The Khazar Jews. Romanian History and Ethnography(II). Lazar Saineanu and His Folkloric Studies. An Ethnographical Controversy

14 mai 2012 Adrian Majuru Science and Culture

Lazar Saineanu
was a most valuable linguist, only his brilliant career was abruptly and
violently interrupted by 1900. Thus, in a brochure issued in 1901, in France,
and dedicated to his own daughter, he recounts how “a paper communicated within
a session of the Romanian Academy, and an article published in the Romania
magazine in Paris, in both of which the author (probably, of khazar origin
himself) tried to follow the tracks of the first khazar settlemenst in Oltenia,
and to give a physical description of those newcommers and a remake of their
speech, had stirred such determined opposition from the part of the
academicians, that the author had to immigrate.”46

In the same brochure, Saineanu wrote
that “in 1887, I published a study, in the Convorbiri
magazine, entitled The Jews
or the Tartars or the Giants,
where I aimed at elucidating this bizarre
association of the ethnical names by formulating a historical hypothesis. After
grouping all available linguistical, archaeological, topographical elements
which show an identification of the Jews with the Tartars and the Giants, in
our folkloric traditions, I ask the following question: Was there, in the past, any population about which one could have said
it belonged both to the Jews and to the Tartars, at the same time?”
To this
question I answer that such people did exist, and it was known in history by
the name of Khazars, of Tartar origin, which ocupied almost all Meridional
Russia and which, after having adopted the judaist reliugion, during the 8th
century, survived for over three centuries as a Judaic state (1016). After
having spread its domination over the Oriental Europe, these Tartar-Jews
suddenly vanished from the stage oh history. What became of them?

After the extinction of their power,
these khazars mixed up with other Tartar population living by the Black Sea,47 but the echo of their origin did not
completely disappear from the people’s memory. Some of these khazars might have
sought an early shelter in Ardeal, and from there, they might have arrived in
the Danubian countries, especially in Wallachia, in the Muscel and Romanati
districts, where the memories about them seem to have concentrated.”48 Would they have mode that
cyclopic-jewish like building the name of which records those remote times?

Their settlements and inhabitences
have left important tracks, which acquired colosal proportions, in the mind of
the people.49 Supernaturally-sized humans might have
lived in an old time of which the oldest of men can hardly recal, and those
people were called Jews or Tartars.

It is possible that those Judaic
Tartars preserved their religion amidst a peacefull population horrified by
their imposing powers, and that the khazar blood be pouring in the veins of the
Romaninan Jews. (…)This is the absolutely objective study which resulted in my
being calumniated of having written against my country.”50

Among his assertion Saineanu offers
a series of interesting informations resulting from his research and comprised
in Mr.Odobescu’s arcaeological
questionnaire, today owned by the Academy.
Thus the Romaninan peasant uses
the word Jidov (Jew)in several
acceptions of which might be deducted from the basic meaning of Giant. In the Dragoslavele also, former
Muscel county (Arges, today)a traditiobnal conception was presrerved, according
to which “there were once some Jews in Piatra Ghimbavului, and there still is a
hole in the stone there, where stone milk flows; and a son of a Jew in Piatra
Galbena, was love with the daughter on another Jew in Piatra Ghimbavului, and
he went to her, in a hide. His father saw him, on the peak of the Prislop
mountain, and threw a stone at him, to hit him, but missed him. This stone can
still be seen on the peak of the Prislop mountain and is as big as 2000 oca.”51

Furhter on, Saineanu asserts: “a typical syntagm: since the Jews, or the
Tartars, or
the Giants, meaning
the long period of time elapsed from the fall of some walls the origin of which
they cannot remember.” The quoted author also gives two examples. The first
refers to some informations he came about in the Radomir area, Ocolu, from the
former Romanati county (Olt, today). Here “towards the West, some old ruins are
still standing, about which the old-timers say they were an ancient town since
the Tartars and the Jews.” The other example refers to the Piatra village in
the Oltul de Sus region of the former Romanati county’ not far from the
Emulsesti commune. Here, while building a rail-road, a hillock was cut “having
a depth of one stanjen” where
“several walls were found made of small stone and very large bricks, along with
fragments of very large pots, as thick as two fingers. Hence, it was concluded
that the place must have been an old dwelling from the tinmes of the Giants or
the Jews.”52

