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The Jewish Kingdom of Khazaria

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Khazars were a Central Asian people of Turkic, Hunnish and Iranian elements that arose in the Caucasus region. After converting to Judaism in the early Middle Ages, they moved westward into Russia and the Ukraine under pressure from Islam, eventually becoming a large component of Eastern and Central European Jewry. Many Ashkenazi Jews now find they have some Khazar (or intermingled Tatar) ancestry.

The Jews of Khazaria by Kevin Alan Brook, chronicles the history of the Khazars, a people who, in the early Middle Ages, founded a large empire in eastern Europe (located in present-day Ukraine and Russia).

  • The kingdom of Khazaria was one of the largest-sized political formations of its time, an economic and cultural superpower connected to several important trade routes.
  • Khazaria was especially notable for its religious tolerance, and in the 9th century, a large portion of the royal family converted to Judaism. Many of the nobles and commoners did likewise shortly thereafter.
  • After their conversion, the Khazars were ruled by a succession of Jewish Kings that began to adopt the hallmarks of Jewish civilization, including the Torah and Talmud, the Hebrew script, and the observance of Jewish holidays.
  • At its height, the Khazar state and its tributaries controlled much of what is now southern Russia, western Kazakhstan, eastern Ukraine, Azerbaijan and large parts of Russia's North Caucasus region.

Medieval Kingdom of Khazaria ( 652 CE -1016 CE )

Over a thousand years ago, the far east of Europe was ruled by Jewish kings who presided over numerous tribes, including their own tribe: the Turkic Khazars. After their conversion, the Khazar people used Jewish personal names, spoke and wrote in Hebrew, were circumcised, had synagogues and rabbis, studied the Torah and Talmud, and observed Hanukkah, Pesach, and the Sabbath. The Khazars were an advanced civilization with one of the most tolerant societies of the medieval period. It hosted merchants from all over Asia and Europe.

The fate of the Jewish Khazars is unclear. Jewish travellers of the 12th century continue to refer to them in passing. Khazar Jews are known to have lived in Kiev and even to have emigrated to Spain, the Byzantine Empire and Iraq.

According to some sources the majority may have gone to Hungary, Poland and the Crimea, mingling with Jews in those areas and with later waves of Jewish immigrants from the west.

The link between the Khazars and Ashkenazi Jews has been controversial. According to the latest DNA study: "Our findings support the Khazarian Hypothesis and portray the European Jewish genome as a mosaic of Caucasus, European, and Semitic ancestries, thereby consolidating previous contradictory reports of Jewish ancestry."

This study, however, has attracted withering criticism.



"The Kuzari" by Yehuda HaLevi יהודה הלוי يهوذا هاليفي


List of Khazar rulers

Early Khazar Rulers

  •  Khozarig (Eponymous folk-ancestor of the Khazars)
  • Karadach - 450's was the king of the Akatziroi, a steppe nation allied to the Huns. He is described in the accounts of Priscus.

Khazar Khagans (Ashina dynasty)

The Khagans were the supreme chiefs of the people, holding a position of much influence and spiritual authority, but not much actual day-to-day command.

( 618 CE -- 650 CE )

  • • Ziebel (Tun Yabgu Khan of the West Göktürks) - 618-630
  • • Possibly Böri Shad- 630-650
  • • Irbis ? fl. 650

( 690 CE -- 715 CE )

  • ▪ Busir (Ibuzir Glavan) c. 690-715

Busir Glavan took in the exiled Byzantine Emperor, Justinian II, and gave him his own sister (baptismal name Theodora).

He later tried to kill Justinian to placate Tiberius III, causing Justinian's flight to Bulgaria and his ultimate restoration to the throne.

Joseph corresponded with Hasdai ibn Shaprut, a Jewish vizier to Abd al-Rahman III, Caliph of Córdoba. It is from this letter that the preceding list is taken.

It is not entirely ruled out that the Bulanids were in fact Khagans rather than Beks, though their power certainly appears to be that of the Beks. Moreover, it is possible that the positions merged in the 10th century, as Joseph makes no reference to a colleague, instead referring to himself as "king of the Khazars."

Late Khazar Rulers

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

Later Khazar rulers

  • ▪ David - c. 986-988
  • ▪ Georgius Tzul (In Kerch) - ? -1016

Georgius Tzul was captured by a joint Rus-Byzantine expedition and his state was destroyed. Shortly thereafter, the Kipchaks became masters of the Pontic steppe (see Cumans).

However, there continue to be tantalizing references, in Muslim sources, of battles against "Khazars" in the Caucasus well into the late 11th century; whether Khazar states continued to survive or their name was used generically to describe Caucasian highlanders is unclear.


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


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



Kumyk: къумукълар, qumuqlar, Russian: кумыки

Kumyks (Kumyk: къумукълар, qumuqlar, Russian: кумыки) are a Turkic people living in the Kumyk plateau in north Dagestan and south Terek, and the lands bordering the Caspian Sea. They comprise 14% of the population of the Russian republic of Dagestan. They speak the Kumyk language. Kumyks practice folk Islam, with some religious rituals that trace back to pre-Islamic times.

Various explorers see in them descendants of the Khazars. Ármin Vámbéry (Hungarian) supposes that they settled in their present quarters during the flourishing period of the Khazar kingdom in the 8th century. During the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries CE the Kumyks had an independent kingdom, based at Tarki, and ruled by a leader called Shamkhal.

Sunni Islam spread among the Kumyks between the eight and twelfth centuries. Christianity had been widespread prior to this and, among the upper class of Khazaria, Judaism. Not many old beliefs have been preserved, and the institution of shamanism as such is virtually nonexistent among the Kumyks

Avar People (Caucasus)

Avar People (Caucasus) During the Khazar wars against the Caliphate in the 7th century, the Avars sided with Khazaria. Surakat is mentioned as their Khagan around 729/30 AD, followed by Andunik-Nutsal at the time of Abu Muslima, then Dugry-Nutsal.

Sarir suffered a partial eclipse after the Arabs gained the upper hand, but managed to reassert its influence in the region in the 9th century. It confronted the weakened Khazars and conducted a friendly policy towards the neighbouring Christian states of Georgia and Alania.

In the early 12th century, Sarir disintegrated, only to be succeeded by the Avar Khanate, a predominantly Muslim polity