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The Jews of Khazaria Hardcover – 27 Sep 2006

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers; 2nd Revised edition edition (27 Sept. 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 074254981X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0742549814
  • Product Dimensions: 16.4 x 2.8 x 23.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,058,622 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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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, (Review Of First Edition) 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. Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal Of Jewish Studies, Winter 2009 A comprehensive study... Acquaintance with this book will be ... useful. The Chronicle Herald, August 2008 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. Jewish Book World, Fall 2007 Brook...has a passion for his topic, demonstrated by many articles, his stewardship of the website of the American Center of Khazar Studies (, and the first (well received) edition of this book (1999)...Brook supplies a timeline, a glossary, a list of Khazar names, an appendix on other examples of conversions to Judaism, and maps to help the reader who is less familiar with the subject than he is. Outlook 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. -- Edward J. Lazzerini, Indiana University 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. ... Journal Of Near Eastern Studies Brook...has a passion for his topic...I for one am grateful for the mass of material he provides. Outlook

About 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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49 of 51 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 2 Feb. 2001
Format: Hardcover
In his well written and detailed book, with a large-spectrum analysis of the Turkic peoples of the Middle Ages and their relationship with present day European peoples, Kevin Alan Brook helps us discover the secrets of the Khazar Turks - an ancient people who created the largest Jewish state in history in southeastern Europe. I especially had a personal interest in the issue, since I know that my ancestors from my father's family were Khazar Turks. They migrated to Istanbul in the Ottoman Empire ( where we live today ) circa 200 years ago, from the Russian city of Kazan; at the east of Moscow. Even though they converted to Islam long before they migrated to the Ottoman Empire, I also know that my oldest ancestors were Jewish Khazar Turks. It really is a great book, with lots of interesting ' details ' which display the author's vast knowledge on early Turkish history. If you are someone who likes ' details ', you'll absolutely love this book. The book also shows the relationship between the Khazar Turks and the present day Magyars ( Hungarians ) and the Bulgars ( Bulgarians ); who are both of Turkish origin but were extensively Slavized after becoming Christians. There's also a glossary showing the similar words in Hungarian and Turkish ( which also amused me - since Turkish language apparently hasn't changed much in the past centuries and it really reveals the affinity between the Turks and Magyars ( Hungarians ) Some scholars believe that the Khazars chose Judaism in order to protect their ' neutrality ' in confrontation of the Muslim Arabs and the Christian Byzantines. Whatever the case may be, it is known that Judaism was the dominant religion in the Khazar state and that their experience is unique in entire Eurasian history.Read more ›
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36 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Mr. J. L. Gordon on 7 April 2009
Format: Paperback
A Gentile myself, I once went to a party in Golders Green with my then girlfrield who was half Jewish. Both of us were struck by the fact that all the other people at the party were of a distinctive (as we both thought) Jewish type, and I was moved to say to a man who offered to drive us to the tube station afterwards: "It's amazing how the Jewish people have kept their ethnic purity after so many centuries of dispersal". He laughed and said "Not a bit of it. 90% of Jews today are descended from the inhabitants of a kingdom in southern Russia which converted to Judaism in the early middle ages. The idea of ethnic purity in the Jewish people is a complete myth." "Really?" said I "You mean a lot of Jews may not actually be descended from Abraham?" He just looked at me and smiled.

In David Icke's "Guide to the Global Conspiracy and how to end it" much is made of the Khazar origin of most of the Jewish people today. Icke asserts that the modern state of Israel (which is at least four fifths Ashkenazi, that is Yiddish-speaking Jews from eastern Europe, as opposed to Sephardic Jews from the west, who speak Ladino)has no right to claim what they call the land of Israel on the grounds of Abraham's promise, because most of them are not descended from Abraham.

Icke bases this on Arthur Koestler's The Thirteenth Tribe, a book I have not read. It was when looking for Koestler's book on Amazon that I came across Brook's book, which looked like a much more scholarly and less partisan look at the same topic, so I bought it instead.

"The Jews of Khazaria" satisfied all my expectations in this regard. There are no assertions that are not backed up with sources (which can hardly be said of Icke's book!).
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Mac McAleer TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 16 May 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I liked this book. It is more detailed than some other publications which mention the Khazars but leads to the same question: Are the Khazars substantially or partially the ancestors of the east European Jewry? The author suggests that the Khazarian Jews may represent 25% of Ashkenazic Jews and up to 60% of the Ukrainian Jews.

The Khazars were a mainly Turkic people, a cultural-linguistic group rather than an ethnicity, who migrated westward into southern Russia. Originally shamanistic, they converted to Judaism in the early medieval period and became an important third force balancing the Christian Byzantine Empire and the Islamic imperium.

These partly nomadic pastoralists, partly urbanised traders, were aggressively expansionist. Relations with Byzantium oscillated between friendship and war. These relations worsened when the Khazars adopted Judaism, a religion that the Byzantines were actively persecuting.

The Arab-Khazars wars lasted over a century, starting with the Arab expansion following the emergence of the new Arab religion. Eventually their respective territories were stabilised with the Khazars north of, and the Arabs south of, the Caucasus. This prevented the Islamic conquest of eastern Europe. With the Rus, the proto-Russians, there was continuous conflict. There was also some conflict with the Magyars as they moved westward, but when this nation reached its final destination of Hungary they were joined by many Khazars.

