HISTORY OF BULGARIANS FROM ANCIENT TIMES
Author: Nikolai Stanishev
Debates around ethnicity of the Bulgarians were waged as early as the 1850s. Let us remind in a shell what we have already pointed out at numerous occasions throughout this booklist — cf., titles from Dimitrov, Feher, Juhas, Tabov and others that have reference to the Ethnicon Bulgaricum. Since most of the research on this topic is inconclusive and authors present arguments that are not easily corroborated by foreign sources, further we augment this stepwise approach by giving audience to the works of the so called "Bulgarian Hordes", a nationalist and populist movement of intellectuals from that country in the 30s and 40s of the past century. Main exponents here become the lawyers Dimitar Suselov and Nikolai Stanishev, both sentenced by the People's Court (1947) for propagating nationalist/fascist ideology but recently re-discovered by the Bulgarian historical science mainly for their monographs on early history of Bulgaria.
What is the kernel of the "Bulgarian Hordes" methodology? Above all other things, there comes the notion written by Suselov and Stanishev that the Bulgars are an ancient Turkic tribe with roots in Central Asia for more than 2000 years and moving explicitly their live-force, culture, religion, etc. from East to West. The conundrums of both authors are vast, they rely on a handful of archaeological artifacts — i.e., predominantly "Onguls" or stone cities built in different desert locations at the Near and Far East; plus, variants of the language of the proto-bulgarians which contains definitely philological remnants from the semiology of the Asiatic nomads.
The paucity of this methodology is evident, since at least half a dozen nations in Europe claim their descent/ancestry from military invaders coming from the steppes of Eurasia and the mountains of Hindu-Kush. This being the question, we are not in a position to argue about ethnic superiority with neither Germans, Finns, Hungarians, Slavs or Turks, ipso facto. We retain an open end to the debate and consent primarily to historical sources, recent archaeological discoveries and state-of-art analytic research.
To finalize this short commentary, we oblige the prospective reader to be shroud about applications of history. For instance, the presence of Ethnicon Bulgaricum in Central Asia doesn't presuppose inferentially that the Bulgarians are Chinese, or have to do anything in common with that race. These are just cultural implications and assuredly doesn't establish direct relations to Han China. Emphatically on that point we present here a discussion on the ancient connections between the two great empires of the West (Roman) and East (China) with many references to important secondary sources from 20th century. Here is how we envisage a preliminary study plan:
~ Autochthonous Theory, which supported a human development for an indigenous population in the Balkans from antiquity to modern times. Dr. Gancho Tsenov is proponent here enumerating a variety of people over-imposed on the Thracians who were never assimilated or extinct — viz., Greek settlers, Persian invasions, Scythian and Ghetic parallels, Macedonians from Alexander to Lysimachus, Celts with minted coins, Goths, Slavs, and Roman centuries. Emphatically, those early Bulgarians were Romanized Thracians that assumed the name "Bulgaricum" which is of Turanian origin (Indo-Iranian) but were never ethnically Turks or Huns.
~ Bulgarian Historical Society, which traced the origin to a Dulo clan of the Kutrigur / Utigur tribes. The latter were part of the Western Turkic Kaganate which tore apart bringing about the creation of Great Bulgaria, and the emergence of Danube Bulgaria and Volga Bulgaria. Substantially, Prof. Vasil Zlatarski and his group did vast research activity on Byzantine, Arabic, Latin, Hebrew, etc. sources which traced Ethnicon Bulgaricum to as early as 354 AD (Anonymous Chronograph, cited as "Ziezi, ex quo Vulgares").
~ Bulgarian Hordes Methodology, based on studying ancient Chinese written sources and allied Ural-Altaic cultures (present-day Bashkirs, Tatars and Chuvash). While Volga Bulgarians became slowly assimilated, their religion Islamized and Russian language adopted as mother-tongue, furthermore those were the only people that carried legacy from Attila and the Huns. Give or take something, archaeology have traced the typical Hunnic cauldrons with animalistic engravings on the lugs to the regions North-East of the Caucasus and Caspian sea. Those Hunnic burial sites were filled with armor and decorative items.
So comes the logical question are the modern Bulgarians descendants of the Asiatic Huns / Turks and if yes what attitude should we adopt towards our lost relatives. The answers from archaeology are unequivocal. Even if we perform DNA analysis, which is cumbersome and tagged, the label Hun attached to a Bulgarian is unsubstantiated. The genes here on the Balkans have very little admixture of Mongoloidism and other physical traits (skin, eyes, hair, etc.) show very slight linkage to Asiatics. Despite being the eastern most corner of Europe, Bulgarians are typically Europoid.
The data from Ethnography are still more controversial. We gave in the introductory articles some opinion research on the role of ethnicity (cultural habits, life style, dressing, eating, etc.) as applied to historical artifacts. The most optimistic suppositions that there are remnant populations of Greeks and Romans in Afghanistan are fully corroborated by archaeology but never culturally ascertained. Those areas are heavily infested by Islam and any attempts to make contact with the local population are futile. The ancient city Balkh, where Hephtalite Huns were pushed westward by the Chinese, has been unearthed in ruins. Further to the East in the Tarim basin of Tibet Autonomous Republic are traced some influences which date back from days of Marco Polo and the Silk Road. All research is based on secondary sources. Photography is strongly forbidden.
We have tried to systematize some facts on the Asiatic origin of the Bulgarians because we know how dangerous nationalism purports militarism. Super-patriots of the 21st century are ready to dump their direct neighbour in order to appropriate his wealth and well-being. This is war. Our research show that since the advance of the Arabs in the 7th century those regions have lost any beneficiary inherited from early Christian missionaries. The undisputed hegemonic clash between super-powers Iran and Iraq is based on monopolistic interest of petrol, rather than having anything to do with propagation of culture. Even if historically ascertained Parthia and Sassanid Persia played great role in antiquity, as of today we couldn't approach those governments without help from UNESCO and NATO, ipso facto.
Pictures 1 & 2: Sample illustrations on the text above.
(i). This is bronze casting of Hephtalite Hun warrior (from National Museum at Teheran). The individual garment is made of scale-mail fitted together slashed to the chest and back. The face lineage is typically Europeid.
(ii). The remnants of Balkh, Afghanistan, about 20 kilometers northwest of the provincial capital Mazar-e-sharif, and some 74 km (46 miles) south of the Amu Darya River. It was one of the major cities of Khorasan. Marco Polo described Balkh as a "noble and great city".
(iii). This is bronze Hinnic cauldron with ornamented lugs (from National Museum at Orenburg). Such Hun cauldrons are found at several places in Ukraine, Rumania and Hungary. We couldn't report such finding from the territory of Bulgaria. Hunnic cauldrons were used for cremation purposes and are different from Chinese prototypes, which have legs.
Copyright © 2009, 2011 by the author.