As to the origins of the Khazar kingdom, this can be traced back to the West Turkish empire – a confederation of Turkic tribes, of which the Khazars were but one, stretching from the Black Sea to Turkestan in the mid-sixth to mid-seventh centuries.Some time in the seventh century this empire began to dissolve and the Khazars later emerged as dominant in the area north of the Caucasus.
The importance placed on the power of the Khazars can also be seen in the practice adopted by the Persian king of having three golden thrones permanently placed in the royal palace, in addition to his own, representing the great powers of the day: one for the Khazar khaqan, one for the Byzantine emperor, and another for the emperor of China.
As to what the Jewish representative replied is of no consequence since both the Christian and Muslim representatives (fearing each other) answered that after their own the Jewish faith would be the most acceptable – the consequences of a Khazar conversion to either Christianity or Islam could have been disastrous to the unsuccessful party.
As things turned out the Khazars opted for a path which attracted least hostility, least obligation, and least cultural influence from any of the other major powers of the day.
As allies of the Byzantines the Khazars not only stemmed the Arab advance into Europe (from the seventh century onwards) but earlier helped to bring about the downfall of the Persian empire by supplying the Byzantine emperor, Heraclius, with 40,000 soldiers under the leadership of Ziebel in 627.
However, who were these Khazars and where did they come from?