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Valentyn Stetsyuk (Lviv, Ukraine)

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There are many and few historical documents about the Khazars. This paradox was outlined by Omelyan Pritsak, repeating the words of Ananiasz Zajączkowski, as follows:

… as you know, the Khazar problem is one of the most difficult, primarily because the sources written in different languages are very poor, heterogeneous, and often hardly authentic (quoted from GOLDEN PETER 2005: 29)

The very variety of historical sources clearly indicates the universality of the Khazar problem (ZAJĄCZKOWSKI ANANIASZ. 1947: 1). From the available documents, we can conclude that the multinational Khazar Khaganate, in which the Khazars played the leading role, was for 350 years one of the strongest empires of Eurasia in the first millennium of our era. And this fact for two hundred years has attracted the attention of many researchers, the general state of their work is determined by the following words:

Even a quick glance at this field of research will show that scientists are far from unanimous on many fundamental issues, although I believe there are also large areas of research in which agreement has been reached (GOLDEN PETER. 2005: 30 )

As far as I understand, one of the fundamental issues in the history of the Khazars is their ethnicity. This enigma is complicated by the absence of clear descendants of the Khazars, which is surprising in itself but may also be a clue. Such a key is the presence of the Anglo-Saxons in Eastern Europe, which we have been talking about for a long time (see Anglo-Saxons at Sources of Russian Power). Therefore, in order not to delve into the history of the issue and not to procrastinate this topic for a long time, let us say directly that the Khazar Khaganate was created and headed by them. Traditional areas of research have yielded no results:

None of the Khazar titles and names which have no obvious Turkic interpretation has been proven to belong to any other linguistic group. Even Iranian terms (for example, the patronymic Kundajik, as Golden explains it) are so few in number that they should be considered borrowings from elsewhere. (ERDAL MARCEL. 2005: 127-128).

E. Marcel's remark is not far from the truth. The leadership of the Khaganate was as follows:

The supreme ruler of the ruling duumvirate was hakan – OE. heah "high, great" and ān "single". This formulation corresponds to the beginning of the eulogy rishon shebarishon "the first among the most important" in the text of the "Kievan Letter" from the Cairo Geniza (GOLB N., Н., PRITSAK O. 1997. 1997: 13).

Hakan's co-ruler shad – OE. scead "shadden".

Local governorstudun – OE. đeoden "king, lord".

The Khazars called themselves "the retinue of the messenger" (OE. hōs "retinue", ār "messenger, herald, angel"). Doubts about the Turkic origin of the name are known for phonological reasons (ERDAL MARCEL. 2005: 128-129). The capital of the Khaganate could be a city located in the Volga delta on the place of the city of Summerkent, which was mentioned by William of Rubruck in the description of his journey to the eastern countries. The Alans, i.e. the Angles dwelled in this city at that time (RUBRUCK WILLIAM de. 1957: chap.49). The Khazar name of the capital, like the Volga River, was Itil (Atil) out of OE. æđel "noble, noble, beautiful". Another big city of the Khazars was Saxin (KHVOL'SON D.A. 1869: 63). Sapienti sat.

Having sufficient grounds, Peter Golden pointed out that the true beginning of modern Khazar studies is the scrupulous and honest work of the English scholar Douglas Morton Dunlop "The History of the Jewish Khazars" (GOLDEN PETER. 2005: 40). Mr. Dunslop didn’t come up with the idea that the Khazars could have been among his ancestors, but in this work, he gives evidence that the Khazars considered themselves autochthonous in their land, that they were not counted as Türks, and that they could even be associated with the "Royal Scythians" of Herodotus (DUNLOP D.M. 1954: 7-10). The idea of the Alans as "Royal" Scythians and Sarmatians can be found in our research (see Alans – Angles – Saxons). He also quotes the Arab geographer Ibn Said al-Maghribi as the usual, in his opinion, the image of the Arabs about the northern peoples:

As to the Khazars, they are to the left (north) of the inhabited earth towards the 7th clime, having over their heads the constellation of the Plough. Their land is cold and wet. Hence their complexions are white, their eyes blue, their hair flowing and predominantly reddish, their bodies large and their natures cold. Their general aspect is wild (ibid: 11).

