In Russian (Later)
Ogur and Oguz
Mario Alinei Kurgan Culture
Ethnic Affiliation Scythians
Scythians and their descendents
Karatay О. Eastern References to the White Croats
Shipova E.N. 2000 Turkisms in Russian
|Convergence - Türkic folks in European Milieu|
In Search of the Lost Tribe:
The Origins and Making of the Croation Nation
KaraM, Çorum, 2003, 975-6467-07-X
© Copyright 2003 by KaraM Araştırma ve Yayıncılık
The work of Dr. Osman Karatay stands apart from the mass of post-WWI works that created fresh genesis legends for the Balkan states. The polarized image outlined fairly well the checkered history, involved a vast range of sources, and had only one main drawback, it filtered in only a narrow spectrum of colors. The color-deficient image blocks the hurtful shine of the bright and allows to bring to contrast the obscure. This technique is widely used in the cloistered biological labs and in the open ranges of the hyped indoctrination. Broadly, science is objective and color-blind, but humanities suffer the mental maladies bearing on the humans, and in some instances color-blindness is an apostate vice. Since the hogwash of the ensconced histories is fairly obvious, Dr. Osman Karatay undertook a fresh look at the developments prior to the 10th century, using the shuned methods of open mind and critical thinking. It is unavoidable that a new method brings new results, and digging in restricted places uncovers evidence that bridges gaps left open by the genesis mythology.
A reader will encounter too many insights to name. Among the most interesting are:
The achievement of Dr. Osman Karatay is not only in sorting out the most obscure puzzles of the past, but in bringing them up, in breaching the iron wall separating patriotic mythological speculations from reality. A reader will discover plenty of other nonconformist insights, some of them may be disputed, some rejected. That is a normal process of science. Abnormal is abstention from the deliberating process, mythmaking, and obfuscation.
Page numbers are shown at the end of the page. Posting notes and explanations, added to the text of the author are shown in (blue italics) in parentheses and in blue boxes, or highlighted by blue headers. Minor editorial corrections were made to use standard English terminology and reduce grammatical ambiguity. An academic monograph in humanities has to follow few rules that prevent publication of some factual, but offensive background and information not greeted by the peer reviewers. At times, the objective understanding of that offensive background is necessary to appreciate the logics and development of the events. The obscurer is the subject, and the more unbalanced historiography debased it, the more that background is left out of the limelight. The excessive volume of the posting notes is predicated by the tactful bounds of that part of the study. Choice between spelling Kubrat and Kurbat in all modern interpretations is arbitrary. For consistency, the posting comments use the form Kurbat, consistentwith other postings on this site, while the author's form has been preserved in the author's text.
- No genocide has resulted in extermination of any people, but those applying genocide have taken their place in the most outrageous pages of history,
- No pressure has resulted in extermination of any will of people, but all tyrannical rules and practices have always been damned,
- No injustice has provided any permanent interest to those committing it, and remained without punishment, but justice has ever became the eventual winner,
- No ban on any idea has helped prevent that idea from gaining popularity, but people always have tended to think how they want,
- No control over consciousness of people has led to any profitable end, but usually resulted in loss of control over masses, and,
- No nationality can be imposed on any individual, but people themselves choose their communal identity, including their nationality, according to their personal views,
- No other regime, but democracy (for everybody) is the best for all humanity, and will be globally preferred in the very near future,
I wrote this book, a study on an unsolved problem of the history of the early Middle Ages. This book proposes how the Croatian nation appeared about one and half a millenium ago, and defines the cast of this process as some Turks. I do never claim that today’s Croats are of Turkic origin, or the Turks realized this task. The initiators only, whose activities eventually paved the way for making the Croatian nationality, were Turks in origin.
A Turkish version of this book was published in the year 2000; this book is, however, a totally new one, and not a translation of the Turkish book.
I have to express my gratitude to hundreds of my friends, who helped me during the preparation of both the Turkish and English editions. Staff of the library of the Turkish Historical Society found and brought patiently all the books and articles that I wanted. Prof. Emil Hersak of Zagreb brought me many valuable books, and Prof. Alemko Gluhak, also of Zagreb, kindly sent his book. Prof. Tufik Bumazovic of Sarajevo sent me many precious books on Bosnian history. Prof. Plamen Tzvetkov of Sofia exhibited great patience in replying my numerous questions about wider dimensions of the Proto-Bulgar entity. I’m also grateful to Mr. Mustafa Gökgöz, bibliomaniac of Çorum, for his help during the edition of this book. And Mr. Bülent Keneş, news director of the Turkish Daily News, supported me in all phases of this study."
Çorum, August 30, 2003
It iş a factual fact that historians and historiography have up to this day dealt mostly with nations. This is not related to the so-called rise of nationalism after the so-called French Revolution, and had a similar dose in previous, even ancient ages, too. Ethnic definition started with self-definition compared to the other (“we” and “they”), as in the basic examples Helen/Roman - Barbarian, Arab - Adjem (Persian, i.e. non-Arab), Türk - Tat (Persian, i.e. non-Turk), etc.
After dividing humanity into two, people realized that there were many kinds of the “others”, all calling themselves as “we”, and thus there simply started ethnic division. Classification of those “we”s or “other”s coincided with searches for their origins, and so, different traditions trying to explain ethnic roots appeared. Certainly, Japhethic traditions gained more popularity than individual tribal or national myths.
Ethnic studies, or indeed studies in ethnic origins never ceased, and were accelerated after the collapse of socialism, which gifted a micro-nationalism developing in a parallel way to the globalization. Main theme in these studies is to show “how we are different from the others”
at local level, or for insiders, and to understand “why they are different from the others” in international level, or for outsiders. Thus, for instance, Serbian and Croatian intellectuals, in great majority, tried “to make clear” how it was impossible for them to live together with the other due to the ethnic differences; while intellectuals of the third parts, regardless of their sympathy to any side, tried to understand why these two people were in so antagonistic to each other. Similarly, Bosniac scholars, being mostly interested in the glory of the Ottoman time during the both Yugoslavias, started to tend to the pre-Ottoman Bosnia, of course, to show that they were not Serbs or Croats.
Being an “outsider”, who lived in Bosnia for three years, and traveled in the other ex-Yugoslav countries, I found myself in the mid of hard debates. A Bosniac said me: “We came here (to the Balkans) in the first wave. The Serbs and Croats came later, in the second wave.” A Serb tried to convince me that “the Bosniacs were nobody else than the islamized/turkified Serbs, as the Muslims of Sandjak (a region of Serbia, where Muslims in majority).” And a Croatian enlightened told me that “the Medieval Bosnian state had been just one of the states of the Croats in Medieval.”
During the preparation of my monograph of Kosovo, which was published in 1998 (Kosova Kanlı Ova “Kosovo the Bloody Plain”), I made basic readings on the
Slavicization of the Balkans, as well as Medieval history of the region. I must confess how this topic, especially, and interestingly, the Croatian entity, was attractive for me.
When I first started readings in Proto-Bulgar history, I did not miss the phonetic resemblance between some versions of the name Kubrat/Kuvrat, khan of Great Bulgaria, like Krobatos of Theophanes the Confessor (Crobatus in its Latin translation by Anastasius), and Croat, name of the northwestern Balkan people (Fr. Croate, Ger. Kroate, Rus. Хорват). Original forms of the both words also do not go far from each other: Kuvrat vs. Horvat. I noted this to return later, but a footnote in the Byzantine History of G. Ostrogorsky telling about a theory relating the both words,1 warned me not to wait so much. Thus, just after finishing all the planned readings in Bulgar history, I started to elaborate literature about roots of the Croats. This passing later helped me more surely integrate what we may call the Proto-Croat history to the history of the Proto-Bulgars, or favor the Turkic theory among four theories about the Croatian origins: Slavic, Iranic, Germanic, and Turkic (indeed Bulgaro-Avaric); however, not being so satisfied, as the last one was also as weak as the others.
The Croats are a Slavic people speaking almost the same language as their neighbors, Muslim Bosniacs and Orthodox Serbs and Montenegrins. Thus, confession to the Roman-Catholic church is currently their outstanding, perhaps the only feature. But there were Croats also before Christianity as a separate nation, like Serbs and ancestors of other South and Central European Slavs. What were the dynamics making them a particular people, nation or ethnie among the other Slavs? What and where were their ethnic and historical roots? What was more important for me was the curiosity about the authenticity of the so-called Bulgaric theory. Were the first Croats or the founding fathers of the Croatian state Bulgars? This would extend the scope of the Proto-Bulgarian history to a largely omitted area by solving many non-deciphered problems, and help find origins of the Croatian nation, as the other three theories were still non-based, and on the level of hypothesis.
1 Ostrogorsky, Bizans, p.98. He tells about and criticizes the famous article of H. Gregoire: L’origine et le Nom des Croates et des Serbes.
Fruit of my searches became the book titled Hırvat Ulusunun Oluşumu. Erken Ortaçağ ’da Türk-Hırvat ilişkileri (“The Making of the Croatian Nation. Turko-Croâtian Relations iri Early Medieval”), published in Ankara, 2000. Four articles in the next two years followed it, by extending some debates to the Bosnian and Serbian entities, and by adding some new facts to the Croat case (see the sources).
Though being titled in the same way, this book is neither a translation, nor a summary of my Turkish book. This may be called a reproduction, enriched by the newest findings and conclusions, especially after the results of my works on the Caucasian Bulgars, containing abundant material on the Bulgariс roots and on the history of early Proto-Bulgars. During this study, all the concerning literature was not available to me, but I have got almost all the basic books, especially in Croatian. Since I did not aim to disqualify the other theories, remaining still unproven (especially the Iranic theory, as the most spoken and supported one in Croatia and in the West), but to present my own ideas, and since I had no much occasion and possibility to access to all sources, this book is very poor of the citations about the other theories. But they are not ignored at all, as will be briefly explained in a part.
The very difficulty in studying the Croatian origins stems not primarily from the lack or scarcity of sources, but from the character of the topic. First of all, we are to deal .with the “European Dark Ages”. This term is still in use
in historiography, as there is too much darkness, waiting to be illuminated. One have to be (1), at least, familiar with the Byzantine studies, since almost all sources are provided by the Byzantine domain; (2) have expertise in early Slavic history, which is full of many uncertainties, and (3) belong to Turkology, one of the most difficult areas of study (if
one wants to sail to new horizons). Furthermore, the knowledge of history only is by no means sufficient; works must be supported with linguistic and cultural background. Author of this book, only an amateur reader in the history of the Medieval Eastern Europe claims expertise in none of these areas. However, he has always stated, and is ready to say with no hesitancy that he is sure of what he wrote.
The Turkish version of this book is composed of three units, subdivided totally to 18 parts, and only the third unit is directly concerned with the Croatian origins. In this book, I did not need to tell much about the Slavic world, their origins and overall history, as well as the ancient history of the Eurasian steppes, ancient Iranic people, and the ancient Caucasian history. Instead, I directly start to tell about and defense my theory, of course, after a few words on the other ideas. I oppose to the newly developing, but not yet systematized Bulgaro-Avaric theory, too. My main arguments in this view are that the Bulgars are totally different from the Oğurs, who were real actors in the Croatian case, in ethnic sense (and not only politically); and that the developments, which resulted in the beginning of the Croatian state and nation, were contra-Avaric at all. The Iranic and Gothic theories are poor in proofs, while many evidences contradict the Bulgaro-Avaric theory. Thus, the theory presented here should be called the Oğuric one, as the fifth theory, or the second Turkic theory.
There is no a special effort in this book to relate all entities and polities of the Early Medieval Eastern Europe to a Turkic group, but sources clearly show presence of an Oğuro-Bulgaric finger in the beginning of the Serbian state, thus we did not neglect the roots of the process, which resulted in creation of the Serbian state and, then, nation.2 In the case of Bosnia, totally different from the Croatian and Serbian cases, too, there might be some Asiatic influence. At least, one have to question what was the influences and role of the Avar rule in making the later Bosnian state. Thus, we included the part about Bosnia to this book, to present our views on and contribution to the debates on the origins of the Bosnian state and especially its royal dynasty Kotromanici, in a wider, all-Eastern European scope.
