Here are two researches which examine the Slavic-Turkic origins of the Ashkenazim Jews:
1- The Ashkenazic Jews: A Slavo-Turkic People in Search of a Jewish Identity, by Paul Wexler, Publisher: Slavica Pub; First edition. (December 1, 1993), ISBN-10: 0893572411
2- Jewish European Ancestry: Contrasting the Rhineland and the Khazarian Hypotheses by Eran Israeli-Elhaik, Department of Mental Health, Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, McKusick-Nathans Institute of Genetic Medicine, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Published: 14 December 2012
The Ashkenazic Jews: A Slavo-Turkic People in Search of a Jewish Identity, by Paul Wexler
This book, a linguist’s reassessment of early European Jewish history, will be of interest to anyone who has ever wondered how the Jewish people, lacking their own territorial base and living as a minority among often hostile non-Jewish peoples over the four corners of the globe, succeeded in preserving a separate identity for close to two thousand years.
The book makes a number of innovative and controversial claims about the relationship of the contemporary Jews to the Old Palestinian Jews. Recognizing the limitations of historical documentation, this book shows how facts about Yiddish and Modern Israeli Hebrew (presented in four recent books) can assist historians and archeologists in evaluating known data and artifacts as well as generate a new hypothesis about the origins of the Ashkenazic Jews, the north European Jews who have consituted the majority of the Jews in the world for the last several centuries.
In Wexler’s view, the Ashkenazic Jews most likely descend from a minority ethnic Palestinian Jewish emigre population that intermarried with a much larger heterogeneous population of converts to Judaism from Asia Minor, the Balkans and the Germano-Sorb lands (the Sorbs are a West Slavic population that still numbers about 70,000 in the former German Democratic Republic). Widespread conversions to Judaism that began in Asia Minor in the Christian era and ended with the institutionalization of Christianity among the Western Slavs in the beginning of the second millennium saved the tiny ethnic Palestinian Jewish population in the diaspora from total extinction.
The major non-Jewish contributors to the ethnogenesis of the Ashkenazic Jews were Slavs, though there was probably also a minor Turkic strain — both in the Caspian-Black Sea area (the descendants of the Khazars, a mainly Turkic group that converted to Judaism in the eighth century) and in the Balkans and Hungary. In all of these areas, the Turkic population early became submerged with the coterritorial Slavs. In addition to Yiddish terms of Slavic, Greek, Romance and German origin which express aspects of the Jewish religion and folk culture, the book shows that many elements of Ashkenazic folklore and religion themselves were of Slavic origin — either West (Sorbian and Polabian) or Balkan Slavic.
There is a lengthy discussion of the evidence for widespread conversion to Judaism in Asia Minor, southern Europe and the Germano-Sorbian lands up to the twelfth century and the reasons why pagan and Christian Slavs converted to Judaism. While historians have been disputing the extent of conversion to Judaism, Wexler thinks the linguistic and ethnographic evidence make the conversion evidence highly plausible. In addition, Jewish linguistic evidence refutes the traditional claims that Yiddish is a variant of High German and that Modern Hebrew is a “revived” form of Old Hebrew; new hypotheses are proposed: that Yiddish began as a Slavic language (specifically a Judaized form of Sorbian) that was re-lexified to High German at an early date, and that Modern Hebrew is, in turn, Yiddish that became re-lexified to Hebrew, and thus is also a form of Sorbian.
These facts support the author’s hypothesis of the Slavic origins of the Ashkenazic Jews, and the bulk of their religion and folk culture. The book proceeds to show how, under the conditions of relative separation from the non-Jewish population that developed after the twelfth century, the north European Jews developed elaborate processes of “Judaizing” their pagan and Christian Slavic religion and folk culture — by inserting unusually large amounts of Hebrew elements into colloquial Judeo-Sorbian/Yiddish and by reinterpreting and recalibrating religious and ethnographic practices according to biblical and talmudic precedents; customs known to be obsolete among the Christians were retained by the Jews as “Jewish” practices.
