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The Jews of Khazaria [Hardcover]

Kevin Alan Brook
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)

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Book Description

September 27, 2006 074254981X 978-0742549814 Second Edition
The Jews of Khazaria chronicles the history of the Khazars, a people who, in the early Middle Ages, founded a large empire in eastern Europe (located in present-day Ukraine and Russia). The Khazars played a pivotal role in world history. Khazaria was one of the largest-sized political formations of its time, an economic and cultural superpower connected to several important trade routes. It was especially notable for its religious tolerance, and in the 9th century, a large portion of the royal family converted to Judaism. Many of the nobles and commoners did likewise shortly thereafter. After their conversion, the Khazars were ruled by a succession of Jewish kings that began to adopt the hallmarks of Jewish civilization, including the Torah and Talmud, the Hebrew script, and the observance of Jewish holidays. In this thoroughly revised edition of a modern classic, The Jews of Khazaria explores many exciting new discoveries about the Khazars' religious life, economy, military, government, and culture. It builds upon new studies of the Khazars, evaluating and incorporating recent theories, along with new documentary and archaeological findings. The book gives a comprehensive accounting of the cities, towns, and fortresses of Khazaria, and features a timeline summarizing key events in Khazar history.

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Editorial Reviews


Far from being [merely] a romantic interlude whose brief existence sparked the imagination of generations, Brook's volume shows that the Khazar experience is intrinsic to the narrative of Jewish history. (The Jewish Quarterly Review, (Review Of First Edition))

Kevin Alan Brook, thirty years on, strives, with considerable success, to satisfy the appetite for information about the Khazars which Koestler generated. The Jews of Khazaria is, in essence, a compendium of information gathered from every available source. . . . He has provided a useful reference work for all those intrigued by the most striking single case of successful Jewish proselytism, as well as for those interested in the affairs of one of the four great powers of western Eurasia in the early middle ages....[Brook] should be complimented on the trouble which he has taken to assemble so much information, out of so many disparate sources. He has provided a useful reference work. (Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal Of Jewish Studies, Winter 2009)

A comprehensive study. . . . Acquaintance with this book will be . . . useful. (The Chronicle Herald, August 2008)

Kevin Alan Brook has decided to look behind the various views of the Khazars and produce a non-ideological work that examines the little-known but critical moment in world history. In a deadpan voice that one could attribute to a scholarly Joe Friday, Brooks provides us with the facts, only the facts. And, it's a good thing, because the facts are fascinating. (Jewish Book World, Fall 2007)

Brook...has a passion for his topic, demonstrated by many articles, his stewardship of the website of the American Center of Khazar Studies (, and the first (well received) edition of this book (1999)....Brook supplies a timeline, a glossary, a list of Khazar names, an appendix on other examples of conversions to Judaism, and maps to help the reader who is less familiar with the subject than he is. (Outlook)

This second, revised edition of Kevin Brook's well-received publication in 1999 of The Jews of Khazaria, integrates important new data culled from ongoing archaeological digs in southern Russia and the Crimea, genetic results of DNA processing, examination of formerly unknown or ignored coin hordes, and the continuing research of scholars around the world. It succeeds in elucidating controversial issues, while contextualizing the Khazar polity within the competitive 9th-11th-century world of Byzantium, the Arab Caliphate, and two regional upstarts: the Dnepr-based aggregate of Nordic, Slavic, and Turkic peoples known as Rus', and the Turkic-Islamic kaganate of Bulgar flourishing in the middle and upper Volga territory. As a full exploration in English of the history and culture of the Khazars, this volume is without equal, and would be quite useful reading in courses focused on the Kievan period of Russian history, as well as broader ones treating the dynamics of Central Eurasian history during these lively and formative centuries. (Edward J. Lazzerini, Indiana University)

Kevin Alan Brook's The Jews of Khazaria is the first work since Douglas Dunlop's 1967 History of the Jewish Khazars to provide a comprehensive account of Khazar history. ... the work synthesizes a vast array of secondary literature into a concise and readable digest. ... Beyond providing a current and accessible introduction to this topic, the work is extremely valuable for its consolidation of this disparate material. ... (Journal Of Near Eastern Studies)

Brook...has a passion for his topic....I for one am grateful for the mass of material he provides. (Outlook)

About the Author

Kevin Alan Brook is an historian who has researched the Khazars since 1993. He has contributed articles about the Khazars to The Encyclopaedia of Judaism Second Edition (Brill, 2005) and The Turks Vol. 1 (Yeni Turkiye, 2002). Since 1995, Brook has maintained the website of the American Center of Khazar Studies (

