Fictional Literature about the Khazars

The Last Khazar by Arkady Grinberg (ScarletSails Press, April 2022). The Jewish Khazar warrior Nissim, a son of a powerful family, falls in love with a pagan Rus' hostage of noble descent. Nissim transforms from a warrior into a man of wisdom and religion. Portions of the novel are set before and after Atil's defeat by the Rus'.

All the Horses of Iceland by Sarah Tolmie (Tordotcom Publishing, March 2022). A fictional Norse trader named Eyvind journeys to Khazaria and then to Mongolia during the early 9th century. He encounters some Khazars while they travel further into Russia in order to capture wild horses. A Khazar man named Joseph teaches Eyvind about Khazarian government and agriculture. Eyvind also obtains some horses of his own.

Russkiy chastokol by Aleksandr Tamonikov (Izdatel'stvo Eksmo, 2019). This Russian novel portrays battles between Slavs and the Khazars that caused the defeat of the Khazar army and the death of the son of the Khazar kagan. Some of the scenes take place at such places as Slavic territory on the banks of the Oka river and in Khazaria at Sarkel.

Khazarskaya petlya by Aleksandr Tamonikov (Izdatel'stvo Eksmo, November 2019). This Russian novel describes the Khazar army encircling the Slavs' Volnoye Fortress. The Khazar bek Shamat wants revenge for the death of the kagan's son. Some of the scenes take place at such places as Slavic territory on the banks of the Oka river and in Khazarian municipalities including Sarkel, Atil, Khamlikh, and Kuterga.

Altın bozkırlar: Hazar'ın yıkılışı by Nadir Doğan (Kripto Yayınları, January 2019). This Turkish novel is set in Khazaria in 955. A guest arrives in Atil and meets the Khazar kagan to convey his sense that Khazaria will soon be destroyed.

Den siste vikingkongen: Djevelens rytter by Jan Ove Ekeberg (Gyldendal, May 2018). This Norwegian novel is set in the 1030s, where a Viking warrior named Harald meets Khazar horseriders of the steppes who are called the "devil's riders". The Byzantine Empire attacks Harald and the Khazars, killing many and taking the rest to Constantinople as prisoners of war.

The Book of Esther: A Novel by Emily Barton (Tim Duggan Books, June 2016). In this alternative history, the Khazar kaganate survives into modern times and with its Jewish religious identity intact, and in 1942 Germania launches a military conflict against Khazaria. The Khazars fight back, including on mechanical horses they've invented.

The Bones of the Old Ones: A Novel by Howard Andrew Jones (Thomas Dunne Books, December 2012). This historical fantasy set in the Middle East in the 8th century has Khazar characters aplenty, introduced (beginning on page 85) as people who wear fur hats and high boots and carry curved swords. Some of the Khazars are presented as individual characters. The novel mixes fact and fiction and on page 304 admits "As to pure fantasy, the Khazars did not have a doomsday cult that welcomed the world's end in ice." That page also instructs readers that the Khazars ended up converting to Judaism.

The White Raven by Robert Low (HarperCollins UK, hardcover May 2009 and softcover October 2009). This is part 3 of Low's 3-part Oathsworn Trilogy about the Scandinavian Norse. In this book the Varangians are joined by two Khazarian Jews.

The Whale Road by Robert Low (HarperCollins UK, March 2007; Thomas Dunne Books, August 2007). This is part 1 of a 3-part tale (the Oathsworn Trilogy) concerning the Scandinavian Norse of the 10th century. It sees a varjazi (a band of oath-sworn Norse/Slavs) involved with the Rus' armies of Svyatoslav in the events at the Khazarian city of Sarkel in 965 as part of a larger plot. Bearing in mind that this is a work of fiction, Low postulates that Svyatoslav expected a siege and was involved in one, before a Khazar army arrived to confront him. He defeated it and the city falls. American edition.

