The Khazars where a people who built an empire centred North of the Caucasus Range, between the 7th and 11th centuries. They are not at all mainstream (at least in Europe), even though, defeating the Arabs, they prevented their expansion in present day Southern Russia.

They were of Turkic origin and (apparently) converted in mass to Judaism.

The meaning of my question is broad: I'm interested in genetic as well as cultural heritage, which includes religion - but please do abstain from discussing the legitimacy of modern day Israel here. I believe there's plenty of space elsewhere on the internet for such an interesting but different topic. Thank you. If you do not understand the above disclaimer, ignore it.

EDIT: A new study has been published by Oxford UP that revives the Ashkenazim hypotesis. I do not have the means to judge it, but must be serious if it's been published here


6 Answers 6


The Khazar's have no known descendents.

Their language is dead, with no successor languages. It is currently considered to have been Turkic, of the Oghur branch. The only remaining living language of that branch is Chuvash in Central Russia, but those would at best be descendents of sort of cousins of the Khazars (the Bulgars).

There have been lots of claims of Khazar ancestry for various Jewish groups around the world. However, no real proof of ancestry exists, and genetic studies designed to show such proof have so far failed to do so.

Hungarians, Kazakhs, Kumyks, and Crimean Tartars also claim some amount of Khazar heritage. However, the Hungarians and Kazakhs didn't seem to have a really significant contribution from that source, and the other two speak Turkic languages of the Kypchak branch, which points to a slightly different cultural lineage than the Khazars.


Probably they got well mixed in the "generic Russian" gene pool, with not a few other peoples, and beyond the possibility of distinction nowadays.

By the way, if I recall correctly, the current scholarly opinion is that only the nobility converted to Judaism and not the mass of the people. Hard to tell, though, as the sources are rather nebulous. If, however, the conversion was indeed limited to the nobility, then it'd be a very serious blow against the theory that Ashkenazi Jews are descended from Khazars.

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    "Yes, your highness, of course I believe in your $deity, seeing how you'll take my head off if I say otherwise".
    – DVK
    Nov 28, 2012 at 22:21
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    @YannisRizos - True. Much like Mongols in their heyday (at least, religion-wise)
    – DVK
    Nov 28, 2012 at 23:48
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    @FelixGoldberg - that this ("only the nobility converted") is not exactly an unexpected or unusual pattern in a lot of things in societies of that sort. (or any societies). Basically agreeing with you that it's a plausible idea.
    – DVK
    Nov 29, 2012 at 18:14
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    @DVK - Quite. Of course the opposite also often happens. If you as a ruler want to consolodate your power, adopting the religon of your people (or perhaps the religon of the rivals of your enemies) can help a great deal. Basically for a medevil ruler, religon is like marriage; one should select it for political convience, not personal preference.
    – T.E.D.
    Nov 29, 2012 at 22:23
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    Yes, most medieval peoples have been "mixed in" with other ethnic groups over the past few hundred years. You might ask "Who are the modern descendants of the Vikings?" and find out that the Vikings had lots of colonies all around Europe and did intermix, in some cases heavily (e.g. England). You could thus say that modern English people have as much as (or at least almost as good as) a claim to being the modern descendants of the Vikings as modern Scandinavians do. Language and genes don't always travel together!
    – Robert Columbia
    Sep 21, 2016 at 21:25

I think, it depends on whom do you consider as a descendant. Biologically, they were swallowed by Kipchaks. As for culture, it was accepted by Rus, Magyars, Kipchaks.

Only smaller branches remained for longer time. Khavars in Hungaria. And of course, in contemporary Dagestan. Every nation or people of the plains along Black and Caspian Seas had some branch that escaped and remained as one of the numberless dagestan nations. In this area there are more languages than in the whole Europe. As for the exact name, there are opinions, that mountain jews are the descendants of Khazars. It is very probable, I think.

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    How can you be so sure about Dagestan? Nov 29, 2012 at 17:52
  • My own argument is: Because every other greater nation of these plains ended there. As for other arguments, I have put links here, haven't I?
    – Gangnus
    Dec 2, 2012 at 23:58
  • It may be possible that Jews from Bucharia (Azerbaijan and Geogia) have some connection to the Khazars. The biggest problem with the whole Khazar theory is one of language. You can usually tell the origin of Jews (Sephardi and Ashkenazi) by their family names. What is the classic family name for a Jew of Khazar ancestry? No one knows. Dec 3, 2019 at 7:13
  • @YonatanSimson Khazars were Judaists by religion, not Jews by blood. They are NOT descendants of Israelites.
    – Gangnus
    Dec 3, 2019 at 14:37
  • @Gangnus Jews are a people and religion. If you become Jewish you also join the Jewish people Dec 4, 2019 at 8:14

There is a theory that Crimean Karaites descended from Khazars. It was the official version in the USSR. The objections are those that their religion differ even though still a variant of Judaism and that their language belongs to a different branch of Turkic languages (actually it is the same language as that of Crimean Tatars, which may be explained by the fact that Crimean Tatar was the Lingua franca in Crimea).

The most serious objection is that they have no legends about their origin of Khasars. Historically they perceived themselves to descend from Turkish Jews.

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    Karaites didn't recognize Talmud from the beginning. Khazars adopted the standard Judaistic religion. I think, it is the main reason against this variant.
    – Gangnus
    Nov 29, 2012 at 10:25

If you go on Utube there is a family of Khazars that have used eagles to hunt for generations that seam to be Asian Russian and have their own culture and religion not the same as any group mentioned here . Not sure who they may really be but they seam to believe they are Khazar why not?

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    – Community Bot
    Jul 29 at 13:24
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    Could you add a link to the youtube channel?
    – MCW
    Jul 29 at 13:24
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    I believe the Eagle hunters are Kazakhs, not Khazars. See TEDs answer above for the connection/difference.
    – justCal
    Jul 29 at 14:15

The Khazars were of distant Turkic origin and did migrate from the steppes of Central Asia en route to either present-day Southern Russia or the Ukraine approximately 1000 years ago. The land, was generally referred to as, "Khazaria" and the Khazarian Royal Government did align with the Byzantines in Constantinople during the latter part of the Middle Ages.

With regard to the Khazar's relationship to Judaism, it was primarily the Nobility, as well as the Royal Court, who converted to Judaism, though the majority of Khazaria's civilian population did not convert to Judaism.

In terms of the ethno-racial identity of the Khazars, their Kingdom was eventually absorbed into the larger Russian Empire and a small percentage of the Khazarian Nobility would intermarry with neighboring North Slavic populations living near the Black Sea region. It is likely that a small percentage of North Slavic Eastern Orthodox Christians may have intermarried with a small percentage of Khazarian Jews-(namely, the Nobility).

There are probably a small number of Ashkenazi Jews who have distant Khazarian-North Slavic ancestry, though most Ashkenazi Jews are of mixed Middle Eastern and East European-(as well as, West European), ethnic descent.

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