Khazar Correspondence

Khazar Correspondence

Khazar Correspondence

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The Khazar Correspondence was an exchange of letters in the 950s or 960s between Hasdai ibn Shaprut, foreign secretary to the Caliph of Cordoba, and Joseph, Khagan of the Khazars. It is one of the few documents known to have been authored by a Khazar, and one of the very few primary sources on Khazar history. It gives both an account of the conversion itself and of its progress in subsequent generations, as well as demonstrating that within a generation of the fall of the Khazar empire in 969, the Khazar state was still militarily powerful and received tribute from several polities.


The Correspondence originated with Hasdai ibn Shaprut, foreign secretary to Abd ar-Rahman III, the Umayyad Caliph of Cordoba and al-Andalus. A man of extensive contacts and virtually unlimited resources, Hasdai learned of the existence of the Khazars from Khurasani merchants. His ignorance of the Khazar state is odd, and may even have been disingenuous, given Joseph's statements to the effect that there had been communications between the two communities in the past.

Hasdai's first messenger found his way to Constantinople, where Byzantine authorities refused to permit him to proceed further. He returned, possibly taking the so-called Schechter Letter (penned by a Khazar and possibly intended for Hasdai) back with him. Eventually Hasdai's letter was given to Jews attached to a Croat embassy, and reached Khazaria via yet another messenger, Isaac ben Eliezer of Nemetz (Germany).

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