Gentlemen of the Road by Michael Chabon (serialized in The New York Times Magazine in January-May 2007). The story takes place in the 10th century, partly in the Arran region of Azerbaijan, and includes two Jewish mercenary characters (Zelikman and Amram) who learn about Khazaria, and travel there over the course of the story. They soon get involved with the attempt to restore the legitimate ruler to the throne following a bloody coup.
Chapter 1: On Discord Arising From Excessive Love of a Hat (January 28, 2007)
Chapter 2: On Payment -- and Trouble, Its Inevitable Gratuity (February 4, 2007)
Chapter 3: On the Burdens and Cruelties of the Road (February 11, 2007)
Chapter 4: On the Substitution of One Angel, and One Cause for Another (February 18, 2007)
Chapter 5: On the Observance of the Fourth Commandment Among Horse Thieves (February 25, 2007)
Chapter 6: On Some Peculiarities in the Trading Practices of Northmen (March 4, 2007)
Chapter 7: On the Seizing of a Low Moment (March 11, 2007)
Chapter 8: On a Niceness of Moral Discernment Uncommon Among Gentlemen of the Road (March 18, 2007)
Chapter 9: On anxieties arising from the impermissibility, however unreasonable, of an elephant's rounding out a prayer quorum (March 25, 2007)
Chapter 10: On the Belated Repayment of the Gift of a Pear (April 1, 2007)
Chapter 11: On the Unforeseen and Annoying Resemblance of a Bek's Life to an Ill-Played Game of Shatranj (April 8, 2007)
Chapter 12: On a Consignment of Flesh (April 15, 2007)
Chapter 13: On Swimming to the Library at the Heart of the World (April 22, 2007)
Chapter 14: On the Melancholy Duty of Soldiers to Contend With the Messes Left by Kings (April 29, 2007)
Conclusion: On Following the Road to One's Destiny, With the Usual Intrusions of Violence and Grace (May 6, 2007)
Published in book form by Del Rey in October 2007 under the full title Gentlemen of the Road: A Tale of Adventure. The UK edition was published by Sceptre in November 2007.

Voînata s khazarite by Musagit Khabibulin (Posoki, 2006). This Bulgarian novel is about Bulgar King Kubrat's war with Khazaria.

Haham Kral Hazarlı Davut by Monroe S. Kuttner (Istanbul: Birharf Yayınları, June 2005; translation by Enver Günsel). A history-based adventure novel about the last Khagan (Great King) of a remnant of the Jewish Kingdom of Khazaria in the Caucasus in the 12th century. The main setting is the Khazarian "village" of Samandar, starting in the year 1150. David ben Joseph is a young man who studied Judaism in Spain for 10 years. Upon his return to Khazaria, he has to adjust to the Khazarian Turkic semi-nomadic existence and become the next Khagan. Join in David's adventures as he and other characters participate in historical events and interact with historical personages.

Son Hazaryalı by Cahit Ülkü (Istanbul: İnkılap Kitabevi, 2004). A Turkish historical novel about descendants of Jewish Khazars in the Ottoman Empire who wish to revive their language and identity. The author characterizes his book (whose title means "The Last Khazar" in English) as a thesis novel. The plotline of the novel is partly based on the theories of Arthur Koestler, who chronicled the conversion of the Khazars to Judaism and had claimed that Khazars are the ancestors of Ashkenazic Jews and European Karaims. This novel also explores the concept that Khazarian Jews had made plans to intrude into the Ottoman Royal Palace in order to establish a state. Among these actors were a Khazarian Jew, Hürrem Sultana, and Selim II. According to Ülkü's theory, the Ottoman Dynasty finally ended with the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent (Kanuni - the Lawgiver). Other characters in the novel include Bulanbay (a Khazarian nobleman), Haim (a Khazarian boy), and a Khazarian shaman who advises Bulanbay.

The Dark Lord by Thomas Harlan (New York: Tor Books, 2002). Part 4 in Harlan's 7th-century series. Also translated into Slovak. Despite defeating the Avar army loose in Thrace and killing their khan, Dahvos loses his taste for war and battle (particularly as the ally of the feckless Romans) and returns to Khazaria.

