In Russian
Djagfar Tarihi
Contents Huns
Contents Bulgars
Western Hun's Khan Lineage
Western Hun's Khan Dynasties
Bulgarian Khans List
Yu.Zuev The Strongest Tribe - Ezgil
Besenyos, Ogur and Oguz
Alans and Ases
Alan Dateline
Avar Dateline
Besenyo Dateline
Bulgar Dateline
Huns Dateline
Karluk Dateline
Kimak Dateline
Kipchak Dateline
Khazar Dateline
Kyrgyz Dateline
Sabir Dateline
Seyanto Dateline
Z. Z. Miftakhov

Lecture Course
State Pedagogical University, Kazan, 1998, 2002, ISBN 5-89120-050-3
<= Itil Bulgaria, a first Islamic state in the Itil region · Contents · Djagfar Tarihi Contents · Cities and the city building art of Bulgars (8 -10 cc.) =>


In Russia, history remains a state secret. Any Russian publication is so well sanitized that Orwell imagination would badly pale against the achievements of the historical production lines. A scholar trying a look back would find a dearth of published references, even when the facts are imbedded in the body of the Rus annals. Over the centuries, only few people, starting with V.N. Tatischev and V.V.Latyshev, ventured to reflect a true picture. The posted extracts from the “History of Tatar People“ present a work that was written to remain in the desk drawer until better times, but saw a light of day when the Soviet system collapsed for a short time.




1. Reform of Kan Almysh.
2. Rule of sons Almysh.
3. Consequences of acceptance of the Islam.


Reminder. In 922 the head of all Moslems, Baghdad Caliph Djafar al-Muktadir officially recognized Itil Bulgaria as the Islamic state. This changed the titles of the rulers of the Itil Bulgaria: the title "Emir" was added to the title "Kan". The Great Embassy of Caliph went back to Bagdad in August of 922. Into the history of the Itil Bulgaria came the times of radical changes.

Methodical reminder. The problem to be addressed in this lecture is to find out what were the consequences of the acceptance of the Islam by the Itil Bulgars.

1. Reforms of Kan Almysh

Stupefying a Name

The Türkic almas, yalmas, almaz (Teleut, Kazakh, Kirgiz, Tatar, Komandy, Karakalpak) in Slavic became “almaz“ = “diamond“. Almysh is a historically documented Bulgarian form of the word, and it was a name of the Bulgarian Kağan (r. 895-925) who re-united Bulgaria after a three-way split precipitated by the secession of the Rus comprised of Novgorod (Urus) and Kyiv (Bashtu) principalities, and Kara Bulgar in the N.Pontic steppes. In the Russian historical literature, every effort is made to obscure the straightforward etymology of the name. The almaz diamond is not an only Türkic word for precious stones in the Slavic languages, the others are biruza for turquoise, jemchug for pearl, izumrud  for emerald, karbunkul for ruby, lal for yellow sapphire, topaz for topaz (this word became an international term via Greek intermediary), zaberzat for turquoise, yahont for sapphire. Other Türkic-named jewelry are earrings, bracelets, etc. You can't visit a Russian jewelry store and avoid speaking Türkic.

A confusing element in the Almysh story is that he adopted a Muslim name Djafar, and retroactively “renamed“ his father Shilki/Djilki (Tr. Horse) to Abdullah. On the Almysh coins, he is named Djafar ben Abdullah, and his kids are named Memektai ben Djafar and Mikail ben Djafar. During his lifetime, Almysh remained a Khazar vassal, and had one of his sons held as a hostage at the Khazar court. At the end of the  Kağan Shilki rule, and during Almysh reign, when they were busy subjugating independency of the autonomous rulers, in 890's Bajanaks rolled into the Bulgarian lands, devastated N.Causasian and N.Pontic Bulgars, and established their supremacy in the N.Pontic for the next 150 years. The initial turmoil strengthened the Almysh's hand, because all the refugees from the Ak-Bulgarian and Kara-Bulgarian settlements sought protection in the Almysh realm, and reinforced a need for a stronger, more centralized state.

The official recognition of the Itil Bulgaria as Islamic state strengthened the position of Kan Almysh. It allowed him to carry out a number of cardinal reforms.

Change of the territorial - administrative division. The overall objective pursued by Kan Almysh in carrying out the reform in this area was to replace the authority of the sovereign princes with the authority of the governors-Ulugbeks appointed by him. First of all he had to weaken the influence of the rebellious sovereign princes Byrak, Askal and Mardyan. Prince Byrak owned the princedom Bershut, Askal ruled Esegel, and Mardyan ruled Bellak. Aspiring to achieve his objective, Kan Almysh changed the former territorial - administrative division of the country. The following uniform administrative provinces were created:

1. Bulgar Province: Bulgar with two adjoining  areas: the former allodial princedom Bulgar and Martüba province. Martüba is the territory located between r. Kazanka (56.1°N 50°E) in the south and r. Ilet (53°N 48.3°E) in the north (south/north seem to be backwards), r. Tsivil (56°N 47.5°E) in the west and upper course of the r. Kazanka (56.1°N 50°E) in the east.

2. Suvar Province: Nur-Suvar with adjoining area.

3. Baitüba Province Bulyar (Bilyar) with adjoining area.

4. Tamta Province: The territory of province was between r. Sheshma (Chishma) and the Ural mountains, with the center in the hamlet Tamta-Zai on the right bank of the r. Zai.

5. Kashan Province: The territory of the province was between upper course of the r. Meshi in the north and upper course of the r. Kama in the south, and stretched east from the r. Shumbut, with the center in the city Kashan.

6. Biysu Province: It was the Pechora province with the center in the hamlet Gusman-Katau on r. Djuk (present r. Üg (Russ. South -Translator’s Note).

7. Ur Province: This was the Ural province (Northern Ural), with the center in the village Kargadan.

8. Baygul Province: Province along r. Ob in the Western Siberia.

9. Bellak Province (variations of the name: Mardan, Mardyan. Mardan-Bellak) with the center in the city Bandja (in the place of the present Samar). Its borders went as follows: in the north it stretched along the line from the present city Ulyanovsk and the middle flow of the r. Big Cheremshan, in the south it stretched along the r. Samar (Samar-su), in the west it stretched along the r. Voronej (Boryn-Inesh). On the bank of the r. Boryn-Inesh (r. Voronej) was the last post station Boryn (Cape, on this place is the present city Lipetsk), in the western part of the Bulgar possessions. In the east the border of the province passed along the rivers Tuk, Little and Big Kinel (middle course). Hence, the territory of the province Bellak was on the right and left sides of the r. Itil. On the right side of Itil were districts Arbuga and Burtas, and on the left bank were Badyanak (Besenyo) and Kinel (1; 69). The right-bank districts were controlled by the descendants of the Sabanian, Saklanian and Modjarian princes, and the left-bank districts were controlled by the descendants of steppe Besenyo (Kyr-Badyanak) princes.

The Bellak province was the richest part of Itil Bulgaria. There there were located many large cities: Arbuga (present Syzran), Bandja (present Samar), etc. Through the territory of the province passed flourishing trading roads. Along the trading roads were large cities, road inns and taverns, and menzels, i.e roadside stations. The taverns and menzels were protected by special squads. The roads were kept in good condition and were safe for merchants.

Mardan-Bellak ca 1050

Each province was divided into djien districts (in Bulgarian djien subasy). The center of the djien district was called suba. Beks Byrak, Askal and Mardyan were unhappy with the Kan Almysh reform and started a mutiny against him. Byrak and Askal gathered in Bilyar and decided to raise Biy Mardyan to the throne. That started so-called “War of Biys” ("War of Princes"). However on the advice of mullah Abdallah, Kan Almysh made a wise decision. He offered Biy Mardyan to become an Emir, i.e. his deputy in the Bellak province. Besides, the population of the province were given a number of privileges. Only the inhabitants of that province had the right to "elect the governor" (1; 68). And only a governor of Bellak could carry the title "Emir". Only a few of the Kan’s relatives and a few of the most notable Biys had this title. (1; 68).

Such politics of Kan Almysh yielded positive results. Bek Mardyan switched to his side, and the Biys Byrak and Askal did not dare to act openly.

Thus, reform in the field of the territorial - administrative division was aimed on liquidation of an institute of sovereign princes and creation of the uniform administrative divisions controlled from a single center.

Reforms of Kan Almysh in the social and tax spheres. We shall present in a hierarchical form the social structure of the Bulgarian society which arose as a result of the Kan Almysh reforms.

1. First tier. At the top of the social ladder was only elite: a ruler, his close relatives and the Biys especially close to him. Before 922, the Bulgar rulers had the following titles: Baltavar (Lord of Beys), Kan (Kagan, Kağan). After the official recognition of the Itil Bulgaria as an Islamic state, her ruler gained a double manifestation. First, as the head of the Muslim state, he was a deputy of the Baghdad Caliph and carried a title Emir. Second, in relation to his subjects he was a Kan, i.e. Kagan.

