Vipers - Part 49
The evidence therefore of a concerted political attack upon our institutions,
which I conceive to lurk under the sudden and extraordinary zeal...for
the religious welfare of the United States, will not depend altogether
on the information derived from these documents. Such an attack is what
might be expected from the present political attitude of the European nations,
in regard to the principles of despotism and liberty; from the powerful
and unavoidable effect which our institutions exert in favor of the popular
principle...Her (Roman Catholic Church) government is the most thorough
military despotism in the world. She is the declared and consistent enemy
of civil and religious liberty; of the freedom of the press; in short,
of every great principle in those free institutions which it is our glory
and privilege to inherit from our fathers...from the commencement of the
Reformation to the present time, has been the bitter enemy of Protestantism.
The famous thirty years'
war, marked by every kind of brutal excess, was waged to extirpate those
very principles of civil and religious liberty which lie at the foundation
of our government, and had Austria then triumphed, this republic would
never have been founded.
And what are the people of
Austria? They are slaves, slaves in body and mind, whipped and disciplined
by priests to have no opinion of their own, and taught to consider their
Emperor their God. They are the jest and by-word of the Northern Germans,
who never speak of Austrians but with a sneer, and, 'as slaves unworthy
of the name of Germans' as slaves both mentally and physically.' (Dwight).
And who is Prince Metternich,
whose letter of approval, in the name of his master the Emperor, is among
the documents? He is the master of his Master (the Pope), the arch contriver
of the plans for stifling liberty in Europe and throughout the world. 'Metternich,'
says Dwight in his Travels in Germany, 'by his wonderful talent in exciting
fear, has thus far controlled the cabinets of Europe, and has exerted an
influence over the destinies of nations, little if any inferior to that
He persuaded the Emperor
of Austria and King of Prussia not to fulfil the promise they so solemnly
made to their German subjects of giving them free constitutions. It was
the influence of Metternich that prevented Alexander from assisting Greece
in her struggles for liberty. He lent Austrian vessels to assist the Turks
in the subjugation of the Greeks. Metternich crushed the liberties of Spain
by inducing Louis XVIII., against his wishes, to send 100,000 men thither
under the Duke d'Angouleme to restore public order! 'When Sicily, Naples,
and Genoa, in 1820-21, threw off the galling yoke of slavery, Metternich
sent his 30,000 Austrian bayonets into Italy and re-established despotism.
And when in 1831 goaded to
desperation by the extortion and tyranny, and bad faith of the Papal government,
the Italian patriots made a noble and successful effort to remedy their
political evils by a revolution firm, yet temperate, founded in the most
tolerant principles, marked by no excess, and hailed by the Legations with
universal joy, again did this arch-enemy of human happiness let loose his
myrmidons, overwhelming the cities, dragging the patriots, Italy's first
citizens to the scaffold, or incarcerating them in the dungeons of Venice,
filling whole provinces with mourning, and bringing back upon the wretched
oppressed population the midnight darkness which the dawn of liberty had
begun to dispel. 'Prince Metternaich,' says Dwight,' is regarded by the
liberals of Europe as the greatest enemy of the human race who has lived
You rarely hear his name
mentioned without exciting indignation, not only in the speaker but in
the auditors. Metternich has not been attacking Men but Principles, and
has done so much towards destroying on the continent those great political
truths, which nations have acquired through ages of effort and suffering,
that there is reason to fear, should his system continue for half a century,
liberty will forsake the continent to revisit it no more. The Saxons literally
abhor this Prince. The German word Mitternacht means midnight. From the
resemblance of the word to Metternich, as well as from his efforts to cover
Europe with political darkness, the Saxons call him Prince Mitternacht,
This is the government and
the people, which have, all at once, manifested so deep an interest in
the spiritual condition of this heretic land. it is this nation of slaves,
this remnant of the superstition and vassalage, and degradation of the
dark ages, from whom the light of the nineteenth century has been so carefully
shut out, that it fondly disguises its own darkness to be light, its death-like
torpor, order, it is this nation, not yet disenthralled form the chains
of superstition, that is anxious to enlighten us, in the United States,
in the principles of civil and religious liberty. Civil and religious liberty!
Words that may not be uttered in Austria but at the risk of the dungeon;
words that would carry such shrieks of dismay through the ranks of Prince
Metternich's vassals, as the flash of a torch would bring forth from a
cavern of owls...(pp. 26-30).
Let us first present to view
the fundamental principle of government, that principle which, according
to its agreement with one or the other of the two opposite opinions that
divide the world, decides entirely the character of the government in every
part of the body politic. From whom is authority to govern derived? Austria
and the United States will agree in answering, from God. The opposition
of opinion occurs in the answers to the next question. To whom on earth
is this authority delegated? Austria answers To the Emperor (under the
control of the Roman Catholic Church), who is the source of all authority,
'I the Emperor do ordain,' etc.
The United States answers,
To the People, in whom resides the Sovereign power, 'We the People do ordain,
establish, grant,' etc. In on principle is recognized the necessity of
the servitude of the people, the absolute dependence of the subject, unqualified
submission to the commands of the rulers without question or examination.
The Ruler is Master, the People are Slaves.
In the other is recognized
the supremacy of the people, the equality of rights and powers of the citizen,
submission alone to laws emanating from themselves; the Ruler is a public
servant, receiving wages from the people to perform services agreeable
to their pleasure; amenable in all things to them; and holding office at
their will. The Ruler is Servant, the People are Master.
The fact and important nature
of the difference in these antagonist doctrines, leading, as is perceived,
to diametrically opposite results, are all that is needful to state in
order to proceed at once to the inquiry, which position does the Catholic
sect and the Protestant sects severally
The Pope, the supreme Head
of the Catholic church, claims to be the 'Vicegerent of God,' 'supreme
over all mortals;' 'over all Emperors, Kings, Princes, Potentates and People;'
'King of kings and Lord of lord.' he styles himself, 'the divinely appointed
dispenser of spiritual and temporal punishments;' 'armed with power to
depose Emperors and Kings, and absolve subjects from their oath of allegiance:'
'from him lies no appeal;' 'he is responsible to no one on earth;' 'he
is judged of no one but God.'
But not to go back to former
ages to prove the fact of the Pope's claiming divine right, let the present
Pontiff Gregory XVI testify. He claims, and attempts the exercise of this
plentitude of power and asserts his divine right. The document I quote
is fresh from the Vatican, scarce four months old, a document in which
the Pope interferes directly in the political affairs of Portugal against
Don Pedro. 'How can there be unity in the body,' says the Pope, 'when the
members are not united to the head and do not obey it? And how can this
union and obedience be maintained in a country where they drive from their
sees the bishops, legitimately instituted by Him to whom it appertains
to assign pastors to all the vacant churches, because the Divine Right
grants to Him alone the primacy of jurisdiction and the plentitude of power.'...(pp.
Let us now examine in contrast
other political rights, liberty of conscience, liberty of opinion, and
liberty of the press...It is our glory, on the contrary, that all these
rights are secured to us by our institutions, and freely enjoyed, not only
without the least danger of the peace of the state, but from the very genius
of our government, they are esteemed among its more precious safeguards.
What are the Catholic tenets on these points? Shall I go back some three
or four hundred years, and quote the pontifical law which say, 'The Pope
has the power to interpret Scripture and to teach as he pleases and no
person is allowed to teach in a different way.'
Or to the fourth Council
of Lateran in 1215, which decrees 'That all heretics, (that is all who
have an opinion of their own) shall be delivered over to the civil magistrate
to be burned.' Or shall I refer to the Catholic Index Expurgatorius to
the list of forbidden books, to show how the press is still fettered? No!
It is unnecessary to go farther than the present day. The reigning pontiff
Gregory XVI shall again answer the question. He has most opportunely furnished
us with the present sentiments of the Catholic church on these very points.
In his encyclical letter, dated Sept. 1832, the Pope, lamenting the disorders
and infidelity of the times, says, 'From this polluted fountain of 'indifference,'
flows that absurd and erroneous doctrine, or rather raving, in favor and
defense of 'liberty of conscience,' for which most pestilential error,
the course is opened to that entire and wild liberty of opinion, which
is everywhere attempting the overthrow of religious and civil institutions;
and which the unblushing impudence of some has held forth as an advantage
to religion. Hence that pest, of all others most to be dreaded in a state,
unbridled liberty of opinion, licentiousness of speech, unbridled liberty
of opinion, licentiousness of speech, and a lust of novelty, which, according
to the experience of all ages, portend the downfall of the most powerful
and flourishing empires.
Hither tends that worst and
never sufficiently to be execrated and detested Liberty of the Press, for
the diffusion of all manner of writings. which some so loudly contend for,
and so actively promote.'
He complains too of the dissemination
of unlicensed books. 'No means must be here omitted, says Clement XIII
our predecessor of happy memory, in the Encyclical Letter on the proscription
of bad books, no means must be here omitted, as the extremity of the case
calls for all our exertions, to EXTERMINATE THE FATAL PEST which spreads
through so many works; nor can the materials of error be otherwise destroyed
than by the flames, which consume the depraved elements of the evil.'
Vipers - Part 50
Now all this is explicit
enough, here is no ambiguity. We see clearly from infallible authority
that the Catholic of the present day, wherever he may be, if he is true
to the principles of his sect, cannot consistently tolerate liberty of
conscience, or liberty of the press. Is there any sect of Protestants in
this country, from whose religious tenets doctrines so subversive of civil
and religious liberty can be even inferred? If there be, I am ignorant
of its name...(pp. 40-43)
The tenets of Popery with
the principles of despotic government, in this respect so opposite to the
tenets of Protestantism; Popery, from its very nature, favoring despotism,
and Protestantism, from its very nature, favoring liberty...Is it not clear
that the cause of Popery is the cause of despotism?...And who are these
agents? They are, for the most part Jesuits, an ecclesiastical order, proverbial
through the world for cunning, duplicity, and total want of moral principle;
an order so skilled in all the arts of deception that even in Catholic
countries, in Italy itself, it became intolerable, and the people required
its suppression. They are Jesuits in the pay and employ of a despotic government,
who are at work on the ignorance and passions of our community; they are
foreigners, who have been schooled in foreign seminaries in the doctrine
of passive obedience; they are foreigners under vows of perpetual celibacy,
and having, therefore, no deep and permanent interest in this country;
they are foreigners, bound by the strong ties of pecuniary interest and
ambition, to the service of a foreign despot...