For example, the Slavo-Germanic glass-breaking ceremony intended to scare the devil away from the merrymakers at a wedding, was reinterpreted as remembrance of the destructions of the two Temples in Jerusalem. The ethnographic and religious evidence is taken mainly from discussions in the Germano-Slavic Hebrew religious literature of the thirteenth through sixteenth centuries which reveal that many rabbis were quite aware of the non-Jewish origins of Ashkenazic folklore and religious practices. Where the rabbis could not convince the masses to abandon pagan-Christian customs, they were obliged to retain them, but in a “Judaized” form. The book offers a correction to the unsubstantiated views of the late Arthur Koestler in his The Thirteenth Tribe (London 1976), that the Ashkenazic Jews are largely descended from Turkic Khazars who converted to Judaism in the Caucasus in the eighth century.
Wexler believes Koestler was right about a Slavo-Turkic basis for the north European Jews — but that he erred in assuming the preponderence of Turks over other ethnic groups, and in placing the “homeland” of the Ashkenazic Jews in the Caucasus. Where Koestler’s evidence, mainly non-linguistic, was scanty and totally unreliable, Yiddish and Ashkenazic folk culture and religion provide a wealth of varied evidence that support a primarily Slavic ethnic origin for the Ashkenazic Jews.
In opposition to the popular view that the Slavic imprint in Ashkenazic Jewish culture is a “late borrowing”, Wexler sees the Slavic elements as an “inheritance” from the pagan Slavic cultures which were to become for the most part submerged and reformed under the impact of Christianity.
Hence, Ashkenazic Judaism is essentially a Judaized form of Slavic pagan and Christian culture and religion (rather than an uninterrupted evolution of Palestinian Judaism) — and the best repository of pagan Slavic folk culture that survives to our days. Wexler also proposes that the other Jewish diasporas — e.g. the Sephardic, the Arab, Iranian, Chinese, Indian, Ethiopian and Yemenite — are also largely of non-Jewish origin.
The book compares the notion of Jewish peoplehood with attempts at rewriting the past found in many other societies. There is a bibliography of some seven hundred items and an index of examples.
Jewish European Ancestry: Contrasting the Rhineland and the Khazarian Hypotheses, by Eran Israeli-Elhaik
The question of Jewish ancestry has been the subject of controversy for over two centuries and has yet to be resolved. The “Rhineland hypothesis” depicts Eastern European Jews as a “population isolate” that emerged from a small group of German Jews who migrated eastward and expanded rapidly. Alternatively, the “Khazarian hypothesis” suggests that Eastern European Jews descended from the Khazars, anamalgam of Turkic clans that settled the Caucasus in the early centuries CE and converted to Judaism in the 8th century. Mesopotamian and Greco–Roman Jews continuously reinforced the Judaized Empire until the 13th century.
Following the collapse of their Empire, the Judeo–Khazars ﬂed to Eastern Europe. The rise of European Jewry is therefore explained by the contribution of the Judeo–Khazars. Thus far, however, the Khazars’ contribution has been estimated only empirically, as the absence of genome-wide data from Caucasus populations precluded testing the Khazarian hypothesis. Recent sequencing of modern Caucasus populations prompted us to revisit the Khazarian hypothesis and compare it with the Rhineland hypothesis.
We applied a wide range of population genetic analyses to compare these two hypotheses. Our ﬁndings support the Khazarian hypothesis and portray the European Jewish genome as a mosaic of Near Eastern-Caucasus, European, and Semitic ancestries, thereby consolidating previous contradictory reports of Jewish ancestry. We further describe a major difference among Caucasus populations explained by the early presence of Judeans in the Southern and Central Caucasus. Our results have important implications for the demographic forces that shaped the genetic diversity in the Caucasus and for medical studies.
Contemporary Eastern European Jews comprise the largest ethno-religious aggregate of modern Jewish communities, accounting for approximately 90% of over 13 million Jews worldwide (Ostrer 2001). Speculated to have emerged from a small Central European founder group and thought to have maintained high endogamy, Eastern European Jews are considered a “population isolate” and invaluable subjects in disease studies (Carmeli 2004), although their ancestry remains debatable between geneticists, historians, and linguists (Wexler 1993; Brook 2006; Sand 2009; Behar et al. 2010).
Recently, several large-scale studies have attempted to chart the genetic diversity of Jewish populations by genotyping Eurasian Jewish and non-Jewish populations (Conrad et al. 2006; Kopelman et al. 2009; Behar et al. 2010). Interestingly, some of these studies linked Caucasus populations with Eastern European Jews, at odds with the narrative of a Central European founder group. Because correcting for population structure and using suitable controls are critical in medical studies, it is vital to examine the hypotheses purporting to explain the ancestry of Eastern and Central European Jews.
