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Khazars

KHAZARS

A nomadic Turkic-speaking tribal confederation and an offshoot of the Turk kaghanate, the Khazars established one of the earliest and most successful states in medieval eastern Europe. Khazar history is divided into two periods: the CrimeanNorth Caucasus (c. 650750) and the Lower Volga (c. 750965) phases. Politically focused on the northern Black Sea region, during the first phase the Khazars were locked in endless wars against the Arabs over the control of the Caucasus. After a major defeat in 737, the Khazars relocated their political focus to the north and established their capital of Atil/Itil in the Volga delta around 800. The next one hundred years of Khazar history (known as Pax Chazarica) brought security to the Russian steppe and the surrounding regions, permitting cross-continental trade to flourish via Khazaria and providing it with the necessary stability for the formation of a unique material culture, known to archaeologists as Saltovo.

Khazaria was an empire or kaghanate, the highest form of Turkic political organization. The kaghan or its leader was apparently of Turkic origin and had supreme secular and sacred functions. During the ninth century, his political-religious role was split: He retained his religious-sacred function, while the governor or beg ruled the state.

At its height in the first half of the ninth century, Khazar territories stretched from the middle Dnieper in the west to the Volga-Ural steppe in the east, and from the middle Volga in the north to the Crimea in the south. It was populated by Turkic and Iranian nomads, Finno-Ugrian foragers, Slavic agriculturalists, and urban Crimean Greeks, making the kaghanate a multiethnic, multilingual, and multireligious state. Khazar economy was diverse and included animal husbandry, agriculture, hunting and gathering, fishing, craft production, agriculture, viniculture, and domestic and international trade. Khazars traded locally manufactured goods as well as the furs, slaves, honey, and wax they obtained as tribute from the Slavic and Finno-Ugrian tribes of the north. Khazaria also acted as an intermediary for Rus-Arab trade and received a tithe from the bypassing merchants. Millions of Islamic silver coins (dirhams) were exported via the "Khazar Way" (lower Volga-Don-Donets-Okaupper Volga) trade route to northwestern Russia in exchange for Rus commodities.

Most Khazars practiced shamanist-Täri religion. In the late eighth to early ninth century (but perhaps as late as 861), the Khazar ruling elite converted to Judaism. While many questions remain concerning this conversion and its pervasiveness, it is clear that by accepting Judaism, the ruling class made Khazaria a religious neutral zone for its warring Christian and Islamic neighbors. Religious tolerance and Khazaria's international commercial interests brought Christians, Muslims, Jews, pagans, and others to trade and live within the kaghanate.

Pax Chazarica came to an end by the early tenth century. Already in the 890s, Pechenegs and Magyars infiltrated Khazaria from the east, while the Rus annexed Khazarian territories in the northwest. Concurrently, the Khazar Way declined and the Rus-Islamic trade shifted to the lands of the Volga Bulghars, thereby bypassing Khazar toll collectors. Greatly weakened, Khazaria was destroyed in 965 by the Rus and their Torky allies.

See also: islam; jews; religion; torky

bibliography

Dunlop, D. M. (1967). The History of the Jewish Khazars. New York: Schocken Books.

Golden, Peter B. (1980). Khazar Studies: An Historico-Philological Inquiry into the Origins of the Khazars, Vol. 1. Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó.

Golden, Peter B. (1990). "The Peoples of the South Russian Steppe." In The Cambridge History of Early Inner Asia, ed. Denis Sinor. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Golden, Peter B. (1992). An Introduction to the History of the Turkic Peoples. Wiesbaden, Germany: Harrassowitz Verlag.

Noonan, Thomas S. (1997). "The Khazar Economy." Archivum Eurasiae Medii Aevi 9:253318.

Zuckerman, C. (1995). "On the Date of the Khazars' Conversion to Judaism and the Chronology of the Kings of the Rus Oleg and Igor: A Study of the Anonymous Khazar Letter from the Genizah of Cairo." Revue des Études Byzantines 53:237270.

Roman K. Kovalev

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Khazars

Khazars (khä´zärz), ancient Turkic people who appeared in Transcaucasia in the 2d cent. AD and subsequently settled in the lower Volga region. They emerged as a force in the 7th cent. and rose to great power. The Khazar empire extended (8th–10th cent.) from the northern shores of the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea to the Urals and as far westward as Kiev. Itil, the Khazar capital in the Volga delta, was a great commercial center. The Khazars conquered the Volga Bulgars and the Crimea, levied tribute from the eastern Slavs, and warred with the Arabs, Persians, and Armenians. Religious tolerance was complete in the Khazar empire, which reached a relatively high degree of civilization. In the 8th cent. the Khazar nobility embraced Judaism, and Cyril and Methodius made some Christian converts among them in the 9th cent. In the 10th cent. the Khazars entered into friendly relations with the Byzantine Empire, which attempted to use them in the struggle against the Arabs. The Khazar empire fell when Sviatoslav, duke of Kiev, defeated its army in 965. The Khazars (or Chazars) are believed by some to have been the ancestors of many East European Jews.

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"Khazars." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Sep. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Khazars

Khazars. National group, originally of S. Russia, who professed Judaism. The Khazars were an independent nation of E. Europe between the 7th and 10th cents. CE. They converted to Judaism c.740 CE. The nation disappeared by the 11th cent., but as late as 1309, Hungarian Roman Catholics were forbidden to marry people described as Khazars. See also JUDAH HALEVI, who took the story of the conversion as the framework for his exposition of Judaism in Sefer ha-Kuzari.

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"Khazars." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Sep. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Khazars." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Retrieved September 18, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/khazars

Khazars

Khazars Turkic people who first appeared in the lower Volga region in c.2nd century ad. Between the 8th and 10th centuries, their empire prospered and extended from n of the Black Sea to the River Volga and from w of the Caspian Sea to the River Dnieper. They conquered the Volga Bulgars, and fought the Arabs, Russians, and Pechenegs. In the 8th century, the ruling class adopted Judaism. Their empire was destroyed in 965.

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