Skeptical about such a description of the Khazars, based on his own analysis of historical documents, Dunlop comes to the conclusion that there can be no doubt about the Turkic ethnicity of the Khazars and sets the task of finding a related (to be attached) them people (ibid: 34). Lacking relevant information and being guided by general reasoning, he comes to the conclusion that the Uyghurs should be such a people, despite the recognition that "the existing monuments of the Uigur dialect offer no support" for the connection between the Uyghurs and the Khazars (ibid: 39). Thus, no attention is paid to anything that contradicts the conclusion about the Turkic identity of the Khazars, as if these are insignificant details. However, not only the devil is hidden in the details, but also the truth. Each of the insignificant facts can be an accidental coincidence or generally out of place, but when there are a lot of them and they all testify to the same thing, then they cannot be dismissed. Such facts, among other things, can be the toponymy of the Lower Volga, deciphered with the help of the Old English language (see map below).

Presumptive settlements of the Anglo-Saxons on the Lower Volga

The map contains the names of settlements that can be interpreted using Old English, as well as the historical city of Summerkent at the proposed place where it is located the fortress at Samosdelka in the Volga delta. The current interpretation of the names given on the map is at Google My Maps.

A major work on the Khazars was written by Peter Golden (GOLDEN PETER B. 1980.). The rich information contained in it contradicts my assertion about the ethnicity of the Khazars, but related to other aspects of the history of the Khazars will help to restore it as a whole. By the time this work was published, the so-called "Kievan letter" had already been discovered in the Cambridge University Library by Norman Golb, and there was already a message about the discovery, but P. Golden did not attach much importance to this fact and the letter is not mentioned in the said work. Nevertheless, its author recognized the great role of the Khazars in the early history of Kiev, which is reflected in the said letter (ibid, 16-21). Much later the letter was published with lengthy comments (GOLB N., Н., PRITSAK O. 1997). The publication caused a heated discussion on a number of issues on which very different opinions were expressed. In general terms, the course of this discussion is highlighted in a recently published work (TORPUSMAN RACHEL. 2019). Without being prepared on many issues of the discussion, I cannot get involved in it, I will just give the confirmation of the Anglo-Saxon origin of the Khazars in the "Kiev Letter"

Among names of clearly non-Semitic origin in the letter, the name סורטה (swrth) has particular interest. M. Erdal, considering this word a nickname, suggested reading it as Gmc swartä "black, dark" (ERDAL MARCEL. 2007: 101). It has the match swrart "black, dark, gloomy" in Old English. The rest of the non-Semitic names should be interpreted using one language, and the use of different ones can give several decoding options and the choice of the correct one will be subjective. For example, the name GWSTT' can be correlated with the Slavic name Gostata, and no one allegedly disputes this (ZUCKERMAN СONSTANTIN. 2018, 663), but it can also mean "jolly goose" (OE. gōs "goose" and tāt "jolly"). The choice of the option in favor of the Anglo-Saxons is preferable, because other names can also be interpreted using Old English:

KYBR – OE. ceafor "beetle".

MNS – OE. mann "man", īs "ice".

MNR – OE. mann "man", ār "honor".

QWFYN – OE. cwic "quick", feon "to rejoice".

Legendary Kiev princes Askold and Dir were also Anglo-Saxons. Their names can be deciphered as follows: Dir – OE. dieren "appreciate, praise", diere "dear, valuable, noble", Askold – OE. āscian "ask, demand", "call, elect" and eald (Eng. old), ealdor "prince, lord". Since the top of the Khazar Kaganate were Anglo-Saxons with a characteristic form of government, in Kiev Askold and Dir were a duumvirate.

In private correspondence, Prof. Golden acknowledged my arguments as unconvincing and pointed out, among other things, that, judging by the surviving words, different groups of the population of the Khazar Khaganate spoke the East Turkic and West Turkic languages. I cannot argue with this, but it makes me wonder why the Khazars cannot be associated with any of the modern peoples of the North Caucasus. Likewise, it cannot be done for the Anglo-Saxons. In this case, it should be assumed that the Anglo-Saxons were only the ruling elite of the Khaganate, and over time they dissolved among other peoples, as happened with the Goths in the Crimea. Nevertheless, material evidence of the presence of the Anglo-Saxons in the North Caucasus may remain.

In 1888, on the right bank of Bolshoy Zelenchuk River, a stone stele with an inscription by Greek letters was found 30 km from the village of Nizhniy Arkhyz (see the figure on the right). The decoding of the inscription was made by V.F. Miller using the Ossetian language. With small corrections, the reading is now accepted in science, and the dating of the stele is determined by 941 year (DHURTUBAYEV M. 2010: 198).