One of the major challenges for any hypothesis is to explain the massive presence of Jews in Eastern Europe, estimated at eight million people at the beginning of the 20th century. We investigate the genetic structure of European Jews, by applying a wide range of analyses— including three population test, principal component, biogeographical origin, admixture, identity by descent (IBD), allele sharing distance, and uniparental analyses—and test their veracity in light of the two dominant hypotheses depicting either a sole Middle Eastern ancestry or a mixed Middle Eastern–Caucasus–European ancestry to explain the ancestry of Eastern European Jews.
The “Rhineland hypothesis” envisions modern European Jews to be the descendents of the Judeans—an assortment of Israelite–Canaanite tribes of Semitic origin (ﬁgs. 1 and 2) (supplementary note S1, Supplementary Material online). It proposes two mass migratory waves: the ﬁrst occurred over the 200 years following the Muslim conquest of Palestine (638 CE) and consisted of devoted Judeans who left Muslim Palestine for Europe (Dinur 1961).
Whether these migrants joined the existing Judaized Greco–Roman communities is unclear, as is the extent of their contribution to the Southern European gene pool. The second wave occurred at the beginning of the 15th century by a group of 50,000 German Jews who migrated eastward and ushered an apparent hyper baby-boom era for half a millennium (Atzmon et al. 2010). The Rhineland hypothesis predicts a Middle Eastern ancestry to European Jews and high genetic similarity among European Jews (Ostrer 2001; Atzmon et al. 2010; Behar et al. 2010).
The competing “Khazarian hypothesis” considers Eastern European Jews to be the descendants of Khazars (supplementary note S1, Supplementary Material online). The Khazars were a confederation of Slavic, Scythian, Hunnic–Bulgar, Iranian, Alans, and Turkish tribes who formed in the central–northern Caucasus one of most powerful empires during the late Iron Age and converted to Judaism in the 8th century CE (ﬁgs. 1 and 2) (Polak 1951; Brook 2006; Sand 2009).
The Khazarian, Armenian, and Georgian populations forged from this amalgamation of tribes (Polak 1951) were followed by relative isolation, differentiation, and genetic drift in situ (Balanovsky et al. 2011). Biblical and archeological records allude to active trade relationships between Proto-Judeans and Armenians in the late centuries BCE (Polak 1951; Finkelstein and Silberman 2002), that likely resulted in a small scale admixture between these populations and a Judean presence in the Caucasus.
After their conversion to Judaism, the population structure of the Judeo–Khazars was further reshaped by multiple migrations of Jews from the Byzantine Empire and Caliphate to the Khazarian Empire (ﬁg. 1). Following the collapse of their empire and the Black Death (1347–1348) the Judeo–Khazars ﬂed westward (Baron 1993), settling in the rising Polish Kingdom and Hungary (Polak 1951) and eventually spreading to Central and Western Europe.
The Khazarian hypothesis posits that European Jews are comprised of Caucasus, European, and Middle Eastern ancestries. Moreover, European Jewish communities are expected to be different from one another both in ancestry and genetic heterogeneity. The Khazarian hypothesis also offers two explanations for the genetic diversity in Caucasus groups ﬁrst by the multiple migration waves to Khazaria during the 6th–10th centuries and second by the Judeo–Khazars who remained in the Caucasus.
Genetic studies attempting to infer the ancestry of European Jews yielded inconsistent results. Some studies pointed to the genetic similarity between European Jews and Caucasus populations like Adygei (Behar et al. 2003; Levy-Coffman 2005; Kopelman et al. 2009), whereas some pointed to the similarity to Middle Eastern populations such as Palestinians (Hammer et al. 2000; Nebel et al. 2000), and others pointed to the similarity to Southern European populations like Italians (Atzmon et al. 2010; Zoossmann-Diskin 2010).
Most of these studies were done in the pregenome wide era using uniparental markers and including different reference populations, which makes it difﬁcult to compare their results. More recent studies employing whole genome data reported high genetic similarity of European Jews to Druze, Italian, and Middle Eastern populations (Atzmon et al. 2010; Behar et al. 2010).
