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.
THE BOOK is often too detailed and too arcane, particularly in the chapters describing the early years of the Khazars. These have the feel of a book by a local history society, where all the facts about an area are collected together regardless of editorial discipline. Many of these could have been incorporated in the Notes rather than the main text. Western European readers will find a confusion of unfamiliar and similar-sounding names of places, tribes and nations, often migrating, making it seem like a sci-fi space opera.
Irrationally, I was annoyed by the frequent use of the word toponym. I would have preferred place name. I am sure toponym is a more precise term, but this did not stop my irritation.
RECOMMENDATION: This book must have been a labour of love and should be respected. The details are included because they may not be readily available elsewhere, and if they are available they are probably in Russian, Hungarian, Hebrew, Polish etc. I would recommend it to potential readers, but only if they feel they have an interest in early medieval Eurasian history or in the possible origins of east European Jewry.
To quote the author at the end of the Introduction "I felt compelled to write this book because I want to make the world of the Khazars more accessible to both the average reader and the scholar. Only a precious few extensive studies on the Khazars have been published in the English language in recent times. I am pleased to present this book in the hope that awareness of the Khazar Empire and our Jewish roots will be heightened."
THE CHAPTERS are all prefixed by a brief summary and post-fixed with notes. The chapters are followed by an appendix "A Timeline of Khazar History", a glossary, an extensive bibliography and an index.
1 The Origin of the Khazars
2 The Cities and Towns of the Khazars
3 The Structure of the Khazar Government
4 The Khazar Way of Life
5 Khazarian Trade
6 The Khazar's Conversion to Judaism
7 Relations between the Khazars and Other Peoples
8 The Decline and Fall of the Khazar empire
9 The Diaspora of the Khazars
10 The Phenomenon of Proselytism
11 Eastern and Central European Jews after the Tenth Century
Shlomo Sand The Invention of the Jewish People
Arthur Koestler The Thirteenth Tribe The Khazar Empire and Its Heritage
Paul Wexler Non-Jewish Origins of the Sephardic Jews;
The Ashkenazic Jews: A Slavo-Turkic People in Search of a Jewish Identity
- Format: Kindle Edition
- File Size: 4775 KB
- Print Length: 374 pages
- Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers; 3 edition (9 February 2018)
- Sold by: Amazon Australia Services, Inc.
- Language: English
- ASIN: B078VH2HN7
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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- Customer Reviews: 33 customer ratings
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,256,164 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)