by Arthur Koestler
The full title of this book is The Thirteenth Tribe: Khazar Empire and Its Heritage. It’s a great historical look at one of the most influential and little-known empires and cultures of Western and Middle Eastern history. Most are familiar with the name “Khazar” or “Russian Jew,” but few know the roots of this people and that they are not, genetically, Semites (Arabic) as are traditional Jews. They are, in fact, the largest population of Jewish people still living today and are descended from Ottoman Turks.
The book covers the known history of the Khazarian Empire, which reigned as one of the world’s largest empires during the post-AD world in which the Roman Empire was split in two. The Khazars occupied most of the area cradled by the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus, and were surrounded by enemies. To one side were the Muslim empires and to another was the Christian Romans.
In fact, the favored theory for the mass conversion of the Khazarian peoples to Judaism (specifically Talmudic Judaism) in this book is as a third choice to avoid a galvanizing and subjugation were they to choose Islam or Christianity. The choice was presented as their older, more “barbaric” religion was not cosmopolitan enough and was, in fact, a reason for their enemies on either side to attack them.
As with all empires, they were eventually defeated, of course, and mass-migrated into what is now Russia and much of Europe in order to avoid the forced conversions and genocidal leanings of their conquerors.
The book is scholarly, but well-written and very well done. The cover art shown here (and Amazon link) are to a later edition. I read (and own) a second printing of the original version.
This book is highly recommended by anyone interested in semi-ancient history, where modern Jewry comes from, and to understand the world that eventually shaped our modern Western cultures.