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<= Resettlement of Bulgarian peoples to Middle Itil · Contents · Djagfar Tarihi Contents · Itil Bulgaria in the first half of the 10 c. =>

Z. Z. Miftakhov

Lecture Course
State Pedagogical University, Kazan, 1998, 2002, ISBN 5-89120-050-3


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, 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. General remarks.
2. Time and circumstances of formation of Itil Bulgaria.
3. Islamization of the Bulgarian society and transformation of Islam into Itil Bulgaria state religion.


Objective. An overall objective of this lecture is to define the role Islam played in forming an ethnically diverse mass of Bulgarian and their kin peoples into a uniform Itil Bulgar ethnosystem.

Methodical guideline. Study of the process of the Bulgarian society’s Islamization and forming of the Islamic Itil Bulgaria state should reveal the factors that fused Bulgars - Moslems and pagan Finno-Ugrians into a uniform political community.

Initial situation. 855 AD is a starting point in the long chain of the historical events, which in the end resulted in the creation of the first Islamic state in the Itil-Ural historical-cultural region. What happened then?

In 855 AD died Aidar, the next Kan of Kara Bulgar. Two important events attracted attention of the historians to his person and actions. First, he was a first ruler of Bulgars to accept Islam. Secondly, his senior son Gabdulla Djilki (in some sources his name is given in the form: Shilki, Silki) was a founder of the Itil Bulgaria state.

Time and circumstances of Islam acceptance by Aidar. In the end of the 8-th c., a merchant Sindj arrived on a trade trip from India to Khorasan (Northeast Iran). There, he accepted Islam from the Arabs. After that, Sindj was appointed a head of the Khorasan merchant guild. In the beginning of the 9-th c. his senior son Abdullah was sent with an embassy delegation to Khazaria. There, the embassy was detained. Soon, Abdullah settled in Samandar (aka Semender, in the present Northern Dagestan), and became a Mullah. In 817 the inhabitants of Samandar revolted against the dominance of the Khazars, and the attempts of the Khakan Karak to introduce among them Judaism. Khakan Karak, after suppressing the revolt, ordered the instigator of the revolt, Mullah Abdullah, to be hanged from the minaret of the Samandar mosque. The senior son of Abdullah, Shams, fled in time to Kara Bulgar. The Kara Bulgar ruler Aidar received him favorably. In 819 the Khazarian Khakan attacked Kara Bulgar. It happened that at the decisive moment of struggle against Khazars, Shams gave Kan Aidar a very useful advice. As a result of the actions that followed his advice, Bulgars were victorious. Shams explained all that by the omnipotence of the Allah, and actively encouraged Kan Aidar to accept Islam. Shortly after the ruler of Kara Bulgar became Moslem (ca. 820), in Kyiv (which was a capital of Kara Bulgar) was built a mosque “Djok”.

Beginning of the rule of Kan Djilki. After the death of Aidar (r. 819-855), a ruler of Kara Bulgar became his senior son Djilki. At the time of the ascension to the post of the Kan (Kagan with silent “g“, Kaĝan/Kaan) he was a Moslem. His younger brother Lachyn remained a Tengriist. Soon between the brothers sparked a struggle for power. Bulgars-Moslems grouped around Djilki. It was a numerous Sabanian clan Baryn (Berendeys of Rus annalls). Around Lachyn grouped the Bulgars who adhered to Tengrianism. Gradually, the struggle between the brothers began to take a form of opposition between Moslems and Tengrians. The opposition sharply rekindled after an intervention of a third force, the Khazarian Khakan Yskhak. The predecessor of Yskhak, Khakan Manas, was killed in 858 in his tent while making his rounds (1; 36). It was a well planned and arranged provocation. Manas was killed by Jewish Khazars, and they accused the merchants from Kara Bulgar who came on a trade trip to the court of Khakan. They were hurriedly executed. The new Khakan Yskhak invaded Kara Bulgar (ca. 859). The Bulgars-Tengrians under a leadership of Lachyn joined the Khazar side. A decisive battle occurred near the city Baltavar (present Poltava). Djilki lost the battle. That defeat had far-reaching consequences:

First, the Khazarian Khakan took from the territory of the Kara Bulgar two uluses, Kyiv (Bashtu) and Novgorod (Urus) (which means that the name Rus first applied to the Ladoga area controlled by Vikings). In the territory of these two uluses was created a princedom Rus. In the historical literature it is called Kyivan Rus or Old Russian state. The princedom Kyivan Rus held the right bank territory along the middle course of Dnieper. The Khazarian Khakan Yskhak installed as a first ruler of the princedom Rus a Norman by the name Dir. Bulgars called him Djir. Before 859, Dir served as a head of the Slavic irregular force of Kyiv. He was supervised by a Khazarian Khakan’s viceroy. A Norman Askold (Oskold; per B.A. Rybakov Oskolot, in Bulgarian As-Khalib), became a first Viceroy. The Viceroy Askold monitored not only the actions of the Prince Dir, but also the timely payments of tribute to the Khazars, and over the tax collection for the passage through the city gates, where were located the Khazarian customs.

Secondly, the deposed Kan Djilki entrenched in the city Karadjar (Chernihiv), and kept the territory, in which subsequently emerged the princedom Chernihiv.

Thirdly, Kara Bulgar kingdom remained in the territory of the lower course of Dnieper, the northern part of the Crimean peninsula, and in those regions, where now are the cities Poltava and Putivl. Khorysdan (Putivl) became a Kara Bulgar political center. Lachyn became a Kan (Kagan, King) (of the Rus).

Thus, the previously united Kara Bulgar kingdom was divided into three states, namely: a princedom Rus, kingdom Kara Bulgar, and a princedom Karadjar (Chernihiv). The most active centrifugal forces were the Bulgars-Tengriists, Norman mercenary troops, and Slavic irregular forces of Kyiv and Novgorod. Khazars supported them militarily and politically.

In 863, Djilki attempted to unite the fractured empire. He attacked suddenly the city of Baltavar (Batavyl, present Poltava), where Kan Lachyn was at that time. Lachyn left Baltavar to its fate, and fled to Khazaria. After a capture of Baltavar, Djilki advanced to Kyiv. At the approach of his troops to the city, the Khazarian Khakan’s viceroy Askold fled to Novgorod (Galidj). Prince Dir came out from the city towards Djilki, and pledged submissiveness. After that, Djilki returned to Baltavar (Poltava) and resumed the rule as the Kan of Kara Bulgar.

Thus, the unity of Kara Bulgar was restored, but, as it turned out, not for long. In 864 the Khazarian Khakan sent a 75-thousand army against Djilki. Djilki had to cover behind the walls of Karadjar again.

Bulgaria and Khazaria ca. 850


The further fate of Djilki, and the aspects of the Itil Bulgars statehood, were impacted by a meeting of Djilki with a merchant by a name Tuymaz. That meeting happened in Karadjar in 864. Djilki learned from the merchant that the dynasty line ascending from Tat-Ugek, a founder of Bulgarian princedom in the middle Itil, was interrupted, because prince Barys died without leaving a successor. A part of the Bulgar city’s inhabitants wanted to invite to the prince throne the son of the Khazarian Khakan. This news led Djilki to active actions. He resolved to become a ruler of the Bulgarian princedom. Djilki “ordered his senior son Almysh to head the Kara-Bulgarian beylik, and hastily advanced with 10 thousand warriors to Bulyar” (1; 38). Thus, in 864 Almysh became a Prince of the Western Bulgarian princedom (Western Bulgarian princedom east of the rest of Bulgaria?).

When Djilki approached Bulgar with his soldiers, its inhabitants did not let him into the city. Kumans (Badjanaks) took advantage of that. They were interested in using Djilki troops to fight with Khazars. The leader of Kumans gave Djilki, as an appanage possession, his dependent princedom Esegel (when and how the Esegs became Bajanak's possession?). Djilki set up his quarters on the left bank of the river Baradj-Chishma (present Sheshma) in the city Sulcha. Djilki continued negotiations with the inhabitants of Bulgar. After Djilki promised to create an Islamic state with a center in the Bulgar city, the Moslem part of the city's population supported him. After entering the city, Djilki prayed in the Marduan mosque. After that, was conducted a ceremony of raising Djilki to the throne.