Consider, too, the power
which these Jesuits and other Catholic priests possess through the confessional,
of knowing the private characters and affairs of all the leading men in
the community; the power arising from their right to prescribe the kinds
and decrees of penance; and the power arising from the right to refuse
absolution to those who do not comply with their commands. Suppose such
powers were exercised by the ministers of any other sect, the Episcopalian,
the Methodist, the Presbyterian, the Baptist, etc., what an outcry would
be raised in the land! And should not the men who possess such powers be
jealously watched by all lovers of liberty?
Is it possible that these
Jesuits can have a sincere attachment to the principles of free institutions?
Do not these principles oppose a constant barrier to their exercise of
that arbitrary power, which they claim as a divine right, and which they
exercise too in all countries where they are dominant? Can it not be perceived,
that although they may find it politic for the present to conceal their
anti-republican tenets, yet this concealment will be merely temporary,
and is only adopted now, the better to lull suspicion? Is it not in accordance
with all experience of Popish policy, that Jesuits should encroach by little
and little, and persevere till they have attained to plentitude of power.
At present they have but
one aim in this country, which absorbs all others, and that is to make
themselves popular. If they succeed in this we shall then learn, when too
late to remedy the evil, that Popery abandons none of its divine rights.
The leaders of this sect are disciplined and organized, and have their
adherents entirely subservient to their will. Here then is a regular party,
a religious sect, ready to throw the weight of its power, as circumstances
may require, ready to favor any man, or set of men, who will engage to
And to whom do these leaders
look for their instructions? Is it to a citizen or body of citizens belonging
to this country; is it to a body of men kept in check by the ever jealous
eyes of other bodies around them, and by the immediate publicity which
must be given to all their doings? No, they are men owning no law on this
side of the ocean; they are the Pope and his consistory of Cardinals, following
the plans and instructions of the (Pope)...(pp. 45-49)
The serpent (This is the
serpent described in the Protocols of The Learned Elders of Zion) has already
commenced his coil about our limbs, and the lethargy of his poison is creeping
over us; shall we be more sensible of the torpor when it has fastened upon
our citals? The house is on fire; can we not believe it, till the flames
have touched our flesh? Is not the enemy already organized in the land?
Can we not perceive all around us the evidence of his presence? Have not
the wily maneuverings of despotism already commenced? Is he not inveigling
our children in his schools? Is he not intriguing with the press? Is he
not usurping the police of the country, and showing his front in our political
councils? Because no foe is on the sea, no hostile armies on our plains,
may we sleep securely? Shall we watch only on the outer walls, while the
sappers and miners of foreign despots are at work under our feet, and stealthily
advancing beneath the very citadel?
Where is that unwearying
vigilance which the eloquent Burke proclaimed to be characteristic of our
fathers, who did not wait to fee oppression, but 'augured misgovernment
at a distance, and snuffed the approach of tyranny in every tainted breeze?'
Are we their sons, and shall we sleep on our posts? We may sleep, but the
enemy is awake; he is straining every nerve to possess himself of our fair
land. We must awake, or we are lost.
Foundations are attacked,
fundamental principles are threatened, interests are put in jeopardy, which
throw all the questions which now agitate the councils of the country into
the shade. It is Liberty itself that is in danger, not the liberty of a
single state, no, nor of the United States, but the liberty of the world.
Yes, it is the world that has its anxious eyes upon us; it is the world
that cries to us in the agony of its struggles against despotism, The World
expects America, (Christian) Republican America to do her duty.
Our institutions have already
withstood many assaults from within and from without, but the war has now
assumed a new shape. An effort is now making that is to try the Moral Strength
of the Republic...(pp. 95-97)
We must not walk on blindly,
crying 'all's well.' The enemy is in all our borders. He has spread himself
through all the land. The ramifications of this foreign plot are very where
visible to all who will open their eyes."
The book which revealed more information on page 290, also carried this
quotation: "It is under those bloody banners (religious massacres in Europe)
of 6,000 Roman Catholic priest, Jesuits and Bishops, in the United States,
and marching to the conquest of this republic, backed by their seven millions
of blind and obedient slaves...A political conspiracy under the cloak of
a religious mission was formed against the U.S., yes, without Romanism,
the last awful Civil War would have been impossible, Jeff Davis would never
have dared to attack the North, had he not had assurance from the Pope,
the Jesuits, the Bishops, the Priests and the whole people of the Church
of Rome under the name and mask of Democracy, except they would help him."
(Fifty Years In The Church of Rome, page 290, by Father Chiniquy); "The
Jesuits are a Military Organization, not a religious order. Their chief
is a general of an army, not the mere father abbot of a monastery. And
the aim of this organization is: Power. Power in its most despotic exercise.
Absolute power, universal power, power to control the world by the volition
of a single man. Jesuitism is the most enormous of abuses." (Memorial of
the Captivity of Napoleon at St. Helena, by General Montholon, Vol. ii
p. 62, Fifty Years in the Church of Rome, p. 289); "Pope Gregory VII (a
Jew) decided it was no murder to kill excommunicated persons. This rule
was incorporated in the anon law. During the revision of the code, which
took place in the 16th century, and which produced a whole volume of corrections,
the passage was allowed to stand. It appears in every reprint of the Corpus
Juris. It has been for 700 years, and continues to be, part of the ecclesiastical
law. Far from being a dead letter, it obtained a new application in the
days of the Inquisition (under a Spanish Basque, a Jew, whose name was
Lopez DeRecalde, but who preferred to be called Ignatuis Loyola); and one
of the later Popes has declared that the murder of a Protestant is so good
a deed that it atones, and more than atones, for the murder of a Catholic."
(The London Times July 20, 1872)
Has the Church of Rome expressed any regret for having promulgated and
executed such bloody laws? No! On the contrary, she has anathematized all
those who think or say that she was wrong when she deluged the world with
the blood of the millions she ordered to be slaughtered to quench her thirst
for blood (is this not what the Jews have done to Christians since they
Crucified the Lord Jesus Christ); she positively said that she had the
right to punish those heretics by tortures and death. Those bloody and
anti-social laws, were written on the banners of the Roman Catholics, when
slaughtering 100,000 Waldenses in the mountains of Piedmont, more than
50,000 defenseless men, women and children in the city of Bezieres. It
is under the inspiration of those diabolical laws of Rome, that 75,000
Protestants were massacred the night and following week of St Bartholomew.
At the head of all stood the exilarch Daniel b. Hisdai. This shows that
the exilarchate must have been restored, and, to judge from Benjamin's
further description, it had lost but little of its former splendor. Pethahiah
mentions only one academy in Baghdad and but a single presiding officer;
he knows nothing of an exilarch. The inroad of the Mongolians seems to
have wrought havoc in Baghdad; and the only large congregation known to
al-Harizi (Makama 12, 18, 24, 46) was that of Mosul. Passing through the
city of Babylon Benjamin reached a place inhabited by twenty thousand Jews,
where the house of the prophet Daniel was shown. Both travelers recount
many legends and popular traditions concerning Daniel's grave in Susa (see
Cambridge Bible, Daniel, p. xxi). Ezekiels' synagogue, and the graves of
individual Talmudists - traditions which survive today in great measure
there, but which evidence considerable superstition on the part of the
Babylonian Jews..." (Jewish Encyclopedia, pp. 413-414)
The above illustrate the proud and devoted attitude of Pharisaism toward
Babylonia, which is the glory and source of their Pharisee tradition, the
Talmud. Until 1040 A.D. we read, the Talmud-Cabala academies in Babylonia
shone - then finally closed to spread Talmudic "learning" to the rest of
the world, moving up through Spain and across Europe.
Vipers - Part 51
We also read that, "the Academy of Sura...reached a point of unprecedented
splendor...Pumbedita...in 1040 also passed away after an existence of 800
years...Babylonian learning should be transplanted to Europe...This forms
an appropriate point at which to consider the general influence of Babylonia
upon European Judaism...the West received both the written and Oral Law
The supreme place in Judaism given the Babylonian Talmud and the word
Babylonian used on the title page of its every volume, are other indications
of the Babylonian character of "Judaism" so-called. The "Foreword" to the
Soncino English translation of the Babylonian Talmud by the late Chief
Rabbi of Great Britain, J.H. Hertz, is another indication. Also consider
the tribute paid to Babylon in the History of the Talmud accompanying the
first (1903) English translation of the Babylonian Talmud by "Rodkinson"
(M. Levi Frumkin)
The Encyclopedia Judaica, Vol. 10, (1971) relates the following about
the Khazars (Chazars): "KHAZARS, a national group of general Turkic type,
independent and sovereign in Eastern Europe between the seventh and tenth
centuries A.D. During part of this time the leading Khazars professed Judaism.
The name is frequently pronounced with an a-vowel, as in the Greek Xazapot
and Arabic Khazar (Hazar), but there are traces of a different pronunciation
in Hebrew (Kuzari, pl. Kuzarim). Greek (Xorztpoi), and Chinese (K'o-sa).
The name has been explained as having derived from Turkish gazmak, or from
quz ('side of mountain exposed to the north'). The latter etymology would
account for the o/u-vowel in some forms of the name, for which no satisfactory
explanation has been given.
The Origin of the Khazars. The Khazars, a Turkic
stock, originally nomadic, reached the Volga-Caucasus region from farther
east at some time not easily determinable. They may have belonged to the
empire of the Huns (fifth century A.D.) as the Akatzirs, mentioned by Priscus.
This name is said to be equivalent to Aq-Khazar, i.e., White Khazars, as
opposed to the Qara-Khazar or Black Khazars mentioned by al-Istakhri. The
Khazars probably belonged to the West Turkish Empire (from 552 A.D.), and
they may have marched with Sinjibu (Istami), the first Khaqan of the West
Turks, against the Sassanid (Persian) fortress of Sul or Darband.
