Khazars, Hungarians, and Judaism

Last May a massive two-volume history of Jewish Hungarians appeared. When I say massive I’m not exaggerating. Géza Komoróczy, professor of Assyrian and Hebraic Studies at ELTE of Budapest, spent ten years on the research for this comprehensive 2,400-page study. He paid special attention to the neglected Middle Ages. Komoróczy is unique in the sense that he is not Jewish, which is considered to be an oddity nowadays in Hebraic studies. Interestingly enough, in the nineteenth century it was mostly non-Jews who worked on Jewish history; they were the pioneers in the field.

The book is expensive, yet the first edition sold out and the publisher is reprinting it. After the book appeared Komoróczy was interviewed extensively. It was in one of these interviews that Komoróczy talked about the beginnings of Hungarian Jewish history–and the beginnings of Hungarian history as a whole.

The link between the two is the Khazar Empire, whose political elite converted to Judaism. It is known that the Hungarian tribes at one point were under the supremacy of the Khazars. It is possible that the Hungarian chieftains followed the Khazar religious example since they adopted many Khazar customs.

One clue is that Hungary’s third king was a certain Aba Sámuel, most likely the nephew of St. Stephen. Scholars doubt that he followed the Jewish ritual, but it is likely that he came from a family in which the Judaic tradition was strong. Or there is King Salamon (1063-74), son of András I. That’s why Komoróczy jokingly said in the interview that if there was a Jew among the Hungarians who arrived in the Carpathian Basin it was Árpád himself.

You may recall that Arthur Koestler wrote a controversial book entitled The Thirteenth Tribe outlining his hypotheses about the Khazar origins of European Jewry. The Khazars were a Turkic people who lived in the region of the Caucasus. As was so often the case in this region, the Khazars were pushed westward by invading armies from the East and settled in present-day Russia, Ukraine, and Poland. Koestler argued that proving that Ashkenazi Jews had no biological connection to the biblical Jews would remove the racial basis of European anti-Semitism.

Today science ostensibly allows us to be more certain about our ancestry. Yaakov Kleiman’s 2004 study DNA & Tradition: The Genetic Link to the Ancient Hebrews  seemed to have disproved Koestler’s theory. Kleiman stated that “the general Ashkenazi paternal gene pool does not appear to be similar to that of present-day Turkish speakers. This finding opposes the suggestion that most Ashkenazim are descended from the Khazars, the Turkish-Asian empire that converted to Judaism en masse in or about the 8th century C.E.”

Now there is a new study by Eran Elhaik, who published an article in the most recent issue of Genome Biology and Evolution entitled “The Missing Link of Jewish European Ancestry: Contrasting the Rhineland and the Khazarian Hypotheses.” The Rhineland hypothesis describes Eastern European Jews as a “population isolate” that emerged from a small group of German Jews who migrated eastward and expanded rapidly.

Elhaik concentrated on a possible DNA link between the Khazars and present-day European Jews. But there was a bit of a problem. The Khazar population disappeared somewhere on the steppes of Russia. So Elhaik studied first the DNA of people of the Caucasus today, altogether 74 ethnic groups, and compared them to eight different Jewish groups, among them some from the Near East. He came to exactly the opposite conclusion from Kleiman. According to him, European Jews are most closely related to the Turkic-Iranian ethnic pool, although there are some Semitic strains as well.

Khazars

Elhaik’s explanation for the Semitic strain is that Semitic people also migrated to Khazaria from the Near East, specifically from Mesopotamia and Judea. These groups settled in the southern parts of Khazaria where today Georgians and Armenians live. The researcher claims that the closest genetic relationship of Ashkenazi Jews is with the Armenians of today.

According to Elhaik’s account, the DNA of today’s Jewry comes from three different sources: (1) the non-Semitic Khazars, (2) the Jews who settled in the Greek and Roman Empires, and (3) the Jews of Mesopotamia and Judea.

But then where does the Yiddish language widely spoken in earlier times by Jews come from? Although it includes Hebrew words, it surely has its roots in the German language. That would support the Rhineland theory. Koestler’s answer to this was that during the Middle Ages most of the cities of Eastern Europe were inhabited by Germans. This was certainly true of Poland, and of Hungary as well. Koestler pointed out that since Jews were not allowed to own land they had to settle in cities where they picked up more and more German words.

