Start page

Valentyn Stetsyuk (Lviv, Ukraine)

Personal web site



A conversation about the Khazars should begin with the relationship of the Khazar language with other Turkic ones. Presumably, it belongs to the Bulgar group of Turkic languages, of which only Chuvash has survived to this day. The Chuvash language is so different from the rest of the Turkic languages that one must think that there must be a period in its history during which it developed without contact with them. The identification of the Scythians with the ancestors of the Chuvashs gives reason to think that their language retained the features of the Proto-Turkic due to the fact that some of the Turks had inhabited the Northern Sea of Azov, in the 3rd millennium BC. crossed to the right bank of the Dniester, while most of them migrated eastward beyond the Don (see The Scytho-Sarmatian Problems). It was this circumstance that foreshadowed the significant difference between the Bulgar languages and the rest of the Türkic languages. The attitude of the Khazar language to them must mean that the ancestors of its speakers also did not migrate with the main mass of the Turks, but shared their history with the rest of the Bulgars. From this, it follows that the Khazars could not come to the North Caucasus through the Volga.

There are many and a few historical documents about the Khazars.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 )

Nevertheless, some facts of the Khazar history are established quite definitely. These include:

The core of the Khazar statehood was located on the territory of modern Dagestan, and the time of its formation is determined by the first half of the 7th century. The rulers of Khazaria professed the Jewish religion, which became the state ideology. The form of government was dual power (duumvirate), typical for the Turkic peoples, and the Khazars themselves were a Turkic-speaking people [PLETNEVA S.A. 2005, 17-19].

As far as I understand, one of the fundamental issues in the history of the Khazars is their ethnicity. However, the population of Dagestan was multinational (see the article Ethnicity of the ancient population of the Caucasus), and the adjacent steppe was inhabited by the Turks. These Turks remained for thousands of years close to their ancestral home, determined by the graphic-analytical method in Eastern Europe [STETSYUK V.M. 1987]. They spoke one of the Turkic languages, which I call Kipchak, and their descendants were Kumyks, Balkars, Karachays, Crimean Tatars and Karaites [STETSYUK VALENTYN. 1998: 49-52, see the article The Resettlement of the Indo-European, Türkic, and Finno- Ugric tribes in Eastern Europe). The organizational form of the peaceful coexistence of different peoples of the Northern Black Sea region was the union of tribes, in which the tribal elite of one of them played a leading role. And it was the Turks who should have played this role in the formed Khazar Kaganate. However, this state did not continue, although the Turks themselves continued to make up the majority of the population of the North Caucasus. It is difficult to assume that the Turks for some reason lost the tradition of statehood, which is a big enigma. And the enigma is aggravated by such an incomprehensible phenomenon:

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).

The key to unraveling this mystery is the presence of the Anglo-Saxons in Eastern Europe, hidden under various names in historical documents. Due to circumstances, they played a large role in the historical processes of the Scythian-Sarmatian time, and the "royal" Scythians and Sarmatians, as well as the Alans, who are usually considered to be a people of Iranian origin, should be associated with them (see the articles Alans – Angles – Saxons, Anglo-Saxons in East Europe and at the Origins of Russian Power, etc.). In the Sarmatian time, the Alans headed the tribal union and gained extensive experience in organizing the coexistence of different peoples in one socio-political society. In this regard, it can be assumed that although the Turks in Khazaria were the majority, the Anglo-Saxons created the Khaganate, establishing a xenocracy regime in a certain territory. This assumption is confirmed by the decoding of the keywords of the available documents using the Old English language. The leadership of the kaganate 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 governors tudun – 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).

From the early chronicles it is known that the Slavic tribes of the Vyatichi and Radimichi paid tribute to the Khazars in "shchelags". Obviously, it was the name of a certain monetary unit, similar to OE. scilling "silver coin". This similarity puzzles historians, and in one of the works it was suggested that this is a joke of the chronicler (ZUCKERMAN C. 2018: 459). However, the chronicle is not belles-lettres, and such liberties are usually not found in them. The chronicler used exactly the word by which the Khazars defined the form of tribute. 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, various, including material, evidence of the presence of the Anglo-Saxons in the North Caucasus may be preserved. Over time, they become more and more. First of all, they can be found in toponymy:

Yeya, a river flowing to Azov Sea and originated names – OE. ea "water, river".

Sandata, a river, lt of the Yegorlyk, lt of the Manych, lt of the Don River – OE. sand "sand", ate "weeds".

Bolshoy and Malyi Gok (Hok in local pronunciation), rives, rt of Yegorlyk, lt of the Manych, lt of the Don – OE. hōk "hook".

