The Khazars were nomadic Asian warriors who conquered a huge swathe of territory to establish a large and powerful empire that extended from Central Asia to eastern Europe. The 7th-century Khazar ruler King Bulan decided to repudiate the pagan and idolatrous worship that beset his empire and led to widespread moral degeneracy, and adopted a monotheistic religion, opting for ‘Talmudism’ (Judaism). The Empire underwent mass conversion; Yiddish was spoken and Hebrew phonic characters were adopted. At its height the Khazar Empire enjoyed great military strength, controlling the major southeastern Europe trade route. However, a lack of natural resources and an undeveloped economy, coupled with mainly Russian and later Mongol attack, led to the Empire’s decline in the tenth and eleventh centuries. New states were formed, absorbing existing Jewish settlements; it is therefore suggested that today’s Jewish communities across much of central and eastern Europe – for example Russia, Ukraine, Romania, Hungary, Czech and Slovak Republics, Austria and Germany – are of Khazar descent.
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