I guess one can have two completely different results from DNA research. Therefore, unlike Origo, which confidently entitled its article on the subject “The genetic foundation of anti-Semitism is disproved,” I find it difficult to wholeheartedly embrace this new theory. I would like to know, for example, what language these Jewish Khazars who moved to Poland spoke. And are there any traces of a Turkic language in Yiddish?

Whatever the case, let’s be satisfied with the likelihood that the Khazar influence on the early Hungarians also meant that high Hungarian officials converted to Judaism alongside the Khazars. I’m pretty sure that this is shocking enough to our anti-Semites.

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Guest
gdfxx
January 19, 2013 5:59 pm

“Whatever the case, let’s be satisfied with the likelihood that the Khazar influence on the early Hungarians also meant that high Hungarian officials converted to Judaism alongside the Khazars. I’m pretty sure that this is shocking enough to our anti-Semites.”

Just leave it to them: this is just a proof of how early the Universal Jewish Conspiracy against Hungarians has started.

Guest
January 19, 2013 6:30 pm

The Turkish language family is very similar to Hungarian: agglutinative, has vowel harmony, rich is case declensions, though is not marked for gender (nouns, pronouns, adjectives, etc.)… It has had no significant impact on Yiddish, as this language developed later once the people had settled in Central Europe.

It is this misleading similarity to Hungarian that led the (Jewish) dragoman Vámbéry Ármin to mistakenly champion the cause for a Turkic origin of Hungarian; in opposition to the Finno-Ugric origin proposed by the German Joseph Budenz. StrangeIy Jobbik and Fidesz now champion Vámbéry’s theories. I remember you reviewing one of Nádasdy Ádám’s articles (from Élet és Irodalom) concerning this back in 2010.

Anyway, Yiddish has felt no appreciable influence from any Turkic language.

Guest
Read Read Read
January 19, 2013 6:42 pm

Kudos to Eva. Her blog-contribution is an important act, to clean up the Hungarian mind.
Just a brief hint, read Krisztian Ungvary and Janos Gyurgyak:
http://magyarnarancs.hu/konyv/ungvary_krisztian_kerulve_kellemetlen_kerdeseket_gyurgyak_janos_a_zsidokerdes_magyarorszagon-60568

On the opposite side, there are the Csurkas, Vonas, Morvays who are poisoning the minds of many desperate citizens by “love laced” incitement against various scapegoats.

America is a melting pot, Hungary is a trouble spot.

Guest
January 19, 2013 6:51 pm

I am no linguist (as anyone hearing my pathetic ‘Hungarian’ will testify!) but I was under the impression that Yiddish was essentially German with Hebrew words, not Hebrew with “more and more German words”. But surely, as the two languages are so very different from each other, the answer should be obvious? As for the origins of European Jews, this is something that has long puzzled me. Popular history (i.e. as taught in UK schools) has the Jews being evicted from Palestine and then later being in Europe, with no explanation of how they got there (and why there in particular), but instead, just an assumption that this is what happened (somehow) and therefore the Jews of 1st century Palestine are more or less the same people as the Jews of 21st century Europe. I’ve always thought there must be a lot more to it than this – I’m not trying to suggest that European Jews aren’t ethnically Jews for one minute, just asking how the migration happened, and why they chose to settle so far away in Europe and not closer to Palestine. I have been reading around this question for years and am still none the wiser. One… Read more »

Guest
Lecso
January 19, 2013 6:57 pm

Paul, so are you saying that Jews are not an ethnic group, therefore by definition are not Hungarians??

Guest
Lecso
January 19, 2013 6:58 pm

** let me correct myself:
Paul, so are you saying that Jews are an ethnic group, therefore by definition are not Hungarians??

