Mirfatykh ZAKIEV

An article from his book TATARS: Problems of history and language. Kazan, 1995. Pp. 68–81. 


§ 1. In the Arabian and Persian Middle Age sources we find rich information on many peoples of East Europe: about Burtases, Khazars, Bulgars, Sakaliba, Badjanaks, Madjars, Russes, Visus, Yuras and others. The Arabs and Persians adopted all ethnonims, except Sakaliba, from the Eastern European peoples, only the ethnonim Sakaliba is in this respect not so clear. V.V. Bartold suggested that the ethnonim Sakaliba (in singular Saklab) is borrowed by the Arabs, probably, from Greek Sklaboi or Sklabenoi, which means the Slavs [Bartold V.V., 1963, 870], he also provides a probability of another etymology: from Persian sek ‘dog’ + leb ‘lip’, this etymology is also based that the Yaphet’s son Saklab was reared by the dog milk [Ibis, 871].

If to focus on the Arabian sources themselves, the Arabian word Saklab (singular) or Sakaliba (plural) designate blond or red haired people, there invariably is emphasized red (or reddish) color of hair or red (reddish) color of skin of the Sakaliba [Ibis, 870]. In the dictionary of Ashraf Ibn Sharaf Al-Muzakkir Al-Farruga, composed in the 1404-1405 in India with a title ‘Danish-nameyi Kadar-Khan’ (“Book of knowledge of Kadar-Khan”), it is noted that SAKLAB is an area in Turkestan, the people there are white [Baevskiy S.I., 1980, 87]. All aforesaid has given the Russian Arabists and Eastern experts an opportunity to identify Sakaliba with the Slavs. In Russian studies of Eastern geographical sources of Middle Ages the ethnonim Sakaliba is not mentioned at all, it is translated by the word “Slavs”. That Sakaliba are Slavs, nobody doubts, though some note that in the Arabian and Persian sources Sakaliba quite often are identified with Turks, Bulgars etc.

§ 2. One thing is clear: Sakaliba is an Arabian name of white, red haired people. The people, who call themselves white-faced, should have also dark-faced relatives.

White-faced one can only be in comparison with non-white faced related peoples. The Slavs, apparently, never were divided into white faced and non-white faced. As all of them were white faced, red haired, they did not have the necessity to name themselves red haired, for there was no appreciable group of non-red haired. As to the name of the Byelorussians (White Russians), it appeared during feudal separation of Old Russian principalities. Besides, the ancestors of the Byelorussians could not be so widely scattered next to the various Turkic speaking people on the extensive territories of Eastern Europe, Near East and Central Asia, East Siberia and Kazakhstan. It is also necessary to keep in mind that in the Arabian and Persian sources the Eastern Slavs are described under the name Russ. By the time the Eastern Slavs have begun to be named Russ, the other part named Slavs did not exist any more. All Eastern Slavs were already Russian. Therefore, if the Arabs wrote about Russ, they meant Eastern Slavs, who at that time were referred to not as Slavs, but Russians or Uruses (in a Turk-Tatar pronunciation).

§ 3. To adequately uncover the meaning of the Arabian ethnonim Sakaliba, which means white faced, red haired people, it is necessary to find populace, the people of which at that time called themselves and introduced themselves to others as white faced or red haired and at the same time lived together with known Turkic speaking peoples in such a close contact, that the visiting Arabs and Persians considered Sakaliba and Turks as one people or considered ones in the community of others. Naturally, at that time these people were Kipchaks.

The word Kipchak etymologically ascends to Turkic ku-chak, which consists of two roots: ku (ku~kub~kuba) ‘red’, ‘pale’, ‘white – red’, ‘light’, and chak, meaning Sak~chak, the ancient name of Turks (instead of Iranian speaking tribes, as is wrongly asserted by some Indo-Europeists). Kuchak ‘White Sakas’, -chak can be identified also with a respectful-diminutive affix -chyk. The word ku is applied also as ‘Swan’, also called ak kosh ‘white bird’. Kuu ‘white’, ‘white bird’ makes another ethnonim with a word kiji~keshe ‘man’, Kuukiji ‘white people’, ‘Swans’ (Russ. ‘Lebedinets’). The word ku~kuu is applied with a word man as Kuman~Kumandy. Compare also men in a word Turkmen. In Western Europe instead of ethnonim Kipchak is applied the word Kuman. The second part of this word -man until now is not yet etymologized unequivocally.

That ku in ethnonim Kuchak~Kipchak (Kuman) means ‘white, red, fair haired’, proves also to be true by the fact that in many Turkic peoples we observe white (yellow) and not white (not yellow) people. Thus, in 5-6 cc. on the territory of Central Asia, Afghanistan, Northwest India and part of East Turkestan the White Huns, who are also referred to as Epthtalites, formed a state. In the history are known White Tatars and Black Tatars, White Khazars and Black Khazars, White Kirghiz and other Kirghiz, Sary Uigurs (Yellow Uigurs) and other Uigurs.

