Bulgars

Bulgars

Overview

The Bulgars were a semi-nomadic who flourished in the Pontic Steppe and the Volga basin in the 7th century.

The Bulgars emerge after the collapse of the Hunnic Empire
Hunnic Empire
The Hunnic Empire was an empire established by the Huns. The Huns were a confederation of Eurasian tribes from the steppes of Central Asia. Appearing from beyond the Volga River some years after the middle of the 4th century, they first overran the Alani, who occupied the plains between the Volga...

 in the 5th century.
Initially, they conquered the Pontic-Caspian steppe
Pontic-Caspian steppe
The Pontic-Caspian steppe is the vast steppeland stretching from the north of the Black Sea as far as the east of the Caspian Sea, from western Ukraine across the Southern Federal District and the Volga Federal District of Russia to western Kazakhstan,...

 and around the lower Volga basin, by the 7th century dispersing further towards Bessarabia
Bessarabia
Bessarabia is a historical term for the geographic region in Eastern Europe bounded by the Dniester River on the east and the Prut River on the west....

. Originating as nomadic equestrians of Central Asia
Eurasian nomads
Eurasian nomads are a large group of peoples of the Eurasian Steppe. This generic title encompasses the ethnic groups inhabiting the steppes of Central Asia, Mongolia, and Eastern Europe. They domesticated the horse, and their economy and culture emphasizes horse breeding, horse riding, and a...

, they became sedentary during the 7th century, establishing the polities (khanates) of Old Great Bulgaria
Old Great Bulgaria
Old Great Bulgaria or Great Bulgaria was а term used by Byzantine historians to refer to Onoguria during the reign of the Bulgar ruler Kubrat in the 7th century north of the Caucasus mountains in the steppe between the Dniester and Lower...

 in the Pontic steppe and Volga Bulgaria
Volga Bulgaria
Volga Bulgaria, or Volga–Kama Bolghar, is a historic Bulgar state that existed between the seventh and thirteenth centuries around the confluence of the Volga and Kama rivers in what is now Russia.-Origin:...

 on the middle Volga.
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Encyclopedia

The Bulgars were a semi-nomadic who flourished in the Pontic Steppe and the Volga basin in the 7th century.

The Bulgars emerge after the collapse of the Hunnic Empire
Hunnic Empire
The Hunnic Empire was an empire established by the Huns. The Huns were a confederation of Eurasian tribes from the steppes of Central Asia. Appearing from beyond the Volga River some years after the middle of the 4th century, they first overran the Alani, who occupied the plains between the Volga...

 in the 5th century.
Initially, they conquered the Pontic-Caspian steppe
Pontic-Caspian steppe
The Pontic-Caspian steppe is the vast steppeland stretching from the north of the Black Sea as far as the east of the Caspian Sea, from western Ukraine across the Southern Federal District and the Volga Federal District of Russia to western Kazakhstan,...

 and around the lower Volga basin, by the 7th century dispersing further towards Bessarabia
Bessarabia
Bessarabia is a historical term for the geographic region in Eastern Europe bounded by the Dniester River on the east and the Prut River on the west....

. Originating as nomadic equestrians of Central Asia
Eurasian nomads
Eurasian nomads are a large group of peoples of the Eurasian Steppe. This generic title encompasses the ethnic groups inhabiting the steppes of Central Asia, Mongolia, and Eastern Europe. They domesticated the horse, and their economy and culture emphasizes horse breeding, horse riding, and a...

, they became sedentary during the 7th century, establishing the polities (khanates) of Old Great Bulgaria
Old Great Bulgaria
Old Great Bulgaria or Great Bulgaria was а term used by Byzantine historians to refer to Onoguria during the reign of the Bulgar ruler Kubrat in the 7th century north of the Caucasus mountains in the steppe between the Dniester and Lower...

 in the Pontic steppe and Volga Bulgaria
Volga Bulgaria
Volga Bulgaria, or Volga–Kama Bolghar, is a historic Bulgar state that existed between the seventh and thirteenth centuries around the confluence of the Volga and Kama rivers in what is now Russia.-Origin:...

 on the middle Volga. Old Great Bulgaria was absorbed by the Khazar Empire in the 8th century, but in the 680s, khan Asparukh
Asparukh of Bulgaria
Asparuh was ruler of a Bulgar tribe in the second half of the 7th century and is credited with the establishment of the First Bulgarian Empire in 680/681...

 conquered Bessarabia
Bessarabia
Bessarabia is a historical term for the geographic region in Eastern Europe bounded by the Dniester River on the east and the Prut River on the west....

, opening access to Moesia
Moesia
Moesia was an ancient region and later Roman province situated in the Balkans, along the south bank of the Danube River. It included territories of modern-day Southern Serbia , Northern Republic of Macedonia, Northern Bulgaria, Romanian Dobrudja, Southern Moldova, and Budjak .-History:In ancient...

, and establishing the First Bulgarian Empire
First Bulgarian Empire
The First Bulgarian Empire was a medieval Bulgarian state founded in the north-eastern Balkans in c. 680 by the Bulgars, uniting with seven South Slavic tribes...

, which was however Slavicized by the 10th century. Volga Bulgaria fell to the Mongol invasion
Mongol invasion of Volga Bulgaria
The Mongol invasion of Volga Bulgaria lasted from 1223 to 1236.-The Mongol campaigns:In 1223, after defeating Russian and Cuman/Kipchak armies at the Battle of Kalka, a Mongol army under the generals Subutai and Jebe was sent to subdue Volga Bulgaria. At that point in history Genghis Khan's troops...

 in the 1220s.

The name Bulgar
Bulgar
Bulgar may refer to:*Bulgars, an early medieval people of Eastern Europe / Central Asia**their Bulgar language*Bolghar, a capital city of the Volga Bulgaria*Bolgar , a town in the Republic of Tatarstan, Russia...

is mostly derived from the Turkic
Turkic languages
The Turkic languages constitute a language family of at least thirty five languages, spoken by Turkic peoples across a vast area from Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean to Siberia and Western China, and are considered to be part of the proposed Altaic language family.Turkic languages are spoken...

 verb bulğa ("to mix", "shake, "stir") and its derivative bulgak ("revolt", "disorder"). A minority hypothesis derives it from bel ("five") gur ("Ogurs").

Ethnically, the Bulgars comprised Turkic and probably Scytho-Sarmatian elements. They had enveloped also other ethnic groups by their migration westwards across Eurasian steppe
Eurasian Steppe
The Eurasian Steppe is the vast steppe ecoregion of Eurasia in the Temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands Biome. It stretches from Hungary to Mongolia...

. Due to the lack of definitive evidence, a modern scholarship instead uses an ethnogenesis approach in explaining the Bulgars' origin. Contemporaneous sources like Procopius
Procopius
Procopius of Caesarea was a prominent Byzantine scholar from Palestine. Accompanying the general Belisarius in the wars of the Emperor Justinian I, he became the principal historian of the 6th century, writing the Wars of Justinian, the Buildings of Justinian and the celebrated Secret History...