The brothers of the ruler, the governor of Bellak, and the especially close Biys were also on that level. All of them carried a title Emir or Biy.

2. Second tier. On the second tier were the largest feudals, demesne owners. They were called kazanchies. Kazanchies were alsocalled ulans. They owned extensive land estates with hereditary property rights.

3. Third tier. Third tier occupied non-hereditary Beys, Valis (city, village, district head - Tanslator’s Note), Baganins (officer commanding a few hundred soldiers - Tanslator’s Note) and Inals. Non-hereditary Beys had to be in (military) service, and they carried title "Beks". Vali is a governor of a city, i.e. a head of a city. The governors of the low rank who were reporting to the Kan had a title "Inal".

To this tier belonged members of the City councils in the two autonomous cities, Bulgar and. Nur-Suvar. To the citizenry of these two cities, Kan Almysh gave a right to elect City council members. These inner, independent, self-governing cities were peculiar autonomous units among the country’s uniform territorial - administrative divisions.

4. Fourth tier: These were minor service vassals. Bulgars called them bahadirs , i.e. knights.

5. Fifth tier: These were merchants and craftsmen. Bulgars called the estate of merchants and craftsmen Suvari. Suvari, in turn, were subdivided into three categories.

The name “Suvar“ is a name of a large and powerful tribe or tribal union. Extension of the name to the occupation is symptomatic to the ancient societal labor division that continues into the modern world, reflecting subdivision of labor by ethnic or tribal lines. In the Ahamenid Persia, mounted postmen were called “Kangars“ ~ Angareon, Sogdian was synonymous with “trader“, Scythians and Huns with “soldiery“, in Middle Age Gypsies were to entertain your guests at a wedding or mend utensils, Mordva became known as “beekeeper“ Burtas. A reflection of that became an integral part of the dictionary, china is porcelain, damask is linen and steel, bulgur is wheat, tangerine is orange, champagne is wine, ottoman is couch, etc. Apparently, Bulgars widely used the ethnic specialization to designate various trades and social functions.

5.1. First category were large and notable merchants and master-craftsmen. Kan Almysh equated them in the rights with kazanchis-ulans, i.e. with large feudal allodial lords.

5.2. Second category were middle-income merchants and craftsmen. They were equal in rights with the non-hereditary Beys-Beks, Vali, Baganins and Inals.

5.3. Third category were small merchants and craftsmen-apprentices. They were equal to bahadirs (1; 67).

6. Sixth tier: These were the state peasant tillers. Bulgars called them igencheys. They were divided into two groups.

First group is subashes. Moslems grain-growers from 922 began to be called Subashes (Apparently, the inhabitants of suba; suba + -chy, analogous to Herodotus' recorded non-ethnical Budini, Tr. “people“, applied by Scythians to ethnical Finno-Ugrians or Udmurts). They paid "the state only a minimal and strictly defined tax in money, cattle, furs or products" (1; 67). In a need this tax could be replace by other duties: construction of roads, bridges, official buildings and others" (1; 67). Subashis were not mobilized for wars. In case of the enemy attack on the Itil Bulgaria they were obliged to join a militia.

Second group is chirmyshes. Chirmyshes were pagan (Tengrian) state peasants. By their will, chirmyshes were in one of two subgroups.

First subgroup is ak-chirmyshes (or just “chirmyshes”). They "paid the same tax as subashes and, besides, were in the military service. During a war they received a part of the booty. They had to arrive to the military gathering points in full arms bought with their own means. Any soldash (soldier - Tanslator’s Note) found to lack arms could be executed on the spot" (1; 67). The same punishment expected the anyone who displayed a disrespect to the weapons: would not remove the weapon and lay it on the ground when performing natural needs.

That is one ethnological hallmark of the Turkic culture, not addressed specifically in the ethnological literature: men urinate sitting. Maybe, that is the way to do it in the steppe, to reduce visibility, provide a degree of privacy, and reduce splashing around under steppe winds. The “toilet“ area was immediately outside village or encampment, open to views and winds. You dig a little well, and do it there. Urinating standing, with weapons on the ground, would expose them to splashing, and would be disrespectful to the weapons; but in urinating sitting, it is the opposite, weapons on the ground are safe.

To complete the picture, a note on defecation: the same little well apply, and if there was no water around for wiping were used pebbles. Pebbles must have been cleaned by wiping them in the sand. Even experienced archeologists were puzzled finding a few pebbles in a Scythian or Kipchak grave: why would mourning relatives bother to bring a couple of pebbles from hundreds kilometers away to supply them to the deceased on his trip to another world? You can even run into a sacral explanation for the outstanding artifacts. In reality, they were permanent utensils carried by the deceased all their life in their belt purse, the other side of the meals supplied in the buried dishes. This resembles the perennial advice for the travelers to places like the former Soviet Union and its satellites: don't forget the toilet paper.

Second subgroup is kara-chirmyshes. They "paid a double subash tax, the mosque tax and, besides, bore other duties equal to two subash’s taxes" (1; 67).

The subashies and ak-chirmyshes had a right to carry weapons.

After the death of Almysh, during the rule of his son Gazan, appeared one more subgroup of the peasants.

Third subgroup is kurmyshes. Kurmyshes are those a kara-chirmyshes who were obliged to pay the mosque tax or the state tax not not to the state, but to the large feudals, kazanchis. Kurmysh had a right to leave the kazanchiy, but then he was loosing the land (1; 67). In time some kazanchies “began receiving, for superior merits, the kara-chirmyshes’ lands in hereditary possession" (1; 76).

Improvement of Itil Bulgaria defenses. Kan Almysh undertook vigorous measures in construction and maintenance of the defensive objects. Kan charged his son-in-law Askal with a direct control of this major undertaking. Bey Djulut, the leader of the Saban clan Djulut, was appointed his assistant. They, together with seid Bakir and mullah Abdallah, traveled all over the country and planned the locations of bulwarks and fortresses. The subashis, i.e. the Moslem grain-growers, were assigned to the construction and maintenance. For that, they were exempted from taxes.

The construction of the fortresses was under the direction of the masters Chut, Abrak, Khum and Ubar. In a short time were constructed the following fortresses: Shepshe (Ak-Kala), Mardan, Urnash, and Takta (1; 68). Were renovated fortresses in the cities of Sulcha (its fortress was called Torkoch) and Nur-Suvar (its fortress was called Baryntau, in memory of the Saban clan Baryn headed by Alabuga) (Spotted Bull, a name recorded in the Türgesh Kaganate and its descendent Kara-Khan Karluk state. Türgesh Kaganate has other ethnological associations with Bulgars and Suvars: its main population were As tribes, Sibir/Ch. Shi-bi for a leader's name). New fortresses were also built to the Kermek (the city was was called in honor of the Almysh’s grandson Kermek, i.e. Askal’s son), Tersek on river Sulcha (Sulcha-su) and Deber on r. Züya-Idel (present r. Sviyaga). The fortress Deber was a last fortified object built during the life of Kan Almysh (1; 68) (Any prudent article, mindful of being free from falsification, that describes the history of the above places, should state 922-925 AD as the timing of its name and fortress, and mention the name of Almysh).

Thus, during the rule of Kan Almysh in the political life of the Itil Bulgaria occurred fundamental changes. In brief they are summarized as following.

First, Itil Bulgaria was recognized as Islamic state. Her ruler became a deputy of the Baghdad Caliph and received a title "Emir" (Because of religious and cultural exchange between the dying Caliphate and Itil Bulgaria, this connection was far from superficial, but without political subordination).

Second, by reforming the territorial - administrative division, Kan Almysh mostly succeeded in liquidation of the institute of hereditary sovereign Beys, replacing it with an institute of governors (in imperial states, same problems, multi-ethnic reality and mono-ethnic mentality, brings the same remedy, be it Persia, Russia, or China).

Thirdly, the reform in the sphere of social relations was carried out in a combination with a tax reform. It enabled Kan to stronger attach various layers of the population to the chariot of state machinery. Bulgars began to be subdivided into two ethno-social groups: Bulgars-Moslems and Bulgars-heathens (Tengrians). The classifications were based not only on religious distinctions, but also on the social and economic valuations.

Fourthly, between the 922-925 AD, a construction of defensive bulwarks and fortresses commenced in the Itil Bulgaria. The well thought-over construction of defensive projects was carried out on a wide scale in the following years also.

The first quarter of the 10th century was coming to an end. The times and generations are ever changing . Also came to an end the life Kan Almysh.