There is also the very interesting
toponyme of Jidova (the Jews’ place/ the Giants’ place) or Uriasa, near
Campulung, in the Poenari group of villages Argesel region, former Muscel
county (Arges, today). Here were the ruins of the Jidova fortress which
“according to the old-timers, is a very old wall.” Then, in the Schitu-Golesti
commune Nucsoara area, former Muscel county, there was a village called
Valea-Uncheasului which was “a ruined bride fortress. This fortress is called Jidova and is said to have been built by
Tartars or Jews.”

The toponyme Jidova is frequent with forms of relief. Thus, in the Ianca
village, Balta distirct fromer romanati county, “there is a cliff said to have
been dragged out of the earth by the Jews, also called the Jidova cliff, and the place they had dragged it from is still
visible today, eastwards.”

In the Raureni village, Raurile district, Muscel county, “a hillock is still visibile, 8 stanjeni and a half high, 30 stanjeni of circumference rounded,
with sharp edge, said to have been made by Jews. Further, in the same village,
in a wood, there is a clearing 50 stanjeni
long, where it is said that the Tartars’ camp once was.” Such a hillack with
the same toponyme was to be found in the Cacalet village, Ocolul district, in
Romanati county. “Jews’ bones are buried (…)under this huge earth amount 5 stanjeni high, 27 stanjeni of circumference and truncated edge.”53

Saineanu also brings forth “the
popular metaphor jewish work to name
very hard work for beyond the powers of the ordinary men, a restless and
stubborn work.” His examples are taken from Romanian fairy-tales from the
Southern areas; thus, we find out from a tale entitled Pipelcuta or Cinderella, “the girl knew what a hard life was since
she was very small, so she worked like
the Jews
, from morning till night, and she did the hordest-work.”54

The author concluded, by asserting
about the word “Jew meaning giant” that it was “a vague reflex coming from the
first Tartar invasions in these areas. It concentrates within itself the memory
of a Turanic Judaist population, which completely disappeared later, which also
mingled through the Danubian valley, lingering in some other places and forming
the ethnographical pith of Judaism in the Danubian countries.”55

The kiry-tale characters such as the Red Emperor or the Red Man, cover all Romanian ethnographical areas! Tales from
Moldavia, Transylvania, from the Southern Romania or from Bucovina advice us to
avoid “the red man”.56

In a tale Barnusca, recorded by Simion Florea Marian, “the boy learned
already that marked men (…) and also those with a fire-red beard and raven
black hair were very evil-hearted and dangerous.”57
Here, we should point out Koestler’s description, associated to the tale. The
khazars “have black hair and are of two kinds: some called Kara-Khazars (black
Khazars) with a dark complexion, as if indians, and others white (ak-Khazars)
amazingly handsome.”58

In the tale entitled Three Red-Bearded Guys, “a man wearing a grey mantle advises the three sons of a poor
man, to bewore of red-bearded men, as there is something wrong with those.
Indeed, the three red-bearded men were, in fact three devils, and the men with
the grey montle was God Himself.” A Hungarian saying goes as follows: “Red dog,
red horse, red man, none is good, whatsoever.”59

Furthermore, “in a south-slave
version of a tale, there appears the Red-Wind”, a “terrible being able to eat
humans and torture them terribly”, and in the Hungarian tales, “the betraying
Gipsy is called the Red Knight”.60

According to the Romanian mythology,
the Tartars of Jews or the Giants are “human eaters”.61 In Saineanu’s opinion, the basic
principle os such a description is the fact thiose populations were pagans; the
distance in space and time is to be added. So, the Serbians associate the
Giants with the Jews, the Czeches with the avars and the Germans with the Huns.62