, Agathias
Agathias
Agathias or Agathias Scholasticus , of Myrina , an Aeolian city in western Asia Minor , was a Greek poet and the principal historian of part of the reign of the Roman emperor Justinian I between 552 and 558....

 and Menander
Menander Protector
Menander Protector , Byzantine historian, was born in Constantinople in the middle of the 6th century AD. The little that is known of his life is contained in the account of himself quoted by Suidas. He at first took up the study of law, but abandoned it for a life of pleasure...

 called the Bulgars "Huns
Huns
The Huns were a group of nomadic people who, appearing from east of the Volga River, migrated into Europe c. AD 370 and established the vast Hunnic Empire there. Since de Guignes linked them with the Xiongnu, who had been northern neighbours of China 300 years prior to the emergence of the Huns,...

" while others, like the Byzantine Patriarch Michael II of Antioch
Patriarch Michael II of Antioch
Patriarch Michael II was the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch during the period 1292—1312. He was an abbot of the Kuwaykhat Monastery. He died on December 7, 1312.-References:...

, called them "Scythians" or "Sarmatians
Sarmatians
The Iron Age Sarmatians were an Iranian people in Classical Antiquity, flourishing from about the 5th century BC to the 4th century AD....

", but this latter identification was probably due to the Byzantine tradition of naming peoples geographically. The Bulgar language spoken by the Bulgar elites was a member of the Oghuric branch of the Turkic
Turkic languages
The Turkic languages constitute a language family of at least thirty five languages, spoken by Turkic peoples across a vast area from Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean to Siberia and Western China, and are considered to be part of the proposed Altaic language family.Turkic languages are spoken...

 language family, alongside with Hunnic, Khazar and Turkic Avar.

In modern ethnic nationalism
Ethnic nationalism
Ethnic nationalism is a form of nationalism wherein the "nation" is defined in terms of ethnicity. Whatever specific ethnicity is involved, ethnic nationalism always includes some element of descent from previous generations and the implied claim of ethnic essentialism, i.e...

, there is some "rivalry for the Bulgar legacy" (see Bulgarism.) The Volga Tatars
Volga Tatars
The Volga Tatars are the largest subgroup of the Tatars, native to the Volga region.They account for roughly six out of seven million Tatars worldwide....

 and Chuvash
Chuvash people
The Chuvash people are a Turkic ethnic group, native to an area stretching from the Volga Region to Siberia. Most of them live in Republic of Chuvashia and surrounding areas, although Chuvash communities may be found throughout all Russia.- Etymology :...

 are said to be descended from the Bulgars, as well as (possibly) the Balkars
Balkars
The Balkars are a Turkic people of the Caucasus region, one of the titular populations of Kabardino-Balkaria. They are possibly Bulgars or are descended from them...

.

Society


Archaeological finds from the Ukrainian steppe suggest that the early Bulgars had the typical culture of the nomadic equestrians
Eurasian nomads
Eurasian nomads are a large group of peoples of the Eurasian Steppe. This generic title encompasses the ethnic groups inhabiting the steppes of Central Asia, Mongolia, and Eastern Europe. They domesticated the horse, and their economy and culture emphasizes horse breeding, horse riding, and a...

 of Central Asia, who migrated seasonally in pursuit of pastures. From the 7th century, however they became a settled culture, planting crops, and mastering the crafts of blacksmithing, masonry, and carpentry.

Social structure


The Bulgars had a well-developed clan system and were governed by hereditary rulers. The members of the military aristocracy bore the title boyil (boyar
Boyar
A boyar, or bolyar , was a member of the highest rank of the feudal Moscovian, Kievan Rus'ian, Bulgarian, Wallachian, and Moldavian aristocracies, second only to the ruling princes , from the 10th century through the 17th century....

). There also were bagains - lesser military commanders. The nobility were further divided onto Small and Great Boyars. The latter formed the Council of the Great Boyars and gathered to take decisions on important state matters presided by the khan
Khan (title)
Khan is an originally Altaic and subsequently Central Asian title for a sovereign or military ruler, widely used by medieval nomadic Turko-Mongol tribes living to the north of China. 'Khan' is also seen as a title in the Xianbei confederation for their chief between 283 and 289...

 (king). Their numbers varied between six and twelve. These probably included the ichirgu boyil and the kavkhan
Khan (title)
Khan is an originally Altaic and subsequently Central Asian title for a sovereign or military ruler, widely used by medieval nomadic Turko-Mongol tribes living to the north of China. 'Khan' is also seen as a title in the Xianbei confederation for their chief between 283 and 289...

 (vice khan), the two most powerful people after the khan. These positions were administrative and noninheritable. The boyars could also be internal and external, probably distinguished by their place of residence — inside or outside the capital. The heir of the throne was called kanartikin. Other subroyal titles used by the Bulgarian noble class include boyila tarkan (possibly the second son of the khan), kana boyila kolobur (chief priest), boritarkan (city mayor).

That the early Bulgar rulers used the title khan is only an assumption, since the evidence for it is scanty and only suggestive. There is the event of the Bulgarian ruler, Pagan
Pagan of Bulgaria
Pagan was the ruler of Bulgaria 767–768.Pagan has been identified as a member of that faction of the Bulgarian aristocracy, which sought to establish peaceful relations with the Byzantine Empire...

 being called "" (Kampaganos) by Patriarch Nicephorus (Nikephoros) in the Patriarch's so called Breviarium, at the end of section 16. The editors of a Bulgarian edition of this source have claimed (via an annotation) that "Kampaganos" is a corruption of "Kan Pagan". There is a word kanasubigi in stone inscriptions, which some historians presume is a compound of kana, the archaic form of 'khan'. Among the proposed translations for the phrase kanasubigi are 'lord of the army', from the reconstructed Turkic phrase *sü begi, paralleling the attested Old Turkic sü baši, and, more recently, '(ruler) from God', from the Indo-European *su- and baga-, i.e. *su-baga (a counterpart of the Greek phrase , ho ek Theou archon, which is common in Bulgar inscriptions). This titulature presumably persisted until the Bulgars adopted Christianity
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

. Some Bulgar inscriptions written in Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 and later in Slavonic
Old Church Slavonic
Old Church Slavonic or Old Church Slavic was the first literary Slavic language, first developed by the 9th century Byzantine Greek missionaries Saints Cyril and Methodius who were credited with standardizing the language and using it for translating the Bible and other Ancient Greek...

 refer to the Bulgarian ruler respectively with the Greek
Greeks
The Greeks, also known as the Hellenes , are a nation and ethnic group native to Greece, Cyprus and neighboring regions. They also form a significant diaspora, with Greek communities established around the world....

 title archon or the Slavic title knyaz
Knyaz
Kniaz, knyaz or knez is a Slavic title found in most Slavic languages, denoting a royal nobility rank. It is usually translated into English as either Prince or less commonly as Duke....

.