He was raised to the throne by the Anchian commander Nankay, Esegel prince Tarnak from a Sabanian clan Djulgut, Esegel prince Alabuga from a Sabanian clan Baryn, and the Burdjan prince Bel from a clan Yumart (1; 38) [1] Djilki began creating a state of a higher status than princedom.

First, Djilki proclaimed himself a Kan, i.e. a King.

Secondly, he proclaimed the state a Bulgarian Islamic state.

This event took place in 865 AD.

Thus, in middle of the 960's, in the middle of the Itil basin arose the first Islamic state, known in the historical literature as Itil Bulgaria or Itil-Kama Bulgaria. Though Bulgaria was proclaimed as an Islamic state, she has not received yet an endorsement from the head of all Moslems, the Baghdad Caliph. In other words. Itil Bulgaria was not yet recognized as an Islamic state.

Territory and population. Initially, the authority of the Kan of the incipient Islamic state covered only a small territory of the appanage princedoms, namely: Bulgarian princedom with the center in the city Bulgar, Esegel princedom with the center in the city Sulcha, Baryndjar princedom with the center in the city Nur-Suvar. The appanage Princes of Esegel and Baryndjar were proclaimed as Tarkhans. [2]

Since his political opponents have not begun to counteract actively, Djilki decided to engage in expanding the limits of his possessions. With that purpose, in 865 AD he went to the north, to the mouth of the river Tamtazai (present river Zai, 55.3°N 52°E). There were located quarters of the Bershudian Modjars’ ruler by the name Kush. The Bershudian Modjars are the historical ancestors of the modern Maries (Finnic people, aka Cheremis, Vyatiches). Kush recognized the authority of the Bulgar Kan Djilki without resistance. His possessions in the Kama basin were included in the Itil Bulgaria as an appanage princedom Bershud.

Wishing to demonstrate his loyalty to the Kan Djilki, Kush initiated campaigns in the northwest and northeast of his possessions. In the northwest prince Kush reached the area where subsequently emerged a city Kostroma (57.8°N 41°E). He declared the river, which he called Kush-Urma (modern Kostroma) (in Modjarian the word “urma” meant “irregular forces”) as the border of Itil Bulgaria possessions.

On a bank of this river was built a fortress, which also was was called Kush-Urma (subsequently in this place arose Kostroma).

In the north, Prince Kush subjugated to the Itil Bulgaria the (Finnic) people in the basin of the river Biy-Su (river Pechera, 66°N 53°E) and on the coast of Kar Sea (Kar Gingeze, 68°N 53°E).

The territories added to Itil Bulgaria by prince Kush became known as a Biysu province, i.e. Pechera. In the west its border went by the banks of the lake White (Belozero, 60°N 38°E), in the north by the coast of Kara Sea, in the east by the left bank of Biy-Su, in the south by the right bank of Kama (river Chulman, 56°N 54°E).

In 866 two more provinces were added to Itil Bulgaria, namely: Ura and Baygul. Ura is the Nothern Ural territory between the rivers Biy-Su (Pechera) and the lower course of Baygul (river Ob, 66°N 65°E). Baygul is the territory of the Western Siberia in the middle course of Baygul (62°N 69°E).

Thus, the initial administrative - territorial arrangement of Itil Bulgaria looked as follows:

1. Appanage princedoms:

1.1. Bulgarian – with the center of city Bulgar.

1.2. Esegel - with the center of city Sulcha.

1.3. Baryndjar - with the center of city Nur-Suvar.

1.4.Bershud - with the center of a settlement Tamtazay.

2. Provinces:

2.1. Biysu - with the center of a fortress Kolyn (Soviet time Kirov) [3] .

2.2. Baygul - with the center of a settlement Baygulon the river Ob.

2.3. Ura - with the center of a fortress Alamir Sultan (present Elabuga).

Bulgaria ca. 970

Appanage princedoms collectively were called Inner Bulgaria, and the provinces were called Outer Bulgaria.

The Inner Bulgaria (“Echke Bulgar”) is the central part of Itil Bulgaria. Its borders passed by the rivers Sviyaga in the west, Sheshma in the east, Mesha in the north and on the line of the Samara Bend in the south.

Inner Bulgaria ca. 970

Outer Bulgariaia (“Tyshky Bulgar”) is the possessions of peoples subordinated to Itil Bulgars. The territory of Outer Bulgariaia stretched in a huge area from lake White in the west to the river Ob in the east, from the Northern Arctic ocean in the north to the river Kama in the south, there lived various Finno-Ugrian peoples. Originally, Bulgars used the following collective names to refer to these people:

1. Ars are the historical ancestors of the modern Udmurts.

2. Biysuans are the historical ancestors of the Udmurts, Komi and Permyaks.

3. Bayguls are the historical ancestors of the Khanty and Mansi peoples.

The possessing Princes of the Inner Bulgaria, and the leaders of Finno-Ugrian peoples of the Outer Bulgariaia, were declared as Tarkhans, i.e. rulers, dependent from the Kan, but with defined privileges. Each Tarkhan should pay only a strictly definite tribute in furs, honey, wax, grain, and cattle (1; 39). For collection of the tribute were designated collection areas. The tribute collection areas were called djiens. Djien locations were Bulgar, Nur-Suvar, and also Sulcha, Bulyar (Bilyar), Alamir Sultan (Alabuga, present Elabuga), Kashan and Djuketau.

Social-political organization. During the rule of Djilki the social-political organization of Itil Bulgaria took more or less clear forms. Let us present it as a socio-political ladder.

First rung. It was held by the ruler, his wife, sons, and nearest relatives. The rule of Djilki had a number of original features.

First, he was a founder of a new dynasty. The previous dynasty went from prince Tat-Ugek, under whose leadership the Western Bulgars came to the regions of the Middle Itil basin. The dynasty lasted from 760 to 864. The Djilki dynasty line went from Bel-Kermek, Attila’s son. This dynasty line began in 455 AD.

Secondly, Djilki was the first Moslem ruler among all rulers ever heading a state in the Itil basin region.

Thirdly, he performed two roles: Djilki was at once a Kan, and Elteber. As a Kan, he ruled over all the population of the Itil Bulgaria, and as an Elteber he ruled over the population of the Bulgar city and the adjacent territory.

The wife of the Kan directly participated in the political life: during the official receptions she sat next to her husband, and during his absence from the capital she governed the city.

Second rung. This ring of the socio-political ladder was held by the possessing Princes, their relatives, and also by the leaders of the Finno-Ugrian vassals.

Third rung. It was held by Kuvvady. Kuvvady are the highest officials nominated by Kan. They oversee the affairs in the appanage princedoms and dependencies of the Kan.

Fourth rung. This rung was held by the so-called “best people” of the Bulgarian land. They were members of the tribal elites.

Fifth rung. It was held by Khuans. Khuans are the court people of the Kan, his friends.

Sixth rung. It was held by the merchants, peasants, hunters, and craftsmen.

After ascending to the post of the Kan, Djilki was busy with territorial additions to the Itil Bulgaria, with creation of a bureaucratic apparatus and a tax system. In addition, he has done a large work organizing the armed forces.

Armed forces. Kan Djilki understood that without a well-organized army he would not sustain independence of the developing state. Therefore, he began organizing armed forces without delay. The army of Itil Bulgaria consisted of three parts, namely: urma, kursybay and yaran.

Urma was an irregular force at large, consisting of all able-bodied men. Urma was called upon in case of an attack by an enemy. The Urma warriors wore their hair braided.

Kursybai was a standing army. Service time was one year.

Yaran - was a personal retinue of the Kan.

Kan Djilki negotiated with some of the dependent peoples to bring them into the army. He offered Bershud Modjars to serve as volunteers in the urma, and also to Bashkorts, who lived between the rivers Sak (3) and Sok. In addition to that, they had to provide 4 thousand riders for a service in the kursybay. For the service in urma and kursybay Kan reduced the tribute in half, in comparison with other dependent peoples. As Bershuds and Bashkorts lived by fishing, hunting, and war, and were not involved in the agriculture, they willingly agreed to the Djilki’s offer.

