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The Jews of Khazaria

by Kevin Alan Brook


The Jews of Khazaria recounts 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. Did you know that if not for the Khazars, much of eastern Europe would have been overrun by the Arabs and become Islamic? In the same way as Charles Martel and his Franks stopped the advance of Muslims at the Battle of Poitiers in the West, the Khazars blunted the northward advance of the Arabs that was surging across the Caucasus in the 8th century.

The Khazar people belonged to a grouping of Turks who wrote in a runic script that originated in Mongolia. The royalty of the Khazar kingdom was descended from the Ashina Turkic dynasty. 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, 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 demonstrates that Khazaria had manufacturing industries, trade routes, an organized judicial system, and a diverse population. 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 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 Jews of Khazaria draws upon the latest archival, linguistic, genetic, and archaeological discoveries. The weaponry, agriculture, horticulture, fishing, burial practices, architecture, and religions of the peoples of Khazaria are among the many findings revealed here.

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


  • Students and other people interested in history who desire a thorough yet easy-to-read account of the Khazar kingdom will gain in their understanding of this important but previously obscure topic.

  • Ashkenazic Jews who wish to explore their distant ancestry in eastern Europe will greatly benefit from reading this book, particularly Chapter 10, which traces migrations across Europe in medieval times.

  • Hungarians, Ukrainians, Turks, Arabs, and Ossetians will find a wealth of information concerning the historical interactions between their peoples and the Khazars.



English original published by Jason Aronson Publishers, Inc. of Northvale, New Jersey, U.S.A. (an imprint of Rowman and Littlefield Publishers since December 2003)
1st printing: April 1999, cloth/hardcover, 352 pages, ISBN 0-7657-6032-0, 1500 copies
2nd printing: October 1999, cloth/hardcover, 352 pages, ISBN 0-7657-6032-0, 1500 copies
3rd printing: September 2002, paperback/softcover, 354 pages, ISBN 0-7657-6212-9, 500 copies
4th printing: April 2004, paperback/softcover, 354 pages, ISBN 0-7657-6212-9, 525 copies
5th printing: beginning circa June 2004, hardcover, 354 pages, ISBN 0-7657-6032-0, 112 copies by print-on-demand 2004-2006
6th printing: beginning early 2005, paperback/softcover, 354 pages, ISBN 0-7657-6212-9, 773 copies by print-on-demand 2005-2006

Turkish edition Bir Türk ?mparatorlu?u: Hazar Yahudileri, translated by ?smail Tulçali, published by Nokta Kitap (Nokta Yay?nlar?) of Istanbul, Turkey
1st printing: February 2005, softcover, 474 pages, ISBN 975-8823-73-6, 2000 copies


English original published by Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, Inc. of Lanham, Maryland, U.S.A.
1st printing: beginning September 2006, hardcover, 317 pages, ISBN 0-7425-4981-X, 978-0-7425-4981-4, print-on-demand 2006-present

"This second, revised edition... 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..." - Edward J. Lazzerini, Visiting Professor of Central Eurasian History, Indiana University Bloomington

"King Joseph's reply appears along with a host of other fascinating documents in Kevin Alan Brooks' scholarly account. ...Brooks [is] ever sober and even-handed in his approach..." - Mark Glanville, in Jewish Quarterly No. 208 (Winter 2007 issue)

" of Michael Chabon's Gentlemen of the Road... might also enjoy... Kevin Alan Brook's The Jews of Khazaria, which lends some context to Chabon's history." - sidebar in Neal Wyatt's article "Take the RA Talk Online: In person and via web tools, readers' advisory is all about how well we talk to patrons" in Library Journal (February 15, 2008 issue)

"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." - James Howard-Johnston, University Lecturer in Byzantine Studies, Corpus Christi College, Oxford, in Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies 27:2 (Winter 2009 issue)

Below are some reviews of the 1st edition:

"It makes skillful use of the vast literature, in many different languages, related to the Khazars. It will be a very helpful guide for the general reader who wishes to discover the truth about this legendary people." - John D. Klier, Professor of Modern Jewish History, University College, London

"Kevin Alan Brook has put together an absorbing account of their history based on this wide array of sources, supplemented by archaeological, ethnographic and linguistic data dealing with Khazar Jewry and their legacy. This is a most useful introduction to this at times enigmatic, but always fascinating people." - Peter B. Golden, Professor of History, Rutgers University

"...[a] very valuable publication..." - Timur Kocaoglu, Associate Professor of Central Asian Studies, Koç University, Istanbul

" is a magnificent piece of work and fills many gaps in my knowledge of the Khazars..." - Rabbi Shlomo Yaffe, Director, Institute for Jewish Literacy at Chabad House, West Hartford, CT

"My general impression is very good: the volume of information collected from various sources is very important and this info is presented in a systematic manner. The book is also interesting to read... [T]his [is an] important erudite contribution to the domain in which any theory is questionable and as a result any attempt to shed more light is welcome." - Alexander Beider, author, A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Russian Empire