In the time of Procopius (sixth century) the
region immediately north of the Caucasus was held by the Sabirs, who are
referred to by Jordances as one of the two great branches of the Huns.
Mas'udi (tenth century A.D.) says that the Khazars are called in Turkish,
In 627 'the Turks from the East whom they call
Khazars' under their chief Ziebel passed the Caspian Gates (Darband) and
joined Heraclius at the siege of Tiflis. In view of what is known of a
dual kingship among the Khazars, it would be natural to assume that Ziebel,
described by Theophanes as 'second in rank to the khaqan,' was the subordinate
Khazar king or beg.
However, there are grounds for thinking that
Ziebel stands for yabgu, a Turkish title - in the parallel Armenian account
he is called Jebu Khaqan and that he is T'ung-ye-hu, He-hu Khagan, the
paramount ruler of the West Turks, who is represented as second in rank
to 'the King of the North, the lord of the whole world,' i.e., the supreme
khaqan of the Turks. In the narratives of Theophanes and Moses of Kalankatuk
respectively, the Khazars are also called Turks and Huns.
From 681 A.D. we hear much in the latter author
of the Huns of Varach'an (Warathan), north of Darband, who evidently formed
part of a Khazar confederation or empire. Their prince Alp Hutver was often
in attendance on the Khazar khaqan and was converted to Christianity by
an Albanian bishop.
It will be seen that the question of the precise
racial affinities of the Khazars is not readily solved. There appears to
be insufficient evidence to warrant the conclusion of K. Czegledy that
the Khazars were of Sabir origin and distinct from the Caucasian Huns and
West Turks, since it is not known how far these ethnic names mean the same
Consolidation of the Khazar State. According
to Theophanes, the ruler of the Bulgars in the region of the Kuban River
(West Caucasus) died 650 A.D. leaving five sons of whom only the eldest
brother remained in his inheritance, while the others moved further west,
as far as the Danube. On this, the Khazars, described as a 'great nation...from
the interior of Berzilia in the First Sarmatia,' emerged and took possession
of the territory as far as the Black Sea. The change of position was completed
by 679, when one of the brothers crossed the Danube and conquered present-day
Bulgaria. Earlier than this, in 576 A.D. a West Turkish force had been
present at the siege of Bosporus (Kerch) in the Crimea (Menander Protector,
ed. Bonn, 404), but hitherto there is no mention of the Khazars as such
so far to the west. The advance of the Khazars to the Black Sea and Crimea
area appears to be mentioned also in the Reply of Joseph, where a great
Khazar victory over the W-n-nt-r is referred to. A people north of the
Khazars called W-n-nd-r is mentioned in the Hudud al-lam.
Both names are best explained as corresponding
to Onogundur, an old name in Greek sources for the Bulgars. The advent
of the Khazars on the Black Sea was clearly of great consequence for the
future, for they now came within the sphere of Greek political and cultural
influence. By 700 A.D. for earlier there were Khazar officials in Bosporus
and Phanagoria. Henceforth the Crimea, as well as the Volga and the Caucasus,
came to be specially associated with the Khazars, and a further way westward
was opened for them toward both Kiev and the Slav lands via the Dnieper.
Arabs and Khazars had already been in conflict
on the line of the Caucasus first Arab-Khazar war, 642-652 A.D. Bab al-Abwab
at the eastern end of the range was occupied by the Arabs in 22 (643) A.H.
In the same year the caliph Omar sent instructions to advance northward.
Though the Arabs attacked Balanjar repeatedly, they were unable to take
The defeat and death of the Arab general at
the close of the first phase of Arab-Khazar relations. According to Muvudi,
the Khazar capital was at this time moved from Samandar to Atil, but he
says elsewhere that Balanjar was the former capital.
Further Relations with Byzantium and the Arabs.
After the exile of Justinian II to the Crimea in 695, the Khazars on several
occasions played an important, even determining, part in Byzantine politics.
Toward 704 the Khaqan helped the emperor at a crucial moment and gave him
his sister Theodora in marriage. Justinian returned to Constantinople to
reign a second time. His successor Bardanes (711-13) was likewise indebted
to the khaqan.
In 732 the emperor Leo the Isurian married
his son, the future Constantine V, to a Khazar princess called in the sources
Irene. The child of this marriage was Leo IV, the Khazar (775-80). It is
to be understood that Irene and Theodora above are baptismal, i.e., not
The second Arab-Khazar war began in 722 or
earlier, and ended in 737 with the defeat of the Khazars by Marwan b. Muhammad
(later Marwan II). The Khazar khaqan is said at this time to have professed
If so, we hear no more about it. Later the Khaqan
was a Jew, as we know from the Arabic geographers Ibn Rustah (290/903),
Istakhri (320/932), Ibn Hauqal (367/977), etc., and it is implied in the
Reply of Joseph that the Beginnings of Khazar Judaism dated as far back
as 112/730, when the Khazars defeated the Arabs south of the Caucasus,
and from the spoils consecrated a tabernacle on the Mosaic mode.
The conversion of the leading Khazars to Judaism
perhaps took place toward 740 A.D. It seems at all events certain that
the Khazars successfully resisted the Arabs for several decades, and that
they were only reduced with difficulty and at a time when the internal
situation of the caliphate prevented the Arabs from exploiting their victory:
Marwan was called away to become the last Umayyad Caliph (744) and to struggle
against ever-growing opposition, until his death in 750 at the hands of
Abbasid soldiers in Egypt.
The dynastic crisis probably saved Khazaria.
At the same time the situation had wider implications, for if Marwan had
been able to hold the Khazar territory permanently, the history of Eastern
Europe might have been very different. The Khazar Double Kingship. This
was a phenomenon found among other Turkic peoples, e.g., the Qara-Khanids,
and not unknown elsewhere; compare the double kingship at Sparta in antiquity,
and the Shogun and Mikado of medieval Japan. How far back the institution
goes among the Khazars cannot be exactly determined.
Ya'qubi (ninth century) speaks of the Khazar
khaqan and his representative (khaltfa) apparently in the sixth century.
Arabic accounts, in Tabari, ibn al-Athir, etc., of the Arab-Khazar wars
afford no precise evidence of the dual kingship, yet the Arabic geographers
regularly mention it. The account of al-Istakhri, written 320/932, is as
follows: 'As to their politics and system of government, their chief is
called khaqan of the Khazars. He is greater than the king of the Khazars
(elsewhere called by al-Istakhri the bak or bak, i.e., beg), except that
the king of the Khazars appoints him. When they wish to appoint this khaqan,
they bring him and throttle him with a piece of silk, till, when his breath
is nearly cut off, they say to him, 'How long do you wish to reign?' and
he says, 'So-and-so many years.' If he dies short of them, well and good.
If not, he is killed when he reaches that year. The khaqanate is valid
among them only in a house of notables. He possesses no right of command
nor of veto, but he is honored, and people prostrate themselves when they
enter his presence...
The khaqanate is in a group of notables who
possess neither sovereignty nor riches. When the chief place comes to one
of them, they appoint him, and do not consider his condition. I have been
informed by a reliable person that he had seen a young man selling bread
in one of the sugs. People said that when their khaqan died, there was
none more deserving of the khaqanate than he, except that he was a Muslim,
and the khaqanate is not conferred on any but a Jew.'
A remarkable parallel to the inauguration ceremony
described by Istakhri is found in a Chinese source on the Turks in the
sixth century A.D. the Chou Shu. Recently the theory of A. Alfoldi that
the double kingship among nomadic peoples corresponds to leadership of
the two wings of the horde has won wide acceptance, but does not apply
particularly well to the Khazars.
Mas'udi had already suspected that the Khazar
khaqan represented a dynasty which had been superseded has suggested that
the khaqan was the representative at the Khazar capital, Atil, of the West
Turks, whom he thinks of as in control of Khazaria. This is not likely
to have been the situation except for a very short time, since the Khazar
capital was not transferred to Atil before the time of the first Arab-Khazar
war (642-652) and the destruction of the West Turkish power took place
Yet the Khazar khaqan may in fact have represented
the West Turk ruling dynasty. This seems to be the view of the tenth-century
Persian work, Hudud al-'Alam, according to which the khaqan of the Khazars
was 'of the descendants of Ansa,' apparently corresponding to Asna, or
Achena, well-known as the ruling family among the Turks. Do-sa (different
from K'o-sa above), the name in Chinese of a sub-tribe of the Uigurs, is
often taken as the equivalent of Khazars. We know that the destruction
of the West Turks was brought about by a coalition of which the Uigurs
formed part. It may therefore be that the convulsions which attended the
breakup of the West Turkish Empire brought forward this section of the
Uigurs, so that, while the khaqan represented the old ruling family, the
Khazar beg, i.e., the effective king, was their representative.
Date of Khazar Conversion to Judaism. This
has already been referred to above (see Bulan and below Khazar Correspondence).
The date of 740 is suggested by converging considerations, namely, the
circumstances of the reported conversion to Islam in 737 and the dating
given by Judah Halevi in the Kuzari (Cosri).
The absence of distinct references to the Judaism
of the Khazars in the biographies of St. Abo of Tiflis, who was in Khazaria
780 A.D. and of Constantine (Cyril), who was there 860, should not be pressed
as proof that the conversion to Judaism took place only later. Mas'udi
states positively that the king of the Khazars became a Jew in the caliphate
of Harun al-Rashid (786-809 A.D.).
This may well refer to the reformation 800
under Obadiah of which the Reply of Joseph speaks. S.P. Tolstov has sought
to explain the Khazar conversion to Judaism as a result of the conquest
of Khwarizm (Khorezm) by the Arab general Muslim ibn Qutayba in 712.
