Bulgars

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Image:Khazar0.png
Map showing the location of Bulgars, c. 650.

The Bulgars (also Bolgars or proto-Bulgarians) were a seminomadic people, originally from Central Asia, who since the 2nd century inhabited the steppe north of Caucasus and the banks of river Itil, now named Volga.

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[edit] Ethnic origin and linguistic affiliations

The oldest and more widely accepted theory is that the Bulgar language, now extinct, might have belonged to the Turkic linguistic family. It is broadly classified as Bulgar Turkic, a distant branch of the Turkic languages, whose only living related tongue is modern Chuvash.<ref>Britannica Online - Bolgar Turkic</ref> The base for this 19th century Turkic theory is the fact that Bulgars used an alphabet similar to the Orkhon script and the number of Turkic words, mainly military terms, contained in the few surviving stone inscriptions in Bulgar. Those inscriptions were sometimes written in Greek or Cyrillic characters thus allowing the scolars to surely identify some of the words.

Image:Bulgars.jpg
Bulgar warriors slaughter Byzantines, from the Menology of Basil II, 10th century.

On the other hand, there is a certain frequency of Iranian words<ref>The language of the Asparukh and Kuber Bulgars, Vocabulary and grammar,by Peter Dobrev</ref> and clues about the grammar<ref>Characteristic features of the Bulgar grammar</ref> which point to Iranian origin for the Bulgar language. The supporters of this newer Iranian theory claim that Bulgar language was originally Iranian and was consequently influenced, by Turkic as a result of Hunnic military domination. They also argue that Bulgars wrote from left to right unlike the Turkic people. In support to this theory is the fact that the ancient authors always made clear difference between Turks and Bulgars. Procopius, Agathias and Menander called the Kutrigur and Utigur Bulgars Huns<ref>The World of the Huns. Chapter IX. Language, by O. Maenchen-Helfen</ref> while others, like the Byzantine Patriarch Michael of Antioch, referred to them as Scythians or Sarmatians. However, nobody ever until modern times equalized Bulgars with Turks. Until more written records become available this dispute will remain open.

The anthropological data collected from early Bulgar necropolises from Bulgaria and the Ukrainian steppe shows that Bulgars were a high statured Caucasoid people which had artificially deformed skulls of the brachycephalic type with slight mongoloid features<ref> The Proto-Bulgarians on the Northern and Western Black sea coast, D.Dimitrov,1987,Varna</ref>. The same anthropological type and burial rite is also found in Central Asia between the rivers Syr Darya and Amu Darya where also the practice of artificial skull deformation was common among the Kushans. The area was formerly known to the ancient Greeks as Bactria and to the locals as Bukhara, Bokhara or Balhara. It is the presumed land of origin of the Bulgars. The disappearance of the Bactrians from the history during 1-2 century coinsides with emergence of Bulgars in Europe.

[edit] History

[edit] Migration to Europe

In the early 2nd century, some groups of Bulgars migrated from Central Asia to the European continent and settled on the plains between the Caspian and Black Seas. Between 351 and 389, some of these crossed the Caucasus and settled in Armenia. Toponymic data testify to the fact that they remained there and were eventually assimilated by the Armenians.

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 Donets and the Don rivers and the Azov seashore, assimilating what was left of the Sarmatians. Some of these remained for centuries in their new settlements, whereas others moved on with the Huns towards Central Europe, settling in Pannonia.

Those Bulgars took part in the Hun raids on Central and Western Europe between 377 and 453. After the defeat of the Huns in the Battle of Chalons on September 20, 451, 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 Zeno. From 493 they carried out frequent attacks on the western territories of the Byzantine Empire. Later raids were carried out at the end of the 5th century and the beginning of the 6th century.

In the middle of the 6th century, war broke out between the two main Bulgar tribes, the Kutrigur and Utigur. At the end of the 6th century, the Kutrigur allied with the Avars to conquer the Utigur. The Bulgars fell under the domination of the Gokturk Khanate in 568.

