The Jews of Khazaria / Edition 2

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This book chronicles the eventful history of the Turkic kingdom of Khazaria, which was located in eastern Europe and flourished as an independent state from about 650 to 1016.

As a major world power, Khazaria enjoyed diplomatic and trade relations with many peoples and nations (including the Byzantines, Alans, Magyars, and Slavs) and changed the course of medieval history in many ways. For instance, the Arab-Khazar wars established the Caucasus Mountains as a boundary between the Islamic world to the south and the Slavo-Turkic world to the north; Khazarian warriors participated in the founding of the kingdom of Hungary beyond the Carpathians; Khazarian princesses married into the Byzantine royal family; and Khazars played a part in founding the city of Kiev on the Dnieper River. Some even speculate that the two-king governmental system of the early Rus was derived from that of the Khazars.

In the ninth century, the Khazarian royalty and nobility as well as a significant portion of the Khazarian Turkic population embraced the Jewish religion. After their conversion, as this book proves, the Khazars were ruled by a succession of Jewish kings and began to adopt the hallmarks of Jewish civilization, including the Torah and Talmud, the Hebrew script, and the observance of Jewish holidays. A portion of the empire's population adopted Christianity and Islam.

This volume traces the development of the Khazars from their early beginnings as a tribe to the decline and fall of their kingdom. It presents historical and archaeological evidence relating to the weaponry, agriculture, horticulture, burial practices, architecture, and customs of the Khazar people. It also examines the many migrations of the Khazar people into Hungary, Ukraine, and other areas of Europe and their subsequent assimilation, providing the most comprehensive treatment of this complex issue to date. The book presents exciting archaeological data -- from sites near Chelarevo (now in Serbia), Ellend (Hungary), Navahrudak (Belarus), and other towns -- which seems to demonstrate the existence of Turkic-Jewish communities in central and eastern Europe far beyond the borders of the Khazar kingdom.

The final chapter enumerates the Jewish communities of eastern Europe which sprung up after the fall of Khazaria and proposes that the Jews from the former Russian Empire are descended from a mixture of Khazar Jews, German Jews, Greek Jews, and Slavs.

The book also includes a map of the Khazar kingdom; a map of Khazarian-ruled Crimea; several tables illustrating royal genealogies, king lists, and the Turkic language family; a glossary of Khazarian words and other important terms which may be unfamiliar to readers; and an extensive bibliography of articles, books, and other essays.