Religion


Very little is known about the religion of the Bulgars. It is supposed to have been monotheistic
Monotheism
Monotheism is the belief in the existence of one and only one god. Monotheism is characteristic of the Baha'i Faith, Christianity, Druzism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Samaritanism, Sikhism and Zoroastrianism.While they profess the existence of only one deity, monotheistic religions may still...

on the evidence of Greek language inscriptions from pagan Danube Bulgaria, wherein Bulgar monarchs describe themselves as "ruler from God" and appeal to the deity's omniscience
Omniscience
Omniscience omniscient point-of-view in writing) is the capacity to know everything infinitely, or at least everything that can be known about a character including thoughts, feelings, life and the universe, etc. In Latin, omnis means "all" and sciens means "knowing"...

 and justice. (The various monarchs are not identified by their personal name.) Presian's inscription from Filipi (837) states:
It is traditionally assumed that the God in question was the Turkic sky god Tengri
Tengri
Tengri or Tengger Tengri or Tengger Tengri or Tengger (Old Turkic: ; Mongolian: Тэнгэр, Tenger; Chinese: 腾格里, Mandarin: Ténggélǐ, Hungarian: Tengri, Turkish: Tanrı, Bulgarian: Tangra (Тангра) is a sky god, formerly the chief deity of the early Turkic peoples, including the Xiongnu, Huns, Bulgars,...

, with few occurrences of that name in documents related to Bulgaria. One such occurrence is in a late Turkish manuscript listing the names of the supreme god in different languages, which has "Tangra" for Bulgarian. Another, from a severely damaged Greek language inscription found on a presumed altar
Altar
An altar is any structure upon which offerings such as sacrifices are made for religious purposes. Altars are usually found at shrines, and they can be located in temples, churches and other places of worship...

 stone near Madara, tentatively deciphered by Beshevliev as "(Kanasubig)i Omu(rtag)
Omurtag of Bulgaria
Omurtag was a Great Khan of Bulgaria from 814 to 831. He is known as "the Builder".In the very beginning of his reign he signed a 30-year peace treaty with the neighboring Eastern Roman Empire which remained in force to the end of his life...

, ruler (from God), was ... and sacri(ficed to go)d Tangra ...(some Bulgar titles follow)." Beshevliev has also conjectured that the frequent Danube Bulgar runic sign ıYı (i.e. ) stands for "Tangra", as it seems to disappear after the conversion to Christianity.

A piece of ethnographic evidence which has been invoked to support the belief that the Bulgars worshipped Tengri/Tangra is the relatively similarity of the name "Tengri" to "Tură", the name of the supreme deity of the traditional religion of the Chuvash
Chuvash people
The Chuvash people are a Turkic ethnic group, native to an area stretching from the Volga Region to Siberia. Most of them live in Republic of Chuvashia and surrounding areas, although Chuvash communities may be found throughout all Russia.- Etymology :...

, who are traditionally regarded as descendants of the Suvar branch of the Volga Bulgars. Nevertheless, the Chuvash religion today is markedly different from Tengriism and can be described as a local form of polytheism
Polytheism
Polytheism is the belief of multiple deities also usually assembled into a pantheon of gods and goddesses, along with their own mythologies and rituals....

 with some elements borrowed from Islam
Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

. In addition, there was the cult of the worship of Tangri-khan
Tengri
Tengri or Tengger Tengri or Tengger Tengri or Tengger (Old Turkic: ; Mongolian: Тэнгэр, Tenger; Chinese: 腾格里, Mandarin: Ténggélǐ, Hungarian: Tengri, Turkish: Tanrı, Bulgarian: Tangra (Тангра) is a sky god, formerly the chief deity of the early Turkic peoples, including the Xiongnu, Huns, Bulgars,...

 (called Aspandiat by the Persians
Persian people
The Persian people are part of the Iranian peoples who speak the modern Persian language and closely akin Iranian dialects and languages. The origin of the ethnic Iranian/Persian peoples are traced to the Ancient Iranian peoples, who were part of the ancient Indo-Iranians and themselves part of...

) by the population of the Hun capital Varachan (i.e. Belenjer
Balanjar
Balanjar was a medieval city located in the North Caucasus region, between the cities of Derbent and Samandar, probably on the lower Sulak River. It flourished from the seventh to the tenth centuries CE...

/Belendjer, "army head" [quarter]) in Northern Dagestan, which is mostly known as "Kingdom of the Huns" but which Russian historian M. I. Artamonov considered to be ethnically Bulgar. The cult involved sacrifice of horses and use of sacred trees in worship.

D. Dimitrov has argued that the Bulgars also adopted elements of Iranian religious beliefs. He sees Iranian influences on the cult at Varachan and notes resemblances between the layout of the Zoroastrian
Zoroaster
Zoroaster , also known as Zarathustra , was a prophet and the founder of Zoroastrianism who was either born in North Western or Eastern Iran. He is credited with the authorship of the Yasna Haptanghaiti as well as the Gathas, hymns which are at the liturgical core of Zoroastrianism...

 temples of fire and what seem to be pagan Bulgar sanctuaries at Pliska
Pliska
Pliska is the name of both the first capital of Danubian Bulgaria and a small town which was renamed after the historical Pliska after its site was determined and excavations began....

, Preslav
Preslav
Preslav was the capital of the First Bulgarian Empire from 893 to 972 and one of the most important cities of medieval Southeastern Europe. The ruins of the city are situated in modern northeastern Bulgaria, some 20 kilometres southwest of the regional capital of Shumen, and are currently a...

, and Madara
Madara Rider
The Madara Rider or Madara Horseman is an early medieval large rock relief carved on the Madara Plateau east of Shumen in northeastern Bulgaria, near the village of Madara....

. The architectural similarities include two squares of ashlars inserted one into another, oriented towards the summer sunrise. One of these sites was transformed into a Christian church, which is taken as evidence that they served a religious function.

Officially Christianity
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

 was adopted in Danubian Bulgaria by Knyaz
Knyaz
Kniaz, knyaz or knez is a Slavic title found in most Slavic languages, denoting a royal nobility rank. It is usually translated into English as either Prince or less commonly as Duke....

 Boris I in 865
865
Year 865 was a common year starting on Monday of the Julian calendar.- Europe :* Ethelred succeeds as king of Wessex .* Louis the German divides his kingdom among his sons....

 (as a state religion). Islam
Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

 was officially adopted in Volga Bulgaria
Volga Bulgaria
Volga Bulgaria, or Volga–Kama Bolghar, is a historic Bulgar state that existed between the seventh and thirteenth centuries around the confluence of the Volga and Kama rivers in what is now Russia.-Origin:...

 as a state religion in 922, but old religion revolts continued into the Mongol conquest in 1230's.

Migration to Europe



In the early 2nd century, some groups of Bulgars migrated from Central Asia
Central Asia
Central Asia is a core region of the Asian continent from the Caspian Sea in the west, China in the east, Afghanistan in the south, and Russia in the north...

 to the European continent and settled on the plains between the Caspian Sea
Caspian Sea
The Caspian Sea is the largest enclosed body of water on Earth by area, variously classed as the world's largest lake or a full-fledged sea. The sea has a surface area of and a volume of...

 and the Black Sea
Black Sea
The Black Sea is bounded by Europe, Anatolia and the Caucasus and is ultimately connected to the Atlantic Ocean via the Mediterranean and the Aegean seas and various straits. The Bosphorus strait connects it to the Sea of Marmara, and the strait of the Dardanelles connects that sea to the Aegean...

. The Bulgars appear (under the ethnonym of ‘Bulensii’) in certain Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 versions of Ptolemy
Ptolemy
Claudius Ptolemy , was a Roman citizen of Egypt who wrote in Greek. He was a mathematician, astronomer, geographer, astrologer, and poet of a single epigram in the Greek Anthology. He lived in Egypt under Roman rule, and is believed to have been born in the town of Ptolemais Hermiou in the...

