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SARKIL , *Khazar fortress, built on the Don with Byzantine help in 833 c.e. Sarkil's purpose appears to have been to defend Khazaria from enemies approaching from the west – who these were is not specifically stated, but the Pechenegs, Magyars, and Russians have been suggested – and, more particularly, to control the Don-Volga portage. This was the route by which ninth-century Russian merchants (Ibn Khurradādhbih, Kitāb al-Masālik wa al-Mamālik, 154) from the Black Sea reached the Volga; in the same century it was called the "Khazarian way." Sarkil is mentioned in the Long Version of the Reply of Joseph king of the *Khazars to *Ḥasdai ibn Shaprut. The name is explained as being from the Turkic (Chuvash) for "white house," hence it has been identified with Bela Vezha in the Russian Chronicle, and somewhat more doubtfully with the Arabic al-Bayḍāʾ, "the white" (usually taken to mean *Atil). M.I. Artamonov fixes the site of Sarkil on the left bank of the lower Don near the village of Tsimlyanskaya, now covered by the waters of a reservoir. The remains on a neighboring site on the right bank of the Don are thought to be those of a forerunner of Sarkil, the name of which – corresponding to the material from which it was built (white limestone) – was transferred to the new fortress (the historic Sarkil was built of brick). Sarkil (Bela Vezha) is said to have been destroyed in the great Russian attack upon Khazaria in 965.


D.M. Dunlop, History of the Jewish Khazars (1954), index; M.I. Artamonov, Istoriya Khazar (1962), 288–323; idem, in: Sovetskaya Arkheologiya, 16 (1952), 42–76; idem, in: Materialy i issledovaniya po arkheologii S.S.S.R., 62 (1958); G. Moravcsik, Byzantinoturcica, 2 (1958), 268–9; A.N. Poliak, Kazariyah (1951), index s.v. Sharkil.

[Douglas Morton Dunlop]

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