Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The Schechter Letter is a communique from an unnamed Khazar author to an unidentified Jewish dignitary. Many believe that the Schechter Letter was addressed to Hasdai ibn Shaprut by a Constantinopolitan Khazar after his first, unsuccessful attempt to correspond with the Khazar king Joseph (see Khazar Correspondence).
The Conversion Text
The Schechter Letter contains an account of the Khazar conversion that differs from that of the Khazar Correspondence and the Kuzari. In the Schechter Letter account, Jews from Persia and Armenia migrated to Khazaria to flee persecution, where they mingled with the nomadic Khazars, eventually assimilating almost totally. Eventually a strong war-leader arose (in the Schechter Letter, he is named Sabriel) and eventually succeeded in having himself named ruler of the Khazars. Sabriel happened to be remotely descended from the early Jewish settlers, and his wife Serakh convinced him to adopt Judaism, in which his people followed him.
What follows in the Letter is largely lost except for a few fragments.
HLGW and Romanus
The next substantial section of the Letter to survive tells of a recent (to the author) event - an invasion of Khazaria by HLGW (Oleg), prince of Rus, instigated by the Byzantine Emperor Romanus I Lecapenus. Romanus, a persecutor of the Jews, may have been seeking to counter Khazar retaliation for his policies. According to the Letter, HLGW was defeated by the Khazar general Pesakh in the Taman region. Faced with execution by the Khazars, HLGW agreed to attack Constantinople (indeed, such an attack took place in 941), where he was defeated and fled to Persia, where he died.
Implications of the Text
The Letter challenges a number of long-held assumptions. Firstly, its version of the conversion posits an partially Judean descent for Khazar contemporaries of the author. Whether or not this is an accurate account, it indicates that the Khazars saw themselves as fully-integrated members of world Jewry.
In addition, the text refers to Oleg. According to the Primary Russian Chronicle, Oleg died in 913 and his successor, the knyaz Igor, ruled from then until his murder in 944. For years scholars disregarded the Schechter Letter account; however recently, Constantine Zuckerman has suggested that the Schechter Letter's account is in sync with various other Russian sources, and suggests a struggle within the early Rus polity between factions loyal to Oleg and to the Rurikovich Igor, a struggle that Oleg ultimately lost. Zuckerman posited that the early chronology of the Rus had to be re-determined in light of these sources. Among Zuckerman's beliefs and others who have analyzed these sources are that the Khazars did not lose Kiev until the early 900's (rather than 882, the traditional date), that Igor was not Rurik's son but rather a more distant descendent, and that Oleg did not immediately follow Rurik, but rather that there is a lost generation between the legendary Varangian lord and his documented successors.
External Links and Sources
- Bibliography of Khazar Studies
- Brook, Kevin Alan. The Jews of Khazaria, 1st ed., Northvale, N.J.: Jason Aronson, 1999
- Dunlop, Douglas M. The History of the Jewish Khazars, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1954.
- Golb, Norman and Omeljan Pritsak. Khazarian Hebrew Documents of the Tenth Century. Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 1982.
- Khazar Self Perception: A Study of the Schechter Text
- Zuckerman, Constantine. "On the Date of the Khazar’s Conversion to Judaism and the Chronology of the Kings of the Rus Oleg and Igor." Revue des Etudes Byzantines 53 (1995): 237-270.
The contents of this article is licensed from www.wikipedia.org under the GNU Free Documentation License. Click here to see the transparent copy and copyright details