Jewish Warriors

Historical Overview
By Norman J. Finkelshteyn

Ancient, Classical,
and Modern Eras

Yemen (Himayar)

Beyond The Sambation -
The Jews of Ethiopia
(the Bata Yisrael or Falashas)

The Middle East -
Muslim Conquests through The Crusades

Spain before the Expulsion

The Khazar Kaganate

Persia and Central Asia

Refugees from Spain and Portugal

Caveats in Researching Jewish History

Khazar Armour on Exhibit in Moscow

Hairstyle of the Jewish Khazar

Jewish Partisans in WWII

Israel Today --
Notes on the Current Conflict

Readings of interest

Submissions Guidelines

Resource Links

Copyright and Authoring information

Norman Finkelshteyn's
Armour History Site

Silk Road Designs Armoury

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The Khazar Kaganate
Khazar Heavy Cavalry Warrior
Khazar Heavy Cavalry Warrior
See brief discussion below.
After the decline of the Hunnish confederacy, the Hun and Turk tribes who had formed it shifted and reorganised until, in the 6th century, the Khazar tribe began to develop. This tribe grew and strengthened, taking advantage of the shifting aliances and strengths of the many tribes, to eventualy become the major power in its region -- ruling and taking tribute from the Volga to the Caspian Sea in areas that today include among them Russia, the Crimea, and Azerbaijan.
The Huns and Turks had very fluid notions of tribal identity and an open attitude toward religion. As the Khazar tribal confederacy developed, the Jews who had lived in Central Asia since the late centuries BCE, as well as those who came as a result of subsequent purges and forced conversion attempts from Persia, Byzantium, and elsewhere, were drawn in and became part of the Khazar entity.
Finally, in the 9th century, the leaders and the majority of the Khazar nobility came to be Jews.
One likely possibility for how this happened is a conversion of the nobility. This is the official version of the situation, as told by the Khazar ruler Joseph in his famous letter to Hasdai ibn Shaprut of Spain.
Another possibility, advanced as an option based on historical evidence by Artamonov, is that the Jewish "subtribe" at that point attained ascendancy over the other subtribes. This theory is consistent with the story provided by another Khazar letter found in the Cairo Geniza. This tells of Israelites of the tribe of Shimon who gained power among the Khazars. They had no access to Sacred Writings and therefore lost their Jewish practice. Upon discovering copies of such Writings hidden in a cave, they made the effort to "return" to that practice.
Dangers in Researching the Khazars
Khazar research and publication is, probably more than any other historical topic, extremely prone to misuse by extremist groups for self-serving agendas.
Such "Pseudohistory" is often quite difficult to distinguish from actual research.
In order to aid in winnowing out untrustworthy publications, I have set forth an overview of the most common claims at the following page:
Caveats in Researching Jewish History

Further, in my opinion, even genuine historical research on the topic suffers from a tendency to leap to conclusions -- often unwittingly providing foder for extremist "pseudohistory".
Thus, the following page is presented:
How to look at Khazar sources -- Critique of some "findings" in Khazar research
The reason for the "Judaisation" of the Kaganate (Kingdom) was, of course, likely a complex combination of the two tales. Whatever it was, the Khazars came to be a "Jewish kingdom" (called "Zemlya Zhidovskaya" - "Jew land" - in the Russian legends).
While the kingdom and ruling class were officially Jewish, the Khazars did not adopt forced conversion. The other religions were not only tolerated, but were an integral part of the Khazar structure.
Thus, the court of Itil (the capital) had seven judges. Two judged the Jews (ruling according to Jewish law), two judged the Christians (ruling according to Christian law), two judged the Mulims (according to the Koran), and one judge judged those who had retained the Turkic Shamanistic religion (according to their law).
Similarly, the military took advantage of the strength and accounted for the weakness of a multicultural army. When the Khazars undertook war against Muslim countries, Muslims did not fight, when they fought against Christian lands, Christians did not fight, and so forth -- to prevent the conflict of loyalties a soldier may feel in "fighting his own".
Above right is an illustration of a Khazar heavy cavalry warrior, a brief discussion follows of the influence of the style and custom on the region. The table at right offers a serious caution when researching the Khazars further (especially on the internet).

Khazar Heavy Cavalry Warrior
The Judaic biblical rule to wear Peyot (long hair at the temples) found resonance with the hairstyles of the Hunnish and Turkic warriors. It is likely that the Peyot worn by this Jewish warrior, and still worn by many Jews today, developed into their particular fashion through the cross-fertilisation of Jewish and Steppes Nomad cultural norms.
When the nobility of the Viking Russ (later to merge with the Slavs to become Russians and Ukranians) began to assert power in the region, they copied these Peyot -- wearing them as a mark of power. (An expanded note on the Peyot)
The armour of the warrior is based on contemporary descriptions, art and artifacts from the area of the Khazar Kaganate. The belt, decorated with medalions which often signified tribal identity and status, is a mark of the Turkic warrior. It too was later adopted by the Russ in their efforts to establish legitimacy in the region.
The Khazars were among the first tribes to fully adopt the curved Saber in preference to the straight sword. The preference for the Saber over other styles spread through the rest of the world, last to be adopted in Napoleonic era Europe. It is somewhat ironic, in the face of the almost complete replacement of the Sword by the Saber in Russia of the later Middle Ages, that the Russian authors of the "Primary Chronicle" ("Povest Vremenikh Let") derided the Khazar saber, extoling the virtue of the Russian (Scandinavian) straight, double-edged sword.
(NOTE: The Saber illustrated here has details that are more apropriate to later Persian Sabers. There are plans to modify the drawing accordingly.)
Learn about Armour generally
About Scale and Lamellar
About Armour of Bands
About Maile
See Khazar Armour on Exhibit in Moscow

Next Page
(Persia - Central Asia)

Articles and Illustrations by Norman J. Finkelshteyn.
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Copyright Norman J. Finkelshteyn 1997 - 2000 -- All articles and illustrations at this web site are Copyright protected material. Use of these articles and illustrations is subject to appropriate restrictions under United States, International, and local Law.

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