’s 2nd century AD mapping, shown as occupying the territory along the northwest coast of Black Sea
Black Sea
The Black Sea is bounded by Europe, Anatolia and the Caucasus and is ultimately connected to the Atlantic Ocean via the Mediterranean and the Aegean seas and various straits. The Bosphorus strait connects it to the Sea of Marmara, and the strait of the Dardanelles connects that sea to the Aegean...

 east of Axiacus River (Southern Bug)
Southern Bug
The Southern Bug, also called Southern Buh), is a river located in Ukraine. The source of the river is in the west of Ukraine, in the Volyn-Podillia Upland, about 145 km from the Polish border, and flows southeasterly into the Bug Estuary through the southern steppes...

.

Between 351 and 389, some of the Bulgars crossed the Caucasus
Caucasus
The Caucasus, also Caucas or Caucasia , is a geopolitical region at the border of Europe and Asia, and situated between the Black and the Caspian sea...

 to settle in Armenia
Armenia
Armenia , officially the Republic of Armenia , is a landlocked mountainous country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia...

. Toponymic
Toponymy
Toponymy is the scientific study of place names , their origins, meanings, use and typology. The word "toponymy" is derived from the Greek words tópos and ónoma . Toponymy is itself a branch of onomastics, the study of names of all kinds...

 data testify to the fact that they remained there and were eventually assimilated by the Armenians
Armenians
Armenian people or Armenians are a nation and ethnic group native to the Armenian Highland.The largest concentration is in Armenia having a nearly-homogeneous population with 97.9% or 3,145,354 being ethnic Armenian....

.

Swept by the Hunnish wave at the beginning of the 4th century, other Bulgar tribes broke loose from their settlements in Central Asia to migrate to the fertile lands along the lower valleys of the rivers Donets and Don
Don River (Russia)
The Don River is one of the major rivers of Russia. It rises in the town of Novomoskovsk 60 kilometres southeast from Tula, southeast of Moscow, and flows for a distance of about 1,950 kilometres to the Sea of Azov....

 and the Azov
Azov
-External links:** *...

 seashore, assimilating what was left of the Sarmatians
Sarmatians
The Iron Age Sarmatians were an Iranian people in Classical Antiquity, flourishing from about the 5th century BC to the 4th century AD....

. Some of these remained for centuries in their new settlements, whereas others moved on with the Huns
Huns
The Huns were a group of nomadic people who, appearing from east of the Volga River, migrated into Europe c. AD 370 and established the vast Hunnic Empire there. Since de Guignes linked them with the Xiongnu, who had been northern neighbours of China 300 years prior to the emergence of the Huns,...

 towards Central Europe
Central Europe
Central Europe or alternatively Middle Europe is a region of the European continent lying between the variously defined areas of Eastern and Western Europe...

, settling in Pannonia
Pannonia
Pannonia was an ancient province of the Roman Empire bounded north and east by the Danube, coterminous westward with Noricum and upper Italy, and southward with Dalmatia and upper Moesia....

.

Those Bulgars took part in the Hun raids on Central
Central Europe
Central Europe or alternatively Middle Europe is a region of the European continent lying between the variously defined areas of Eastern and Western Europe...

 and Western Europe
Western Europe
Western Europe is a loose term for the collection of countries in the western most region of the European continents, though this definition is context-dependent and carries cultural and political connotations. One definition describes Western Europe as a geographic entity—the region lying in the...

 between 377 and 453. After the death of Attila in 453, and the subsequent disintegration of the Hunnish empire, the Bulgar tribes dispersed mostly to the eastern and southeastern parts of Europe.

At the end of the 5th century (probably in the years 480, 486, and 488) they fought against the Ostrogoths as allies of the Byzantine emperor
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

 Zeno
Zeno (emperor)
Zeno , originally named Tarasis, was Byzantine Emperor from 474 to 475 and again from 476 to 491. Domestic revolts and religious dissension plagued his reign, which nevertheless succeeded to some extent in foreign issues...

. From 493 they carried out frequent attacks on the western territories of the Byzantine Empire
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

. Later raids were carried out at the end of the 5th century and the beginning of the 6th century. The Bulgars took the city of Corinth in the middle of the 7th century .

In the middle of the 6th century, war broke out between the two main Bulgar tribes, the Kutrigur
Kutrigurs
The Kutrigurs , first mentioned in 539/540, were a horde of equestrian nomads later known as part of the Bulgars that inhabited the Eurasian plains during the Dark Ages. They came into existence when the Eurasian Avars conquered half of the Hunno-Bulgars, whilst the remaining group, who were free ...

 and Utigur. To the west, the Kutrigurs fell under Avar
Eurasian Avars
The Eurasian Avars or Ancient Avars were a highly organized nomadic confederacy of mixed origins. They were ruled by a khagan, who was surrounded by a tight-knit entourage of nomad warriors, an organization characteristic of Turko-Mongol groups...

 dominion and became influential within the Khaganate. The eastern Utigurs fell under the western Göktürk empire in 568.

The Bulgars (namely those that lived east of Asov), have also sometimes been linked to the Cimmerians, said to be descendants from them (becoming the Utigurs later on, according to Prokoppius). Osman Karatay (In search of the lost tribe: the origins and making of the Croatian nation) also notes that according to the Tarih, there were two people called Utih and Xot, whose ancestors were the Cimmerians (cf. Prokoppius: Utigurs are Kimmerians). Many would object to this idea however, by arguing that the Bulgars were related to the Cimmerians in geography only, since the Bulgars had lived where once the Cimmerians lived .

The Bulgar Khanate


United under Kubrat
Kubrat
Kubrat or Kurt was a Bulgar ruler credited with establishing the confederation of Old Great Bulgaria in 632. He is said to have achieved this by conquering the Avars and uniting all the Bulgar tribes under one rule....

 of the Dulo clan
Dulo clan
The Dulo Clan or the House of Dulo was the name of the ruling dynasty of the early Bulgars.This was the clan of Kubrat who founded Old Great Bulgaria, and his sons Batbayan, Kuber and Asparuh, the latter of which founded Danube Bulgaria....

 (identical to the ruler mentioned by Persian
Persian people
The Persian people are part of the Iranian peoples who speak the modern Persian language and closely akin Iranian dialects and languages. The origin of the ethnic Iranian/Persian peoples are traced to the Ancient Iranian peoples, who were part of the ancient Indo-Iranians and themselves part of...

 chronicler Tabari
Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari
Abu Ja'far Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari was a prominent and influential Sunni scholar and exegete of the Qur'an from Persia...

 under the name of Shahriar), the joined forces of the Utigur and Kutrigur Bulgars, and probably the Bulgar Onogurs
Onogurs
The Onogurs, also known as Utigurs, were a horde of equestrian nomads in the North Eurasian steppe east of the Don River during the 5th to 8th centuries. The Onogurs crossed the Volga and entered into Europe around the year 460 within the larger context of the Great Migrations and the Turkic...

