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From the steppe to the shtetl,
This review is from: The Thirteenth Tribe: Khazar Empire and Its Heritage (Hardcover)
I first bought this book in the late 1970s. Several clear-outs later I came across it again and re-bought it. Often revisiting books is a disappointment, but not in this case. Arthur Koestler produced an accessible, well-written history that flows easily through the often obscure and unfamiliar subject matter.
The Khazarian Empire originated as a collection of Turkic tribes and lasted from the 6th to the 11th centuries in the area that is now southern Russia and the Ukraine. To the south-west was the Byzantine Empire, to the south the Arab Caliphate, to the north and east the pagan tribes and to the west the Slavs, later controlled by the Rus, the southern representatives of the Vikings. Originally shamanistic, the Khazars converted to Judaism, perhaps as a balance to the Christian Byzantines and the Islamic Arabs.
In the west the Khazars founded Kiev, later to taken over by the Rus. In the east they had their capital, Ital, where the Volga flows into the Caspian. They engaged in international trade and were aggressively expansionist. For over a hundred years they fought with Islam, preventing it from reaching eastern Europe. Eventually they were defeated by the Byzantines and Rus in an unholy alliance, with a final coup de grâce given by the Mongol Golden Horde.
THE CHAPTERS The first four chapters describe the rise and fall of the Khazarian Empire. The next four discuss the consequences of this fall, leading to the conclusion that East European Jewry, the Ashkenazim, is substantially of Khazarian origin.
Shlomo Sand The Invention of the Jewish People
Kevin Allan Brook The Jews of Khazaria
Paul Wexler The Ashkenazic Jews
Dunlop D.M. The history of the Jewish Khazars
Toynbee Constantine Porphyrogenitus and His World
Constantine Porphyrogenitus De Administrando Imperio