The Khazar Empire. The extent of the territory
ruled by the Khazars has been variously estimated. Thus B.A. Ribakov makes
Khazaria a small territory on the lower courses of the Volga and Don, to
include Sarkil and the Khazar capital (assigning separate localities to
Atil, Khamlij, and al-Bayda', usually taken to be the same place). This
is based principally on the data in the world map of Idrisi, which offers
a somewhat misleading picture of Khazaria. On the other hand, S.P. Tolstov
envisages a Khazaria united with Khwarizm under one ruler to form a single
state, a view for which the evidence is slight.
It must be allowed, however, that at one time
Khazar rule extended westward a long way beyond the Crimea-Caucasus-Volga
region which for the Greek and Arabic sources is Khazaria. The Russian
Primary Chronicle ((1953), 58-59; Chronicle of Nestor, Povest vremennykh
let) reports that at an unspecified date the Polians south of the Middle
Dnieper paid tribute to the Khazars of a sword per hearth, and that in
859 A.D. the Polians, Severians, and Viatichians paid them a white squirrel
skin per hearth. Later these payments in kind ceased to be made, being
evidently replaced by money payments; e.g., the Radimichians paid the Khazars
a shilling or dirham apiece until 885 A.D. according to the Chronicle (61),
and the Viatichians until 964, the same per plowshare. All these peoples
were exposed to attack by any strong forces coming up the valleys of the
Don and Donets from the Khazar territory. Kiev itself was occupied by the
Khazars for some period before 862, but presumably was not built by or
for them, unlike Sarkel or Sarkil on the Don, which on the application
of the khaqan and beg to Emperor Theophilus was constructed by Byzantine
workmen in 833 A.D. All of these territories were to be taken from the
Khazars, some already in the ninth century, by the advancing Russians.
Vipers - Part 52
East of the Volga, in the direction of Khwarizm,
the situation is obscure. Al-Istakhri tells of caravans passing between
Khwarizm and Khazaria, mentioning specifically, Slav, Khazar, and Turkish
slaves and all kinds of furs among the principal merchandise of Khwarizm.
On the other hand, he says that Khwarizm has the nomad Turks (Ghuzz) on
its northern and western frontier, not the Khazars. According to Tolstov,
a 'royal road' led from Khorezm to the Volga, traces of which may be seen
from the air, and he finds in it an indication of the emergence of a great
Khorezmian-Khazar state in the tenth and beginning of the 11th century.
The Extent of Khazar Judaism. While the Khazars were generally known to
their neighbors as Jews, they seem to have had little or no contact with
the central Jewish organization in Iraq, and they tend to be mentioned
less by Rabbanite than by Karaite authors.
This is not to say that the Khazars were Karaites,
a view which has not lacked defenders, at least since the time of A. Firkovich.
Yet such contemporary or nearly contemporary documents as we possess offer
no evidence of the Karaism of the Khazars. On the other hand, it would
seem that the lack of interest in the Khazars on the part of the Jewish
authorities, as reflected in the literary works at our disposal, was due
at least partly to their imperfect adherence to Judaism. This is illustrated
notably in their retention of a number of pagan (shamanist) customs, dating
back to their Turkic past, which are duly noted by the Arabic geographers.
We may here consider the position of H. Baratz that in the oldest Russian
writings of a legal character there are Hebrew, mostly biblical-Talmudic,
elements, and that these go back to Khazar times. Thus the fact that early
Russian codes, including the Zakon sudni liudem ('Law for the Judging of
the People'), contain traces of Mosaic and Talmudic legislation, is due
not to contact with the Catholic West, as has also been maintained, but
to the influence of the Jewish Khazars. This view has been characterized
by a Russian academician (I.V. Yagich) as 'a scarlet thread for everyone
to walk by.' Yet the chances of Khazar influence on Russian codes, in the
form of the introduction of Mosaic and Talmudic elements, clearly become
less if it is demonstrable, as seem to be the case, that Khazar Judaism
was never very strong. The Downfall of Khazaria.
The Reply of Joseph mentions that the Khazars guarded the mouth of the
Volga before 961 A.D. and prevented the Russians from reaching the Caspian.
On several occasions, notably 913 and again in 943, the Russians made raids
down the Volga, passing through Atil.
Later apparently in 965, Khazaria was the object
of a great Russian attack, which was aimed at the Khazar capital and reached
as far as Samandar, as we know from Ibn Hawqal. From this disaster the
Khazars appear to have recovered only partially. Again at this time we
hear of a Khazar khaqan adopting Islam. His motive is said to have been
to secure the help of the people of Khwarizm.
After 965 the Khazars are still mentioned occasionally,
but scarcely for long as an independent people. We cannot use the Cairo
Genizah document published by J. Mann concerning a messianic movement supposedly
in Khazaria in the time of al-Afdal, the great Fatimid vizier who ruled
1094/1121, as proof of continued Khazar existence until this time, since
it has been shown that the movement in question took place in Kurdistan.
Furthermore, Oleg, the same who, according
to the Russian Chronicle, established himself in Tmutorokan in 1083, is
called in a seal of the 11th-12th century 'archon of all Khazaria.' Whatever
is precisely indicated here by 'Khazaria' - e.g. the Khazar country in
the Crimea - such a claim could not have been made prior to 965. We must
therefore see the Khazar state as having subsisted until the second half
of the tenth century, or the 11th century at most. By the 12th century
the Qipchaqs or Cumans (identified also with the Polvtsi) appeared in the
steppes once ruled by the Khazars. At the time of the Mongol invasions
in the 13th century, it was they, not the Khazars, who were in possession.
The Khazar Correspondence. This name is usually
given to what appears as an interchange of letters in Hebrew between Hisdai
ibn Shaprut, a well-known personality of Muslim Spain in the tenth century,
and Joseph, king of the Khazars. M.I. Artamonov includes the Cambridge
Document as well as the Letter of Hisdai and the Reply of Joseph in the
Khazar Correspondence, but this would seem to be contrary to general usage.
The Reply is available in a Long Version and a Short Version. The Correspondence
involves serious critical difficulties, and its authenticity has been much
The Letter of Hisdai begins with a plyut containing
an acrostic which gives his own name and that of Menabem b. Saruq. the
latter presumably acting as Hisdai's secretary and being the author of
the plyut. The prose part, after compliments, refers to the geographical
situation of al-Andalus and Khazaria and describes the natural wealth of
al-Andalus and Hisdai's own position there.
It seems that his interest has been aroused
by his having heard repeatedly that the Khazars are Jews. The Letter mentions
attempts made by Hisdai to get in touch with the Khazar king. He was finally
successful through the instrumentality of two Jews, Mar Saul and Mar Joseph,
who accompanied an embassy which arrived at Cordoba from the 'king of the
G-b-lim, who are the Saqlab.' The Letter of Hisdai was conveyed to the
East by their means, i.e., overland, and eventually was put into the hands
of the Khazar king, according to the Reply, by a certain Jacob or Isaac
b. Eliezer, a Central European Jew.
The tone of the Letter of Hisdai is mostly
one of enquiry, and it invites an answer to questions which range over
a variety of topics: Is there a Jewish kingdom anywhere on earth? How did
the Jews come to Khazaria? In what way did the conversion of the Khazars
take place? Where does the king live? To what tribe does he belong? What
is his method of procession to his place of worship? Does war abrogate
the Sabbath? Has the Khazar king any information about the possible end
of the world? Hisdai mentions that 'Abd al-Rahman III al-Nasir is the reigning
king of al-Andalus.
This gives 961 as the terminus ad quem for
the Letter, with 953-55 as a possible terminus a quo, for in those years
Cordoba was visited by John of Gorz, as envoy of the German emperor Otto
I, who may be the 'king of the G-b-lim, who are the Saqlab' already referred
to. The Reply of Joseph begins by referring to the principal contents of
the Letter and recapitulates a number of its questions. It then relates
the early history of the Khazars, and proceeds to deal at length with the
conversion to Judaism under Bulan. The conversion is initiated by a dream
of Bulan, which he communicates to a certain general among them, apparently
the beg. From the spoils of a Khazar attack on Ardabil, south of the Caucasus,
for which we have the synchronism 730 in the Arabic sources, a tabernacle
on the biblical model is set up.
A religious debate between representatives
of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam is held, after which Bulan and the
principal Khazars accept the religion of Israel. Under a later king, Obadiah,
there was a reform of religion. Synagogues and schools were built, and
the Khazars became familiar with Torah, Mishnah, Talmud, and the liturgy,
i.e., rabbinic Judaism was introduced. Joseph then traces his descent from
Obadiah and gives a description of his country and capital. He refers to
Hisdai's question concerning the end of the age in a somewhat noncommittal
fashion, and finally expresses his desire that Hisdai may come to Khazaria,
which, if a notice in a map of Ibn Hawqal can be trusted, he actually did.
The correspondence has been available since the appearance of the work
Kol Mevasser of Isaac Akrish in or after 1577, and more generally since
the two letters were published by the younger Buxtorf in his edition of
the book Cosri (Kuzdri) of Judah Halevi in 1660.
It is not known what manuscript source was
used by Isaac Akrish; Buxtorf depended on Kol Mevasser. The only known
manuscript of the Correspondence as a whole, containing the Letter of Hisdai
and the Reply of Joseph, is in the library of Christ Church, Oxford. This
manuscript is very similar to the printed text, which, it has been suggested,
is a transcript. There appear to be no special grounds for this opinion,
though the manuscript, which is undated, has no claims to great antiquity.
Nothing is sure about its provenance, but it is thought to have belonged
originally to the celebrated Dr. Fell (1625-1686).
A longer version of the Reply of Joseph was
published by A. Harkavy in 1874, from a manuscript of the Second Firkovich
Collection in the Leningrad Public Library. The Long Version bears no indication
of any alterations or additions, and is supposed to date from the 13th
century. Harkavy, in spite of his very critical attitude to Firkovich,
regarded it as the undoubted original of the Short Version.
It appears impossible to suppose that the Khazar
Correspondence is a fabrication of the 16th century in view of a reference
to it, with the citation of part of the Reply of Joseph, agreeing in general
with the Long Version, in the Sefer ha-Lttim of Judah b. Barzillai al-Bargeloni,
dated between 1090 and 1105, and a similar reference in the Sefer ha-Kabbalah
of Abraham ibn Daud in the 12th century.