Although both the Rhineland and Khazarian hypotheses depict a Judean ancestry and are not mutually exclusive, they are well distinguished, as Caucasus and Semitic populations are considered ethnically and linguistically distinct (Patai and Patai 1975; Wexler 1993; Balanovsky et al. 2011). Jews, according to either hypothesis, are an assortment of tribes who accepted Judaism, migrated elsewhere, and maintained their religion up to this date and are, therefore, expected to exhibit certain differences from their neighboring populations.
Because both hypotheses posit that Eastern European Jews arrived at Eastern Europe roughly at the same time (13th and 15th centuries), we assumed that they experienced similar low and ﬁxed admixture rates with the neighboring populations, estimated at 0.5% per generation over the past 50 generations (Ostrer 2001). These relatively recent admixtures have likely reshaped the population structure of all European Jews and increased the genetic distances from the Caucasus or Middle Eastern populations. Therefore, we do not expect to achieve perfect matching with the surrogate Khazarian and Judean populations but rather to estimate their relatedness.
Eastern and Central European Jews comprise the largest group of contemporary Jews, accounting for approximately 90% of over 13 million worldwide Jews. Eastern European Jews made up over 90% of European Jews before World War II. Despite their controversial ancestry, European Jews are an attractive group for genetic and medical studies due to their presumed genetic history (Ostrer 2001).
Correcting for population structure and using suitable controls are critical in medical studies, thus it is vital to determine whether European Jews are of Semitic, Caucasus, or other ancestry.
Though Judaism was born encased in theological–historical myth, no Jewish historiography was produced from the time of Josephus Flavius (1st century CE) to the 19th century (Sand 2009). Early historians bridged the historical gap simply by linking modern Jews directly to the ancient Judeans (ﬁg. 2), a paradigm that was later embedded in medical science and crystallized as a narrative.
Many have challenged this narrative (Koestler 1976; Straten 2007), mainly by showing that a sole Judean ancestry cannot account for the vast population of Eastern European Jews in the beginning of the 20th century without the major contribution of Judaized Khazars and by demonstrating that it is in conﬂict with anthropological, historical, and genetic evidence (Patai and Patai 1975; Baron 1993; Sand 2009).
With uniparental and whole genome analyses providing ambiguous answers (Levy-Coffman 2005; Atzmon et al. 2010; Behar et al. 2010), the question of European Jewish ancestry remained debated mainly between the supporters of the Rhineland and Khazarian hypotheses. Although both theories oversimplify complex historical processes they are attractive due to their distinct predictions and testable hypotheses.
We showed that the hypotheses are also genetically distinct and that the miniscule Semitic ancestry in Caucasus populations cannot account for the similarity between European Jews and Caucasus populations. The recent availability of genomic data from Caucasus populations allowed testing the Khazarian hypothesis for the ﬁrst time and prompted us to contrast it with the Rhineland hypothesis.
To evaluate the two hypotheses, we carried out a series of comparative analyses between European Jews and surrogate Khazarian and Judean populations posing the same question each time: are Eastern and Central European Jews genetically closer to Khazarian or Judean populations? Under the Rhineland hypothesis, European Jews are also expected to exhibit high endogamy, particularly across their Eurasian communities, and be more similar to Middle Eastern populations compared with their neighboring non-Jewish populations, whereas the Khazarian hypothesis predicts the opposite scenario. We emphasize that these hypotheses are not exclusive and that some European Jews may have other ancestries.
Our PC, biogeographical estimation, admixture, IBD, ASD, and uniparental analyses were consistent in depicting a Caucasus ancestry for European Jews. Our ﬁrst analyses revealed tight genetic relationship of European Jews and Caucasus populations and pinpointed the biogeographical origin of European Jews to the south of Khazaria (ﬁgs. 3 and 4).
Our later analyses yielded a complex ancestry with a slightly dominant Near Eastern–Caucasus ancestry, large Southern European and Middle Eastern ancestries, and a minor Eastern European contribution; the latter two differentiated Central and Eastern European Jews (ﬁgs. 4 and 5 and table 1). Although the Middle Eastern ancestry faded in the ASD and uniparental analyses, the Southern European ancestry was upheld, probably attesting to its later time period (table 1 and ﬁg. 7).
