THE HISTORY OF THE KHAZARS
í. é. áÒÔÁÍÏÎÏ×
ðÏÄ ÒÅÄÁËÃÉÅÊ É Ó ÐÒÉÍÅÞÁÎÉÑÍÉ ì. î. çÕÍÉÌ£×Á
The work of M. I. Artamonov is the first sequential account known in Soviet historical publications — of the history of the southern part of eastern Europe from the IVth to the XIth centuries, the main matter of the book being the history of the Khazars and their state, which had existed a little less than 300 years. Many points of the Khazar history have been either dealt with for the first time or shown in a new light on the basis of the author's original investigations. These investigations have been made not only on the scanty materials found in Byzantine, Armenian, Arabic and other authors, but also on the archaeological finds of the Khazar period brought to light by the author himself and stored at present, in the State Hermitage. Of great importance among them are the excavation material of Sarkil or Biela Viezha, a border fortress of the Khazar period, and later a Russian town, situated in the lower course of the Don on the way from Tmutorokan to the lower Volga.
A wide reference to archaeological data, for purposes of interpreting the history of the Khazars, resorted to in the book, not only distinguishes it from other works on the same subject, but also enables the author — a qualified archaeologist — to deal with problems that none of his predecessors could have either set or dealt with.
The Hun invasion marked a new period in the history of eastern Europe. An important ethnic reconstruction of the tribes had been taking place in the southern regions of the country since that time. The control of the territory passed from the Iranian to Turkic speaking tribes consisting of the Tiurkized Ugrs from western Siberia and the remains of the Sormat-Alans assimilated by the invaders from central Asia. Temporary military powers rose and fell amidst these tribes whose patriarchal clan
system was complicated by the developed economic inequality and slavery. Byzantium and the Sassanian Iran made use of these military powers in their endless wars. The Akatzirs, the Sabirs, the Saragurs, the Onogurs, the Utigurs, the Kutrigurs, and, at last, the Avars rose to the stage of history and passed away one after another. It was only the Avars who succeeded in the second half of the Vlth century — by subjugating the Slav population — to found a relatively permanent state in central Europe and, for some time, to exercise control over the tribes of Kutrigurs on the northern shores of the Black Sea. At the same time a vast but— as had been the case with most of the nomad states — short-lived empire, the Turkut Khaganate, extended its power over the steppes farther east of the Don.
The Turkut empire disintegrated after 100 years of existence, torn apart by internecine civil wars; and new kingdoms—-the Khazar and the Bulgar — arose on its ruins in eastern Europe. The fierce struggle of these two states very soon ended in the expulsion of the Bulgars beyond the Danube, and the rise of the powerful Khazar empire, extending its power over the southern part of eastern Europe. At the head of the Khazar state stood an old Turkut dynasty, and the Khazars, who nomadised in the eastern coastal lands of the Caspian between the courses of the Volga and the Terek, constituted the core of the state. The nearest neighbours of the Khazars were the Bulgars of the Kuban river valley and the Sabirs of northern Dagestan who were under the Khazar supremacy. The Sabirs are also known as Huns. They were beginning to profess Christianity, while Jews penetrated into Khazaria from Iran.
The Khazar state at the point of its flourishing checked the advance of nomad hordes from Asia creating conditions for colonization not only of the wooded steppe belt, but also, partially, of the steppes themselves. In the VIIIth century, the process of settled cultivation in the steppes, closely connected with intensive social and economic differentiation, takes place among some of the nomad tribes. In the country of the Don and the Donets, in northern Caucasus, and in eastern Crimea appear many agricultural settlements and castles protected by stone walls. Trades begin to develop, old towns on the shores of the Black Sea come back to life and new ones spring up in northern Caucasus and the lower Volga. Khazaria was the first feudal state in eastern Europe, which ranged together with the Byzantine Empire and the Arab Caliphate. It boldly interfered in the international affairs of its time and laid claim to the territories of eastern Transcaucasia. In Transcaucasia the Khazars met another aggressive nation — the Arabs, and a close alliance was formed between Byzantium and Khazaria in face of the common enemy. It was only due to the powerful Khazar attacks, diverting the tide of the Arab armies to the Caucasus, that Byzantium withstood against them. Inspite of the fact that as a result of a continuous war, lasting for three decades, and apparently terminating in a glorious victory of the Arabs over the Khazars — their Khagan being forced to turn Muslim in 737 — the Khazars exhausted the resources of the Arabs made them stop in the Caucasus, and checked their further progress
into Eastern Europe. The Arabs were forced to send a request for terms seeking an alliance with the Khazars, while the tribes of Transcaucasia looked hopefully to Khazar assistance in their struggle for independence.