Death of Kan Almysh. The winter of 925 was very severe. Strong colds lasted for a long time. Kan Almysh received news that the Kyiv Prince Igor (Bulgars called him Ugyr Lachyni) seized Djir (present Rostov). Despite of strong colds and old age, Kan Almysh went on a campaign. Learning about Almysh approach, Prince Igor retreated from the Djir, leaving behind a cohort of his mercenaries. Before that, a governor of Djir Vali Salman, with the rights of Kan Almysh’s tribute-payer, wished to redress his fault for letting Prince Igor into the city, and attacked the guardsmen of the Igor's cohort with his militia. Most of them were killed, the remaining left the city and camped for the night on a mountain near the city walls. By the morning all soldiers froze to death (1; 74). By the time of Kan Almysh arrival, the problem was already solved. After a short stay in Djir, Kan turned back.

They were returning by a shortest road through a thick forest. In the forest, a huge vagrant bear unexpectedly attacked Almysh. While the startled soldiers wrestled the Kan from the paws of the bear, it inflicted deep wounds. Despite of tabib (doctor) efforts, Almysh died from loss of blood. He was buried in the Bulgarian fortress Gülistan (within the Bolgar city, 55°N 49°E), called so in honor of the Kan's daughter.

So finished his life the senior son of Djilki, the founder of the first Islamic state in the Itil region, a person with a challenging fate who worked hard to spread and reinforce Islam in the Itil Bulgaria. Kan Almysh carried out a coherent policy directed at fortifying central authority and creation of a balanced state system.

2. Rule of Almysh's sons

Kan Almysh had many sons, two of them ruled Itil Bulgaria from 925 to 943.

Rule of Gazan (925-930). He was one of the numerous sons of Kan Almysh. He was "called also Kan, and Kazan" (1; 74). Almysh loved very much another son by the name Mal and wanted him to became his successor. However, Gazan arranged that Mal would not return to Itil Bulgaria from Khazaria, where he was detained as a hostage.

After the death of Almysh, the kazanchies-ulans raised Gazan to the throne. In the first years of his rule he continued the task of his father in construction of fortresses and defensive bulwarks. During his rule the following fortresses were constructed: Matak (between the rivers Little Cheremshan and Sulcha), Nukrat (between the rivers Akhtay and Little Cheremshan), Bandja (in the place of the present city Samar), Bulyar (Bilyar, a citadel in the city), Kamysh (on the river Kinel), Simbir, Gazan-Deber on the river Züya (present r. Sviyaga), Kashan and Tuhcha on r. Agidel, Tau-Kerman near the mouth Züya-Idel (the mouth of the present r. Sviyaga, later in this place was built city Sviyajsk), Tash-Bolgar, Subash-Simbir, Tash-Simbir and Karadjar on the Mountain side, Djilan on the river Chishma (present r. Sheshma). By the 930 there were 30 cities in the Itil Bulgaria (Any prudent article, mindful of being free from falsification, that describes the history of the above places, should state 925-943 AD as the timing of its name and fortress, and mention the name of Gazan).

At the same time Gazan was a severe ruler. His first adviser and a personal friend was seid Ahmed Bakir (the Bulgars began to call Ahmed ibn-Fadlan by this name). Under his influence Kan Gazan began to forcefully convert to Islam the Serbian (ancestors of the Chuvashes) and Ars’ (ancestors of the Udmurts) kara-chirmyshes. Those rejecting were punished: their lands were transferred into a hereditary possession to large feudals, i.e. to the ulans-kazanchies. It is well-known that with meal comes an appetite. In other words, ulans-kazanchies demanded from Gazan new and new lands in possession. Kan started to distribute to the ulans the kara-chirmysh and chirmysh auls (villages) of the Inner Bulgaria. In other words, the villages of the heathens (Tengrians) who were living in the Inner Bulgaria began to be transferred to the ulans as hereditary possessions. All these actions of the Kan Gazan and seid Ahmed Bakir caused a distress in the country. The struggle threatened to grow into a confrontation between Moslems and heathens (Tengrians). The state peasants, who did not wish to become the property of the large feudals - ulans, began to move to the Mardan-Bellak province. Kan Gazan demanded from Emir Balus to turn over the fugitives. The Emir, a governor of the Mardan-Bellak, firmly declared that the Bellaks will not turn them over to anybody. Kan Gazan tried to pull over to his side large feudals of the Mardan-Bellak province. However, Emir Balus neutralized actions of the Kan by transferring a part of the subash tax collected from the newcomer peasants to the large feudals. Only few ulans went to Kan Gazan. They were the feudals from the Simbir district of the Mardan-Bellak province. The Kan transferred this Mardan-Bellak district to Nur-Suvar (1; 75).

The state heathen (Tengrian) peasants of the Inner Bulgaria started a revolt. The revolt was headed by Byrak and his son Bel-Subash. Byrak (a former sovereign Prince of Bershud) was a katavyl, i.e. a commandant of a fortress Shepshe. Bel-Subash was a commander of a squad guarding a Bulyar road station with a road inn, i.e. a menzel. The revolt began in the summer of 925. The rebels demanded a return to the laws of Almysh and a removal of Bakir (1; 75).

Kan Gazan managed to suppress the revolt. Byrak and Bel-Subash with their people were deported to the construction of a Bulyar (Bilyar) citadel. Then they filled a new bulwark and built up the territory between the bulwark and the citadel.

In 930, the situation sharply worsened. In the summer happened a drought. By the winter began a famine. Nevertheless, the tax collectors were taking away from the people their last supplies. Despite of the famine, Kan Gazan forced chirmyshes to build reinforcements around Bulyar. Byrak and Bel-Suvash again raised a revolt. The insurgents braced themselves in the Ulem district. Kan Gazan with his ulans set out to come there. He bivouacked in a small town Atryach, close to the camp of the insurgents, and allowed a majority of the ulans to leave to plunder the district. Hearing of that, Bel-Subash attacked Kan Gazan at night. Taken by surprise few ulans were slaughtered. Gazan was decapitated. His head was impaled on a spear and displayed in the center of Atryach.

Rule of Mikail (930-943). Mikail (a second son of Almysh, his nickname was Yalkau, “The Loafer“) received the news about a death of Kan Gazan in the city of Bandja. After that he immediately went to Bulgar. There, he was proclaimed a Kan (1; 80). The post of a vizier went to mullah Abdallah. Vizier gave the Kan some useful advices.

First, to adhere to the policy of Kan Almysh in respect to the large feudals, kazanchies and the state peasants, igenchies (land tillers).

Second, to avoid conflicts with the Bulgar peasants in every way (1; 80).

The Kan, however, had to take into account not only the advice of the vizier, but also the realities of the life. And these were those: the large feudals, kazanchies, craved to expand and strengthen their control over the peasants. Therefore, Kan Mikail took the following actions:

· all state peasants of the Inner Bulgaria were transferred into the category of subashis, i.e. they had the same privileges as Moslem peasants, some of them started paying taxes to the state, and the others started paying taxes for 20 thousand mercenaries, djurs;

· kazanchies received in hereditary possession the lands on the Mountain (right-bank) side, occupied by the Serbian (historical ancestors of the Chuvashes) and Ars’ (historical ancestors of the Udmurts) heathen (Tengrian) grain-growers (1; 81);

· Kan Mikail declared the lands on the Mountain side occupied by the Bulgar peasants to be state lands;

· the city Atryach was renamed into Shongyt.

Thus, attempt by the large feudals, kazanchies, to seize the lands of the heathen (Tengrian) peasants within the limits of Inner Bulgaria did not end up successfully. The discontent of the large feudals over the policy of the Kan has increased after he ordered all Bulgar alpars, i.e. serving feudals-knights to cut off their braids (1; 81). The kazanchies declared Mikail to be "Kan of Heathens (Tengrians)". They gathered in Nur-Suvar. Their ideological leader was seid Bakir. Conspirators wanted to raise to the throne another candidate. Hearing about the plot, Kan Mikail came to Nur-Suvar with a detachment of mercenaries, djurs. "Mounted on his horse he rode straight into the mosque "Nur". Seid cried that he, the Kan, should immediately leave the mosque, and when he refused, whipped his horse" (1; 81). Djurs seized the seid and on the order of the Kan threw him in zindan (dungeon). Soon, seid Bakir died.

Kan Mikail " participated in all national festivals and extravaganzas. In November he went to look at the plucking of the geese. In December he with lads was storming the ice "Maiden city", defended by forty girls led by a "Quinn", and even fought in the combats. In Nauruz he celebrated kargatui, in April Sabantui, after the sowing, Chillek. During the August Jangyr Botkasy he lead a sacrifice of a white bull, he was the first to eat a white fish, and the ceremony was ending with splashing with the girls. In the autumn after a crop harvest, major taxes were being paid, and the Kan was arranging “Kyzlar Echkene“ festivals near Bulgar, in honor of the "gifts to him from the organizers of the weddings" (1; 82). The tradition was that for a father to marry his son, he had to give a horse to the Kan. For a sanction to have a wedding, the ruler was given a certain quantity of honey. Its quantity depended on the number of the guests invited to a wedding. In the autumn of 943 Kan Mikail organized a feast to celebrate a payment for the weddings licenses. Such feasts were ended with jumping. The Kan decided to participate in obstacle course race (1; 82). This decision resulted in a tragedy. The Kan’s horse stumbled at full speed. The Kan fell, and was crushed to death. People used to say different things about the event: some believed that the misfortune happened because the Kan "mounted a white sacrificial horse, which out of pity was not sacrificed at djien" (1; 82), the others thought that that was a penalty because Kan ordered to murder seid Bakir by tying him with a horse harness.