[edit] Establishment of Great Bulgaria

Main article: Old Great Bulgaria

United under Kubrat or Kurt (known to Arabs as Shahriar)<ref>At-Tabari,(838–923), arabic chronist</ref> of the Dulo clan<ref>Nominalia of the Bulgarian khans</ref>, the joined forces of the Onogur and Kutrigur Bulgars broke loose from the Turkic khanate in the 630s. They formed an independent state, often called by Byzantine sources<ref> Patriarch Nikephoros I of Constantinople, "Historia syntomos, breviarium"</ref> ‘the Old Great Bulgaria’, between the lower course of the Danube to the west, the Black and the Azov Seas to the south, the Kuban 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 peninsula (see Tmutarakan). However, the archaeological evidence shows that the city became predominantly Bulgarian only after Kubrat's death and the consequent disintegration of his state.

[edit] Subsequent migrations

The legend tells that on his death-bed, Khan Kubrat had his sons gather sticks and bring them to him, which he then bundled together and told his eldest son Boyan to break the bundle. Boyan failed under the strength of the combined sticks, and, after the rest of the sons failed this test as well, Kubrat took the sticks back, separated each one, and broke them all one-by-one even in his weakened state. Then he told his sons the words "Unity makes strength", which have become a very popular Bulgarian slogan and now appears on the modern Bulgarian coat of arms.

The Byzantine Patriarch Nicephorus I <ref> Patriarch Nikephoros I of Constantinople, Historia syntomos, breviarium</ref> tells that Kubrat's sons, however, did not heed these very specific words, and thus soon after the death of Kubrat around 665, the Khazar expansion eventually led to the dissolution of Great Bulgaria.

The khan’s eldest son, Batbayan (also Bayan or Boyan), remained the ruler of the land north of the Black and the Azov Seas, which was, however, soon subdued by the Khazars. Those Bulgars converted to Judaism in the 9th century, along with the Khazars, and were eventually assimilated. A different theory claims that the Balkars in Kabardino-Balkaria may be the descendants of this Bulgar branch.

Another Bulgar tribe, led by Kubrat’s second son Kotrag, migrated to the confluence of the Volga and Kama Rivers in what is now Russia (see Volga Bulgaria). The present-day republics of Tatarstan and Chuvashia are considered to be the descendants of Volga Bulgaria in terms of territory and people, though only Chuvash is thought to be similar to old Bolgar language.

A third Bulgar tribe, led by the youngest son Asparukh, moved westward, occupying today’s southern Bessarabia. After a successful war with Byzantium in 680, Asparukh's khanate conquered Moesia and Dobrudja and was recognised as an independent state under the subsequent treaty signed with the Byzantine Empire and emperor Constantine IV Pogonatus in 681. The same year is usually regarded as the year of the establishment of modern Bulgaria (see History of Bulgaria).

A fourth group of Bulgars, under Kouber, initially moved to Pannonia and subsequently settled in western Macedonia and eastern Albania where it formed a khanate, which joined Slavs to attack the Byzantine Empire.

The fifth and smallest group, of Alcek (also transliterated as 'Altsek' and 'Altzek'), after many peripeties, ended up led by Emnetzur and settled in Italy, northeast of Naples.

Image:Madara Horseman.jpg
The Madara Rider (c. 710), a famous example of Bulgar art

[edit] List of Bulgar tribes

Tribes thought to have been Bulgar in origin include:

After the dissolution of Great Bulgaria these tribes formed:

[edit] See also

[edit] References

<references/>

[edit] External links

de:Protobulgaren hu:Bulgárok mk:Прабугари nl:Bulgaren ja:ブルガール人 pl:Protobułgarzy pt:Búlgaros ru:Булгары fi:Bolgaarit sv:Protobulgarer tt:Bolğarlar tr:Ön Bulgarlar

Bulgars

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