The Genetics of the Medieval Khazars

The Khazars were a Turkic-speaking people who lived in what is today southern Russia and ran an independent kingdom from the 600s through the 900s. Originally shamanists, some members of the Khazarian royalty and upper classes converted to Judaism. Scientists have studied DNA they've extracted from medieval skeletons from Khazaria, including many who were definitely ethnic Khazars as determined by such factors as their burial customs and material remains. The genetic analyses confirmed their strong ties to the core Turkic regions in southern Siberia and Central Asia but did not find any similarity to any group of modern Jews - no shared haplogroup branches, no similarity in autosomal elements, no sharing of autosomal segments of significant length.

Gennady E. Afanasiev and his co-authors published the Russian article "Khazarskie konfederaty v Basseyne Dona" in Yestestvennonauchnie metodi issledovaniya i paradigma sovremennoy arkheologii: Materiali Vserossiyskoy nauchnoy koferentsii, Moskva, Institut arkheologii Rossiyskoy akademii nauk, 8-11 dekabrya 2015 in 2015 on pages 146-153. They examined the uniparental markers of 4 individuals in the Saltovo-Mayaki culture of Khazaria who lived circa the 800s:
•Sample A80301 belonged to the Y-DNA haplogroup R1a1a1b2a (R-Z94) which is of Persian/West Asian origin and found today among Turkic-speaking Karachay people. A80301's mtDNA haplogroup was I4a which is found today in northwestern and central Europe such as in Sweden, and also found around the Black Sea, in the North Caucasus, and in Armenia, Iran, and Siberia.
•Sample A80302's mtDNA haplogroup was D4m2, which is found today in Siberia among the Dolgan, Yakut, and Even peoples, but is never found among Ashkenazim.
•Sample A80410 belonged to the Y-DNA haplogroup G, commonly found among peoples in West Asia and the Caucasus today.
•Sample A80411 belonged to the Y-DNA haplogroup J2a, which is also commonly found in West Asia and the Caucasus today, and also in Central Asia and in parts of Europe like the Balkans.

Anatole A. Klyosov and Tatiana Faleeva's article "Excavated DNA from Two Khazar Burials" in Advances in Anthropology 7 (2017) on pages 17-21 examines the Y-DNA STRs of two Khazar samples from the lower Don region of southern Russia. Both of them belong to haplogroups within R1a's subclade Z93's Turkic branches, not part of the Ashkenazic Jewish or North Slavic lineages of R1a. The authors write that "R1a-Z93 is very common in present-day Turkic-speaking peoples such as Caucasian Karachaevo-Balkars, also Tatars, Bashkirs, Kirgiz, and other populations who apparently descended from Scythians, and have their common ancestors in the R1a-Z93 subclade dated back to 1500-2500 years ago".

Tatiana V. Tatarinova and her co-authors (including's contributing writer Vladimir Klyuchnikov) have a forthcoming paper titled "Diverse genetic origins of medieval steppe nomad conquerors". They released the preprint version on December 16, 2019 to BioRxiv. The final version will be published at They examined the autosomal DNA and the uniparental markers of 9 ethnic upper-class Khazars (8 men, 1 woman) from 5 medieval Khazarian archaeological sites in Rostov Oblast's southern Russian steppelands. Their bones were provided for the research by the archaeologist Klyuchnikov and his colleague Elena Batieva. They had been buried near the Don river during the 8th-10th centuries, Supplementary Table S3 and the "Y-chromosome analysis" section reveal the following data:
•Sample 67 belonged to the mtDNA haplogroup D4e5 which is common in today's East Asia and also found in North Asia and Southeast Asia and among Amerindians. D4e5 is never found among Ashkenazim.
•Sample 166 belonged to the mtDNA haplogroup C4 which is a Eurasian/Far Eastern haplogroup. C4 is never found among Ashkenazim.
•Sample 531 belonged to the mtDNA haplogroup X2e which is common in modern Turkey and the United Kingdom.
•Sample 619 belonged to the Y-DNA haplogroup Q and the mtDNA haplogroup H1a3 which the authors suggest might indicate a connection to Southwest Asia.
•Sample 656 belonged to the Y-DNA haplogroup C3 and the mtDNA haplogroup C4a1 which is a Eurasian/Far Eastern haplogroup. C3 and C4a1 are never found among Ashkenazim.
•Sample 1251 belonged to the Y-DNA haplogroup R1a and the mtDNA haplogroup H5b which is currently common in southwestern Eurasia and the Caucasus. H5b is never found among Ashkenazim.
•Sample 1564 belonged to the mtDNA haplogroup H13c1 which is found among modern Europeans. The DNA study's authors don't mention the fact that H13c1 is also found among Armenians from Turkey. H13c1 is never found among Ashkenazim.
•Sample 1566 belonged to the mtDNA haplogroup D4b1a1a which is common in Northeast Asia. D4b1a1a is never found among Ashkenazim.
•Sample 1986 belonged to the Y-DNA haplogroup R1a and the mtDNA haplogroup C4a1c which is a Eurasian/Far Eastern haplogroup. C4a1c is never found among Ashkenazim.
Looking at their complete genomes, utilizing full genome NGS sequencing and interpreting this with reAdmix and GPS tools, they write that samples 67, 166, 1566, and 1686 have strong Asian (in the sense of Mongoloid) autosomal elements, with 166 and 1566 described as "purely Siberian", while samples 619 and 656 are highly mixed between Asian and European elements, and samples 531, 1251, and 1564 are primarily European but also carry minority Asian admixture. Their European elements were mostly from Eastern Europe. They also write that some of their skulls racially had Mongoloid morphologies while others had Caucasoid morphologies.