Briefly, what I did through this study was what N. Budak advised to compare and elaborate the Croatian and Bulgar traditions.3
2 Here, regarding conclusions of this study, I have to favor view of Obolensky, who says that “the growth of national consciousness in Eastern Europe was closely linked with the rise and consolidation of states”
(Nationalism in Eastern Europe, p. 2); and oppose to A. Babic who summarizes the nation-making process in the region as (1) consolidation of the religious identities, (2) rise of the states of the religious communities, and (3) becoming nation of the people with the same confession and under the same state (Babic,,
Iz istorije, p. 168)
Part I THE IRANIC, GERMANIC AND SLAVIC THEORIES
Not doubting about Slavic affiliation of the Croats, old traditions monotonously used to list them among the Slavs in origin, too. The eminent Croatian medievalist Franjo Racki of the 19th century was champion of this idea, and V. Jagic, father of the Croatian philology, supported him. In this opinion, Croats were simply of Slavic origin and came to the Balkans together with the other South Slavs.1
But when scientific history realized some accounts and clues putting the Croats and Serbs apart from the other Slavs, historians started to criticize the settled rules, and tended to new, sometimes very divergent alternatives. Russian Slavist Pogodin connected Χοροαθος/Χρουαθος, Sarmatic personal name from the 2nd or 3 rd century AD, that occurs in an inscription found in the north of the Azov Sea, to the ethnonym Croat, in 1902. By adding previous interpretation of the name by Russian historian V. Miller in Iranic,2 scholarship started to speak of the Croats with no Slavic ancestors.
1 Budak, Prva stoljeca, p. 11.
Indeed this was not new especially in Russia. St. Petersburg scholars were from the mid-18th century on debating on whether the Rus’ origins had been Slavic or Germanic,3 and very serious studies were already published on the Medieval Turkic people of Bulgars, who had established the Danubian Bulgar state, and who were assimilated by their overcrowded Slavic subjects. Thus, it was not so strange to find non-Slavs among ancestors of some present .Slavs.
The so-called Iranic theory was borne so in Russia, but systematized and applied to the rest of the historical information by Hauptmann in Croatia,4 whose suggestion is called the Irano-Caucasian Theory. It is based on two unconfirmed judgments: a) Sarmatians, masters of the Western steppe roughly between 2nd century BC and 2nd century AD, were Iranic people; b) Xoroathos was a Sarmatian; c) the original Croats were Iranic. Furthermore, the original Iranic form is reconstructed as *xarvat, with the etymology: Ir. *hvar “sun” + *vac, meaning “herald of the sun”.5 Or, “celui qui possede des amis surs” (one who possesses the sisters friends) in another etymology.6
First of all, Sarmatians represented leadership of a steppe confederation. Only ruling layer/tribe of that confederation was Sarmatic, being stressed in sources as the Royal Sarmatians. There were other member tribes: The Iazig, Ugors, Siraks, Alans, Rhoxolani, Aorsi, etc., among whom only the last three, as well as the Alanorsi (Alani and Aorsi) unit, can be claimed Iranic. If not Finno-Ugriç, Ugors were a Turkic people, known as Oğurs/Oğors in the Western steppes in the next ages.
3 For an overview see Obolensky, Varangian-Russian Controversy.
The Sirak (cf. Sir people of the Orkhon-Turk inscriptions, early 8th century, the second part likely being a plural -k,7 in my opinion, and not ak “white” as commonly accepted by those accepting them Turkic); and Iazig (cf. Jazigi a Kıpçak tribe north of the Aral sea recorded in the 11th century,8 a Cuman tribe, appearing in Hungary in the 13th century;9 and Γιαζη [Giazi], head of a Peçeneg tribe)10 were also Turkic peoples with great probability, as supported by many linguistic evidences.11 As will be told on, the Bulgar, Kutrigur and Utrigur peoples may also be viewed among members of the Sarmatic union.
According to Herodotus, homeland of the Sarmatians (Sauromats) was 15 days distance from the northern edge of the Azov Sea, and on the east of the Scythians.12
7 The most widespread, likely common plural suffix to the north of Eurasia was -t. Finnic and Mongolic still keep it, and there are many traces in old Turkic. However, Turkic have today more remnants of а
-k suffix, seeming derived from once -t (cf. forms of the Kıpçak tribe Çağraq/ Çağrat, Golden, Introduction, p.278), kept especially in organ names like
kulak, ayak, bacak, yanak, dudak, and in the suffixes for the first plural person: Bizik “we are”,
isek “if we are”, geldik “we have came”, etc. Today, Hungarian plural suffix, is also
This is roughly where now Başkurdistan is located.13 Başkurdo-Hungarian kinship is well known in historiography. Some tribal names are common in the both peoples, such as Başkurt Yurmati and Hungarian Gyarmat14 (Γερματου in DAI15), which anyway migrated to the Central Europe from the South Uralic region, as one of the seven Turkic tribes. Could Yurmati, natives of the region, Gyarmats, who departed from that region, and Sarmats, whose homeland was that region, be related and the same people?
Hung, gy is equal to common Tur. у in many other examples: gyula = yula, gyapjü = yapağı, gyarta- “to produce” = yarat- “to create”, gyâsz = уas, gyûr- = yoğur-, gyürü = yüzük, gyüszü = yüksük, etc. That is, we are frankly to speak on the same people, being components of the Finno-Ugric Hungarian and Turkic Başkurd nations. Turk, у (thus Hung. gy in concerning loanwords) have s/s as their equivalents in Çuvaş (sin- = yen-, sil- = yol-, sıt- = yut-, sim = yün, sur -yaz, etc.) and Yakut/Saxa (sette = yedi, süs = yüz, sâs = yaz, etc.), both of which are to save very archaic peculiarities of Turkic. Thus, one can easily see that the Çuvaş s and Yakut s are older than the Turk. у and its Hung, equivalent gy. This recalls that the word Sarmat was merely an older form of Turk. Yarmat < Yurmat and Hung. Gyarmat, both of which denominate one and the same Turkic tribe.
13 Melyukova, İskitler ve Sarmatlar, p. 158, composes this account with archeological findings and tells about two Sarmatian/Sauromatian cultures: One on the Lower Volga ranks and the other in the Samarra-Ural
I think time-based objections cannot be made, since there is no much interval between disappearance of the Sarmatians and appearance of the Hungarians in the Western steppes. Mândoky realized this connection, but thought that the Turkic tribal name was of Iranic origin, relying on the prejudice that the Sarmatians were Iranic.16 Besides the fact that there was no Iranic people in the Ural and mid-Volga region at all, in order to pour such a huge population to the steppe, one might induce that the ancient Sarmatians were a Turkic people, as their well-known grandsons.
Likewise, the Iranic origin of the Alano-As people is not definitively confirmed, and even open to contra-theories. Alans did not leave us linguistic relics, and the onomasticon narrated by other sources can be easily etymologized in other Eurasian languages, mainly Turkic. Some Medieval Islamic sources account Alans among Turkic peoples, and the As component in their lists was surely Turkic.
The existence of an Iranic people today in the Caucasus, the Ossetians, forces us to look for their Medieval ancestors in the region, since they are not newcomers. Thus, it is customary to relate the Ossetians (Os + eti, the second part being a Georgian suffix) to the Ancient and Medieval Asi (In Türkic context, the suffix -ï/-i/-u/-ü is a poss. 3rd pers. sing. and pl. affix “(their Ases”).
A story by Al-Bıruni that language of Alans was a mixture of (Turkic) Peçeneg and (Iranic) Xwarezmian languages;17 ant that the invading Mongol army in the Caucasus warned the Cuman Turks, allies of the Alans, that Mongols and Cumans were of the same race, while Alans were different from them,18 shows non-Turkic character of the Alans. While orchestratedly (uniformly, invariantly) calling the As people as Turks, Medieval sources make the Alans equally both Turk and non-Turk.
16 After Berta, Türkçe Kökenli, p. 58.
The situation is complicated by the fact that not the Iranic Ossetians, but the Turkic Karaçay-Balkars, likely descending from the old Bulgars, are called Alan both by their neighbors, and by themselves.19 This cannot be due to the fact that the Karaçay-Balkars occupies a former Alanic territory, since Turkic population of the region, at least Bulgars, were older in the central ranks of the Caucasus than the Alans. This may be result of the two-millennium long cohabitation of Bulgars and Alans, and it is not easy to call the Alans as a pure Iranic people. Their ruling stratum might be of Turkic origin, which seems misled some sources to title the Iranic people as Turkic.
As it is not topic of this book, we will not go into details of the still unsolved Alano-As problem in Eurasian ethnology, but I have to point to a greater problem that all the As/Az occurring in Eurasia are either frankly Turks, or unidentified at all; while the only surviving group with a similar name, the Os people, Ossetians, is an Iranic community. If this is not an egzo-ethnonym (exonym), given possibly by their non-Turkic Caucasian neighbors (we should regard that the two parts of this nation have their own names, Digor and Iron), then, historiography and ethnology face a Gordian knot.
18 Alemany, Sources, p. 256.
Even greater problem is that this Iranic community call their Turkic neighbors, Karaçay-Balkars, as As. The smaller Balkar region is called Asia, and the greater Karaçay part is denominated Stur (Great) Asia in Ossetian.21
Thus, it is an over-exaggeration to imagine a pure, or dominantly Iranic ethnical structure in the Western steppes in the Sarmatian age, while names of at least one dozen Turkic groups in the region during the first centuries AD came to us. Thus, the Sarmatians, hegemonic tribe of the steppes replacing the Royal Scythians, were themselves a Turkic-speaking group.
Under these conditions, there can be no room to set up a Xoroathos > Sarmatian > Iranic relation. Even if so, there is much to do to relate the anthroponym Xoroathos of the 2nd or 3rd century to the ethnonym Croat, occurring firstly in the 7th century in Central Europe.
We have to tell about the “Afghan theory”, too, being an extreme version of the Iranic theory. Some scholars like Heres, Sakac and Mandic think that Sarmatians were indeed Croats themselves, and their Urheimat was the Harahvaiti region to the southwest of Afghanistan. However, this idea has no evidences, except the rough phonetic resemblance of Harahvaiti to Hrvat/Horvat.22 Nor the Alanic theory of Vinski, according to which Croats were indeed Alans, who fled from the Huns together with Kaseg/Kosags, the Croatized Circassians, and whio created a new ethnical unity with local Slavs in the Vistula basin, has any material base.23
21 Tavkul, Etnik Yapı, p. 58.
The Germanic theory is a fantasy and almost based upon the once short visit of the Ostrogoths to these lands. The fact that some Bosniacs visiting Hitler during the 2nd W.W. told him about kinship of the two nations, by referring to the Gothic visit to Bosnia 1500 years ago shows how this fantasia has a large pile of new ideas and interpretations. There are, of course, historical sources for this idea, too. Thomas Archidiaconus of Split of the mid 13th century writes in his Historia Salonitana: “It is said that Solin (once capital of Dalmatia, old town or an ancient city near Split, O.K.) was destroyed at the time of the Goths, who came from Teuton and Polish countries under the leadership of Totila. From the Polish countries, which are called Lingoni, seven or eight noble families came together with Totila. When they saw that Croatian country would be convenient for them to settle, because there had remained very few colons (native agrarians, villagers), they wanted from their chief, and obtained it...”24
First of all, the seven centuries between Totila and Thomas make one hesitant about the health of this account. Goths once had passed through Poland, normally to go from Scandinavia to what is now Ukraine, but at least three centuries earlier than Totila, who was an Ostrogothic king in the north of Italy in the 6th century. Thus, no family or clan could have came with him not only from Poland or Teutonic lands, but also from Ukraine, their second home.
24 Gluhak, Porijeklo, p. 128. This text is my translation from Croatian, which was
ultimately translated from Latin. Thus, possible mistakes belong to me.