Guest
Gabor Vermes
January 19, 2013 7:31 pm

Eva, you may like to consult the books and articles of my old colleague at Rutgers Univ., Peter B..Golden, who has been a world class authority on ther Khazars.
Gabor Vermes

Guest
gdfxx
January 19, 2013 7:33 pm

Lecso :
Paul, so are you saying that Jews are an ethnic group, therefore by definition are not Hungarians??

I guess about the same way as those of all the other origins inhabiting Hungary (for example Slovaks or Germans) are not Hungarians.

Guest
Peter I. Hidas
January 19, 2013 8:27 pm

Komoroczy in his first volume categorically rejects the Khazar-Magyar-Jewish connection.

Guest
Ron
January 19, 2013 8:40 pm

Paul: But how and why the bulk of the Jewish people moved as far as Europe and chose to settle there remains (to me at least) a mystery. Unfortunately, the studies and theories outlined above by Éva don’t seem to help clarify this at all.

As far as I understand, most Jews left Palestine under Rome, either as trader, slave or as refugee (economic or political). As Rome was expanding so where the Jews. When Rome left most Jews remain in the places where they were living ,until the Middle Ages when Jew exclusion, prosecution or banishment took place. Most of the European Jews went to Poland, and the rest went mainly to the Ukraine.

Furthermore, as to ethnicity, in Rome conversion to Judaism. Nowadays, if you want to convert to Judaism it is very difficult.

Guest
Ron
January 19, 2013 8:43 pm

The last part of my previous post should read: Furthermore, as to ethnicity, in Rome conversion to Judaism was normal and the Jewish communities were very active in this sense. Nowadays, if you want to convert to Judaism it is very difficult.

Guest
Pete H.
January 19, 2013 8:50 pm

Eva said “I guess one can have two completely different results from DNA research.”

The author claims the questions posed by the other studies are different and do not clearly distinguish between the Rhineland and the Khazarian hypotheses. From a synopsis in GBE:

““Results in the current literature are tangled,” Elhaik says. “Everyone is basically following the same assumption: Ashkenazi Jews are a population isolate, so they are all similar to one another, and this is completely incorrect.”
Previous studies had, for example, combined the question of similarity among and between Jewish populations and the question of ancestry and relatedness to non-Jewish populations. Elhaik viewed these questions separately. Jewish communities are less homogeneous than is popularly thought, he says, with Jewish communities along the former Khazarian border showing the most heterogeneity.”

Elhaik’s paper may be a more definitive study because of his approach. It will be interesting to see the commentaries and the author’s replies published in GBE over the next few months.

PDF’s of a synopsis (http://gbe.oxfordjournals.org/content/5/1/75.full.pdf+html) and the full article (http://gbe.oxfordjournals.org/content/5/1/61.full.pdf+html) are available for free download at GBE.

Guest
January 19, 2013 9:12 pm

I have bought the last of the first edition of Komoroczy’s book. A marvelous, fascinating book. But let’s turn to the subject! I strongly recommend the reading of Israeli history professor, Shlomo Sand’s book “The invention of the Jewish people.” It is contrary to almost everything above. That is not to say that it would be the last word on the subject, but it is a very interesting, original and completely unusual examination of the subject. The main claim of the author is that the Ashkenazim cannot, but be from Kazar origins. As he is re-examening the well-known historical evidence so is he coming to a new conclusion about every one of them and finds them misinterpreted, misundertood, or ill-applied. For example he has a completely new and shockingly convincing review of Trajan’s triumphal arch, concluding that the Jews’ exile in 71 AD never happened. In conclusion he stipulates that the Ashkenazim, as a surviving remnant of the Kazars, in the absence of genetic connection to the ancient Jews, have no rightful claim to the land of Israel. This, of course, is a wild and wooly conclusion, even if the supporting evidence and argument should be correct. Behind the historical… Read more »

Guest
Keress Keress
January 19, 2013 11:44 pm

My answers can not be too relevant regarding the rampant antisemitism in Hungary now and in the past..
Too many young and old Hungarians are criminally guilty of being misguided, prejudiced, racist etc.
There is no united front against these historical failures.
The Jewish Hungarians are pretty divided. I can not identify constructive thoughts for ending this nightmare.

My best input would be, to praise the positive progressive individuals who wanted to end the misery of the Jews and Hungarians at the same time.