Kan made a similar offer to the five Sabanian clans, namely: Baryn, Tuk-Suba, Ak-Suba, Djulut and Bakhta (6). For the service in urma and kursybay he reduced tribute to a half of that of the Bershud Modjars. Besides, Kan gave Tuk-Suba and Bakhta new land to settle. It was the territory between Djuketau and Kichi-Cheremshan (Small Cheremshan). Only the clan Tuk-Suba willingly agreed with the Kan Djilki offer, because they were engaged in cattle breeding, but the other Sabanian clans agreed reluctantly, as the service in the army prevented them from engaging in agriculture.

Kan Djilki obligated Kara-Bulgars (Western or genuine Bulgars), who arrived with him in the Itil basin, and also the descendents of those Kara-Bulgars, who at the end of the 750's came with Tat-Ugek, to serve in yaran, i.e. in his personal cohorts. For this service, all Kara-Bulgars were released from taxation.

Arms. The Bulgars fought on horseback. The soldiers wore armor mill and helmet. The complete set of arms consisted of a 2 to 3 ì long lance, a long sword, a slim blade, a dagger and à battle axe. Stone missiles were thrown with yautagan catapult machine. Each battle unit had a banner, which was called koryk. Before a battle the Bulgarian soldiers lined in three rows. Heavily armed soldiers manned the first line. They were called ulans (uglans). In the second line were medium-armed soldiers. A third line was made of lightly armed soldiers. The soldiers of the third line were called guzars. Bulgars called the mercenaries soldat (üldash, yuldash) (this Türkic word is now quite international, possibly spread by the Western Huns or even Scythians; if accepted etymology was correct, it went from Rome to Mongolia and all the desert and taiga crevices in between; the accepted etymology is: from accusative of Latin solidus, a Roman gold coin, from Late Latin soldum lit. “one having pay“, Middle Latin soldarius “a soldier“, Italian soldato and Old French soudier “one who serves in the army for pay“, French soldat “soldier“).

Death of Djilki and its consequence. In 882 Kan Gabdulla Djilki died. After his death his sons began dividing the father’s inheritance. His senior son, Almysh, continued to rule the princedom Kara Bulgar. The second son of Bat-Ugyr began to rule an appanage princedom Bulgar. The third son Mardjan (Mardan) proclaimed a creation of a kingdom Esegel, including in its limits Archa, Northern Burtas, Nur-Suvar, and also former appanage princedom Esegel (1; 45).

Thus, after the death of Djilki the Itil Bulgaria broke down into pieces.

Not better were things in the Kara Bulgar too. In 885 Almysh was overthrown from the throne by his senior son Arbat. Almysh set off to Kyiv and asked for a “political asylum”. He was given a place to build an estate.

In 894 Badjanaks attacked Kara Bulgar. This event spurred an exodus of those Sabanian clans, who still remained in the Kara Bulgar territory. Five thousand Sabans from the Baryn clan asked Almysh to lead them to their Itil Bulgaria kins. Almysh agreed. At the head of Sabans he went along the river Desna to Karadjar (Chernihiv). Passing it at a distance, Sabans went to the river Oka. There lived Murdases. Wishing to get rid faster of the Almysh’s Sabans, they agreed to take his messenger by a boat to the Bulgar city. Almysh sent a messenger to his younger brother Bat-Ugyr to find out where to place the Sabans. Bat-Ugyr ordered to place Baryns on the bank of a river Dyau-Shir (present river. Yaushirma in the Chistopol region of Tatarstan, 55.4° N 50.6°E; apparently, that area was populated by disagreeable Oguzes, it was a plot to displace them, so the following assault, and the rent for their property). When Sabanian Baryns settled on the bank of Dyau-Shir, the Turkmen Kuk-Oguzes attacked them (Türkic people who converted to Islam, including Oguzes, were called “Turkmen“, i.e. Türk-like, “not real Türks“). The younger brother of Almysh, Mardjan, incited their leader Salar. However, Almysh managed to prevent bloodshed. He agreed with Salar on the following conditions: Turkmens leave the limits of Bulgaria, and Almysh gives his daughter to marry Salar, and forces Bat-Ugyr to pay tribute to Turkmens. For all of that Salar should help Almysh to take Sulcha (apparently, Esegels did not care mush for Almysh) on the river Sheshma. Almysh gave his daughter to Salar. Salar helped to take Sulcha. However, Almysh did not persuade Bat-Ugyr to pay tribute to Turkmens. A war with Turkmens became imminent. Then, in 895 Almysh invited Princes Alabuga, Bel-Umart, and Askal to a djien in Bulyar (Bilyar) city. Addressing them, he said: “Great Biys! Both of us, I and Bat-Ugyr, are the sons of Kan Djilki. But Kan Bat-Ugyr refuses to forge an agreement with Turkmens, and is going to draw the country into a disastrous war, and I have struck a sacrosanct peace. So tell me, whom you want to follow?” (1; 48). The Princes expressed a desire to acquiesce with Almysh.

After that Almysh went to the Bulgar city. Bat-Ugyr braced himself in the city citadel. Mullah Mikail Bashtu addressed him with the words: “Oh, Great Kan! I nursed you in the childhood, so I shall allow myself to ask a question. Tell me, what is better, to live as a simple mortal among the friends, or to reign surrounded by the enemies?” (1, 48). After these words Bat-Ugyr kept silence for a long time, and then ordered to open the gate. So, Almysh entered the Bulgar city. He prayed in a Marduan mosque. After that, Almysh was raised to the throne. Princes Djulut, Bel-Umart, Askal, and Mullah Abdallah raised Almysh to the throne.

Thus, In 895. Almysh became a Kan of Itil Bulgaria.


In 895 AD, in the year when Almysh ascended the Kan position of the Itil Bulgaria, was conducted a census of the Inner Bulgaria population. It showed that there were 550 thousand people. Of them, 200 thousand were Bulgars speaking a Sabanian dialect of the Turkic language (by 909 AD they grew to 320 thousand), 180 thousand were Ars, and 170 thousand were Modjars (1; 48).

This was the situation in Itil Bulgaria when Almysh became a Kan and began his attempts to complete his father’s endeavor to convert Itil Bulgaria into an Islamic state.

Events preceding the official acceptance of Islam by Itil Bulgars. The Dagestan and Western Bulgars begun converting to Islam in the 730's. So, for example, a part of Burdjans, the Dagestani Bulgars, accepted Islam in the Djurash (Northern Dagestan) from Sheik Yunus, one of the descendents of the prophet Muhammed. The most numerous and powerful Sabanian clan Baryn accepted Islam in the Dniepr basin from the hands of Mullah Michail Bashtu.

Mosques, with elementary schools mektebe, were in the regions of the Middle Itil even long before the official acceptance of Islam by the Itil Bulgars. For example, in the mid of the 890's in the Itil Bulgaria were 42 mektebe, and in 922 there already were 180 (1).

The greatest contribution to the spread of Islam among Bulgars made Sheik Yunus (or Seid Yunus, because he belonged to the descendents of the prophet Muhammed), Mullah Abdallah (Mullah in the city Samandar), Michail Bashtu (Mullah in the city of Kyiv and in the city of Bulgar), Abdallah (Mullah in the city of Bulgar, son of Michail Bashtu).

The first Moslem rulers among Bulgars were Aidar (the Kara Bulgar Kan), Djilki (at first the Kara Bulgar Kan, then the Itil Bulgaria Kan), Almysh (at first a Bek, prince, of the Kara Bulgarian princedom, then the Kan of Itil Bulgaria).

Wishing to achieve recognition of the Itil Bulgaria as an Islamic state by the Baghdad Caliph, Kan Almysh sent a few embassies to Bagdad.

The first embassy arrived in Bagdad in 901 AD. The Caliph (Ahmed Al-Mu'tadid, 892-902 -Translator’s note) received the ambassador, Mullah Abdallah. The Caliph questioned ambassador about the Itil Bulgaria, her laws, rulers and the people (1; 189). Learning that the majority of Itil Bulgars are Moslems, and that they consider the state to be an Islamic state, the Caliph was much delighted, and stated his intention to send to Bulgaria in the near future a Grand Embassy. At first he decided to send messengers with Abdallah, to learn a way to Bulgaria. Two years passed, Mullah Abdallah made a hadj to Mecca, and finally reached Bulgar with messengers of the Caliph. The embassy returned home in 903 AD. Among the messengers of the Caliph were a descendent of the prophet Muhammed, Sheik Khasan, a foreman Masud of the Caliph’s Moslem type clothing factory, and a merchant Musa (1; 189).