So, in the Turkic fold were peoples who called themselves Fair Haired, White. Further we shall see that these were Kipchaks. That ethnonim Kipchak designates white, light (Turk.: sary chechle ‘yellow haired’), the Turkological scientists noticed long ago. Thus, the Hungarian scientist Yu. Nemet came to this conclusion at the end of 30-es. He wrote, that “pale yellow” names of Kumans (Russ. Polovets) are a copy of their Turkic (self?) names Kuman and Kun, which ascend to Turkic adjective ku (from older kub) ‘pale’, ‘yellow’ [Dobrodomov I.G., 1978, 116; Nemet Yu., 1941, 99].

In Turkic languages the blond man also frequently is referred to as sary chechle ‘yellow haired’. Therefore it is no wonder that Kipchaks had also another ethnonim from a word sary ‘yellow’. The Western Kipchaks (Russ. Polovets) in ancient Russian sources were called Sorochinets, in that name was reflected the name of the Sary people, which was used prior to the name of the Kun people. (Subsequently this name approached and merged with the European name for Moslems – Saracenes) “ [Dobrodomov I.G., 1978, 123].

Hence, a very large group of Turks of Eastern Europe, Western Siberia, Kazakhstan, Near East, Middle East and Central Asia, Afghanistan, Eastern Turkestan, Northeast India, in addition to their local ethnonims, called themselves by a more general ethnonim with a meaning of ‘white faced’, ‘light yellow’. For such ethnonims the words Kukiji, kuman, kumandy, kuchak~kyfchak~ Kipchak were used the most.

§ 4. The most important fact requiring attention is that these peoples knew perfectly the meaning of their common ethnonim and presented themselves to other peoples as white faced, red haired. In turn, the representatives of other peoples copied the ethnonim ‘pale’. On this occasion Dobrodomov I.G. writes the following: ‘Already for a long time it was noted that Kipchaks (Russ. Polovets) in many languages are designated by words made from roots with meaning “yellow”, “pale”: Russ. Polovets (compare: polovyi, obsolete: polovoi); Polish. (from Czech.) plavci (Plawcy, Plauci, Plawci); from here also Hung. Palyczok(ok), taken from East Slavs; Germ. Val(e)we(n) (compare present Germ. fahl and falb ‘pale’, ‘whitish’, ‘light’, Latinized Slavic forms Falones, Phalagi. The same meaning has mentioned the Armenian author Matvei Edessian under 1050/51 in the 75th chapter of the “History”, the name of the people Khartesh (Lit. ‘Light’, whitish’, fair’)” [Dobrodomov I.G., 1978, 108].

From this quotation it is clear that Kipchaks represented themselves as blond people to Russian, Poles, Germans, Hungarians, Italians and Armenians, and consequently these peoples named Kipchaks in their languages “fair”. Kipchaks also presented themselves as “fair” to Chinese and Persians [Bartold V.V., 1968, 408].

For our theme it is very important that Kipchaks presented themselves as “fair” also to the Arabs, therefore Arabs named Kipchaks Sakaliba, i.e white faced, fair haired.

Thus, in the Arabian and Persian sources ethnonim Sakaliba is the Arabian copy of ethnonim Kuman or Kipchak (Kuchak). It means “Kipchaks”, and not “Slavs”.

§ 5. The leading Russian scientists-Arabists - V.V.Bartold, I.Yu.Krachkovsky, B.N.Zakhoder etc. note that the Arabian geographers frequently were mistaken, mixing Sakaliba (in Arabists’ opinion, Slavs) with Turks, Kirghizes, Bulgars, Khazars. If to recognize in Arabian Sakaliba Kipchaks instead of the Slavs, it becomes understandable that not the Arabian and Persian geographers-eyewitnesses were mistaken, but Russian researchers of the Arabian and Persian sources, translating the Arabian word Sakaliba as “Slavs”. The translation “Kipchaks” removes all apparent contradictions.

1) “From Pechenegs to Sakaliba ten days of travel by forests and difficult roads. Sakaliba are numerous people, they live in forests on plains. Sakaliba have city V.b.nit” [Zakhoder B.N., 1967, 109]. This distinctive feature of Sakaliba habitation can be attributed both to Kipchaks and to Slavs. The name of city is spelled differently: VA.I, VABNIT, VANTIT, and it also becomes clear that the name of city is not deciphered from the standpoint of Slavic languages. It is essential to make an attempt to read it as Turkic word. The name of the second city Khurdab or Khudud is also not deciphered. As to the expression that some Sakaliba resemble Russes, it is possible to say the following: Kipchaks on appearance really quite often resembled Russes, and other Slavs already did not exist there any more.