It seems, the popuar legend about the seven brothers, with which we will deal in detail, that had survived to the 13th century, was applied by the archdeacon, who was familiar only with the Western/Latin sources, and not with the events in the east and north, to the narrated Gothic visit to Croatia or Dalmatia. Furthermore, as Budak pointed out, Thomas uses the word Goth only to insult the barbarian Slavs, and not as an ethnic term.25 Another source used by the Gothic supporters is the chronicle of the Doclean Pope (Pop Dukljanin) of the 12th century. He read Jordanes’ book on adventures of the Goths, and deduced that the Goths migrated to the country of the Slavic kingdom, imagined by the Pope himself.26
The Slavic theory seems, therefore, not baseless as much as the Iranic theory, though Goldstein classifies the Iranic theory as “less unbelievable” among others,27 and Budak, who favors the Slavic theory, characterizes it as “not satisfactory enough”.28 But, as will be dealt with below, if we accept that the first Croats were Slavs, then there arises problems to explain events of the years 620-630’s, and to etymologize early personal names in Slavic, first of all the word Croat itself.
According to N. Klaic, the Gothic and Iranic theories cannot be defended any more, and scholarship returned to the Slavic theory, but this also says nothing eventual.29 She tends to search Croatian roots within the Avar political world, and does not suggest an ethnical entity.
25 Budak, Prva stoljeca, p. 11.
Definition of this theory by Budak as that there was no Croatian ethnos before the Avar Kaganate, that is, the lack of a certain ethnicity in Croatian origins30 is surely more convenient than our denomination “Avaro-Bulgaric” theory. We will elaborate these matters within the next parts.
30 Budak, Prva stoljeca, p. 11, see also pp. 67-69. He refers to the Russian Cossacks.
Part II BULGARIC, OGURIC AND OTHER ORIGINS OF THE ACTORS
Scholarship appreciates the view that the word Bulgar was virtually mentioned in the first time by John of Antioch of the 6th century, telling about Bulgaric help to Byzantium against Goths in 482.1 An anonymous Latin script from 334 AD, however, tells about “Ziezi ex quo Vulgares”;2 These Vulgars from (likely) the Chechens (Nakhs) were undoubtedly the Bulgars living in the north side of the Caucasian ranks.
In an account not respected by scholarship, Moses Khorenats’i, the Armenian author contemporary to John of Antioch, tells by relying on Mar Abbas Katina that Val-Arsak, king of Armenia in the 2nd century BC, “returned northward to the foot of Parkhar in Tayk’... He summoned there the barbarous foreign race that inhabited the northern plain and the foothills of the great Caucasus Mountain ... the Vlendur Bulgar, Vund dwelt in the area, was called Vanand after his name.”3 These are surely the Caucasian Bulgars “of the Mountain” (cf. Turk. Tau “mountain”, Tavlu “Now Karaçay-Balkar Turks of the same region, Caucasian mountaineers in the wide sense”; -k is the Armenian suffix for plural, which also denominates name of a land). What is debatable is the time given, and not identity of the people. We will be back to it.
1 Zlatarski, Istorija, p. 81.
Some authors want to see the word Bulgar in some undefined ethnic names given by Chinese sources, such as Po-le (2nd century BC) and Pu-ku (1st century AD).4 However, these are open to all kinds of speculations.
Oğurs are firstly mentioned by Priskos: Three people called Ουρωγοι (to be Ωγουροι), Ομουγυροι and Σαραγουροι, expulsed from their homeland by Σαβιροι (Sabirs), who had been in turn pursued by Αβαροι (Avars), sent their representatives to Constantinople in 463.5 The first one is the simple of the ethnonym Oğur. The third one seems its other halve, as sari (“yellow” in current “z” type Turkic languages,6 Hungarian and Mongolian, but Çuv. şurı “white”) denotes in Turkic/steppe tribal organization the other part (cf. Türgiş - Sarı Türgiş, Uygur - Sari Uygur/Yugur etc.).7 The word was şarı/şara in the so-called Proto-Bulgar Turkic, as in Çuvaş.8 Therefore, Σαραγουροι were White Oğurs.9
4 Tzvetkov, Bidgarija, p. 57.
And the third name clearly shows a union of ten tribes (Tur. on “ten”), which is the most common costume to call new groupings (cf. Dokuz Oğuz “the Nine Oğuz”, Otuz Tatar “Thirty Tatars”, etc.).10
7 This may be connected with the aksöyük (nobles, white people) vs. karasöyük (the ‘second’ estate) tradition
(lit. “white bone” vs. “black bone”, an idiom that still lingers around in
the European languages), but Kafesoğlu do not accept such a stratification at all.
Kara “black” denoted the greater group, while ak/sari “white” was pointing to a smaller unit (see
Türk Milli Kültürü, pp. 242-245). Indeed, the Bulgars remaining in the homeland, in the north of the Caucasus, who likely constituted the bulk of the nation, were called
Black Bulgars. On the other hand, a group of Huns migrating to Western Central Asia were called
Onoğur and Oğur may be one and the same group,11 perceived by the Byzantine sources as two separate tribes, because the latter group soon disappeared from the scene,12 but the Onoğurs were continuously mentioned by Medieval sources,13 and their name was transferred to us in the egzo-ethnonym (exonym) Hungar (Eng. Hungar, Fr. Hongr, Ger. Ungar, Serb. Угар, Rus. Венгр, etc. < Onoğur; this people call themselves Magyar)14 The word Oğur likely means “tribes”: ok + (u)r, as the equivalent of the word Oğuz in the “r” language.15 Some scholars see in the word Hu-chieh or Wu-chieh in Chinese records the first mentioning of the Oğurs, but this is by no means clear.16 Oğurs with great probability were members of the earlier Ting-ling, and later T’ieh-le union of the South Siberia belt, who continuously rebelled and fought Turkic steppe empires founded in Mongolia, and from whom derived the Oğuz, Oğur and Uygur Turks.17
13 Latin sources, for ins., of the 8th-9th centuries give approximately 60 names, all derived from the word Onoğur (Zimonyi,
Bulgars, p, 575). Greek and Islamic sources were also so hardworking.
In contrary to the Onoğurs, Sarağurs, who had defeated the Akatziri tribe, a Hunnic remnant, before sending their emissaries to Constantinople, were soon lost from the sights, after a few raids to the south of the Caucasus, against Persia, naturally with the instigation of Byzantium.18 Only Zacharias the Rhetor gives their name in his list.19 This is a historical problem waiting for satisfactory explanations, and this book is one of the few trying to do it.
Sources mention two other contemporary tribes, having too much gravity in steppe affairs: Kutrigurs and Ut(r)igurs. These are, together with the above-stated Oğurs, commonly associated with the Bulgars, along with a tradition launched by Zeuss in 1837.20 For the succeeding eras this is true, as all of them entered into the post-Turkic tribal union led by the Bulgars of the North Caucasus (Magna Bulgaria), which was destroyed by the Khazars. However, for the origins, the three groups have nothing to do with each other. Oğurs are told to have come from east in the mid-5th century. No Bulgar migration is mentioned by any source; nor anybody relates them genetically to the Huns, except confusions in naming. Bulgars are commonly mentioned to be natives of the Caucasus from very ancient times on.
17 See for detail Czeğledy, Turan, pp. 19-20, 25.
This is so for the Kutrigur and Utrigur tribes, too. According to Menander, they were “brothers”, the same people with the same language, but with different rulers. And according to Prokopius, those living to the east of Azov were once used to call Kimmerians, now they are Utrigurs; and Utrigurs migrated nowhere, and remained in their homeland.21 By the foundation of the Great Bulgaria 22 these tribes had nothing common with the Onoğurs. Why historiography is still insisting on denominating all of them as Bulgar tribes may be due to Nemeth’s etymologizing their names, which has not been yet challenged. He tries to see the ethnonym Oğur in all of them, including some members of a third group of tribes, mentioned as directly Huns, such as Bittigurs and Ultingurs (Ultzindures/Ultzinzures).23 For Kutrigur he suggests a metathesis: Kuturgur = Quturgur = *Toqur(o)ğur < toqur “nine” in Proto-Bulgaric (Com. Turk, toquz). Utrigur is even simpler: Uturgur = Uturğur < utur/otur “thirty” in Proto-Bülgaric (Com. Turk. otuz). By accepting all those tribes Oğuric, and by designating the ethnonym Bulgar as their spreading adjective,24 Nemeth, legendary name of Turkology and Eurasian linguistics, indeed closed the ways to solve many problems of the steppes for the pre-Peçeneg period.25
21 Zlatarski, Istorija, pp. 61, 67, 70, 74-75, 113. The Bulgarian historian, however, regards them two parts/halves of the Bulgar nation
I will not go into detail, except suggesting a new origin to Kutrigurs and Utrigurs.26 As before stated, the both are told be autochthonous people of the Caucasus. Recently a new book was published in Russia, titled Jağfar Tarihi (“A History by Jağfar”, author Baxŝi Iman) in Russian, telling all about the Proto-Bulgar history. It, or the latest version, is claimed to have written in 1680 in Tatar language, but the original copy does not exist, thus it is not well respected in the scholarly milieu.
25 I must confess I did not separate Kutrigurs and Utrigurs from Oğurs in the Turkish version of this book,
Hırvat Ulusu, pp. 105-106, by obeying the same etymology; however the Bulgars were carefully distinguished from the rest.
Anyway, ancestors of the Bulgars, according to the Tarih, were two people called Utig and Xot, whose ancestors were Kimmerians27 (cf. Prokopius: “Utrigurs are Kimmerians”). One may add to this list the Kemâri references of Medieval Islamic sources as ancestors of the Bulgars.28
And many would object by saying that the Medieval Bulgars were related to the Ancient Kimmerians only geographically, because the latter lived where once had lived the second. I must recall at this point that no other North Caucasian people, Alans, Circassians, etc., are “descendants” of the Kimmerians, but only Bulgars (indeed, also Kutrigurs and Utrigurs, having been Bulgarized in the Islamic age). We have historical data, too, besides this legendary and quasi-historical information.
There lived a certain Kut/Gut(ti) people in what is today Southern Azerbaijan, whose first accounts are from the mid-3rd millennium BC. We have some scattered traces of their language, which was agglutinative as Turkic, and whose possible relation with Turkic has been studied from Landsberger on. Kemal Balkan recently wrote a nice article on their language.29 And, just to their north were the Uti people, likely their (linguistic) relatives.
27 Baxsi iman, Jagfar Tarihi, pp. 10-14; for an evaluation of the data given here, see Miftakov,
İlk Bulgar (See Miftakov, “
History of Tatar People”).
The consonant -r being the plural suffix,30 and gur/gor meaning “country”,31 one may reach the words Kutrigur and Utrigur: “Land of the Kuts” and “Land of the Utis”. Why a country name was treated as an ethnonym should be asked from the Turkic tradition, which do not need to separate name of people and name of their country, as well as in some cases name of their rulers (cf. Urns Kagan, Kıpçak Melik, etc.). For ins. Türkmen was a man, a people, and a land, like Oğuz and Bulgar.
30 Pritsak, Fürstenliste, p. 75, accepts “r” for Proto-Bulgaric, as in now Common Turkic.
Balanjar, indeed a place name meaning “terrible place”32 was both name of a city/region (cf. Грозный, the Chechen capital at the same place as Balanjar, meaning the same in Russian), and a people.
As the bulga- theory gives no result in explaining the ethnonym, but only a linguistic satisfaction, we may turn to the Word -gor for Bulgar as well. Among hundreds of scholars, only Togan, not linguist at all, did not credit the bulga- etymology, and suggested it should have been bel + gur “Five Oğurs” in the “r” language.33 The word Uluğ Balağur34 in the Raşid al-Din version of the Oğuznâme, might have inspired him. As long as we cannot find a new Urheimat for Bulgars, we should feel free to look for a name connected with the Caucasian geography. Today’s Karaçay city/region Beştav (in Russian Пятигорск; both meaning “Five Mountains”), with very historical roots, would be called in the “r” language bel/bil-gor “Five Mountians” > bilgar in accordance with the Turkic vocal harmony (cf. Blkar of the Armenian sources). This word is in Bulg. Былгар, Rus. Болгар, Serb. Бугар, Pol. Bulgar, and Hung. Bolgar. A Turkic loanword in these languages may provide a parallel case: Bulg. тылмач, Rus. толмач, Serb, тумач, Pol. Tlmacz, and Hung, tolmâcs < Tur. tılmaç “interpreter”.