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Editorial Reviews

Seth Ward
"Over a millennium after the kingdom's disastrous wars with the Kievan Rus, the Khazar story still has an alluring mystique... Kevin Alan Brook presents the findings of an impressive array of scholarship, referencing primary sources and secondary scholarship written in Hebrew, Arabic, Greek, Armenian, Russian, Hungarian, Swedish and other languages. He begins with legends about the Khazars' origins - ascription to the biblical Togarma or to one of the Ten Lost Tribes - and attempts to reconstruct the historical process by which Turkic peoples came to settle in the area between Crimea and the Caspian and coalesce into the Khazar Kingdom. Jews also settled there... The Jewish presence in Crimea and beyond increased with refugees from Persian persecution in the 5th century and from the increasing severity of Byzantine anti-Jewish legislation. Brook discusses the Khazar cities one by one, as well as the imperial structure... He describes lifestyles and trade patterns (including visits of the Jewish Radhanite merchants), before turning to the conversion of the Khazars to Judaism... [T]he last Khazar kagan, who became a Christian, was defeated in 1016. Brook notes that some scholars muse about Khazar revivals in the next two centuries, up to the Mongol invasions, but argues that it is difficult to verify these claims... The Jews of Khazaria is broad in scope; often, however, the book reads more like an annotated bibliography than a tight narrative... A highly useful, comprehensive chronology is given as an appendix... By accepting Judaism, Khazar Jews became part of the overall Jewish community... Far from being [merely] a romantic interlude whose brief existence sparked the imagination of generations, Brook's volume shows that the Khazar experience is intrinsic to the narrative of Jewish history."
The Jewish Quarterly Review
Brook...has a passion for his topic....I for one am grateful for the mass of material he provides.
Journal Of Near Eastern Studies
Kevin Alan Brook's The Jews of Khazaria is the first work since Douglas Dunlop's 1967 History of the Jewish Khazars to provide a comprehensive account of Khazar history. ... the work synthesizes a vast array of secondary literature into a concise and readable digest. ... Beyond providing a current and accessible introduction to this topic, the work is extremely valuable for its consolidation of this disparate material. ...
Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal Of Jewish Studies
...[Brook] has provided a useful reference work for all those intrigued by the most striking single case of successful Jewish proselytism, as well as for those interested in the affairs of one of the four great powers of western Eurasia in the early middle ages.
(Review Of First Edition) The Jewish Quarterly Review
Far from being [merely] a romantic interlude whose brief existence sparked the imagination of generations, Brook's volume shows that the Khazar experience is intrinsic to the narrative of Jewish history.
Winter 2009 Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal Of Jewish Studies
Kevin Alan Brook, thirty years on, strives, with considerable success, to satisfy the appetite for information about the Khazars which Koestler generated. The Jews of Khazaria is, in essence, a compendium of information gathered from every available source. . . . He has provided a useful reference work for all those intrigued by the most striking single case of successful Jewish proselytism, as well as for those interested in the affairs of one of the four great powers of western Eurasia in the early middle ages....[Brook] should be complimented on the trouble which he has taken to assemble so much information, out of so many disparate sources. He has provided a useful reference work.
August 2008 The Chronicle Herald
A comprehensive study. . . . Acquaintance with this book will be . . . useful.
Fall 2007 Jewish Book World
Kevin Alan Brook has decided to look behind the various views of the Khazars and produce a non-ideological work that examines the little-known but critical moment in world history. In a deadpan voice that one could attribute to a scholarly Joe Friday, Brooks provides us with the facts, only the facts. And, it's a good thing, because the facts are fascinating.
Edward J. Lazzerini
This second, revised edition of Kevin Brook's well-received publication in 1999 of The Jews of Khazaria, integrates important new data culled from ongoing archaeological digs in southern Russia and the Crimea, genetic results of DNA processing, examination of formerly unknown or ignored coin hordes, and the continuing research of scholars around the world. It succeeds in elucidating controversial issues, while contextualizing the Khazar polity within the competitive 9th-11th-century world of Byzantium, the Arab Caliphate, and two regional upstarts: the Dnepr-based aggregate of Nordic, Slavic, and Turkic peoples known as Rus', and the Turkic-Islamic kaganate of Bulgar flourishing in the middle and upper Volga territory. As a full exploration in English of the history and culture of the Khazars, this volume is without equal, and would be quite useful reading in courses focused on the Kievan period of Russian history, as well as broader ones treating the dynamics of Central Eurasian history during these lively and formative centuries.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780742549814
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
  • Publication date: 10/28/2006
  • Edition description: 2ND
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 330
  • Product dimensions: 0.88 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 6.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Kevin Alan Brook is an historian who has researched the Khazars since 1993. He has contributed articles about the Khazars to The Encyclopaedia of Judaism Second Edition (Brill, 2005) and The Turks Vol. 1 (Yeni Turkiye, 2002). Since 1995, Brook has maintained the website of the American Center of Khazar Studies (

