The first Jewish Khazar king was named Bulan which means "elk", though some sources give him the Hebrew name Sabriel. A later king, Obadiah, strengthened Judaism, inviting rabbis into the kingdom and built synagogues. Jewish figures such as Saadia Gaon made positive references to the Khazars, and they are excoriated in contemporary Karaite writings as "bastards"; it is therefore unlikely that they adopted Karaism as some (such as Avraham Firkovich) have proposed.
According to the Schechter Letter, early Khazar Judaism was centered on a tabernacle similar to that mentioned in the Book of Exodus. Archaeologists at Rostov-on-Don have tentatively identified a folding altar unearthed at Khumar as part of such a construct.
The Khazars enjoyed close relations with the Jews of the Levant and Persia. The Persian Jews, for example, hoped that the Khazars might succeed in conquering the Caliphate. The high esteem in which the Khazars were held among the Jews of the Orient may be seen in the application to them, in an Arabic commentary on Isaiah ascribed by some to Saadia Gaon, and by others to Benjamin Nahawandi, of Isaiah 48:14: "The Lord hath loved him." "This," says the commentary, "refers to the Khazars, who will go and destroyBabel" (i.e., Babylonia), a name used to designate the country of the Arabs. From the Khazar Correspondence it is apparent that two Spanish Jews, Judah ben Meir ben Nathan and Joseph Gagris, had succeeded in settling in the land of the Khazars. Saadia, who had a fair knowledge of the kingdom of the Khazars, mentions a certain Isaac ben Abraham who had removed from Sura to Khazaria.
Likewise, the Khazar rulers viewed themselves as the protectors of international Jewry, and corresponded with foreign Jewish leaders (the letters exchanged between the Khazar ruler Joseph and the Spanish rabbi Hasdai ibn Shaprut have been preserved). They were known to retaliate against Muslim or Christian interests in Khazaria for persecution of Jews abroad. Ibn Fadlan relates that around 920 the Khazar ruler received information that Muslims had destroyed a synagogue in the land of Babung, in Iran; he gave orders that theminaret of the mosque in his capital should be broken off, and the muezzin executed. He further declared that he would have destroyed the mosque entirely had he not been afraid that the Muslims would in turn destroy all the synagogues in their lands. Similarly, during the persecutions of Byzantine Jews under Romanos I, the Khazar government retaliated by attacking Byzantine interests in the Crimea.
The theory that the majority of Ashkenazic Jews are the descendants of the non-Semitic converted Khazars was advocated by various racial theorists and antisemitic sources in the 20th century, especially following the publication of Arthur Koestler'sThe Thirteenth Tribe. Despite recent genetic evidence to the contrary, and a lack of any real mainstream scholarly support, this belief is still popular among groups such as the Christian Identity Movement, Black Hebrews, British Israelitists and others (particularly Arabs) who claim that they, rather than Jews, are the true descendants of the Israelites, or who seek to downplay the connection between Ashkenazi Jews and Israel in favor of their own. For more detail on this controversy, see below.
The Khazars occupied a prime trade nexus. Goods from western Europe travelled east to Central Asia and China and vice versa, and the Muslim world could only interact with northern Europe via Khazar intermediaries. TheRadhanites, a guild of medieval Jewish merchants, had a trade route that ran through Khazaria, and may have been instrumental in the Khazars' conversion to Judaism.
No Khazar paid taxes to the central government. Revenue came from a 10% levy on goods transiting through the region, and from tribute paid by subject nations. The Khazars exported honey, furs, wool, millet and other cereals, fish, and slaves. D.M. Dunlop and Artamanov asserted that the Khazars produced no material goods themselves, living solely on trade. This theory has been refuted by discoveries over the last half-century, which include pottery and glass factories.
The Khazars are known to have minted silver coins, called Yarmaqs. Many of these were imitations of Arab dirhems with corrupted Arabic letters. Coins of the Caliphate were in widespread use due to their reliable silver content. Merchants from as far away as China,England, and Scandinavia accepted them regardless of their inability to read the Arab writing. Thus issuing imitation dirhems was a way to ensure acceptance of Khazar coinage in foreign lands.