32 Beliŋ “panic, terror” (Clauson, ED, p. 343) + jer “place, earth” in Kıpçak form, Com. Turk,
To sum up, Bulgars were a Caucasian people living in what are today Chechenia, Ingushetia, Kabardin-Balkar, and Karachay-Circassian autonomous republics of the Russian Federation, from very ancient times, unknown to us.35 Kutrigurs and Utrigurs, two relative people, later two prominent actors of the steppe affairs and members of the Bulgaric union, were different from them and lived on the Kuban basin up to the low ranks of the river Don. These people, especially the ‘proper’ Bulgars had nothing to do with Croatian history, except some Kutrigur masses taken by Avars to what are today Bosnia and Hungary.
Those coming to Europe after or during the collapse of the Hun Empire were in no way Bulgars, but Oğurs, who would not be virtually Bulgarized in the next centuries, and whose closest relatives were, at least politically, the Oğuz (ancestors of today’s Turks of Turkey, Iraq, Azerbaijan, Iranic Azerbaijan and Türkmenistan, as well as some Balkan Turks) and the Uygurs (who live today under Chinese administration in Eastern Turkestan).
35 After separating Oğurs from them, it would be seen how Armenian sources on the Bulgars tell the truth. Vlendur Bulgar (see the footnote 3) of Khorenats’i and Olkhontor Bulgar (Blkar) of the Armenian Geography (Șirak Aşharhac’oyc’,
Geography, p. 99) were certainly the Balanjar Bulgars. Al-Masudi, 10th century Muslim historian, confirms those Armenian sources by saying “Bulgars are from Turks... from the nomads called Valandariyyah” (Şeşen,
İslam Coğrafyacıları, p. 57). The expression of the Latin script associating Bulgars with Chechens (see the footnote 2) also point to the same place. These people left their country to what is today Tataristan, not likely due to the Arabic incursions onto the Khazars in the late 7th - early 8th centuries, but the Khazar incursions onto them (Great Bulgaria) just before the Arabo-Islamic raids.
One part of them (Oğurs), the crowded group, later joined the adventure of home-invasion of the Hungarians, and partly contributed to the ethnogenesis of the Volga Tatars. The other group, less in number, and thus called “White”, but highly war-like and brave even to attack on Persia, unreasonably disappeared from the scene, as stated. As told by Romasov, they did not play an important role,36 but their doubtful disappearance is as much important as any historical turning point in capacity of the region and age. Therefore, some later sources’ warning us that we should search for their traces in the process of formation of the Croatian people should be well listened.
36 Romasov, Bolgarskie plemena, p. 219, who relates the disappearance to the appearance of the Kök Turks in the region. This is possible, but no other tribe was lost in such a way.
Part III POST-HUNNIC SPECTACLE OF EASTERN EUROPE
The western steppes in the post-(imperial) Hunnic age looked like, as Golden characterizes, an array of nomadic peoples.1 This should not be restricted, however, only to the Turkic and so-called Iranic nomads. Slavic and Germanic groups, and perhaps some others of Finno-Ugric and Caucasian stock were wandering in the region, in accordance with their role in the Volkerwanderung.
As for our interest, Kutrigurs filled the post-Hunnic vacuum in the region, roughly north of the Azov Sea, and undertook the very nomadic task of raiding on Byzantine soils.2 They were not “ethnically” alone in their endeavor; some other Turkic groups or remnants of the destroyed tribes, as well as many Slavic and Germanic elements were their comrades.
1 Golden, Introduction, p. 98-99.
Utrigurs stayed between Kuban and Don, and being very soon jealous of Kutrigurs, their now Trans-Don relatives, often cooperated with Constantinople to catch them unawares, while they were raiding in the Balkans.3 This pattern of relation between the two was peculiar to the Iustinianos Age (527-565, from 558 on they were perished by the Avars). Though the two relative groups gave too many harms to each other, Byzantium also seems to have lost much, at least financially, as well depicted by Prokopius, the “secret” opponent of the Iustinianos regime.4
The Emperor used to give money to the Utrigurs to provoke them to hit the others, and to the Kutrigurs in order to give up their attack and to give the intelligence that the Utrigurs would soon assault onto them. Things went well, but tariffs were risen too much by those nomads, who were likely aware of the Byzantine policy and who were later in coordination with each other.
3 This was an often practiced strategy of Byzantium, to which it owed its one
millennium long-life (cf. overcoming of the Constantinople siege by the Avars (Bulgars and Slavs as well) in 626; and the destruction of the Balkan Peçenegs, allies of the Turkic forces invading Anatolia in those days, by the Cumans, another Turkic group, in the Levunion battle in 1091). Vocation of Bulgars by Zenon in 482 likely marks its beginning.
Bulgars, by then a mountaineer people of the Caucasus, were the rising ethnie of those years. The Dulo dynasty, successors of Atilla, the famous Hun emperor, came there with their then few people, and became masters of this people.5 Their interference to Central European, even Italy affairs, in spite of the very geographical distance, should be connected with the inherited/transmitted Hunnic imperial view. In the succeeding terms, Bulgars did (perhaps could) not actually fight the Avars and the pursuing Kök Turks, and thus, did not loose much power even in those invasion years, at least demographically, in contrary to the Alans, Kutrigurs and Utrigurs.6
5 Popular view makes Irnek, son of Attila, khan of the Kutrigurs, just after the collapse of the Empire in 469 (Zlatarski, Istorija, p. 80). Words of Σανδιλχος, the Utrigur khan contemporary of Iustinianos, that “though their rulers are different, they (Kutrigurs) are the same people with Utrigurs” (ibid., pp. 61, 113) may seem to prove it. However, there are many difficulties. According to the List of Bulgarian Princes, Gostun of the Ermi clan/dynasty ruled for two years after Irnek, but as regent, and then Kourt of the Dulo dynasty was enthroned for the next 60 years (Tekin, Tuna Bulgarlari, pp. 12-13). Kourt is claimed to be Kubrat of the Great Bulgaria (Tryjarski, Protobulgarzy, p. 173, 175; Zlatarski, Istorija, p. 131-132). If we accredit the List, Kourt can be ruler of the only first half of the 6th century, while Kubrat Khan was belonging to the first half of the next century. According to Malalas and Theophanes, a certain Γορβας/Γρωβ, ruler of the Huns near Bosphoros, came to Constantinople and was baptized; then killed in his country due to it (Theophanes, Chronicle, p. 267, Golden, Introduction, p. 99). This man suits to Kourt of the List. Zlatarski thinks these Huns were Kutrigurs (ibid, p. 89). Not Kutrigurs, living between Don and Dnιeper (perhaps further west), but Utrigurs and Bulgars of eastern coasts of the Azov and Black Sea can be the Bosphoros Huns. Just (Still), Kutrigurs were enemies of Byzantium; their ruler might hardly visited Constantinople, while Utrigurs and Bulgars were allies and friends of Byzantium, as shown by contemporary developments, and by Theophanes’ words that Gordas received money in Constantinople to guard the city Bosphoros (ibidem). Against whom, except the Kutrigurs? Thus, Kourt of the Dulo dynasty cannot be ruler of the Kutrigurs. Nor of the Utrigurs, since their rulers were national, of their own, as expressed by Σανδιλχος. Prokopius, telling all about the two twin people, misses such an important case as of Gordas, which also shows that the poor Gordas had nothing to do with the two. This grandson of Attila was the same man as Kourt of the List, and khan of Bulgars.
Therefore, they remained as the vigorous power of the Caucasus, after the withdrawal of the Kök Turk power from the region.7 This let them establish the Great Bulgaria, the first state, or a polity in the form of confederation of tribes, in the Western steppes since the Hun Empire. This could be connected with the Eurasia-wide T’ieh-le rebellions against the Kök Turks in 603.8 Account of Nikephoros telling about Kubrat’s revolt against Avars in 6359 should be interpreted as a proclamation of war by an independent state, and not proclamation of independence.10 This is true for three reasons: Firstly, Nikephoros does not tell about an invading Avar army. There were, an Avar army being in Bulgar (and/or Onoğur) country for any reason, likely with his permission and Kubrat expelled them after the (consolidation of) alliance with Constantinople.
6 According to Gumilev, Bulgars under the Kök Turks were given the task of saving
(guarding) the western (Avar-Kurtigur) borders (Eski Türkler, p. 70).
Secondly, according to Nikephoros and John of Nikiu, Kubrat came to Constantinople ca. 617-619 to be baptized.11 Those were the years when the enmity between Byzantium and the Avars got the utmost degree (recall the Thessaloniki siege of the Avars in 619). Head of a Bulgaria dependent on Avars could hardly behave so. Just (Still), Avars wanted to punish Herakleios (610 - 641), and not Kubrat, for this alliance, as Nikephoros frankly tells.12
To the north of Bulgars were Onoğurs and Sarağurs. About the latter we have told all what we know. The former was as famous as the Bulgar phenomena in the affairs of Medieval Eastern Europe, as before stated. Their names are mentioned by many sources with to some degree changed forms.13
As shown by their coming to Europe without much annoying the others, and as well defined by Jordanes, who narrates their fame in marten fur trade, they were adjacent to the forest-steppe belt. They lived in the angle between Don and Volga, up to the mouth of the river Don, but out of the Caucasus region, and had nothing to do with the Kuban basin. And, no need to think change of their localization in the next ages, as later sources also point to the same place.
Long and peaceful life of this ethnie in that region should have let them rise in number, which was stated by Joseph, the
11 Nikephoros, Short History, p. 51; John of Nikiu, Chronicle, p. 197.
Khazarian Kagan replying to the letter of Hasdai b. Saprut, Jewish counselor of the Andulusian Caliph:
“In the country in which I live, there formerly lived the וננהר (Vununtur < Onoğur). Our ancestors, the Khazars warred with them. The Vununtur were more numerous, as numerous as the sand by the sea, but they could not withstand the Khazars.”14 After the collapse of the Kök Turk Empire (First Türkic Kaganate 552 - 582, Western Türkic Kaganate 582 - 659 AD), Onoğurs (period 582 - 659) entered to the union of Kubrat Khan (ca 630 - 659), becoming politically Bulgars. Though, it seems, they did not properly adopt this ethnonym, scholars of the modern ages have insistently included them among the Bulgars. However, their contemporaries clearly expressed the ethnical difference: “εθνος των Ουννογουρων Βουλγαρων (nation of Onogur Bulgarians)” (Agathon) (Agathias Scholasticus, period 552-558), Koubratos, founder of the Great Bulgaria was “...Ουνογουδουρων κυριος (Lord of Onogurs)” (Nikephoros) (Nikephoros Bryennios, 1070s), ‘‘Ουνογουνδουρων Βουλγαρων (Onogurian Bulgaria)” (Theophanes) (the Confessor, ca 800s). Thus, according to Porphyrogenitus, “Bulgars formerly called themselves Ονογουνδουροι.15 Islamic sources never associate the two, and always define two separate peoples.
Words of Constantine prove our thesis on dominance of the ethnonym Onoğur. Unlike the other tribes of the post-Hunnic ages, including Utrigurs and Kutrigurs, Onoğurs survived the Avar, Kök Turk, Bulgar and Khazar hegemonies, as an ethnie. In the 9th and 10th centuries, when nothing remained of the Great Bulgaria, even the proper Bulgars were assumed to be formerly Onoğurs. Joseph, the Khazar Kagan seems to do the same as the Byzantine emperor.
14 Golden, Introduction, p. 246.
The וננהר (Onoğur) people were indeed under his rule in those days, together with the Magyars. His ancestors dispersed the proper Bulgars, especially those living around what is today Chechenia. But he thinks all people of the Great Bulgaria were called Onoğurs.