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers; Second Edition edition (September 27, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 074254981X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0742549814
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.1 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #753,913 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
111 of 117 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent March 21, 2001
By A Customer
Brook does an excellent job in broaching this topic that many have attempted before him, and I'm sure many will attempt after. Considering how little is known about Khazaria, how much history has been either censored or re-written by the former Soviet Union, and the relatively sparse amount of archaelogical work that has been conducted in the region, Brook brings much information to light, detailing the tribal and linguistic origins of the Khazars. In comparison with Koestler's "The Thirteenth Tribe," Brook's work is more about presenting facts than coming to conclusions.
I would encourage everyone interested in this book, this subject and in modern Judaism in general to remember that 'conclusions' are based on current and past knowledge, not on future discoveries. Sarkel is still under water and will continue to be for the foreseeable future -- who knows what information it holds? People have been twisting the ideas and findings discussed in "The Thirteenth Tribe" and "The Jews of Khazaria" to promote hatred for Jews for quite some time. That's not the purpose of these works, as Arthur Koestler himself addressed at the end of "The Thirteenth Tribe."
I've also used the bibliography to further my own knowledge, although I have found that many of the sources are out-of-print.
I look forward to learning more about the Khazars, who they were and who they became -- for today, I highly recommend Brook's "The Jews of Khazaria." It is excellently written, a fascinating work and will open it's readers eyes to some lesser known history.
Savor it, but don't rush to judgement!
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73 of 77 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book, the latest on Khazars November 9, 1999
The book not only traces the history of the people of Khazaria, brings the latest archeological data and links between Khazars and East European peoples it highlights every detail of their conversion to Judaism, their political and religious influence, their military might. Indeed everything is supported by a comprehensive set of documents and articles. Very rich bibliography although it'd be good to see more visual material (maps, etc.). Great effort to deliver an exciting aspect of our history.
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78 of 88 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
The book aims to capture the history of Khazaria, a Jewish state near the Caspian sea that reigned between the 7th to 11th centuries, starting as a small tribe and growing in size and in power. The book is primarily based on archival and linguistic discoveries. The author starts in 650 AD when migration patterns westward and wars with the Muslim forces from the south brought to the fore of history the Khazar empire. Khazaria was located roughly between of present day Hungary from its east and Persia in its west. The Khazars, originally nomads known for their fierce fighting tradition, defended their region and became a loose state about mid 6thcentury.
The controversy about Khazar Jews and their intermingle with Jews in Lithuania, Poland and Rumania is discussed at the conclusion of the book. First, the author describes other incidents when non-Jewish tribes converted and became "children of Moses". Examples are brought from the Avars and Cumans in Europe, Edmoites in the middle east, and the "Children of Moses" in Ethopia, sometimes known as the Falshas.) Then author then contends that it is quite possible that Khazar Jews, now disbursed amongst several nations, intermarried with "local" or "genuine" jews, most notably in Lithuania as well as in Poland.
The book is somewhat `academic' in its discussion, but very readable. The book boasts in using "archeological" finds in its discussion; in fact, it mentions only a few such finds. It further fails to include maps, documents and other images that would have made it more interesting and `real'. Nonetheless, the writing is not `heavy' and the organization is intuitive. Each chapter can be read separately and the footnotes are worth gleaning over.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A vast improvement on an already impressive work February 19, 2007
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Brook has accomplished what no-one since D.M. Dunlop (in his 1954 "History of the Jewish Khazars") has been able to do: He has written a comprehensive, up-to-date, scrupulously researched and scholarly account of the amazing history of the Khazars. Better still, he has done so in a manner that is accessible to the layman as well as to historians.

Brook, a layman himself (albeit a lay expert), has meticulously collected thousands of tidbits of historical knowledge and lore from a myriad of primary and secondary sources

Brook's first edition (published by Jason Aaronson in 1999) was a masterpiece in and of itself, but it was flawed by the certainty of certain controversial assertions (such as that the conversion of the Khazars took place in 861) which have, over the course of only a few years, become outdated by dramatic new discoveries in numismatics and archaeology. This second edition of Brook's magnum opus corrects many errors and also includes information on new discoveries, organized into convenient, intuitive and well-cited sections (including "The Origins of the Khazars", "The Khazars' Conversion to Judaism", and "Relations between the Khazars and other People".)

Khazar history is brought to life through discussions of trade, religion, daily life, language, and many other issues. Anyone interested in Jewish, Eastern European or Eurasian history, or anyone who fancies themselves a polymath, would be remiss if they failed to purchase and read this book.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Published 4 months ago by Deon D Nathan
5.0 out of 5 stars Diaspora of Israel and the Khazars
Very detailed read. Good source of info to learn of the life of dispersed Israel while living in the Caucasus.
Published 4 months ago by Slonimer
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, but not for people looking for light reading
Excellent, but not for people looking for light reading. This is a serious endeavor by Brook that is much more comprehensive than the title suggests.
Published 7 months ago by Vaughn G. Silverman
4.0 out of 5 stars Certainly there are a lot of Jewish people with names like Kagan, etc
One version of the origin of the Eskenazi Jew. Certainly there are a lot of Jewish people with names like Kagan, etc.
Published 10 months ago by Goodview
3.0 out of 5 stars Jews of Khazaria is Educational but Boring
Jews of Khazaria is interesting, educational, and very dry. This is a scholarly work that should be read for educational purposes only. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Kindle Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars The Khazarians and Gog and Magog.
The book "The Jews of Khazaria" is a good book. In it, mr. Brook makes a. o. the connection between Khazarian Jews and the "God and Magog", two entities in the Old... Read more
Published 23 months ago by AFM Nuiten
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding Resource
Everything one would want to know about these elusive Khazars is brought to life here complete with exhaustive historical documentation. Read more
Published on September 16, 2013 by truthorconsequences
5.0 out of 5 stars The Khazar hypothesis has been proven correct by Johns Hopkins...
Johns Hopkins University geneticist Dr. Eran Elhaik and his definitive genetic study "The Missing Link of Jewish European Ancestry: Contrasting the Rhineland and the Khazarian... Read more
Published on August 14, 2013 by Brent
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing - Term Paper
It reads more like a term paper than a book. It is obviously very well researched and scholarly, but the writing style does not flow. It's a tiring read.
Published on July 3, 2013 by Scott Katz
5.0 out of 5 stars Recommended for Learning about Khazaria and Jewish History in Eastern...
For a history buff, I thought this was an excellent read.

I wanted to learn more about the remarkable empire that was Khazaria, and this book did an excellent job. Read more
Published on March 29, 2013 by VA 6
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