Some surviving examples bear the legend "Ard al-Khazar" (Arabic for "land of the Khazars"). In 1999 a hoard of silver coins was discovered on the property of the Spillings farm in the Swedish island of Gotland. Among the coins were several dated 837/8 CE and bearing the legend, in Arabic script, "Moses is the Prophet of God" (a modification of the Muslim coin inscription "Muhammad is the Prophet of God"). In "Creating Khazar Identity through Coins", Roman Kovalev postulated that these dirhems were a specialcommemorative issue celebrating the adoption of Judaism by the Khazar ruler Bulan.
Extent of influence
The Khazar Khaganate was, at its height, an immensely powerful state. The Khazar heartland was on the lower Volga and the Caspian coast as far south as Derbent. In addition, from the late 600s the Khazars controlled most of the Crimea and the northeast littoral of theBlack Sea. By 800 Khazar holdings included most of the Pontic steppe as far west as the Dneiper and as far east as the Aral Sea (some Turkic history atlases show the Khazar sphere of influence extending well east of the Aral). During the Khazar-Arab war of the early 700s, some Khazars evacuated to the Ural foothills, and some settlements may have remained.
Khazar towns included:
- Along the Caspian coast and Volga delta:
- In the Caucasus:
- Kerch (also called Bospor); Theodosia; Güzliev (modern Eupatoria);Samkarsh (also called Tmutarakan, Tamatarkha); Sudak (also called Sugdaia)
- In the Don valley:
- A number of Khazar settlements have been discovered in the Mayaki-Saltovo region. Some scholars suppose, that on the Dnieper, the Khazars founded a settlement called Sambat, which was part of what would become the city of Kiev. Chernihiv is also thought to have started as a Khazar settlement.
Tributary and subject nations
Pontic steppes, Crimea and Turkestan
Upper Don and Dnieper
Decline and fall
The ninth century is sometimes known as the Pax Khazarica, a period of Khazar hegemony over the Pontic steppe that allowed trade to flourish and facilitated trans-Eurasian contacts. However, in the early 10th century the empire began to decline due to the attacks of both Vikings from Kievan Rus and various Turkic tribes. It enjoyed a brief revival under the strong rulers Aaron II and Joseph, who subdued rebellious client states such as the Alans and led victorious wars against Rus invaders.
Kabar rebellion and the departure of the Magyars
At some point in the ninth century (as reported by Constantine Porphyrogenitus) a group of three Khazar clans called the Kabarsrevolted against the Khazar government. Mikhail Artamonov, Omeljan Pritsak and others have speculated that the revolt had something to do with a rejection of rabbinic Judaism; this is unlikely as it is believed that both the Kabars and mainstream Khazars had pagan, Jewish, Christian, and Muslim members. Pritsak maintained that the Kabars were led by the Khagan Khan-Tuvan Dyggvi in a war against the Bek. In any event Pritsak cited no primary source for his propositions in this matter. The Kabars were defeated and joined a confederacy led by the Magyars. It has been speculated that "Hungarian" derives from the Turkic word "Onogur", or "Ten Arrows", referring to seven Finno-Ugrictribes and the three tribes of the Kabars.
In the closing years of the ninth century the Khazars and Oghuz allied to attack the Pechenegs, who had been attacking both nations. The Pechenegs were driven westward, where they forced out the Magyars (Hungarians) who had previously inhabited the Don-Dnieper basin in vassalage to Khazaria. Under the leadership of the chieftain Lebedias and later Arpad, the Hungarians moved west into modern-day Hungary. The departure of the Hungarians led to an unstable power vacuum and the loss of Khazar control over the steppes north of the Black Sea.
Diplomatic isolation and military threats
The alliance with the Byzantines began to collapse in the early 900s. Byzantine and Khazar forces may have clashed in the Crimea, and by the 940s Constantine VII Porphyrogentius 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.