Tatarinova and her co-authors, with Igor V. Kornienko as the lead author, had their article "Y-Chromosome Haplogroup Diversity in Khazar Burials from Southern Russia" peer-reviewed and published in the April 2021 issue of Russian Journal of Genetics (vol. 57, no. 4) on pages 477-488. This is about those 9 upper-class ethnic Khazars from burial mounds in the Rostov region from the 7th-9th centuries. It discusses Y-DNA evidence mainly, and some autosomal DNA results, but not the samples' mtDNA results. According to this article, their Y-DNA haplogroups were R1a in 3 of them, C2b (not C3) in 2 of them, G2a in one of them, N1a in one of them, Q in one of them, and R1b in one of them. The Abstract observes that "Such results were noteworthy for the mixture of West Eurasian and East Asian paternal lineages in these samples. The Y-chromosome data are consistent with the results of the craniological study and genome-wide analysis of the same individuals in showing mixed genetic origins for the early medieval Khazar nobility."

The Novinki group population's mtDNA haplogroups included U4d2, A+152+16362, C4a1a, C5a1, and Z1a1a according to Table S2 and Figure 5 of the article "Tracing genetic connections of ancient Hungarians to the 6-14th century populations of the Volga-Ural region" by Bea Szeifert, Dániel Gerber, et al. peer-reviewed and published in Human Molecular Genetics 31:19 (September 1, 2022) on pages 3266-3280. The text also says "The burials of Novinki-type sites are archaeologically attributed to the representatives of Bulgar and/or Khazar heterogeneous (presumably border guarding military) groups. The genetic links of this group with Central and Inner Asia are in line with the historical and archaeological facts that the Khazars came from the territory of the Western Turkic Khaganate. [...] The Novinki-type (8th–9th centuries) of sites (Novinki, Lebyazinka, Malaya Ryazan, Mullovka, Shilovka and Brusyany) in the Samara Bend of the Volga may be suitable for studying the former neighbours of the Hungarians and early Khazar–Hungarian relations. These sites yielded the archaeological heritage of the population (presumably consisting of artificially organised communities of Bulgar and Khazar origins) settled there to protect the most important river crossing on the eastern border of the Khaganate." Table 1 confirms that the 8th-9th century samples from Novinki-type sites in this study came from the sites Novinki, Lebyazhinka, Malaya Ryazan, Shilovka, Mullovka, and Brusyany in Russia's Samara bend. A reading of A+152+16362 is at the base of multiple subclades, one of which is the Ashkenazic A12'23.
•The female A+152+16362 sample Si1 from Shilovka's Kurgan 2, Grave 1, a Novinki-type site of the 8th-9th centuries, is probably Bulgar or Khazar according to Supplementary Material file ddac106.pdf, citing Komar 2001. Extended Figure 4 shows that phylogenetically this sample is close to ARS007.B01_Mongolia_BA, Uyelgi4, KU682988 (Uyghur), and KU683494 (Uyghur). KU682988 and KU683494 are A-a1h1, defined by mutation A1585G, in YFull's MTree, and that is not the Ashkenazic branch.
•A male A+152+16362 sample in this study is MOT01 from grave/object #874 from the Tankeevka cemetery in Tatarstan dating to the 10th or 11th century, as stated in Table S2 of Supplementary Material. That isn't a Novinki-type site. According to page 14 of Supplementary Material file ddac106.pdf, many of those buried in Tankeevka cemetery were Volga Bulgars while some others were Hungarians. Extended Figure 4 shows that phylogenetically this sample is close to EF153794 (Buryat), MF522991 (a Pamiri who has the mutation T16189C! that Ashkenazim also have; this sample is A-a1b* in YFull's MTree), MF523016 (another Pamiri who is A-a1b* in YFull's MTree), EU007868 (Kazakh), some ancient samples from Kazakhstan, Mongolia, and Russia, and to "TAL004.A01 - Tasmola" which is A-a1b3* in YFull's MTree (an ancestral level of the Ashkenazic branch A-a1b3a1) and "KX977308.1_Black_sea_Scythian_ancient" from Ukraine which is also A-a1b3*.

Denis O. Fesenko and his co-authors published an article in 2023 in two languages: the Russian original version "DNK-fenotipirovaniye ostankov iz elitnykh pogrebeniy yuga Rossii khazarskogo vremeni" published in Molekularnaya Biologiya, volume 57, number 4 on pages 597-608 — and the English translation "DNA Phenotyping of Remains from Elite Burials of the Khazar Period of Southern Russia" in Molecular Biology volume 57, number 4 on pages 593-603. These scientists performed genetic phenotyping on the bones of medieval Khazar elites who were buried in southern Russia. They found that most of them had brown eyes, dark hair, and non-fair skin. Many of these had Mongoloid (East Eurasian) characteristics not only in terms of their coloration but also in terms of their skull shapes (see pages 604 and 606 in the Russian version). They also found that two of them had grey-blue eyes and that one had blond hair, which are West Eurasian traits. The ten Khazars in this study exhibited "high heterogeneity of ethnogeographic origin" in terms of autosomal DNA.

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