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  •  I almost mentioned Koestler (5+ / 0-)

    but I didn't want to go too much into the Khazar issue. You're right, Koestler was a Zionist, and the hypothesis itself isn't inherently anti-Zionist or anti-Jewish. If Ashkenazim were predominantly descended from converts, that wouldn't in any way lessen their legitimacy as Jews nor would it have any impact on the State of Israel. Jewish tradition is based on the continuance of tradition from ancient times, and conversion is considered a valid means of passing on that tradition.

    (I didn't realize that the Khazars were considered a central Asian people. If that's true, I got confused because Turkey is right on the border between the two continents.)

    •  Here's the start of the Wiki article on Khazars: (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mamamedusa, Kylopod

      "The Khazars were a semi-nomadic Turkic people who dominated the Pontic steppe and the North Caucasus from the 7th to the 10th century CE. The name 'Khazar'[1] seems to be tied to a Turkic verb form meaning "wandering".[2]

      In the 7th century CE, the Khazars founded an independent Khaganate in the Northern Caucasus along the Caspian Sea. Although the Khazars were initially Tengri shamanists, many of them converted to Christianity, Islam, and other religions. During the eighth or ninth century the state religion became Judaism. At their height, the Khazar khaganate and its tributaries controlled much of what is today southern Russia, western Kazakhstan, eastern Ukraine, Azerbaijan, large portions of the Northern Caucasus ( Circassia, Dagestan, Chechnya), parts of Georgia and the Crimea.

      Between 965 and 969, their sovereignty was broken by Sviatoslav I of Kiev, and they became a subject people of Kievan Rus'. Gradually displaced by the Rus, the Kipchaks, and later the conquering Mongol Golden Horde, the Khazars largely disappeared as a culturally distinct people."

      ***************
      Thus, we're both right. They were originally a wandering Turkic tribe from central asia, like so many groups that kept wandering from east to west over thousands of years. But at its height, the Khazar Empire, which was quite large, stretched into Eastern Europe.

      By the way, I said in my note above that I thought the date of the conversion of the Khazars to Judaism was around 900, but apparent it was more like 740. Legend says the king decided a proper empire needed a religion, so he invited a Jew, a Christian and a Muslim to a debate. He observed that the Christian and the Muslim mainly attacked each other, while both claimed descent from the Jews, so he decided to go with the original. I don't know if that's true, but it's a nice tale.

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