The Storm of Heaven by Thomas Harlan (New York: Tor Books, 2001). Part 3 in Harlan's 7th-century series. Also translated into Czech and Slovak. In this fantasy history novel, Shirin, a princess of the Khazars (see illustration and character description), married the emperor of Persia. A portion of the novel takes place in the Khazar capital city, Itil. Here's a synopsis: After the battle of Yarmuk, Jusuf returns to Itil from the west. Prince Dahvos (still desiring an alliance with Eastern Rome, and the hand of Heraclius' daughter) decides to march his Khazarian army to Constantinople to help the Eastern Romans against the Persians. He does so, though he finds the political situation in Constantinople to be particularly treacherous.

The Wind of the Khazars by Marek Halter (New Milford, Connecticut, USA and London: The Toby Press, October 2003; translation by Michael Bernard). Originally published in French as Le Vent des Khazars (Paris: Editions Robert Laffont, April 2001). Also translated into Spanish, Catalan, Portuguese, Italian, and Turkish. Marc Sofer, a 20th century novelist, investigates Khazarian history and ends up in Azerbaijan. In the 10th century, a young Jew named Isaac is sent to Khazaria by the head rabbi of Cordoba. Halter's novel not only involves two very different time periods but also mingles many genres including historical fiction, contemporary thriller, and love story.

The Gate of Fire by Thomas Harlan (New York: Tor Books, hardcover May 2000 and paperback June 2001). Part 2 in Harlan's 7th-century series. Also translated into Czech and Slovak. Princess Shirin has various adventures in the Mediterranean; the other Khazars (Jusuf, Menahem) from the mission to Ctesiphon wind up in Rome, where they get into a lot of trouble. Prince Dahvos (now ruler of the Khazars after the death of Ziebil) returns home to Itil with his army.

The Shadow of Ararat by Thomas Harlan (New York: Tor Books, hardcover July 1999 and paperback May 2000). Part 1 in Harlan's 7th-century series. Also translated into Polish and Slovak. An alternative-history novel (based in part on actual events) in which the Western Roman Emperor, Galen, and the Eastern Roman Emperor, Heraclius, come together and militarily ally with the Khazars against Persia (ruled by Emperor Chosroes II). Some of the Khazars in the novel are named Jusuf, Sahul, and Dahvos. A number of Khazar warriors join a Roman effort to rescue/kidnap Princess Shirin (who in this reality is a Khazar, rather than a Christian Armenian) from Ctesiphon.

Khazary by Mikhail Alshevskii (Moscow: TERRA, 1999). Historical fiction about Khazars in Russian.

Ha-Meruts (The Race) by Hary Bar-Shalom (Tel Aviv, Israel: Hitahdut agudot ha-sofrim bi-medinat Yisrael, be-shituf im Masadah, 1999). Collection of stories translated from Romanian, including a story about the Khazars.

El ha-Rakia ha-Shevii (Into the Seventh Sky) by Hary Bar-Shalom (Jerusalem: Masadah, 1998). Story begins in Khazaria and ends in the far future and deals among other things with the search for the last Khazar king's treasures.

Justinian by H.N. Turteltaub (Harry Turtledove) (New York: Tor Books, 1998). First-person account of Byzantine Emperor Justinian II and his bodyguard, Myakes, including their exile in Cherson and their dealings with Khazar Khagan Busir Glavan.

Makom katan im Debi (A Little Place with Debi) by Meir Uziel (Ouziel) (Tel Aviv, Israel: Modan, 1996). Humorous, anachronistic novel that explores parallels between Khazaria and modern Israel. Also translated into Russian as Demony Xazarii i Devushka Debi.

Nashestvie khazar: istoricheskii roman v dvukh knigakh by Vladimir Afinogenov (Moscow: Gepta-Treid, 1996). A novel in 2 volumes.

Khazary by Aleksandr Baigushev (Moscow: Izdatelskii dom "Drofa": Izd-vo "Lirus", 1995). Historical fiction about Khazars and Kievan Rus in Russian, but with anti-Jewish overtones.

