It has come to my attention that there were Jews in Kiev before there were Slavs. Kiev was either founded by the Khazars or started flourishing under them around the eighth century, and as Herman Rosenthal writes in his article Kiev, “it is likely that Jews from the Byzantine empire, the Crimea, Persia, and the Caucasus settled there with the Chazars about the same time…. Malishevski… says that Jews from the Orient (776) and from the Caucasus emigrated to Chazaria, and thence to Kiev, where they found a community of Crimean Jews…. In the eleventh century Jews from Germany settled in Kiev.” My question is: what language did they speak? Anybody know if there has been scholarly speculation on this? (After the Mongol invasions of the thirteenth century, of course, that Jewish population would have been dispersed.)


  1. Cherie Woodworth says

    “In the eleventh century Jews from Germany settled in Kiev…”
    I think this is conjecture, and doesn’t fit with what else I know about medieval Europe. I checked the bibliography listed by Rosenthal, and find nothing that would indicate a reliable source for this information. Since the trade went down the river to the Black Sea and beyond, it makes more sense to assume Jews came from the Crimean area. Does anyone have any better evidence?

  2. Paul Wexler speculated about this in his “Ashkenazic Jews” and “Two-tiered Relexification in Yiddish” (Google Books). IIRC, he didn’t get any further than ‘something Iranian possibly Turkic’. Simon Franklin’s “Writing, society and culture in early Rus, c. 950-1300” (Google Books) quotes Golb and Pritsak suggesting that the Khazar Jews used Hebrew as a language of learning and perhaps trade and Turkic runes for internal administrative purposes. No Turkic runes, however, seem to have been found in Kievan Rus.

  3. Nothing useful from me, except to note that there’s a voluminous fantasy literature about the Khazars, and the most hilarious was a long anti-Semitic diatribe organized around the mistaken identification of the Khazars and the Kazakhs as the same people.

  4. Kazakhs, anti-Semitic – you’re not talking about Lev Gumilev, are you?

  5. No, it was an internet crazy. He just indiscriminately mixed together information about the Khazars and information about the Kazakhs. There was a 600+ year / 1500+ mile discrepancy for him to ignore, but he easily met that challenge.
    I have Gumilev in translation, and it’s literature, very sketchily documented, with documentation only in Russian. I couldn’t get far into it.

  6. DeeXtrovert says

    “Words On FIre: The Unfinished Story Of Yiddish” (an excellent book, with lots of great history) refers to the Khazars, on page 131, as “a confederation of Turkic-speaking tribes in the Caucasus, some of whose ruling class adopted a kind of Judaism around A.D. 740.”
    On the same page, it says “On December 6, 300, Jews joined with pagans in Tauris, on the northern shore of the Black Sea, to revolt against the ruling Christian bishops.” Not terribly far from Kiev, and nearly 500 years earlier than your date. It seems possible.

  7. Eight century? Eleventh century? In the ieghth century, I would think that Khazar Turkic would have predominated. Khazar was believed to be a dialect of Chuvash, related to Bulgar Turkic. WRT Yiddish, M. Mieses and a few others have demonstrated that the German elements in Yiddish are not from the western, Franco-German, reaches of Germany, but from Alpine Bavaria and further east. H. von Kutschera argued that the German element in Yiddish came when Khazar Jews emigrated into Poland and found German a lingua franca of sorts. So I’d speculate that in the 8th c., they probably spoke a Turkic dialect trending later towards Yiddish?

  8. Interestingly (to me, at any rate) that around the time of the Khazar conversion to Judaism in the western reaches of Turkic tribal power, the Uygurs in the east, on China’s borders converted to Manichaeism. Were these conversions political rather than religious? The Khazars to align neither with the Byzantine Christians nor the Islamic Arabs–the Uygurs to balance off the Chinese Confucians, and the Central Asian Buddhists?

  9. As Rock says, I’m pretty sure that the Khazars’ and Uighurs’ religious choices had a political angle — trying to maintain independence from either Christianity or Islam, while getting the advantages of literacy and a world religion, in the Khazar case the balance was between Islam, Tibetan Buddhism, and Chinses Cobficianism / Buddhism. Religion was often a diplomatic event and had an aspect of submission to and alliance with the civilized power.
    Another case is the Lithuanians, who remained pagan for a long period while playing Islam, Catholicism and Orthodoxy off against one another. Jagiello (the convertee) was a younger contemporary of Jan Zizka, so European state paganism lasted almost to the Reformation. (Local pagan practice lasted into the sixteenth century, I’ve been told.

  10. ; in the Uighur case the balance was between Islam, Tibetan Buddhism, and Chinses Cobficianism / Buddhism.