We show that the Khazarian hypothesis offers a comprehensive explanation for the results, including the reported Southern European (Atzmon et al. 2010; Zoossmann-Diskin 2010) and Middle Eastern ancestries (Nebel et al. 2000; Behar et al. 2010). By contrast, the Rhineland hypothesis could not explain the large Caucasus component in European Jews, which is rare in non-Caucasus populations (ﬁg. 5), and the large IBD regions shared between European Jews and Caucasus populations attesting to their common and recent origins.
Our ﬁndings thus reject the Rhineland hypothesis and uphold the thesis that Eastern European Jews are Judeo–Khazars in origin. Consequently, we can conclude that the conceptualization of European Jews as a “population isolate,” which is derived from the Rhineland hypothesis, is incorrect and most likely reﬂects sampling bias in the lack of Caucasus non-Jewish populations in comparative analyses.
A major difﬁculty with the Rhineland hypothesis, in addition to the lack of historical and anthropological evidence to the multimigration waves from Palestine to Europe (Straten 2003; Sand 2009), is to explain the vast population expansion of Eastern European Jews from ﬁfty thousand (15th century) to eight million (20th century). The annual growth rate that accounts for this population expansion was estimated at 1.7–2%, one order of magnitude larger than that of Eastern European non-Jews in the 15th–17th centuries, prior to the industrial revolution (Straten 2007).
This growth could not possibly be the product of natural population expansion, particularly one subjected to severe economic restrictions, slavery, assimilation, the Black Death and other plagues, forced and voluntary conversions, persecutions, kidnappings, rapes, exiles, wars, massacres, and pogroms (Koestler 1976; Straten 2003; Sand 2009). Because such an unnatural growth rate, over half a millennium and affecting only Jews residing in Eastern Europe, is implausible—it is explained by a miracle (Atzmon et al. 2010; Ostrer 2012).
Unfortunately, this divine intervention explanation poses a new kind of problem—it is not science. The question of how the Rhineland hypothesis, so deeply rooted in supernatural reasoning, became the dominant scientiﬁc narrative is debated among scholars (Sand 2009).
The most parsimonious explanation for our ﬁndings is that Eastern European Jews are of Judeo–hazarian ancestry forged over many centuries in the Caucasus. Jewish presence in the Caucasus and later Khazaria was recorded as early as the late centuries BCE and reinforced due to the increase in trade along the Silk Road (ﬁg. 1), the decline of Judah (1st–7th centuries), and the uprise of Christianity and Islam (Polak 1951). Greco–Roman and Mesopotamian Jews gravitating toward Khazaria were also common in the early centuries and their migrations were intensiﬁed following the Khazars’ conversion to Judaism (Polak 1951; Brook 2006; Sand 2009).
The eastward male-driven migrations (ﬁg. 7) from Europe to Khazaria solidiﬁed the exotic Southern European ancestry in the Khazarian gene pool (ﬁg. 5), and increased the genetic heterogeneity of the Judeo–Khazars. The religious conversion of the Khazars encompassed most of the empire’s citizens and subordinate tribes and lasted for the next 400 years (Polak 1951; Baron 1993) until the invasion of the Mongols (Polak 1951; Dinur 1961; Brook 2006). At the ﬁnal collapse of their empire (13th century), many of the Judeo–Khazars ﬂed to Eastern Europe and later migrated to Central Europe and admixed with the neighboring populations.
Historical and archeological ﬁndings shed light on the demographic events following the Khazars’ conversion. During the half millennium of their existence (740–1250 CE), the Judeo–Khazars sent offshoots into the Slavic lands, such as Romania and Hungary (Baron 1993), planting the seeds of a great Jewish community to later rise in the Khazarian diaspora.
We hypothesize that the settlement of Judeo–Khazars in Eastern Europe was achieved by serial founding events, whereby populations expanded from the Caucasus into Eastern and Central Europe by successive splits, with daughter populations expanding to new territories following changes in socio-political conditions (Gilbert 1993). These events may have contributed to the higher homogeneity observed in Jewish communities outside Khazaria’s borders (table 1).