It cannot be admitted that these works were
interpolated in the 16th century or later, to support the authenticity.
Nor does it appear at all plausible that the letters forming the Khazar
Correspondence were forgeries of the tenth century, composed with a view
to informing the Jews about the Khazars. It is demonstrable that the literary
style of the Letter of Hisdai differs from that of the Reply of Joseph
in a marked manner.
The classical Hebrew construction of vav conversive
with the imperfect to express the past tense is freely used in the Letter
of Hisdai, actually 48 times as against 14 times when the past tense is
rendered by simple vav with the perfect. In the Reply (L.V.), on the other
hand, vav conversive with the imperfect occurs not more than once or twice,
while the past is expressed by the perfect, occurs in a number of passages
where the wording is different from the Long Version. There is a new proportion
of vav conversive with the imperfect to simple vav with the perfect: 37
to 50. It may therefore be affirmed that there is a separate authorship
for the Letter and the Reply, and assumed that the Long Version of the
Reply, or something very like it, has been worked over by a third hand
to produce the Short Version.
There are grounds for thinking that the Reply
originally was written in a non-Arabic-speaking environment. Most people
would agree with Kokovtsov's cautious statement that as basis for both
versions there is the same original text, in general better preserved in
the Long Version. B.A. Ribakov supposed that an authentic letter of King
Joseph was worked over in Tmutorokan toward the end of the 11th century
('about 1083'), which resulted in the Long Version, and that some time
afterward the text of the Long Version was modified by Jews of Barcelona
to produce the Short Version of the Reply.
Khazar Jews After the Fall of the Kingdom.
The artifacts of the Khazars appear to be scant. A number of sites have
been excavated, and though details of the archaeological activity in Russia
are difficult to obtain the Russians hold a monopoly on digs in ancient
Khazaria. It appears that there have not been any sensational discoveries
to date. No royal burial sites have been unearthed hardly surprising since,
according to Ibn Fadlan, the Khaqans were buried under a stream, and no
inscriptions, public or private.
Prior to 1914 archaeological excavations were
conducted in successive years, especially at Verkhnii Soltov on the Donets.
Since then, scholars have been divided on whether or not Saltov is a Khazar
site. Additional work has been done at Bulghar and at the neighboring town
of Suwar, which was mentioned in al-Istakhri. A tenth-century two-stories
palace, in which many coins were found, was discovered at the latter site,
but this, the only building of a public character which has come to light,
might possibly be Bulgar rather than Khazar.
Belaya (Bela) Vezha, the ancient Sarkii, near
the village of Tsimlyanskaya on the left bank of the lower Dan, has been
the site which has attracted the most interest in recent years. Though
not the Khazar capital, as had been erroneously attested, it was an important
settlement. Nothing specifically Jewish has been found there. Nevertheless,
discoveries analogous to the culture of Saltov and Mayatskoe Gorodishche,
both at least presumed Khazar sites, were unearthed, as well as ceramics
engraved with markings of the type found in the Don inscriptions. No traces
of the fortress constructed by the Greeks for the Khazars have been found.
In spite of the negligible information of an archaeological nature, the
presence of Jewish groups and the impact of Jewish ideas in Eastern Europe
are considerable during the Middle Ages. Groups have been mentioned as
migrating to Central Europe from the East or have been referred to as Khazars,
thus making it impossible to overlook the possibility that they originated
from within the former Khazar Empire. Even though the 12th-century traveler
Benjamin of Tudela did not mention Khazaria as such he did refer to Khazars
in Constantinople and Alexandria. Aside from the Kabars (Khazars) who migrated
earlier to Hungary, the Hungarian duke Taksony (tenth century) is said
to have invited the Khazars to settle in his lands.
In about 1117 Khazars appear to have come to
Vladimir Monomakh, Prince of Kiev, after fleeing from the Cumans, building
a town they named Bela Vezha (near Chernigov). If this assumption is correct,
these Khazars previously lived in Bela Vezha (Sarkil) and then settled
near Chernigov. Prior to this time Jews who were possibly Khazars were
introduced by Svyatopolk into Kiev.
The Khalisioi in the 12th century, who were
mentioned as fighting against Manuel I Comnenus, retained, according to
John Cinnamus, 'The Mosaic laws but Not in Their Pure Form.' As late as
1309 a council of the Hungarian clergy (at Pressburg) forbade Catholics
to marry those people who were at that time described as Khazars; papal
confirmation of this decision was given in 1346. Both the Mountain Jews
and the Karachais seem to be connected with the Khazars of the Caucasus
region. It is also possible that there were Khazar Jews in the Crimea,
which was known to the Italians in the late Middle Ages and perhaps still
later as Gazaria. The Turkish-speaking Karaites of the Crimea, Poland,
and elsewhere have affirmed a connection with the Khazars, which is perhaps
confirmed by evidence from folklore and anthropology as well as language.
There seems to be a considerable amount of evidence attesting to the continued
presence in Europe of descendants of the Khazars. The story of the conversion
of the Khazar king to Judaism formed the basis for Judah Halevi's famous
philosophical dialogue, Kuzari." (Encyclopedia Judaica, Vol. 10 (1971))
Vipers - Part 53
The Dictionary of the Middle Ages states: "RUSSIA, NOMADIC INVASIONS
OF. The Caspian-Black Sea steppelands have long attracted the pastoral
nomads, both Iranian and Altaic (Turko-Mongolian), of central Asia. This
interaction of the nomads with the Finno-Ugrian and eastern Slavic populations
is one of the constant factors in the evolution of these peoples.
Altaic nomads, primarily Turkic, were brought
to the western Eurasian steppes with the migrations of peoples associated
with the formation and expansion of the Hunnic state (fourth century A.D.).
A decade after the Hunnic collapse in 454, new Turkic tribes, the Oghurs,
Onogurs, and related peoples, entered the region and, joining with Hunnic
remnants, gave rise to the Bulgars and other confederations. In the mid
sixth century, the Avars, coming from inner Asia, briefly dominated the
western steppes, only to be replaced by their mortal enemies, the Turks.
The latter created an empire stretching from the borders of China to the
An offshoot and successor state of the Turks
in this territory was the Khazar Kaganate (650-965). Rulled, apparently,
by a dynasty of Turkic origin, the Khazars continued the pattern of cooperation
with Byzantium established by their Turkic predecessors. This alliance,
initially directed against Sasanian Iran, continued with the appearance
of the Arabs in the Caucasus. Arabo-Khazar warfare began in 652 and lasted,
with brief interludes, for almost a century. Following the victory of the
Umayyad general Marwan in 737, the north Caucasus became the border between
the two empires.
In the late eighth to early ninth centuries,
the Khazar ruling strata and elements of the leading clans and tribes converted
to Judaism. The conversion, never fully elucidated in the surviving sources
and still the subject of much speculation, provided a necessary autonomy
in relations with Byzantium and the caliphate. Islam, Christianity, and
paganism, however, continued to flourish alongside of Judaism.
Atil, the Khazar capital on the lower Volga,
became a major commercial center with a large, polyglot population. Khazar
government closely followed the usages of its Turk progenitor. A particular
development, known to other Turkic states, was the transformation of the
Kagan into a religio-sacral figurehead while actual direction of the state
was placed in the hands of a deputy (called variously the shad, yilig,
Khazaria served as Byzantium's first line of
defense against nomadic incursions. In the ninth century, however, its
power was weakened by foreign invaders (Hungarians and Pechenegs) and internal
strife (the Kabar revolt). By the tenth century, the Khazars were no longer
able to contain the steppe pressures. Byzantine policy, which now sought
to turn 'barbarian' against 'barbarian,' only exacerbated the situation.
In 965, Svyatoslav of Kiev, responding to Khazar attempts to curb Russians
raiding via Khazaria into the Caspian Islamic lands, and delivered the
fatal blow. A now greatly reduced Khazaria lingered on as a Khwarizmian
protectorate. More importantly, the barrier to westward steppe incursions
had been removed, thus contributing to those events that culminated in
the Byzantine disaster at Manazkert.
The Hungarians and the Pechenegs were the nomads
disturbing Khazaria in the ninth century. The Hungarian tribal union, consisting
of Ugrian and Oghur Turkic elements, had been pushed westward from their
Uralo-Bashkir homeland by repeated assaults from the Pechenegs. The latter,
a Turkic tribal union formerly located in the Kang area, were in conflict
with the Oghuz Turks, who had entered central Asia about 775.
When Khazaria weakened, the Pechenegs, under
Oghuz pressure, migrated from the Volga-Ural Mesopotamia and entered the
Pontic steppes in the early tenth century. Here, they were used by Byzantium
to check the Rus, (for instance, in the ambush and killing of Svyatoslav
in 972). The ongoing Pecheneg- Rus struggle, frequently little more than
localized raiding, prompted Svyatoslav's son Vladimir I (980-1015) to create
a series of fortifications on his southern frontiers to contain the nomads.
In 1036, however, the Pechenegs made a serious
attempt on Kiev. Decisively defeated by Yaroslav (1036-1054) and still
faced with Oghur pressure, they now migrated toward the Byzantine Balkan
holdings. Subsequently, in 1091, masses of them were slaughtered there
by joint Byzantine-Cuman forces. The Oghuz, involved in central Asian political
turbulence and themselves under great internal pressures in part reflected
in the Seljuk movement, were also caught up in the migration of yet another
mass of Turkic tribesmen from the east (the Cuman-Qun migration, 1017-1018).
While many Oghuz entered Iran under Seljuk leadership, others appeared
in the Pontic steppes after 965 (they aided Svyatoslav in his Khazar campaign).
More followed by the mid eleventh century,
when the full impact Cuman movements was felt. The Torki (Oghuz-Rus) appear
in considerable numbers in 1054-1055, just ahead of the Cuman advance.
They were then defeated by the Rus and again suffered defeat in 1060. Like
the Pechenegs, they migrated to the Byzantine borders (1064-1065). Those
remaining in the steppe were joined with remnants of the Pechenegs and
other nomads to form, ultimately the Chernye Klobuki (Russian: Black
Hoods), the Turkic border guards of the Kievan princes.
