Uqbar was a small kingdom located in the lower Volga plains on the edge of the Caspian Sea that flourished briefly during the late 9th and early 10th centuries. This region, called Scythia by Herodotus, was an area settled primarily by nomadic tribes. It was eventually assimilated into Khazaria around 970, although certain cultural customs remained distinct from the overall Jewish culture of Khazaria. Small settlements of culturally identifiable Uqbars remained in the Volga delta through the 13th century, somehow bypassed by the Ilkhanate of Hulegu Khan.

The people of Uqbar were originally nomads from the plains of Central Asia. Unknown pressures (environmental or political) forced them south to the Volga delta area in the 7th century where they found islands populated by wild horses. The delta they named Axa, which was the primary area they settled. During summers, the herdsmen roamed the plains to the east with their horses, the area they named Tsai Khaldun.

Great stone obelisks were quarried in the east and brought to the delta each autumn. The triumphal return of the herds and the erection of the obelisks seemed to engage religious significance. These same obelisks, for reasons as yet unknown, would provide the base material for the polished stone mirrors that are Uqbar’s most resilient archeological evidence.

The location of Uqbar, astride the northern trade route across Central Asia, ensured contact with the Caucasus and the Far East. Although it is difficult to separate the archeological evidence of the Uqbar culture from the Khazars who occupied the same area, the polished stone mirrors of the Uqbars have been identified as far south as Syria and as far east as Korea.

According to Khazar historians, the people of Uqbar had an oral culture that consisted primarily of epic stories about the mythical lands of Mlejnas and Tlön. Only the barest fragments of the Uqbar legends have survived in the form of references in the Khazar histories. From these references it seems that the legends provided a moral and practical education, not unlike Virgil’s Georgics.

It is evident from descriptions left by Khazar historians, the weathered carvings on the reverse of the mirrors, and the single (flooded and decayed) tomb that has been discovered, that the Uqbar culture revered the horse. The horse was essential to the livelihood of the Uqbars, providing transportation of people and goods; assistance in herding and warfare; and foods in the form of milk, cheese, and meat. In representations, the Uqbar artisians distinguished between an earthly horse and celestial horse with a single horn, similar to the western unicorn.

Selected references
Herodotus, Histories
Silas Haslam, The History of a Land called Uqbar
Jorge Luis Borges, Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertis
Milorad Pavic, The Dictionary of the Khazars
Kevin Alan Brook, The Jews of Khazaria, <www.khazaria.com>
Alberto Manguel and Gianni Guadalupi, The Dictionary of Imaginary Places
Wikipedia article "Uqbar" <en.wikipedia.org/w/wiki.phtml?title=Uqbar&oldid=2496510>

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