The Jewish Communities of Central Asia in the Medieval and Early Modern Periods


When the Jews first settled in Central Asia is uncertain, but circumstantial evidence clearly indicates that this happened at least two and a half thousand years ago. In the first millennium AD, the Jews lived only in cities no farther than 750 km east of the Caspian sea (in the eighth–eleventh centuries the sea was called Khazarian). Only later did they migrate to the central part of the region, to cities like Samarkand and Bukhara. It is possible that Jews from Khazaria joined them, since they already had tight trade connections with Central Asia and China. There is no trace of evidence regarding the existence of Jews in the entirety of Central Asia in the early sixteenth century. At the very end of the sixteenth century Bukhara became the new ethnoreligious center of the Jews in that region. In the first half of the nineteenth century, thanks to European travelers visiting Central Asia at that time, the term “Bukharan Jews” was assigned to this sub-ethnic Jewish group. Drawing on a wide range of primary and secondary source materials, this article aims to prove that the presence of Jews in Central Asia was not continuous, and therefore the modern Bukharan Jews are not descendants of the first Jewish settlers there. It also attempts to determine where Central Asia’s first Jewish population disappeared to.


The Khazarian caravan trade to China was led through Khorezm. A business
letter in Judeo-Persian by a Jewish merchant of Khazaria or Khorezm was found
in Dandan Uiliq (West China), dating back to the end of the eighth century.

This merchant was engaged in the barter of clothing, apparently with local
Turks.Traveler Abu Zaid Hassan al-Sirafi recorded that 100,000 Mohamedans,
Jews, Christians, and Parsees arrived in Canton or Confu in 878 for reasons of commerce.

Aleksandr Iakubovskii believes that Khorezmian merchants grew to own most trade caravan routes from Egypt to China and from Bulgar to Kashgar, and even invested their capital in trade between Mongolia and China.Therefore, it is logical that some Khazarian merchants would have moved to Kat and Gorganj in the second half of the tenth century, due to the relocation of the trade center from Itil to Khorezm. From there, it was easier for them to continue engaging in trade, including trade with China.

The Origin of the Shapiro Rabbinical Lineage according to the Y-DNA

Khazar DNA Project

The potential Alan/Khazar of the Shapiro Rabbinical Lineage is discussed in a draft manuscript by Paull, J.M, Briskman, J., and Steeble, S.K.

This is their abstract:

The goal of this Y-DNA research study is to utilize both traditional genealogical and current DNA methods and technology to identify the unique Y-DNA genetic signature of the renowned Shapiro rabbinical lineage descending from Rabbi Pinchas Shapira1 of Korets (1726–1791).

Traditional genealogical methods provided the foundation for our study. We researched the history and genealogy of the Shapiro rabbinical lineage, and we identified and tested three pedigreed patrilineal descendants of three different sons of Rabbi Pinchas Shapira of Korets. We then utilized genetic genealogical methods to compare the Y-DNA genetic profiles of these three pedigreed descendants.

We initially determined that all three descendants genetically matched at 37 short tandem repeat (STR) markers. Their lineage-specific haplotype, in conjunction with their G-M201 haplogroup/G-FGC1160…

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Ashkenazic Jews’ mysterious origins unravelled

Full article

The rise of the Ashina

We now know that at the time these Jews adopted the name Ashkenaz, they also acquired uniqueAsian mutationson their Y chromosome. This is where another important group of people in our story come into play – and they are called the Gok-Turks.

During thesixth century , these nomadic people were ruled by a Siberian Turkic tribe called the Ashina. They were forced by theChinese Tang Empire– who were in power in China at the time – to migrate westwards toward the Black Sea.

Thanks to their organisational and military skills, the Ashina united many tribes in this area – and a new empire called the ‘Khazar Khaganate’ was born. Offering freedom of worship and taxing trade, these people quickly rose to power.

Orthodox Jews pray at the ancient cemetery of Safed, Israel.

The Asian group of these DNA mutations , found in Ashkenazic Jews, likely originated fromthe Ashinaelite and other Khazar clans, who converted from Shamanism to Judaism. This means that the Ashina and core Khazar clans were absorbed by the Ashkenazic Jews.

It was also around this time that the Jewish elite adopted many Slavic customs. And based on my previous research, I would suggest thatYiddish was developed as a secret languageto assist in trade.

10 genomes from the Xinjiang region

The first 10 genomes from the Xinjiang region (northwestern China) were published. As you know, this is one of the homelands of the Khazars (at least according to P. Goldan).

The first 10 genomes from the Xinjiang region (northwestern China) were published. As you know, this is one of the homelands of the Khazars (at least according to P. Goldan). The collapse of three nomadic polities that formed the steppe lands of north China resulted in migration to Siberia and from there to the much more hospitable Caucasus. The Y haplogroups include Q1a1b, Q1a1a1, and R1b1a1a2.