  11. I like the fact that you corrected Uighur but not Chinses Cobficianism. Good old Cobficius!

  12. DeeExtrovert: something seems wrong with that date of the year 300. That’s before the conversion of Constantine. Some of the rulers on the northern littoral of Asia Minor–and hence, on the south side of the Black See–were already Christian (Iberia and Armenia are the ones that spring to memory from reading Gibbon’s account) but they weren’t letting bishops do the ruling. I’m not sure there could have been any “ruling bishops” at that date. When the Kievan princes did abandon paganism, they went to Constantinople, which suggest that bishops weren’t terribly abundant along their southern neighbors.
    Doc Rock: your idea is a commonly held opinion, at leas as respects to the Khazars. And the conversion of Russia to Christianity was the result of a deliberate choice which had Islam as the other alternative (but apparently no one considered Judaism at that point).
    LH: Generally, Jews spoke the language of the peoples they lived among. One factor to add into the mix is the Karaites who settled in the Crimea and converted some of the Mongols there to their form of Judaism, but this didn’t take place until the fourteenth century CE at the earliest: Karaism itself didn’t begin until the latter half of the eighth century CE

  13. on the south side of the Black See
    I had bishops on the brain at the point, obviously.

  14. The Rus leader converted to Christianity because he was allowed to keep his 800 wives and continue to drink. At least that’s what he said — but perhaps it was just a pious fiction.

  15. I’m sure the Vikings were in there somewhere; they were probably behind the whole thing.

  16. DeeXtrovert says

    DeeExtrovert: something seems wrong with that date of the year 300. That’s before the conversion of Constantine.
    It sounded oddly early to me too, but I was just quoting what’s in the book.

  17. Wexler’s speculations are only speculations. Yiddish is not a two-times relexified turkic-slavic language (and what else? Pashto?) Nobody knows how many Khazars were converted to Judaism probably only the aristocracy (and what kind of Judaism – if Karaism, they can not be linked to Rabbanite Jews). When their kingdom was destroyed, why would they run to central Poland? The real question is not linguistic. To many people have the odd wish that Ashkenazic Jews would descend from Turkic tribes…

  18. To many people have the odd wish that Ashkenazic Jews would descend from Turkic tribes…
    and what’s wrong with this hypothetical wish?
    until proven wrong
    it’s literature, very sketchily documented, with documentation only in Russian
    he studied nomads when was in gulags, it’s a real knowledge i think, persevered and filtered, i’m glad it helped him to survive
    his documentation in Russian is all legit, though all 30-40-50ies scholarly articles in Russian sound pretty biased pro-slavo-proletaro-communistically
    you can’t dismiss one’s scholarship this easily

  19. Wexler’s speculations are only speculations.
    Well, he does back them up with plenty of evidence. Where it’s legit, that’s another question.
    Yiddish is not a two-times relexified turkic-slavic language
    That’s not what he says. According to Wexler, Yiddish is Sorbian relexified sing German stock and then partially relexified with something Eastern Slavic (Ukrainian-Bielorussian). No Turkic involved.
    The theory may sound cuckoo for cocoapuffs, some of his etymologies are way off and some of his reasoning is weird (Yiddish speakers did not borrow the word “Gebäude” because the sound change au > äu is unattractive), but on the whole, you’d be unwise to dismiss him completely.
    Same, by the way, goes for Gumilev. He may sometimes come dangerously close to Dänikenian territory, but he’s spot on more than a few times.

  20. Very strange. A “theory” exists when proved based on reliable sources and not “until proven wrong”.

  21. L Hat,
    You gave me this book, it’s good, all about the Khazarians, The Jews of Khazaria by Kevin A. Brook, published by Aronson.
    “The Khazars emerged on the world scene as Turkic horsemen who believed in shamanism and lived a nomadic lifestyle. Over the course of many centuries, the Khazars adopted a more settled way of life and replaced their former Tengri beliefs with Judaism, Islam, and Christianity.”
    The Khazar coin I own resembles the coins of the Bulgars, another tribe from that region–“Syriac legends said that the ancestor of the Khazars was named ‘Khazarig,’ the brother of ‘Bulgarios’.” from Peter Golden’s An Introduction to the History of the Turkic Peoples.
    I apologize if I’ve repeated what your other commenters have already cited…as a collector of Central Asian coins, I was around back in the 90s when the Soviet Union was dissolved and all the Russian numismatic and archaeological studies came to the attention of US, per the Russian Numismatic Ass’n here, coin collectors and historians–for a long while, Khazarian coins had only been rumored to exist–in fact, the Khazarian Jews (in Kiev) were only rumored to exist–Khazaria ran from the Black Sea in the south and from the west side of the Caspian up north to Volga Bulgaria on the east and East Slavs and Hungary on the west–Kiev on the far western border between Khazaria and East Slavs and Hungary–the farthest eastern Khazarian city was Gurgani, at the southern end of the Aral Sea.
    Ur hysterical/historical fiend

  22. all hypotheses are legitimate until proven wrong, prove it and then only say your biases

  23. Wolf, about ten years ago I saw a Khwarizmian coin (minted under Genghis Khan’s authority around 1220-1228) advertised for $300. Did you get one? I would have been a totally unreasonable purchase for me, but I almost got one anyway.