After the decline of their empire, the Judeo–Khazars refugees sought shelter in the emerging Polish kingdom and other Eastern European communities where their expertise in economics, ﬁnances, and politics was valued. Prior to their exodus, the Judeo–Khazar population was estimated to be half a million in size, the same as the number of Jews in the Polish–Lithuanian kingdom four centuries later (Polak 1951; Koestler 1976). Some Judeo–Khazars were left behind, mainly in the Crimea and the Caucasus, where they formed Jewish enclaves surviving into modern times. One of the dynasties of Jewish princes ruled in the 15th century under the tutelage of the Genovese Republic and later of the Crimean Tartars.
Another vestige of the Khazar nation is the “Mountain Jews” in the North Eastern Caucasus (Koestler 1976). The remarkable close proximity of European Jews and populations residing on the opposite ends of ancient Khazaria, such as Armenians, Georgians, Azerbaijani Jews, and Druze (ﬁg. 3 and supplementary ﬁgs. S2, S3, and S5, Supplementary Material online), supports a common Near Eastern–Caucasus ancestry. These ﬁndings are not explained by the Rhineland hypothesis and are staggering due to the uneven demographic processes these populations have experienced in the past eight centuries.
The slightly higher observed genetic similarity between European Jews and Armenians compared with Georgians (ﬁgs. 4 and supplementary ﬁgs. S5–6, Supplementary Material online and table 1) is particularly bewildering because Armenians and Georgians are very similar populations that share a similar genetic background (Schonberg et al. 2011) and long history of cultural relations (Payaslian 2007).
We speculate that there is a small Middle Eastern ancestry in Armenians that does not exist in Georgians and is likely responsible for the high genetic similarity between Armenians and European Jews (supplementary ﬁg. S6, Supplementary Material online). Because the Khazars blocked the Arab approach to the Caucasus, we suspect that this ancestry was introduced by the Judeans arriving at a very early date to Armenia and was absorbed into the populations, whereas Judeans arriving to Georgia avoided assimilation (Shapira 2007).
The relatedness between European Jews and Druze reported here and in the literature (Behar et al. 2010) is explained by Druze Turkish–Southern Caucasus origins. Druze migrated to Syria, Lebanon, and eventually to Palestine between the 11th and 13th centuries during the Crusades, a time when the Jewish population in Palestine was at a minimum. The genetic similarity between European Jews and Druze therefore supports the Khazarian hypothesis and should not be confused with a Semitic origin, which can be easily distinguished from the non-Semitic origin (ﬁg. 5).
We emphasize that testing the Middle Eastern origin of European Jews can only be done with indigenous Middle Eastern groups. Overall, the similarity between European Jews and Caucasus populations underscores the genetic continuity that exists among Eurasian Jewish and non-Jewish Caucasus populations.
This genetic continuity is not surprising. The Caucasus gene pool proliferated from the Near Eastern pool due to an Upper Paleolithic (or Neolithic) migration and was shaped by signiﬁcant genetic drift, due to relative isolation in the extremely mountainous landscape (Balanovsky et al. 2011; Pagani et al. 2011). Caucasus populations are therefore expected to be genetically distinct from Southern European and Middle Eastern populations (ﬁg. 5) but to share certain genetic similarity with Near Eastern populations such as Turks, Iranians, and Druze. In all our analyses, Middle Eastern samples clustered together or exhibited high similarity along a geographical gradient (ﬁg. 3) and were distinguished from Arabian Peninsula Arab samples on one hand and from Near Eastern–Caucasus samples on the other hand.
Our study attempts to shed light on the forgotten Khazars and elucidate some of the most fascinating questions of their history. Although the Khazars’ conversion to Judaism is not in dispute, there are questions as to how widespread and established the new religion became. Despite the limited sample size of European Jews, they represent members from the major residential Jewish countries (i.e., Poland and Germany) and exhibit very similar trends.
Our ﬁndings support a largescale migration from South–Central Europe and Mesopotamia to Khazaria that reshaped the genetic structure of the Khazars and other Caucasus populations in the central and upper Caucasus. Our ﬁndings also support a large-scale conversion followed by admixture of the newcomers with the Judeo–Khazars. Another intriguing question touches upon the origins of the Khazars, speculated to be Turk, Tartar, or Mongol (Brook 2006).
As expected from their common origin, Caucasus populations exhibit high genetic similarity to Iranian and Turks with mild Eastern Asian ancestry (ﬁg. 5 and supplementary ﬁg. S6, Supplementary Material online). However, we found a weak patrilineal Turkic contribution compared with Caucasus and Eastern European contributions (ﬁg. 7). Our ﬁndings thus support the identiﬁcation of Turks as the Khazars’ ancestors but not necessarily the predominant ancestors.