, broke loose from the Turkic khanate in the 630s. They formed an independent state, the Onogundur-Bulgar (Oghondor-blkar or Olhontor-blkar) Empire, often called by Byzantine
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

 sources "the Old Great Bulgaria
Old Great Bulgaria
Old Great Bulgaria or Great Bulgaria was а term used by Byzantine historians to refer to Onoguria during the reign of the Bulgar ruler Kubrat in the 7th century north of the Caucasus mountains in the steppe between the Dniester and Lower...

". The empire was situated between the lower course of the Danube
Danube
The Danube is a river in the Central Europe and the Europe's second longest river after the Volga. It is classified as an international waterway....

 to the west, the Black Sea
Black Sea
The Black Sea is bounded by Europe, Anatolia and the Caucasus and is ultimately connected to the Atlantic Ocean via the Mediterranean and the Aegean seas and various straits. The Bosphorus strait connects it to the Sea of Marmara, and the strait of the Dardanelles connects that sea to the Aegean...

 and the Azov Sea to the south, the Kuban
Kuban
Kuban is a geographic region of Southern Russia surrounding the Kuban River, on the Black Sea between the Don Steppe, Volga Delta and the Caucasus...

 River to the east, and the Donets River to the north. It is assumed that the state capital was Phanagoria, an ancient city on the Taman
Taman peninsula
The Taman Peninsula is a peninsula in the present-day Krasnodar Krai of Russia. It is bounded on the north by the Sea of Azov, on the west by the Strait of Kerch and on the south by the Black Sea. The peninsula has evolved over the past two millennia from a chain of islands into the peninsula it is...

 peninsula (see Tmutarakan
Tmutarakan
Tmutarakan was a Mediaeval Russian principality and trading town that controlled the Cimmerian Bosporus, the passage from the Black Sea to the Sea of Azov. Its site was the ancient Greek colony of Hermonassa . It was situated on the Taman peninsula, in the present-day Krasnodar Krai of Russia,...

). However, the archaeological evidence shows that the city became predominantly Bulgar only after Kubrat's death and the consequent disintegration of his state.

Subsequent migrations


According to legend, on his deathbed Khan Kubrat commanded his sons to gather sticks and bring them to him, which he then bundled together. He commanded his eldest son Batbayan
Batbayan of Bulgaria
Batbayan was the eldest son of Khagan Kubrat. After Kubrat, Batbayan ruled from Poltava the lands north of the Black Sea and the Azov Sea....

 (also Bayan or Boyan) to break the bundle. Bayan failed against the strength of the combined sticks, and so did the other sons in turn. Kubrat undid the bundle and broke each stick separately. He then proclaimed to his sons, "unity makes strength", which has become a commonplace Bulgarian folk slogan and now appears on the modern Bulgarian coat of arms
Coat of arms of Bulgaria
The coat of arms of Bulgaria consists of a crowned golden lion rampant over a dark red shield; above the shield is the Bulgarian historical crown...

. (Similar versions of this story
Fasces
Fasces are a bundle of wooden sticks with an axe blade emerging from the center, which is an image that traditionally symbolizes summary power and jurisdiction, and/or "strength through unity"...

 occur also in Chinese and Japanese historic legends, as well as in the legend of Oghuz Khan
Oghuz Khan
Oghuz Khan was a legendary and semi-mythological Khan of Turks. Some Turkic cultures use this legend to describe their ethnic origins and the origin of the system of political clans used by Turkmen, Ottoman, and other Oghuz Turks...

 and his six sons.)

The Byzantine Patriarch
Patriarch
Originally a patriarch was a man who exercised autocratic authority as a pater familias over an extended family. The system of such rule of families by senior males is called patriarchy. This is a Greek word, a compound of πατριά , "lineage, descent", esp...

 Nikephoros I of Constantinople relates that Kubrat's sons, however, did not live up to this advice, and thus soon after the death of Kubrat around 665, the Khazar
Khazars
The Khazars were semi-nomadic Turkic people who established one of the largest polities of medieval Eurasia, with the capital of Atil and territory comprising much of modern-day European Russia, western Kazakhstan, eastern Ukraine, Azerbaijan, large portions of the northern Caucasus , parts of...

 expansion eventually led to the dissolution of Great Bulgaria. Batbayan at first remained the ruler of the lands north of the Black
Black Sea
The Black Sea is bounded by Europe, Anatolia and the Caucasus and is ultimately connected to the Atlantic Ocean via the Mediterranean and the Aegean seas and various straits. The Bosphorus strait connects it to the Sea of Marmara, and the strait of the Dardanelles connects that sea to the Aegean...

 and the Azov Seas, but the Khazars soon subdued him. Those Bulgars, along with their Khazar masters, converted to Judaism
Judaism
Judaism ) is the "religion, philosophy, and way of life" of the Jewish people...

 in the 9th century. Furthermore, the Balkars
Balkars
The Balkars are a Turkic people of the Caucasus region, one of the titular populations of Kabardino-Balkaria. They are possibly Bulgars or are descended from them...

 in Kabardino-Balkaria
Kabardino-Balkaria
The Kabardino-Balkar Republic , or Kabardino-Balkaria , is a federal subject of Russia located in the North Caucasus. Population: -Geography:The republic is situated in the North Caucasus mountains, with plains in the northern part....

 may be also the descendants of this Bulgar branch.

The Eastern Bulgars, led by Kubrat’s second son Kotrag
Kotrag
Khan Kotrag was the founder of Volga Bulgaria. He was the son of Kubrat who left Great Bulgaria after the death of his father. His successors reached the lands of modern Tatarstan and established a state during 7-9 centuries and recognised Islam as the official religion in 922 AD during the visit...

, migrated to the confluence of the Volga
Volga River
The Volga is the largest river in Europe in terms of length, discharge, and watershed. It flows through central Russia, and is widely viewed as the national river of Russia. Out of the twenty largest cities of Russia, eleven, including the capital Moscow, are situated in the Volga's drainage...

 and Kama River
Kama River
Kama is a major river in Russia, the longest left tributary of the Volga and the largest one in discharge; in fact, it is larger than the Volga before junction....

s in what is now Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

 (see Volga Bulgaria
Volga Bulgaria
Volga Bulgaria, or Volga–Kama Bolghar, is a historic Bulgar state that existed between the seventh and thirteenth centuries around the confluence of the Volga and Kama rivers in what is now Russia.-Origin:...

). The present-day republics of Tatarstan
Tatarstan
The Republic of Tatarstan is a federal subject of Russia located in the Volga Federal District. Its capital is the city of Kazan, which is one of Russia's largest and most prosperous cities. The republic borders with Kirov, Ulyanovsk, Samara, and Orenburg Oblasts, and with the Mari El, Udmurt,...

 and Chuvashia are traditionally considered to be the descendants of Volga Bulgaria
Volga Bulgaria
Volga Bulgaria, or Volga–Kama Bolghar, is a historic Bulgar state that existed between the seventh and thirteenth centuries around the confluence of the Volga and Kama rivers in what is now Russia.-Origin:...

 in terms of territory and people, but recent DNA research casts doubt on this tradition in regard to the Chuvash. Linguistically, only the Chuvash language
Chuvash language
Chuvash is a Turkic language spoken in central Russia, primarily in the Chuvash Republic and adjacent areas. It is the only surviving member of the Oghur branch of Turkic languages....

 is similar to the old Bulgar language; the Tatar language
Tatar language
The Tatar language , or more specifically Kazan Tatar, is a Turkic language spoken by the Tatars of historical Kazan Khanate, including modern Tatarstan and Bashkiria...

 belongs to a different branch of the Turkic languages
Turkic languages
The Turkic languages constitute a language family of at least thirty five languages, spoken by Turkic peoples across a vast area from Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean to Siberia and Western China, and are considered to be part of the proposed Altaic language family.Turkic languages are spoken...

