Volga Bulgaria

Volga Bulgaria

Infobox Former Country
native_name = Volga-Kama Bolghar
conventional_long_name = Volga Bulgaria
common_name = Volga Bulgaria
continent = Europe
region =
country =
era = Middle Ages
status =
event_start =
year_start = 7th century
date_start =
event1 = Islam official religion
date_event1 = 922
event2 =
date_event2 =
event_end = Conquered by the Golden Horde
year_end = 1240s
date_end =
p1 = Bulgars
flag_p1 =
s1 = Golden Horde
flag_s1 =
flag_s6 =

image_map_caption = Detailed map of Volga Bulgaria
capital = Bolghar
common_languages = Bulgar
Suar, Barsil, Bilar, Baranja
religion = Islam
government_type = Monarchy
leader1 = Kotrag
year_leader1 = Mid-7th century
title_leader = Ruler
legislature =

Volga Bulgaria or Volga-Kama Bolghar, is an historic state that existed between the 7th and 13th centuries around the confluence of the Volga and Kama rivers in what is now Russia. Today, both the Republics of Tatarstan and Chuvashia are considered to be descendants of Volga Bulgaria.


First-hand information on Volga Bulgaria is rather sparse. As no authentic Bulgar records have survived, most of our information comesfrom contemporary Arabic, Persian, Indian or Russian sources. Some information is provided by excavations.

It is thought that the territory of Volga Bulgaria was originally settled by Finno-Ugric peoples. The Turkic [ [http://books.google.com/books?vid=ISBN0521364477&id=u-SsbHs5zTAC&pg=PA504&lpg=PA504&dq=%22volga+bulgars%22%2Bturkic&sig=w9lT1dSoGCfAIW7YYl4PatPu0x4 The New Cambridge Medieval History — Volga Bulgars] ] [ [http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-80003/Turkic-languages Britannica Online — Bolgar Turkic] ] Bulgars moved from the Azov region in about AD 660, commanded by Kotrag, Kubrat's son. They reached Idel-Ural in in the 8th century, where they became the dominant population at the end of the 9th century, uniting other tribes of different origin which lived in the area. [TES|Болгарлар] Some Bulgar tribes, however, continued westward and after many adventures settled along the Danube River, in what is now known as Bulgaria proper, where they merged with the Slavs, adopting a South Slavic language and the Eastern Orthodox faith.

Most scholars agree that the Volga Bulgars were subject to the great Khazarian Empire. Sometime in the late 9th century unification processes started, and the capital was established at Bolğar (also spelled Bulgar) city, 160 km south from modern Kazan. Most scholars doubt, however, that the state could assert independence from the Khazars until the latter were annihilated by Svyatoslav of Rus in 965.


A large part of the region's population was Turkic and included Bulgars, Suars, Barsil, Bilars, Baranjars and part of Burtas (by ibn Rustah). Modern Chuvashes and Kazan Tatars descend from the Volga Bulgars (with more or less significant admixtures of Finno-Ugric and Kipchak Turkic populations, respectively). Another part comprised Finnic and Magyaric (Asagel and Pascatir) tribes, from which Bisermäns and Tatars probably descend.

Islam was adopted as the state religion in the early tenth century, under Almış. Ibn Fadlan was dispatched by the Abbasid Caliph al-Muqtadir in 922/3 to establish relations and bring qadis and teachers of Islamic law to Volga Bulgaria, as well as help in building a fort and a mosque. [ [http://www.nordicway.com/search/Vikings%20in%20the%20East.htm Vikings in the East, Amazing Eyewitness Accounts] ] Tengriism and other religions, however, continued to be practiced.

Commanding the Volga River in its middle course, the state controlled much of trade between Europe and Asia prior to the Crusades (which made other trade routes practicable). The capital, Bolghar, was a thriving city, rivalling in size and wealth with the greatest centres of the Islamic world. Trade partners of Bolghar included from Vikings, Bjarmland, Yugra and Nenets in the north to Baghdad and Constantinople in the south, from Western Europe to China in the East. Other major cities included Bilär, Suar (Suwar), Qaşan (Kashan) and Cükätaw (Juketau). Modern cities Kazan and Yelabuga were founded as Volga Bulgaria's border fortresses.

Some of the Volga Bulgarian cities still haven't been found, but they are mentioned in Russian sources. They are: Aşlı (Oshel), Tuxçin (Tukhchin), İbrahim (Bryakhimov), Taw İle. Some of them were ruined after and during the Mongol invasion.

The Russian principalities to the west posed the only tangible military threat. In the 11th century, the country was devastated by several Russian raids. Then, at the turn of the 12th and 13th centuries, the rulers of Vladimir (notably Andrew the Pious and Vsevolod III), anxious to defend their eastern border, systematically pillaged Bulgarian cities. Under Slavic pressure from the west, the Bulgars had to move their capital from Bolghar to Bilär.


In September 1223 near Samara an advance guard of Genghis Khan's army under command of Uran, son of Subutai Bahadur, entered Volga Bulgaria but was defeated in the battle of Samara Bend. In 1236, the Mongols returned but it took them five years to subjugate the whole country which at that time was suffering from internal war. Henceforth Volga Bulgaria became a part of the Ulus Jochi, later known as the Golden Horde. It was divided into several principalities; each of them became a vassal of the Golden Horde and received some autonomy. By the 1430s, the Khanate of Kazan was established as the most important of these principalities.

According to some historians, over 80% of the country's population was killed during the invasion. The remaining population mostly relocated to the northern areas (territories of modern Chuvashia and Tatarstan). Some autonomous duchies appeared in those areas. The steppe areas of Volga Bulgaria were settled by nomadic Kipchaks and Mongols, and the agricultural development suffered a severe decline.

Over time, the cities of Volga Bulgaria were rebuilt and became trade and craft centers of the Golden Horde. Some Bulgarians, primarily masters and craftsmen, were forcibly moved to Sarai and other southern cities of the Golden Horde. Volga Bulgaria remained a center of agriculture and handicraft.

ee also

*Khanate of Kazan
*Qol Ghali

External links

* [http://www.bulgars.ru/ We are Bulgars, not Tatars (Мы болгары, а не татары)] , Bulgar National Congress ru icon
* [http://bariev.narod.ru/Volga_Bolgar/Volga_Bolgar.html Volga Bulgars: History and Culture (Волжские Булгары : история и культура)] ru icon


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