- Project Runeberg -  Through the Caucasus to the Volga /
214

(1931) [MARC] Author: Fridtjof Nansen Translator: Gerald C. Wheeler - Tema: Russia
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THROUGH THE CAUCASUS TO THE VOLGA
214
East. The town, moreover, is the centre for the
great fisheries in the Volga delta and the northern
most part of the Caspian.
As early as the first centuries of our era the
Khazars had founded an important trading town,
Itil, on the right bank of the Volga about 10
kilometres above Astrakhan ; and it came to be the
market and meeting-place for traders from Byzan
tium, Baghdad, Armenia, and Persia, as also from
the Volga and the Don, and the lands to north and
west. Itwas hither, too, that the Khazar capital was
shifted from Semender (later known as Tarku),
near the Caucasus, at the end of the 7th century,
after the Arab invasion of Caucasia. Here were
brought wax, skins, leather, and honey from up the
Volga. When the Jews were turned out of Con
stantinople they made their way to Itil and
developed the trade for the Khazars, and likewise
spread their faith in rivalry with the Mohammedans
and Christians. The dynasty embraced the Jewish
faith about a.d. 740.
The Khazars were the leading middle-men
between East and West ; but then, after many ups
and downs, their power became lessened by the
Varangian-Russian kingdom at Kiev; and when
Ibn Fadhlån visited Khazaria about a.d. 922,
Itil was, indeed, still a great town with baths,
market-places, and thirty mosques, but there was
no great production or activity at home; the
kingdom depended on the somewhat uncertain
transit tolls. Then in 965-9 Itil, Semender, and
other towns were tåken by Prince Svyatoslav of

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