Onoğurs or their some remnants lived in the same region under the Khazar rule. The N.nd.r (*V.n.nd.r) country, one of the 51 inhabited lands of the world, is listed between Majghari (Magyars) and “Turkish” (Türkic) Peçenegs in Hudud al-‘Alam.16 In another place, east of their country are the B.radas people,17 to the south are Khazars, and to the north are Magyars.18 Onoğurs, thus, could only inhabit the steppes just east of Don.
According to Gardizi, Magyars living between the Azov Sea and the Eskil component of the Volga Bulgar (likely ancestors of today’s Finno-Ugric Mordvins), southwest of now Saratov along the left banks of Don, could see the N.nd.r on the other coast of the river. The latter were numerous, than the former (recall Joseph’s words), but weaker.19
16 Hudud, p. 83.
The famous Khazar castle Sarkel (Tur. “white city”) on the lower Don, built with a Byzantine aid in the late 830’s,20 was between them. It has long been debated whether that castle was built against the Rus’ or the Peçenegs (Bechens), but it is certain it served to control Magyars and Onoğurs,21 both of whom would be soon expulsed from that region by the Peçenegs, who in turn had been defeated by the Khazar-Oğuz alliance (aka Khazar-Horezmian alliance). The two people (Magyars and Onoğurs) sharing the same fate seem to have got a union from then on, if they had not been earlier united by the Khazars, who appointed Arpad as their ruler, as narrated by Constantine Porphyrogenitus.22 The very abundance of Turkic loanwords of the so-called Bulgaric character in Hungarian should be keepsake of that dual ethnic structure, which likely ended with the extermination of the warlike Onoğurs (in contrary to the agrarian Magyars) during the raids onto the Western European lands (for which reason the Europeans learned the ethnonym Hungar < Onoğur, and not Magyar), and assimilation of the rest among the Finno-Ugric masses.
21 There were no symptoms of the Rus’ in those years, and the Peçenegs
(Bechens) were not threatening the Khazar state from that direction. Zuckerman,
Khazar Diarchy, pp. 520-521, seems totally right in pointing to the Magyar danger. However, how can we explain continuation of the Khazar rule on Slavic tribes, even around Kiev, by the end of the 9th century, if the invading Magyars had closed all the way between Slavs and Khazars? Thus, it is difficult to call a Magyar invasion of the Khazar soil in 830’s, but an ongoing low tension between the
Kagan's horde and the subdued Onoğurs and Magyars. DAI, our major source, tells nothing on even such a tension, except the Kabar rebellion, which was not related to the Magyar-Onoğur union, and almost all Islamic sources pass by such a quarrel.
Relatively rapid conversion of the Hungarians to Christianity (they withstood only one century, cf. the Rus’ one and half century, the Danubian Bulgars two centuries, the Avars never) might be concerning with Onoğurs’ being Christians23
Another important actor of the region was the Sabirs. As told, they are accused of pursuing the Oğurs to the Eastern Europe, while they were deserting from the Avars. Their importance for this investigation lies on the probability of their replacing the Sarağurs in the region northwest of the Khazar Sea (today’s Kalmukia). Considered very powerful by Persia and Byzantium, the Sabirs were drawn into the diplomatic web of Byzantine-Persian relations, with beginning of the 6th century.24 Excluding the Hunnic remnants of the Caucasus, Sarağurs were in that web just before them. Therefore, we should note them as the third possible force, responsible of expulsing Sarağurs, if the latter did not in a way remain in the region, perhaps giving their name to the Medieval Serir dynasty of Dagestan, probably a state of today’s non-Turkic Caucasian Avars.25
23 A Byzantine Episcopal listing dated to the mid-8th century notes a bishopric for Onoguria under the Eparchate of Gothia, i.e. Crimea (Golden,
Introduction, p. 102).
Part IV THE AGE OF AVAR SUPREMACY IN THE WESTERN STEPPES
In those difficult days, when Byzantium was very tired of solving the northern problem, created by mainly by Kutrigurs, and then Slavs and Germanic tribes, “the strange race of the so-called Avars reached Byzantium and everyone in the city thronged to gaze at them, as they had never seen such a people. They wore their hair very long at the back, tied with ribbons and plaited. The rest of their dress was like that of the other Huns.”1 These were the former masters of the Kök Turks; if they did not fool the western people by claiming to be so, and were being pursued by their former subjects.
It has long been debated who were Avars in general, and who were the European Avars indeed. We will not elaborate much on their origins, except touching upon Czegledy’s view, according to which they were fugitives of the War and Khunni, the two essential components of the South Central Asian Hephtalites, who had been totally destroyed by the Kök Turks in 557-558.2 Which of the two, the Inner Asian Abars, former masters of the Kök Turks, or the Hephtalites, their “partial” relatives, formed the core of the European Avars should be cleared.
1 Theophanes, p. 339-340.
Solution of the problem seems to lay in analyzing why the Kök Turks did not call the European Avars as “true Avars”, as Theophilaktos Simokattes tells us, by narrating a letter of the Kök Turk Kagan.3 According to the letter, the True Avars were defeated by the Kök Turks and fled to China (Ταυγαστ < Tabgaç, Tur. “North of China”) and Korea (Μουκρι < Bökli, Tur. “Korea”), as Czegledy admits.4 Therefore, if those Inner Asians were the True Avars (let us call them Proper), then, according to the Kök Turks, who were the Avars consisting (constituting) an essential part of the Hephtalite state? The true, essential, proper, big part of the Avars went to China and Korea, and those going to Europe were apart from them. Thus, those were not the true Avars, but their little brothers in the Hephthalite state. Just (Thus), the latter were not regarded Avars by the Kök Turks, but Αβδελων (Abdels = Hephtalites).
Otherwise, if the pseudo Avars (οι ψευδαβαροι) were indeed some Oğuric (i.e. Onoguric) groups adopting the name Avar for themselves, as the Kagan’s letter in Theophilaktos tells, it is hard to understand how they succeeded in deceiving their relatives in the Western steppes for three centuries. It seems Theophilaktos, who tells about a letter, which was sent by the Kök Turk Kagan, certainly not in Greek, and which explains the events that had occurred 40 years and more earlier, may have confused something on the origins, if he was not misinformed. Not Oğurs’ (i.e. Onogurs'), but Hephtalites’ oldest chieftains might have called Ουαρ and Χουννι5 Just (Hence), Theophilaktos’ words tell all what happened:
3 For a detailed analysis of the letter, see Czegledy, Turan, p. 115-118.
“The Barsils, Onoğurs and Sabirs, and, besides them, other Hunnic tribes, on seeing only some of the War and Hun people hurrying to their lands, were taken by fear and concluded that the Avars were migrating towards them. For this reason they gave the fugitives wonderful gifts, thinking that in this way they could secure their own safety. When the War and Hun saw how well the circumstances were turning out for them, they made use of the error made by those, who were sending them envoys and they began to call themselves Avars.”6 Szâdeczky-Kardoss suggests that a composition of the two theories (Jujan /Avar and Hephtalite/Avar) would likely explain the historical truth,7 but he does not explain how it would be. On the contrary, even the Avars attested in Priskus, as we stated in the Oğur discussion, seem hard to be the Inner Asian ones, in spite of the reference to the (Pacific) Ocean. Relying on the account given by Theophilaktos Simokattes that the Onoğurs once had a city called Βαχαθ, which had been destroyed by an earthquake,8 and which includes the Sogdian word kat “city”, scholarship supposes a temporary (South) Central Asian home for Oğurs, perhaps just northeast of Samarkant, as Βαχαθ was associated with Faghat of the Medieval Islamic sources.9 Oğurs should have been expulsed from there by the Hephtalites. Their expulsion by the Sabirs realized likely in the south of the Urals, their home after Transoxiana.
5 For a resume discussion of the Avar origins and the concerning data, see Golden, Introduction, pp. 108-110.
The idea that makes the proper Avars, Jujan of the Chinese and the Apar of the Kök Turk sources, a Mongolic people for some reason, automatically gives a Mongolic identity to the European Avars, too. The former premise (Avar-Apar), however, is full of uncertainties, thus cannot be applied to the latter (Avars-Mongols), even if we discover that European Avars were related to the Inner Asian Jujan. And the few linguistic relics (some personal names and titles, as well as some words of probably Avaric origin10) of the European ones are clearly Turkic.11
The answer to the question why the Avars and Persians waited by the year 626 for an anti-Byzantine alliance, in spite of the many suitable occasions (for ins., the Persians could not get the Avars as their allies during the 572-591 Byzantino-Persian wars), may lie in the deep suspicions of the two against each other, of which roots are in the alliance of the Kök Turks and Persians to exterminate the Hephthalites.
The Avars crushed the people on their way, in the north of the Caucasus and the Black Sea (Onoğurs, Zali, Sabirs, Utrigurs, Kutrigurs, as well as the Antae Slavs).12
9 Zimonyi, Bulgars, p. 570; Golden, Introduction, p. 101.
That the Alans were their mediators in reaching the Constantinople court shows the immediate friendship between the two. Why the Avars perished the Utrigurs, saviors of the Byzantine interests in the north, can be explained perhaps only by the formers’ clumsiness. This is crucial also for the Sabirs and Antae. At this point, Gumilev’s theory is interesting. He says that, in spite of the very lack of sources, Kutrigurs were allies of the Avars, as the Alans. The famous Kutrigur raid in 559, described below, was result of the fact that the Avars had perished the Utrigurs, and thus, the Kutrigurs felt free.13 That is, the Avars fought only friends of Byzantium.
This is very difficult to explain within the logic of the contemporary geopolitics. They offered disciplining the northern peoples that were constantly troubling Byzantium, and saving the latter’s interests. Thus, they should not have thrashed those saving interests of Constantinople. But they just did it. Then, how did they come to Constantinople in the second time to tell that they had carried out their task of disciplining the northern nomads?
It seems the Avars had no deliberate action. They had to show their might to everybody. Any Alanic provocation may be conjectured against the Sabirs and Utrigurs, their two neighbors. That the Kutrigur attack in 559 came after the crushing of the Utrigurs, however, may be related to the Avar policy of forcing Byzantium to accept the real conditions of the horde (recall: for the first salary, Constantinople paid only in cash; and this was not very attractive for the Avars), and therefore, once more to remind the very seriousness of the situation.
13 Gumilev, Eski Türkler, pp. 54-55.
The same happened just before their second visit of the palace in 562 to demand land, and not money. Today’s Varna was captured by Huns (Kutrigurs, O.K.) and a large Byzantine troop was sent to overcome the problem.14 It was impossible for Kutrigurs to raid the Balkan domains of the Empire, while the Avars were just near, perhaps over them. The latter (Avars) likely permitted or wanted the former (Kutrigurs) to invade the Black Sea cost of the Empire.
Those visiting Constantinople in 558 were Avar emissaries, wanting to cooperate with the Empire on its northern affairs. They offered to save Byzantine interests in Eastern Europe in expense with a land for their habitation. Iustinianos had no other choice. Succeeding events well described by Theophanes would show how he was right in accepting their offer:
Constantinople started to pay a tribute to the Avars. It seems the land issue was passed by in Constantinople during the first negotiations. They eventually arrived at the Lower Danube banks in 561, and invaded all southern half of what is today Romania.
14 Theophanes, p. 347.
The next year they sent, in the person of their new, very dynamic Kagan Bayan, another delegation wanting not money, but land. Their engaging in wars with the Franks in that year made them temporarily forget the land issue. Iustinos II (565-578), successor of Iustiniaros, was illiterate at all in diplomacy, and his refusal of giving land and even paying the tribute led to the formation of the Avar policy applied toward Byzantium from then on: Constantly attacking onto the Empire in alliance with (the subjected) Slavs (i.e Σκλαβίνιοι Sklavene), and sometimes Kutrigurs/Bulgars and Germanic groups.16
But the Avars were still too busy to start with that policy. The alliance made with the Langobards against the Gepids of Pannonnia provided them their next and “permanent” land for practically nothing. The former (Langobard) Germanic tribe virtually terminated the latter (Gepid), while the Avar armies were obstinately trying to capture their capital Sirmium (present day Srem/Srijem). Then Avars wanted their allies to give them all the conquered lands. Being very horrified not only Langobards, but also all Germanic and other peoples left the area.17 The lands evacuated with exodus were settled by the Avars, who would immediately turn to Sirmium, surrendered by the defeated Gepids to the Byzantine forces.18
16 Hersak, The Avars, pp. 593-594. Zivkovic, Prilog, analyzes in detail the events between Avars, Slavs and Byzantium between the years 559-578.
