Archaeology of Khazarian khaganate (i.e. the VIIX state) is the subject matter of Svetlana A. Pletnyova's book. Having integrated large territories and many peoples in the Southern of Eastern Europe [from the Volga lower regions and the Northern Caucasus up to the Dnieper lower and middle regions] this state can be considered the parent of such medieval states as Ancient Russia and Golden Horde.

We know about these territories and peoples under Khazars predominantly from the so-called Jewish-Khazarian correspondence, compiled in 60-s of X century, on the eve the Khazarian khaganate's fall. Describing his state in the letter to a dignitary (of a Cordovan caliph) Khasdai ibn Shaprute, Khazarian king Joseph tried to picture an ideal prospering and extensive empire saving the civilized world from the barbarous Russian retinues. But the heyday had been in the past, and to understand what Khazaria was more than one generations of archaeologists have worked hard and the researches are not complete by far. When the Institute of Archaeology research group (occupied with problems of medieval steppe) headed by S.A. Pletnyova were discussing the project of the Khazaria atlas, they stated that no less than 800 monuments should be taken into consideration. Those monuments range from fortresses and large settlements with burial sites up to camping-ground relics. Many of them have only been traced by archeologists and not excavated yet.

Nevertheless an overview of Khazar archeology problems with tables and maps is now vital not only for archeologists and historians in general, but also for historians of ethnic and confessional relations in particular and for all interested in the past, as it enables us to better understand the present.

Such an overview can be regarded a scientific debt of Prof. Pletnyova who has been researching Khazarian (and broadly speaking nomad) antiquities of Eastern Europe all her life. She started her researches in Sarkel (the most famous Khazarian fortress) directed by the Khazarian archeology founder M.I. Artamonov (having published the book Sarkel and the Silk route in 1996). Prof. Pletnyova's works confirm the Artamonov's speculation: a uniform material culture the so-called saltov-mayatski, superethnic Khazarian state culture integrates diverse ethnic and cultural territories of Khazarian khaganate.

Prof. Pletnyova has specified some variants of this culture in Don forestry steppes, Don steppes, steppes near Sea of Azov, Crimea, in Dagestan with their ethnic characters but has demonstrated that they all have common (saltov-mayatski) traits. Revealing ethnic character the researcher takes into account also cultural, and anthropological characters. And though correlation of physical anthropology with ethnos may seem too straightforward in the book (as anthropological type defies not ethnos directly, but population), nevertheless close connection of brachycranies and dolycranies with certain burial ceremonies allows to consider anthropological character as defining an ethnos, and thus distinguishing Bulgarian (proto-Bulgarian) and Alan ethnic components.

The Khazarian intrusion in steppes to the North of Black Sea has greatly changed the ethnic situation in Eastern and Southeastern Europe. There are historical data that some Bulgarian (proto-Bulgarian) tribes migrated to the West, into Bulgaria Danube, and to the North, into Bulgaria on the Volga and Kama. Bulgarians of the regions to the North of Black Sea who stayed behind under the rule of Khazars formed basically the Khazarian khaganate's population. Their monuments (located from near Azov sea up to Dnieper, and in the Crimea) belong to Black Bulgaria mentioned in the middle of X by Constantine Porphyrogenitus. Prof. Pletnyova considers them to have been vassal (to Khazaria) unlike free Danube and Volga Bulgarians, but in the middle of X Black Bulgarians could already be at war with Khazars as well as with Greeks and Russia.

Alans are considered to be another major ethnic element of the Khazarian khaganate. Their monuments (with characteristic catacombs ritual) are found not only on the Northern Caucasus, but also in Don forestry steppes: they (being sedentary farmers) could be moved there to guard the frontiers. This is the element to have played the special role in the history of Eastern Slavic tribes. Probably, even the ethnoneme of neighbour severyane (as well as hydronemes Severski Donets, Sev) is Iranian by origin.

