Khazar theory

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The Khazar theory argues that Ashkenazi Jews are descendents of Khazars who converted to Judaism in the 8th century.

Supporters of the theory

The Khazar theory argues that the Ashkenazi Jews are the descendents of the Khazars who converted to Judaism in the 8th century. Archeological, historical, and linguistic evidence have been argued to support the theory.

One argument used in support of the theory is that it can easily explain the large Jewish population in Eastern Europe as due to the already existing large Jewish-Khazar population. The competing theory of Ashkenazi Jews descending from migrations from southern Europe requires a rapid population growth for Ashkenazi Jews.

A genetic study by the Jewish geneticist Eran Elhaik is argued to support the theory.

Critics of the theory

A 2013 critique argued that "A careful examination of the sources, however, shows that some of them are pseudepigraphic, and the rest are of questionable reliability. Many of the most reliable contemporary texts that mention Khazars say nothing about their conversion, nor is there any archaeological evidence for it. This leads to the conclusion that such a conversion never took place."[1] Others have argued for a conversion but this only affecting the nobility.

A rapid population growth would be compatible with the Ashkenazi Jews having developed an effective Jewish group evolutionary strategy. The Gypsies are an example of a population with very rapid population growth in Europe which demonstrates that this is possible.

Critics of the theory have also argued that most genetic studies contradict a major genetic input from the Khazars but may allow a minor one.

Political aspects

The Khazar theory has been used as an argument against the right of Jews, or more specifically Ashkenazi Jews, to the land of Palestine. But even if the Khazar theory is incorrect, an extremely distant ancestral link to a population once inhabiting the area is arguably not a justification for taking it away from those who have lived there for a long time.

Another aspect is that it may contradict that the Ashkenazi Jews are a "chosen people" due to descending from the Hebrews who made a pact with the Hebrew God regarding this. However, belonging to the "chosen people" may involve having the right religion (Judaism) rather than having the right genetics.

On the other hand, the Khazar theory has been argued to be an argument against racially based criticisms of Jews because it would show that all Jews are not a distinct race. However, Ashkenazi Jews could still constitute a distinct race also under the Khazar theory.

Another argument is that the Khazar theory would undermine arguments such that the Ashkenazi Jews are the descendents of the "Christ killers". However, the religion could still be accused of this.

Another aspect is that the Khazar theory would invalidate some aspects of Kevin MacDonald's theory about a Jewish group evolutionary strategy such as the Jews being highly ethnocentric in part due to descending from the highly ethnocentric peoples of the Middle East. However, even if the Khazar theory is correct, the Khazars/Ashkenazi Jews could still have or have evolved a high degree of ethnocentrism so the Khazar theory does not necessarily invalidate the fundamental aspects of the Jewish group evolutionary strategy.

Jewish views

Many Jews have criticized the Khazar theory, in part due to perceived political aspects.

The Jewish geneticist Harry Ostrer have argued that genetics contradict the Khazar theory. All Jewish groups are argued to be genetically similar and genetically distinct from other groups. However, this argument, essentially stating that Jews are a separate race, "sparked denial in some Jewish quarters and insinuations of anti-Semitism in others. Some remarked that 'Hitler would have been pleased' with the findings from Ostrer’s team of researchers."[2]

Some Jews have supported the theory. The Jew Arthur Koestler in his influential book The Thirteenth Tribe (1976) supported and popularized the Khazar theory. It has been argued that Koestler supported the Khazar theory as an argument against criticisms of Jews. Koestler himself stated regarding the Khazar theory that "Should this turn out to be the case, then the term “anti-Semitism” would become void of meaning, based on a misapprehension shared by both the killers and their victims." A more recent Jewish support with similar motivations is by Shlomo Sand in his 2009 book The Invention of the Jewish People which more generally argued that many Jewish groups came about primarily through the religious conversion of local people. A study by the Jewish geneticist Eran Elhaik argued that modern Caucasus populations such as Armenians are genetically similar to Ashkenazi Jews which would support the Khazar theory.[2][3][4]

Non-Jewish views

Many critics of Jews have supported the Khazar theory, in part due to perceived political aspects.

David Duke and Kevin MacDonald have criticized the theory.

Turanism and comparisons with Turks and Hungarians

Turanism is a nationalist movement which proclaims an ethnic/cultural unity for disparate peoples (such as the Hungarians and the Turks) who are supposed to have a common ancestral origin in Central Asia, using the Iranian term Turan as the designation for this place. It is relatively popular in Hungary. The Khazars are supposed to have been Turanids. Some supporters of Turanism may possibly support the Khazar theory since this would make the Ashkenazi Jews Turanids and increase the historical importance of Turanid peoples generally (although supporters of Turanism are often critical of Jews and Jewish influence).

Some pro-Khazar theory arguments have involved making comparisons with the current population of Turkey with the assumption being that this population is similar to the Khazars since both are assumed to be "Turanid" and from Central Asia. However, the Turkish population in Turkey is not a good example of a Central Asian Turkic people since after extensive race mixing only a small part of the genetic ancestry is Central Asian.[5]

Similarly, genetic studies have found that Hungarians are Europeans and not Central Asians.

See also

External links




  1. Shaul Stampfer, "Did the Khazars Convert to Judaism?," Jewish Social Studies: History, Culture, Society 19 (3) pp.1–72. Spring/Summer 2013.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Cooper Sterling. Who are the Jews? July 8, 2012. The Occidental Observer.
  3. Arthur Koestler. The Thirteenth Tribe. Page 1.
  4. Eran Elhaik. The Missing Link of Jewish European Ancestry: Contrasting the Rhineland and the Khazarian Hypotheses.
  5. Hodoğlugil U, Mahley RW (2012) Turkish population structure and genetic ancestry reveal relatedness among Eurasian populations. Ann Hum Genet 76 (2):128-41.