Kan Almysh was much elated by the arrival of the Caliph’s messengers. He proclaimed Sheik Khasan a Seid, i.e. the head of the Itil Bulgaria Moslems. This is how in the Middle Itil basin in 903 appeared one of the descendents of the prophet Muhammed. During conversations with the Sheik Seid Khasan, Kan Almysh was inspired with an idea of a holy war against infidels. And he sent his son Gasan and Mullah Abdallah to Avaria (present Hungary) and to Kyiv. In Avaria ruled Arbat, a senior son of Almysh. When Gasan and Abdallah came to the court of Arbat near Danube [4], Arbat responded that he already contributes to the struggle with infidels, by attacking Burdjan (Bulgarian empire in the Balkan peninsula). He promised to send his son Djakyn with troops to Itil Bulgaria to assist in the struggle with infidels there. Then three of them (Gasan, Abdallah and Djakyn) went to Kyiv. There Gasan and Abdallah resolved with prince Oleg for a joint campaign in 905 against Byzantium. Djakyn refused to go to Bulgaria, and remained in Kyiv. Prince Oleg gave him the estate of Almysh (Djakyn’s grandfather).

Itil Bulgars could not take part in the campaign of prince Oleg against Byzantium. In 905, Burtases with Kumans attacked Bulgar and distracted their forces. Prince Oleg brought from a campaign plenty of captured people and other booty. Prince Oleg sent to Itil Bulgaria a part of this booty as a payment of his tribute to Almysh. It was an excellent Byzantian brocade, Chinese silk, Frankish tableware, German swords, Persian carpets etc. Half of these amazing things Kan Almysh sent as a gift to the Baghdad Caliph “as a proof of successes in a holy war” (1; 190).

In 906 merchant Musa took these gifts to Bagdad. On the way, one of his servants betrayed him: he helped the prince of Turkmen Kuk-Oguzes Salar to kill and rob the merchant Musa. The servant came to Bagdad, and informed Caliph (Ali Al-Muktafi, 902-908 -Translator’s note) that Kan of Bulgaria renounced Islam, does not want to participate in a sacred war against infidels, and killed Caliph’s messengers (1; 191). This lie led to the Caliph’s refusal to send an embassy to the Bulgar city.

Only in the 911 AD Mullah Abdallah, commissioned to Bagdad by Almysh, was able to tell Caliph (Djafar Al-Muqtadir, 908-932 -Translator’s note) of a true situation. The Caliph ordered to send a Grand Embassy to Bulgaria. When in 912 the embassy reached Bukhara, the Caliph learned of an attack by Khud, a son of Askold, in service to Khazars, on Islamic possession along the coast of the Caspian sea. He accused Almysh that he allowed an attack on the Moslem possessions. The Caliph recalled the Grand Embassy (1; 192). Mullah Abdallah came back home alone. He crossed the Bulgarian (Caspian) sea in a boat and came to the mouth of Yaik. In the steppe, the Khazarian guards detected and detained him. Almysh had to spend many efforts to free Abdallah from captivity. So, Almysh’s attempts to receive a blessing from the Baghdad Caliph for the creation of the Bulgarian Islamic state ended unsuccessfully. However, he did not stop attempting. There were a few reasons for that.

First, it was a “revolt of the Princes”. After the death of Mullah Michail in 900, Kan Almysh replaced the possessing Princes in several districts, and forced a significant part of Bershud Mordjans to submit to Islam. He wanted to force, by the same methods, those Bulgars, who remained the adherents of the old Bulgarian faith (Tengriism), to accept Islam. Forcing the Tengriists to switch to Islam caused an indignation in the country. The appanage Princes gathered in Bulyar (Bilyar) “and dictated to the Kan the following conditions:

- The Kan stops forcing Tengriists to convert to Islam;

- The Kan recognizes the hereditary rights of Byrak in Bershud, Askal in Esegel, Mardjan in Arbuga and Djulut in Nur-Suvar;

- The Kan takes from these possession a strictly definite tribute and in the rest has no right on anything in them;

- The Kan has no the right to come to these possessions without the sanction of the Biys, alone or with an army, and corresponds with them by means of ambassadors;

- Biys of the four possessions do not provide the Kan with the soldiers other than on their good will, and, in case of a campaign, jointly with the Kan or on their own, have a contractual split of the booty with him” (1; 55).

Kan Almysh was forced to agree with the demands of the possessing Princes. The country came to a verge of disintegration.

Secondly, a struggle for the throne between Almysh and his sons flared up. In 918 the situation took a critical turn. Gasan (Khasan) was especially persistent in actions against his father. He was in close contact with Samanids (under Nasr II, 914 - 943, ruler of Khorasan, north-eastern part of Iran).

Thirdly, the heavy struggle against the appanage Princes of the four possessions, and his own sons, had a drastic effect on the Almysh health: he became paralyzed (1; 57). The possessing Princes were openly discussing a nominee for the post of the ruler of Itil Bulgaria. Mullah Abdallah told Almysh that his illness was a punishment by Allah “for the unwillingness of the Kan to send ambassadors to the Sultan” (1; 57). Almysh agreed to send once more ambassadors to the Caliph (The term “sultan“ did not exist in 918, Mullah Abdallah could not have used it. The first to carry a title “sultan“ was the Oguz ruler Mahmud of Ghazni, r. 998 - 1030, almost a century later).

Mullah Abdallah was appointed an ambassador, with similar missions he already visited Bagdad a few times before. Before leaving on the trip, the ambassador needed to decide a very important question: what road to use? Three possible routs could be used to get to Bagdad.

The first direction was by the road called Khorys Yuly: It was by a boat sailing down Itil to the city Arbuga (present Syzran, 53.2° N 48.5°E - Translator's Note), and then overland to Khorysdan (present Putivl, 51.3°N 34°E, apparently from Khorysdan in the 10th c. started a navigable water way to the Black Sea), from there to the south and by the Black Sea to Asia Minor, then to Bagdad. This road was long and dangerous. The embassy of Almysh would not be allowed to pass through the territory of the Kara Bulgar.

The second direction was through Transcaucasia: on a ship to the lower Itil, then by an overland road to Bagdad. This road was shorter, than the first one. However, to go by this route was impossible, as the relations between Itil Bulgaria and Khazaria, through whose territory ran a significant part of the way, were hostile.

The third direction was Bukhara Yuly. From the city Bulgar the road went to the lower Yaik (present river Ural), then to the lower Syr Darya, and then through Khorasan to Bagdad.

Mullah Abdallah decided to go by Bukhara Yuly (Bukhara road). To reach Bagdad safely, it was necessary to have a permission to travel through Khorasan. Mullah Abdallah managed to receive a letter from Almysh’s son Gasan, who had good relations with the rulers of Khorasan, with a request to let Abdallah pass to Bagdad through Khorasan (1; 57). Almysh also wrote a letter. He sent the letter to the ruler of the devout Moslems, the Baghdad Caliph Djafar Al-Muqtadir. In the letter, in addition to the greetings and a wish for Allah to bestow a wellbeing on the Caliph and his country, the letter also contained a request by Almysh to send to his country an expert on the Moslem law, and to render assistance in the construction of a fortress.

The embassy came to Bagdad (its Arabian name then was: Medina-Assalyam) in the middle of 921. The Baghdad Bek (Prince) Hasyr patronized the ambassador from Itil Bulgaria. Mullah Abdallah knew him for a long time. He (the Bek) was planning to visit Almysh as early as in 906. It did not happen. In 911 he was appointed as a head of an embassy, which the Caliph intended to send to Itil Bulgaria. The trip did not happen. This time, Bek Hasyr managed to arrange an audience of the Almysh’s ambassador with the Caliph. Mullah Abdallah presented to the Caliph the letter from the ruler of Itil Bulgaria, along with valuable gifts. Caliph was impressed most of all by the armors, which Abdallah brought wearing on himself. They were the armors of the son of prince Askold, whom Bulgars called Khud (1; 53). Khud made a plundering raid on Azerbaijan and Persia. After plundering Islamic areas of Transcaucasia and Persia, Khud returned to Itil to the Khazars, to whom he served loyally. There, Oguzes suddenly attacked him, and he fled up the Itil river (1; 53). Khud was very sure of himself. He wanted to return to Kyiv through Itil Bulgaria. He had 5 thousand well-armed soldiers. Bulgars waited for their ships at the Bulgar city. A river battle ended with a victory for Bulgars. Only a single boat of Khud managed to break out and flee to Djunu (present Nizhni Novgorod, 56.3°N 44°E). The other boats were either sunk, or beached on the banks. Tree thousand of Khud soldiers ascended the bank. A long, grave battle ensued. Toward the end, the rest of the Khud troops were cornered in a gully on the bank of the river Bakhta (present Chistopol region of Tatarstan, 55.4° N 50.6°E). The Bershud prince Byrak threw a noose around the Khud wounded neck. After the conclusion of the battle, Almysh returned Khud back to Byrak. Byrak hung him on an oak, muttering: “Serve, the most brave, to our God Tangre, and let him revive you again in our land!” (1; 54).