The Prince and the Scholar by Stanley Joseph Revich (Princeton, New Jersey, USA: Bristol, Rhein, and Englander, June 1992). A children's novel about Khazaria. The Ancient Storyteller of Kalim, Morocco takes his avid listeners on an exciting journey many hundreds of years back in time to a powerful Jewish kingdom north of the Black Sea, in the heart of what is now Russia. Yes, in the midst of the long and oppressive exile of the Jewish people, there was once a Jewish king and Jewish armies, a great and wealthy kingdom feared and respected by its barbaric neighbors. This kingdom, which was called Khazaria, has long since passed into the mists of history, but many of its glorious tales live on in the memories of storytellers like Old Machlouf of Kalim. As the story unfolds, young Prince Cusar and his clever friend Issac join a Khazarian expedition to the frontiers of the kingdom, with quite unexpected results. In "The Prince and the Scholar", the sixth volume in the "Tales From the East" series, the author has once again woven a delightful and exceedingly colorful tale, full of heroes and villains, and clever youths whose courage and resourcefulness save the day.

Russka: The Novel of Russia by Edward Rutherfurd (New York: Ivy Books, 1991). Series of short stories tracing the history of several families in a fictional Russian village. Some of the characters are Khazar Jews or their descendants. (One character is "Zhydovyn the Khazar".) Its novela "The River" covers the years 1066-1113 and deals among other things with the relationship between Khazars and Christian Russians.

"Chernye Strely Vyaticha" by Vadim Viktorovich Kargalov - the 4th section of his book Istoricheskie povesti (Moscow: Det. lit., 1989). Story about Rus'-Khazar relations in the 10th century, including conflicts with Svyatoslav's soldiers in the Volga and at Sarkel, with some imaginary dialogs. Part 8 of the story, "Itil' - Zhestokiy gorod", gives a basic and somewhat distorted overview of Khazaria, describing Atil, the kagan, and the Khazar way of life.

Dictionary of the Khazars by Milorad Pavic (New York: Knopf, November 1988). Originally published in Serbo-Croatian as Hazarski Recnik: roman leksikon u 100,000 reci (Belgrade: Prosveta, 1984). Also translated into French, Russian, Korean, Danish, Dutch, Romanian, Czech, Hebrew, Swedish, and other languages. Imaginative hypertext novel presenting the religious disputations in the Khazar king's court through Islamic, Christian, and Jewish lenses. A Khazar envoy in the story has Khazarian history and topography tattooed on his body. Pavic's other inventions include a "Khazar jar", "Khazar dream-hunters", and "Khazar dictionaries". Main characters: Princess Ateh, Kaghan, Mokadessa, Saint Cyril, Farabi Ibn Kora, Rabbi Isaac Sangari, and others.

Di Kuzarim: historisher roman by Shloyme Rosenberg (Buenos Aires, Argentina: Yidbukh, 1960).

Hisday Ben Shaprut by Jacob Weinshall (Ya`akov Vinshal), in his collection of stories `Anakim ba-midbar (Giants in the Desert) (Tel Aviv, Israel: Hotsa'at sefarim Shelah, 1952). A story about Hasdai's attempts to contact the Khazar king.

Das Volk des harten Schlafs: Roman (Sleeping Nation a.k.a. A Nation Veiled in Slumber) by Oskar Baum (Vienna: Löwit, 1937). Hebrew translation Am Nesuch Tardema published in 1949. A novel about the Khazars and their time. Baum portrays the Khazars as tolerant and civilized.

Lost Nation by Noah E. Aronstam (Detroit: Duo-art Press, 1937; New York: Behrman's Jewish Book House, 1940). A Jew, Emanuel Lindner, discovers a lost African Jewish community that descends from Khazars. The book blends fiction with real historical events. Many of the circumstances and cultural observations on the Khazars are not authentic. However, the author has a sympathetic view of the Khazars and presents the stories of King Bulan's conversion by Yitzhak ha-Sangari, King Obadiah's Jewish renaissance, and Svyatoslav's conquest of Sarkel in a mostly truthful manner.