From the beginning of the tenth century, the Khazars found themselves fighting on multiple fronts as nomadic incursions were exacerbated by uprisings by former clients and invasions from former allies. According to the Schechter Text, the Khazar ruler Benjamin ben Menahemfought a war against a coalition of "'SY, TWRQY, 'BM, and PYYNYL," who were instigated and aided by "MQDWN". MQDWN or Macedon refers to the Byzantine Empire in many medieval Jewish writings; the other entities named have been tenuously identified by scholars including Omeljan Pritsak with the Burtas, Oghuz Turks, Volga Bulgars and Pechenegs, respectively. Though Benjamin was victorious, his son Aaron II had to face another invasion, this time led by the Alans. Aaron defeated the Alans with Oghuz help, yet within a few years the Oghuz and Khazars were enemies.
Ibn Fadlan reported Oghuz hostility to the Khazars during his journey c. 921. Some sources, discussed by Tamara Rice, claim that Seljuk, the eponymous progenitor of the Seljuk Turks, began his career as an Oghuz soldier in Khazar service in the early and mid-tenth century, rising to high rank before he fell out with the Khazar rulers and departed for Khwarazm.
Rise of Rus
Originally the Khazars were probably allied with various Norsefactions who controlled the region around Novgorod. The Rus' Khaganate, an early Rus polity in modern northwestern Russia and Belarus, was probably heavily influenced by the Khazars. The Rus' regularly travelled through Khazar-held territory to attack territories around the Black and Caspian Seas; in one such raid, the Khagan is said to have given his assent on the condition that the Rus' give him half of the booty. In addition, the Khazars allowed the Rus to use thetrade route along the Volga River. This alliance was apparently fostered by the hostility between the Khazars and Arabs. At a certain point, however, the Khazar connivance to the sacking of the Muslim lands by the Varangians led to a backlash against the Norsemen from the Muslim population of the Khaganate. The Khazar rulers closed the passage down the Volga for 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 have to wage war with them, for if I would give them any chance at all they would lay waste the whole land of the Muslims as far as Baghdad."
The Rus warlords Oleg and Sviatoslav I of Kiev launched several wars against the Khazar khaganate, often with Byzantine connivance. The Schechter Letter relates the story of a campaign against Khazaria by HLGW (Oleg) around 941 (in which Oleg was defeated by the Khazar general Pesakh); this calls into question the timeline of the Primary Chronicle and other related works on the history of the Eastern Slavs.
Sviatoslav finally succeeded in destroying Khazar imperial power in the 960s. The Khazar fortresses of Sarkel and Tamatarkha fell to the Rus in 965, with the capital city of Atil following circa 968 or 969. A visitor to Atil wrote soon after the sacking of the city: "The Rus attacked, and no grape or raisin remained, not a leaf on a branch."
Khazars outside Khazaria
Khazar communities existed outside those areas under Khazar overlordship. Many Khazar mercenaries served in the armies of theCaliphate and other Islamic states. Documents from medievalConstantinople attest to a Khazar community mingled with the Jews of the suburb of Pera. Christian Khazars also lived in Constantinople, and some served in its armies, including, in the 9th and 10th centuries, the imperial Hetaireia bodyguard, where they formed their own separate company. The Patriarch Photius I of Constantinoplewas once angrily referred to by the Emperor as "Khazar-face", though whether this refers to his actual lineage or is a generic insult is unclear.
Abraham ibn Daud reported Khazar rabbinical students, or rabbinical students who were the descendants of Khazars, in 12th centurySpain. Jews from Kiev and elsewhere in Russia, who may or may not have been Khazars, were reported in France, Germany and England.
The Kabars who settled in Hungary in the late ninth and early tenth centuries may have included Khazars among their number. Some Khazars probably fled foreign conquest into Hungary and elsewhere in Eastern Europe.