Ilustinos II had now important reasons to reject the Avar claim, as ambassadors of the Kök Turk Kaganate arrived at Constantinople to seek for an anti-Persian alliance, but also to negotiate the Avar policy of the Empire. As a reply Bayan sent 10,000 Kutrigurs to Dalmatia (likely Bosnia) to start the war (568). Byzantium was defeated and wanted peace (571). The poor Byzantine palace would be, this time, accused of this peace by the Kök Turks.19 The Avars were also not satisfied. Conquest of the Balkans by Avars and Slavs (i.e Σκλαβίνιοι Sklavene), both as their allies and as independent raiders, started from then on, during the reign of Mauricius (582-602) in Constantinople. Sirmium was captured by the Avars in 582. Singidunum (Belgrade) fell two years later; in the same year and in 686 Thessaloniki was besieged two times.20 What was more important was that great mass of the Slavs (i.e Σκλαβίνιοι Sklavene) started to come to settle the Balkans in the 680’s, and not only to raid.21 This was thanks to the Avar suzerainty and to the very business of the Byzantine forces in the Persian front. They were so free in the Byzantine lands, where they, as John of Ephesus states (584), “still encamp and dwell... live in peace there, free from anxiety and fear, and lead captives and slay and burn.”22
19 Gumilev, Eski Türkler, p. 69.
Byzantium was able to act in the Balkans after ten years since the beginning of the war, when the Persian front was (temporarily) closed in 591. Mauricius campaigned in the next year as Darius had done one millenium ago, and his enemies, the Avars and Slavs, behaved how the Scythians had behaved once a time. Though Byzantine troops were ready to slaughter all Avars and Slavs that they would capture, it was not easy to find anybody to challenge the Byzantine forces. So, constantly withdrawing and bewildering enemy and the long years of struggle tired not only the imperial forces at the front, but also the public opinion. In the 10th year of the campaign, which had provided virtually nothing except losses and tiresome, Trans-Danubian troops rebelled, marched on Constantinople, and made Ph.okas, a “barbarian” head of the rebels, the new emperor.23
This strategic false of Mauricios, author of the Strate-gikon, meant the Balkans were surrendered to Slavs, who poured even into Peloponnesus and landed on Crete.24 All the peninsular, except coastal regions in the south and west, was invaded by the crowded Slavs, and the ethnic composition radically changed. Performance of the Phokas administration was even worse. The proper date for Slavic settlement is supposed to be his age and early years of Herakleios, by some historians21
23 Ostrogorsky, Bizans, p. 76-77.
The role of the Avars in the Slavic migrations and Slavicization of the Balkans has been subject to severe debates,26 mostly not excluding ideological dimensions: i.e. exalting role of the Avars to diminish historical role and place of the Slavs, or vice versa. Hersak rightly accuses of the former idea for being derived from German nationalist theories,27 but his conclusion that the Slavs had been on the initiative prior to the arrival of the Avars is also very debatable. The Slavs might have not needed any help to plunder the Balkans, but were able to settle only after the collapse of the Byzantine strongholds in the Balkans before the systematic Avar attacks. Otherwise, troops of Mauricios would easily pick up the Slavic gangs, with virtually no military capacity, throughout the peninsular.
In contrary to the German tribes, Slavic masses were not organized as warrior groups, as Goldstein expresses.28 They were very crowded, but very few of them were in raids, great majority being engaged in agriculture.
Those coming from the northeast, ancestors of the present day ex-Yugoslav peoples, except Macedonians, came under the Avar rule before the beginning of the migrations, between 571 and 578.29 They were allies of the Avars during the invasion days, and can be said to have settled by the Avars, as shown by the title župan among and over them (čoban - Türkic for assistant head of the village, жупан, župan [OTD p. 151//МК 20217]).30
26 For a brief literature of the debates, see Zivkovic, Avarlar ile Slavlar, pp. 658-659.
The Slavs of the Lower Danube (esp. the Antae) were, however, difficult neighbors of the Avars. Zivkovic concludes that these Slavs, whom he calls the Wallachian ones, had not been under the control of the Kaganate from 579 to 604.31 Those settling in the Balkans (present day Bulgaria, Greater Macedonia, and north of Greece) would just never been under the Avar rule. They seem to have made use of the opportunity created by the simultaneous (but not coordinated) Avaric and Persians attacks, and filled the vacuum.
30 According to Klaic, Povijest Hrvata, p. 15-16, županias were established as
autonomous Slavic administrative units only where the Avars were in hegemony. Above them were banates, whose governors were of Avaric origin. We have no data or sample case to help us imagine ethnic origin of
župans, but if the županias were organized according to any tribal criteria, Klaic would be exactly right. However, these were geographic units, whose governors might be both Avars and Slavs, preferably the former
(Avars). This word is commonly accepted Turkic. Gluhak,
Porijeklo, pp. 225, 227-228, suggests a pre-Slavic word *zupa, however this is full of difficulties.
Zupan from the root zupa can be an adjective, and not noun
(-an is a Türkic adjectival suffix, used in Slavic loanwords like župan, but Slavic languages do not
have a suffix -an. As an adjectival suffix it is preserved in English (cf. European) and some other
European languages). Governor of zupa would be something like županik. His reconstruction is not true also semantically, as the known relevant Slavic words have nothing to do with the meaning of the Avar time
župania. Thus, on the contrary, today’s Croatian word zupa should have been derived from
župan. For the Turkic etymology, one should not necessarily regard the “shepherd” meaning of the word
çoban. Ögel’s premise that they were shepherds of the Avars, an important position, and thus called so (Türk Kültürünün Gelişme Çağları, p. 41) can by no means be accepted. According to Kafesoğlu,
Türk Milli Kültürü, p. 273, this was only a title among others in the Turkic steppe tradition.
They also, however, took initiative very late, thanks to the Kutrigurs and Bulgars, since the first Slavic raids from that direction began in the days of Iustinos I (518-527).32
The Wallachian Slavs seem to have followed the example of the Huns, Kutrigurs and Bulgars, constantly plundering the peninsular for more than one century, if they were independent in their acts, as Zlatarski claims.33 But their pattern of relations with the Kutrigurs was mostly in no way different from the “Western Balkanic” Slavs’ relation with the Avars, for which reason Bulgars of Asparukh, founder of the Danubian Bulgaria, would, likely, easily come to rule over the “seven Slavic tribes”.
The Avars had a role, to a great extent, even in the migration of the Wallachian Slavs: The constant Avar attacks onto them between 604-613 seem to have forced (majority of) them to leave north of Danube and to seek for lebensraum in the Balkans.34 This can be extended to the East German soils invaded by the Slavs (Vends). They had no military capacity before the very militarily organized Germans, who also did not lack any human source; thus they succeeded in the invasions, thanks to the aid of the Avars.
32 Ostrogorsky, Bizans, p. 66.
Anyway, Slavs poured into the Balkans from two directions, and swept the Byzantine rule from there. Byzantine administration was reconstructed especially under Ioannes I Tzimiskes (969-976), Basileios II the Slayer (976-1025) and Manuel I Komnenos (1143-1180) in all the region to the south of Danube and Sava, but the new ethnic composition never changed, except Greece and the coastal north of the Aegean Sea.36
They kept their identity, and were not assimilated, because their numbers were too much, compared to other conquering nations. Germanic tribes invading the Western Roman realm, for ins., became tiny minorities in the new countries. Besides, that Slavs used to deal with agriculture contributed to preserving their identities37 (recall: Agrarian Magyars in the Onoğur-Magyar union kept their identity, while war-like Onoğurs were getting assimilated among them.
Likewise, especially during the first waves, there remained virtually no native people in the parts of the Balkans, invaded by Avars and Slavs. Constantine often narrates those kinds of stories:
“(Pitaura, near Dubrovnik) too was captured, and some were slaughtered and others taken prisoner, those who were able to escape and reach safety settled in the almost precipitous spot where the city (Dubrovnik, O.K.) now is.”39
36 For the immediate anti-Slavic acts to restore the imperial authority, see, Ostrogorsky,
Byzantine Empire, pp. 5-8.
“The rest are inhabited and have upon them deserted cities... The remaining cities, on the mainland of the province (Dalmatia), which were captured by the Slavs (i.e Σκλαβίνιοι Sklavene), now stand uninhabited and deserted, and nobody lives in them.”40 Though there are many traces of them in the toponymy of the Balkans,41 it is difficult to imagine Avar settlements here, as they had very few population even in their heartland. However, they had certainly been in the Balkans, at least in the northern half of what is today ex-Yugoslavia, as governing layer and as garrison members.42
39 DAI, p. 135.
Part V THE YEARS OF CONSTANT REBELLIONS AGAINST AVARS
The Avar Empire, founded in the mid of Europe, continued for about two and half centuries, being always a superpower, which many times defeated the Franks and Byzantium, the two superpowers of the era. The proper Avars had no their own human source sufficient to do it; instead they made use of, exploited or stimulated the other peoples, especially the mounted Kutrigurs and the pedestrian but numerous Slavs.
As long as they obeyed to the rules of the steppe cunnings, they were successful. The primary rule was to recruit warriors from other ethnies, by promising share from the loots: The Avars sent vocations even to the Slavs of Pomerania (Baltic coasts). In 590-591, for ins., Byzantine armies in Thrace captivated three men of Slavic
(i.e Σκλαβίνιοι Sklavene) race. In the interrogation they said that
The second, sometimes even primary rule was to save the very fame of being untouchable, which usually necessitated show of some brutality. Turko-Mongolic forces of Genghiz Khan often applied this rule of the steppe. But the Avars do not seem to have treated well to their allies, too, both Turkic and Slavic. Russian primary chronicle Povest’ Vremmenyx Let (Russian/Slavic Primary Chronicle) tells about how Avars behaved to the Slav (Duljeb) women:
1 Theophanes, p. 391.
“They were hitched up to carts of Avars instead of ox and horses.”1 Slavs were of course deeply hurt by the Avars’ possessing their women, but relations in the battlefields should be more determinant in future of the alliance, especially in the west. The Vendic Slavs (i.e. the Slavs belonging to nomadic overlords?) were being put forward in the battles to tire and buffet the enemy, and then, the vigorous Avars were easily defeating the exhausted enemy. But the Slavs, meanwhile taxpayers of the Avar Empire, were not given, or satisfied with the loots. Thus there arose a general trouble among all Slavs.3 This was the Achilles’ hill for the Kaganate, soon to be exploited by Byzantium and other enemies.
The Kutrigur and Bulgar elements also should not be very glad of being under the Avar yoke. They had lost, first of all, their independence, the most precious thing for nomads. They were also on the first ranks of the battles and raids. However, we have no accounts to inform us on whether they were paid well for their services.
Anyway, the Avar army came before the walls of Constantinople in 626 together with countless troops of Slavic, Bulgar and even Gepid stock. The main stimulant was undoubtedly the ongoing Byzantino-Persian wars, which was then developing in expense of Byzantium, and the very lack of Byzantine reaction, and even the precarious submission to the ongoing Avaric raids onto the Imperial Balkans.
2 Povest’, p. 210.
Herakleios focused totally on the Persian (Caucasian) front.4 The Avar march onto Constantinople was the first and last positive reply to the Persians calling for an alliance. Before the Avar army, Persian forces led by the victorious commandant Sahrbârâz arrived at Chalkedon (present day Kadıköy, the opposite/Anatolian side of Istanbul).