For additional clarification of the question who were Sakaliba, – Slavs or Kipchaks, we shall cite the information about Sakaliba assembled by B.N.Zakhoder in the second volume of his book “Caspian collection of information on Eastern Europe”. We have replaced here the word “Slavs” with the original word “Sakaliba”.

2) “Sakaliba use honey instead of grapes, they have developed beekeeping” [Ibis, 110]. This attribute is typical both to the Slavs and to Kipchaks. But the specific contents of the reports of the Eastern geographers allow identifying Sakaliba with Kipchaks. Hence, Sakaliba make a drink of honey, “which they name sudjuv” [Kovalevsky A.P., 1956, 132].

Even D.A.Khvolson, analyzing this word, transcribed as AS-SJ, tried to explain it, using Croatian ulisce for ‘beehive’, A.P.Kovalevsky and B.N.Zakhoder identify it with a word “soty” (Russ. “beehive”) [Zakhoder B.N.; 1967, 110-111]. In reality it is Turkic word sudji (soje~toche), which was used in Old Turkic texts as “vine” or “sweet drink” and is used till now in the Tatar and Bashkir languages in the meaning “sweet”, “luscious”.

3) “Sakaliba have pigs as numerous as Moslems have sheep” [Zakhoder B.N., 1967, 112]. Here B.N.Zakhoder consciously amended the text, adding a word “Moslems”. Actually it was said that Sakaliba have herds of pigs and herds of sheep, or herd of pigs similar to sheep herds. It is known that Kipchaks originally bred both pigs and sheep. The Kipchaks-Christians continued this tradition, and Kipchaks-Moslems, naturally, have abandoned pig breeding. 

4) “ When Sakaliba dies, his corpse is burned, together with the deceased his wife is thrown into fire, thus making funeral and having fun “ [Ibis, 112]. It is known that Guzes and part of Burtases burned their dead, and nobody doubts their Turkic native tongue.

5) “Sakaliba worship fire (or bull) “ [Ibis, 114]. Here B.N.Zakhoder for some reason has missed to note that Sakaliba also are idolaters. This connects Sakaliba with Kipchaks more than with the Slavs. 

6) “Sakaliba sow millet; at approach of the harvest time they put grain in a sieve and, addressing the sky, make a pray” [Ibis, 115]. So could act both Slavs and Kipchaks. But facing the sky (Tengre) connects Sakaliba with Kipchaks 

7) “Sakaliba have different musical instruments: lutes, tambours, flutes” [Ibis, 116]. With this attribute it is possible to link Sakaliba with both Kipchaks and Slavs.

8) “At Sakaliba there is few burden livestock, horses; they wear shirts and peltry boots on feet; their arms are: lance, shield, peaks, sword, mail chain armor;... Sakaliba leader eats milk of burden animals (kumys)... “ [Ibis, 119]. Kipchaks, as all other Turks, used horses for riding, therefore there were few cargo horses. The peltry boots were known at Turkic Bulgars, who were collectively called Kipchaks, kumys was national Turkic drink. Sakaliba leader was called subanych SUBANJ and suidj SUIJ, in Turkic suchi, where su is an army, -chy is an affix of trade. It is possible that the word Subashi ‘the head of the army’ is distorted when written with Arabian letters.

Some Arabists-Russists the inscription SUIJ MLK would like to read as SUITPLK (Russian name “Svyatopolk”), and with that to prove that the head of Sakaliba is the head of Slavs Svyatopolk. But, as notes B.N. Zakhoder himself, MLK is malik ‘king’, as a whole it is Suchi Malik ‘king, head of the army’. The other words given here as Sakaliba toponims require additional research from the standpoint of Kipchak language.

9) “Sakaliba build underground structures, in which they hide in the winter from a strong cold (or from attacks by Magyars) “ [Zakhoder B.N., 1967, 121]. This neutral expression given by B.N. Zakhoder does not allow determining an ethnic affiliation of Sakaliba. But further in the text the speech goes about the ancient bath-house (Eastern European sauna), which was characteristical of Kipchaks and modern western Turks.

10) “Sakaliba King takes tribute by dress” [Ibis, 124]. By this we cannot determine an ethnic affiliation of Sakaliba.

11) “Sakaliba subject the guilty of larceny and adultery to a severe punishment” [Ibis, 124]. This custom, described by Ibn Fadlan, is characteristical for Bulgar-Sakaliba, i.e. as a whole for Kipchaks, and in particular for Bulgars.

It should be noted that B.N. Zakhoder, apparently, picked the statements of the Eastern geographers with deliberation. He skipped data that gives reasons to consider Sakaliba as Kipchaks. He, naturally, could not fail to note that per Ibn Fadlan, Bulgars are akin to Sakaliba people. But he has noted this fact in own way: Ibn Fadlan would constantly confuse Bulgars with Sakaliba, i.e. with the Slavs [Ibis, 125].