Severyane, and also radimichi on the left river-bank of the middle Dnieper and Kiev polyane, paid a tribute to the Khazarian khaganate till the end of IX. Vyatichi on the Oka and Slavs on the Don1 stayed vassal to Khazars even longer. Khazaria virtually needed this agricultural enclave in the fertile forestry steppes, in particular, to maintain nomadic cattle husbandry in steppes. It is not without reason that a system of fortresses (including large Mayatski fortified site) was to supervise the region. Accordingly, we find in the region characteristically combined ethnic and cultural traditions, including Alan and Bulgarian, and also Slavic components (as in the Dmitriyevski complex of monuments, investigated by Prof. Pletnyova). On the contrary, Slavic Volyntsevo culture of the left bank of the Dnieper included some elements of saltov-mayatski culture (including nomadic yurts' traces on settlements etc.), and on the ancient Kiev outskirts there are detected the remnants of a burial ground with burnt corpses in urns vessels of the saltov type2.

The relations of eastern Slavs and Khazarian khaganate, and the interpretation of the written documents and archeological monuments describing them, are treated in modem historiography in opposite ways. The Kiev Jewish-Khazarian community's letter (published in 1982) was considered to certificate Khazars rule over Kiev until 30-s of X, though the letter tells of a member of this community to get under the authority gentiles3. According to another (opposite) view4 the system of fortresses in the forestry steppes and even Sarkel itself should attest the existence of a powerful Russian (Slavic) khaganate, and Khazaria directed its defensive activity against it since the beginning of IX5. Both theories directly contradict sources, and among them primarily Russian Primary Chronicle) testifying that only in the end of IX prince Oleg took by force the tribute levied on the Dnieper Slavs by Khazars, and only since then the territory has been named Russian. Numismatics adds to the conflict: according to T. Nunen, the inflow of eastern silver into Eastern and Northern Europe stopped only in the last quarter of IX Khazaria installed trade blockade, and Russia managed to break it through only at the beginning of X, and that is by using a roundabout via Volga Bulgaria.

According to annals of St. Bertin and Arabian sources Russian princes did claimed for a prestigious title khagan. But Russian tradition recognized this title only after Russian prince Svyatoslav defeated Khazarian khaganate in 60-s of X: metropolitan Ilarion in his Word about Law and Grace named thus Vladimir Svyatoslavich and Yaroslav the Wise.

Prof. Pletnyova remarks that a paradox is characteristic for the history of Khazarian khaganate and Khazarian archeology: in many respects Khazaria determined the destiny of Eastern Europe, but purely Khazarian artifacts (those relating Turkic ethnos Central-Asian by its origin that formed there the ruling class) are sparse and causing disputes while being attributed. Purely Khazarian are considered burial mounds, under which burial camera is placed inside a quadrangular ditch. These rear horsemen burial sites (Prof. Pletnyova totals them in her other work about 100), which were sometimes accompanied by rich stock (frequently they are plundered), are detected predominantly in Kalmyk steppes, though there are some near Azov sea as well. But the richest Khazarian archeological complexes are on the Dnieper, but those are not burial mounds but the famous treasure-trove of Malaya Pereshchepina, and also remembrance monuments in Voznesensk and Glodosy. Agreeing with A.K. Amrose Prof. Pletnyova takes into consideration Central-Asian parallels of these ritual complexes and considers them to be connected with traditional burial cult of the very khagans' mounds6. However there are Central-Asian connections found also in monuments of other Khazarian khaganate regions: recently wonderful hom plates were found in a burial mound near Shilovka in the region of Samara arch. They depict traditional (for Khazarian art) battle and hunting scenes, bear dragon images, and obviously have Chinese parallels7. It is indicative, that these bright and richest Khazarian artifacts were found on the khaganate's periphery the fact can be explained by the striving to secure the boundaries, with the help of symbolical (ritual) actions also.