So ended the period of the rule of the Almysh sons.

3. Consequences of acceptance of the Islam

The material laid out in the previous lectures unequivocally testifies that some clans and tribes in the Itil Bulgar ethnosystem accepted Islam as early as the 7th century. Hence, before the official recognition of the Itil Bulgaria as an Islamic state passed almost 200 years. Islam rendered a major influence on the relations between people, their consciousness, culture, traditions, customs, behavior, etc. After the 922, the position of the Muslim clergy grew immensely. Henceforth the government divided the population of the country into Moslems and non-Moslem heathens (Tengrians). Irrespective of the ethnic background, the Moslems received tax privileges and advantages within state institutions. Therefore, they supported the policy of Kan Almysh and his sons, aimed at reinforcing the central authority and liquidation of the institute of the allodial princes. Non-Moslem heathens (Tengrians) were obliged to pay a special tax, haradj, for the mosque.

Changes in views at the surrounding world. The Bulgar heathens (Tengrians) worshipped 17 deities. The main among them was Tengre, a God of human souls, creator of lightnings and thunder. The other deities were his co-creators. A noted feature of Bulgar heathen (Tengrians) beliefs was that in the pantheon of the deities they had Tengre’s attendant deities in pairs, counterbalancing opposite elements and objects of the nature. The Sun-god - Moon-god deities, Fire-god - Water-god, Day-god - Night-god, Air-god - Earth-god, etc. Special sanctuaries were built in their honor, and made sacrifices.

Islam contrasted the worship of the natural phenomena of the pagan (Tengrian) polytheism to the monotheism: "Allah is one, Allah is eternal; he did not give birth and was not born; to him there is no equal". In other words, as presented by the Moslems, Allah without any assistants created the world, the heavens, and the land, angels and demons, people, plants, animals and everything else.

Thus, the Bulgar Moslems began to perceive the world around, and the universe as a whole, as a creation of Allah. Their views became the same with the Moslems of the rest of the world.

Changes in relations between people. Before Islam, the relation between people in the Itil Bulgar ethnosystem were based on origin, political-economical, social, military relations, customs, traditions, etc. Generally, they were clan and tribal relations. After adoption of Islam, the Itil Bulgar ethnosystem and the population of the state as a whole were split into two categories, a community of Moslems and a community of heathens (Tengrians). Hence, the division was not by ethnic, clan, and tribal affiliation, but by religious affiliation. According to that, also were structured relations between people inside religious communities, and also between the state on the one hand, and religious communities on another hand. The public behavior of the Moslems was guided by the sharia. The strict observance of Muslim laws was enforced by the society “El-Hum”, led by a sheikh. The behavior of the heathens (Tengrians) was determined by the practice of Tengrianism and ancient customs.

Thus, by the middle of the 10th century the ethnic clan and tribal affiliation of the person began to fade, and the affiliation with this or that religious community grew in significance.

Changes in beliefs about afterlife. In the Tengrian beliefs, after a death a person continued to live in a next world. The quality of life in the next world depends on how well the close relatives of the deceased send him off into the other world. For example, if they did not put next to him a bowl with a drink, the deceased would suffer from thirst. If they failed to put a weapon in the grave, the deceased could not defend himself from the enemies. These illustrations can be extended.

With conversion to Islam the beliefs about the next world radically changed. In the ideology of Moslems, the quality of the future life for a person depends on his life on the earth. Depending on the behavior in the earthly life, a person after a death would get either in a paradise, or in a hell. To get in the paradise, a righteous Moslem should follow six obligatory rules.

Firstly, he should pay a tax for the poor. This tax is called zakyat. Farmers paid it after a harvest, and the cattlemen, craftsmen, merchants and other categories of the population paid it at the end of the year.

Secondly, a Moslem is obliged to pray five times day: before sunrise, at midday, before sunset, after sunset, and late at night. Especially pious could pray additionally at night or in the afternoon.

Thirdly, before praying, a prayer should ensure cleanliness of his body, clothes and the place for praying.

Fourthly, annually in the month of Ramazan (Ramadan) a Moslem should hold an uraza. In the daytime it is not allowed to eat, drink, smoke, etc. With fall of a darkness these interdictions are removed. The sick, pregnant and feeding women, aged, children, people on the road, and also soldiers during military actions are exempted from the uraza.

Fifthly, a Moslem is obligated to extend a maximum of efforts for strict and exact implementation of the Muslim laws, customs, to be diligent in learning the true faith.

Sixthly, at least once in a lifetime a Moslem should make a pilgrimage, i.e. a hadj, to Mecca to venerate the Muslim holies.

Thus, the implementation of these rules allowed a devout Moslem to hope to get into a paradise after a death. A non-observance ensured a place in a hell.

Change in the social standing of women. The heathen (Tengrian) Bulgar women actively participated in the societal life. In military campaigns, they were equally taking part with the men, and sometimes participated in battles. During receptions of the ambassadors the wife of the Kan sat next to the husband. The women did not cover their faces in the presence of men. With the acceptance of Islam, the situation in that respect began to change. First of all changed the wedding order and ritual. A head of a family who was wishing to marry his son, asked the Kan to allow the marriage. After receiving a permit, a horse was given to the ruler. For a permit to have a wedding feast, a ruler was to receive a certain quantity of honey.

After acceptance of Islam, weddings were performed according to the principles and requirements of the new religion. A marriage was considered lawful only after completion of a nikah ceremony . After marriage, a husband is obligated to provide his wife with housing, food, clothing. In return, the wife was obligated to obey her husband and abide by his commands. In the houses appeared the so-called " female half". It was for women and juvenile children. Of all males, only an owner of the house had a right to enter.

For the heathen (Tengrian) Bulgars, before it was not the father and mother who were raising the juvenile sons, but a grandfather by the maternal line. They were grown and brought up by him to their maturity. After a death of a father, his property was inherited not by his sons, but by the father’s brother. With the adoption of Islam the responsibility before a society for quality of upbringing his sons carried their father, and a mother was responsible for upbringing of the daughters. The inheritance of the father began to be passed to a senior son.

Interdictions in the Islam. The koran condemns murder. The Bulgars-heathens (Tengrians) also treated murderers very severely. For unpremeditated murder of the fellow tribesman, the murderer was placed alive in a coffin-like box. Three flatbreads and a jug with water were supplied. Then the box was strongly nailed and hung on a tree. The criminal was doomed for a slow death. For a similar crime, Koran stipulates a less severe punishment: the guilty should pay a forfeiture to the family of the killed.

Islam condemns and forbids adultery. The Bulgar heathens (Tengrians) punished both man and woman the similar acts very severely. The guilty were tied by feet and hands to four plow blades dug into the ground. Then the bodies were split with an axe from the neck to the hips. Each half of the body was hung up on a tree. They were hanging there until a full decomposition. Nobody had a right to remove and commit them to the earth. For the similar acts, Koran stipulates the following punishment: both the man, and the woman are punished with a hundred lashes of whip, moreover, the woman was imprisoned to the end of her life.

For a larceny the heathen (Tengrian) Bulgars punished the same as for adultery. In the Islamic countries, for a theft a hand was cut off. However, from this rule was one exception: if the theft was by a hungry person of produce to save his life, he was not punished.

Moslems considered it heavy sin to use pork and alcoholic drinks (2; 36).

Change of the funeral rites. The heathen (Tengrian) Bulgars had cemeteries behind a natural barrier. As a barrier in our lands could be a river or a ravine. They did this to protect themselves from the world of the dead men. The deceased were buried in tabuts, i.e. in wooden box-like coffins. For some deceased women their feet were tied, so that they could not come back the alive as an albasta (witch). The dead men were buried in clothes. Nearby were laid a weapon and food: meat, porridge and drink of berries and fruits. Quite often in the tomb was laid a horse harness and a part of a horse trunk. They believed that deceased should ride into the next world on a horse.

A house where was a deceased was marked with a banner. Men were gathering at the door of the house and began loud sobbing. A mourning by close relatives of the deceased lasted for two years. After that was arranged a commemoration. From that time on, it was considered that the mourning has ended.