As we have already noted, Ibn Fadlan names Almas Shilki-khan as king of Sakaliba, he was, apparently, from Bulgar people, and therefore is referred to as a Bulgar king. It is understandable that on Middle Volga the Sakaliba country was later referred to as a Bulgar state. It should be noted that the historian Ahmed Zeki Validi Togan stated the opinion that Sakaliba designates light skinned Turks back in 1939 [Zeki Validi, 1939, XXXIV]. But it has received sharp criticism by A.P. Kovalevsky [Kovalevsky A.P., 1956, 80].

V.V.Bartold remarks that Sakaliba are noted by the red color of hair, but “despite of this distinctive physical attribute, Sakaliba as descendants of Yaphet (Arab. Yafas) are united with Turks” [Bartold V.V., 1963, 870]. Abu Khamid Al-Garnati, telling in 1150 about the travel from Bulgar to Hungary, wrote, that he arrived in the city of the Sakaliba country, which is called Gur kuman, where the people look as Turks, speak Turkic language and shoot arrows as Turks [Dobrodomov I.G., 1978, 128]. Here it is needless to explain, who were Sakaliba.

So, Sakaliba are Kipchaks, the word Sakaliba (Saklab in singular) is a loan translation of the Turkic ethnonim of Kipchaks.

§ 6. Some can object to this conclusion by that in official Turkology the “arrival” of Kipchaks from Asia to Eastern Europe would occur in the 11 c., and the Arabian and Persian geographers already knew about Sakaliba in the 8 c. In fact, many Turkologists consider a misunderstanding that the first Turks came to Eastern Europe in the 4 c. under the name of Huns, that they “disappeared” approximately in one hundred years, that their place was taken by Avars arrived from Asia; that then Avars “disappeared”, that their place was taken by arrived from Asia Turks, that then in the 7 c. they were replaced by Khazars, that in the 8 c. appeared Pechenegs etc. In the 11 c. Kipchaks (Kumans) supposedly came to Eastern Europe. It is “a fairy tale for children”, not for the serious scientists. Turkic speaking peoples lived in the Eastern Europe in Cimmerian, Scythian and Sarmatian times, and they continue to live there now. There was no change of the peoples, varied only ethnonims, for in different periods of history the ruling group among a multitude of Turkic peoples was at times one, at times another group. From there came changes in a common ethnonim for Turks.

The traces of Kipchaks (in Arabic: Sakaliba) are found in deep antiquity. So, ethnonim Komanchies we meet among American Indians. [Mine Read, 1955, 32; Languages..., 1982, 162]. Considering that ancestors of the American Indians crossed from Asia to the American continent 30-20 thousand years ago, there is a reason to assert that this ethnonim has come to America from Asia at that time. Hence, ethnonim Koman~Komanche existed in Asia 30-20 thousand years ago.

The Chinese sources of the 3 c. BC contain information about Kyueshe which spoke Turkic language. M.I.Artamonov thinks that this is the first mentioning of Kipchaks [Artamonov M.I., 1962, 420]. In our opinion, Kyueshe is a typical Chinese reduction of the ethnonim Kukiji.

Per Chinese data, before our era Huns lived south of the Altai Mountains, north of it lived So people. They then separated into 4 parts: Kuman or Kuban, Kyrgyz, Chu-kshi and Turk [Aristov N.A., 1896, 279-280; Zakiev M.Z., 1977, 155-162].

In the opinion of some scientists, the ethnonim Kipchaks~(Kybchak~Kyfchak) appears in the second half of the 8 c. for designation of people who were called before by an ethnonim Sir, which represents, it seems, another Chinese abbreviation of a word Sarir (Sary ir ‘yellow people’). In the monument of Tonyukuk (726 AD) the dominating peoples are called Turks and Sirs, and in the monument of Eletmish Bilge Kagan in the Shine Usu (760 AD) the dominating peoples are called by ethnonims Turks and Kybchak [Klyashtorny S.G., 1986, 160]. It is important to note that in the first Arabian list of the Turkic peoples, made in the VIII c., is given ethnonim Khyfchak~Kybchak [Ibis, 160]. But later in the compositions of Arabian and Persian geographers instead of the ethnonim Kybchak (Kuchak) begins to be applied its Arabian copy Saklab, and only from the 11 c. again appears the ethnonim Kipchak, and instead of the name “steppe of Guzes”, used by the geographers of 10 c., appears the term “Kipchak steppe” (in Persian: Deshti Kipchak) [Bartold V.V., 1968, 395].

It should be said, also, that in the (Russian – Translator’s note) official historical science, and hence, both in the Russian, and in the West-European Turkology, the question about the appearance and origin of Kipchaks (under self-names: Kukiji, Kuman, Kuchak) is studied in connection with image of the alleged movement of Turks from the area of Far East to the Western Asia and Eastern Europe [Ibis, 393]. Such a standpoint is deeply erroneous, there was no such movement. Since the prehistoric times Turks lived alongside the ancestors of other peoples in Western and Eastern Europe, in Near East, Middle East and Central Asia, in Western Asia and in the Far East, i.e. in those regions, where they were recognized in the historically known times and where, basically, they continue to live now. That Kuman (Kums, Kuns) lived in the Western Europe before our era is proved by the presence before our era of cities Kum at Etrusks (and later of city Kuman in Hungary), and the city Kumanovo in Macedonia.