Miller believed that there was a Christian city in this area, from which the ruins of churches were preserved, and suggested that it was the center of the Alan diocese (metropolis), which is mentioned in Byzantine literature. However, not all agreed with the decoding of Miller, because he introduced eight additional letters into the text, which were absent on the stele and without which it can not be by means of the Ossetian language (Ibid).

At right: Drawing of the inscription of Zelenchuk stele in Dhurtubayev's book taken from V.A. Kuznetsov (Ibid: 199).

The inscription has various reading options, including the use of Ossetian, Kabardian, Karachay-Balkarian, Vainakh, and, possibly, other languages, and disputes about its language continue to this day. The stele itself was not preserved, attempts to find it in 1946 and 1964 did not bring success (KAMBOLOV T.T. 2006: 166). Without the original, one cannot speak about the accuracy of text rendering, and this additionally complicates the decoding of the inscription.

Having my own opinion about the ethnicity of the Alans, I think that the inscription was made in a language close to Old English. I wrote the clearer signs on the stele as follows: … Saxe đefoi … arg paka bar paka đae fogrt an pal an aps lane fogrt laka netđer đ ođ…. It is clear from the text that a Saxon was buried at this place, but I do not dare to give my full decryption to this passage in the hope that specialists in the Old English language can do it.

If a good interpretation of the epigraphy is made using Old English and, moreover, other evidence is found in favor of the presence of the Anglo-Saxons in the Khazar Khaganate, then I hope that Peter Golden and I will come to a common opinion.


GOLB N., Н., PRITSAK O. 1997. Khazaro-yevreyskiye dokumenty X v. // Nauchnaya redaktsiya, poslesloviye i kommentarii Petrukhina V.YA. – (In Russian) – Khazar-Jewish documents of the 10th century // Scientific edition, afterword and comments by Petrukhin V.Ya. Jerusalem.

GOLDEN PETER B. 1980. Khazar Studies. Volume 1. Budapest. Akadémiai Kiadó.

GOLDEN PETER. 2005. Dostizheniya i pespektivy khazarskikh issledovaniy //Yvrei i slaaaavianie. Moskva – Iyerusalim – (In Russian) – The Khazars in Modern Research – Past Achievement and Future Goals and Prospects //Jews and Slavs. V. 16. Khazars. Moscow – Jerusalem.

DUNLOP D.M. 1954. The History of the Jewish Khazaras. New York. Schocken Books.

DZHURTUBAYEV M. 2010. Proiskhozhdeniye karachayevo-balkaroskogo i osetinskogo narodov – (Rus) – The Origin of the Karachay-Balkar and Ossetian Peoples. Nalchik.

ERDAL MARCEL. 2005. Khazarskiy yazyk – (In Russian) – The Khazar Language // Jews and Slavs. Volume 16. Khazars.Jerusalem – Moscow.

ERDAL MARCEL. 2007. The Khazar Language // The World of the Khazars: New Perspectives. Leiden, Boston.

KAMBOLOV T.T. Ocherk istorii osetinskogo yazyka – (Rus) – Essay on the History of the Ossetian Language. Vladikavkaz.

KHVOL'SON D.A. 1869. Izvestiya o khozarakh, burtasakh, bolgarakh, mad'yarakh, slavyanakh i russakh Abu-Ali Akhmeda ben Omar Ibn-Dasta – (In Russian) – News about the Khazars, Burtases, Bulgars, Magyars, Slavs and Russians of Abu-Ali Ahmed ben Omar Ibn-Dast. St. Petersburg.

TORPUSMAN RACHEL. 2019. Abraham Torpusman. Polemic Notes about the Kievan Letter – (in Russian) – Academia. edu.

RUBRUCK WILLIAM of. 1957. Puteshestvie v Vostochnye strany – (In Russian) – Travel to Eastern Countries of William de Rubruk in the Year of Blessed 1253. Translation by A.I. Malein. State Publishing House of Geographic Literature. Moscow.

ZAJĄCZKOWSKI ANANIASZ. 1947. Ze studiów nad zagadnieniem chazarskim – (In Polish) – From studies on the Khazarian question. Kraków. Nakładem Polskiej Akademii Umiejętności.

ZUCKERMAN СONSTANTIN. 2018. O Kiyevskoi pis'me iz Kairskoy Genizy – (Rus)- On the Kievan Letter from the Genizah of Cairo// Materials in Archaeology, History, and Ethnography of Tauria. Volume XXIII. Simferopol.