The heathen (Tengrian) Bulgars did not commit to the earth the bodies of all deceased. First, the bodies of the Alps, i.e. the bogatyrs (stringmen) were not buried . Their bodies remained on the surface until a full decomposition. Ahmed ibn-Fadlan saw the remains of one of such giants himself. Secondly, the bodies of the criminals were not buried in the earth. A body of an executed criminal was hung up on a tree. Thirdly, they did not bury the bodies of bright people. When heathen (Tengrian) Bulgars met a very clever person, they said: "He is ready to serve the God". After that they would suddenly jump on him, snatched a cord around his neck, and hung him up on a tree. This strange custom Bulgars took from their Sumerian historical ancestors.

After the adoption of Islam the burial ceremony changed significantly. The Moslems call the funeral ceremony djinaza. The basic moments of the djinaza are these:

First rule. Feeling the approach of death, a Moslem should read the text of 36-th sura of the Koran (sura Ya-Sin). If the dying is not capable to read it, another Moslem should read Ya-Sin.

Second rule. After the death, the body of the deceased should be turned facing the kibla. Kibla is a direction toward Mecca. In our territories, this is a southwest direction.

Third rule. It is necessary to do ritual ablution and dress the deceased into a burial attire.

Fourth rule. It is necessary to read a prayer for the peace of the deceased's soul. It is read in his house or in a mosque.

Fifth rule. The burial of the deceased should take place on the day of death or a next day. The body is laid on a special stretcher (djinaza). Then it is carried or driven to the cemetery, followed by a funeral procession.

Sixth rule. A tomb is dig as spacious as possible, usually with a niche (lyahet) in the side wall or a pit at the bottom. By the Moslems’ belief, the deceased should be able to "sit up" at arrival of the death angels Munkar and Nakir. The head of the deceased should rest toward kibla. During the burial a Koran sura and fragments from the al-Busiri poem "Kasidat-al-Burda" should be read This poem was composed in honor of the Prophet Mohammed.

Seventh rule. Memorials for the deceased should take place on the third, seventh and fortieth days after the death. The mourning of the close relatives continues for a year.

Thus, by the rules of the Muslim burial, supplying the tomb with food, weapon and other subjects is disallowed. It is forbidden to cry loudly near the deceased. It is also forbidden to talk loudly.

Informationally, the cemeteries became poor. If by the objects found in the previous tombs archeologists could discern a way of life, social and ethnic affiliation of the deceased, with the acceptance of Islam the burial rite became uniform for all Moslems irrespective of the social status and ethnic affiliation.

Not everybody would agree with all the descriptions of before and after. Many Moslem non-religious prescripts were uniformly ignored, especially in respect to subjugation and discrimination against the women. The equality of the sexes survived through the Moslem millennia to atheistic times, and beyond. Many Tengrian customs and beliefs also survived, either via incorporation into new dogmas, or as stand-alone traditional superstitions. The superstitions found among the Orthodox Christians, both Russian and Türkic, and the Moslems, are rooted in the same set of the ancient beliefs, and were in fact more mitigated in the 70 years of the standard atheistic education, industrial-scale indoctrination, and forced military service then in the previous millennia, when superstitions were imbedded together with the official religions. In the outlying areas, neither forced Christianity, nor the forced Islam penetrated beyond the surface. The most impacted were the visible outer traditions, like the burials. In less visible routines, a confused etiology protracted the traditional fears and customs into different blends not much unlike the Halloween and New Year Christmas phenomena.


1. Bahshi Iman. Djagfar tarihy. That the first. Collection of Bulgarian Annals. 1680,  Orenburg, 1993.
2. Miftahov Z.Z., Muhammadeeva D.Sh. History of Tatarstan and Tatar people,  Kazan, 1995.


1. Islam is one of three, along with Buddhism and Christianity, global religions. It arose in the 7th century in the Arabian peninsula.

2. Moslems are people professing Islam.

3. Caliph is the highest title for Moslems. It is equivalent to the title "Emperor" (supposedly, Islam does not allow nor recognize titles, not for the Moslems. So, supposedly Caliph is no "Emperor", but equal to any devoted camel driver. The irony of that doctrine was made clear by the Türks, who showed Caliphs into a storage for the puppet dolls. Reality beats any school of thought, you must be dead as a doornail to get an equality. Unfortunately, that doctrine turned Eurasia into killing field for centuries to come). It translates as "deputy", a deputy of the Prophet Mohammed. The first three deputies of the prophet Mohammed ruled the Baghdad, Egypt and Kordova Caliphates.

4. Emir - in the Arabic "leader". Originally this title was given to supreme military leaders, and then the Caliphs began giving it to their deputies.

5. Koran is a sacred book of Moslems. It is a record of the sermons by the Prophet Mohammed. The word "Koran" in translation from the Arabic means "what is read, said".

6. Sharia is a set of legal and religious norms and rules based on the Koran, its observance means a just way of life.

7. Nikah is a marital contract in accordance with Muslim traditions and norms.

8. Zakyat is an annual tax paid by the Moslems for the poor.

9. Uraza is a fast by Moslems in the month of Ramadan (Ramazan), the ninth month of the lunar calendar. During that time the Moslems are forbidden to eat, drink, or smoke in the daytime. With approach of a darkness these restrictions are removed.

10. Hadj is a pilgrimage to Arabia, made by Moslems to worship the Islamic relics.

11. Djinaza is Muslim funeral ceremony.

12. Sura is a name for a part of the Koran, which consist of 114 suras.

13. Hadis is a brief citation from Prophet Mohammed and his disciples, or a brief story about Prophet’s acts.

1. Key points

1.1. The official recognition by the head of then Moslem world, Baghdad Caliph, of the Itil Bulgaria as Islamic state increased the authority of Kan Almysh among his subjects, strengthened the position of the Moslem Bulgars in the political life of the country.

1.2. As a result of the Kan Almysh reform of the government, the territorial - administrative division of the Itil Bulgaria was cardinally changed. In the pre-reform period the government was as follows:

1. A Supreme Ruler - Kan.

2. Co-Rulers - sovereign Beks and Tarhans.

3. The link between the Supreme Ruler and Co-Rulers was by major officials, kuvvods (viceroys). On behalf of the Kan they supervised the activities of the sovereign Beks and Tarhans.

The new order of the government:

1. The Supreme Ruler is Kan as Emir , i.e. a deputy of the Baghdad Caliph.

2. Governors appointed by the Kan, Ulugbeks (Ch. Lu-Bao/Liu Bao 劉保 /劉豹, in the Hunnic times, Ulugbeks were the highest executives of the whole state, and undoubtedly every head of state, Atilla, or Kurbat, or Asparukh, had his state Ulugbeks ).

3. Elected by the inhabitants of Bellak its Governor, Emir, i.e. a deputy of the Kan .

4. Appointed by the Kan governors of the cities, Vali.

5. Elected by the inhabitants of the cities Bulgar and Nur-Suvar their City councils, "Suvari Jorty".

6. Elected by the population Baganins. Accordingly, some of them reported to Ulugbeks, the others to the Emir of Bellak, the third ones to the city councils, the fourth ones to Valis.

5. Quotations from the sources

5.1. From "Precious values" by Ibn-Ruste

Bulgars live on the banks of the river which runs into the Khazar Sea (Caspian) and is called Itil (Itil)...

The Bulgar Kan, Almush by the name, professes Islam...

Most of them profess Islam, and in their settlements are mosques and primary schools with muedzins and imams. And those of them who remain pagans (Tengrians) bow down to every acquaintance they meet.

Echo of centuries,  May 1995,  P. 60.

Information about the author. His full name is Abu Ali Ahmed Ibn-Omar Ibn-Ruste. He is an Arabic geographer of the beginning of the 10th century. He compiled a work of encyclopedic nature "Precious values" (903-913 AD). So far was found only the seventh volume. It was found in the British museum by D.A.Hvalson's. In 1869 he published it with comments in Russian.

5.2. From "Types of countries" Al-Balhi

Bolgar is the name of the country whose inhabitants profess Islam, and the name of the city where is the main mosque. Near that city lays another city of Sivar (Suvar) where is also a main mosque.

Echo of centuries,  May 1995,  P. 62.

Information about the author. His name is Abu Zayd Ahmed ibn-Sahl al-Balhi. He apparently wrote this work in 920-921.

5.3. From "Book of the ways of the states" al-Istarhi

Bolgar is the name of city, and they (Bulgars) are Moslems, in (the city is) a cathedral mosque; nearby is another city called Suvar, in it also is a cathedral mosque; one who proclaimed hutba in them informed me...

Echo of centuries,  May 1995,  P. 63.

Information about the author. His full name is Al-Istarhi, Abu Ishak al-Farsi. He is an Arabic geographer and traveler. Years of his life are 843-934 AD. The “Book of the ways of the states" was written in 930-933AD. He took information about Bulgars from al-Balhi.

5.4. From "Gold prospering and revision mines" al-Masudi

The Bulgar Kan is now a Moslem, and it is 332 y.h. (943-944 AD). He became a Moslem during the time of al-Muktadir billahi after 310 y.h. (921-922 AD) because of a dream he saw...

Echo of centuries,  May 1995,  P. 65.

