The Thirteenth Tribe: The Khazar Empire and Its Heritage

The Thirteenth Tribe: The Khazar Empire and Its Heritage

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by Arthur Koestler

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This book traces the history of the ancient Khazar Empire, a major but almost forgotten power in Eastern Europe, which in the Dark Ages converted to Judaism. Khazaria was finally wiped out by the forces of Ghengis Khan, but evidence indicates that the Khazars themselves migrated to Poland and formed the cradle of Western Jewry.  See more details below


This book traces the history of the ancient Khazar Empire, a major but almost forgotten power in Eastern Europe, which in the Dark Ages converted to Judaism. Khazaria was finally wiped out by the forces of Ghengis Khan, but evidence indicates that the Khazars themselves migrated to Poland and formed the cradle of Western Jewry.

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1st American ed
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5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.60(d)


What People are saying about this

Stuart W. Mirsky
Interesting Popularization of Some Scholarly Opinion Koestler wrote an intriguing, popularized account in this book of the theory that many of today's Jews (mostly those of Eastern European descent) are of non-Semitic origin. Essentially the book recounts the tale of the Khazars, a middle Asian Turkic tribe or tribal group which settled in the southern steppes of what is today's Russia, during the seventh and eighth centuries, and adopted Judaism (in reaction to the conflicting demands of nearby 'great powers' espousing Christianity and Islam) and concludes that this event, which seems to be historically documented, explains the significant presence of Jews in Eastern Europe at the end of the Middle Ages (since extant records do not show them arriving from the Mediterranean world in ancient times). This theory is a quite rational one though it poses problems for Orthodox Jewry since the premise of the faith depends so much (though not exclusively) on the historical link to Abraham, a Semite. Complicating the matter is the suspicion that the Khazar conversion may not have been a 'kosher' one, thereby raising further questions re: what it means to be a Jew. Thus Orthodox Jews have not been quick to embrace the Khazar thesis and others tend to shy away from it for this and other reasons. Particular problems arise when anti-semites (defined as those hostile to Judaism and Jews) seize on the thesis to discredit the claims of modern Judaism. Such individuals challenge Israel's right to exist as a state in the Middle East today on this basis, since its majority population is of European extraction. Or they question Judaism's right to claim the mantle of the bible (suggesting that the modern Jew has no more special claim on it, and perhaps a lesser one, than the modern Christian). All this is just wrong or silly. Certainly modern Jews are a mixture of many different genetic influences. And if the Khazars did contribute substantially to the modern Jewish gene pool, they didn't do so exclusively. There are clear genetic markers which connect modern Jews (Orthodox and otherwise) to a single source which spans both the Eastern European and Sephardic Jewish heritages, suggesting that the Khazar influence was limited at best. And if there weren't, so what? The record shows there were Semitic Jews (from Constantinople and Persia) living among the Khazars before and after the conversion and no one knows what method the conversion may have taken in any case, whether rabbincally sanctioned at the outset or only after the fact or not at all. Just as people from all pagan backgrounds quite legitimately enrolled in the Christian and Muslim folds from ancient times going forward, so there is no reason to deny the Judaism of Jews whose ancestors may have been non-Semites who embraced the religion of Abraham and Moses. I've seen some rather vituperative attacks on Jews claiming support from the fact that they, the Jews, stem from a putative race of Khazar barbarians who were destructive rather than constructive and essentially parasitic on the European communities and groups they came into contact with in Eastern Europe. This is silly where it is not just insidious. Like the Khazars, other European groups came from middle Asia at different historical times and intermixed with many different groups. If some adopted Chirstianity while others chose Judaism, there is yet no reason to suggest that the one group was better than the other. In fact the historical record shows that while the Khazars were nomadic tribesmen in Byzantine times they were no better or worse than these more 'civilized' Christian peoples in terms of their dealings with friends and enemies. Yes, the Khazar empire blew away without leaving a trace -- unless one seeks and finds that trace in the European mores and culture of the Jews coming out of that region (big fur hats and long coats, for instance, may have been a carry-over from the nomadic Khazar horsemen). However, the record, such as it is, also suggests that the Khazars were unusually tolerant and enlightened 'conquerors' who treated their subject peoples with unusual mildness. In fact, this very mildness may have been the source of their downfall since they did not ruthlessly suppress their enemies or enforce any sort of cultural hegemony which might have created a unified state capable of withstanding the Russians who eventually overran them. And the Khazars' successors in the steppes proved to be much more unpleasant: first the Pecheneg horsemen, who were much more brutal and benighted, and then the Mongols about whom little more need be said. As to Koestler's book, it does present a very simplified version of all this, largely derived from the Scholar, D. M. Dunlop of Columbia University who wrote The History of the Jewish Khazars Koestler appears to have taken most of his information from this source though in many cases he over-simplified or simply got his facts wrong. If you're interested in the Khazar thesis I'd suggest you check out Dunlop's book although Koestler's is an easier read and adds to the case Koestler's own, not unreasonable speculation about the relationship of the Khazars to modern Jewry (Dunlop doesn't go there). But whatever you, the reader, decide, you should disregard those spewing hatred and vitriol with only the flimsiest undertanding of the Khazar-Jewish connection. Nor have I ever heard that Koestler was murdered as some seem to have suggested, though I imagine people can say just about anything they want and seem plausible when there is no one to contradict them.

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Thirteenth Tribe The Khazar Empire and its Heritage 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a well worth read. When The Thirteenth Tribe came out at about the early 1970's; there were many questions from the World Jewish Community which represent about 25 Million. The Author; Arthur Koestler states that the majority of Jews today are converts from a Turkic Tribe called the Khazars of Central Asia. Apparently, there are just about 4 million Jews who are descendants from the original Tribes of Israel.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, although it took me quite a whiles to locate it.His views on the israeli nation of today not actually being Israelites according to the bible was very interesting to me because I have come to that conclusion myself.The fact that he committed suicide, or was murdered depending on who you talk to, shows me how sensitive this information is to the powers that be.In reading the bible you find that the true ancient hebrew israelites are people of color and still exist today. We call these people blacks, hispanics, and indians.I used this book to further my notion that this is not really a secret but a well known fact.I strongly urge people who are intersted in some thought provoking historical facts to pick up this book and question everything you know about the chosen people of god ( The HEBREW ISRAELITES)are people of color, and still exist today.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
People, especially christians, need to read this book and stop buying into the myth that modern day "jews" are "God's chosen people". Rev 2:9
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very informative and valuable book. In due time, we will all witness the true Jews, the true 12 tribes of Yisrael, this book correlates with scripture and has me waiting impatiently for the world to see us. The truth is being reveled. Highly recommended book!
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Most of the information in the book was correct, however there were also some major errors as well. For example the book refers to the Amorites as blond haired people, which is ridiculous because Genesis 10:15-16 tells us that they were descendants of Ham and therefore had to be a black race of people, this is also confirmed with the tablets discovered in Ebla, Syria in 1975, which were more than 4500 years old. The book even tried to call other descendants of Ham as mongoloid. I find it quite amusing that the ethnicity of Ham's descendants are always called into question, particularly when they have done great things; such as the Ethiopians and Egyptians, but no one ever questions the ethnicity of the descendants from Japeth. Racism takes on many forms, particularly when it is used to keep the accomplishments of black people out of the history books, but this will never work, because as Luke 12:2 states: 'For there is nothing covered that shall not be revealed; neither hid that shall not be known'.