.

The Bulgars led by Khubrat's youngest son, Asparukh, moved westward and occupied what is today the southern part of Bessarabia
Bessarabia
Bessarabia is a historical term for the geographic region in Eastern Europe bounded by the Dniester River on the east and the Prut River on the west....

. He was followed by a small Bulgar horde. A twelfth-century source gives its number as 10,000. After a successful war with Byzantium
Byzantium
Byzantium was an ancient Greek city, founded by Greek colonists from Megara in 667 BC and named after their king Byzas . The name Byzantium is a Latinization of the original name Byzantion...

 in 680, Asparukh's khanate settled in Dobrudja. Asparukh and Byzantine Constantine IV Pogonatus signed a treaty in 681. Asparukh's khanate went on to conquer Moesia Superior. The year 681 is usually regarded as the year of the establishment of modern Bulgaria
Bulgaria
Bulgaria , officially the Republic of Bulgaria , is a parliamentary democracy within a unitary constitutional republic in Southeast Europe. The country borders Romania to the north, Serbia and Macedonia to the west, Greece and Turkey to the south, as well as the Black Sea to the east...

.

The smallest successor group to Great Bulgaria, the Alcek
Alcek
Alcek was the leader of Bulgar horde that settled in the villages of Gallo Matese, Sepino, Boiano and Isernia in the Matese mountains of central Italy. His name is variously spelled Altsek, Altzek, or Alzec....

 (also transliterated as 'Altsek' and 'Altcek' or 'Ducca Alzeco'), after many wanderings settled mainly near Naples
Naples
Naples is a city in Southern Italy, situated on the country's west coast by the Gulf of Naples. Lying between two notable volcanic regions, Mount Vesuvius and the Phlegraean Fields, it is the capital of the region of Campania and of the province of Naples...

 in the Benevento
Benevento
Benevento is a town and comune of Campania, Italy, capital of the province of Benevento, 50 km northeast of Naples. It is situated on a hill 130 m above sea-level at the confluence of the Calore Irpino and Sabato...

 and Salerno
Salerno
Salerno is a city and comune in Campania and is the capital of the province of the same name. It is located on the Gulf of Salerno on the Tyrrhenian Sea....

 provinces, under the leadership of Emnetzur.

A group of Bulgars ruled by Kuber
Kuber
Khan Kuber was a Bulgar leader, brother of Khan Asparukh and member of the Dulo clan, who according to the Miracles of St Demetrius, in the 670s was the leader of a mixed Christian population of Bulgars, ‘Romans’, Slavs and Germanic people that had been transferred to the Syrmia region in Pannonia...

 inhabited Pannonia
Pannonia
Pannonia was an ancient province of the Roman Empire bounded north and east by the Danube, coterminous westward with Noricum and upper Italy, and southward with Dalmatia and upper Moesia....

. After breaking free of Avar overlordship, they migrated to Macedonia
Macedonia (region)
Macedonia is a geographical and historical region of the Balkan peninsula in southeastern Europe. Its boundaries have changed considerably over time, but nowadays the region is considered to include parts of five Balkan countries: Greece, the Republic of Macedonia, Bulgaria, Albania, Serbia, as...

. This group, numbering around 70,000, included descendants of Roman captives of various ethnicities that had been resettled in Pannonia by the Avars. The majority of historians do not see any evidence for the existence of a Bulgar khanate in Macedonia before 850 AD; but Zlatarski
Vasil Zlatarski
Vasil Nikolov Zlatarski was a Bulgarian historian-medievalist, archaeologist, and epigraphist.- Life :Vasil Zlatarski was born in Veliko Tarnovo in 1866, the youngest child of the teacher Nikola Zlatarcheto who was a prominent activist in the educational movement and the religious and national...

 posits that Kuber was also a son of Kubrat, that Kuber's Bulgars formed a khanate in Macedonia, and that Kuber's khanate joined Slavs to attack the Byzantine Empire.

The legacy of the Bulgars endured and, in the nineteenth century, was so tangible that Russian historian S. M. Solov'ev reflected: "For a long time Asia, Muslim Asia built here a home; a home not for nomadic hordes but for its civilization; for a long time, a commercial and industrial people, the Bulgars had been established here. When the Bulgar was already listening to the Qur'an on the shores of the Volga and the Kama, the Russian Slav had not yet started to build Christian churches on the Oka and had not yet conquered these places in the name of European civilization".

Language


The origin and the language of the Bulgars has been the subject of debate since the turn of the 20th century. The current leading theory is that at least the Bulgar elite spoke a language that, alongside Khazar and Chuvash
Chuvash language
Chuvash is a Turkic language spoken in central Russia, primarily in the Chuvash Republic and adjacent areas. It is the only surviving member of the Oghur branch of Turkic languages....

, was a member of the Oghuric branch of the Turkic
Turkic languages
The Turkic languages constitute a language family of at least thirty five languages, spoken by Turkic peoples across a vast area from Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean to Siberia and Western China, and are considered to be part of the proposed Altaic language family.Turkic languages are spoken...

 language family. This theory is supported, among other things, by the fact that some Bulgar words contained in the few surviving stone inscriptions and in other documents (mainly military and hierarchical terms such as tarkan
Tarkhan
Tarkhan is an ancient Central Asian title used by various Indo-European Tarkhan (Old Turkic Tarqan; Mongolian: Darkhan; ; ; ; alternative spellings Tarkan, Tarkhaan, Tarqan, Tarchan, Tarxan, Tarcan or Targan) is an ancient Central Asian title used by various Indo-European Tarkhan (Old Turkic...

, bagatur
Baghatur
Baghatur is a historical Turco-Mongol honorific title, in origin a term for "hero" or "valiant warrior".The term was first used by the steppe peoples to the north and west of China as early as the 7th century as evidenced in Sui dynasty records...

, and probably khan
Khan (title)
Khan is an originally Altaic and subsequently Central Asian title for a sovereign or military ruler, widely used by medieval nomadic Turko-Mongol tribes living to the north of China. 'Khan' is also seen as a title in the Xianbei confederation for their chief between 283 and 289...

 and kanartikin - "prince") appear to be of Turkic origin and written in Kuban alphabet of the Old Turkic script. Also, the Bulgar calendar
Bulgar calendar
The Bulgar calendar was a calendar system used by the Bulgars, a seminomadic people, originally from Central Asia, who from the 2nd century onwards dwelled in the Eurasian steppes north of the Caucasus and around the banks of river Volga...

 had a 12-year cycle, similar to the one adopted by Turkic and Mongolian peoples from the Chinese
Chinese calendar
The Chinese calendar is a lunisolar calendar, incorporating elements of a lunar calendar with those of a solar calendar. It is not exclusive to China, but followed by many other Asian cultures as well...