The armors of Khud, the plunderer of the Moslem lands, served as a visual demonstration that Bulgaria successfully struggles with infidels. And Caliph agreed to send a Grand Embassy to the Itil Bulgaria.

Grand Embassy on the way. In July 921 AD the embassy of the Caliph left from Bagdad. Susan Ar-Rassi (Bulgars called him Razi) was appointed an Ambassador and, accordingly, a head of the embassy, Akhmed Ibn Fadlan (Akhmed, a son of Fadlan) was an adviser and a secretary. A guide for the ambassadorial caravan was Balus Bukhrai (1; 57).

A family tradition of the members of the Bukhrai clan was medicine. They maintained business ties with merchants and tabibs (doctors) of Bagdad since old times.

In the embassy were a Fakikh, an expert on the Moslem law, and a Muallim, a teacher, and also two preachers, mullahs and merchants. From Bagdad the ambassadorial caravan went to the Northern Khorezm capital city Djurdjania (Urgench). There they wintered. In Djurdjania the Ambassador Susan Ar-Rassi had to receive 4,000 dinars and give them to Almysh in the Bulgar city, for the construction of a fortress. This was the will of the Caliph. However, they could not receive the money, since the villa of the Caliph’s viceroy in Khorezm, who was found guilty toward his ruler, was not sold by the spring time. The Fakikh and Muallim refused to go further, as their salaries were not paid.

The embassy departed again with the approach of the spring . The ambassadorial caravan joined a large trade caravan, which was going to the lower Itil. When the well-guarded caravan passed through the possessions of the Oguzes, in the region of the Ustürt plateau, it was threatened with plunder. The caravan was saved by the chief of Oguz troops, whose mother was a daughter of Almysh (reminder: in 894, Almysh married his daughter to the leader of the of Kuk-Oguz Turkmens Salar). Safely passing the land of Bajanaks, the caravan reached the Lower Yaik (in 922, Kipchaks controlled the area north of Oguzes, between Yaik and Aral Sea, and further west. But the reference to Kipchaks as Kumans is out of place, since “Kumans“ was a western name for Kipchaks. An alternate explanation may be that the reference to “Kumans“ is a reference to Kumli, a collection of splinters from different Türkic tribes under Kangar/Kangly control. “Kumli“ is a super-ethnic geographical term designating “sand people“, i.e. “inhabitants of [Kara-Kum, “Western Desert/Black Sands“] desert, consisting mostly of Kangars). There, the ambassadorial caravan and the trade caravan separated. The trade caravan went to the Lower Itil, and the ambassadorial caravan continued on the way to the north (along Yaik?). Passing through the lands of Bashkorts, it approached the possessions of Almysh.

The honorable visitors were met at a distance of one day of travel from the summer residence of the ruler Almysh, located in the vicinity of the present village Three Lakes of the Spassky region of Tatarstan (55°N 49°E). The Almysh’s brothers Mardjan and Bat-Ugyr, and his sons Memektay and Michail came to meet the visitors. Also, four Princes subordinated to Almysh gathered for the meeting: Byrak, the prince of Bershud; Askal, the prince of Esegel; Mardjan the prince of Arbuga, and Djulut, the prince of Nur-Suvar. The Princes, subordinated to the Kan, came to the meeting reluctantly, as they were indignant of the Almysh requirement for non the Moslem Princes to remove their hats in front of him and high Moslem visitors. The hosts presented the visitors with bread, meat, and millet grain. This was a custom of Bulgars.

From then on the receiving hosts accompanied the ambassadorial caravan. When about 8 km remained to the summer residence of the Kan Almysh, the ruler met the visitors. The embassy arrived in the region of the modern village Three Lakes on 11 May 922. The trip of more than 2 thousand km from the capital of Khorezm to the Three Lakes took 70 days.

Ceremony of reading the message of the Caliph. On May 15, on Thursday, the members of the embassy began preparations for the ceremony of formal reception of the delegation. They helped Almysh to put on the official clothes of the ruler of a Moslem state: a black chapan and a snow-white chalma (a type of caftan and turban -Translator’s note).

The ceremony began in a glade near a lake. At first, the Caliph message and the message of his great vizier were loudly read. After that, the ambassador Susan Ar-Rassi presented Kan Almysh with a green Islamic banner. The banner was “immediately attached to a pole with a half moon on the top” (1; 97). This banner, sent by the Caliph, was raised when the rulers of Itil Bulgaria went to a war with infidels. In addition to the banner, on behalf of the Caliph, Almysh was presented with an Arabian horse, and two prayer rugs (namazlyk), embroidered with gold, to be used when performing namaz. A flawless sable fur coat was put on the Almysh wife. The Bulgars, on their part, presented all members of the embassy with valuable gifts.

The ceremony of reading the Caliph’s letter and gift giving was followed with a state dinner. In the Almysh yurt for the meal gathered nearest relatives of the ruler, his subordinate Princes, and members of the embassy. During the meal Almysh began complaining about being saddened that the embassy did not bring the money, as wrote Caliph. Akhmed Ibn Fadlan said: “Your country is large, and your means are abundant, and your income is plentiful. You will cope yourselves”. Almysh explained in return his reasoning: to the Caliph treasury goes “pure” money, brought in by the devout Moslems, if a fortress is built with such “pure” money, infidels would nor be able to take it.

Official adoption of Islam. Kan Almysh gathered, in middle of June 922, his subordinate Princes, with their subjects, on the bank of the river Dyau-Shir (present Small Cheremshan). The blessing of the Bulgarian Country by the head of all faithful Moslems was publicly proclaimed. In other words, the population of Itil Bulgaria was notified that the Baghdad Caliph, as a head of all Moslems, recognizes Bulgaria as an Islamic state. It meant that henceforth Caliph would take Itil Bulgaria under his protection.

Embassy departure. In August 922 the embassy left for a return trip. Seid (head of the Bulgaria Moslems) Akhmed Bakir and Almysh’s son Gasan (Khasan, Hasan - Translator's Note) advised the ambassador Susan Ar-Rassi to go by a Bukhara road. However, Sheik Khasan dissuaded them. The embassy left by the Khorysdan (aka Korostel, Kubar, aka Batavyl, present Putivl - Translator's Note) road. They sail on a boat to Arbuga (present Syzran, former capital of Burtases, present Mordva people, a branch of Finno-Ugrians). In Burtas city, Susan Ar-Rassi visited a mosque and consecrated it with a prayer. After the service he named that mosque “Mardjan”. Later, Susan Ar-Rassi consecrated one more mosque, which was built in a fortress along their road (The Rus annals in passing mention incidents of the Rus' conquest of Morgva, which was a combination of genocide with enslavement executed by practicing scorched earth tactics, burning villages and cities in the middle of winter. The genocide with enslavement campaign lasted from 9th to 18th cc.)

The embassy was accompanied by the Kan Almysh’s brother Mardjan, Sheik Khasan, his son Tadja, and also by a guide Balus (1; 65). After Burtas, the great ambassador stopped for a rest at the following road stations:

Razi-Suba, Kubar (present Putivl - Translator's Note), Burtas-Simbir (Russian Simbirsk, present Ulyanovsk - Translator's Note), Yozek, Veshna, Leubat (Aibat), Boryk, Saryk-Kune, Sygyr, Chyrty, Balyn (present Suzdal - Translator's Note), and then followed the stations outside the control of the Bulgarian authorities (This paragraph was dropped, maybe censored out, maybe self-censored by terror-witnessed participants, from the 1939 Soviet publication of the “Risalya“ translation. The encyclopedic articles reciting the history of the Russian cities and towns not a single word mentions their name before the conquest. A typical article starts with “First, we built a fort, in the Rus annals it is first mentioned under the XXXX year“. No mention of the people that lived there, their villages and cities, their fate before or after the conquest).