Byzantium appreciated friendly relations with the Khazars and tried to strengthen the alliance by all means, intermarriages of the ruling dynasties including. In, the 80s of the Vlllth century Byzantium did not support the Goth uprising in the Crimea against the Khazars, though it tried to strengthen its own influence in Khazaria by means of uniting the Khazar Christians into a dependent religious body, the so-called Gothic Eparchy, controled by Byzantium.
The conversion of the Khazar Khagan and his attendants to Judaism thus promoting Judaism to a position of state religion is a phenomenon unprecedented in the history of the Middle Ages. Judaism had been adopted by a Khazar prince in northern Dagestan as early as the 30s of the Vlllth century, but the fact didn't affect the inner life of the Khazar kingdom, and the Khazar population continued to enjoy full liberty of religion for all professing Christianity, Islam or even worshipping their old Turkic god Tengri-khan. At the openning of the IXth century, however, the Jewish Khazars grew in importance at the Khazar's court, seized power and instituted the double kingship, reducing the Khagan, the descendant of the Turkut dynasty, to a position of a sacred king set aside from state power. A political and religious coup d'etat carried through by Obadiah, founder of the Jewish Khazar king dynasty, was followed by religious persecution of Christians and Muslims resulting, in particular, in the abolition of the Gothic Province church unity of the Christian Khazars rather numerous in the Crimea and northern Caucasus. An uprising against the usurper, followed by a long civil war in Khazaria, brought about its decline, and opened the way to the Madyars (Hungarians) into Europe; then came the Pechenegs, who appeared for the first time on the stage of history.
The few Khazars remaining after the unsuccessful uprising and surviving the sanguinary civil wars became known as «Khabars»; they joined the Madyars and settled together with them in Atelkuza, the country between the two rivers — the Dnieper and the Donets. The Khazar Khagan tried to use the Madyars as allies in his wars against the Pechenegs. He helped them to institute kingship under his protection, but failed in his attempts. The Madyar state had but a short life, and the end of the IXth century saw the Madyars give way under heavy attacks of the Pechenegs and Bulgars and migrate to the regions of the present-day Hungaria. The Pechenegs remaining the sole possessors of the steppes north of the Black Sea, the inner lands of Khazaria turned into hostile provinces.
Slav tribes inhabiting the country along the river Dnieper took the opportunity to throw the Khazar yoke and in the IXth century laid the foundation of an independent state of their own which began to expand and consolidate in the struggle with the Khazars and other enemies.
By this time, the whole economic structure of the Khazar state had considerably changed. A typically military empire of former days whose main concern was warfare and plunder, the Khazar empire of Jewish ru-
lers turned to trading, profiting by its favorable geographical position across important trade-routes of Asia and Europe and also between the south and the north. Custom-dues and tithes on merchandise coming along these routes became the source of the king's income and means for supporting his magnificent court and paid army, which alone could secure him temporary power over the agglomeration of diversified and economically disconnected tribes, longing for independence, but still remaining in the Khazar state. Deprived of territories and distrusted by the population, the weakened Khazar authority existed now only by force of arms of the paid troops.
After the conversion of the Khazars to Judaism, Byzantium continued to maintain friendly relations with Khazaria for some time and even assisted in 834 in building Sarkil, a fortress on the Don. Constantino's (Syril) mission resulted in the restoration of some local churches in Khazar regions, but they never became united in anything like the abolished Gothic Eparchy. Eventually with the eclipse of the military glory of the Khazars the attitude of Byzantium underwent a quick change. In the first half of the Xth century, Byzantium organized a number of unsuccessful raids against the Khazars by their neighbours: the Ghuzz, the Pechenegs, the Asies, and the Alans. Khazaria found strength enough to defeat the intruders, but shortly afterwards, in the year 913/4 and 943/4, strong Russian-Varangian hired bodies of men at arms, dismissed by Russian princes, crossed the Khazar lands on their plunder expedition to the Caspian coast, the Khazars being unable to put up resistance.