In all cases, the conflict between the Red Emperor and the Green Emperor or the White Emperor, finalized in favour of
the second, has its solution in de-coding the dreams. The dream “is a first
rank mythopeic factor”, within the Romanian fairy-tales. Thus, “in the tale,
coming from the Banat region, Red-Emperor and White-Emperor”, the Emperor
discusses with his sages about the meaning of dreams, and his daughter saves
the kingdom twice, by means of her dreams, which undoubtfully come from God. In
the fairy-tales, the dream is nothing but the fonerunner of the realities to

The Khazars had a sect of “dreams
hunters” – a Christian sect of Khazar priests who “knew to read others’ dreams,
to enhabit those dreams like they were their own home.” Although they are “gone
for a long time”, “their solomonies were still preserved.”64

There is a series of strange
characters, in the romanian fairy-tales, called “solomonari”, having “shamanic
attributes, able to ride dragons, to perform celestial ascensions above the
clouds.” Worth noticing is the fact that “their name (“solomonar” or şolomonar) and their magical
powers are explainable by the fact that they are the successors of the wisdom
and magical powers of King Solomon. (…) they are recruited from among humans,
but they look like savage giants (Saineanu’s version), they are red-haired,
swollen eyes, hairy body ending poor clothes all patches (the image of Oriental
Jewish wagons, immigrating across the Romanian provinces, and described by
their contemporaries, a.n.), they wear begs full of magic tools among which a
siron hatchet, birch bridle, a wisdom book (“the solomonies” Pavivci mentioned,
a.n.), (…)In connection to the origins of the belief in the “solomonari”, there
is “the influence of the figure of the Jewish Rabbi (the Kabbalist, the
Hasidic, mythicised by the folklore, as in Bucovina, it is said that “only the
Jews can become solomonari.”65

presence of such characters a the “Giant-Jews”, or the “solomonars” with “red
hair”, in the main ethnographical regions of the Romanian space might
demonstrate the fact that this territory was once under the direct control of
the khazar empire which might have held in in partial or total possession, for
a limited time. Besides in Oltenia again, “Avraam
is the name of a ritual burial cake.”66

I would like to mention here another
ethnographic element concerning the Sekler’s this time. They have a special type
of funerary wooden pole (made of hard essences, so they can resist, in time),
carved with symbols of the most important good or bad events in the deceased
life. This type of messages can only be de-coded within the community, and a
great part of their meaning was lost. I have seen such impressing monumentts in
the Seklers’’cemetery, in Sfantul Gheorghe, many, of a recent date.

They seen connected to a Turanic
tradition, and the Khazars, too, “used to carve the crucial events of their
lives on their staff, and those notes had the shape of some animals which
signified their states of mind, and not events. The shape of the most frequent
animal appearing on those staff gave the final shape of the tomb of the owner
of that staff.”67

All these mythological or cultural
symbols are, of course, just remains of a possible direct Khazar influence over
the Romanian space, coming either from a short domination period, or from a
longer co-habitance following the period of domination. Althought this is not
part of the object of the present paper, we should also notice the fact that,
in most recent opinions concerning the genesis of the Eastern Jews, the
important part played by the Khazar element is well underlined. In fact, it is
all about a (syncretism) and a process of a long term cultural fusion which
took place on a wide area of central Europe. According to author David Keys,
“during the 9-13th centuries, having the desintegrtaion of the
khazar state as a backround and the subsequent invasions of the Cuman and
Mongole horde, a great number of khazar refugees and influental khazar groups
practicing the Judaist religion, migrated towards the Eastern Europe, where
they joined other semite groups of Jews from the East, from Germany and
Northern Italy.”68

Kevin Alan Brook69 and the historian Victor Neumann70 share a similar point of view. Finally,
there is the unsolved problem of the ethnographical identification of the
Romanian legend recorded by Baron and Koestler. The Romanian fairy tales,
mythology and also a series of names and toponymes recall the presence of the
khazar Jews in the main ethnografic Romanian.