"[I] am impressed with the scope of [the] research and the fascinating possibilities it presents regarding the nature and origins of the Ashkenazic Jewish community.... The Khazars are an important and a neglected area of research." - Hollace Weiner, author, Jewish Stars in Texas

"Brook has synthesized information from hundreds of sources to give us a picture of this lost medieval Jewish empire. Not only is Brook's book interesting for its information about Central Asian and European history, it also holds great importance for its facts and conjecture about the origins of Eastern European Jewry... Aside from its well-organized text, The Jews of Khazaria has an excellent chronology, glossary, and an extensive bibliography... Anyone who cares about world history or Jewish history would do well to read Brook's amazing book." - Lynda Ritterman, in Inside Your Town (Evesham-Medford-Mt. Laurel-Cherry Hill-Voorhees-Haddonfield-Moorestown, NJ, March 2001 issue)

"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.... A highly useful, comprehensive chronology is given as an appendix.... 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." - Seth Ward, Assistant Professor of Judaic Studies and History, University of Denver, in The Jewish Quarterly Review 91:3-4 (January-April 2001 issue)

"I very much enjoyed reading [this] book on the Khazars." - Ken Blady, author of Jewish Communities in Exotic Places

"...the true great step forward in the study of Khazaria... It is a very complete work, based on broad documentation from multiple sources (Hebraic, Arab, Russian)...." - Claude-Gérard Marcus, in L'Arche: le mensuel du judaïsme français No. 535 (September 2002 issue)

"...a new recapitulatory work... which summarizes all the current research well and which might thus become the standard work for all those who are interested in the early history of East European Judaism." - Thomas Schmidinger, in Context XXI (Vienna, Austria, July 2002) No. 7

Additional reviews and more extensive comments from the above reviews

TABLE OF CONTENTS for the 2nd Edition


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, Balanjar, Chernigov, Cherson, Chufut-Kale, Doros, Feodosia, Kerch (Bospor), Kiev, Kordon-Oba, Mayaki, Samandar (Tamatarkha), Sarkel, Semikarakorskaya, Sudak, Tepsen (Phullai), Upper Saltov (Verkhneye Saltovo), Other Khazar Settlements and Fortresses, The Peoples of the Khazar Empire

The Kagan, The Bek (King) and His Army, The Kender and the Javshighar, The Tarkhan, The Court Panel, The Local Governors, Taxation, Tributary Peoples

Khazar Arts and Crafts, Khazar Agriculture and Food Gathering, The Structure of Khazar Homes, Khazar Costume and Hairstyle, Khazar Graves, Languages Spoken by the Khazars

Khazaria as a Great Medieval Trading Center, The Jewish Radhanites, Rus' Traders in Khazaria, Arab Traders in Khazaria, Chinese Traders in Khazaria, Coinage

The First Jews of Eastern Europe, Khazaria as a Refuge for Persecuted Jews, Tengri Shamanism, the Indigenous Religion of the Khazars, King Bulan's Conversion to Judaism, The Schechter Letter, The Khazar Correspondence, Saint Cyril's Mission to the Khazars, The Kievan Letter, The Date and Depth of the Khazar Conversion to Judaism, Archaeological Evidence, Conclusions

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 Transylvania (Romania), Khazars in Moldova, Khazars in Lithuania and Belarus, Khazars in Poland, Khazars in Kievan Rus' (Ukraine), Khazars in the Byzantine Empire, Khazars in Spain, Khazars in Azerbaijan, Khazars in the North Caucasus, Khazars in Russia, Khazars in Kazakhstan, Khazars in Other Parts of the World

The East Slavic-Speaking Jews of Eastern Europe: Remnants of the Khazars?, The Migration of Czech Jews into Eastern Europe, The Migration of German Jews into Eastern Europe, How Yiddish Became the Mother Tongue of Eastern European Jews, Are There Khazarian Words in Yiddish?, The Migration of Sephardic Jews into Eastern Europe, The Migration of Mizrakhi ("Eastern") Jews and Romaniote ("Greek") Jews into Eastern Europe, Jews in Medieval Ukraine, Other Early Traces of Jews in Poland, Jews in Lithuania and Belarus, Jews in Hungary: A Special Case?, Jews in Historic Romania, What Genetic Data Demonstrates about Ashkenazic Origins, Do Ashkenazic Jews Descend from Khazars?, Do Krymchaks Descend from Khazars?, Do Crimean and Lithuanian Karaites Descend from Khazars?, Do Mountain Jews of the Caucasus Descend from Khazars?, Do Georgian Jews Descend from Khazars?, Conclusions

Appendix A: Timeline of Khazar History
Appendix B: Glossary
Appendix C: Native Khazarian Personal Names
Appendix D: Other Instances of Conversion to Judaism in History
About the Author


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