The best champion in history was Ferenc Deak. All others were of smaller capacity.

Komoroczy, Bibo, Gyurgyak and the similar thinkers are great.

The next lists were the WWII heroes: Ferenc Koszorus, Miklos Mester, Bela Kiraly…

Perhaps, we can find other heroes in this google search:

http://www.google.com/search?q=magyar+kuzdelem+antiszemitizmus+ellen&rlz=1C1IRFF_enUS514US514&oq=magyar+kuzdelem+antiszemitizmus+ellen&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

Guest
petofi
January 20, 2013 1:36 am

Well, first off, I’d never stick my nose into 2,400 pages; but that bulk is in line with the ‘blow-fish’ mentality of Hungarians.

I have a standard limit of 200 pages which, on rare occasions, I will extend. Recently, I read a new biography of Lincoln–most of its 750 pages–but true to my theory, there wasn’t much to be found after the first 200.

Most great books are short. The writer knows that words serve only as hints toward ideas and not the carrier of the ideas themselves. Two examples: Machiavelli’s “The Prince”, and Lao Tzu’s “The Way of Life” are both less than 100 pages. As it should be.

Say what you mean precisely and get the hell out of the way so the reader can think about it. I don’t think Komorocy would belong to my club…and I certainly won’t be reading his navel-gazing tome, either.

Guest
Karl Pfeifer
January 20, 2013 2:14 am

Sandor : I have bought the last of the first edition of Komoroczy’s book. A marvelous, fascinating book. But let’s turn to the subject! I strongly recommend the reading of Israeli history professor, Shlomo Sand’s book “The invention of the Jewish people.” It is contrary to almost everything above. That is not to say that it would be the last word on the subject, but it is a very interesting, original and completely unusual examination of the subject. The main claim of the author is that the Ashkenazim cannot, but be from Kazar origins. As he is re-examening the well-known historical evidence so is he coming to a new conclusion about every one of them and finds them misinterpreted, misundertood, or ill-applied. For example he has a completely new and shockingly convincing review of Trajan’s triumphal arch, concluding that the Jews’ exile in 71 AD never happened. (…) My deepest conviction about this issue is that if they lived, believed and suffered as Jews for those thousand years, for better, or for worse they are Jews. Applying the Nuremberg Laws, now again for the second time against them, to prove on genetic grounds that they are actually not quite Jews,… Read more »

Guest
January 20, 2013 4:18 am

Even the German SPIEGEL has an article on the “new” theory by Elhaik:

http://www.spiegel.de/wissenschaft/mensch/geografischer-ursprung-europaeischer-juden-in-suedosteuropa-a-878384.html

I find it starnge that so much time and energy is expended on this …

Guest
bob cohen
January 20, 2013 5:33 am

The Shlomo Sand book “The Invention of the Jewish People” is a provocative read, but the author bases almost all of his references to the Khazars on Arthur Koestler’s book about Khazars “The Thirteenth Tribe.” Koestler – born in Budapest in 1905 and moved to Vienna in response to the White Terror in 1920 – was a great essayist, but he was not in any sense a trained historian – “The Thirteenth Tribe” carries no explanatory footnotes or bibliography. Koestler was simply pasting a collage of hearsay, responses to antisemitic diatribes, library reading and personal opinion into a readable best seller. Koestler was definitely aware of the use of the term “Khazar” in Hungary to refer to “non-native” Jews, primarily Yiddish speakers from Galicia. In 1901, Miklós Bartha published a book ‘Kazár Földön’ “In the Land of the Khazars”that still shows up in reprint on tables selling nationalist literature. The Khazars have been studied extensively by non-Hungarian sources. It is likely that only the ruling strata actually converted to Judaism (as an alternative to making a political and economic commitment to either Islam or Christianity in the 8th century) As for their language, it was definitely Turkic, probably close to… Read more »