  24. The Jewish Khazar topic gets very heated even when the Kazakhs are not dragged in. The last I heard there may have been a consensus that Khazarian Jews played some role in the early development of E. European Judaism, but not a dominant one. Sort of a mushy compromise I suppose, in lieu of a resulotion.
    There is nothing odd about Khazars fleeing to Poland via Kiev, though. A group of Tatars ended up in Poland too, and their descendants still are there 600 years later, practicing Islam in their cute little forest mosques.

  25. Almost 800 years ago.
    The mosque is probably painted green for Muslim symbolic religious reasons, but that makes it look even more rustic.

  26. Wolf, about ten years ago I saw a Khwarizmian coin (minted under Genghis Khan’s authority around 1220-1228) advertised for $300. Did you get one? I would have been a totally unreasonable purchase for me, but I almost got one anyway.
    Ah, a fellow Khwarezm fan! When I was living in NYC and hanging with the Wolf, I let him inveigle me into accompanying him to coin shows, and I found myself going nuts in the bargain bins (I’d never spend $300 for a coin, any more than for a book, which is why I’ve steered clear of book collecting in the antiquarian sense); I came away with coins from some of my favorite dynasties: a Sassanid dirham, an Abbasid dirham, a Zingid fals, an Ayyubid fals, a Buwayhid dirham, a Mamluk dirham, a fals from the Seljuk of Rum Kaykhusro I, a Bukharan tenga, a Georgian coin from the time of Queen Rusudan, a Timurid dirham from Samarkand, a chunky little Afghan coin from Timur Shah Durrani, and yes, a dirham of Ala ad-Din Muhammad, the last and greatest of the Kwarezmshahs. It cost me $35, and a very handsome thing it is, too. So keep looking; if you’re not worried about superfine quality, you can probably find a bargain.

  27. I did spend close to $300 for a book, de Rachewiltz’s “Secret History of the Mongols”, but that was the new price. Curse the Dutch publishing industry! (The book went into a second edition, though. Hurrah! A short popular edition will be published and everyone should buy it).
    de Rachewiltz as one of the last of the line, a philological type who does his research in about 10-12 languages. Unlike Pelliot, though, he actually writes up his research instead of just publishing his notes. He works in Australia and I sometimes try to imagine what the cross of a hearty, bluff Australian and a decadent European aristocrat would be like. He’s connected to the Ezra Pound de Rachewiltzes, I think, and is of Polish noble / Russian Tatar descent. He’s been in Australia since his late 20s.

  28. I should mention that de Rachewiltz relies extensively on research written in Mongol. Many Western scholars of steppe history (Lattimore, Buell, and tacitly at least, de Rachewiltz) have recognized the high quality of indigenous Mongol scholarship.

  29. A group of Tatars ended up in Poland too
    Not to mention Finland. Ben Zyskowicz (MP, Kokoomus) and his wife, Rahime Husnetdin-Zyskowicz, are one of the many reasons Finland rules 🙂

  30. Bulbul, he’s a teetotaller. Epic fail.

  31. “To many people have the odd wish that Ashkenazic Jews would descend from Turkic tribes…”
    and what’s wrong with this hypothetical wish?
    until proven wrong”
    Nothing wrong with the hypthesis itself, but it has been put to bad uses, to deny that European Jews are descended from people who lived in the Roman province of Palestine and who therefore have no claim on the land of modern Israel. It’s a reasonbale question put to an anti-Semitic use.

  32. Some of the people who support the Khazar/Jewish story are Jews, e.g. Arthur Koestler. In any case it’s a valid hypothesis.

  33. Arthur Koestler reported in his _The Thirteenth Tribe_ (pp.176-7): “According to the first all-Russian census in 1897, there were 12 894 Karaite Jews living in the Tsarist Empire (which, of course, included Poland). Of these 9666 gave Turkish as their mother tongue (i.e., presumably their original Khazar dialect), 2632 spoke Russian, and only 383 spoke Yiddish.” Judge for yourself, but this may have some relevance to the origins of the Ashkenazim.
    Sorry about some of mytypos last evening, I can only plead advancing old age and throw myself on the mercy of the Cobficians!

  34. I’ve also read, though, that the Khazars were not Karaites.
    There are also “Mountain Jews” in the Caucasus who speak Tat, a Persian dialect. The Wiki is well worth reading but has the telltale signs of nationalism and maybe editing controversies.