Thus, Kipchaks (Kukiji, Kuman, Sary, Sir) from the most ancient times pictured their ethnonim as blond, fair haired people, therefore they presented themselves to the neighbors as blonds, and these neighbors in their languages called them blonds: the Slavs Polovets, Arabs and Persians – Sakaliba , the Armenians – Khartesh etc.

The word Kipchak (Kuman, Kukiji) was a more general ethnonim. In the Kipchak group were notable smaller peoples or tribes, as noted by Eastern geographers, the Kirghiz, Huns, Bulgar, Khazars etc. Per Ibn Fadlan, in the Middle Volga in the Sakaliba (Kipchak) group are listed Bulgars, Barandjars, Suars, Suases, Skils (Scyths ~Scyfs), Khazars. Undoubtedly, it is possible to add, that in this group were also Bigers (Biars-Bilyars), Ases-Alans (Bulgars in another way were called Ases), Nukhrats (Silver Bulgars), Temtuzes, Chelmats, Sobekulyans, Burtases, Bashkirs, Mishars etc.


§ 1. So, Bulgars are one of the Kipchak peoples. The objective analysis of the “Book of Akhmed Ibn Fadlan” witnesses an eloquent testimony of it.

As it is known, in 921 AD the king of Sakaliba of Bulgarian descent, Almas son of Shilka (the name, written in Arab letters as ALMS, the Russian Orientalists translate as Almush, apparently, so that this name was not identical to the widespread Turkic name Almas), asked the Baghdad Khalif to send an embassy to the country of Sakaliba for an official adoption of Islam, with an objective to be liberated from the submission to Khazars, who adopted Judaism.

The Arabian embassy under a leadership of Susan ar-Rasi arrived in 922 AD in the country of Sakaliba, Bulgaria. The secretary of the embassy was Akhmed Ibn Fadlan, who run detailed travel records with the description of the country and Sakaliba people – Bulgars. In these records, which were published with a title of “The Book of Akhmed Ibn Fadlan”, the country and the people are referred to in a basic term Sakaliba, and also the king Almas son of Shilka is presented mainly as a Sakaliba king. After the arrival of the embassy, after a personal acquaintance with Almas son of Shilka, and after he has learned that even before his arrival on Almas minbar a khutba was already proclaimed from his name: “Oh, Allah! Save king Yiltuar, King of Bulgars!”, and after Almas son of Shilka has accepted the Arabian name Djafar, after he has given his father a name Abdulla, Ibn Fadlan, at last, himself made a khutba: “Oh, Allah! Save [in prosperity] your slave the king Djafar Ibn Abdulla, emir of Bulgars, the vassal of the emir of faithful” [Kovalevsky A.P., 1956, 132-133]. And later, describing the country, Ibn Fadlan again used the expression “Sakaliban King”.

So, for Ibn Fadlan there are two identical names of the same country, same king: Sakaliba and Bulgar. It is understandable, since Bulgars are one of Sakaliba – Kipchak peoples. Therefore we doubtlessly can state that Bulgars (and Proto Bulgars) spoke an ordinary Kipchak language.

§ 2. As the question of lingo-ethnic affiliation of Bulgars in the (Russian – Translator’s note) official historical science and in the (Russian – Translator’s note) Turkology is properly tangled, it should be set right.

In all medieval sources the Bulgars and Khazars are shown as Turks, speaking a common Turkic language of Kipchak type.

Only in the middle of the 19 c., when the scientific research of the problems of a lingo-ethnic affiliation of Volga and Danube Bulgars and the Proto Bulgars of Kubrat Khan Great Bulgaria began, other diverse positions have appeared.

The first researchers considered Volga Bulgars to be Türks speaking Kipchak, i.e. Huns, and later Bulgaro-Tatars. Some researchers classified them as Finno-Ugrians. Those who mostly engaged in the problems of history of Danube Bulgars, presented a theory of a Slavic origin of both Proto Bulgars, and Danube and Volga Bulgars [Zakiev M.Z., Kuzmin-Yumanadi Ya. F., 1993, 3-13; Kakhovsky V.F., 1993, 31-33].

