Some people always seem to take the complicated path…

Russian archaeologists say they have found the long-lost capital of the Khazar kingdom in southern Russia, a breakthrough for research on the ancient Jewish state.

“This is a hugely important discovery,” expedition organiser Dmitry Vasilyev said from Astrakhan State University after returning from excavations near the village of Samosdelka, just north of the Caspian Sea.

“We can now shed light on one of the most intriguing mysteries of that period – how the Khazars actually lived. We know very little about the Khazars – about their traditions, their funerary rites, their culture,” he said.

The city was the capital of the Khazars, a semi-nomadic Turkic peoples who adopted Judaism as a state religion, from between the 8th and the 10th centuries, when it was captured and sacked by the rulers of ancient Russia.

At its height, the Khazar state and its tributaries controlled much of what is now southern Russia, western Kazakhstan, eastern Ukraine, Azerbaijan and large parts of Russia’s North Caucasus region.

The capital is referred to as Itil in Arab chronicles but Mr Vasilyev said the word may actually have been used to refer to the Volga River on which the city was founded or to the surrounding river delta region.

Itil was said to be a multi-ethnic place with houses of worship and judges for Christians, Jews, Muslims and pagans. Its remains have until now never been identified and were said to have been washed away by the Caspian Sea.

Archaeologists have been excavating in the area if Samosdelka for the past nine years but have only now collected enough material evidence to back their thesis, including the remains of an ancient brick fortress, he added.

“Within the fortress, we have found huts similar to yurts, which are characteristics of Khazar cities…. The fortress had a triangular shape and was made with bricks. It’s another argument that this was no ordinary city.”

Around 10 university archaeologists and some 50 students took part in excavations in the region this summer, which are partly financed by the Jewish University in Moscow and the Russian Jewish Congress.

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  • Let’s try to add this territory to NATO as quickly as possible.

  • Actually, following a trail of vodka shot glasses would have led to a Russian city, not a Jewish one.

  • Thanks for these posts Froylein. They are a welcome respite from the Obama echo chamber in here. Plus I was born in Baku, not far from this location, so it’s something I’m very interested in.

  • Alex, I’ve had / got Jewish students who were born in Baku.

    Ephraim, unfortunately, alcohol abuse issues are alive and thriving among many Russian Jews I know. Russians use water glasses though. 😉

  • Well, in our local community, we pride ourselves on our differences from ethnic Russians, and I’m mostly stereotyping here, in that we don’t hit our wives and we’re not alcoholics. Oh, and we dislike Russia and support Georgia, obviously. When people ask me, are you Russian? I say, “I’m a Russian Jew” for good reason, and it isn;t just because my passport was marked “Jew” instead of “Russian” either.

  • Yeah. Most of the “Russian” Jews I know don’t really like Russians at all.

  • The few Russian Jews I know are from Moscow and St Petersburg; most others are from the Ukraine, Belarus and Azerbaidjan. The German Jewish Council once released estimates according to which two-thirds of the Jewish immigrants to Germany from the former Sovietunion weren’t actually Jewish. According to what students told me, it’s a minor deal to bribe some authority into issuing you a Jewish passport over there. The advantage for Jewish as opposed to other immigrants is the entitlement to full social benefits without having to take mandatory German classes. Anyhow, even of those I know that are Jewish (rabbinical families even), particularly among my students’ generation, alcohol abuse is not uncommon. There’s little to none domestic violence though (my male Russian students consider it pretty normal to keep a wife in check by hitting her); then again, the fathers of half of them died by force or under unknown circumstances over there in the former Sovietunion, even right at the dawn of Perestroika and Glasnost. For your consideration, alcohol consumption to degrees of habitual use are not uncommon among many young Chasidic males either; American yeshivot in Israel have repeatedly been the locations of drug peddling scandals. The ultra-Orthodox keep turning a blind eye towards those issues.

  • Well, Russians are some of the most nationalistic people on earth. Most look down upon other races, nationalities, religions, etc., as lesser then them. They haven’t been “taught” like us Westerners…

    We were treated like second hand citizens, blacklisted, monitored, locked up, etc., so many of us were thrilled to leave and have nothing but contempt left. I do have many Russia-American friends though so I’m not an outright hater. But when the country of Russia suffers, I rejoice. As I did watching Euro 2008 this year.

    I can’t stand when Russians trick the systems and act as Jews for the benefits. That’s repulsive in Israel, Germany, America, or anywhere else…

  • I know a guy out here whose father was a decorated Hero of the Soviet Union from WWII but yet could not rise in the military because he was a Jew. He died of a heart attack in his 50s, killed by the stress. His son graduated near the top of his class in high school, but no university would take hem because he was a Jew. He became a refusenik and had to hide in a closet. He couldn’t get a job, couldn’t get a visa to get out, nothing. He finally made it out and lives out here in CA now and works as an engineer.

    He hates the Russians like poison and he cannot remain rational when talking about them. There are some regular Russians at the company where we work (although most of the “Russians” are actually Jewish) and they tried to get him involved with their Russian network. He declined, and told me “Why would I want to go to a barbecue with those people? I came here to get away from the fucking Russians.”

    Not a happy camper. I have to avoid talking about Russia with him because the veins start popping. Like Alex, nothing makes him happier than to see something bad happen to Russia or Russians. I understand it, but it’s really sad. Not because of the Russians, mind you, but because I’m afraid he’s going to give himself a stroke one day.

  • Well, I hate to give people the perception that I like to see the general populace of any nation suffer. I did not rejoice when the Chechens took the Moscow theater hostage nor when the Russians remorselessly risked certain death to a percentage of the hostages by gassing in poison rather than something less noxious, nor do I celebrate when innocent Iraqis or Palestinians get killed by our weapons. Deep beneath this brazen attitude, I can sympathize with any other human, even those brainwashed to hate me. I still have an appreciation for the Russian language, certain parts of Russian culture, literature, art, architecture, history, etc., I just don’t feel that they are my people.