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The conversion of the khazars to judaism

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Chapter Summary

The Khazar conversion to Judaism, an unusual, but not unique occurrence, must be viewed within several larger contexts. Conversion probably took place in stages. It began, as so often was the case, at the top, with the ruling house, perhaps episodically as early as the mid-eighth century, but not extending at that stage much beyond the ruling strata. Some important stage must have been reached by the era of Harun ar-Rašid, as reported by al-Masʿudi. The "Moses coins" clearly reflect the growing weight at the top political levels of society. This was also a period of conflict with Byzantium which was trying to strengthen the Christian presence in Khazaria. The now overt movement towards Judaism may have represented a critical shift in foreign policy. The Byzantines had failed to bring the Khazars into Christendom. This was a foreign policy defeat and undoubtedly the source of some resentment in Constantinople.

Keywords: Byzantium; Christian; Constantinople; conversion; Harun ar-Rašid; Judaism; Khazars; Moses coins



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