Information about the author. His full name is Al-Masudi, Abu-l-Hasan Ali ibn al-Husein. He is an Arabic encyclopedist of the 10th century. He died in 956 AD.

5.5. From “Book of the ways of the states” by ibn-Haukal

Bolgar is not a large city, it does not have numerous districts, and it was known for its port...

Echo of centuries,  May 1995,  P. 66.

Information about the author. His full name is Ibn Haukal (Hawkal), Abu-l-Kasim an-Nisibi. He was an Arabic geographer and traveler of the 10th century. He compiled his large geographical work in 967AD.

5.6. From the book "Limits of the world"

They have three groups: Bahdula (Bersula), Ishkil (Esegels) and Bulgar; they all are in a war with each other, but when an enemy comes, they become friends with each other...

Bulgar is a city with the a small district, located on the bank of Itil. In it, all [inhabitants] are Moslems... With any army of kafirs (infidels -Translator’s Note), no matter how many of them would be, they fight and win. This place is strong and rich. Suvar is a city near Bulgar; in it are fighters for the faith, like in Bulgar.

Echo of centuries,  May 1995,  P. 66.

Information about the author: This is a geographical work of an unknown author. Composed in 982-983 AD.


Mythological basis. The purpose and contents of the holiday are in the myth about Sak and Sok. According to the legend, malicious spirits desiring to destroy people constructed a wall between the Earth and the Sun. Cold and gloom fell on the Earth. Alp Mardukan-Karga decided to help people and started shattering the wall. On the night of March 20th he succeeded in breaking the wall. On March 21st the sun rose. Came a New day, Nauruz.

Ritual of the holiday. The holiday was celebrated on March, 21 in the following sequence:

Frst phase. In the morning the youth and children canvassed houses, collected eggs, barley flour, and other produce. Fires were set up in the hills. Men sacrificed a white horse to Tengre. Then, in huge kazans (caldrons) was prepared ritual food : meat of the sacrificial horse, barley porridge, a barley flour drink (Chuv. peraqa "bray, bagasse", "beer", Sl. "braga, buza", Tàò. boza ). While all this was cooked, the boys were climbing trees and loudly imitated rooks.

Second phase. All participants ate barley porridge - "karga boy", meat of the sacrificial horse and drank the barley drink (boza).

Third phase. If two previous phases passed on the fringes of villages and cities, this phase went on in the evening and at night in the houses. They feasted. With a drawl, were recited the myth about Sak and Sok, and also "Nauruz baite". Then they would augur.

The core of that phase was a ceremony of "kargatui" - "rooks' wedding". Guys and girls were performing a ceremony of matchmaking for future weddings. Bulgars believed that a bride should be chosen exactly on the New Year day, i.e. in Nauruz,. Upon conclusion of a tentative union, a guy and a girl ate "rooks' porridge". By the custom, a guy would chomp the meat, and the girl would eat a cereal porridge. But there was a "catch"! A boy had to leave for the girl some meat. If by the next morning the girl would have eaten that meat, the deal was considered done, and if she would not, it was voided.

(See: Bahshi Iman. Djagfar tarihy. Collection of Bulgarian Annals. Vol. 2,  Orenburg, 1994. p. 80.)


Mythological basis: the Sind ancestors of Bulgars venerated a spirit of harvest, cattle, and nature Samar. From extreme antiquity, one of the Sind clans was a cattle breeding clan, and they called this spirit Saban (Chaban, i.e. shepherd). From that, that clan became known as Saban clan (specifically, chaban is a sheep shepherd. By extension, a cow shepherd could also be called chaban with an adjective, but a horse shepherd could not. The origin of the Sabans should be sought among the sheep-herder tribes. Bulgars were horse husbandmen).

Ethnic sphere of the holiday origin. The Sabantui holiday arose among the Sabans and was celebrated as "Wedding of Saban". By the climatic calendar of the Middle Itil region, at the end of April - in the beginning of May appeared grass, and the cattle was switched to the ground forage. In honor of successful winter and arrival of the herbage, was organized a Sabany holiday. It lasted for seven days (After the loss of the Kuban and Don deltas, the tribes that evacuated to the north had to adjust to very different climatic conditions, that productive and economic adjustment is not clear. The peasantry is described as almost exclusively of local Finnic stock, Bulgars are implied as remaining nomadic or semi-nomadic horse pastoralists, but what did they do in the winter?).

Thus, originally the Sabantui was a cattlemen holiday; later, when agriculture and cattle breeding began to be combined, it became a common holiday.

Traditional elements of the holiday. During millenniums, the elements of a Sabantui varied, but two ceremonies constituting an essence of that holiday invariably remained.

The first element is wrestling (kresh, kuresh in Bulgarian). Before Islam, women could participate in wrestling competitions. History knows cases when combats were won by the women. So, for example, in the 12th century a daughter of Itil Bulgaria emir Shamgun-Sain won a combat with her husband, and even broke his ribs.

The winner was awarded a title Batyr and given a ram (ram, not cow or horse, this confirms that the tradition ascends to the sheep chabans). Batyr had to raise this ram above his head. This tradition developed in memory of a legendary Bulgarian bogatyr Audan (associated with Atilla in mythology), who defeated Alp Ram. That Alp tried to forestall the Audan's wedding. Audan tore the Ram off the ground, raised above his head, and slammed it to the ground.

The second element are horse races. These horse races were called "kaz kuu" - "catch up with a girl". In extreme antiquity it literally meant "swan girl". In other words, the girl flew on a horse like a swan, and she was to be caught by an "eagle guy". If a young man could not overtake his selection at a certain distance, on a return way the girl pursued him, and tried to knock his hat off his head with a horsewhip. If she managed to do that, it was a greatest shame for the young man.

Thus, the Sabantui holiday arose and shaped its basic features among the cattlemen of the Bulgars' historical ancestors. Originally, that holiday was not only an entertaining show, but was also closely connected with the way of  life of shepherd cattlemen, and was a centerpiece of a pre-wedding ritual.

Chillek or Shillyk

The name of the holiday came from the Indo-Iranian "chilla" - "forty". According to the Sinds' mythology, Karga (Raven, for symbolic significance of the Raven see Zuev Ethnic History of Usuns. Bulgars continue celebration of a creation myth noted in the Jeti-su 2,200 years ago, in the land of Ases - Turgeshes, this is one more link between Bulgars and As tribes. - Translato'r Note) breached a wall that was enclosing the sun, at night on the 20th of March, and on March 21st, when the sun rose, he was burned down. Therefore, initially it was a commemoration of the Alp Karga. Specifically, it was a 40th-day commemoration. It should have been taking place on April 29. However, actually it was performed after the Sabantui, but before the sowing. With time, Chillek became a holiday of sowing or a first furrow. Later, it was started to be celebrated after the sowing.

The holiday ritual. Before Islam, the holiday had the following ritual.

First phase. Around noon, the villagers were leaving to the fields. First was sacrificed a white ram. Its blood was collected into an altar, called Ufa. After that, was performed a rite "birsoly-tarlau (bir = millet, soly = oats, tarlau = plowing and harrowing). In a first furrow were thrown not only oats or millet, but hard buttered eggs (for the field to be fertile) and fish (to stimulate good rain).

Second phase. If in the first phase the main players were men, in the second they were women. They placed commemorative food (mandatory fish pie, then butter, honey, pancakes, etc.), cooked porridge and mutton. Initially, in the preparation of the sacral food the blood of the sacrificed ram was also used. After a of the "first furrow" rite, they recited incantations and then turned to the memorial meal.

Third phase. After completing the field part of the ceremony, everybody went to maidan (plazza). There was beginning a horse race. A winner was sprinkled with flour and awarded a title "Kamyr batyr" ("Dough Bogatyr" or "Bogatyr of the Dough", i.e. of the crop).

Fourth phase. Upon the end of the races, everybody went to the cemetery to visit ancestor graves.

Fifth phase. In the evening were organized memorial feasts in honor of ancestors. The feasts were served in the houses of beforehand designated households. The inhabitants of one end of the village gathered in one house, of another end in another house.

On the next day started sowing.


This holiday has a multi-millennia history, divided into few periods. Two of them are as follows.

First period. It lasted from from extreme antiquity to the middle of the 10th century. Approximately from the middle of May to the end of June, following a traditional schedule, a king would drive visiting the clan, tribal, and district centers. Such centers were called suba. By the tome of the king arrival to suba, all people of that djien district have assembled. In the middle of a maidan was installed a yag, i.e. a column symbol of a sacred tree Yag (yag, yaga, aga = senior: Aga Khan = Senior Khan, aga babai/papai = older father, grandfather, elder). On its top was mounted an image of a cock or a hen, and to its foot was tied a sacrificial white ram (that oddball symbolism resembles roosters on the top of the N.French and S.England churches. Could it be a lasting heritage of Amorica's Alans or Normans? The columns on the fences that surround Kipchak kurgan graves also symbolize the Yag tree of life. Note that in the Ogur-branch languages the Yag tree would be pronounced Djag, Djyag, and be eventually recorded in that form. In contrast, the word “djien“ sounds Ogur; in the Oguz-branch it would be reduced to “yien, ien“).

