Khazars (khäˈzärz) [key], ancient Turkic people who appeared in Transcaucasia in the 2d cent. A.D. and subsequently settled in the lower Volga region. They emerged as a force in the 7th cent. and rose to great power. The Khazar empire extended (8th–10th cent.) from the northern shores of the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea to the Urals and as far westward as Kiev. Itil, the Khazar capital in the Volga delta, was a great commercial center. The Khazars conquered the Volga Bulgars and the Crimea, levied tribute from the eastern Slavs, and warred with the Arabs, Persians, and Armenians. Religious tolerance was complete in the Khazar empire, which reached a relatively high degree of civilization. In the 8th cent. the Khazar nobility embraced Judaism, and Cyril and Methodius made some Christian converts among them in the 9th cent. In the 10th cent. the Khazars entered into friendly relations with the Byzantine Empire, which attempted to use them in the struggle against the Arabs. The Khazar empire fell when Sviatoslav, duke of Kiev, defeated its army in 965. The Khazars (or Chazars) are believed by some to have been the ancestors of many East European Jews.
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