, with names and numbers that are deciphered as Turkic. The Bulgars' supreme god was apparently called Tangra, a deity widely known among the Turkic peoples under names such as Tengri
Tengri
Tengri or Tengger Tengri or Tengger Tengri or Tengger (Old Turkic: ; Mongolian: Тэнгэр, Tenger; Chinese: 腾格里, Mandarin: Ténggélǐ, Hungarian: Tengri, Turkish: Tanrı, Bulgarian: Tangra (Тангра) is a sky god, formerly the chief deity of the early Turkic peoples, including the Xiongnu, Huns, Bulgars,...

, Tura etc.. It should be noted that a number of Pamirian/Iranic words have been found in the Bulgar language, and modern day Bulgarian language.

Some also point out the presence of Turkic loanwords in the Slavic Old Bulgarian language and Church Slavonic language, and the fact that the Bulgars used an alphabet
Alphabet
An alphabet is a standard set of letters—basic written symbols or graphemes—each of which represents a phoneme in a spoken language, either as it exists now or as it was in the past. There are other systems, such as logographies, in which each character represents a word, morpheme, or semantic...

 similar to the Turkic Orkhon script
Orkhon script
The Old Turkic script is the alphabet used by the Göktürk and other early Turkic Khanates from at least the 7th century to record the Old Turkic language. It was later used by the Uyghur Empire...

, this alphabet was deciphered and analyzed by S.Baichorov: fortunately, the Bulgar inscriptions were sometimes written in Greek
Greek alphabet
The Greek alphabet is the script that has been used to write the Greek language since at least 730 BC . The alphabet in its classical and modern form consists of 24 letters ordered in sequence from alpha to omega...

 or Cyrillic characters, most commonly in Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

, thus allowing the scholars to identify some of the Bulgar glosses. Contemporaneous sources like Procopius
Procopius
Procopius of Caesarea was a prominent Byzantine scholar from Palestine. Accompanying the general Belisarius in the wars of the Emperor Justinian I, he became the principal historian of the 6th century, writing the Wars of Justinian, the Buildings of Justinian and the celebrated Secret History...

, Agathias
Agathias
Agathias or Agathias Scholasticus , of Myrina , an Aeolian city in western Asia Minor , was a Greek poet and the principal historian of part of the reign of the Roman emperor Justinian I between 552 and 558....

 and Menander
Menander Protector
Menander Protector , Byzantine historian, was born in Constantinople in the middle of the 6th century AD. The little that is known of his life is contained in the account of himself quoted by Suidas. He at first took up the study of law, but abandoned it for a life of pleasure...

 called the Bulgars "Huns
Huns
The Huns were a group of nomadic people who, appearing from east of the Volga River, migrated into Europe c. AD 370 and established the vast Hunnic Empire there. Since de Guignes linked them with the Xiongnu, who had been northern neighbours of China 300 years prior to the emergence of the Huns,...

", while others, like the Byzantine Patriarch Michael II of Antioch
Patriarch Michael II of Antioch
Patriarch Michael II was the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch during the period 1292—1312. He was an abbot of the Kuwaykhat Monastery. He died on December 7, 1312.-References:...

, called them "Scythians" or "Sarmatians
Sarmatians
The Iron Age Sarmatians were an Iranian people in Classical Antiquity, flourishing from about the 5th century BC to the 4th century AD....

", but this latter identification was probably due to the Byzantine tradition of naming peoples geographically. Due to the lack of definitive evidence, modern scholarship instead uses an ethnogenesis approach in explaining the Bulgars' origin. There are also a number of Iranic words in modern Bulgarian, inheritted from the Bulgars

Further evidence culturally linking the Danubian Bulgar state to Turkic
Turkic peoples
The Turkic peoples are peoples residing in northern, central and western Asia, southern Siberia and northwestern China and parts of eastern Europe. They speak languages belonging to the Turkic language family. They share, to varying degrees, certain cultural traits and historical backgrounds...

 steppe traditions was the layout of the Bulgars' new capital of Pliska
Pliska
Pliska is the name of both the first capital of Danubian Bulgaria and a small town which was renamed after the historical Pliska after its site was determined and excavations began....

, founded just north of the Balkan Mountains
Balkan Mountains
The Balkan mountain range is a mountain range in the eastern part of the Balkan Peninsula. The Balkan range runs 560 km from the Vrashka Chuka Peak on the border between Bulgaria and eastern Serbia eastward through central Bulgaria to Cape Emine on the Black Sea...

 shortly after 681. The large area enclosed by ramparts, with the rulers' habitations and assorted utility structures concentrated in the center, resembled more a steppe winter encampment turned into a permanent settlement than it did a typical Roman
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

 Balkan city."

On the other hand some modern Bulgarian
Bulgarians
The Bulgarians are a South Slavic nation and ethnic group native to Bulgaria and neighbouring regions. Emigration has resulted in immigrant communities in a number of other countries.-History and ethnogenesis:...

 scientists link it to the Iranian language group
Iranian languages
The Iranian languages form a subfamily of the Indo-Iranian languages which in turn is a subgroup of Indo-European language family. They have been and are spoken by Iranian peoples....

 instead. However, most of them still assume an intermediate stance, only pointing out certain signs of Iranian influence in the Turkic base, without drawing such conclusions from them, or indeed actively oppose the "Iranian" theory.

Ethnicity debate


Traditionally, historians have associated the Bulgars with the Huns
Huns
The Huns were a group of nomadic people who, appearing from east of the Volga River, migrated into Europe c. AD 370 and established the vast Hunnic Empire there. Since de Guignes linked them with the Xiongnu, who had been northern neighbours of China 300 years prior to the emergence of the Huns,...

, who migrated out of Central Asia. Anthropological
Anthropology
Anthropology is the study of humanity. It has origins in the humanities, the natural sciences, and the social sciences. The term "anthropology" is from the Greek anthrōpos , "man", understood to mean mankind or humanity, and -logia , "discourse" or "study", and was first used in 1501 by German...

 data collected from medieval Bulgar necropolis
Necropolis
A necropolis is a large cemetery or burial ground, usually including structural tombs. The word comes from the Greek νεκρόπολις - nekropolis, literally meaning "city of the dead"...

es from Dobrudja, Crimea
Crimea
Crimea , or the Autonomous Republic of Crimea , is a sub-national unit, an autonomous republic, of Ukraine. It is located on the northern coast of the Black Sea, occupying a peninsula of the same name...

 and the Ukrainian
Ukraine
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

 steppe
Steppe
In physical geography, steppe is an ecoregion, in the montane grasslands and shrublands and temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands biomes, characterized by grassland plains without trees apart from those near rivers and lakes...

 have shown that Bulgars were a Caucasoid people with a small Mongoloid admixture and practiced circular type artificial cranial deformation
Artificial cranial deformation
Artificial cranial deformation, head flattening, or head binding is a form of permanent body alteration in which the skull of a human being is intentionally deformed. It is done by distorting the normal growth of a child's skull by applying force...