  35. I’m having a oneness-of-being day. The only “Mountain Jew” I recognize in the Wiki is Jacob Avshalomov, a great music teacher in Portland Oregon who taught my son and hundreds of others, and who I know personally. (He’s also a Sino-Mountain-Jew who grew up in Beijing.) Many of his students have made their names in the world of classical music.

  36. scarabaeus says

    So fascinating how some tribal groups retain ancient connections and tribal names and others either disintegrate and merge into new tribal groups or fade into the sunset.[war, famine and disease]
    Up to now it has been the linguistic connection that keeps track of these changes through the scribbles or marks, straight lines and arcs, but now we soon be able to track the changes via the genetic variations of four little chemicals to back up these interesting diversions of how informations has come to us through the eons.

  37. John,
    Bulbul, he’s a teetotaller.
    So am I. And?
    There are also “Mountain Jews” in the Caucasus who speak Tat, a Persian dialect.
    One of the names used for those Jews is “dag čufut/džufut”. Aside from the meaning/etymology that escapes me, there’s also the testimony of Armin Vámbery, who notes that “čufut” was a derrogatory name for Jews used all over the Ottoman Empire.
    Of these 9666 gave Turkish as their mother tongue (i.e., presumably their original Khazar dialect)
    I’d say what they meant was Karaim. Whether Karaim is related to whatever the Khazars spoke, that’s a question for someone more knowledgeable.

  38. Cherie Woodworth says

    I appreciate the enthusiasm evinced by the many comments, but I’m afraid I’m a stickler on this. It does not good to cite a book on an answer to this question (though Pritsak and Simon Franklin are admirable scholars) unless the book itself cites a verifiable primary source.
    So in order to know what any putative Kievan Jews were speaking in the 10th c., we would need a contemporary reference, a gravestone inscription, a report from the merchants in Constantinople that they trade with the Jews of Kiev who speak X language, some rich and convincing toponyms — something like that. Otherwise it’s just conjecture.
    As is, by the way, almost everything that has been written about the Khazars.

  39. One of the names used for those Jews is “dag čufut/džufut”. Aside from the meaning/etymology that escapes me, there’s also the testimony of Armin Vámbery, who notes that “čufut” was a derrogatory name for Jews used all over the Ottoman Empire.
    You don’t have to take Vámbery’s word for it; it’s right there in Redhouse’s English and Turkish Dictionary, p. 627 (right-hand column, near bottom): “chifut, s.t., A Jew; a mean, sordid fellow.”

  40. Bulbul, you’re breaking my heart.

  41. As is, by the way, almost everything that has been written about the Khazars.
    This is not true. They’re a historical people, playing a known role during a certain place and time. There’s correspondence between Spanish Jews and Khazarian Jews. There are references of many kinds in many chronicles.
    I’m not even sure that I know what you’r trying to say.

  42. She’s not saying it’s doubtful whether the Khazars existed or played “a known role,” she’s saying most of the details are conjectural. To quote Simon Kraiz, “We know a lot about them, and yet we know almost nothing: Jews wrote about them, and so did Russians, Georgians, and Armenians, to name a few. But from the Khazars themselves we have nearly nothing.” Compare what we know about Itil to what we know about contemporary Constantinople, Baghdad, or Ch’ang-an. And we don’t even know what language they spoke, although there are, of course, conjectures.

  43. What song the Sirens sang, or what name Achilles assumed when he hid himself among women, though puzzling questions, are not beyond all conjecture.
    –Thomas Browne, Urn-Burial

  44. Something like that is true of every Inner Asian people, the Khazars less than many. I spend much of my time studying peoples of that type (Xi-Xia, Yuezhi, Sogdians, Kushans, Bulgars, Khazars, Qaraqitai, Rus, Caucasian Albanians, Tokharians, etc.) In some cases the lack of knowledge is the simple result of lack of study; it’s a slow-moving field where century-old books are still current.
    In studying non-literate people, and even more so nun-urban peoples, there needs to be some “conjecture”. (Archeology crippled itself, and made itself useless, for half a century by refusing to conjecture or to think– you could learn as much as you wanted to about pots and kettles and brainpans and whorls, but they refused to go beyond that).
    “As is, by the way, almost everything that has been written about the Khazars” is far too strong.

  45. And then there’s “Gentlemen of the Road” by Chabon !

  46. “As is, by the way, almost everything that has been written about the Khazars” is far too strong.
    I’d say your interpretation of Cherie’s comment is far too strong. She wasn’t insulting your beloved Central Asians, just pointing out that the kind of material that would take us beyond conjecture doesn’t exist. And you yourself admit “Something like that is true of every Inner Asian people,” so why the outrage?