With the official acceptance of Islam as a state religion, large changes came to the political structure of Itil Bulgaria.

First, in the international plane, the Itil Bulgaria obtained the status of an Islamic state.

Secondly, the status of the ruler of Itil Bulgaria has changed: he became a ruler of the Islamic state, officially recognized by the Baghdad Caliph, a head of all Moslems. From now on he became a viceroy of the Caliph, and began to hold a title of Emir. As the head of the Islamic state, Emir was obliged to respect basic laws contained in the Koran and in Khadises, but in other areas his power was not limited. During official ceremonies Emir should wear clothes of the ruler of the Islamic state: a black caftan (kuftan, chapan) with long sleeves that extend a few centimeters below the tips of the fingers and split at the wrist. The caftan should be girded with a long piece of a white embroidered fabric (muslin). On his feet, the Emir should wear thick red morocco shoes with pointed bent tips.

Thirdly, the judicial system was now aligned based on the laws stated in the Koran and in the Khadises. In other words, the legal proceedings in Itil Bulgaria began to be performed based on Sharia (which means a complete destruction of the traditional jurisprudence and jurisdictional hierarchy that existed, in the historical period, from the 3rd c. BC, at least within the immediate reach of the Bulgarian ruler).

In - fourth, the state banner of Itil Bulgaria became similar to the banners of other Islamic states: a green panel attached to a lance pole with a half moon on the tip.

All this testified that in 922 Itil Bulgaria became an Islamic state.

Literature and notes

1. Bakhshi Iman. Djafgar tarikhy. Vol. 1.Collection of Bulgarian annals year 1680. - Orenburg, 1993.
2. Skrynnikov R.G. Wars of the Ancient Rus // Historical questions. 11-12, 1995, Pages 24-38.
3. The river Sak began to be called “Khondurchak” (Kondurchak).
4. Anchies - the Bulgarian name of a part of the Eastern Slavs. Byzantians called them Antes.
5. Modjars - a Finno-Ugrian people; Burdjans (Dagestani Bulgars) called them Chirmyshes (Mari).
6. The name of a clan Ak-Suba was preserved in the names of Aksuba region and the Aksubay regional center, and the name of a clan Bakhta was preserved in the name of the river Bakhta (Small Bakhta, in the Chistopol region of Tatarstan) (and in the Eastern Siberia).
7. Ibn Rusta. The book of precious treasures // History of Tataria in the documents and materials. M., 1937, Page. 24.
8. Mavrodin V.V. Sketches on the history of the feudal Rus. L., 1949.
9. Grebenyuk A.V. The sources of the Slavic civilization // Teaching of history in school. 1, 1996, Pages 3 - 7.

1. What should be accomplished?

It is necessary to attain the following essential facts:

1.1. Main milestones in Islamization of the Bulgarian society, and the role of Islam during consolidation of clans and peoples into a uniform nation in the Bulgarian ethno-system.

The basic milestones

1.1.1. In the 730's were made the first attempts to spread Islam among Burdjans, i.e. Dagestani Bulgars. These attempts were made under a direction of a descendent of the prophet Muhammed Sheik Yunus.

1.1.2. In 819 AD a ruler of the Bulgarian state for the first time accepts Islam. It was a ruler of Kara Bulgar, i.e. Western Bulgaria Aidar. He accepted Islam from “Mullah Shams, who later adopted a nickname Bashtu and is known in the Moslem world as Shams Tebir or Shams Bashtu.

1.1.3. In 855 AD for the first time in the history of Bulgars the highest authority in the state passed from a Moslem to a Moslem; for the first time the ruler of Bulgars, before ascending to the throne, prayed in a mosque. That ruler was the Aidar’s senior son Djilki.

1.1.4. In 865 AD the former Bulgarian princedom was proclaimed a Khanaate. The Bulgarian Khanaate was declared an Islamic state. Her first ruler was Djilki, the former ruler of Kara Bulgar.

1.1.5. 922 AD is the year of recognition by the head of all Moslems of that time, Baghdad Caliph, of the Itil Bulgaria as an Islamic state.

1.2. Understand the reasons why the Caliph did not recognize the Itil Bulgaria as an Islamic state for 57 years.

1.2.1. Djilki ruled the Itil Bulgaria between 865 and 882. He proclaimed his Khanaate an Islamic state, but, however, he did not undertake the steps for the Baghdad Caliph to recognize her as an Islamic state. The Caliph did not know about Djilki actions and intentions.

1.2.2. From 882 to 895 is the time of the rule of the Djilki son Bat-Ugyr. The realm, created by Djilki, started breaking up.

1.2.3. From 895 to 925 is the time of the rule of Kan Almysh. Kan Almysh took resolute steps to achieve recognition of Itil Bulgaria as an Islamic state. The steps in that direction: In 901 to 903the Almysh embassy visited Bagdad.


- The Caliph learned about the existence, in the regions of Northern Itil basin, of the people professing Islam, and inquired of their way of life.

- Caliph sent to Itil Bulgaria his people, who had to observe the situation on site, and study the ways leading from Bagdad to Itil Bulgaria and back.

- The Caliph promised to send in the future a Grand Embassy to Itil Bulgaria.

Since 903, the further Islamization of the Bulgarian society is connected with the names of a descendent of the prophet Muhammed Sheik Khasan and a Mullah Abdallah. In 906 Kan Almysh sent to the Caliph with merchant Musa valuable gifts. On the road to Bagdad the merchant was robbed and killed, and Caliph was informed that Bulgarian Kan Almysh and his subjects disavowed the true faith. In 911 AD Mullah Abdallah managed to tell the Caliph of a true status. In 912 AD the Caliph recalled back to Bagdad the Grand Embassy he sent in 911 AD to Itil Bulgaria. The reason: the Caliph learned that the son of the Kyiv’s prince plundered Moslem cities on the coast of the Caspian sea. The Caliph was told that the ruler of the Itil Bulgaria Kan Almysh allowed him to pass through his territory. In 921 AD Kan Almysh sent the embassy to the Baghdad Caliph for the third time. In the same year the Caliph Djafar Al Muktadir for the second time sent the Grand Embassy to the Itil Bulgaria, which in May of 922 reached the Middle Itil basin region.

5. Excerpts from the sources.

5.1. From the Akhmed Ibn Fadlan cited in the “Geographical dictionary“ of the Yaqut Ibn - Abdallah al-Hamawi [21]
(Since then, to light came other manuscripts of the “Risalya“, they were translated into a number of languages, including Russian, and they contain sections missing from the Yaqut citation. The text below is a re-translation from Russian [or Tatar?] 1937 translation, and may vary somewhat from later translations)

Kan of Bulgars with his subjects accepted Islam during the rule of Muktadir-Billyakh, and with that he sent to Bagdad the ambassadors to ask the Caliph to send for education somebody, who would teach them faith and religious rituals.

A letter... of the King was received... to the Emir of the faithful... with the request to send him people for instruction in faith and to teach the sacred rituals of Islam, for construction of a mosque and for building of minber (podium), from which he could call people to worship the god. At the same time he also asked for the expert people, who could build him a fortress, in which he would defend himself from an attack of the hostile Princes...

... We left from the sacred city (Bagdad) on eleventh of Safar in three hundred ninth AH (June 4, 921) to Khorezm...

We left from Djurdjania on Monday second Zilkaada 309 AH (March 4, 922)...

When we were... at a distance of one day trip from the king..., to whom our embassy was going, his brothers came towards us, children and four subordinated to him kings, carrying bread, meat and millet. Further we went together with them; and when only two parasangs (eight versts, [parasang =1.6 miles = 2.5 km]) were left to the king’s dwelling, king met us. Seeing us, he dismounted the horse and dropped down flat, praising and thanking Allah. Then he scattered before us silver money from a sleeve...