In 1863 Kh.Feyzkhanov found some Chuvash words in the Bulgar epigraphs, and came to a conclusion about influence of the Chuvash language on the language of epitaphs of the Volga Bulgars [Feyzkhanov Kh., 1863, 404]. A notorious missionary N.I.Ilminsky, not troubling himself by a detailed study of epitaphical language and the history of the local area, made from this “discovery” of Feyzkhanov a conclusion that Volga Bulgars spoke not a Türkic language of Kipchak type, but a Chuvash language [Ilminsky N.I., 1865, 80-84]. Then this idea was picked up by a (Russian – Translator’s note) imperial censor N.I.Ashmarin and the subsequent Chuvashelogists, by the Russian and West-European lingo-historians and ethno-historians [Zakiev M.Z., Kuzmin-Yumanadi Ya. F. 1993, 4-7].

Later not only in the Bulgar epigraphy, but also in the composition of Ibn Fadlan, in the Slavic-Bolgarian name list, in the ancient Balkarian writings of Caucasus, in the Turkic borrowings of the Hungarian language, in the language of Volga Finno-Ugrians, the scientists tried to locate, and “found” Chuvash words, and, thus, “was proved” the Chuvash-linguality of Huns, Khazars, ancestors of Volga and Danube Bulgars and Proto-Bulgars. For the Chuvash historians and philologists there are no other researches, except the works identifying Bulgar, Khazars, Huns with Chuvashes. In the later years they do not distinguish Bulgars and Chuvashes at all, for them Bulgars are Chuvashes, and Chuvashes are Bulgars.

I critically reviewed the main works in which the identity of Bulgars and Chuvashes “is proved” in the book published in Tatar language in 1977 [Zakiev M.Z., 1977, 116-151].

Later in my articles I tried to illuminate this problem in more detail and brought fresh findings of other scientists about ordinarity of the Turkic language of Huns, and Khazars, and Proto Bulgars. In 1993 together with the expert in the Chuvash history and language Ya. F. Kuzmin-Yumanadi we issued a special book, in which we subjected to an analysis all basic works written to prove the Chuvash-linguality of Bulgars [Zakiev M.Z., Kuzmin-Yumanadi Ya. F. 1993].

Above, in the first part of this article, on the basis of new, more objective analysis of the known to history facts about Sakaliba I endeavored to prove that Bulgar people are cognate with Kipchaks. Now I need to acquaint the readers with the objective data, based on which the Chuvashes both by the language, and by all other parameters could not belong to Bulgars [Zakiev M.Z., 1982, 93-99; Zakiev M.Z., Kuzmin-Yumanadi Ya. F., 1993, 9-12].

1. If Chuvashes were formed mostly of Volga Bulgars, if the Bulgar language historically was transformed into Chuvash language, such continuity, certainly, would be visible, first of all, in the anthropological type of Bulgars and Chuvashes. However specific craniological studies provide completely opposite results. “Even a superficial morphological description makes it is visible, – wrote V.P.Alekseev, – that craniologically Chuvashes are similar to their Finnic speaking neighbors and that, hence, their anthropological type was formed with intensive participation of combination of characteristics typical for Finnic speaking peoples of the Volga basin, which has received the name of Sub Uralian” [Alekseev V.P., 1971, 248].

As to the complex of attributes characteristical for Bulgars, in the Chuvash type it is not found [Ibis, 249]. This Bulgarian complex of attributes was a basis of the formation of the Volga Tatars anthropological type. A low foreheaded Mongoloid component representing one of the variants of the Sub Ural type, and a high foreheaded Mongoloid type connected, probably, with Kipchaks, arelayered on it [Ibis, 241-246]. Hence, on the craniological data, the historical continuity between Bulgars and Tatars is more obvious, than between Bulgars and Chuvashes.

2. The Bulgar-Chuvash theory does not also prove to be true in the ethnographical correlation. The known ethnographers N.I.Vorobev and K.I.Kozlova note that the ethnographic features of Bulgars were basically preserved first of all among the Kazan Tatars [Vorobev N.I., 1948, 80; Kozlova K.I., 1964, 20-21]. So, for example, among Bulgars were spread a maturely developed tanning manufacture and the commerce, which then were passed on to the Kazan Tatars, but in the Chuvash society the development of these crafts and occupations is not noted.

3. The culture of literacy was conveyed from Bulgars to Kazan Tatars, but Chuvashes up to 19 c had not have a such culture. The same we can say about Muslim religion. The traces of Bulgars are not preserved in the Chuvash mythology and folklore, but in the mythology and folklore of Kazan Tatars the Bulgarian contents are usual subjects [Boryngy..., 1963, 17-51].