Ha-Kuzar Ha'acharon (The Last Khazar) by Saul Tshernichovsky (1940). A beautiful and moving Hebrew ballad about the fate of the last Khazar king after his defeat by the Rus' army of Svyatoslav. Only one Khazar remains free, and he is wounded and tired. He encounters several animals that are willing to fight a larger, stronger enemy. With courage and determination, the Khazar decides to turn his horse around and charge at the Rus'.

The Lost Kingdom, or the Passing of the Khazars by Samuel Gordon (London: Shapiro, Vallentine, 1926). A novel about the destruction of Khazaria by the Rus'.

Im Judenstaat der Chasaren: historischer Roman aus dem achten Jahrhundert (In the Jewish Kingdom of the Khazars) by Selig Schachnowitz (Frankfurt am Main: Verlag des "Israelit", 1920). Samuel Leib Zitron's Hebrew translation Be-mamlekhet Kuzar ha-Yehudit published in 1922 or 1923 by Hotsaat "Omanut", Frankfurt am Main; reprinted by Jerusalem: Hosa'at "Ne`urim", 1980. Zalmon Rayzen's Yiddish translation In der medine fun di Kuzarim: Yidisher historisher roman fun dem akhtn yorhundert (In the Kingdom of the Khazars) published in 1924 by B. Kletskin, Vilnius, Lithuania. Yidisher historisher roman fun dem akhtn yorhundert. Menahem Mendl's Yiddish adaptation Di Kuzorim land: historishe ertseylung, worked from the German original, published in 1994 or 1995 by Menahem Mendel, Jerusalem. New Hebrew edition adapted and edited by A. Chachamowitz published in 2005 by Feldheim Publications. Rabbi Baruch Kalinsky's English translation of the 2005 Hebrew edition, The Jewish Kingdom of Kuzar: The Rise and Fall of the Legendary Country of Converts, published May 2007 by Feldheim Publications (author's name spelled as Zelig Shachnowitz). Tells the story of how the Khazars adopted Judaism and had a period of success before succumbing to the Rus'. Hasdai ibn Shaprut writes a letter to King Joseph, but at the end discovers that his kingdom has been destroyed.

Shnei ha-Mikhtavim (The Two Letters), in Shivat Tsiyon: al pi Zikhronot le-Vet David by Abraham Shalom Friedberg (Warsaw: Ahiasaf, 1893-1895; reprint: New York: Hotsaat La-dor shele-yad Vaad ha-hinukh ha-Yehudi bi-Nyu York, 1968). A short story in which a descendant of King David is sent by Hasdai ibn Shaprut to Khazaria and is a witness to the Rus' destruction of Khazaria. This is an adaptation of Reckendorf's Geheimnisse der Juden. Also translated into Arabic and Persian.

The Letter in Die Geheimnisse der Juden (The Mysteries of the Jews) by Herman Rakendorff (Reckendorf) (Leipzig, 1856-1857). A German story about contacts between Hasdai ibn Shaprut and the Khazars. Abraham Kaplan's Hebrew translation of the collection, Mistere ha-Yehudim, published in Warsaw in 1865.

The Kuzari: In Defense of the Despised Faith by Yehuda HaLevi (1140). Many translations into English, French, German, and other languages, including the English translation by Rabbi N. Daniel Korobkin (Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson, 1998; second edition Nanuet, NY: Feldheim Publishers, 2009). A Khazar king debates religion with a Greek philosopher, a Muslim, a Christian, and a Jewish rabbi, and chooses Judaism. Originally written in Arabic.

The defunct Khazar Historical Fiction (khazar-fiction) discussion group hosted by Yahoo! Groups and active from 2001-2014 was profiled in the May 23, 2001 issue of the Israeli newspaper Ma'ariv by Meir Uziel, in an article titled "Khazaria Lives". (Meir also wrote a followup article, "The Forgotten Jewish Empire", in the May 16, 2002 issue of Ma'ariv, which mentions the existence of creative fiction about Khazars.)

Non-Fiction Books about the Khazars

Imaginative Modern Artwork Portraying Khazar Characters:

  • Khazar Yabghu by Joel Chaim Holtzman
  • Khazar Bagathur by Joel Chaim Holtzman
  • Khazar Warrior by Christa Hook

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