  47. Because, as I said of archeologists, that way of doing history deadends very quickly. If you’re writing about an area of history where there’s little or no documentary evidence and not too much documentary evidence, you’ll end up reserving judgment about everything if you follow too strict a rule. You’ll always be able to say “there’s no solid evidence of X, so we won’t say anything about it and tentatively conclude that probably X didn’t happen.” This is OK for legends about heroic deeds, divine visitations, heart-warming anecdotes, etc., but speculating about Khazars in Kiev strikes me as both plausible and necessary.
    I wasn’t really sure exactly what Cherie was objecting to, as I said. And given the pop status of the Khazar-Jewish connection, it’s inevitable that most of the writing will be speculation or worse, since the small amount of real scholarship is inevitably drowned in the flood of ideology and wishful thinking.
    To start all over, a lot of historians proudly object to conjecture, in principle, and they’re just wrong.

  48. “and not too much archeological evidence”

  49. hat,
    cool, thanks! I had no reason to doubt Vámbery, but it’s always nice to have a confirmation. Now for that etymology…
    I fully agree – one quote, even from a respectable scholar, doesn’t a proof make. A gravestone inscription would be cool, but my money is on some newly discovered (preferrably by me 🙂 long lost manuscript of an Arab traveller.
    yeah, I know. Imagine what my social life looks like. But then again, it’s always preferrable to the alternative, which would probably involve me turning into something very much resembling Christopher Hitchens.

  50. If I ever meet you, b-b. I’ll have to drink for two.

  51. A.J.P. Crown says

    But you don’t drink either, Pete. I can drink for three. If you ask me that Ben Zyskowicz sounds like a bit of a wanker, hanging out at the Café Strindberg—a popular celebrity-spotting location on Pohjoisesplanadi. Nice that he married a tatar, though, I suppose that’s what bulbul means.

  52. Let’s drink a beverage of our choice to the possibility of the three of us meeting someplace other than heaven or hell, and let’s invite Hat and everyone else here, including the commentators infrequent and rare.

  53. Turkish çıfıt < çifud < cuhūd < Persian جهود < Hebrew יהוד.

  54. MMcM: You read Portuguese. Howe about translating “Menina e Moca” for the world? I’ve tried, and I’m not up to it.

  55. A.J.P. Crown says

    I think we should definitely meet sometime. I’d suggest the Canaries over Iceland for obvious reasons (birds), but the Eastasians and Sig might prefer someplace more towards the poles. Farris would like someplace more towards the Poles. Oops, was that a pun? Sorry.

  56. Turkish çıfıt < çifud < cuhūd < Persian جهود < Hebrew יהוד.
    Good lord. MMcM, sometime we should have a language equivalent of Jeopardy; I’d be curious to see whether you or zaelic would win.

  57. A.J.P. Crown says


  58. Thanks MMcM 🙂 I’ll be rooting for you, too.
    I’ll drink* to that!
    * Diet Coke. Sigh.

  59. MMcM: I formally concede. Chewfoot, indeed.

  60. the first ever book i bought all by me myself and when i was the second yr pupil, 8 yo, on the September 2, soo remember the day i went to the bookstore all by myself as if i’m a grownup, after school, so it was Pesn’ o veshem Olege, “kak nune sbiraetsya veshii Oleg otmstit’ nerazumnum khozaram ix sela i nivu za buinui nabeg obrek on mecham i pojaram…’
    i remember, i was reading and couldn’t understand almost all words, except sel and niv
    so, feel, like, affinity to ‘Khozaram’, the verse i remember best from NG and LNG, i think i forget, cited it in his book “Drevnyaya Rus’ i Velikaya step'” as an epi title “a gde-to struyatsya rodimue reki k kotorum mne put’ navsegda vospreshen”, my ‘theory’ is that they both felt perhaps affinity to us too, as if they were recalling from their long lost pre-memory
    you, JE, are also like kin :), in Japan i had a friend whose three obsessions were Mongols, owls and Sibelius, a very charming deda, one of his rooms was full of owls’ representations, all kinds of owl souvenirs from all over the world
    he used to joke that he was either a Mongol or an owl in his previous life
    just i think i made him once very uncomfortable and almost insulted him, so sorry
    upon my departure, he was seeing me off and taking a lot of pictures as if i was a movie star or celebrity and i got kinda irritated and said i’m not in the zoo something, in Japanese, unconsciously, so oops

  61. A.J.P. Crown says

    Could even have been Sibelius in previous life, but much less likely.

  62. David Marjanović says

    WRT Yiddish, M. Mieses and a few others have demonstrated that the German elements in Yiddish are not from the western, Franco-German, reaches of Germany, but from Alpine Bavaria and further east.

    As a native speaker of “further east”, I think I can reliably deny that.

    So I’d speculate that in the 8th c., they probably spoke a Turkic dialect trending later towards Yiddish?

    “A Turkic dialect trending towards Yiddish”? How does that work?