autor: Adrian Majuru

46 Mioara
Cremene, Initiatic Dictionary of Knight
, Universal Dalsi Publishing, Bucharest, 1998, p.449

47 An
interesting reality is recorded by Larry Wolff, about “the Cerkez Tartars
inhabiting the months of the Volga river, the fact that males were circumcized”
but “they restected some Muslim traditions also.” (Inventing Eastern Europe, Humanitas, Bucharest, 2000, pp.256-257)

48 “Jews –
Jidovii – is a synonim to Giants with the Romanina mythofolklore, the word being
more frecquently used in oltenia. They are connected to the builders of some
cyclopic constructions, with moving the river beds, with moving the mountains.
This name is frequent in the Romanian toponymy, having a mythical layer:
Jidova, Jidovin, Jidostita a.s.o. The origins of the mythogeme as well as that
of the Giants’ name, are hard to find, mostly when historical identification
sources are sought for. According to Lazar Saineanu the belief in Giants would
have been inspired by the khazars, an Asian origin population of Mosaic rite,
wich had founded an empire not for from the Oriental Carpathians. (…)There is
also an opinion that their name would bear an echo of the Roman conquests,
because there were many warriors, in the Roman army, originary from Judea, or
that we have a mythologeme explaining the megalithic constructions in pre-arian
Europe (Victor Kernbach).” (Ivan Evseev, Dictionary
of Romanian
Magic, Demonology and
, Amarcord Publishing, Timisoara, Romania, 1998, p.205)

49 “(…)eye
witness would note that the Mouses’ shadows in the khazar capital would not
fall, although no wall was left standing. They stood still, for some time, in
the wind and on the Volga waters.” (Milorad Pavici, p.11)

50 Lazar
Saineanu, A Philological Career (1885-1900).
History of a Settlement. Autobiographical
Memoir Bucharest, 1901, pp.17-18

See also Lazar Saineanu, Une carriere philologique en Roumanie (1885-1900). Les peripeties d’une
naturalisation. Memoire auto-biographique
, Bucarest, Emile Storck and
Paris, Larousse, 1901

51 Lazar
Saineanu, A page of Mediaeval History. A
Historical and Linguistical Excursion
. Jidovii
or the Tartars or Giants
, Convorbiri Literare magazine, XXI, 1887,
Bucharest, p.523

the peasant the Jews or tartars are humans of unusual oxen at once; in the
people’s language, Jews and Giants are synonyms.” (ibidem, p.524) Even today, a
small town still exists in the north-eastern part of the Gorj district, named

52 Idem

53 Ibidem,

54 Ibidem, p.

55 Ibidem, p.

56 In the
Moldavien Tale of Harap Alb we find
out that: “Some said Red Emperor had an evil heart and didn’t have enough with
shedding human blood; other said that his daughter was a terrible farmazoana (read mermaid a.n.)and it was
her fault for so many sacrifices made.” (Ion Creanga, Writings, tom I, p.32)

the Transylvanien tale The Waggish Man,
Green Emperor and Red Emperor it is said that: “Some day, Green Emperor
received a mesenger from Red Emperor with a letter and a club with equally
thick edges, and with the order to give an answer within three days and if not,
there mis head would lie, where his feet used to be, and to be prepared for
war”. Green Emperor is saved due to an interesting action, as a symbolic
suggetsion: the waggish threw an
arrow through the Emperor’s spoon before the first mouthful, on Easter day.
Now, which Easter?

jewish, or the Christian one? One should identify some tradition suggesting
this action. The conclusion of the Tale: “what would we have become without the
brave man who saved us all and our kingdom, from the terible Red emperor?”
Worth mentioning – the fact that the saviour is a stranger, too, discovered by
chance, in the woods, by Green Emperor and imprisoned by the latter in a wall,
only because the emperor had dreamed he would lose his kingdom to a new commer.
But this noneless character manages to de-code (“No big deal..”) all Red
Emperor’s messages and to save the Green Kingdom from destruction.

all is about the old conflict between the black khazars (the brave man) and the
white-khazars (Red Emperor), conflict which had ruined the Khazar Empire in its
latest state of existence, the volume Tales
from Transylvania
, Dacia Publishing, Cluj, 1972, pp.150-152)