. This finding is consistent with a model in which the Turkic languages were gradually imposed in Central Asia and East European Plain
East European Plain
The East European Plain is a plain comprising a series of river basins in Eastern Europe. Together with the Northern European Plain it constitutes the European Plain. It is the largest mountain-free part of the European landscape.The plain spans approximately and averages about in elevation...

 on Caucasian (Scythian) peoples with relatively little genetic admixture, another possible example of a language shift
Language shift
Language shift, sometimes referred to as language transfer or language replacement or assimilation, is the progressive process whereby a speech community of a language shifts to speaking another language. The rate of assimilation is the percentage of individuals with a given mother tongue who speak...

 through elite dominance
Dominant minority
A dominant minority, also known as alien elites if they are recent immigrants, is a group that has overwhelming political, economic or cultural dominance in a country or region despite representing a small fraction of the overall population...

. Ibn Fadlan, who visited Volga Bulgaria in the 10th century, describes the appearance of the Bulgars as "ailing" (pale) and "not ruddy" like the Rus' people.

Genetic and anthropological researches have shown that the Eurasian steppe
Eurasian Steppe
The Eurasian Steppe is the vast steppe ecoregion of Eurasia in the Temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands Biome. It stretches from Hungary to Mongolia...

's tribal unions
Confederation
A confederation in modern political terms is a permanent union of political units for common action in relation to other units. Usually created by treaty but often later adopting a common constitution, confederations tend to be established for dealing with critical issues such as defense, foreign...

 of history were not ethnically
Ethnic group
An ethnic group is a group of people whose members identify with each other, through a common heritage, often consisting of a common language, a common culture and/or an ideology that stresses common ancestry or endogamy...

 homogeneous, but rather unions of multiple ethnicities such as Turkic
Turkic peoples
The Turkic peoples are peoples residing in northern, central and western Asia, southern Siberia and northwestern China and parts of eastern Europe. They speak languages belonging to the Turkic language family. They share, to varying degrees, certain cultural traits and historical backgrounds...

, Ugric and Iranic
Iranian peoples
The Iranian peoples are an Indo-European ethnic-linguistic group, consisting of the speakers of Iranian languages, a major branch of the Indo-European language family, as such forming a branch of Indo-European-speaking peoples...

 among others. Skeletal remains from Central Asia
Central Asia
Central Asia is a core region of the Asian continent from the Caspian Sea in the west, China in the east, Afghanistan in the south, and Russia in the north...

, excavated from different sites dating between the 15th century BC
15th century BC
The 15th century BC is a century which lasted from 1500 BC to 1401 BC.- Events :* 1504 BC – 1492 BC: Egypt conquers Nubia and the Levant.* 1500 BC – 1400 BC: The Rigveda was composed around this time....

 to the 5th century AD, have been analyzed. The distribution of east and west Eurasia
Eurasia
Eurasia is a continent or supercontinent comprising the traditional continents of Europe and Asia ; covering about 52,990,000 km2 or about 10.6% of the Earth's surface located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres...

n lineages through time in the region agrees with available archaeological information. Prior to the 13th - 7th century BC, all samples belong to European lineages
European ethnic groups
The ethnic groups in Europe are the various ethnic groups that reside in the nations of Europe. European ethnology is the field of anthropology focusing on Europe....

; later, an arrival of East Asian sequences that coexisted with the previous genetic substratum was detected.

More recent theories view the nomadic confederacies, such as the Old Great Bulgaria
Old Great Bulgaria
Old Great Bulgaria or Great Bulgaria was а term used by Byzantine historians to refer to Onoguria during the reign of the Bulgar ruler Kubrat in the 7th century north of the Caucasus mountains in the steppe between the Dniester and Lower...

, as the formation of several different cultural, political and linguistic entities that could dissolve as quickly as they formed, entailing a process of ethnogenesis
Ethnogenesis
Ethnogenesis is the process by which a group of human beings comes to be understood or to understand themselves as ethnically distinct from the wider social landscape from which their grouping emerges...

.

See also

  • Bulgar language
    Bolgar language
    Bulgar , also Oghur, is a historical group of Turkic languages, the only extant member of which is the Chuvash language.Suggested extinct members of the group are Volga-Bulgarian and Khazar ....

  • Bulgarians
    Bulgarians
    The Bulgarians are a South Slavic nation and ethnic group native to Bulgaria and neighbouring regions. Emigration has resulted in immigrant communities in a number of other countries.-History and ethnogenesis:...

  • Madara Rider
    Madara Rider
    The Madara Rider or Madara Horseman is an early medieval large rock relief carved on the Madara Plateau east of Shumen in northeastern Bulgaria, near the village of Madara....

  • Volga Bulgaria
    Volga Bulgaria
    Volga Bulgaria, or Volga–Kama Bolghar, is a historic Bulgar state that existed between the seventh and thirteenth centuries around the confluence of the Volga and Kama rivers in what is now Russia.-Origin:...

  • Balkar
  • Bolghar
    Bolghar
    Bolghar was intermittently capital of Volga Bulgaria from the 8th to the 15th centuries, along with Bilyar and Nur-Suvar. It was situated on the bank of the Volga River, about 30 km downstream from its confluence with the Kama River and some 130 km from modern Kazan...

  • Yuezhi
    Yuezhi
    The Yuezhi, or Rouzhi , also known as the Da Yuezhi or Da Rouzhi , were an ancient Central Asian people....

  • Kuber
    Kuber
    Khan Kuber was a Bulgar leader, brother of Khan Asparukh and member of the Dulo clan, who according to the Miracles of St Demetrius, in the 670s was the leader of a mixed Christian population of Bulgars, ‘Romans’, Slavs and Germanic people that had been transferred to the Syrmia region in Pannonia...

  • Mount Imeon
    Mount Imeon
    Mount Imeon is an ancient name for the Central Asian complex of mountain ranges comprising the present Hindu Kush, Pamir and Tian Shan, extending from the Zagros Mountains in the southwest to the Altay Mountains in the northeast, and linked to the Kunlun, Karakoram and Himalayas to the southeast...

  • Old Great Bulgaria
    Old Great Bulgaria
    Old Great Bulgaria or Great Bulgaria was а term used by Byzantine historians to refer to Onoguria during the reign of the Bulgar ruler Kubrat in the 7th century north of the Caucasus mountains in the steppe between the Dniester and Lower...


Further reading

  • Chance, Jane. 2005. Women medievalists and the academy. Univ. of Wisconsin Press.
  • Curta, Florin, ed., with the assistance of Roman Kovalev. 2008. The other Europe in the Middle Ages: Avars, Bulgars, Khazars, and Cumans. BRILL.
  • Fine, John V. A. 1991. The Early Medieval Balkans: A Critical Survey from the Sixth to the Late Twelfth Century. University of Michigan Press. ISBN 0-472-08149-7.
  • Mango, Cyril A. 2002. The Oxford history of Byzantium.
  • Miller, Mikhail. 1956. Archaeology in the U.S.S.R. Frederick A. Praeger.
  • Obolensky, Dimitri. 1994. Byzantium and the Slavs. Yonkers, NY: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press.
  • Viktor Aleksandrovich Shnirelʹman, Who gets the past?: competition for ancestors among non-Russian intellectuals in Russia, Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 1996, ISBN 0-8018-5221-8, 9780801852213. (Chapter The Rivalry for the Bulgar Legacy at Google Books).

External links