The center of the Khazar empire of the IXth—Xth centuries was the town of Atil situated on both banks of the Volga, later, Saray-i-Butu, the first capital of the Gold Horde, was built on its site. The eastern part of the town was inhabited by merchants and craftsmen from different countries, the western — was reserved for the pure-bred Khazars, and king's paid body-guard consisting chiefly of Muslims. The Khazars remained during the winter in town. In spring they went out to the steppes and stayed there till autumn pasturing flocks. Lands formally assigned to separate clans were in fact in feudal possession of the clan and military aristocracy with all the consequent duties paid to them by the actual producers. Some of the lands were cultivated and yielded crop which was taken to town in autumn.
The important position of Khazaria in international trade relations and the diversified pattern of the population of its capital caused the Jewish Khazars to turn from previous religious intoleration to full liberty of various creeds for all. Especially as Judaism was essentially non-prosely-tic, and remained the religion of the ruling class only, which rather separated than contributed to the unity of the Khazar population, other religions being extensively practiced, old Turkic paganism being particularly popular. Hebrew learning flourished only at the king's court but there it led to the appearance of historical works such as local geneologies and chronicles. The wide sections of Turkic speaking populace of Khazaria used Tiurk runic letters. The Khazars didn't create any material culture
of their own but developed old Sarmat-Alan traditions supplemented with some borrowings from Central Asia and Iran-Arab East. The Khazars and Bulgars differed very little ethnographically and are supposed to have been descendants of the Alans remaining in Central Caucasus and along the northern outskirts of the steppes between the Don and the Donets. The Madyars brought the elements of the same culture to Hungary. Other Turkic speaking nomads who invaded Europe, beginning with the Pechenegs, belonged to a different ethnographical type reminding more of a standard formed in Central Asia of the Khaganate period.
The downfall of Khazaria was the consequence of defeats inflicted by the Russians who joined forces against the Khazars with the Ghuzz, hostile tribes from the regions beyond the Volga. The Russian state claimed to inherit predominance of the Khazars in the East-European steppes, as well as to capture control of eastern trade-routes and trade, which had so much enriched the Khazars and in which the Russians themselves actively participated. In consequence of Sviatoslav and Vladimir's expeditions down the Volga nearly all Khazar territories.were lost to the Russians inspite of the interference of Khwarizm, whose assistance the Khazars secured adopting Islam. Only Bulgaria on the Volga remained independent and continued to control the middle Volga water-way. In this connection the important role of the Russian principality of Tmutorokan becomes evident. It exercised strong political influence over all the lands of southeast including the strait of Kcrtch, the country of Kuban river, the lower Povolzye, and the lower Podonye and secured for the Russians free trade with the East. In the beginning of the XIIth century the Russian State was forced, under the stress of feudal strife, to retreat before the invasion of the new nomad horde — the Komans — and lose the remains of the Khazar heritage. The mastery of the steppes passed to the Komans, and any traces of the Khazars and other Turkic speaking tribes vanished among them.
The book gives not only a pragmatic account of the history of the southern part of eastern Europe of the IVth—XIth centuries, but also throws light on general laws of historical development, and on many particular points which are of importance for the history of some peoples and territories constituting once the Khazar kingdom, such as for instance the Goths of the Crimea, the Hun-Sabirs of northern Dagestan, the Black Bulgars of the Kuban river, the Alans, the Asies and many others. The book deals also with the important role of the West-Turkut Khaganate in the history of eastern Europe.
The notes of L. N. Gumilev, the editor of the book, contain valuable additions and new standpoints relating to the historical event of Eurasia which expand and enrich the account of the author. The book is intended not only for historians, but also for nonspecialists possessing elementary historical knowledge. The table of contents gives the plan upon which the book has been constructed.