Guest
tappanch
January 20, 2013 7:33 am

Key findings of various scientific studies: The main ethnic element of Ashkenazim (German and Eastern European Jews), Sephardim (Spanish and Portuguese Jews), Mizrakhim (Middle Eastern Jews), Juhurim (Mountain Jews of the Caucasus), Italqim (Italian Jews), and most other modern Jewish populations of the world is Israelite. The Israelite haplotypes fall into Y-DNA haplogroups J and E. Ashkenazim also descend, in a smaller way, from European peoples from the northern Mediterranean region and even less from Slavs and Khazars. The non-Israelite Y-DNA haplogroups include Q1b1a (typically Central Asian) and R1a1 (typically Eastern European but the most common Ashkenazic variant comes from somewhere in Asia, probably Central Asia). Dutch Jews from the Netherlands also descend from northwestern Europeans. Sephardim also descend, in a smaller way, from various non-Israelite peoples. Georgian Jews (Gruzinim) are a mix of Georgians and Israelites. Yemenite Jews (Temanim) are a mix of Yemenite Arabs and Israelites. Moroccan Jews, Algerian Jews, and Tunisian Jews are mainly Israelites. Libyan Jews are mainly Israelites who may have mixed somewhat with Berbers. Ethiopian Jews are almost exclusively Ethiopian, with little or no Israelite ancestry. Bene Israel Jews and Cochin Jews of India have much Indian ancestry in their mtDNA. Palestinian Arabs are… Read more »

Guest
tappanch
January 20, 2013 8:01 am

As you can see, the genetic situation is complex. On the other hand, we are all emigrants from Africa, with a little admixture from the Neanderthals, who had come out of Africa too, just earlier.

At a cultural level, the Palestinian Arabs show their rear end towards the former Temple of Jerusalem when pray on the Temple Mount – they pray towards Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Their graves are also directed towards Mecca.

http://occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com/2012/07/22/photos-ramadan-2012-in-palestine/palestinian-men-pray-in-front-the-dome-of-the-rock-in-jerusalems-old-city-on-the-first-friday-of-ramadan/

Jews, on the other hand, pray towards the former Temple of Jerusalem and their graves show that direction too.

Member
January 20, 2013 8:59 am

I thought Hungarians came from outer space and flew down here in a gigantic flying saucer shaped like the Holy Crown.

Guest
Paradicsom
January 20, 2013 10:03 am

I am supporting Karl Pfeifer on Shlomo Sand. Sand could find decency and exercise a fast retrieval. We are waiting.

All people could unite in a noble effort to seek the positive in our common history.

Humanity could celebrate the achievements of the others, and each of us should regret the sins, our ancient ancestors committed in their immoral moments.

Guest
hongorma
January 20, 2013 10:16 am

Vándorló : The Turkish language family is very similar to Hungarian: agglutinative, has vowel harmony, rich is case declensions, though is not marked for gender (nouns, pronouns, adjectives, etc.)… It has had no significant impact on Yiddish, as this language developed later once the people had settled in Central Europe. It is this misleading similarity to Hungarian that led the (Jewish) dragoman Vámbéry Ármin to mistakenly champion the cause for a Turkic origin of Hungarian; in opposition to the Finno-Ugric origin proposed by the German Joseph Budenz. StrangeIy Jobbik and Fidesz now champion Vámbéry’s theories. I remember you reviewing one of Nádasdy Ádám’s articles (from Élet és Irodalom) concerning this back in 2010. Anyway, Yiddish has felt no appreciable influence from any Turkic language. Unfortunately, the entire question of the connection between the Altaic (Turkish, Mongolian, Tunguz, etc) and Uralic languages (like Hungarian) is so over-politicized (by both sides, actually), and has been for years, that it is hard to see when if ever it will get a fair hearing. That there are significant Altaic influences on Hungarian (both lexically and in terms of morphology) to me seems indisputable. The question of whether this occured through areal contact or if… Read more »

Guest
Plongeur
January 20, 2013 11:57 am

To me the Kazar idea sounds plausible (it was not juct that Koestler found this out, it was plausible to him). It is much more plausible to imagine that a tribe wich lived in the area became Jewish (somewhat similarly to the Szombatisták, Sabbathists among the Székelys in Transsylvania, although they, as a relighion and identiy, sort of died out by the 19th century) than to imagine that people from Palestine actually moved (all through the Kaukasian mountains) to what is now Eastern Europe and they became the Ashekanzis. if that is supported by genetic research, it is even more plausible. Komoroczy may have to rewritre the next edition.