It was on Sunday, 12 of Mukharrem, 310 AH (May 11, 922). From the Khorezmian city Djordjan (Urgendj) to here was seventy days’ trip (about two thousand five hundred versts). We stayed in the... tents until Wednesday, waiting for the kings and nobility of his land to gather for the reading of the letter we brought. On Thursday we prepared two embroidered golden chakhls that we had with us, decorated the horse with a rich saddle, dressed king in a black dress and wrapped a turban on his head; I took the letter of the Caliph, and he read it standing. Then he read the letter of the Supreme Visir Khamid Ibn El-Abbasi, also standing, even though he was very hefty. His nobility poured on us silver money. We took the gifts of the Caliph and presented them to the king; then we put a present fur coat on his spouse, who by the custom of this land sits (publicly) next to her husband.

Then king invited us to his tent. He sat on a throne covered with Greek brocade; on his right hand were subordinated kings, his children sat directly across him, and he sat us on his left hand side. On king’s order immediately was brought a table, and on the table was grilled meat. Taking a knife, he first cut one piece of the meat and ate it; then in the same way ate another and a third one; then cut another piece and gave it to the ambassador..., in front of whom immediately after that was brought a small table. Such is the custom there, that nobody can touch a food until he is given a piece, and then to the one who already have received a piece, is brought an individual table. After (the ambassador) king gave a piece of meat to one of the subordinated kings sitting on his right hand, and before him was placed a little table too; then to other, third, and so on, to all in presence. Thus everyone received a special little table and ate at it alone, not conversing with others. Upon the termination of the dinner we took home with us what remained on our little tables, but, before we left, king ordered to bring honey wine, which is called in their language sichou (correctly - suvdj), he drank it himself, and we drank.

Before our arrival to khutba (sermon) the king was honored thus: “My God, give prosperity to the king and possessor, the king of Bulgar!“ I noted to him, that only god is king, and that nobody is allowed to call so himself before the god, especial from the cathedra. “Your Supreme chief, Caliph, the ruler of the faithful, said I to him, ordered that on all cathedras of the East and West (Asia and Africa) he was were called not other as: “My God, give prosperity to your slave and viceroy Djafar, mighty in the god (Muktedir-Billyakh), the ruler of the faithful“. The king asked: “How should it be said?“ I answered: “It should be that they evoked you by the name and patronymic”. On this, he objected: “My father was infidel and I was too; I do not want that I was evoked by the name, when the one who gave it to me was infidel. What’s the name of my Supreme chief, the ruler of the faithful?“ “Djafar“, I answered. “ And can I be rewas called by his name? “, king asked again. “It is possible”. “So I accept to myself the name Djafar, said the king, and my father from now will be called Abdallah“. And he announced about it to khatib (preacher). Since then in khutba they began to say thus: “My God, Abdallah, Emir (ruler) of Bulgar and the client of the ruler of the faithful“.

Source: History of Tataria in documents and materials, M., 1937, Pages 8-11.

8. 8. Questions and answers

8.1. In what historical sources is reflected the initial phase of the existence of the Itil Bulgaria kingdom?

The history of the Itil Bulgaria of the second half of the 9-th c. is reflected, though fragmentary, in the works of ethnically diverse authors, including Arabian and Persian. Among them were Al-Balazuri (“The Book about conquer of the countries“, 860's [5], Ibn–Khordadbekh [6] (“Book of roads and kingdoms“, 860 - 870's), Al-Djaikhan (“Book of jewelry“) [7].

The history of the Itil Bulgars of the first half of the 10-th c. found its reflection in the works of Ibn-Rust (his complete name:Abu-Ali-Akhmed-Ibn Omar, he lived in the first half of the 10-th c. AD)[8] and Akhmed Ibn Fadlan [9].

Ibn - Rust is the author of “Book of precious treasures“. The original of this book is kept in the British museum, and Khvolson made a Russian translation in 1869 [10]. The author has not been in the Itil Bulgaria, and he apparently collected information on the Itil Bulgars by interviewing people who visited the region of the Middle Itil basin. Only the seventh volume of his encyclopedia, written between 903 and 913 AD, was preserved. The preserved volume contains information about the Bulgarian and closely related to them peoples in the Middle Itil basin.

In contrast to Ibn-Rust, Akhmed Ibn Fadlan visited the Itil Bulgaria in 922 AD. His complete name: Akhmed Ibn Fadlan Ibn Al-Abbas Ibn-Rashid Ibn-Khammad. What he has seen and heard during the travel to the Itil Bulgaria Akhmed Ibn Fadlan recorded in the book “Risalya” i.e. “Notes”.

In 1215 in the library of the city Merv this book fell in the hands of an Arab encyclopedist al-Hamawi. Yaqut al-Hamawi included information about Bulgars of Akhmed Ibn-Fadlan from “Risalya” into “Geographical dictionary“ composed in 1224 [21].

In 1814 a Danish Easternist R. Rasmussen published a translation of the part of Akhmed Ibn Fadlan “Risalya”, which in the transmission of Yakut Al-Khamawi was included in “Geographical dictionary”. In 1832 the academician Kh.M. Fren published in Russian the traveling notes of Akhmed Ibn-Fadlan in the rendering of Yakut. Before that, in Russia Itil Bulgars were known the only from the works of V.N. Tatischev.

In 1924 among the Orientalist scientists spread a news that in one of Meshkhed libraries (Eastern Iran) was ostensibly found a book of Akhmed Ibn-Fadlan. In 1935 the government of Iran transmitted a photocopy of this manuscript to the USSR Academy of Sciences. In 1939, Academy of Sciences published it in Russian translation under a name “Ibn Fadlan's Travel to Itil“. It seemed that everything was fine. However, the joy was premature. As it turned out, the manuscript did not belong to Akhmed Ibn-Fadlan, but represented extracts in shorthand form. It turned out that in the books of Nadjib Khamadani (12 c.) [11] and Amin Razi (16 c.) [12] had such extracts from “Risalya” that were not present in the newly found manuscript.

In 1956 A.P.Kovalevsky published a new Russian translation of “Risalya”, based on the Meshkhed manuscript and the manuscript of Yakut, and on the extracts of Khamadani and Razi, under a name “Book of Akhmed Ibn-Fadlan about his travel to Itil in 921 - 922“ (Kharkov, 1956).

Almost simultaneously with Akhmed Ibn-Fadlan the important information on the Itil Bulgars was recorded by Al-Istarkhi. His complete name: Abu Ishaq Ibrahim ibn Muhammad al-Farisi al Istakhri. He wrote “Book of ways of states“ (variation: “Book of ways of kingdoms “) [13].

Information about the language of Bulgars and their neighbors is also contained in the book of the Arabic geographer of the first half of the 10 c. Al-Balkhi “Ashkal Al-Belad“ (“Book of kinds of land“). His complete name: Abu Zaid Ahmed ibn Sahl al-Balkhi [14] (With all that detail about the Bulgarian language, how come that the Russian science is filled with conjectures, speculations, and falsification?).

Information about a trade between Bulgar and Khorezm, about the assortment of the goods exported from the Itil Bulgaria to the countries of the East, is contained in the “Book of Golden Meadows“ by Al-Masudi (died in 956). His complete name: Abul Hasan Ali Al-Masu'di [15].

Some aspects of the history of the Itil Bulgars in the second half of the 10-th c. found reflection in the works of the Arab geographers Ibn Hauqal (Ibn Hawqal) [16] and Mukaddasi [17].

Ibn-Haukal (Ibn Hawqal) in 967 finished his work “Book of roads and kingdoms“. It contains information about the language of Bulgars. The similar information can be found in the book of the unknown Persian author under the name “Borders of the world“ (983) (With all that detail about the Bulgarian language, how come that the Russian science is filled with conjectures, speculations, and falsification?).

In “Book of the best classification in the knowledge of climates“ by Mukaddasi is information about the export capabilities of the Itil Bulgaria, and about the climatic conditions in the regions of the Middle Itil basin.

It is possible to picture the life and activities of the Itil Bulgars in the 11-th c. based on the records in the dictionary of Turkic languages, compiled in 1073 - 1074 by Makhmud Kashgari [18], and also in the book “Ways and countries“ by Al-Bekri (an Arabian writer, lived in Spain, died in 1094) [19], in the Russian annals, in particular, in the Lavrentiev Chronicle. For the study of the Itil Bulgaria history in 11-th c. very helpful are the materials given by V.N. Tatischev in his “Russian History“.