    Turkish çıfıt

    In case I’ve interpreted the יהו part correctly, this must be the ultimate case of pronouncing the Name in vain. 🙂
    BTW, I don’t drink alcohol either. It stinks. I don’t even drink Coke, because I can’t stand the gas…
    More tomorrow or so…
    Oh. Just one thing. Basic science theory. Science cannot prove, only disprove! And then there’s the principle of parsimony. The difference between a hypothesis and a theory is primarily one of size.

  63. David Marjanović says

    (And… bulbul turning into Hitchens… he’d surpass him and trigger a bloodbath. I’ll stop contemplating this possibility and go to bed.)

  64. Wow, I came across this old thread looking for discussions of Bulgar / Khazar languages on LH

    But it’s amazing what 10 years can do! The much-abused “Ashkenazi are from Khazaria rather than from Canaan” hypothesis is thoroughly dead, and Kevin Brook still presides over collecting and publicizing “all things Khazar” but his focus shifted to a hope that *some* Khazar Jews may have survived the downfall of the Khanate to contribute a very minor stream of ancestry to the Eastern Ashkenazim. (From “the principal ancestors” to “one of (lesser) ancestors”, much akin to what DNA did to the Mormon claim about the genesis of Native American tribes from the lost tribes of Israel). And even Wexler’s relexification hypothesis seems to be out, under the influence of Beider’s publications which presented Bohemian dialects of German as a root for Yiddish (although if I understand it right, none of the attested Bohemian German dialects had *all* of the features of Old Yiddish – some had one subset and others, another – but perhaps Prague commoners dialect was too low in stature for such a grand city to get documented back in the days?)

    The idea that *some* Turkic group contributed a little DNA to the Ashkenazi Jews in the Eastern, but not Western Europe actually appears viable at this moment, as (relatively imprecise) DNA methods of Behar 2016 suggest that about 2.2% of Eastern Ashkenazi DNA may have come from a Central/North Asian source. A similar or slightly higher percentages of similar Asian DNA is found across the region in the Slavs and Hungarians, and up to 25% in the Chuvash. According to Yunusbaev 2015, the most likely timing of this admixture in the Slavs and Chuvash is X c. CE, give or take some (quite likely before the Horde, and probably but not certainly during the Bulgar / Khazar times). But at a first glance, a “sequential dilution” path in which the Bulgar DNA gets to the Slavs and thence to the Ashkenazi Jews doesn’t seem to work on the numbers. So some Turkic people may have contributed a bit of DNA to the Ashkenazim, who were at one point so few in numbers that literally one or two Turkic parents might have plausibly done the trick. Perhaps it was a handful of Khazars. Or maybe the Crimean Karaites. Or maybe the Muslim Tatars. So little is known about the genetic makeup of all of these groups that it will be some time before we get better clarity…

  65. Thanks for reviving and updating this thread!

  66. John Cowan says

    although if I understand it right, none of the attested Bohemian German dialects had *all* of the features of Old Yiddish – some had one subset and others, another

    That’s typical of a koine, especially a city koine. When final stops were lost for good and all in Mandarin, each dialect (except the few southern ones that retained them as glottal stop, the same as in Wu) converted all final-stop syllables to one of the three or four unchecked tones by regular sound-change. But in Standard Mandarin it’s totally unpredictable which tone a final-stop syllable got, because dialect mixing in Beijng,

  67. de Rachewiltz’s “Secret History of the Mongols”

    Now in open access:

  68. Thanks! Here’s the description:

    The Secret History of the Mongols: A Mongolian Epic Chronicle of the Thirteenth Century is a shortened version of the three volumes of Igor de Rachewiltz’s similarly-titled work published by Brill in 2004 and 2013. It includes the full translation with a few notes, but omits the extensive introduction explaining the nature and origin of the text, the detailed commentary concerning linguistic and historical aspects of the text, and the exhaustive bibliography of the original. Included are the genealogical table and two maps from 2004, a shorter version of two indexes, and a very brief list of works cited.

  69. David Marjanović says

    except the few southern ones that retained them as glottal stop, the same as in Wu

    That’s northern Wú, e.g. of Shànghǎi or Sūzhōu. In Wēnzhōu, final -p -t -k are lost completely; there is a glottal stop in the system, but it corresponds to the third tone of Mandarin.

  70. John Cowan says

    Yes, well, 天不怕,地不怕,就怕温州人说温州话. Wenzhounese was supposedly used by Chinese code talkers in 1937-45.

  71. Now freely available (as pdf chapter downloads): Jewish City or Inferno of Russian Israel? A History of the Jews in Kiev before February 1917, by Victoria Khiterer:

    This book describes the history of Jews in Kiev from the tenth century to the February 1917 Revolution. At the turn of the twentieth century, the Kiev Jewish community was one of the largest and wealthiest in the Russian Empire. This book illuminates the major processes and events in Kievan Jewish history, including the creation of the Jewish community, the expulsions of Jews from the city, government persecution and Jewish pogroms, the Beilis Affair, the participation of Jews in the political, economic, and cultural life of Kiev, and their contribution to the development of the city.

