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Olga B. Frolova
St. Petersburg
The ethnic name "Burdjan" in Arabic geographical works
The third Nordic conference on Middle Eastern Studies: Ethnic encounter and culture change
Joensuu, Finland, 19-22 June 1995. The author and Nordic Society for Middle Eastern Studies

Posting introduction

This little article is interesting not for its vague Burdjan - Norman speculation, but for definitive citation of Arabic sources that identify the Bulgarian Burdjans with the Burgundians totally independent of the identification given by Agathias.

Posting notes and explanations, added to the text of the author and not noted specially, are shown in (blue italics) in parentheses and in blue boxes, or highlighted by blue headers.

Olga B. Frolova
The ethnic name "Burdjan" in Arabic geographical works

It is known that owing to the medieval Arabic works by Ibn Hordadbeh, Ibn al-Faqih, Ibn Ruste, al-Masudi, Yaqut and others that the ethnic name "Burdjan" is connected first of all with Bulgaria on the Danube river and this name is also believed to be attributed to Bulgaria on the Volga river (I.e. before Bulgaria was split ca 680, the term Burdjan in Arabic sources covered all Bulgarian lands from Pannonia to S.Urals). [1] Sometimes it is used in connected with Burgundians (In the western sources, Agathias identifies Burgunds (Βουρουγουνδοι) and Ultizurs as Bulgaric people of Hunnic circle tribes, near relatives of Turkic Cotrigurs and Utigurs. Corroboration in Arabic sources provides independent confirmation). [2] L. Shishmanov, and after him T. Lewicki, called Burdjan a lapsus calami, viz. a mistake, in the writings by Arabic authors. [3] The Russian scientist Boris N. Zakhoder generalized information from various Arabic sources and pointed out that Bulgaria (Burdjan) was in the north, but on the map its territory extended over a broad zone (B.N.Zakhoder and Arabic sources address Bulgarian territory of different times, Arabic sources refer to pre-680 Bulgaria, and Slavic sources nearly exclusively used in Russia address Bulgarian territory after Khazaar, Bosnyak, Oguz, and Kipchak periods, prior to the Mongol invasion).

Kurbat's Great Bulgaria ca. 640 Bulgaria divided by Khazar state
into Western and Eastern Bulgaria 805–898
Bulgaria divided by Kangar - Becenyo/Bosnyak state 750-990

When B.N.Zakhoder took the data about Burdjan from the Cosmographie of Zakarija al-Qazwini, he was puzzled because the land was situated between north and west. [4] Here is the text by Zakarija al-Qazwini: [5]

Arabic text
Translation:

Burdjan is a wide land in the north. The day there continues four hours, but the night continues thirty hours, and vice versa. Its inhabitants believe in the faith of magicians and pagans. They are at war against Slavs and they are rather like Franks. They are also skilled in handicrafts and navigation.

When comparing al-Qazwini's data with the interpretation by B. Zakhoder, it is necessary to note that al-Qazwini makes a clear distinction between the two names Burdjan and Bulgar. He wrote special articles about Bulgarian people who lived by the Black Sea and about the Great Bulgaria on the Volga river ("Great Bulgaria on the Volga river" is a staple Russian historical propaganda. Itil Bulgaria and its predecessor Great Bulgaria are two different political entities in space and time), but the "Burdjan" article is a separate one. Zakarija al-Qazwini understood very well that Bulgar (As a state) and Burdjan (As a territory) were two absolutely different places.

It may be suggested that in the Cosmographie by al-Qazwini the Burdjan, the land, is Scandinavia and the Burdjan people are Normans, viz. Northmen. The proof of such a supposition is founded on peculiarities of Arabic palaeography. It is known that any interpreter of European names in Arabic works must take into consideration not only its similarity to names in other languages but also its Arabic spelling. [6] In Arabic, the word burdjan in believed to have several readings, "turdjan", "burdjal", [7] maybe also "lurman" (Latinien - Lormanes). [8] If this word was written carelessly and without diacritics, it could read "nurman" or "norman" i.e. "Norman". In medieval Arabic geographical works, the name of Normans had different forms: "al-ludana", "al-ludh`ana", "al-urdmani", "al-kudkana", [9] "al-mud'ana". [10] Such variants are the result of careless writing or of peculiarities in Arabic palaeography: a careless Arabic spelling of the word is bkrmn where the first letter is "b" or "l" or "n" or "t" or "k", the second letter in "r" or "z" or "d" or "dh" the third letter is "gj" or "m" and the last letter is "n" or "l" or "na".

The analysis of the (al-Qazwini) article (Burdjan) contents confirms the truth of that above-mentioned supposition. Not only Zakarija al-Qazwini calls Normans magicians and speaks about their skillfulness in navigation, but this is also done by the Spanish-Arabic historian Ibn al-'Izary (Ibn al-Athir ?). [11]

The sources of al-Qazwini's article "Burdjan" are unknown. Maria Kowalska in her special work "The sources of al-Qazwini's Athar al-bilad" does not touch upon this problem. [12] It is possible to state only the fact of the essential difference of the al-Qazwini's information and the material of other Arabic geographical works.

Thus, in medieval geographical Arabic works the word "Burdjan" means Bulgaria, Burgundians and (Speculatively) Normans. Only contents of the authors' works help to understand the real meaning of this name.


Notes

1. Barthold W. Bulghar, EI, I p. 819-925; Lewicki T. Zrodla arabskie do dziejow slowianszcyzny, I, Wroclaw-Warszwa-Krakow 1956, p. 24-27; II, 1969, p. 56-57.[*]

2. Minorsky, V., A history of Sharvan and Darband in the 10th-11th centuries. Cambridge 1958 (in Russian translation. Moscow 1963, p. 197). [*]

3. Lewicki, T., Op.cit., I, p. 24.[*]

4. Zakhoder, B.N., Kaspiskij svod svednij o Vostochnoj Evrope, II, Moscow 1967, p. 35-36 (in Russian).[*]

5. Zakarija b. M. b. Mahmud al-Qazwini, Athar al-bilad, Beyrouth 1960, p. 612 (in Arabic).[*]

6. Minorsky, V., Kuda ezdili drevnie rusi? Vostochnie istochniki po istorii jugo-vostochnoi i zentralnoi Evropi, Moscow 1964, p. 24 (in Russian).[*]

7. Lewicki, T., Op.cit., II, p. 56.[*]

8. Minorsky, V., Kuda ezdili, p. 24.[*]

9. Ibid., p. 24-27.[*]

10. Al-Mas'udi, 'Ali b. al-Husayn b. 'Ali, Murudj az-Zahab wa-ma'adin al-djawhar, Misr 1958, I, p. 182 (in Arabic).[*]

11. Minorsky, V., Kuda ezdili, p. 24.[*]

12. Kowalska M., "The sources of al-Qazwini's Athar al-bilad", Folia orientalis 1967, viii, p. 41-88.[*]

 
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