The Jewish Quarterly Review
The Jews of Khazariaby Kevin Alan Brook
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The Jews of Khazaria 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 Khazars played a pivotal role in world history. Khazaria was one of the largest-sized political formations of its time, an economic and cultural superpower connected to several important trade routes. It 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. In this thoroughly revised edition of a modern classic, The Jews of Khazaria explores many exciting new discoveries about the Khazars' religious life, economy, military, government, and culture. It builds upon new studies of the Khazars, evaluating and incorporating recent theories, along with new documentary and archaeological findings. The book gives a comprehensive accounting of the cities, towns, and fortresses of Khazaria, and features a timeline summarizing key events in Khazar history.
The Jewish Quarterly Review
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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 (Khazaria.com).
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Controversial and riveting. These are the two words which first come to mind after reading Kevin Allen Brook's book, "The Jews of Khazaria". The book examines, first, who the Khazars were and where they came from. It manages to piece together from scant history these mysterious peoples who, within a relatively short period of time went to a group of unknown Asiatic tribes, subjected by many, including Attila the Hun, to become the central player in Eastern European and Central Asian politics. Khazaria maintains near domination of the Silk Road from China. It absorbed the shock of the expanding Moslem hordes and in the process both protected European trade routes, culture, and religion from the expanding Islamic Empire. Yet, in the end, despite its strategic importance, Khazaria falls and the Jews are once again scattered to the winds. During this turbulent process, Khazaria become the first Jewish nation since the fall of Judah and Israel. Why would a conglomeration of Asiatic tribes, who, for perhaps thousands of years, followed a nature oriented shamanic path, adopt a mono-theocratic Middle Eastern religion? Where did these once economically and politically powerful people go after the fall of their nation? What became of their craftsmen and artisans, for which they were renowned? Even more to the point, who are Ashkenazis of Eastern Europe and are they somehow related to the Khazars? An excellent read for anyone interested is Judaism, Islam, the Byzantine Empire, ancient history, or just likes a good historical mystery!
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.
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!
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.
The first comprehensive history on the Jews of Khazaria. Another necessity in the library devoted to the origins of the Jewish people.