|The Khazars were a nomad and later on semi-nomad Turk people that had originally settled in Central Asia (Khazar is translated with "wanderer wandering around").
With the disintegration of the realm of the Gök-Turks due to internal conflicts in the 7th century after Christ, the western part of the realm was split into two confederations, namely the Bulgars and the Khazars under the governance of the Ashina clan, the traditional rulers of the Gökturks. About 670 after Christ the Khazars had destroyed the Bulgar confederation, with three tribal areas remaining existent at the Volga, the Black Sea and the Danube. The Khazars founded an independent Khanate in the northern Caucasus Mountains at the shores of the Caspian Sea. They became important allies of the Byzantine Empire in their fight against the Sassanid Empire (Persians). Their ruler Siebel (sometimes called "Tong Yabghu Khagan of the West-Turks") helped the Byzantine people conquering Georgia. In the prime of their power they were an important regional potential. They led several wars against the Arabian caliphates of the Umayyads which were attempting to expand their influence into Transoxiania (Amudarja region) and the Caucasus area. The 7th and 8th centuries were the period of several conflicts such as Arabian attacks or Khazarian cruzades to Kurdistan and the Iran, which probably prevented an Arabian invasion of Eastern Europe.
In the 8th or early 9th century, the Khazars converted to Judaism. It remains up for debate to this very day, in fact if only the small number of people pertaining to the upper classes adopted and practised the new religion, or if the entire population converted to the new religion. In the 9th century after Christ, in the prime of their power, they controlled vast parts of today's Pontic Steppe between Volga and Dnipro, the northern Causasus Mountains (Cherkessia, Dagestan, Chechnya) and the southern Caucasus area (Azerbaijan including Georgia and Armenia), the western area of the later Kazakhstan (region Lake Aral), the East Ukrainian Steppe as well as the Crimean Peninsula. The Crimean Goths were beaten and hence subjected in the 8th century. The northern frontier was located in the northeast of the later Moscow at the headwaters of the river Volga. The Khazars were controlling trade with spices, textiles and slaves on parts of the Silk Road and on trade routes between Constantinople and the Baltic area for several centuries. They even maintained trade relations with the West and even as far as the Caliphate of Córdoba. They developed their own coinage. Exchange between the Islamic world and Europe was only possible via Khazarian mediation. The Radhanites (Hebrew), a Jewish merchant guild, controlled these trading routes. The Khazars lived on the duties levied for the products sold as well as the toll the tribes subjected had to pay; the Khazars, however, did not have to pay a national tax to the centralized government.
- map sketch: Silk Road - topographical map
- map sketch: Silk Road - routes
Originally, the Khazars probably were allies of the northern tribes controlling the area around Novogorod and frequently invading the area held by the Khazars at the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. About 914 after Christ, however, there became apparent open hostility with the Scandinavian marauders. In the last years of the ninth century, the Khazars and the Oghuz formed an alliance against the Pechenegs who initally had attacked both peoples. The Pechenegs, hence, were then driven away by the Kipchaks towards the West where they finally also expelled the Hungarians who had settled in the basin Don-Dnjepr as vassals. The alliance with the city of Byzantium also started to disintegrate, which finally led to skirmishes and fights on the Crimean Peninsula. In the 10th century, the attacks led by the Varangians from the Kievan' Rus as well as several Turk tribes finally led to the disintegration of the empire. The Khazars, consequently, vanished into from a historical point of view - thin air.
- map sketch: Varangians - Kiev Rus
Some historians still consider possible that the majority of the Khazars have merged into East European Judaism. This theory, however, is contradicted by results of genetical studies stating that the population is primarily of Middle Eastern origin; hence it is not likely for the Khazars to belong to the group constituting the ancestors of the Ashkenazi Jews.
Originally, the Khazars practised some type of traditional Tengriism-related shamanism that focuses around the sky deity Tengri but has also been influenced by the Confucian ideas from China. They worshipped severel deities inferior to Tengri, such as, for example, the goddess of fertility, Umay, Kuara, the god of thunder, and Erlik, the god of death. They considered their respective leader to be the representative or rebirth of such a sky deity. In general they were, however, very tolerant, even accepting other religious denominations than theirs to be practised within their community. Christian belief, Zoroastrianism, Islam and other pagan cults were present then. The Khazar regality was conveyed to the Khagan or Bek who merely was a religious-spiritual leader holding a representative office with only limited authorities. Their language, however, is supposed to have been an Oghur language, similar to that of the Bulgars. Today the Chuvash (Chuvashia Volga region) continue to speak such a dialect (formerly Khanate of Kazan).