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Khazar Khaganate
Xəzər Xaqanlığı
c. 650–969
Khazar Khaganate, 650–850
Khazar Khaganate, 650–850
StatusKhazar Khaganate
Common languagesKhazar
• 618–628
Tong Yabghu
• 9th century
• 9th century
• 9th century
• 9th century
• 9th century
• 10th century
• 10th century
• 10th century
• 11th century
• Established
c. 650
850 est.[3]3,000,000 km2 (1,200,000 sq mi)
900 est.[4]1,000,000 km2 (390,000 sq mi)
• 7th century[5]
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Turkic Khaganate
Old Great Bulgaria

The Khazars were a semi-nomadic Turkic people. They formed an empire called Khazaria in Russia from the 6th to 10th century CE.[6] They came from the Western Turkic Khaganate of the Eurasian steppe, after it was conquered by Tang China.[7]

Khazaria was an international trading center. It was an important place on the Silk Road that linked China, the Middle East, and the Kievan Rus'.[8][9] For three centuries (c. 650–965) the Khazars conquered the area from the Volga-Don steppes to Crimea and the Caucasus.[8]

Khazaria was between the Byzantine Empire, the steppe nomads, and the Umayyad Caliphate. It helped Byzantine defend itself from the Sasanian Persian empire. The alliance ended around 900.[8] Between 965 and 969, the Kievan Rus replaced Khazaria.

Tengrism may have been the main religion, as it was for the Huns and Turkic peoples.[10] Abrahamic religions were also popular.[10] The ruling class may have converted to Judaism in the 8th century.[11]

Some people think that the Cossacks, Muslim Kumyks, Kazakhs, and some Jews, like the Ashkenazi Jews, descended from the Khazars.[12][13][14] Some disagree.[15][16][17][18]

Name[change | change source]

Khazar or Xazar may have come from *Qasar. The Turkic root qaz- means "to ramble, to roam" (used in Qazaqsa or Kazakh). It is similar to the Common Turkic kez-.[10]

Others say it is from qas- ("tyrannize, oppress, terrorize") because it is similar to the Uyghur name Qasar.[19]

Others think it is a person or tribe's name. For example the Chinese name Kesa for "Khazars" may be one of the tribal names of the Uyğur Toquz Oğuz (of the Gokturks), namely the Gésà.[20][10] But others say Kesa was not a tribal name but the name of the chief of the 思结 Sijie tribe of the Toquz Oğuz. Also in Middle Chinese the name "Khazars" always comes before the word Tūjué (Tūjué Kěsà bù: 突厥可薩部; Tūjué Hésà: 突厥曷薩).[21][22][23]

Khazar language is extinct. But modern Turkic languages still refer to the Caspian Sea as the "Khazar Sea".

Language[change | change source]

No known records of the Khazar language survive. The state was polyglot (spoke multiple languages) and polyethnic.[24] The ruling elite probably spoke an eastern dialect of Shaz Turkic. The ordinary people may have spoken Lir Turkic, such as Oğuric, Bulğaric, Chuvash, and Hunnish. The Persian historian al-Iṣṭakhrī said that the Khazar language was different from any other known language.[25][26]

After the Khazars became Jewish they may have written in the Hebrew alphabet.[27] Though they spoke a Türkic language, they may have also spoke Hebrew.[28]

History[change | change source]

Where are they from?[change | change source]

They appear to have came from Mongolia or northern China after the Xiōngnú (Huns) were defeated by Han dynasty of China (Han–Xiongnu war). The tribes probably had Iranian,[29] proto-Mongolic, Uralic, and Palaeo-Siberian people.

The Turkic tribes may have conquered the Western Eurasian steppe as early as 463.[10][30]

In 552, they conquered the Rouran Khaganate and moved westwards, taking more people from Sogdia.[31]

The ruling family may have came from the Āshǐnà (阿史那) clan of the West Türkic tribes.[10] The Chinese and Arabic records are almost identical, indicating strong support for this theory. The leader may have been Yǐpíshèkuì (乙毗射匱). He died around 651.[31] Moving west, the Khazars reached Akatziroi,[32] one of the important friends of Byzantium fighting Attila's army.

How did it begin?[change | change source]

Khazaria began after 630.[33] It came from the Göktürk Qağanate, after it was crushed by Tang China between 630–650.

Göktürk armies conquered Volga by 549. The Āshǐnà clan whose tribal name was 'Türk' (the strong one) arrived in 552. They overthrew the Rourans and created the Göktürk Qağanate.[34]

The Chinese Tang Dynasty defeated the Turkic Qağanate and established the Anxi protectorate (Tang dynasty in Inner Asia). The Khaganate split into many tribes.[35] Some tribes went west to the Sea of Azov area. Ashina and the Khazars went further west.

In 657, General Sū Dìngfāng (蘇定方) dominated the Turks and Central Asia. They imposed Chinese overlordship to the east of those Turkic tribes. In 659 the Chinese defeated the remaining tribes. The Khazars did not dare return.

Instead the Khazars defeated the Bulgars further west.[36][37]

And so the Khazars Qaganate was born, from the ruins of a nomadic empire destroyed by the Tang armies to the east.[31] It became the westernmost successor state of the Gokturks.