In the beginning were made prayers to Tangre (Tengre), and slaughtered a sacrificial white ram. After sacrificial food had been eaten, began an assembly (djien) of the inhabitants of the djien district. The Khan was making new appointments to the local administrative posts, held court, received a collected tribute. Then began a celebration. Its major elements were:

1. Fair. To the djien fair, which in Bulgarian was called yagashlyk, were coming many merchants, and casual traders. The attraction was that in the djienn fairs the Khan allowed duty-free trade.

2. Military reviews. Militia from the inhabitants of the djien district showed their weaponry skills. Were organized horse races.

3. Djien ashis (dinners). Inhabitants of the djien centers, i.e. of the subs treated not only the Khan and his retinue, but also their relatives who live in different settlements.

4. Djien medjlises. More substantial inhabitants of the subs did not limit to the treating of their relatives, but called many guests from non-relatives. Such feasts were called medjlises (now a name for a Parliament).

The relatives who arrived from other settlements enjoyed it for 3-4 days, while djien lasted, stayed over, were treated and gave gifts to their relatives who lived in the suba.

Second period in the history of djiens. Approximately from the middle of the 10th century, the Itil Bulgaria Khans ceased doing the suba rounds. Djiens acquired only a celebratory form. The main elements of the previous period's djiens were retained. However, with a growth of Islam position came some changes in the djien routine.

First, they acquired a "purely" holiday character, free from political (i.e mthological) components.

Secondly, in some djien functions, men began to participate separately from women.

One aspect where occurred changes attracts a special attention. The subject is a joint participation of guys and girls. Before Islam, joint participation and entertainment of guys and girls were normal events. With Islam, the horse races lost their wedding factor, and became simply entertaining competitions. Only men participated in them. On the other days of the year, open meetings of guys and girls were barred and strictly averted by the parents, mullahs and older people. During djiens, guys and girls could openly walk together. The young men bought for their selections various presents and treats. Many families were born out of the friendship and love that developed during the time of the djien holiday (and that segregation in some Turkic societies brought about the evils of forced marriages, gender subjugation, violence, cruelty, bride purchase, and bride price; criminalization of human relations with despicable punishments, and through back to widespread illiteracy. Fortunately, Bulgaria avoided most if not all of these excesses among most of its people).

Yangyr botkasy

This holiday formed out of a reverence ritual for the Alp (spirit) of the rain, thunder and lightning Kubar. It was celebrated in August.

The holiday ritual. The ritual consisted of a few phases.

First phase. It was beginning away from the village, in a field, but by a source of water: creek, river, spring, lake, etc. At the source of the water, thirteen elderly women with loosened hair lined up facing the sun. At that time the other acting participants stayed away from that place. Thirteen women represented mothers of the strongest Alps (kind spirits, serving the will of Tengre). The Tengrian Bulgars thought that Tengre would listen to the mothers of the Alps, and would send Alp Kubar to the aid of the people, who would bring rain to the fields, and above the ripening grain would come summer lightnings and roar the thunder-storms.

A woman second in line from the left represented a mother of Kubar. First, she would say an entreaty prayer, addressing Tengre and her son "Kubar". After that she would begin a "showing the breast" ceremony. Baring a breast, she started to beg her "son" to look at her breasts withered from draught, and to send a rain to the land. Following her, other women also started to do the same.

The idea of a ceremony: to shame Alp Kubar for his forgetfulness that withered the land, withered the plants, made animals suffer from starvation.

Second phase. After performing the ceremony at the water source, thirteen women joined the other participants of the ritual in calling for a rain. After that, the youth and children started spraying water on each other. In the beliefs of the Tengrian Bulgars, these actions should induce the "ways of water to open" - "su yullary achylsyn". In other words, with such methods they wanted to prod a rain.

Third phase. It included a rite of animal sacrifice: a white bull or a white cow. A special ritual porridge "yangyr botkasy" - "rain porridge" and the meat of the sacrificed animal were cooked. Then went on a feast: they ate ritual porridge, meat of the sacrificed animal, fish, butter, eggs, milk. During the feast they sang ritual songs, performed riddle songs.

Chumar (Samar) botkasy
"Porridge of Chumar (Samar)"

Mythological base. The primary elements of the holiday are rooted in a myth about Samar - Guldjimesh (i.e. Gilgamesh). The substance of the myth survived due to the diligence of Kul Gali. His description is:

Once a malicious spirit (yoreg or djinn) Shurale decided to ruin people and everything alive on the Earth. Shurale is a spirit of drought, famine and death. He destroyed all trees around the main source of water on the Earth. Shurale dried up a spring. The Earth was depleted with terrible drought.

Alp-bika Turan as a kind spirit of love and female beauty began persuading Shurale to withdraw his roots from the sources of the spring water, and to give people water. Shurale agreed to free the spring only in the event that he would be given a post of Alps' vizier (main adviser and prime minister), i.e. of the kind spirits who assist people. The vizier post was occupied by Ur (Mar), i.e. the spirit of sun. Having learned about Shurale claims, Ur asked the spirit of thunder and lightning Kubar to punish the impudent fellow. Kubar directed an arrow-lightning on Shurale, who become a huge dry tree with copper leaves and with a hollow mouth with a copper fang canine teeth. Kubar managed to knock out only one fang. The knocked out tooth fell to the ground and turned into a monstrous copper-sided unicorn bull Kepkei. In place of the knocked out tooth grew a new one. In the meantime, the unicorn Kepkei went to a nearest city, intending to stomp it. However, the road to it was blocked by a legendary knight bogatyr Audan. The unicorn threw Audan highly-high into the sky so that he at the fall fell on his horn. While Audan was flying, the unicorn decided to trample his wolf cap (burek) - amulet. That caused an anger of mighty Alp Buri, i.e. wolf. Buri took a form of invisible being and with a terrible force bent down Kepkei horn to the ground. Audan landed without damage and shredded unicorn into pieces with a sword. He hanged up the pieces on the sacred tree yaga. After that, Audan began also to be called Enkei or Oguz, i.e. bull.

When the Alp (spirit) of fertility Samar (Chumar) learned about all that, he mounted a horse and raced to fight with Shurale. Alp Samar could turn into a Dragon, Deer or Bull. Therefore that Alp had a few names : Baradj (dragon), Türk (Great Bull), and others. Bulgars often visualized Samar as a bogatyr (strongman) horseman, and Shurale was called Kuvysh (Hollow Sitter). Samar razed Kuvysh, i.e. a huge hollow tree, then split it into parts. These parts have immediately turned into little Shurales. They did not pose a danger for the Alps any more. The spring was freed, from the bowels of the earth started forging water. However, from the Shurale-Kuvysh blood the water became dead. Samar and Turan drunk from the spring and fell dead asleep. Audan, on seeing that, remained with the spring to wait for the arrival of the rooks. When the rooks arrived, Audan turned to Karga-rook (Raven-rook) with a plea to help those who fell asleep. Karga and his wife Chakchak (two-headed bird, frequently eagle or golden berkut eagle) on their wings brought Audan to the Basan valley. There, he plucked alive grass - millet. From the millet, Chakchak prepared a life-giving water - buza. Audan brought the buza drink to the spring, and resuscitated Samar, his wife Turan and the spring.

Holiday ritual. Review how this holiday was celebrated during the most ancient period.

Time of celebration: celebrations lasted for 40 days: in the cities and fortresses from August 23 to October 1, and in auls (villages) in September - beginning of October.

First phase. Priests, i.e. bolyars, recited incantations and performed ritual songs. After Islam, a mullah would read a prayer. Then were sang ritual songs.

Second phase. From a corral was released a white sacrificial bull. And horsed warriors (cowboys) began a fight with it. They were re-enacting the fight of Audan with unicorn Kepkei. In the 10th century under pressure of mullahs this custom was barred. Before, this phase of the holiday culminated in slaughtering of the sacrificial bull, carving it into parts and hanging them up on a sacred yaga tree. For a sacred tree was used a poplar.

Third phase. Most of the participants started feasting, and another part participated in competitions. They participated in the following competitions.

1. Djigitship: demonstration of the skills to control a horse, to scoop at a gallop a coin from the ground, etc.

2. Target shooting competitions. On a fringe of the aul (village), on a crossbeam of a field gate was attached an image of ulak, i.e. a goat, and competitions were started for accuracy in bow shooting.

3. Horsed combat - audarysh: to seize a contender and to bend him down to the ground to make him touch the ground.

4. Lance combat of knights - senge sugyshy (sugyshy = campaign, combat): competitions went by the scenarios of knight tournaments (identical to later Western European rules).

