The Thirteenth Tribe: The Khazar Empire and Its Heritage

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They had been converted to Judaism.

Despite a special messenger from heaven, who enabled them to claim that they, too, were Chosen, it is hard to resist Mr. Koestler's conclusion that their decision was also politically motivated. As Christians, they would have become dependent on Rome; as Mohammedans, on the Caliphs.


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The Khazars remained independent for several hundred more years. The end came when they were overrun by the Mongols towards the middle of the 13th century.

It is at this point that Mr. Koestler produces his startling new theory. The Khazars, he claims, cannot just have disappeared. Most of them, he argues, must have been absorbed in what is now the Soviet Union, others in Hungary and Poland. Nor, after years, were they likely to abandon their Jewish faith and traditions.

H.O.I. Yaiqab - The 13th Tribe [Arthur Koestler]

Though Turkish by race, they almost certainly remained Jews, greatly outnumbering the racially Jewish Jews who had reached these areas by other routes and at other periods of history. Nothing could be more stimulating than the skill, elegance and erudition with which he marshals his facts and develops his theories.

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It is filled, too, with unusual and pleasing scraps of knowledge. For my part I shall always be grateful to him for at last elucidating to my satisfaction the provenance of that improbable tribe, the Dagh Chufuty or Mountain Jews of Daghestan, who, I am glad to be able to report, were, only this summer, alive, reasonably well and still living in Daghestan. Archives The Thirteenth Tribe. See the article in its original context from August 29, , Page Buy Reprints.

The Thirteenth Tribe

View on timesmachine. In the last chapter I have tried to show that the evidence from anthropology concurs with history in refuting the popular belief in a Jewish race descended from the biblical tribe. Mattias Gardell writes that Koestler's thesis is "partly based on amateur anthropology", [1] and its scientific arguments come from The Myth of a Jewish Race by Raphael Patai and his daughter Jennifer. Koestler biographer Michael Scammell writes that Koestler told French biologist Pierre Debray-Ritzen he "was convinced that if he could prove that the bulk of Eastern European Jews the ancestors of today's Ashkenazim were descended from the Khazars, the racial basis for anti-Semitism would be removed and anti-Semitism itself could disappear".

In The Invention of the Jewish People , Shlomo Sand , historian of cinema, French intellectual history, and nationalism at Tel Aviv University , writes "while the Khazars scared off the Israeli historians, not one of whom has published a single paper on the subject, Koestler's Thirteenth Tribe annoyed and provoked angry responses. Hebrew readers had no access to the book itself for many years, learning about it only through the venomous denunciations".

The thirteenth tribe

In the Arab world the theory espoused in Koestler's book was adopted by persons who argued that if Ashkenazi Jews are primarily Khazar and not Semitic in origin, they would have no historical claim to Israel, nor would they be the subject of the Biblical promise of Canaan to the Israelites , thus undermining the theological basis of both Jewish religious Zionists and Christian Zionists.

Koestler's book was praised by the neo-Nazi magazine The Thunderbolt as "the political bombshell of the century", [11] and it was enthusiastically supported by followers of the Christian Identity movement. Koestler's book is as readable as it is thought-provoking. Nothing could be more stimulating than the skill, elegance and erudition with which he marshals his facts and develops his theories. Despite some positive reviews in the press, James A. Beverley writes "When The Thirteenth Tribe was released, the academic critique of its research was prompt, public, and generally negative", [18] and Evan Goldstein states that it was "savaged by critics".

The Thirteenth Tribe the Khazar Empire and Its Heritage

Barkun describes the book as an "eccentric work", and writes that Koestler was "unequipped with the specialist background the subject might be thought to require", but that he "nevertheless made an amateur's serious attempt to investigate and support the theory. Hundert wrote in "There is no evidence to support the theory that the ancestors of Polish Jewry were Jews who came from the Crimean Jewish kingdom of Khazaria", describing Koestler as the "best-known advocate" of the theory.

Koestler biographers have also been critical of the work. In Arthur Koestler: The Homeless Mind , David Cesarani states it makes "selective use of facts for a grossly polemical end" and is "risible as scholarship". A study by Nebel et al. However, Referencing The Thirteenth Tribe , the study's authors note that "Some authors argue that after the fall of their kingdom in the second half of the 10th century CE, the Khazar converts were absorbed by the emerging Ashkenazi Jewish community in Eastern Europe.

Writing in Science , Michael Balter states Koestler's thesis "clash[es] with several recent studies suggesting that Jewishness , including the Ashkenazi version, has deep genetic roots.