For the study of the history of the Itil Bulgars in the 12-th c. a large value have the works of Al-Garnati. His complete name is: Abu Hamid Muhammed Ibn Abd Ar-Rahim Al-Garnati Al-Andalusi. In the historical literature the use of the form was consolidated to “Al-Garnati”. Al-Garnati visited Itil Bulgaria twice, in 1135 - 1136 and in 1150 accordingly. His reports about Bulgars are based on his personal observations [20].

The brief characteristic of the Arabic-Persian sources on the initial period of the development of the Itil Bulgaria shows that the state was known fairly widely in the then Arabic-Persian world.

8.2. Were the Bulgarian sources preserved?

Yes, they were preserved. They were published in the book of Bakhshi Iman “Djafgar tarikhy“ (Orenburg. The first volume was published in 1993, and the second in 1994).

8.3. Why the Arabic names have a long form? According to the Arabian tradition in the beginning of the name is stated the name of the senior son, then this name of the person, after that is stated the name of his father, then the location the person came from, for the last part is used a nisba (prefix of relationship) “Al”. Let us review the example of Al-Garnati. His complete name is: Abu Hamid Muhammed Ibn Abd Ar-Rahim Al-Garnati Al-Andalusi:

1. In the beginning is the name of his senior son Hamid.

2. Then his name: Muhammed

3. After that follows the name of his father: The father of Al-Garnati, i.e. Muhammed, was called Rahim.

4. Then follows the location: Al-Garnati, i.e. from Garnati

Al-Andalusi, i.e. from Andalusia (from Garnati in Andalusia).

8.4. How was called a little table used by Bulgars during a meal?

This little table was called taskak. It was a low little table on three legs. Akhmed Ibn Fadlan described the meal, organized by Kan Almysh in honor of the arrival of the Grand Embassy of the Caliph, in detail. When invited to the meal, guests took the places assigned to them in turma, i.e. in the large tent with a half-spherical cover, the servants placed a taskak in front of Kan Almysh. On a small three-footed table was a large piece of boiled meat. Kan cut a small slice with a knife and ate it. After that he cut off another slice of meat and with the tip of the knife passed it to the ambassador Susan Ar-Rassi. When the ambassador ate it, before him was put a taskak with the first dish. All invited to the meal were treated the same way. When the visitor ate the first dish, the servant took away a little table with utensils. Then was brought a little table with a second dish and so on (This traditional Türkic ritual is described by numerous sources for numerous Türkic peoples for very different time periods).

8.5. Where was read the Baghdad Caliph’s decree about the recognition of the Itil Bulgaria as an Islamic state?

The text of the decree of the Baghdad Caliph about the recognition of the Itil Bulgaria as an Islamic state was announced twice.

The first time it was announced in the middle of May of 922, when the Bulgarian nobility gathered for the celebrations on the occasion of the arrival of the Grand Embassy in the area near the modern village Three Lakes, in the Spassky region of the Republic of Tatarstan.

The second time it was announced in middle of June of the same year, when all Bulgarian peoples gathered on the bank of the Dyau-Shir river.

Information about Dyau-Shir river. In ancient times this river was called Bula-Idel. Kan Almysh renamed it in 918 or 919 into Dyau-Shir. In 948 AD Kan Mokhammed, the grandson of Kan Almysh, renamed it to Kuchi Cheremshan, i.e. Small Cheremshan, and he renamed the river Bakhta to Dyau-Shir.

Thus, the national announcement of the blessing by the Baghdad Caliph of the Itil Bulgaria as an Islamic state was held on the bank of the (present) river Small Cheremshan.

8.6. When the Grand Embassy of the Baghdad Caliph left the Itil Bulgaria?

The embassy of the Caliph left on the return trip in August of 922 AD. Per Bulgarian sources, the secretary of embassy Akhmed Ibn Fadlan remained in the Itil Bulgaria, and was appointed by the Kan Almysh as the head of the Moslems in the Bulgar city. Bulgars called him Akhmed Bakir. During the rule of the Kan Mokhammed (943 - 976) the son of Akhmed Ibn Fadlan Nasyr was a Seid of Itil Bulgaria.

Translator’s notes

[1] The ritual of the election of a Khan was traditionally symbolized with raising the elected Khan on a felt rug and carrying it around a center.
[2] Tarkhan - absolved of taxes, Tarkhanlyk – district controlled by Tarkhan and absolved of vassalage taxes.
[3] Vyatka, from 1934 to lately? Kirov
[4] This could be the Atilla city.
[5] Al-Balazuri (860's “The Book about conquer of the countries“/Kitab futukx al-buldan. Leiden, 1863. Beirut, 1958. Arabic)
[6] Ibn–Khordadbekh (860 - 870's “Book of roads and kingdoms“/Kitab al-masalik va-l-mamalik. Leiden, 1889. P. 155. Arabic)
[7] Al-Djaikhan (“Book of jewelry“).
[8] Ibn-Rust (Abu-Ali-Akhmed-Ibn Omar, he lived in the first half of the 10-th c. AD). “Book of precious treasures“/Al-Alak an-nafisa. Leiden, 1892.
[9] Akhmed IbnFadlan. “Risalya”/“Notes”.
[10] Khvolson
[11] Nadjib Khamadani (12 c.) extracts from “Risalya”
[12] Amin Razi (16 c.) extracts from “Risalya”
[13] Al-Istarkhi (Abu Ishaq Ibrahim ibn Muhammad al-Farisi al Istakhri) “Book of ways of kingdoms “/Kitab al-masalik wa-al-mamalik. Biblioteca Universitaria di Bologna, Cod. 3521, fol. 2r.
[14] Al-Balkhi (Abu Zaid Ahmed ibn Sahl al-Balkhi, born in Shamistiyan, province of Balkh, died in 934.) “Ashkal Al-Belad“/Le livre de la Creation et de 1'histoire d'Abou-Zeid, Ahmed ben Sahl al-Balkhi publie et traduit d'apres de manuscrit de Constantinople pur Cl. Huart. P., 1899-1919. Vol 1-6.
[15] Mas'udi, Al, trans. ed. M.J. de Goeje 1894 Leiden. Kitab at Tanbib Wa'l Ishraf.
Mas'udi, Al trans. ed. Meynard, A.C. Courieille, P. de 1861-64 Paris repr I 1962 II 1965 III 1971. Les Prairies d'Or/Muruj Adh-dhahab. (“Book of Golden Meadows“)
[16] Haukal Ibn (Abul Qasim Ibn Hauqal) trans. ed. Kramers, J.H. and Wet, G. de 1964 Paris. Kitab Surat al Ard/Configuration de la Terre. “Book of roads and kingdoms“).
Haukal Ibn trans. Ouseley, W. 1800 London. The Oriental Geography of Ibn Hauqal.
Haukal Ibn, ed. Kramers, J.H. 1840 Leipzig. Opus Geographicum.
[17] Mukaddasi“Book of the best classification in the knowledge of climates“, Paul Schwarz, En-nebi Samwil in einer schilderung bei Mukaddasi. n.d. (Småskrift) NQJ 900 SCH
[18] Kashgari Makhmud, Turkiy suzlar devoni/Dictionary of Turkic languages (1074). Tashkent, 1960. (In Uzbek)
[19] Al-Bekri“Ways and countries“
[20] Al-Garnati (Abu Hamid Muhammed Ibn Abd Ar-Rahim Al-Garnati Al-Andalusi, 1080 - 1169) Tuhfat al-Albab/El regalo de los espíritus. Madrid: CSIC, 1990.
[21] Yaqut al-Hamawi“Geographical dictionary”/Mujam al-Buldan, “Jacut's Geographisches Worterbuch aus den Handschriften zu Berlin, St. Petersburg, Paris, London und Oxford, auf Kosten der Deutschen Morgenlandischen Gesellschaft hrsg. von Ferdinand Wustenfeld.“, Leipzig, 1866.


<= Resettlement of Bulgarian peoples to Middle Itil · Contents · Djagfar Tarihi Contents · Itil Bulgaria in the first half of the 10 c. =>

In Russian
Djagfar Tarihi
Contents Huns
Contents Bulgars
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