57 Simion
Florea Marian quoted in L.Saineanu, p.25

another tale from Ardeal “know-Not-Emperor, on his death bed, an old man
advised his son not serve red-haired men, for those are evil people. And,
indeed, those were human-faced demons.” (idem)

58 Arthur
Koestler, p.18

“(…)It should be said that, with the Brankovici family,
the meritage was shared according to the colour of the beard. All red-bearded
heirs (red-haired by their maternal descedence line, becouse the Brankovici
only married red-married red-haired women) ere losing their priorities to the
black-bearded brothers, becouse the black beard proved they inherited from
their fathers.” (Milorad Pavici, p.32)

59 Haltrich;
Jones and Kropf quoted in L.Saineanu, p.25

60 erstes
Heft and Stier quoted in idem

“(…)Starting with the Huns, the heads of all Fino-Tartar peoples called Cagan,
on their language, have such derivatives as: Cappanus, Cacanus or even
Capcanus, in the Mediaeval chronicles. From Capcanus, the Romanian derivative
was Capcan, which, by folkloric analogy, became “cap de caine” (“dog head”).
Thus, the fundamental meaning of the word “capcan” is that of monstre of
barbarian, be it referring to people or to individualds. It is the typical
nickname for the foreigners who marked with blood their pasage throughout this
land (…). The word “capcaun” is an old memory showing the terror left behind by
the arrivals of the Asian populations; an eloquent witness having survived
those terrible times, a strong echo from the epoch of some Attila or some Avar
Cagan.” (Lazar Saineanu, A Page of
Mediaeval History, Historic and
Excursus. Cap-can / Capcaun/Cat-caun
, Convorbiri Literare, 5 august 1887,

62 Lazar
Saineanu, The Tales…, the chapter IX,
The Cycle Giants and Dwarfs, p. 527

63 Ibidem,

64 Milorad
Pavici, p.112 and p.151 The Dreams
“managed to follow the tracks of these characters who appeared in
others’ dreams, and which they hunted as if game, from one human to another,
even if they were to be found in animals’ or demons’ dreams.”

the other hand, “khazars sow letters in people’s dreams, in which they were
seeking for the primordial man, the eternal Adam Kadmon, man and woman as well.
They believed each of us has a corresponding letter of the alphabet, and that
each such letter is a part of the earthly Adam Kadmon’s body, and that, within
their dreams, people combined the letters, making, thus, Adam’s body revive.”
(Ibidem, p.205)

65 Ivan Evseev, pp. 430-432

66 Ion
Ghinoiu, coordinator, Feasts and
, tom.I, Oltenia,
Enciclopedica Publishing, Bucharest, 2001, see Glosar, p.371

67 Milorad
Pavici, p.138

68 David
Keys, catastrophe: An investigation into
the Origins of the Modern World
, New York, N.Y.: Balantine Books, 2000,

69 “(…)The
Ashkenazic ethnogenesis, having been formed by migrations from the east
(Khazaria), West (Germany, Austria, Bohemia), and South (Greece, Mesopotamia,
Khorasan), is more complex than previously envisioned.” (Kevin Alan Brook, The Jews of Khazaria, Northvale, New
York: Jason Aronson, 1999, p.15)

70 “(…)It is
certain that the North-Eastern European Judaism had prospered with the Khazars,
if not otherwise, at least in the sense of the irradiation, which confered it
more resistence in front of migratory populations or, closer to truth, in front
of similar attempts. The 11th centruy was to mean the Khazars’
contact with the Jews migrated from Bohemia and Germany, towards Occidental
Russia.” (Victor Neumann, p.81)

part of the Khazars mixed up with the Eastern europe Jews, some others with the
arabs, Turks, Greeks, so that today it is known about those small oases of
khazar souls who have lasted without language nor faith, amidst independent communities
of Eastern or Central Europe, up to World War II (1939). When they disappeared
completely.” (Milorad Pavici, p.237)

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