Sengileevskoe, a village in Shpakovski district of Stavropol Krai – OE. sengan "singe", leah "field".

Guzeripl' (Huzeripl' in local pronunciation), a settlement in the Maikop municipal district of the Republic of Adygea – OE. hūs "house", "place for house", rippel "undergrowth".

Baksan, a river and a town in Kabardino-Balkaria – OE. bæc "back", sæne "slow".

Mount Elbrus, mountain peak in Kabardino-Balkaria – OE æl "awl", brecan "to break", bryce "fracture, crack", OS. bruki "the same", , k alternates with s.. Elbrus has two peaks separated by a saddle.

Photo by the author of the essay "My trip to Elbrus"

Having moved into the North Caucasus, the Anglo-Saxons continued to play a leading role in the political life of the Black Sea region and united in one state forming the entire population of the North Caucasus, which gave rise to the Khazar Kaganate. The name of one of the rulers of the emerging state, Sarosia (512? – 596), can be deciphered with the help of OE searo "skill, craftsmanship".

In 1888, on the right bank of the Bolshoy Zelenchuk River, a stone stele with an inscription in 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: νικολαοσ σαχε θεφοιχ ο βολτ γεφοιγτ πακα θαρ πακα θαν φογριτ αν παλ αμ απδ λανε φογρ – λακα νεβερ θεοθελ. I propose the following decoding of the inscription: "Sachs Nikolai is buried here, doomed to death by a traitorous arrow of an insidious servant, decorated with a strong pillar decorating the path – a gift from his nephew Theophilus". Possibly, Sakz, Cumanian Khan, the brother of Begubars, was buried here. Judging by the names of the Cumanian Khans, in the annals, the common name of the Cumans was understood to mean various peoples who inhabited the North Caucasus and the shore of the Sea of Azov. Among them were the Alans-Angles. The name of the brother of Sakz Begubars can be deciphered with the help of OE. beg “berry” and ūfer “shore” (generally “currant”, cf. Ukrainian porіchki (bank berry “the same”). Other Anglo-Saxons among the Cumanian Khans could be Iskal and Kytan. (For more details, see in Russian Zelenchuk inscription)

As if the leading role of the Anglo-Saxons in Khazaria is contradicted by the name of the Khazar king Bulan, which is in good agreement with the ancient Turkic. bulan "moose". However, this does not mean that the path to power was closed to nobles of a different origin. The majority of the population of the kaganate spoke a language related to Chuvash and its ethnicity had to be attested in historical documents. This majority could only be the Suvars (Savirs), statements about the connection of which with the Chuvashs can be found in many authors. Like the name of Bulan, being corresponded to Chuv. pālan "a deer, so the name of the Savir prince Bolakh allows his origin from the same language (Chuv. pulakh "fertility"). Artamonov argued that of all the nomadic tribes of the Caspian steppes of the 5th century, the most information was preserved about the Savirs, but attributed them to the Huns (ARTAMONOV M.I. 1962: 68), therefore, not all information can be trusted, contemporaries could confuse the Huns and Savirs, who in certain cases acted together/

If the bulk of the population of the kaganate spoke a dialect of the Bulgar language, then the question arises, to which group should the name "Khazars" be attributed? Rona-Tash believes that the Turkic form of the name Khazar (qazar), noted in the sources, "goes back to the title 'qasar', which comes from the name 'caesar', as well as the titles 'kaiser' and 'king'" (ANDRÁS RÓNA-TAS: 2005, 113). Although the Latin anthroponym Caesar could come from the Türkic word *ğurzurz "brave, robber, villain" (see section "Language Substratum"), in our case, as a reverse borrowing, the word Khazar means "ruler" and should refer to the Anglo-Saxons. Rona-Tash argues that "a title can become the name of a group of people if their leader accepts this title" (IBID). In general, the population of the Khazvri Khaganate was multinational, the definition of its full composition is a separate issue.


ARTAMONOV M.I. 1962. Istoriya khazar. Leningrad.- (Rus) – History of Khazars. Leningrad.

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.

ANDRÁS RÓNA-TAS. 2005. Khazary i mad’yary. ES. Ierusalim-M. – (Rus) – The Khazars and Magyars. ES. Ierusalim-M.

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.

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

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

ZUCKERMAN СONSTANTINE. 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.

ZUCKERMAN C. 2018. Angliyskiy sled v ranney letopisi, ili letopisets shutit – (Rus)- The English Trace in the Rus’ian Chronicle, or the Chronicler’s Jokes //At origins and sources: on international and interdisciplinary paths. Anniversary collection in honor of. Alexander Vasilyevich Nazarenko. Moscow, Saint Petersburg. Center for Humanitarian Initiatives.