The Khazars conquered the lower Volga region and the area between the Danube and the Dniepr. In 670, they also conquered the Onoğur-Bulğar union[38] and made the Onogur-Bulgar language the official language of the empire (lingua franca).[31]

The empire is sometimes called a 'steppe Atlantis' (stepnaja Atlantida, Степная Атлантида).[10]

Historians often call this period the Pax Khazarica. The state became an international center of trade.[39]

Ibn al-Balḫî wrote in Fârsnâma (c. 1100) that the Sasanian Shah (ruler), Ḫusraw 1, Anûsîrvân, said there were three kings who had as much power as he did: the King of China, the King of Byzantium, and the king of the Khazars.[10][36]

References[change | change source]

  1. Wexler 1996, p. 50
  2. Brook, pp. 107
  3. Turchin, Peter; Adams, Jonathan M.; Hall, Thomas D (December 2006). "East-West Orientation of Historical Empires". Journal of World-systems Research. 12 (2): 222. ISSN 1076-156X. Retrieved 16 September 2016.
  4. Rein Taagepera (September 1997). "Expansion and Contraction Patterns of Large Polities: Context for Russia". International Studies Quarterly. 41 (3): 496. doi:10.1111/0020-8833.00053. JSTOR 2600793.
  5. Herlihy 1972, pp. 136–148;Russell1972, pp. 25–71. This figure has been calculated on the basis of the data in both Herlihy and Russell's work.
  6. "Khazar | people". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2018-07-30.
  7. Sneath 2007
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Noonan 1999
  9. Golden 2011
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 10.5 10.6 10.7 Golden 2007a
  11. 2007aGolden 2007a
  12. Kizilov 2009
  13. Patai & Patai 1987
  14. Wexler 1987
  15. Wexler 2002: 'Most scholars are sceptical about the hypothesis (that has its roots in the late 19th century) that Khazars became a major component in the ethnogenesis of the Ashkenazic Jews'.
  16. Rubin 2013.
  17. Davies 1992
  18. Vogt 1975.
  19. Golden 2007a citing L. Bazin, 'Pour une nouvelle hypothèse sur l'origine des Khazar,' in Materialia Turcica, 7/8 (1981–1982): 51–71.
  20. Dunlop 1954
  21. Golden 2007a. Kěsà (可薩) would have been pronounced something like kha'sat in both Early Middle Chinese/EMC and Late Middle Chinese/LMC while Hésà (曷薩) would yield γat-sat in (EMC) and xɦat sat (LMC) respectively, where final 't' often transcribes –r- in foreign words. Thus, while these Chinese forms could transcribe a foreign word of the type *Kasar/*Kazar, *Gatsar, *Gazr, *Gasar, there is a problem phonetically with assimilating these to the Uyğur word Qasar/ Gesa (EMC/LMC Kat-sat= Kar sar= *Kasar).
  22. Shirota 2005
  23. Brook 2010
  24. Erdal 2007.'there must have been many different ethnic groups within the Khazar realm ... These groups spoke different languages, some of them no doubt belonging to the Indo-European or different Caucasian language families.'. The high chancery official of the Abbasid Caliphate under Al-Wathiq, Sallām the interpreter (Sallam al-tardjuman), famous for his reputed mastery of thirty languages, might have been both Jewish and a Khazar.Wasserstein 2007 referring to.Dunlop 1954
  25. Golden 2006.'Oğuric Turkic, spoken by many of the subject tribes, doubtless, was one of the linguae francae of the state. Alano-As was also widely spoken. Eastern Common Turkic, the language of the royal house and its core tribes, in all likelihood remained the language of the ruling elite in the same way that Mongol continued to be used by the rulers of the Golden Horde, alongside of the Qipčaq Turkic speech spoken by the bulk of the Turkic tribesmen that constituted the military force of this part of the Činggisid empire. Similarity, Oğuric, like Qipčaq Turkic in the Jočid realm, functioned as one of the languages of government.'
  26. Golden 2007a. al-Iṣṭakhrī 's account however then contradicts itself by likening the language to Bulğaric.
  27. Golden 2007b: Ibn al-Nadīm commenting on script systems in 987-8 recorded that the Khazars wrote in Hebrew.
  28. Erdal 2007: "The chancellery of the Jewish state of the Khazars is therefore also likely to have used Hebrew writing even if the official language was a Turkic one."
  29. Golden 2007a;Brook 2010 note that Dieter Ludwig, in his doctoral thesis Struktur und Gesellschaft des Chazaren-Reiches im Licht der schriftlichen Quellen, (Münster,1982) suggested that the Khazars were Turkic members of the Hephthalite Empire, where the lingua franca was a variety of Iranian.
  30. Szádeczky-Kardoss 1994
  31. 31.0 31.1 31.2 31.3 Golden 2006
  32. Golden 2006. In this view, the name Khazar would derive from a hypothetical *Aq Qasar.
  33. Kaegi 2003, citing also Golden 1992
  34. Whittow 1996. The word Türk, Whittow adds, had no strict ethnic meaning at the time: 'Throughout the early middle ages on the Eurasian steppes, the term 'Turk' may or may not imply membership of the ethnic group of Turkic peoples, but it does always mean at least some awareness and acceptance of the traditions and ideology of the Gök Türk empire, and a share, however distant, in the political and cultural inheritance of that state.'
  35. Golden 2010 The Duōlù (咄陆) were the left wing of the On Oq, the Nǔshībì (弩失畢: *Nu Šad(a)pit), and together they were registered in Chinese sources as the 'ten names' (shí míng:十名).
  36. 36.0 36.1 Golden 2001b
  37. Somogyi 2008
  38. Zuckerman 2007
  39. Noonan 2001.