"Kyiv letter" – a reference letter issued to Mar Yaakov ben Khanuka by the Khazar Jewish
community in Kyiv. According to some scholars this letter is the oldest authentic document written on the territory of Kyivan Rus and might date back to 10th century AD. The document contains the first mention of Kyiv – Qiyyōb
The letter contains the plea to the Jews of other cities to donate money to ransom Mar Yaakov ben Khanuka. It says that this man had never been in need for money until he vouched for his brother who had taken money from a person of another faith. The brother was later killed by some outlaws and when it was the time to pay back the debt, they imprisoned the guarantor - Mar Yaakov ben Khanuka.
In a year the community bailed him of prison for 60 coins but they needed 40 coins more for his absolute discharge. Thus Mar Yaakov ben Khanuka set off with the reference letter to raise money that was missing. The letter was written in Hebrew.
At the end of the letter there are signatures (names) of the authors. 11 people in total. The last word is written in Old Turkic runic characters. It might be the only written record of the Khazar language
extant today and it means "I have read (this)".
The letter does not contain any references to the date it was written. Based on its paleographic features Norman Golb
dated it back to 10th century. The fact that the letter was found in Cairo attests to the fact that Egypt was the last destination in Yaakov's journey.
The place of writing the letter can be determined by the phrase in the 8th
line. "We inform you, the community of Kyiv…". This syntax construction has two versions of reading. Either the community of Kyiv addresses its neighbors or vice versa another community addresses it. The second reading is less likely since judging from the content of the letter it is addressed to all communities but not to a particular one.
The manuscript T-S (glass) 12.122 is kept in the library of Cambridge University. It is a piece of parchment 22.5 cm in length and 14.5cm in width. The letter is damaged in two places and has seven vertical folds. The letter is written on the front side, the back side is empty. The ink is brownish (faded black ink). The text takes 30 lines.
It is reliably known that the document contains the oldest mention of Kyiv written in the form of Qiyyōb.
Since the letter is an example of private juridical agreement, it takes an enormous importance in studying Old Russian legal system. It throws light on the procedure of bail and guarantee. Besides the letter is the third discovered source of Khazar origin (alongside with the letter written by Joseph and the letter by anonymous Khazar Jew, 10th
century). Its discovery gave an additional proof-point to the scholars that stick to the idea of a comparatively wide spread of Judaism in Khazaria.
We installed the mini-sculpture on the wall of Central Synagogue of Kyiv, 13, Shota Rustaveli. You can look at it 24/7.
The partner of the sculpture is Terra Group.