The Avar army besieged the city, but the powerful Byzantine navy became the determinant factor, firstly, by preventing a connection between the Persian forces and the Europeans, and then by annihilating the Slavs, who were contributing to the siege with their monoxylas (canoe), in their capacity. Rout of the Slavs before the Greek fire routed also the rest of the army morally, and the alliance withdrew. “They shamefully returned to their country.”5 Sahrbârâz, too, had to withdraw, as nothing remained to do.6 Thus, an historical opportunity for both the Avars and Persians turned to be a historical fiasco, which ultimately led the both states to extinction.
If Constantinople had fallen in this siege, Byzantium would likely never resurrected, and regional Greek states, as those founded in Anatolia and the Balkans after 1204, would not live much before the powerful enemies. Greeks and Anatolian peoples would not perhaps totally extinct in ethnic sense, but would be very minor minorities. Total Slavicization of the Balkans was not avoidable. All kinds of speculations can be added, including the question what the situation of the Sâsânid Empire before the then rising Islam would be.
4 Szâdeczky-Kardoss, Avarlar, p. 292.
Historiography tells us that any Avaro-Persian alliance was the nightmare of Herakleios, but going of the current affairs do not point to such an anxiety, at least in 626. This can be sensed in the words of Nikephoros. When Khosrau II, the Persian shah, learned that the Turks (Khazars) entered the war as allies of the Byzantines, he sent a letter to Sahrbârâz, who was busy with invading Anatolia, to order him to return from Byzantine lands as fast as possible.
“This letter was intercepted and delivered to Herakleios, who after reading it, erased the contents and forged a different message to Sarbaros (Sahrbârâz) as if it were from Chosroes (Khosrau), whose seal he affixed to it. It ran as follows:... Do not, therefore, depart from the Roman country, but go on investing Chalkedon...”1
7 Nikephoros, p. 57. Theophanes, however, writes that “after encouraging his army, the emperor pushed on against Chosroes with a view to frightening him and making him recall Sarbaros from Byzantium.” (p. 450). This is one year later than the siege, which was impossible, as the editors express (p. 455, footnote 8). He also narrates a story of forging Khosroe’s letter to Sahrbârâz, which caused, according to Theophanes, the commandant to break with the shah (p. 452-453). This was even later. There cannot be such two forgery cases. Theophanes seems weaker in chronography of the events, which is directly associated with his other mistakes. Thus, Nikephoros’story of forgery is more believable.
The last sentence of the patriarch in this passage that “on receipt of this letter Sarbaros continued the siege”8 shows that the Persian commandant was already in the Bosphorus before receiving the letter, and did not go to Chalkedon by the order of the shah. These sentences also intimate that Herakleios knew well that the Persians were just near the imperial city. So, he was very relaxed. He sent only a contingent of his army to protect the city.9 Why? If the allies had seized Constantinople, his ongoing and future victories over the Persians in the Caucasian front would give no positive results, even if he had invaded all of Persia. What were his guaranties, which let him to risk even holding the possession of the heartland of the Empire? The very capability of Constantinople to defense itself? Who knows? .
Before departing to Lazica, southwest of the Caucasus, he had made a peace with the Avars by giving many gifts and hostages, including his own (bastard) son,10 but he knew well that this was not a politically real act to prevent the Avars from taking arms in suitable cases. Furthermore, if he knew when he was in the east that Sahrbârâz was in Chalkedon, he could not be also unaware of the great expedition of the Avars and their allies, especially in the day, when he sent the forged letter to the Persian commandant. Thus, his very conformity (composure) should be related to the Avars.
The Avars seem to have fallen in the web of the Byzantine diplomacy. They went to hunt, but were themselves hunted.
8 Nikephoros, p. 58.
When the Avar army left the horde (capital), rebellions all around the state had started. The Kagan should have surely learnt all what was happening in the subjected countries, when he was before the walls of Constantinople, if not earlier. Burning of canoes of the clumsy Slavs by greater Byzantine ships, a very expectable case, cannot be reason for the defeat and withdrawal of the essential troops, which had proved themselves in many victories.
They had likely come to the Bosphoros willy-nilly, the advance of Sahrbârâz being the main stimulant, but with no much morale, and decided rapidly to return, upon seeing it was not easy to play before Constantinople, and learning that the Vened rebellion in the north was growing up. That is, affairs in the region in 626, if it is the true date, were absolutely different from how they normally seem to us. The Emperor, whose capital city was besieged was indeed in offensive position, while the Shah and the Kagan, whose armies were wandering around the Byzantine capital, were defensive in their acts.
Once the legendary Avars became touchable, the Byzantine diplomacy would not be late in making use of this to propagate among the Horde’s
(Avar country) neighbors and especially the subjected peoples that they should no more be afraid
of the Avars. Provocation for uprising was surely the second theme spoken by the Byzantine agents. Therefore, the rebellions simultaneously flaring up were not so
We told about situation and position of the Slavs under the Avar rule. A Frank trader called Samo was leader of the rebelling Moravian Slavs. Common opinion is of the year 623 for this rebellion.11 Ostrogorsky thinks it happened after the Constantinople siege.12 Theophanes gives the year 6117 (624-625) for the Constantinople siege,13 but corrected by modern historiography. We will not go into detail of this correction, but express how a strange situation appears: If the Samo rebellion took place in 623 or 624, or became decisive in those years, the Avars would hardly campaign onto Constantinople, which necessitated mobilization of almost all of the military capacity. Moravia was too near to the Avar capital. It should have started or became serious when the Avar army was on the Bosphoros road. Thus, the rebellion and the siege should have been in the same year, in 624 or 625.
Indeed, the exact year of the Samo rebellion is by no means certain. According to the Chronicle of Fredegar, our source for the datum, Samo of the Frank nation came to Moravia in the 40th year of the Frank king Clothar (584-629).14 This duration of 40 years may be a rough estimation. It may be 41, 42 or even 43 years. Just (Still), when Samo came, the Slavs (Winidi) had already begun an insurrection against the Avars, according to the same source.
Therefore, northern and western Slavic neighbors/subjects of the Avars were organized under a state, briefly called the State of Samo in historiography, and its life was bounded to the life of the founder himself (6247-658/9).
11 Obolensky, Byzantine Commonwealth, p. 59.
We have no information about any “Moravian mission” of Byzantine officials and/or clergy, but we may suppose at least a Frank aid in this affair, as they feel themselves ally of the Byzantium against the Avars,15 and as Samo (Shambat) was likely a Frank.
After Samo, the Kaganate seems to have restored its power and authority in Central Europe,16 but the lands of present day Slovenia and Southeast Austria were organized as state of the Carantanian Slavs, ancestors of today’s Slovene. This region was the military marches of the Avar State toward the Frank realm, and was of vital importance. Historical location of this region and the flue events there in the early 7th century led some historians to establish a new theory for the origins of the Croats, rejecting the White Croatia. According to this view, systematized by N. Klaic, after expressing some views of Margetic and Kronsteiner, this region war turned to be the military marches of the Franks against the Avars, and Croats, then military gangs, and not an ethnos, were given the duty of protecting the Frank borders.17
Adding that even the Iraqi Arabs rebelled against Persia in those years, chroniclers of the later eras were right in regarding and relating everything in this age to an uprising. The aforesaid attribution of rebellion to Kubrat, the khan of the Onoğurs and Bulgars, by Byzantine authors may also be due to the same reason. We have told that Kubrat did not rebel, as he was just a ruler of an independent state. But there were large-scale uprisings of Kurtigurs/Bulgars, who used to live almost everywhere in the Avar realm.
15 Szâdeczky-Kardoss, Avarlar, p. 290.
The Onoğur-Bulgar State of Kubrat had never been, as before said, under Avar hegemony, and always acted as an independent polity, mostly on the Byzantine side. This state was of crucial importance for Byzantium; well above than the Moravian and Carantanian Slavs, especially during the difficult years of Herakleios, who could not ignore such an ally in northern affairs. Khazars, political memorial of the then collapsing Kök Turk Empire, continued the classical alliance against Persia, and did the best in Herakleios’ reconquest of the captured Byzantine realm and destroying Persia. Kubrat, in turn, would be charged to observe the Avar side.
We do not know exactly what happened between the Great Bulgaria and the Avar Empire during the rebellion years, as well as we know nothing on the former’s (Great Bulgaria or the Avar Empire ?) relation with the Khazars. Byzantine diplomacy might have temporarily prevented the very antagonism between its two allies, Khazars and Bulgars. But, we can surely judge presence of any Bulgar, together with Byzantine, provocation in the coup d’etat of the Kutrigur/Bulgars in 630-631. The so-called Constantinople defeat, well exaggerated by Byzantine heralds, and the imaginary decline of the Avar might aroused Kubrat’s interest to extend his rule to the west of Don, pastureland of the Kutrigurs. The latter’s rising dissatisfaction with the Avar horde coincided with Kubrat’s greed.
George of Pisidia, likely referring to the year 629, tells about slaying of Slavs by the Kagan, who himself later died. Soon after, according to the Chronicle of Fredagar, the Avars and Bulgars started to fight each other for succession to the power in 630-631.18 It seems the Kagan, to be the younger son of the famous Bayan, wore himself out to suppress the country-wide rebellions, and died after few years struggle, likely not leaving any heir to the throne. This provoked the Pannonnian Bulgars (indeed Kutrigurs called Bulgar afterwards) to put their own candidate to the presidency of the then “common” state. This could mark the total end of the Avar State, and the Avar ethnic pride did not let it. Bulgar rebels were defeated, and 9,000 of them asked asylum from the Frank king Dagobert or his Bavarian vassals. Though the king accepted them, Bavarians later attacked the refugees, and slew most of them. The surviving 700 Bulgars, led by Alçak (Alciocus) were accepted by the Carantanian prince Valuk (Wallucus) (A legacy of the Kagan Boloch? This one definitely unrelated to the Wallachs).19
What was happening with the provincial Bulgars/Kutrigurs, when those in the capital or heartland revolted? The Avars lost control of two regions in these years: Dalmatia and north of the Black Sea. The first loose, in a wider text, is attributed to the Croatian and Serbian migrations to the Balkans. We will touch on it in detail.
We know well that, the Kutrigur contingents were the first to invade south of Sava in the name of Bayan, the Ayar Kagan, and may suppose that, after the fall of the region under Avar rule, they remained, at least partially, there with their obas (encampments, that is families). This Kutrigur presence in Dalmatia may bear some reasons of Avar withdrawal from the Balkans; or at least from the coastal Dalmatia, as they (Avars) would hardly remain silent when their tribesmen were being beaten in the Alfoldi.
18 Hersak, The Avars, p. 600.
North of the Black Sea was just homeland of the Kutrigurs. This region was integrated with the state of Kubrat. There is no account on the latter’s invasion of those lands dwelt by the Kutrigurs and ruled by the Avars. After the Kutrigurs rebelled, Kubrat interfered in the affair, expelled the Avar garrisons there, and extended his rule. (The idea of occupation garrisons in the constituent's land is out of place. The troops of the Center Wing may intervene and raid occasionally, but can't be garrisoned. The garrison idea comes form the alien Indo-European reality). Thus, Nikephoros uses the sentence, “in the days of Constantine, who died in the West, a certain man called Kobratos became master of these tribes”,20 among which were the so-called Kotragoi. This man, who “rose up against the Chagan of the Avars... sent an embassy to Herakleios and concluded a peace”21 even before the Constantinople siege, according to Nikephoros, could not be crowned in the time of Constantine (641-668). Thus, the Patriarch seems alluding that “Kobratos extended his rule to these tribes”. And, the revolt of the Eastern Kutrigurs is frankly attributed to Kubrat.
The very business of the Byzantine court and its chroniclers with the dynamically rising Islam in those days, which had Herakleios lost in the East and South more than what he had restored after his serial victories over Persia, prevents us from learning more about the northern affairs. Even the Avar State, well amputated during the uprisings, gets out of the Byzantine sight. This affects also our access to accounts about the coming of the Croats and Serbs to the Balkans.