Polish legends speak of Jews being present in Poland before the establishment of the Polish monarchy. Polish coins from the 12th and 13th centuries sometimes bore Slavic inscriptions written in the Hebrew alphabet though connecting these coins to Khazar influence is purely a matter of speculation.
Late references to the Khazars
There is debate as to the temporal and geographic extent of Khazar polities following Sviatoslav's sack of Atil in 968/9, or even whether any such states existed. The Khazars may have retained control over some areas in the Caucasus for another two centuries, but sparse historical records make this difficult to confirm.
The evidence of later Khazar polities includes the fact that Sviatoslav did not occupy the Volga basin after he destroyed Atil, and departed relatively quickly to embark on his campaign in Bulgaria. The permanent conquest of the Volga basin seems to have been left to later waves of steppe peoples like the Kipchaks.
Khazar place names today
Today, various place names invoking Khazar persist. Indeed, the Caspian Sea, traditionally known as the Hyrcanian Sea andMazandaran Sea in Persian, came to be known to Iranians as the Khazar Sea as an alternative name. Many other cultures still call the Caspian Sea "Khazar Sea"; e.g. "Xəzər dənizi" in Azerbaijani, "Hazar Denizi" in Turkish, "Bahr ul-Khazar" in Arabic, "Darya-ye Khazar" in Persian.
Alleged Khazar ancestry of Ashkenazi Jews
Early Khazar theories
The theory that all or most Ashkenazi ("German") Jews might be descended from Khazars (rather than Semitic groups in the Middle East) dates back to the racial studies of late nineteenth century Europe, and was frequently cited to assert that most modern Jews are not descended from Israelites and/or to refute Israeli claims to Palestine. It was first publicly proposed in lecture given by the racial-theorist Ernest Renan on January 27, 1883, titled "Judaism as a Race and as Religion." It was repeated in articles in The Dearborn Independent in 1923 and 1925, and popularized by racial theorist Lothrop Stoddard in a 1926 article in the Forum titled "The Pedigree of Judah", where he argued that Ashkenazi Jews were a mix of people, of which the Khazars were a primary element. Stoddard's views were "based on nineteenth and twentieth-century concepts of race, in which small variations on facial features as well as presumed accompanying character traits were deemed to pass from generation to generation, subject only to the corrupting effects of marriage with members of other groups, the result of which would lower the superior stock without raising the inferior partners." This theory was adopted by British Israelites, who saw it as a means of invalidating the claims of Jews (rather than themselves) to be the true descendants of the ancient Israelites, and was supported by early anti-Zionists.
In 1951 Southern Methodist University professor John O. Beaty published The Iron Curtain over America, a work which claimed that "Khazar Jews" were "responsible for all of America's — and the world's — ills beginning with World War I". The book repeated a number of familiar antisemitic claims, placing responsibility for U.S. involvement in World Wars I and II and the Bolshevik revolution on these Khazars, and insisting that Khazar Jews were attempting to subvert Western Christianity and establish communism throughout the world. The American millionaire J. Russell Maguire gave money towards its promotion, and it was met with enthusiasm by hate groups and the extreme right. By the 1960s the Khazar theory had become a "firm article of faith" amongst Christian Identitygroups. In 1971 John Bagot Glubb (Glubb Pasha) also took up this theme, insisting that Palestinians were more closely related to the ancient Judeans than were Jews. According to Benny Morris:
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.
The theory gained further support when the novelist Arthur Koestler devoted his popular book The Thirteenth Tribe (1976) to the topic. Koestler's historiography has been attacked as highly questionable by many historians; it has also been pointed out that his discussion of theories about Ashkenazi descent is entirely lacking scientific or historiographical support; to the extent that Koestler referred to place-names and documentary evidence his analysis has been described as a mixture of flawed etymologies and misinterpreted primary sources. Commentors have also noted that Koestler mischaracterized the sources he cited, particularly D.M. Dunlop's History of the Jewish Khazars (1954). Dunlop himself stated that the theory that Eastern European Jews were the descendants of the Khazars, "... can be dealt with very shortly, because there is little evidence which bears directly upon it, and it unavoidably retains the character of a mere assumption."