While dating burial complexes (connected with the khagan-ate's cult) we can get additional evidence to enlighten another paradoxical phenomenon in Khazarian khaganate's. These monuments are of the first half of VIII, when the khaganate stood in war with Arabs and strengthened its authority in steppes. But, at the same time, those are unique archeologocal monuments, connected with the pagan (that is central-Asian) khagan's cult. It is known, that the khagan with the Khazarian environment accepted Judaism, but we can only guess the time of this faith choice. Al-Masudi testified that the conversion occurred on the border of VIII and IX, under caliph Harun ar-Rashid. This evidence, however, is supposed to refer to introduction of rabbinic Judaism as state religion under Obadia's khagan8, originally, according to king Joseph's letter, Bulan, Obadia's ancestor had accepted Judaism9. We can consider fall of traditional burial cult with khagans (and their environment) in the middle of VIII as additional indirect evidence that Judaism had been adopted.

Purely Judaic antiquities remain a difficult matter of Khazarian archeology. In fact obvious traces of Judaic cult of the European steppes' inhabitants were detected outside Khazarian khaganate, on the Danube. On the burial ground of IXX near Chelarevo (Voevodina) there were found in several graves bricks with characteristic symbols of Judaic gravestones (menorah, palm branches lulab, fruit etrog10. The burial ground was attributed to kabars, Khazarian tribal group, which (according to Constantine Porphyrogenitus) revolted against the khagan's authority and together with Hungarians migrated to the Danube; by the way, in Russian Chronicle these Hungarians are called Black Ugrians, reminding us of Black (vassal) Pontic Bulgarians. It is possible to imagine, why kabars, separated from Khazaria, in a new (Christian) environment started to demonstrate their adherence to Judaic traditions: cultural anthropologists know only quite well this striving of a people to self-identifÿ. But the problem is that there are neither Judaic gravestones, nor bricks with Judaic signs in Khazaria itself (and that is when there are quite a lot of other graffiti, investigated by V.E. Flerova). There have not been found also any other traits of Judaic cult.

We know Judaic gravestones in Northern Pontic cities, including those (Phanagoria, Tamatarcha Germonassa, Bospor Kerch etc.11), where there detected antiquities of saltov-mayatski culture; but they are of earlier times. On the contrary, attempts to present as much older cemeteries of the Crimean cave cities (Mangup, Chuphut-kale) and to detect there Khazarian gravestones are groundless: most ancient Mangup gravestones, according to N.V. Kashovskaya, are of XIV. (It is essential, that there was detected in Mangup characteristic saltov-mayatski art-ware: therefore, evidence of the Extensive version of king Joseph's letter, that includes Mangup into the orb of Khazarian influence, is quite reliable).

Prof. Pletnyova, marking absolute domination of heathen rituals among Bulgarian-Alan population of Khazaria, finds in Sarkel a construction, being without any features of a residential or industrial complex, can be treated as synagogue, but the researcher herself recognizes this attribution especially conditional. Neither the two skulls buried in Sarkel can be attribed to Jews: though they keep some features of the Near Eastern race, burial ritual in a deserted construction does not be agree in any way with Judaic tradition. The more unacceptable is, as Prof. Pletnyova marks, Judaic interpretation of crypts in Sugdea: the dead was buried in the central grave with his head to the North, surrounded by some more burials with the punched skulls. Human sacrifices were characteristic to the heathen burial ritual (either those of the steppes, or pre-Christian Russia etc.). Attributing these graves to Jewish-Khazars, buried together with ostensibly killed Christians and heathens, we are on the verge of blasphemy.

The widespread notion about religious tolerance of Khazars are confirmed not only by al-Masudi's description of their capital Itil, where there lived side by side Judaic, Moslim, Christian and heathen (Slavic-Russian) communities, but by archeological data as well. Judaism did not change the situation in steppes and forestry steppes, where heathendom remained prevailing. Conversely, on the Northern Caucasus there had been spreading Christianity anciently (from Caucasian Albania), and the most ancient Christian temples are discovered at the Khazarian complex of monuments in Chir-Yurt. No less interesting for confessional history of Khazaria are the temples, discovered near settlement Tepsen' in the Crimea, where a stratum of saltov-mayatski culture was also detected. Moreover, basing on herringbone stonework (in one church), Prof. Pletnyova supposes, that Khazars participated in construction of this Byzantian basilica with three naves. It reminds us the Legend of Constantine the Philosopher about his mission to Khazaria (860861): according to the Legend, as a result of the dispute between Byzantian missionaries and Jews from 200 Khazarian husbands of the khagan's environment embraced Christianity. The khagan himself nevertheless stayed devoted to Judaism.