The Kazarian Empire was gradually destroyed, first by the Rus, then by the Rus in alliance with the Byzantines. The last remnants of the Khazars were obliterated by the Mongol Golden Horde. This was a tough neighbourhood.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 31 reviews
109 of 115 people found the following review helpful
Excellent 21 Mar. 2001
By "epeysakh" - Published on
Format: Hardcover
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 archaelogical 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!
72 of 76 people found the following review helpful
Excellent book, the latest on Khazars 9 Nov. 1999
By S. Dudin - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The book not only traces the history of the people of Khazaria, brings the latest archeological data and links between Khazars and East European peoples it highlights every detail of their conversion to Judaism, their political and religious influence, their military might. Indeed everything is supported by a comprehensive set of documents and articles. Very rich bibliography although it'd be good to see more visual material (maps, etc.). Great effort to deliver an exciting aspect of our history.
77 of 87 people found the following review helpful
Comprehensive and interesting (albeit sometimes "dry") 8 Aug. 1999
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The book aims to capture the history of Khazaria, a Jewish state near the Caspian sea that reigned between the 7th to 11th centuries, starting as a small tribe and growing in size and in power. The book is primarily based on archival and linguistic discoveries. The author starts in 650 AD when migration patterns westward and wars with the Muslim forces from the south brought to the fore of history the Khazar empire. Khazaria was located roughly between of present day Hungary from its east and Persia in its west. The Khazars, originally nomads known for their fierce fighting tradition, defended their region and became a loose state about mid 6thcentury.
The controversy about Khazar Jews and their intermingle with Jews in Lithuania, Poland and Rumania is discussed at the conclusion of the book. First, the author describes other incidents when non-Jewish tribes converted and became "children of Moses". Examples are brought from the Avars and Cumans in Europe, Edmoites in the middle east, and the "Children of Moses" in Ethopia, sometimes known as the Falshas.) Then author then contends that it is quite possible that Khazar Jews, now disbursed amongst several nations, intermarried with "local" or "genuine" jews, most notably in Lithuania as well as in Poland.
The book is somewhat `academic' in its discussion, but very readable. The book boasts in using "archeological" finds in its discussion; in fact, it mentions only a few such finds. It further fails to include maps, documents and other images that would have made it more interesting and `real'. Nonetheless, the writing is not `heavy' and the organization is intuitive. Each chapter can be read separately and the footnotes are worth gleaning over. Although some maps appear at the end of chapter 2, and some tables appear at the ends of chapters 3, 4 and 7, they hardly help illustrate the rich history narrated within the chapters.
For genealogists who are interested in the controversial around the origins of dark-hair or red-hair jews in Lithuania and Poland, I recommend reading a couple of introductory chapters and then skimming through to the end. For history buffs, I recommend reading the whole book and perhaps use a map to aid in the reading as there are numerous references to battles, invasions and travel routes that would be much easier to understand with a map at hand.
This is not an intro-to-genealogy or a how-to-start-genealogy book. I found the subject of Khazaria and the Jewish diaspora, and the narrative in The Jews of Khazaria enriching and expanding my 15 years of family history work. Therefor, I mostly recommend this book for genealogists with at least 5 years experience, with some idea about the origins of the families that arrived from the Pale of Settlement; Of course, independently, the subject of the empire of Khazraia is a rich with history and glamour. I find that the narrative of Khazaria and its place in Jewish history well narrated by Brook.
37 of 41 people found the following review helpful
Extremely Interesting 23 Feb. 2005
By Zeev Shahor - Published on
Format: Paperback
Being turkish myself, I have always found the friendship between jews and turks very warm and interesting (and many of my friends are jewish). I knew the Ottoman Empire accepted 150.000 jews during Sultan Suleyman (Solomon) II in 1492 - when Spain chose to expel them - and that modern Turkey has close military ties with Israel; but never in my wildest dreams would I have thought than an entire Turkish kingdom converted to Judaism and allowed jews from all over the world to settle and build a strong kingdom. What a fascinating and extraordinary positive event!

Kevin Brooks has written a very valuable book on not only the origins of some of the Eastern European Jews, but also on Turkish history. Anybody with an interest in Jewish and turkish history needs to read this "first encounter" between jews and turks, which has cemented a friendship that existed in many different forms since then.

Türker Kara (Denmark)
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
A vast improvement on an already impressive work 19 Feb. 2007
By Brian G. - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Brook has accomplished what no-one since D.M. Dunlop (in his 1954 "History of the Jewish Khazars") has been able to do: He has written a comprehensive, up-to-date, scrupulously researched and scholarly account of the amazing history of the Khazars. Better still, he has done so in a manner that is accessible to the layman as well as to historians.

Brook, a layman himself (albeit a lay expert), has meticulously collected thousands of tidbits of historical knowledge and lore from a myriad of primary and secondary sources

Brook's first edition (published by Jason Aaronson in 1999) was a masterpiece in and of itself, but it was flawed by the certainty of certain controversial assertions (such as that the conversion of the Khazars took place in 861) which have, over the course of only a few years, become outdated by dramatic new discoveries in numismatics and archaeology. This second edition of Brook's magnum opus corrects many errors and also includes information on new discoveries, organized into convenient, intuitive and well-cited sections (including "The Origins of the Khazars", "The Khazars' Conversion to Judaism", and "Relations between the Khazars and other People".)

Khazar history is brought to life through discussions of trade, religion, daily life, language, and many other issues. Anyone interested in Jewish, Eastern European or Eurasian history, or anyone who fancies themselves a polymath, would be remiss if they failed to purchase and read this book.
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