I also recommend this post by Nicholas Nasseem Taleb (as well as the comments, some of which don’t appear initially, only after clicking to all previous comments command).
http://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=10151133369348375&id=13012333374
about the possible connection between Phoenicians and Sephardic Jews.

Guest
gdfxx
January 20, 2013 1:24 pm

Plongeur :
Szombatisták, Sabbathists among the Székelys in Transsylvania, although they, as a relighion and identiy, sort of died out by the 19th century)

They were actually Szombatosok (as opposed to Szombatistak, who I think are Adventists). Some of them existed up to the Holocaust, when they were all deported with the Jews to Auschwitz and murdered.

Guest
January 20, 2013 1:44 pm

@hongorma: “…the entire question of the connection between the Altaic (Turkish, Mongolian, Tunguz, etc) and Uralic languages (like Hungarian) is so over-politicized (by both sides, actually), and has been for years…” Only amongst ignorant politicians with an axe to grind. I think you’ll find real linguists really don’t give a damn which political ideology is supported, they only care about the data. On a day-to-day basis they have to put up with so many misguided, ill-informed opinions from journalists, politicians, the great unwashed and the media that they simply stay out of all that; as much as is humanly possible. Having said that, here in Hungary, with Fidesz now financiing an alternative to the National Ethnographic museum, we may well see some researchers keen to establish links. Good luck to them. Whatever is unearthed will have to be scientific and bear the objective strutiny of other linguists internationally. And when you say that Hungarian has come under Turkic influence, well of course it has. The question is where does the language come from, when and what form of influence (the ancestors of Turks and Hungarians have crossed each others paths many times). I’d recommend re-reading Nádasdy Ádám’s article “A gonosz… Read more »

Guest
spectator
January 20, 2013 2:14 pm

Pibroch :
I thought Hungarians came from outer space and flew down here in a gigantic flying saucer shaped like the Holy Crown.

– Let alone, that so far the origin of the Hungarians hasn’t been conclusively proven one way or the other, so any claim that we are ‘different’ from the Jewish quite fictitious in my point of view: we don’t know, who we are really, could be anyone just as well.

A story I read a few decades ago: someone has been granted emigration to Israel after WWII on ground that his father(!) was unknown, so, he may even have been Jewish… We don’t know either, do we?

If I am at it: I demand a through research in order to clarify the true origin of the Turul!
I couldn’t sleep quite well ever since it occurred to me, that – ohmigod – even the bird could have a Semitic origin! And I don’t mean the beak, I mean,isn’t it originates from the Khazar-area too?

The greatest identity crisis you have ever seen in the making, folks!

Guest
January 20, 2013 2:38 pm

This is surely interesting – but is it really important ?

For me as a scientist (retired …) another question comes to mind ?

Why were there so many Jewish Hungarian scientists and mathematicians ?

And then of course: Why did most of them have to leave Hungary to get a career and recognition ?

PS: Just read something about Polya, one of the great mathematical minds, that’s one reason why I’m asking …

Guest
Karl Pfeifer
January 20, 2013 3:10 pm

wolfi :
This is surely interesting – but is it really important ?
For me as a scientist (retired …) another question comes to mind ?
Why were there so many Jewish Hungarian scientists and mathematicians ?
And then of course: Why did most of them have to leave Hungary to get a career and recognition ?
PS: Just read something about Polya, one of the great mathematical minds, that’s one reason why I’m asking …

One of the reasons was the Numerus Clausus in Hungary 1920 – 1945.
By the way during the Kádárregime, there were, so I am told, two chairs of mathematics, a Jewish one and a Non-Jewish one.

Guest
tappanch
January 20, 2013 3:41 pm

I am reading Eran Elhaik’s article that you can download from
http://arxiv.org/pdf/1208.1092v1

He used the DNA samples of an Estonian scientist.
How did that scientist obtain the samples? Why didn’t
Mr Elhaik obtain samples himself?

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