Judaism of the Khazarian sites is elusive not only becuase there were very few devotees of this religion, and ritual forms (including burial) are expressionless: synagogues in late ancient and early medieval Pontic cities and in Byzantium could be situated in the same basilicas as churches (as it was in Chersones). It is also connected with the fact that Khazarian stratums of Pontic cities (where from antique times there were Jewish communities) is underinvestigated, and with the fact that purely Khazarian settlements are investigated rather poorly. The Khazarian capital Itil has not yet been found, and the hope to detect it (now more and more often connected with a multilayer settlement at Samosdelca in the Volga delta12, can come true only after extremely complicated and expensive works.

The Prof. Pletnyova's book not only summarizes half a century of the study of Khazarian khaganate's antiquities, but puts new research aims. Those demand to save destroyed monuments, and to publish vast material accumulated by archeologists.

The book leaves in publishing house Cultural Bridges Gesharim, published in 1996 (in Russian) the above mentioned book of N. Golb and O. Pritsak on the major Khazarian-Jewish documents. Nowadays at the Institute of Slavonic Studies (Russian Academy of Sciences) in cooperation with the publishing house Gesharim documents of Jewish-Khazarian correspondence are being prepared for publishing. The publication will include paleographic analysis of the texts and new comments, based, beside others, on Khazarian archeology achievements. It seems extremely actual to prepare a book series Studia chazarica, to present foundation for new approaches to the history of the peoples of Eastern and Central Europe (including the Jewish Diaspora history).

V. Petrukhin
4.04. 99

1. See about them works of A.Z. Vinnikov; in particular, theses Don Slavs and Khazarian khaganate // Scythians. Khazars. Slavs. Ancient Russia. In honour to the 100th birthday of M.I. Artamonova. SPb., 1998, pp. 108110).

2. Compare Karger M.A. Ancient Kiev. V. 1, Moscow Leningrad, 1958, pp. 136138).

3. Compare Russian edition of 1996: ., . - X . , . .

4. V.V. Sedov. Russian khaganate // Otechestvennaya istoria 1998, No. 4. p. 315.

5. The matter was discussed at the two international conferences in 1998 in Moscow (at the Institute of Slavyanovedeniya (see, in particular the reports of V.V. Sedov and S.A. Pletnyova in: The Slavs and Nomadic World. Middle Ages Modem Time. Moscow, 1998) and St. Petersburg at the State Hermitage (see the above mentioned (1) work of A Z. Vinnikov and also V. Ya. Petruchin in Scythians. Khazars. Slavs. Ancient Russia. SPb., 1998).

6. Compare Semenov, 1988.

7. , , , 1998, p. 106.

8. Compare , 1962, pp. 279280.

9. The concept that Khazars' conversion took place much later, about 861 during the mission of Constantine the Philosopher (of the newest works see Zuckerman C. On the date of the Khazar's conversion to Judaism and the chronology of the kings of the Rus' Oleg and Igor // Revue des Études Byzantines 53, 1995, p. 237270) is based on arbitrary explanation of data from his Slavic hagiography (compare Chekin L.C. Christian of Stavelot and the Conversion of Gog and Magog. A study of the ninth century reference to Judaism among the Khazars // Russia Mediaevalis. V. IX, 1, 1998, p. 1334).

10. Prof. Pletnyova cities the Yugoslavian publication of R. Bunardžić compare brief information: . () // , 1983 No. 4, p. 174181.

11. Compare from the newest reviews: . // . , 1997, p. 922.

12. See about it p. 193 al.