4. Chuvashes never called themselves Bulgars, but Kazan Tatars believed that their villages were founded by the descendants from Bulgaria, that their grandfathers, great-grandfathers were Bulgars, and often, down to the 20 c., called themselves Bulgars, counter to the name “Tatars”. The name “Tatars” was externally imposed from three sides: by Mishar-Tatars who joined the population of the Kazan Khanate, by the Russians, who called almost all their Eastern neighbors Tatars, and by those who called themselves “Tatars” to show their greatness. Kazan Tatars persistently called themselves Bulgars almost up to the 20 c. without any political connotations. Nobody taught this to the people, there were no history textbooks, no instruction manuals. The native language or the history of the people were not studied in then in medrese, the studies were limited to the Arabian, Persian or Turkish languages and the common Muslim history. The (Russian – Translator’s note) official propaganda was deeply interested in the spreading of the ethnonim “Tatars”. Consequently, the recollections of the fact that Kazan Tatars are, basically, former Bulgars, were preserved only in the memory of the people. Unfortunately, this fact and other evidence that in the base of the ethnic composition and language of the Kazan Tatars lay the Bulgarian substrate and Bulgarian language, the supporters of the Bulgar-Chuvash theory previously did not consider at all, and also now they silently avoid it.

5. The Bulgar-Chuvash theory territorially also does not prove to be true. Archeological excavations show that on the territory of Chuvash settlement the Bulgarian archeological monuments of both Pre-Mongolian and Golden-Hordenian (Ak Urdu, Kipchac Khaganate – Translator’s note) time are absent, except for Eastern and Southeastern part of Chuvashiya in the basin of Sviyaga river [Fakhrutdinov R.G., 1975, 86]. It would be possible to suggest that the ancestors of Chuvashes at first lived in the territory of the Bulgarian state, and then someone displaced them, for example, Mongolo-Tatars, as it is implied sometimes. However history knows no such facts.

6. Consider one more fact. If the ancestors of modern Chuvashes had a close affiliation to Bulgars, they necessarily would inherit a statehood. There are no reasons to think that the ancestors of the modern Chuvash people in the social development at one time were on a level of creating a state, and then rejected such form of political organization. The history, it seems, does not have a case that an ethnic group had its state, formed as a nation, and with the time lost all of it. Consequently, it is clear, that the ancestors of Chuvash people did not have a statehood, and they had no close affiliation to Bulgars. Bulgarian state developed into Kazan Khanate, and the Kazan Tatars inherited a statehood from Bulgars.

7. As it is known, the Bulgaro-Chuvash theory has arisen and was developed as a solely linguistic concept. However even in this respect it is quite inconsistent. For instance, Makhmud Kashgari in 11 c. had noted affinity of Bulgarian, Suvarian and Oghuz (Russ. Pecheneg – Translator’s note) languages [Kashgari Makhmud, 1960, 66-68; Kononov A.N., 1972, 14]. As it is known, the Oghuz language was not characterized by the Chuvash features, and was the language of Oguzo-Kipchak type. M. Kashgari, marking affinity of Bulgarian, Suvarian and Kipchak languages, writes, that “the sound d, present in the language of Chigils and other Turkic peoples, in the language of Kipchaks, Yamaks, Suvars, Bulgars and others peoples, who are spread to Romans and Russians, is replaced with a sound z”. Besides that here the languages of Kipchaks, Yamaks, Suvars, Bulgars are listed as identical by a given feature, another side of this message deserves an attention: here the so-called rotation of the initial d or z, characteristical for Chuvash language, is not noted. The comment is only about the interchangeability of d-z which is observed until now in Turkic languages of the ordinary Oguzo-Kipchak type. Consequently, it should be concluded, that Bulgar language was not characterized by this rotation. If it is found in the language of Bulgarian epitaphs, it is possible to explain it by the influence of the language of Chuvash ancestors on the language of Bulgarian epitaphs.

8. We shall bring one more witness account of the Bulgar’s contemporary. In the 1183 prince Vsevolod of Vladimir before a raid on Bulgars apprised the prince Svyatoslav of Kiev: “I do not want to call Polovets (Russ. Kipchaks), for they are with Bolgars one language and lineage” [Tatischev V.N., 1964, 128]. Thus, history has two authentic evidences on the affinity of Bulgarian language with Oghuz and Kipchak languages. Besides, it should be noted that these two accounts, without a territorial connection with each other, coincide.

9. It is impossible not also to notice the following. How to explain that modern Tatars and Bashkirs, on the one hand, and Balkars on another, have almost the same language, at any case, they understand each other well. In fact after the split in the 7 c., i.e. the separation of common ancestors into three groups, Balkars and Kazan Tatars had no territorial or economic connections. From the standpoint of the Bulgar-Chuvash theory it would be possible to explain it like this: their common ancestors Proto Bulgars were “Chuvash speaking”, and Kazan Tatars’ and Balkars’ languages would became alike under the influence of arriving later Kipchaks. It is clear now that Kipchaks were not newcomers. That Kazan Tatars’ and Balkars’ languages so are close to each other is because, obviously, of the common historical roots ascending to the Oguzo Kipchak language of Proto Bulgars.

10. Further, if Bulgarian and Khazarian languages were Chuvash-Turkic, the appreciable traces would remain in all of the huge territory occupied at one time by Huns, Bulgars and Khazars. Moreover, even if to presume that in the deepest antiquity they spoke a Chuvash-Turkic language, during a centenary domination of them by the Turks of the Turkic Kaganate (6-7 cc.) their language would undergo the influence of Oguzo-Kipchak type language.