The dominant steppe people from the mid eleventh
century until the Mongol conquest was the Cuman/Kipchak tribal union, whose
immediate antecedents are still much in dispute. The Cuman steppe (Russian:
Pole Polovetskoe; Persian: Dasht-iQipchaq) extended from the Danube to
kazakhtan. Although they periodically raided Byzantine lands, supported
the Asenids in the creation of the Second Bulgarian Empire, and helped
Georgia to withstand the Seljuks, they most frequently enmeshed themselves
in the domestic squabbles of their closest neighbors, the Rus. Warfare
here, however, complicated by a variety of marital and military alliances,
tended to be on a small scale and never assumed the aspect of a life-and-death
struggle. Rus political fragmentation was almost matched in Cumania. The
efforts of Konchak khan and his son Yurii to unite the Cuman sub- confederations
in the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries were undone by the Mongol
conquest in 1237. The Mongols reorganized the Cumans (now called Tatars),
but the latter quickly Turkicized the resultant Golden Horde.
Some Cumans fled to Hungary, where they settled
in regions that now bear their name. Others were sold on the steppe as
military slaves in the Islamic world, where they seized power from the
Ayyubids (Egypt/Syria) and formed their own state in 1250, that of the
Mamluks." (Dictionary of the Middle Ages, Vol. 10)
The Conversion of the Khazars to Judaism: "'The religion of the Hebrews,'
writes Bury, 'had exercised a profound influence on the creed of Islam,
and it (has been falsely said) been a basis for Christianity; it had won
scattered proselytes; but the conversion of the Khazars to be undiluted
religion of Jehovah is unique in history.' (Bury, p. 401)
What was the motivation of this unique event?
It is not easy to get under the skin of a Khazar prince - covered, as it
was, by a coat of mail. But if we reason in terms of power-politics, which
obeys essentially the same rules throughout the ages, a fairly plausible
analogy offers itself.
At the beginning of the eighth century the
world was polarized between the two super-powers representing Christianity
and Islam. Their ideological doctrines were welded to power-politics pursued
by the classical methods of ropaganda, subversion and military conquest.
The Khazar Empire represented a Third Force, which had proved equal to
either of them, both as an adversary and an ally. But it could only maintain
its independence by accepting neither Christianity nor Islam - for either
choice would have automatically subordinated it to the authority of the
Roman Emperor or the Caliph of Baghdad.
There had been no lack of efforts by either
court to convert the Khazars to Christianity or Islam, but all they resulted
in was the exchange of diplomatic courtesies, dynastic inter-marriages
and shifting military alliances based on mutual self-interest. Relying
on its military strength, the Khazar kingdom, with its hinterland of vassal
tribes, was determined to preserve its position as the Third Force, leader
of the uncommitted nations of the steppes.
At the same time, their intimate contacts with
Cyzantium and the Caliphate had taught the Khazars that their primitive
shamanism was not only barbaric and outdated compared to the great monotheistic
creeds, but also unable to confer on the leaders the spiritual and legal
authority which the rulers of the two theocratic world powers, the Caliph
and the Emperor, enjoyed. Yet the conversion to either creed would have
meant submission, the end of independence, and thus would have defeated
its purpose. What could have been more logical than to embrace a third
creed, which was uncommitted towards either of the two, yet represented
the venerable foundation of both?
The apparent logic of the decision is of course
due to the deceptive clarity of hindsight. In reality, the conversion to
Judaism required an act of genius. Yet both the Arab and Hebrew sources
on the history of the conversion, however varied in detail, point to a
line of reasoning as indicated above.
To quote Bury once more: 'There can be no question
hat the ruler was actuated by political motives in adopting Judaism. To
embrace Mohammadanism would have made him the spiritual dependent of the
Caliphs, who attempted to press their faith on the Khazars, and in Christianity
lay the danger of his becoming an ecclesiastical vassal of the Roman Empire.
Judaism was a reputable religion with sacred books which both Christian
and Mohammadan respected; it elevated him above the heathen barbarians,
and secured him against the interference of Caliph or Emperor. But he did
not adopt, along with circumcision, the intolerance of the Jewish cult.
He allowed the mass of his people to abide in their heathendom and worship
Though the Khazar court's conversion was no
doubt politically motivated, it would still be absurd to imagine that they
embraced overnight, blindly, a religion whose tenets were unknown to them.
In fact, however, they had been well acquainted with Jews and their religious
observances for at least a century before bibliography written 987, A.D.,
Informs us that in his time the Khazars used the Hebrew alphabet. It served
the dual purpose of scholarly discourse in Hebrew (analogous to the use
of medieval Latin in the West) and as a written alphabet for the various
languages spoken in Khazaria (analogous to the use of the Latin alphabet
for the various vernaculars in Western Europe).
From Khazaria the Hebrew script seemed to have
spread into neighboring countries. Thus Chwolson reports that 'inscriptions
in a non-Semitic language (or possibly in two different non-Semitic languages)
using Hebrew characters were found on two gravestones from Phanagoria and
Parthenit in the Crimea; they have not been deciphered yet.' (These inscriptions
are a category apart from the forgeries of Frikovitch, notorious among
historians) (The Crimea was, as we have seen, intermittently under Khazar
rule; but it also had an old-established Jewish community, and the inscriptions
may even pre-date the conversion). Some Hebrew letters (shin and tsadei)
also found their way into the Cyrillic alphabet, and furthermore, many
Polish silver coins have been found, dating from the twelfth or thirteenth
century, which bear Polish inscriptions in Hebrew lettering (e.g., Leszek
krol Polski - Leszek King of Poland), side by side with coins inscribed
in the Latin alphabet. Poliak comments: 'These coins are the final evidence
for the spreading of the Hebrew script from Khazaria to the neighboring
Slavonic countries. The use of these coins was not related to any question
of religion. They were minted because many of the Polish people were more
used to this type of script than to the Roman script, not considering it
as specifically Jewish.'
Thus while the conversion was no doubt inspired
by opportunistic motives - conceived as a cunning political manouvre -
it brought in its wake cultural developments which could hardly have been
foreseen by those who started it. The Hebrew alphabet was the beginning;
three centuries later the decline of the Khazar state is marked by repeated
outbreaks of a messianic Zionism, with pseudo-Messiahs like David El-Roi
(hero of a novel by Disraeli) leading quixotic crusades for the re-conquest
After the defeat by the Arabs in 737, the Kagan's
forced adoption of Islam had been a formality almost instantly revoked,
which apparently left no impression on his people. In contrast to this,
the voluntary conversion to Judaism was to produce deep and lasting effects.
The circumstances of the conversion are obscured by legend, but the principal
Arab and Hebrew accounts of it have some basic features in common.
Al-Masudi's account of the Jewish rule in Khazaria,
quoted earlier on, ends with a reference to a previous work of his, in
which he gave a description of those circumstances. That previous work
of Masudi's is lost; but there exist two accounts which are based on the
lost book. The first, by Dimaski (written in 1327), reiterates that at
the time of Harun al Rashid, the Byzantine Emperor forced the Jews to emigrate;
these emigrants came to the Khazar country where they found 'an intelligent
but uneducated race to whom they offered their religion. The natives found
it better than their own and accepted it.'
The second, much more detailed account is in
al-bakri's Book of Kingdoms and Roads (eleventh century): 'The reason for
the conversion to Judaism of the King of the Khazars, who had previously
been a pagan, is as follows. He had adopted Christianity (No other source,
as far as I know, mentions this. It may be a substitution more palatable
to Muslim readers for the Kagan's short-lived adoption of Islam prior to
Judaism - Author) Then he recognized its falsehood and discussed this matter,
which greatly worried him, with one of his high officials. The latter said
to him: O king, those in possession of sacred scriptures fall into three
groups. Summon them and ask them to state their case, then follow the one
who is in possession of the truth.
So he sent to the Christians for a bishop.
Now there was with the King a Jew, skilled in argument, who engaged him
in disputation. He asked the Bishop: 'What do you say of Moses, the son
of Amran, and the Torah which was revealed to him?' The Bishop replied:
'Moses is a prophet and the Torah speaks the truth.' Then the Jew
said to the King: 'He has already admitted the truth of my creed. Ask him
now what he believes in.' So the King asked him and he replied: 'I say
that Jesus the Messiah is the son of Mary, he is the Word, and he has revealed
the mysteries in the name of God.' Then said the Jew to the King of the
Khazars: 'He preaches a doctrine which I know not, while he accepts my
propositions.' But the Bishop was not strong in producing evidence. Then
the King asked for a Muslim, and they sent him a scholarly,
clever man who was good at arguments. But the Jew hired someone who poisoned
him on the journey, and he died. And the Jew succeeded in winning the King
for his faith, so that he embraced Judaism.'
The Arab historians certainly had a gift for
sugaring the pill. Had the Muslim scholar been able to participate in the
debate he would have fallen into the same trap as the Bishop, for both
accepted the truth of the Old Testament, whereas the upholders of the New
Testament and of the Koran were each outvoted two to one. The King's approval
of this reasoning is symbolic: he is only willing to accept doctrines which
are shared by all three - their common denominator - and refuses to commit
himself to any of the rival claims which go beyond that. It is once more
the principle of the uncommitted world, applied to theology. The story
also implies, as Bury has pointed out, that Jewish influence at the Khazar
court must already have been strong before the formal conversion, for the
Bishop and the Muslim scholar have to be 'sent for,' whereas the
Jew is already 'with him' (the King).
We now turn from the principal Arab source
on the conversion - Masudi and his compilers - to the principal Jewish
source. This is the so-called 'Khazar Correspondence': an exchange of letters,
in Hebrew, between Hasdai Ibn Shaprut, the Jewish chief minister of the
Caliph of Cordoba, and Joseph, King of the Khazars, or, rather between
their respective scribes. The authenticity of the correspondence has been
the subject of controversy but is now generally accepted with due allowance
made for the vagaries of later copyists.