Koestler himself was pro-Zionist based on secular considerations, and did not see alleged Khazar ancestry as diminishing the claim of Jews to Israel, which he felt was based on the United Nations mandate, and not on Biblical covenants or genetic inheritance. In his view, "The problem of the Khazar infusion a thousand years ago ... is irrelevant to modern Israel". In addition, he was apparently "either unaware of or oblivious to the use anti-Semites had made to the Khazar theory since its introduction at the turn of the century."
Nevertheless, in the Arab world the Khazar theory still enjoys popularity among some anti-Zionists and antisemites; Such proponents argue that if Ashkenazi Jews are primarily Khazar and not Semitic in origin, they would have no historical claim to Israel, nor would they be the subject of God's Biblical promise of Canaan to the Israelites, thus undermining the theological basis of both Jewish religious Zionists and Christian Zionists. In the 1970s and 80s the Khazar theory was also advanced by some Russian chauvinistantisemites, particularly the historian Lev Gumilyov, who portrayed "Judeo-Khazars" as having repeatedly sabotaged Russia's development since the 7th century.
Bernard Lewis stated in 1999:
This theory… 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 the Khazar theory is little used except in occasional political polemics.
The Israeli historian Shlomo Sand explored the theme of the Khazar ancestry of the Ashkenazi Jews in his controversial book The Invention of the Jewish People, first published in 2008. Sand claims that Israeli historians have marginalized the thesis of Khazar ancestry, and points out that from 1951 to the present, not a single historical work on the Khazars has been published in Hebrew.Some historians have criticised the quality of Sand's research; Simon Schama, in his review of Sand's book, writes: "to argue that the entirety of Ashkenazi Jewry must necessarily descend from the Khazars is to make precisely the uncritical claim of uninterrupted genealogy Sand is eager to dispute in the wider context of Jewish history. Anita Shapira wrote "Sand bases his arguments on the most esoteric and controversial interpretations, while seeking to undermine the credibility of important scholars by dismissing their conclusions without bringing any evidence to bear."
Genetic studies on Ashkenazi Jewery
A 1999 study by Hammer et al., published in the Proceedings of the United States National Academy of Sciences compared the Y chromosomes of Ashkenazi, Roman, North African, Kurdish, Near Eastern, Yemenite, and Ethiopian Jews with 16 non-Jewish groups from similar geographic locations. It found that "Despite their long-term residence in different countries and isolation from one another, most Jewish populations were not significantly different from one another at the genetic level... The results support the hypothesis that the paternal gene pools of Jewish communities from Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East descended from a common Middle Eastern ancestral population, and suggest that most Jewish communities have remained relatively isolated from neighboring non-Jewish communities during and after the Diaspora." According to Nicholas Wade "The results accord with Jewish history and tradition and refute theories like those holding that Jewish communities consist mostly of converts from other faiths, or that they are descended from the Khazars, a medieval Turkish tribe that adopted Judaism."
A 2001 study by Nebel et al. found Haplogroup R1a chromosomes (called Eu 19 in the paper), which are very frequent in Eastern European populations (54%-60%), at elevated frequency (12.7%) in Ashkenazi Jews. The authors hypothesized that these chromosomes could reflect low-level gene flow into Ashkenazi populations from surrounding Eastern European populations, or, alternatively, that both the Ashkenazi Jews in Haplogroup R1a, and to a greater extent all Eastern European populations in general, might have some partial Khazar ancestry.