5. Fight of Huns - hon sugyshy: the contenders with naked torsos whipped each other with knouts until one of them would leave the maidan.

That variety of competitions symbolized Kubar's (Alp of lightnings and thunder) fight with Shurale (Yoreg of droughts and death), Audan's (bogatyr knight) fight with with unicorn Kepkei (who arose from the Shurale's knocked out tooth).

The next form of competitions symbolized a flight of Audan for the life-giving grass.

Horse races - baiga

Women had a right to participate in all competitions, except for the "Hon sugyshy“ (“Fight of Huns“) and horse mounted combat.

During competitions with knouts, weaponry (spear), and races, participants were frequently killed or mutilated. However, it was perceived as inevitable, and did not cause a suspension of the holiday (recall the behavior of Romans during gladiator fights). So, for example, when in the 943 during a race Khan Mikail fell from his horse and crushed to death, his son Mohammed, who was present at the gala, said: "At the will of the Almighty, people come and leave, but the will of the Creator is fulfilled". And he ordered to continue with the festivities.

The holiday " Chumar (Samar) botkasy" ("Chumar (Samar) Porridge") belonged to that category of holidays where, for the opening, on the maidan was installed a column symbol of the sacred tree (in Bulgarian yaga) with an image of a cock or a hen at the top, and a sacrificial white ram tied to the bottom.

Kyzlar echkene - Maiden drink

The traditions of this holiday reach extreme antiquity with its roots, and many of its features are identicaal with the rituals of the "Chumar botkasy".

In ancient times this holiday was celebrated in September, after a harvest. Women and maidens assembled in a certain place beyond a city or a village. As a rule, the place of gathering was a hill or mountain. Such mountain was called Kyztauy - the Maiden mountain ( L.Potapov described that when a splinter of some tribe were joining another tribe, a zaisan of the host tribe would introduce the newcomers to the location of the local sacral mountains).

40 days later (after women's event) men were gathering for their "assembly" - medjlis (court, deliberative body).

The Khan Mikail Yalkau (930-943) ordered both medjlises to be combined together as one act. It was called Kyzlar Echkene - Maiden drink. Why? Because for many centuries the Bulgarian society was a warrior community, whose livelihood completely depended on the successes and failures in the military activities. Therefore, the professional warriors of the Bulgars proper were creating families with a permission of a ruler or sardar (army commander). But he (professional warrior) had to give the ruler a horse. With time, Bulgars proper formed a custom according to which a father, wishing to marry his son, asked the ruler (or sardar) for a permission. For that, he had to give the ruler a horse. For a permission to convene guests he had to give honey. Its quantity depended on the number of guests invited for the wedding. From the collected in that way honey, on a command of the ruler, was prepared a drink suvdj. During the "Maiden drink" celebrations, this drink was brought to the sites of the major events around the capital. In other towns and villages this drink was prepared by their inhabitants. Therefore this holiday was also called Kyzlar Echkene - the Virgin's drink. It went as follows.

First phase. Were performed incantations and ceremonial songs. That was followed by a slaughter of sacrificial animals. Was prepared a sacrificial food.

Second phase. The sacrificial food was consumed, and then the ritual food - wheaten porridge (Chumar botkasy), soup (Chumar ashy). That part of the holiday was accompanied by minstrels (Chichens) (the word "chichen" could be a source of the Russian name for the Nakh people and their state, "Chechnya", named after one of the first Nakh villages that the Russian army encountered in their assault in the Caucasus; there was a trade specialization between villages, like potter village, metallurgists, charcoal producers, etc.; and the Nakh and Turkic villages were interspersed and some amalgamated), dancing, games.

Third phase. Then began the contests (already described above).


The description of the holiday is given in the Lecture 2.

Description in  Lecture 2

In honor of Alp Mardukan-Karga annually on December 25 Bulgars and their Sind ancestors celebrated a holiday called Mardukan or Nardugan. The holiday consisted of several phases.

First phase. Youth and children in masks and carnival dress visited houses, collecting gifts. In front of that picturesque procession strided a man in a role of winter spirit Kysh Tarhan, i.e. “Host of Winter” . He was dressed in a hemispherical cap, dark blue fur coat, and held a staff with a half moon. He was accompanied by two “rooks (ravens)”. They played a role of Karga sons Sak and Sok. The participants of the procession were singing ceremonial songs, and some of them played musical instruments. Such carnival procession of dressed-up Bulgars was called shakmak.

Second phase. When gathering of donation was completed, commenced the decoration of a sacred tree or column. Women and girls decorated it with multi-coloured ribbons. Then to the tree was attached a symbol of Tengre, i.e. a six-point star or artificial flowers with even number of petals. On the tree or column were hung baskets with eggs, and also the image of the cock as symbol of Mar (Sun). The sacred tree or its column symbol was called in Bulgarian yaga. The top of the  yaga was crowned with an image of a cock or hen, and to its trunk was tied a sacrificial ram.

Third phase. On a raised platform of snow and ice the holiday participants  erected a “wall of divines”, i.e. a “wall of malicious spirits”. Then the holiday participants divided into two teams. One team was defending the “wall of divines” or little snow castle, and another started storming it. The storming team carried on long poles or on a sledge an effigy of a horse (symbol of Mar, i.e. the sun) and camel Taigas (symbol of Kysh Tarhan, i.e. Host of Winter). They took by a storm the “wall of divines” and destroyed it. After that, the “winners“ were stripped of the clothes and splashed with water. A fire was set up, and an effigy of Time-Tarhan, i.e. Host of Underground, a head of malicious spirits, was burnt.

Fourth phase. When festivity wound down, at the tree (column) was performed a sacrifice ceremony in honor of Tengre and kind spirits, i.e. Alps: in honor of Tengre a white horse and a lamb, in honor of Mar a white horse, and for Karga a golden  fleece ram. The pelts of the sacrificed animals were hanged on the tree, with incantation: “Let the one who would dare to steal them be bitten by a snake”. The meat of the sacrificed horse or ram was cooked and eaten. The sacrificial food in Bulgarian were called “kanak-bal“, and the sacrificial ram - kalyn teke.

Fifth phase. The collected staples and food were turned over to the needy. At night were staged feasts. At the feasts was always recited the legend “Sak-Sok baite”. Arranged guessings At night were conducted divinations. Divinations were done with a ring and a jug. Bulgars called diviners ergibiy. The divination was called ereg.

[Information taken from the book “Djagfar tarihy. Collection of Bulgarian annals”, Vol. 2, Bahshi Iman, Orenburg, 1994, pp 60-61, 76-78.]

Certainly, the Bulgars also had other holidays: Subash, Chachak bairamy (Flower Holiday), etc.

Description of the Bulgar holidays is from: Bahshi Iman. Djagfar tarihy. Volume 2, Orenburg, 1994, pp. 76-108.

8. Questions and answers

8.1. In what sense Bulgars used the word "aul"?

Originally the word was used in a meaning "circle". Then villages began to be called so because in ancient times the village had a form of a circle.

8.2. How in Bulgarian was called a nomadic court of a leader?

The nomadic court of Prince or king originally was called bidja (Abidjan, Bandja/Banja).

8.3. What purpose pursued Khan Almysh in carrying out the territorial administrative reform?

He tried to prevent disintegration of the Itil Bulgaria. With that purpose he liquidated autonomous princedoms.

8.4. How Bulgars called province and the governor?

Bulgars called province with a term "il", and the governor "Ulugbek".

8.5. Under what circumstances ended the life of seid Ahmed Bakir, i.e. the former secretary of the Great embassy Ahmed ibn-Fadlan?

During the reign of Khan Gazan (925-930), Ahmed Bakir (Ahmed ibn-Fadlan) was not only a seid, i.e. a head of all Moslems in the Itil Bulgaria, but also a vizier. Occupying these two important posts, he was inciting Khan to forceful repressions of the Tengrian "pagans". During the reign of Mikail (930-943), Ahmed Bakir fell into disgrace. When in the Nur mosque in the Nur-Suvar city he struck a horse of king Mikail with a whip, he was tied down with a stallion harness and thrown in a dageon (zindan). Soon he died there. The Tengrian Bulgars did not like him, and the Moslem Bulgars depicted him as a mullah fighting with a winged snake Baradj. Baradj was a patron of the Tengrian Bulgars.

In Russian
Djagfar Tarihi
Contents Huns
Contents Bulgars
Western Hun's Khan Lineage
Western Hun's Khan Dynasties
Bulgarian Khans List
Yu.Zuev The Strongest Tribe - Ezgil
Besenyos, Ogur and Oguz
Alans and Ases
Alan Dateline
Avar Dateline
Besenyo Dateline
Bulgar Dateline
Huns Dateline
Karluk Dateline
Kimak Dateline
Kipchak Dateline
Khazar Dateline
Kyrgyz Dateline
Sabir Dateline
Seyanto Dateline