The Khazar Correspondence
The exchange of letters between the Spanish
statesman Hasdai ibn Shaprut and King Joseph of Khazaria has for a long
time fascinated historians. It is true that, as Dunlop wrote, 'the importance
of the Khazar Correspondence can be exaggerated. By this time it is possible
to reconstruct Khazar history in some detail without recourse to the letters
of Hasdai and Joseph.' Nevertheless, the reader may be interested in a
brief outline of what is known of the history of these documents.
Hasdai's Letter was apparently written between
954 and 961, fro the embassy from Eastern Europe that he mentions is believed
to have visited Cordoba in 954, and Caliph Abd-al-Rahman, whom he mentions
as his sovereign, ruled till 961. That the Letter was actually penned by
Hasdai's secretary, Menahem ben-Sharuk, whose name appears in the acrostic
after Hasdai's, has been established by Landau, through comparison with
Menachem's other surviving work. Thus the authenticity of Hasdai's Letter
is no longer in dispute, while the evidence concerning Joseph's Reply is
necessarily more indirect and complex.
The earliest known mentions of the Correspondence
date from the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Around the year 1100 Rabbi
Jehuda ben Barzillai of Barcelona wrote in Hebrew his 'Book of the Festivals'
- Sefer ha-Ittim - which contains a long reference, including direct quotations,
to Joseph's Reply to Hasdai. The passage in question in Barzillai's work
starts as follows; 'We have seen among some other manuscripts the copy
of a letter which King Joseph, son of Aaron, the Khazar priest wrote to
R. Hasdai bar Isaac. (Hasdai's name in Hebrew was bar Isaac bar Shaprut,
The R (for Rabbi) is a courtesy title). We do not know if the letter is
genuine or not, and if it is a fact that the Khazars, who are Turks, became
proselytes. It is not definite whether all that is written in the
letter is fact and truth or not. There may be falsehoods written in it,
or people may have added to it, or there may be error on the part of the
scribe...The reason why we need to write in this our book things which
seem to be exaggerated is that we have found in the letter of this king
Joseph to R. Hasdai that R. Hasdai had asked him of what family he was,
the condition of the king, how his fathers had been gathered under the
wings of the Presence (i.e., become converted to Judaism) and how great
were his kingdom and dominion. He replied to him on every head, writing
all the particulars in the letter.'
Barzillai goes on to quote or paraphrase further
passages from Joseph's Reply, thus leaving no doubt that the Reply was
already in existence as early as A.D. 1100. A particularly convincing touch
is added by the Rabbi's scholarly skepticism. Living in provincial Barcelona,
he evidently knew little or nothing about the Khazars.
Vipers - Part 54
About the time when Rabbi Barzillai wrote,
the Arab chronicler, Ibn Hawkal, also heard some rumors about Hasdai's
involvement with the Khazars. There survives an enigmatic note, which Ibn
Hawkal jotted down on a manuscript map, dated A. D. 479 - A.D. 1086. It
says: 'Hasdai ibn-Ishaq (Arab version of Hasdai's name) thinks that this
great long mountain (the Caucasus) is connected with the mountains of Armenia
and traverses the country of the Greeks, extending to Khazaran and the
mountains of Armenia. He was well informed about these parts because he
visited them and met their principal kings and leading men.'
It seems most unlikely that Hasdai actually
visited Khazaria; but we remember that he offered to do so in his Letter,
and that Joseph enthusiastically welcomed the prospect in the Reply; perhaps
the industrious Hawkal heard some gossip about the Correspondence and extrapolated
from there, a practice not unfamiliar among the chroniclers of the
Some fifty years later (A.D. 1140) jehudah
Halevi wrote his philosophical tract 'The Khazars' (Kuzri). As already
said, it contains little factual information, but his account of the Khazar
conversion to Judaism agrees in broad outlines with that given by Joseph
in the Reply. Halevi does not explicitly refer to the Correspondence, but
his book is mainly concerned with theology, disregarding any historical
or factual references. He had probably read a transcript of the Correspondence
as the less erudite Barzillai had before him, but the evidence is inconclusive.
It is entirely conclusive, however, in the
case of Abraham ben Daud whose popular Sefer ha-Kabbalah, written in 1161,
contains the following passage: 'You will find congregations of Israel
spread abroad from the town of Mala at the extremity of the Maghrib,
as far as Tahart at its commencement, the extremity of Africa, in all Africa,
Egypt, the country of the Sabaeans, Arabia, Babylonia, Elam, Persia, Dedan,
the country of the Girgashites which is called Jurjan, Tabaristan, as far
as Daylam and the river Itil where live the Khazar peoples who become proselytes.
Their king Joseph sent a letter to R. Hasdai, the Prince bar Isaac ben-Shaprut
and informed him that he and all his people followed the Rabbanite faith.
We have seen in Toledo some of their descendants, pupils of the wise,
and they told us that the remnant of them followed the Rabbanite faith.'
The first printed version of the Khazar Correspondence
is contained in a Hebrew pamphlet, Kol Mebasser, 'Voice of the Messenger
of Good News.' (Two copies of the pamphlet belonging to two different editions
are preserved in the Bodleian Library) It was published in Constantinople
in or around 1577 by Isaac Abraham Akrish. In his preface Akrish relates
that during his travels in Egypt fifteen years earlier he had heard rumors
of an independent Jewish kingdom (these rumors probably referred to the
Falashas of Abyssinia); and that subsequently he obtained 'a letter which
was sent to the king of the Khazars, and the king's reply.' He then decided
to publish this correspondence in order to raise the spirits of his fellow
Jews. Whether or not he thought that Khazaria still existed is not clear.
At any rate the preface is followed by the text of the two letters, without
But the Correspondence did not remain buried
in Akrish's obscure little pamphlet. Some sixty years after its publication,
a copy of it was sent by a friend to Johannes Buxtorf the Younger, a Calvinist
scholar of great erudition. Buxtorf was an expert Hebraist, who published
a great amount of studies in biblical exegesis and rabbinical literature.
When he read Akrish's pamphlet, he was at first as skeptical regarding
the authenticity of the Correspondence as Rabbi Barzillai had been five
hundred years before him. But in 1660 buxtorf finally printed the text
of both letters in Hebrew and in a Latin translation as an addendum to
Jehudah Halevi's book on the Khazars. It was perhaps an obvious, but not
a happy idea, for the inclusion, within the same covers, of Halevi's
legendary tale hardly predisposed historians to take the Correspondence
seriously. It was only in the nineteenth century that their attitude changed,
when more became known, from independent sources, about the Khazars.
The only manuscript version which contains
both Hasdai's Letter and Joseph's Reply, is in the library of Christ Church
in Oxford. According to Dunlop and the Russian expert, Kokovtsov, the manuscript
'presents a remarkably close similarity to the printed text' and 'served
directly or indirectly as a source of the printed text.' It probably dates
from the sixteenth century and is believed to have been in the possession
of the Dean of Christ Church, John Fell (whom Thomas Brown immortalized
with his 'I do not love thee, Dr. Fell...').
Another manuscript containing Joseph's Reply
but not Hasdai's Letter is preserved in the Leningrad Public Library. It
is considerably longer than the printed text of Akrish and the Christ Church
manuscript; accordingly it is generally know as the Long Version, as distinct
from the Akrish-Christ Church 'Short Version,' which appears to be an abbreviation
of it. The Long Version is also considerably older; it probably dates from
the thirteenth century, the Short Version from the sixteenth. The Soviet
historian Rabakov has plausibly suggested that the Long Version, or an
even older text, had been edited and compressed by medieval Spanish copyists
to produce the Short Version of Joseph's Reply.
At this point we encounter a red herring across
the ancient track. The Long Version is part of the so-called 'Firkowich
Collection' of Hebrew manuscripts and epitaphs in the Leningrad Public
Library. It probably came from the Cairo Geniza, where a major part of
the manuscripts in the Collection originated. Abraham Firkowich was a colorful
nineteenth-century scholar who would deserve an Appendix all to himself.
He was a great authority in his field, but he was also a Karaite zealot
who wished to prove to the Tsarist government that the karaites were different
from orthodox Jews and should not be discriminated against by Christians.
With this laudable purpose in mind, he doctored some of his authentic old
manuscripts and epitaphs, by interpolating or adding a few words to give
them a Karaite slant.
Thus the Long Version, having passed through
the hands of Firkowich, was greeted with a certain mistrust when it was
found, after his death, in a bundle of other manuscripts in his collection
by the Russian historian Harkavy. Harkavy had no illusions about Firkowich's
reliability, for he himself had previously denounced some of Firkowich's
spurious interpolations. Yet Harkavy had no doubts regarding the antiquity
of the manuscript; he published it in the original Hebrew in 1879 and also
in Russian and German translations, accepting it as an early version of
Joseph's letter, from which the Short Version was derived. harkavy's colleague
(and rival) Chwolson concurred that the whole document was written by the
same hand and that it contained no additions of any kind. Lastly, in 1932,
the Russian Academy published Paul Kokovtsov's authoritative book, The
Hebrew-Khazar Correspondence in the Tenth Century, including facsimiles
of the Long Version of the Reply in the Leningrad Library, the Short Version
in Christ Church and in Akrish's pamphlet. After a critical analysis of
the three texts, he came to the conclusion that both the Long and the Short
Versions are based on the same original text, which is in general, though
not always, more faithfully preserved in the Long Version.
Kokovtsov's critical survey, and particularly
his publication of the manuscript facsimiles, virtually settled the controversy,
which, anyway, affected only the Long Version, but not Hasdai's letter
and the Short Version of the Reply.