Given their geographical position, it is likely the Khazarian gene pool was also inﬂuenced by Eastern European populations that are not represented in our data set.
Our results ﬁt with evidence from a wide range of ﬁelds. Linguistic ﬁndings depict Eastern European Jews as descended from a minority of Israelite–Palestinian Jewish emigrants who intermarried with a larger heterogeneous population of converts to Judaism from the Caucasus, the Balkans, and the Germano–Sorb lands (Wexler 1993). Yiddish, the language of Central and Eastern European Jews, began as a Slavic language that was relexiﬁed to High German at an early date (Wexler 1993). Our ﬁndings are also in agreement with archeological, historical, linguistic, and anthropological studies (Polak 1951; Patai and Patai 1975; Wexler 1993; Brook 2006; Kopelman et al. 2009; Sand 2009) and reconcile contradicting genetic ﬁndings observed in uniparental and biparental genome data.
The conclusions of the latest genome-wide studies (Atzmon et al. 2010; Behar et al. 2010) that European Jews had a single Middle Eastern origin are incomplete as neither study tested the Khazarian hypothesis, to the extent done here. Finally, our ﬁndings conﬁrm both oral narratives and the canonical Jewish literature describing the Khazars’ conversion to Judaism (e.g., “Sefer ha-Kabbalah” by Abraham ben Daud [1161 CE], and “The Khazars” by Rabbi Jehudah Halevi [1140 CE]) (Polak 1951; Koestler 1976).
Although medical studies were not conducted using Caucasus and Near Eastern populations to the same extent as with European Jews, many diseases found in European Jews are also found in their ancestral groups in the Caucasus (e.g., cystic ﬁbrosis and a-thalassemia), the Near East (e.g., factor XI deﬁciency, type II), and Southern Europe (e.g., nonsyndromic recessive deafness) (Ostrer 2001), attesting to their complex multiorigins.
Because our study is the ﬁrst to directly contrast the Rhineland and Khazarian hypotheses, a caution is warranted in interpreting some of our results due to small sample sizes and availability of surrogate populations. To test the Khazarian hypothesis, we used a crude model for the Khazars’ population structure. Our admixture analysis suggests that certain ancestral elements in the Caucasus genetic pool may have been unique to the Khazars.
Therefore, using few contemporary Caucasus populations as surrogates may capture only certain shades of the Khazarian genetic spectrum. Further studies are necessary to test the magnitude of the Judeo–Khazar demographic contribution to the presence of Jews in Europe (Polak 1951; Dinur 1961; Koestler 1976; Baron 1993; Brook 2006).
These studies may yield a more complex demographic model than the one tested here and illuminate the complex population structure of Caucasus populations. Irrespective of these limitations, our results were robust across diverse types of analyses, and we hope that they will provide new perspectives for genetic, disease, medical, and anthropological studies.
We compared two genetic models for European Jewish ancestry depicting a mixed Khazarian–European–Middle Eastern and sole Middle Eastern origins. Contemporary populations were used as surrogates to the ancient Khazars and Judeans, and their relatedness to European Jews was compared over a comprehensive set of genetic analyses.
Our ﬁndings support the Khazarian hypothesis depicting a large Near Eastern–Caucasus ancestry along with Southern European, Middle Eastern, and Eastern European ancestries, in agreement with recent studies and oral and written traditions. We conclude that the genome of European Jews is a tapestry of ancient populations including Judaized Khazars, Greco–Roman Jews, Mesopotamian Jews, and Judeans and that their population structure was formed in the Caucasus and the banks of the Volga with roots stretching to Canaan and the banks of the Jordan.
To view Jewish European Ancestry: Contrasting the Rhineland and the Khazarian Hypotheses with critical comments and additional illustrations go to TurkicWorld from HERE, and to dpwnload the original paper from Genome Biology Evol. 5: 61–74 in a pdf file from HERE
Eran Elhaik, Ph.D., Population, medical, and evolutionary genomics, Faculty appointed Lecturer at the University of Sheffield, Department of Animal & Plant Sciences, Member of the Bioinformatics Hub and Insigneo