11. At last, if Bulgars spoke a Chuvash type language, they would have a self-name Palkhar, which would be also preserved in historical sources. But in the history there is no such a phenomenon. In fact propagated an ethnonim Bulgar (Bolgar), specific for the common Turkic type languages.

Thus, the Bulgar-Chuvash theory is fraught with deep contradictions, and therefore for the solution of glotto- and ethno genetic problems of the Bulgars, Khazars, Huns, Turks, Chuvashes, Tatars, and Bashkirs it is not acceptable.


Consequently, Bulgars were not Chuvash-lingual, and spoke a Turkic language of Kipchak type. Moreover, Bulgar people belonged to the Kipchak’s fold. It is proved by the Arabian and Persian sources of the 9-11 cc., which associate Bulgars with the larger Turkic alliance of Kipchaks (in Russian: Polovets, in Arabic: Sakaliba).


Alekseev V.P. A sketch of an origin of Turkic peoples of Eastern Europe in light of the craniological data // Questions of ethnogenesis of Turkic lingual peoples of the Middle Volga. Kazan, 1971. (In Russian).

Aristov N.A. Notes about ethnic structure of Turkic peoples and nations and information of their number // Live antiquity. Periodical edition of ethnography branch of. Russian Imperial geographic society. Issue III and IV, – SPb., 1896. (In Russian).

Artamonov M.I. A history of Khazars. M.-L., 1962. (In Russian).

Baevskiy S.I. The geographical names in early Persian lexicographical dictionaries // Countries and peoples of East. Issue XXII. M., 1980. (In Russian).

Bartold V.V. The Slavs // Works, Vol. II. 4.1. M., 1963. Pp. 870-872. (In Russian).

Bartold V.V. New work about Kipchaks // Works, Vol. V. M., 1968. Pp. 392-408. (In Russian).

Boryngy... – Ancient Tatar Literature. Kazan, 1963. (In Tatar).

Vorobyev N.I. The origin of Kazan Tatars on the data of ethnography // Origin of Kazan Tatars, Kazan, 1948. (In Russian).

Dobrodomov I.G. About Polovets ethnonims in ancient Russian literature // Turkological collection. 1975. M., 1978. Pp. 102-129. (In Russian).

Zakiev M.Z. The contradictions of the Bulgar-Chuvash theory // Theoretical problems of Eastern linguistics. Part 5. M., 1982. (In Russian).

Zakiev M.Z., Kuzmin-Yumanadi Ya. F. Volga Bulgars and their descendents. Kazan, 1993. (In Russian).

Zakhoder B.N. Caspian collection of information on East Europe. Vol. II. M., 1967. (In Russian).

Zeki Validi Togan A.. Ibn-Fadlans Reisebericht // Deutsche Morgen-landische Gesellschaft. Leipzig, 1939. (In German).

Zekiev M.Z. Genesis of the language of Tatar people. Kazan, 1977. (In Tatar).

Ilminsky N.I. About the phonetic relations between Chuvash and Turkic languages // News of Imperial archeological society. Vol. V.-SPb. 1865. (In Russian).

Kakhovsky V.F. The review of the theories of an origin of ancient Bulgars // Bulletin of Chuvash National Academy 1993. No 1 Pp. 31-43. (In Russian).

Klyashtorny S.G.. Kipchaks in Runic records // Turcologica. 1986. To eighty years of Acad. A.N. Kononov L., 1986. (In Russian).

Kovalevsky A.P. Book of Akhmed Ibn Fadlan about his travel to Volga in 921-922 AD. Kharkov, 1956. (In Russian).

Kozlova K.I. Ethnography of the peoples of Volga. M., 1964. (In Russian).

Kononov A.N. Makhmud Kashgari and his “Divanu lugat it-turok” // Soviet Turkology. 1972.- No 1. (In Russian).

Kashgari Makhmud. Turkiy suzlar devoni. Vol. I. Tashkent, 1960. (In Uzbek).

Nemeth J. Die Volksnamen quman und qun // Korosi Croma Archivum. Budapest, 1941-1943. Pp. 95-109. (In German).

Read M. Rider without a head. M., 1955. (In Russian).

Tatischev V.N. Russian History. Vol. III, M.-L., 1964. (In Russian).

Fakhrutdinov R. Archeological monuments of Volga-Kama Bulgaria and her territories. Kazan, 1975. (In Russian).

Feyzkhanov Kh. Three Bulgar gravestone inscriptions // News of archeological society. Vol. IV.-SPb., 1863. (In Russian).

Languages... Languages and dialects of the world: the prospectus and dictionary. M., 1982. (In Russian).

Translated by N. KISAMOV

E-mail: irek@moris.ru