The Khazars

Commentary by Dr. Gerhard Falk


Believe It or Not - There was a Jewish Kingdom in Russia


   On the 20th of July 2000, we discussed “Yiddish” and learned that a Columbia University study indicates the probability that “Yiddish” originated from the same source as German but is not a derivative of the medieval German spoken in the West.

   This view is not an idle speculation but relates to the establishment of the Jewish kingdom of the Khazars when their king, Bulan, converted to Judaism in 700 C.E.

   There are several insecure stories concerning the conversion of the Khazars to Judaism. The most plausible account of these events is to be gained from the writings of Hasdai ibn Shaprut, a Jew who was given the title of “Prince” by the “Caliph of Cordova” in Spain and who had contact with some Slavic sources who told him about the Khazars.

   Evidently, the Khazar nobility elected as king a Jew who had distinguished himself as commander in chief of their armies. Because the Khazars' kingdom included the Ukraine, which had a large number of Jewish inhabitants, it is not surprising that there were Jews in the Khazar army and administration. The Jews of the Ukraine were descendants of the Jews who had been driven out of Israel by the Romans after the revolt of Bar Kochba in 135 C.E.

   Some claim that a disputation was arranged by the Khazar king. This disputation between a Jewish, a Christian and a Moslem representative led to the conversion of the Khazar nobility to Judaism. Consequently some Khazars also converted to Judaism. It is however a matter of dispute whether only the upper classes of Khazars became Jewish or whether large numbers of Khazars became Jewish. In any event, the Christian Byzantine and Rus empires defeated the Khazars in 1016 and put and end to that Jewish government.

   Some claim that the Khazars then remained in southern Russia and gave Jewish and Khazar names to many of the towns and cities in that region. In the tenth century, when Poland was formed, many of the Jews of Russia and the Ukraine moved into that region, so that the Polish Jews were present at the beginning of that state and belonged among Poland’s founders. It is significant that early polish coins bear Polish words written in the Hebrew script.

   Subsequently, Jews moved into Silesia, or Schlesien, in Germany and thereby became founders of several German states as well. This is particularly true of Bavaria (Bayern) whose people speak a German closely related to Yiddish.

   Because the Khazars had spread all the way from Kiev in the south to Grodno in Lithuania, Jewish influence in that region was also very strong. Today the St. Petersburg museum the Hermitage contains libraries and glass works of Jewish manufacture as old as the 9th and 10th centuries. Jewish glass works were also established in Poland after the defeat of the Khazars, particularly after the Polish king Bleslav invited Jews to settle in Poland beginning in 1264.

    Kiev, which had become a major industrial city as early as 1798, owed its development to the Jews of that region. All this was denied by the Soviets who re-wrote history to suit their anti-Jewish bigotry. Likewise it is popular among Arab bigots to pretend that Israel has no right to exist because the European Jews are really not the descendants of the ancient Israelites but are instead Asiatic peoples of the “Turko-Finnish” race.

   Whatever the influence of the Khazars on Jewish history and vice versa, you may want to read more about this by consulting Abba Eban, who mentions this in his book My People.  There is also a book by Arthur Koestler, The Thirteenth Tribe, and The History of the Jewish Khazars by Dunlop.

    Why not read these interesting books and forget about the idiot box for a week or so?

     P.S. I have just given my editors at Prometheus Books the Index to my latest book called Stigma: How We Treat Outsiders.  Therefore, that book will be published sometime before June 1. I’ll tell you about that next week.

Shalom u’vracha.

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