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Table of Contents

The Turkic Heritage
Legends about the Beginnings of the Jewish Khazars
The Khazars and the Huns
The Western Turkish Empire
The Formation of an Independent Khazar Kingdom
The Effects of Khazar Expansion on the Bulgars
The Capital Cities of Khazaria
Atil and Khazaran
Kara Tobe
Tmutorokan (Samkarsh)
Verkhneye Saltovo and Other Saltovo Settlements
Yevpatoria (Gusli-ev)
Other Khazar Settlements
The Peoples of the Khazar Empire
The Kagan
The Bek (King) and His Army
The Kender and the Javishgar
The Tarkhan
The Court Panel
The Local Governors
Tributary Peoples
The "Kagans" of Kievan Rus
Languages Spoken by the Khazars
Khazar Arts and Crafts
Khazar Agriculture and Food-Gathering
The Structure of Khazar Homes
Khazar Costume and Hairstyle
Khazar Graves
Khazaria as a Great Medieval Trading Center
The Jewish Radhanites
Rus Traders in Khazaria
Arab Traders in Khazaria
Chinese Traders in Khazaria
Preludes to Conversion
Khazaria as a Refuge for Persecuted Jews
Khazar Shamanism
Saint Cyril's Khazarian Mission
King Bulan's Conversion
The Schechter Letter
The Khazar Correspondence
The Kievan Letter
The Degree of Judaization Among the Khazars
Archaeological Evidence
The Arab-Khazar Wars and Relations with Leaders of the South Caucasus
Relations with the Byzantine Empire
Relations with the Alans
Relations with Other Turkic Tribes
Relations with the Hungarians
Relations with the Rus
The Beginning of the End
The Rus'ian Conquest of the Khazars
The Passing of the Khazar Empire
Reasons for Khazaria's Destruction
Khazars in Hungary
Khazars in Romania
Khazars in Lithuania and Belarus
Khazars in Poland
Khazars in Ukraine
Khazars in Turkey
Khazars in Spain
Khazars in Azerbaijan
Khazars in the North Caucasus
Khazars in Russia
Khazars in Kazakhstan
Khazars in Other Parts of the World
Judaism among the Avars
Judaism among the Cumans
Judaism among the Alans
European Converts to Judaism
The Sabbatarians
The Subbotniki
Wexler's Theory of Proselytism among the West Slavs
Converts in Adiabene
Converts among Semitic Tribes of Greater Israel
Converts in Yemen
Converts in Ethiopia
Converts in North Africa
The Origins of the Ashkenazim
Jews in Medieval Ukraine
The Early Jews of Poland
Jews in Lithuania and Belarus
Jews in Hungary
Jews in Historic Romania
The Krymchaks
The Crimean and Lithuanian Karaites
Appendix: A Timeline of Khazar History
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Customer Reviews

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( 6 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 5 of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 22, 2002

    Careful 'exhumation' of ancient knowledge and events

    This book is about the fascinating ancient Jewish People of Khazaria. The book is brilliant. The material in the book is fundamental and rich. It is excellently written with academic objectivity and a positive attitude toward historical facts. The organization of writing is original. It doesn't include color illustration or ornaments, but you can feel around the open space of a wide panorama. Turn the page and you can 'hear' the sound of the Caspian sea... turn more and you can 'see' Mongolian horsemen and Khazarian people. For young inquisitive minds as well as for learned religious elite this book opens myriad new avenues to look at, to love Jewish people and to be proud of them.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 23, 2001


    Brook does an excellent job in broaching this topic that many have attempted before him, and I'm sure many will attempt after. Considering how little is known about Khazaria, how much history has been either censored or re-written by the former Soviet Union, and the relatively sparse amount of archaeological work that has been conducted in the region, Brook brings much information to light, detailing the tribal and linguistic origins of the Khazars. In comparison with Koestler's 'The Thirteenth Tribe,' Brook's work is more about presenting facts than coming to conclusions. I would encourage everyone interested in this book, this subject and in modern Judaism in general to remember that 'conclusions' are based on current and past knowledge, not on future discoveries. Sarkel is still under water and will continue to be for the foreseeable future -- who knows what information it holds? People have been twisting the ideas and findings discussed in 'The Thirteenth Tribe' and 'The Jews of Khazaria' to promote hatred for Jews for quite some time. That's not the purpose of these works, as Arthur Koestler himself addressed at the end of 'The Thirteenth Tribe.' I've also used the bibliography to further my own knowledge, although I have found that many of the sources are out-of-print. I look forward to learning more about the Khazars, who they were and who they became -- for today, I highly recommend Brook's 'The Jews of Khazaria.' It is excellently written, a fascinating work and will open it's readers eyes to some lesser known history. Savor it, but don't rush to judgement!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2001

    The Jewish experience in Khazaria

    The first comprehensive history on the Jews of Khazaria. Another necessity in the library devoted to the origins of the Jewish people.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 13, 2001

    Great Book

    This book really helped me understand every aspect of the Khazars. From culture to government, i learned it all. I knew the Jewish people were dispersed throughout the world but I never imagined there was a Jewish empire in southern Russia.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 8, 2010

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