    Chapter One: The History of Jews in Kiev from the Tenth Century to 1660.

  72. Can anyone provide more detail on Khiterer’s comment on “Yehupets (i.e. Egypt, as Sholem Aleichem calls the city)”?

    Someone online points out that it’s close to the Ukrainian word for Egypt – Єгипет, but they Romanized it “(Y)Ehypet”. Is the (Y) present in the Ukrainian pronunciation of Єгипет? Or are they just interpolating that to make it look closer to Aleichem’s name? Without it, the Ukrainian term seems like a pretty simple cognate to Egypt going back to some version of Copt-, while the “Yehu-” would seem to be Aleichem reshaping it for his imaginative purposes. But if the Y is really present (at least in pronunciation), it makes me wonder whether some version of Yehud influenced the Ukrainian word for Egypt, which would be interesting. Or maybe the (Y)e is just a normal development in Ukrainian?

    (As I think about this more, the thought that the г comes from the hard sound in Egypt and was probably ancestrally pronounced that way makes me dubious about my speculation, since it seems unlikely that Egypet would have been influenced by Yehu- during natural language development, so it seems more likely to derive from the fertile mind of Aleichem.)

    The book sounds interesting. Recent events have made me more interested in reading some Ukrainian history, a fraught concept in some ways, but for sake of argument… Perhaps for that reason a city history in the area is the best way to grasp the events and trends that shaped the region that became Ukraine.

    And I learned the other night that part of my father-in-law’s family were from the stetl Motal/Motele, just outside Minsk, not exactly close to Kyiv, but maybe close enough that a history of Kyivan Jews is not irrelevant.

  73. Is the (Y) present in the Ukrainian pronunciation of Єгипет?

    Yes. є (uppercase Є): “The eighth letter of the Ukrainian Cyrillic alphabet. Its name is yе and it has the sound of ye (/je/).”

  74. Recent events have made me more interested in reading some Ukrainian history

    You might be interested in the Librarything Ukraine Reading List; my own list is here. I particularly recommend Magocsi’s History of Ukraine, which I wrote about here.

  75. Thanks!

    This book from the Librarything list will have to be updated!!
    A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian

    (A joke you may only get if you’ve been following war-twitter as obsessively as I have.)

  76. Sholom Aleichem got Yehupitz from Mendele. One hypothesis I read (credited to Shimon Bogen by linguist and blogger Ruvik Rosenthal) is that Yehupitz came from Yevbaz, a.k.a. Єврейський базар, the Jewish Market which existed in what is now Victory Square in Kyiv. I find both it and the ‘Egypt’ etymology equally marginally possible.

  77. John Cowan says

    Is there any connection (presumably satirical) between this Yehupets and Yehupetsville ‘Podunk’?

  78. Hat, your list and the Librarything link have slightly different urls, but the contents are identical. Am I misunderstanding something?

    Magocsi’s History of Ukraine that was too expensive at $35 in 2012 is now $72.50 digital at Barnes and Noble, or $128 for the second edition. Wow. Wartime economy, I guess.

  79. Ryan: try Book Depository, it’s cheapest there usually, even if delivery takes some time.

  80. Thanks for the suggestion, but it’s $153 there!

    The Kindle version is $37. I’m willing to do a lot to avoid Amazon, but not pay double. Looks like it’ll be the big A.

    Whoops. Realizing that the Illustrated history is not the First Edition of the History of Ukraine. All prices revised up by 70%.

  81. A search at the aggregator finds a $53 copy of the second (2010) edition.

    <<Cough libgen Cough>>

  82. Hat, your list and the Librarything link have slightly different urls, but the contents are identical. Am I misunderstanding something?

    I have no idea! When I click on them, mine has nine items and starts with the Magocsi, while the group one goes on for two pages and starts with Bulgakov’s White Guard. Maybe only I can see my personal one? Seems odd, though.

  83. When I click the link with your name I see Bulgakov first. True on my Nook last night and now on my phone. Strange.

    I’m going to pull the trigger on the Kindle of the Second Edition Magocsi unless the price further inflated this morning.

  84. In a comment three years ago by Dmitry Pruss, he referenced something he had read about traces of East Eurasian DNA in Eastern Ashkenazic Jews and how he thought it possibly came from Khazars. We have more clarity on these traces now. My current argument based on more refined haplogroup and autosomal DNA evidence is that there are small traces of Khazar and Alan ancestry in some Eastern Ashkenazic populations. This explains why the Ashkenazic branch of mtDNA haplogroup N9a3 currently called N9a3a1b1 by YFull has phylogenetically close Bashkir matches, the Ashkenazic branch of mtDNA haplogroup A12’23 that Geoffrey Sea identified as A-a1b3* has a phylogenetically close modern Turkmen match from Uzbekistan and exact ancient matches from Central Asia and North Asia, and the Ashkenazic Y-DNA haplogroup G-FGC1093 is shared with North Ossetians and Kumyks. So, a small genetic impact from a small number of Turkic and North Caucasian ancestors.