Yet a voice of dissent was raised from an unexpected
quarter. In 1941 Poliak advanced the theory that the Khazar Correspondence
was, not exactly a forgery, but a fictional work written in the tenth century
with the purpose of spreading information about, or making propaganda for,
the Jewish kingdom. (It could not have been written later than the eleventh
century, for, as we have seen, Rabbi Barzillai read the Correspondence
about 1100, and Ibn Daud quoted from it in 1161). But this theory, plausible
at first glace, was effectively demolished by Landau and Dunlop. Landau
was able to prove that Hasdai's Letter was indeed written by his secretary
Menahem ben-Sharuk. And Dunlop pointed out that in the Letter Hasdai asks
a number of questions about Khazaria which Joseph fails to answer, which
is certainly not the way to write an information pamphlet: 'There is no
answer forthcoming on the part of Joseph to enquiries as to his method
of procession to his place of worship, and as to whether war abrogates
There is a marked absence of correspondence
between questions of the Letter and answers given in the Reply. This should
probably be regarded as an indication that the documents are what they
purport to be and not a literary invention.' (History of the Russian Jews,
Dunlop, p. 143)
Dunlop goes on to ask a pertinent question:
'Why the Letter of Hasdai at all, which, though considerably longer than
the Reply of Joseph, has very little indeed about the Khazars, if the purpose
of writing it and the Reply was, as Poliak supposes, simply to give a popular
account of Khazaria? If the Letter is an introduction to the information
about the Khazars in the Reply, it is certainly a very curious one, full
of facts about Spain and the Umayyads which have nothing to do with Khazaria.'
Dunlop then clinches the argument by a linguistic
test which proves conclusively that the Letter and the Reply were written
by different people. The proof concerns one of the marked characteristics
of Hebrew grammar, the use of the so-called 'waw-conversive,' to define
tense. I shall not attempt to explain this intricate grammatical quirk,
and shall instead simply quote Dunlop's tabulation of the different methods
used in the Letter and in the Long Version to designate past action:
Waw Conversive Simple Waw with
Imperfect with Perfect
Reply (Long Version) 1
In the Short Version of the Reply, the first
method (Hasdai's) is used thirty-seven times, the second fifty times. But
the Short Version uses the first method mostly in passages where the wording
differs from the Long Version. Dunlop suggests that this is due to later
Spanish editors paraphrasing the Long Version. He also points out that
Hasdai's Letter, written in Moorish Spain, contains many Arabisms (for
instance, al-khazar for the Khazars), whereas the Reply has none. Lastly,
concerning the general tenor of the Correspondence, he says: '...
Nothing decisive appears to have been alleged
against the factual contents of the Reply of Joseph in its more original
form, the Long Version. The stylistic difference supports its authenticity.
It is what might be expected in documents emanating from widely separated
parts of the Jewish world, where also the level of culture was by no means
the same. It is perhaps allowable here to record the impression, for what
it is worth, that in general the language of the Reply is less artificial,
more naive, than that of the Letter.'
To sum up, it is difficult to understand why
past historians were so reluctant to believe that the Khazar Kagan was
capable of dictating a letter, though it was known that he corresponded
with the Byzantine Emperor (we remember the seals of three solidi); or
that pious Jews in Spain and Egypt should have diligently copied and preserved
a message from the only Jewish king since biblical times.
The exchange of letter apparently took place
after 954 and before 961, that is roughly at the time when Masudi wrote.
To appreciate its significance a word must be said about the personality
of Hasdai Ibn Shaprut - perhaps the most brilliant figure in the 'Golden
Age' (900-1200) of the Jews in Spain.
In 1929, Abd-al-Rahmah III, a member of the
Omayad dynasty, succeeded in unifying the Moorish possessions in the southern
and central parts of the Iberian peninsula under his rule, and founded
the Western Caliphate. His capital, Cordoba, became the glory of Arab Spain,
and a focal center of European culture - with a library of 400,000 cataloged
Hasdai, born 910 in Cordoba into a distinguished
Jewish family, first attracted the Caliph's attention as a medical practitioner
with some remarkable cures to his credit. Abd-al-Rahman appointed him his
court physician, and trusted his judgment so completely that Hasdai was
called upon, first, to put the state finances in order, then to act as
Foreign Minister and diplomatic trouble-shooter in the new Caliphate's
complex dealings with Byzantium, the German Emperor Otto, with Castile,
Navarra, Arragon and other Christian kingdoms in the north of Spain. Hasdai
was a true uomo universale centuries before the Renaissance who, in between
affairs of state, still found the time to translate medical books into
Arabic, to correspond with the learned rabbis of Baghdad and to act as
a Maecenas for Hebrew grammarians and poets.
He obviously was an enlightened, yet a devoted
Jew, who used his diplomatic contacts to gather information about the Jewish
communities dispersed in various parts of the world, and to intervene on
their behalf whenever possible. He was particularly concerned about the
persecution of Jews in the Byzantine Empire under Romanus. Fortunately,
he wielded considerable influence at the Byzantine court, which was vitally
interested in procuring the benevolent neutrality of Cordoba during the
Byzantine campaigns against the Muslims of the East. Hasdai, who was conducting
the negotiations, used this opportunity to intercede on behalf of Byzantine
Jewry, apparently with success.
According to his own account, Hasdai first
heard of the existence of an independent Jewish kingdom from some merchant
traders from Khurasan in Persia; but he doubted the truth of their story.
Later he questioned the members of a Byzantine diplomatic mission to Cordoba,
and they confirmed the merchants' account, contributing a considerable
amount of factual detail about the Khazar kingdom, including the name,
Joseph, of its present King. Thereupon Hasdai decided to send couriers
with a letter to King Joseph.
The letter contains a list of questions about
the Khazar state, its people, method of government, armed forces,
and so on, including an inquiry to which of the twelve tribes Joseph belonged.
This seems to indicate that Hasdai thought the Jewish Khazars to hail from
Palestine, as the Spanish Jews did, and perhaps even to represent one of
the Lost Tribes. Joseph, not being of Jewish descent, belonged, of course,
To None of the Tribes (of Israel); in his Reply to Hasdai, he provides,
as we shall see, a genealogy of a different kind, but his main concern
is to give Hasdai a detailed, if legendary, account of the conversion,
which took place two centuries earlier, and the circumstances that led
Joseph's narrative starts with the eulogy of
his ancestor, King Bulan, a great conqueror and a wise man who 'drove out
the sorcerers and idolaters form his land.' Subsequently an angel appeared
to King Bulan in his dreams, exhorting him to worship the only true God,
and promising that in exchange He would 'bless and multiply Bulan's offspring,
and deliver his enemies into his hands, and make his kingdom last to the
end of the world.' This, of course, is inspired by the story of the Covenant
in Genesis; and it implies that the Khazars too Claimed the Status of a
Chosen Race, who made their own Covenant with the Lord, even though They
(Khazars) were not descended from Abraham's Seed. But at this point Joseph's
story takes an unexpected turn. King Bulan is quite willing to serve the
Almighty, but he raises a difficulty: 'Thou knowest, my Lord, the
secret thoughts of my heart and thou has searched my kidneys to confirm
that my trust is in thee; but the people over which I rule have a pagan
mind and I do not know whether they will believe me. If I have found favor
and mercy in thine eyes, then I beseech thee to appear also to their Great
Prince, to make him support me.
The Eternal One granted Bulan's request, he
appeared to this Prince in a dream, and when he arose in the morning he
came to the King and made it known to him...' There is nothing in Genesis,
nor in the Arab accounts of the conversion, about a great prince whose
consent has to be obtained. It is an unmistakable reference to the Khazar
double kingship. The 'Great Prince,' apparently, is the Bek; but it is
not impossible that the 'King' was the Bek, and the 'Prince' the Kagan.
Moreover according to Arab and Armenian sources, the leader of the Khazar
army which invaded Transcaucasia in 731 (i.e., a few years before the presumed
date of the conversion) was called 'Bulkhan.'
Joseph's letter continues by relating how the
angel appeared once more to the dreaming King and bade him to build a place
of worship in which the Lord may dwell, for: 'the sky and the skies above
the sky are not large enough to hold me.' King Bulan replies bashfully
that he does not possess the gold and silver required for such an enterprise,
'although it is my duty and desire to carry it out.'
The angel reassures him: all Bulan has to do
is to lead his armies into Dariela and Ardabil in Armenia, where a treasure
of silver and a treasure of gold are awaiting him. This fits in with Bulan's
or Bulkhan's raid preceding the conversion; and also with Arab sources
according to which the Khazars at one time controlled silver and gold mines
in the Caucasus.
Bulan does as the angel told him, returns victoriously
with the loot, and builds 'a Holy Tabernacle equipped with a sacred coffer
(the 'Ark of the Covenant'), a candelabrum, an altar and holy implements
which have been preserved to this day and are still in my (King Joseph's)
Joseph's letter, written in the second half
of the tenth century, more than two hundred years after the events it purports
to describe, is obviously a mixture of fact and legend. His description
of the scant furnishings of the place of worship, and the paucity of the
preserved relics, is in marked contrast to the account he gives in other
parts of the letter of the present prosperity of his country. The days
of his ancestor Bulan appear to him as remote antiquity, when the poor
but virtuous King did not even have the money to construct the Holy Tabernacle,
which was, after all, only a tent.
However, Joseph's letter up to this point is
merely the prelude to the real drama of the conversion, which he now proceeds
to relate. Apparently Bulan's renunciation of idolatry in favor of the
'only true God' was only the first step, which still left the choice open
between the three monotheistic creeds.
At least, this is what the continuation of
Joseph's letter seems to imply: 'After these feats of arms (the invasion
of Armenia), King Bulan's fame spread to all countries. The King of Edom
(Byzantium) and the King of the Ishmaelim (the Muslims) heard the news
and sent to him envoys with precious gifts and money and learned men to
convert him to their beliefs; but the king was wise and sent for a Jew
with much knowledge and acumen and put all three together to discuss their
So we have another Brains Trust, or round-table
conference, just as in Masudi, with the difference that the Muslim has
not been poisoned beforehand. But the pattern of the argument is much the
same. After long and futile discussions, the King adjourns the meeting
for three days, during which the disputants are left to cool their heels
in their respective tents; then he reverts to a stratagem. He convokes
the disputants separately. He asks the Christian which of the other two
religions is nearer the truth, and the Christian answers, 'the Jews.' He
confronts the Muslim with the same question and gets the same reply. Neutralism
has once more carried the day.
So much for the conversion. What else do we
learn from the celebrated 'Khazar
Continue on to:- Part 55a
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