A 2003 study of the Y-chromosome by Behar et al. found that among Ashkenazi Levites, who comprise approximately 4% of Ashkenazi Jews, the prevalence of Haplogroup R1a1 was over 50%. This haplogroup is uncommon in other Jewish groups, but found in high frequencies in eastern European populations. They argued that "it is likely that the event leading to a high frequency of R1a1 NRYs within the Ashkenazi Levites involved very few, and possibly only one, founding father." They postulated that one likely source of the gene was a "a founder(s) of non-Jewish European ancestry, whose descendents were able to assume Levite status", and that an alternate "attractive source would be the Khazarian Kingdom, whose ruling class is thought to have converted to Judaism in the 8th or 9th century." They concluded that "Although neither the NRY haplogroup composition of the majority of Ashkenazi Jews nor the microsatellite haplotype composition of the R1a1 haplogroup within Ashkenazi Levites is consistent with a major Khazar or other European origin, as has been speculated by some authors (Baron 1957; Dunlop 1967; Ben-Sasson 1976; Keys 1999), one cannot rule out the important contribution of a single or a few founders among contemporary Ashkenazi Levites."
A 2005 study by Nebel et al., based on Y chromosome polymorphic markers, showed that Ashkenazi Jews are more closely related to other Jewish and Middle Eastern groups than to their local neighbouring populations in Europe. However, 11.5% of male Ashkenazim were found to belong to Haplogroup R1a1 (R-M17), the dominant Y chromosome haplogroup in Eastern Europeans, suggesting possible gene flow between the two groups. The authors hypothesized that "R-M17 chromosomes in Ashkenazim may represent vestiges of the mysterious Khazars". They concluded "However, if the R-M17 chromosomes in Ashkenazi Jews do indeed represent the vestiges of the mysterious Khazars then, according to our data, this contribution was limited to either a single founder or a few closely related men, and does not exceed ~ 12% of the present-day Ashkenazim.
A 2010 study on Jewish ancestry by Atzmon et al. says "Two major groups were identified by principal component, phylogenetic, and identity by descent (IBD) analysis: Middle Eastern Jews and European/Syrian Jews. The IBD segment sharing and the proximity of European Jews to each other and to southern European populations suggested similar origins for European Jewry and refuted large-scale genetic contributions of Central and Eastern European and Slavic populations to the formation of Ashkenazi Jewry."
Turkic-speaking Karaites (in the Crimean Tatar language, Qaraylar) have lived in Crimea for centuries. Their origin is a matter of great controversy. Some regard them as descendants of Karaite Jews who settled in Crimea and adopted a form of the Kypchak tongue (seeKaraim language). Others view them as descendants of Khazar or Kipchak converts to Karaite Judaism. Today many Crimean Karaites deny Israelite origins and consider themselves to be descendants of the Khazars. The consensus view among historians, however, considers that the Torah religion of the Khazars was Talmudic Judaism. Some modern Karaims seek to distance themselves from being identified as Jews, emphasizing what they view as their Turkic heritage and claiming that they are Turkic practitioners of a "Mosaic religion" separate and distinct from Judaism.
The Krymchaks are Turkic people, community of Turkic languages and adherents of Rabbinic Judaism living in Crimea. In the late 600s most of Crimea fell to the Khazars. The extent to which the Krymchaks influenced the ultimate conversion of the Khazars and the development of Khazar Judaism is unknown. During the period of Khazar rule, intermarriage between Crimean Jews and Khazars is likely, and the Krymchaks probably absorbed numerous Khazar refugees during the decline and fall of the Khazar kingdom (a Khazarsuccessor state, ruled by Georgius Tzul, was centered on Kerch). It is known that Kipchak converts to Judaism existed, and it is possible that from these converts the Krymchaks adopted their distinctive language. They have historically lived in close proximity to the Crimean Karaites. At first krymchak was a Russian descriptive used to differentiate them from their Ashkenazi coreligionists, as well as other Jewish communities in the former Russian Empire such as the Georgian Jews, but in the second half of the 19th century this name was adopted by the Krymchaks themselves.
Other claims of descent
Others have claimed Khazar origins for such groups as the Mountain Jews and Georgian Jews. There is little evidence to support these theories, although it is possible that some Khazar descendants found their way into these communities. Non-Jewish groups who claim at least partial descent from the Khazars include the Kumyks and Crimean Tatars; as with the above-mentioned Jewish groups, these claims are subject to a great deal of controversy and debate.