    The May 2022 preprint on the DNA of many Jews from 14th-century Erfurt, Germany shows that some, but not all of them, had noteworthy amounts of Siberian ancestry and East Asian ancestry. Although its lead scientist, Shai Carmi, imagined that they could have acquired this from Slavic converts to Judaism, that idea is not plausible, because of the high amounts involved and how we know that the only Slavic genetic contributors to Ashkenazim were West Slavs (at least Poles and Czechs) rather than Russians. I am specifically referring to the Erfurt Jewish samples I14904 (scoring 2.36 percent Siberian plus 2.64 percent East Asian in Eurogenes K13, adding up to 5 percent), I13869 (scoring 3.08 percent Siberian plus 2.06 percent East Asian in Eurogenes K13, adding up to 5.14 percent), I14740 (scoring 2.74 percent Siberian plus 0.95 percent East Asian in Eurogenes K13, adding up to 3.69 percent, and happens to have carried the plausibly Khazarian haplogroup N9a3), and I14901 (scoring 2.99 percent Siberian plus 2.26 percent East Asian in Eurogenes K13, adding up to 5.25 percent, although this particular sample had low SNP coverage).

    Ethnic Poles and Czechs have negligible East Eurasian genetic traces and the same is true for most ethnic Hungarians. Often less than 1 percent, although it is part of their ancestry. I do not believe that the Slavic and East Eurasian elements in Ashkenazim came from the same ultimate source population if we went back to the 10th century.

    Michalis Moriopoulos used Vahaduo with G25 coordinates to determine the admixture proportions of the Erfurt Jewish samples. 4 of them score in the EA_Devils_Gate element. That’s a Northeast Asian cluster similar to modern Ulchi of far-eastern Russia and other Tungusic-speaking ethnicities and to also forming a minority portion of Koreans and Japanese but not found in most Han Chinese. So this would, I think, be Turkic Khazarian and not brought by the Southern Chinese woman who brought the mtDNA haplogroup M33c to the Eastern Ashkenazim.

    Some full Ashkenazim who test with 23andMe currently score traces of their “Manchurian & Mongolian” category ranging from 0.1 to 0.7 percent. I believe that is all Khazarian because the original Turkic people lived in the Mongolia region.

    There’s no evidence that any of this East Eurasian DNA came to Ashkenazim from Crimean Karaites or Crimean Tatars.

    As an aside, I recently confirmed that one of the *West* Eurasian mtDNA haplogroups in Crimean Karaites is shared with Ashkenazim. None of the *East* Eurasian ones are.

    For the record, between 2013 and 2021 I no longer thought there was any Khazar DNA in Ashkenazim at all, and the Third Edition (2018) of my book “The Jews of Khazaria” reflected that viewpoint. I regret that now and have another book on the way to remedy that.

  85. Here’s a follow-up to my July 21, 2022 message above.

    The final, peer-reviewed version of the Erfurt Jewish DNA study, titled “Genome-wide data from medieval German Jews show that the Ashkenazi founder event pre-dated the 14th century”, was published in the journal Cell on November 30, 2022.

    The information I posted about G-FGC1093, A-a1b3, and N9a3a1b1 was published in my book “The Maternal Genetic Lineages of Ashkenazic Jews” by Academic Studies Press on October 25, 2022 on pages 7, 16-17, and 85-86 respectively.

    Further news items beyond this are:

    Ashkenazic A-a1b3 is actually now called A-a1b3a, that is, at the same level as the Uzbekistani Turkmen rather than one level up.

    N9a3a1b, the same haplogroup that Turkic-speaking Bashkirs have, is also found in Mongolic-speaking Daur people in northeastern China according to GenBank sample ON127764 from the June 21, 2022 study “Genetic Diversity Analysis of the Chinese Daur Ethnic Group in Heilongjiang Province by Complete Mitochondrial Genome Sequencing” in the journal Frontiers in Genetics.

    I learned too late that G-FGC1093 is also the assignment for an ancient sample (lib7al_PE) from Zayukovo-3 Cemetery in Kabardino-Balkaria that dates from about the 5th century B.C.E. It’s part of the data set of the June 2020 study “Mitochondrial and Y-chromosome diversity of the prehistoric Koban culture of the North Caucasus”.

    It isn’t impossible that the Ashkenazic haplogroups U5a1d2b, H40b, and X2e2a are Khazarian as well but I doubt that X2e2a is and there are also plausible alternative explanations for U5a1d2b and H40b.

  86. Thanks for the update!

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