20 Nikephoros, p. 89.
Part VI THE COMING OF THE CROATS TO THE BALKANS
We are very lucky with Constantine Porphyrogenitus’ preference of not writing a world history. This Byzantine emperor (Konstantinos VII, 913-959) made use of, it seems, “official intelligence reports” of the state, as well as his personal knowledge and search, to compose De Administrando Imperio (“On the Administration of the Empire”). This precious book, to be written between 948-952, provides us very valuable and sometimes very mysterious data on the people of the end of the first millenium AD. The real reason behind this preference might be the settling of affairs, in the south at least; thus authors had occasion to discuss things in wider aspects, instead of narrating only events. Thanks to it, we can learn story of the coming of the Croats and Serbs to the Balkans in the first half of the 7th century, after three centuries.
Besides the authors’ forcible tendency to histoire evenemental, one may pose other questions, too, relating the very lack of mentioning of these two peoples in Byzantine sources for more than three centuries:
a) The both people were not so eminent when they came to the south; they grow up later in importance, politically and demographically,
b) Constantine, telling about their migration in the days of Herakleios, exaggerates the happenings. The latter emperor summoned not these people, but their embryos as little groupings.
The both questions lead to the same conclusion or suspicion: There was no völkerwanderung in Herakleios’
era concerning the Serbian and Croatian people, but perhaps banderwanderung. Constantine writes on the migration of the Croats:
1 DAI, p. 143.
“These same Croats arrived to claim the protection of the emperor of the Romans Heraclius before the Serbs claimed the protection of the same emperor Heraclius, at that time when the Avars had fought and expelled from those parts the Romani... I mean, to those now called Croatia and Serbia... And so, by command of the emperor Heraclius, these same Croats defeated and expelled the Avars from those parts, and by mandate of Heraclius the emperor they settled down in that same country of the Avars, where they now dwell.”2 Before the migration, we should have a look at the ancestral lands of the Croats: White Croatia. It is noteworthy that the Central European Croats are mentioned in a Greek text with a Slavic word: Belo “white”. This indicates that Croats were either Slavs properly, or almost totally Slavicized in the 10th century. There are other records, too, for the White Croats:
“The rest of the Croats stayed over against Francia, and are now called Belocroats, that is, white Croats, and have their own prince; they are subject to Otto, the great king of Francia, or Saxony, and unbaptized, and intermarry and are friendly with the Turks (Hungarians).”3
“The Croats who now live in the region of Dalmatia are descended from the unbaptized Croats, also called “white”, who live beyond Turkey (Hungary) and next to Francia, and have for Slav (Σκλάβωι) neighbors the unbaptized Serbs.”4
2 DAI, pp. 147, 149.
“Great Croatia, also called “white”, is still unbaptized to this day, as are also the Serbs who are its neighbors. They muster fewer horse and fewer foot than does baptized Croatia, because they are more constantly plundered, by the Franks and Turks (Hungarians) and Pechenegs. Nor they have either galleys or cutters or merchant-ships, for the sea (which is called “dark”) is far away; for from those parts to the sea it is a journey of 30 days.”5
“The Serbs are descended from the unbaptized Serbs... where their neighbor is Great Croatia, the unbaptized, also called “white”.6 The Russian Povest’ also makes definition of the White Croats, by saying that “and, further, these Slavs: White Croats, and Serbs, and Carantanians.”7
Gluhak makes a long and detailed analysis of the phenomena White/Great Croatia. It is hard to agree with his classification of the “greater” countries: Greater Greek, Greater Poland, Greater Russia and Greater Asia,8 all having their smaller equivalents. We may look for more oriental comparisons for this, such as Great Bulgaria and Great Hungary, the both being more related to the Croat case ethnically, culturally and, in particular, geo-culturally, as will be dealt with below. In our comparison of the Hungarians, Bulgars and Croats, the greater countries are the essential lands abandoned by some parts of those ethnies. The fact that the immigrants might be more felicitous in their new homes, both in state-making and in growing in number, and that those remaining might upon a time disappear, does not change the label. Today the three greater countries and nations do not exist at all. Briefly, the word “greater” for the Northern Croatia belongs to the Post-Hunnic, Oğuro-Bulgaric world in particular, and to the Eurasian traditions in general.
5 DAI, p. 153.
As for “white”, Gluhak’s idea that this color signifies to the west is also hard to accept. In Russian, there is no such a meaning in modern (Muscovite) ages, and if there had been in Medieval, then the Belorusi (“White Russians”) were the northern component of the Russian grouping, according to Kiev, and not western. Gluhak tells the Serbian capital Beograd and the Dalmatian town Biograd are on the west,9 but according to what? According to the Serbs, Beograd is in the north and according to (majority of) the Croats, Biograd is in the south. I have contra-examples: Belgorod is in the “proper” east of Kiev, and Cernobil is in the north. Povest’ locates the белые угры (“White Oğurs”) to the west, and the черные угры (“Black Oğurs”) were in the east, near Kiev.10 Gluhak quotes in the same page that the equality of “west” and “white” is an all-Eurasian phenomenon, therefore, we should look for other relevant cases for this usage, too.
We have told in the Part II about the synonymous usage of white and yellow in Turkic tribal system: Sarı Türgiş, Sarı Uygur/Yugur, Sarı Oğur, as well as the case the Ak Söyük vs. Kara Söyük. Usually only kara “black” part of the tribe or tribal union is expressed: Kara Kirgiz, Kara Hitay, Kara Nogay, Kara Khazar, Kara İveli/Yıvalı, Kara Oğuz, Kara Yığaç, Kara Yağma, Kara Avşar, Kara Döğer, Kara Kınık, etc. In the cases the both parts have an (almost) equal status or gravity, the ak “white” and/or sari “yellow” adjectives are also used: Ak (Alka) Bölük - Kara Bölük, Ak (Alka) Evli - Kara Evli, Ak Bayat - Kara Bayat, Ak Tatar - Kara. Tatar, San Türgiş - Kara Türgiş, Kara Tekkeli - Sarı Tekkeli, etc. In the Uygurs, as an exception, sarı is expressed; and in the Oğuz tribe Salur, we find the ak side. In turn, the Bulgars had no ak, but only kara. In the second part, we cited Kafesoğlu’s idea that the Oğurs and Onoğurs might have formed the kara part of the union. This is supported by the Russian primary chronicle telling about the aforesaid черные угры (“Black Oğurs”). This ethnonym occurs also in Faxr al-Din Mubârakŝâh, the early 13th century historian, as Qarâğûr.11 As for kızıl (“red”), which is of great importance for our topic, we have the unique example of Kızıl Kayilı, except tiny clans, for those having no other color. Founders of the Ottoman state were from the “simple” Kayi tribe.
9 Gluhak, Porijeklo, pp. 123-124.
In other cases, we have three colors/parts together: White, red and black. The first historical example is the Huns: Ak Hun - Kara Hun - Kızıl Hun (Karmir Xiyon in Mid. Pers.). Other examples are related to the Oğuz tribes with animal names: Ak Koyunlu - Kara Koyunlu - Kızıl Koyunlu, Ak Keçili - Sarı Keçili - Kara Keçili - Kızıl Keçili.12 As we will touch on, this nomenclature for tripartite situations well suits to the Croatian case.
11 Golden, Introduction, p. 230. Şeşen’s reading it as Karağuz (İslam Coğrafyacıları, p. 191) is not very likely, as the Oğuz dual structure is known only to have called with the terms inner and outer.
In no other race or nation, such an ethnic classification is visible. Tribes or groups of the same stock, and their countries are usually called according to their geographical direction (north, south, etc.), elevation (upper, lower), situation (bigger, smaller, etc.) or position (mountaineer, plainmen, etc.). This is thanks to the settled lifestyle of the other nations, while among Turks of the steppe, these kinds of descriptions would not be descriptive, as people usually used to change their lands. Thus, people were called according to themselves, and not to their lands.13
So what with the clearly non-Turkic Belorus case? The answer should be searched in terms of the historical conditions, in which the Rus’ state tradition was born. Bulgaro-Khazaric bases of the Rus’ state were not surely restricted only to the titles of the great Rus’ princes such as Kagan. Eurasian influence gained more popularity and extended to also the very detailed issues of public administration under the long Golden Horde (i.e. Kipchak Khanate) hegemony over Russia. The term Belorus, otherwise not seen among Slavic peoples, took shape under, anyhow, Turkic influence. The terms Velikorus (“Great Russian”) for the Russians, and Malorus (“Small Russian”) for the Ukrainians are, in turn, not Turkic, but universal, as they do not suit to the Turkic concepts of the abandoned (great) and the settled (small) countries.
13 For this originally dual structure, see Kafesoğlu, Türk Milli Kültürü, pp. 271-272.
White Croatia extended, according to Dvornik, likely from the sources of the river South Bug, and the rivers Wieprz and San in now Poland, to the South Carpatian sides, including the northern part of today’s Slovakia, and from the rivers Netolice and Dudleb in the upper courses of Vltava along the river Cidlina to the mouth Krkonoski in the north and northwest, and the present Polish-Ukrainian border in the east.14 We can identify the White Croatia briefly with today’s Galicia. However, as shown by the very dispersed relics of the name Croat in the region, there were many other Croat groups, who migrated or scattered in a vast region from the Czech Republic to Ukraine.
Why and how these Croats migrated to the Balkans? Words of Constantine, himself an ultra-nationalist exalting the state in all cases and occasions, can in no way explain reason of such an event. How could they come to claim protection of the Byzantine Emperor, who was then himself in urgent need to be protected? What was the role of this helpless, but clever emperor in the migration/invasion of the Croats, if any? If no Byzantine contribution to this wanderung, in which conditions the Croats decided to migrate?15
Sources tell much about how the Avars crushed the country of the Moravians, when the former first time came to Pannonnia, but we have no clear news about their dominance in the northeast, although there might be some marauds in that direction. Thus, we cannot be sure whether the Croats of Galicia had in any time been under the Avar rule. Constantine tells nothing about pre-migration ties of the Croats with the Avars, but only says “they found the Avars in Dalmatia”.
14 Gluhak, Porijeklo, p. 125.
Likewise, the Avar horde was very busy with the affairs in its south, east and west during its first 60 years in Europe. Thus, the northern direction, except the immediate Moravia, should have been neglected. This independent or rebellious polity or region became reservoir of resistance, which shaped a peculiar tradition. This tradition of resistance should have given a certain pride to the Croats, and took attention of Constantinople, having in urgent need of mighty allies in the north.
Historians are accustomed of criticizing quality of the migration story narrated by Constantine, but an account in Povest’ strongly consolidates the data in DAI, even with more detail. According to this account, the aforesaid White Oğurs (Belye Ugry) came and settled in the country of the Slavs. They resorted to Herakleios, who was on expedition against Khosrau, the shah of the Persians. In those days, the Avars were also fighting Herakleios.16 Therefore, the White Croats and the White Oğurs did exactly the same, that is, they were the same people. We will turn back to this account.
As seen, Povest’ also says nothing about dependency of the Croats, that is Oğurs. In the both sources, the Croats are described as the applicants. Relying on the Rus’ news, we can now better deduce why Herakleios in Lazica was so relaxed, when his capital city was under siege of very strong armies. Croatian envoys visiting him in the East warranted that they would beat the Avars when they depart against the Empire, while the emperor was in campaign. This happened as had been planned. The Avars first and last time responded to the call of the Persians to march on Constantinople, perhaps regarding it an historical opportunity, and disregarding the symptoms of trouble in Moravia. When the Avar army departed, the Moravian rebellion flared up and the Croats, then eastern neighbors of the rebels simultaneously participated in the anti-Avar attempt. Thus, what Klaic claims that any idea suggesting a Croatian participation in the Samo rebellion cannot be defended17 is itself difficult to defend.
16 Povest’, p. 210.
The Bulgar state of Kubrat would also do the same, and perhaps did. In these conditions, the Avar (led) army could not wait much before the walls of the city and rapidly returned. Byzantines, having easily burned the poor Slavs in canoes, interpreted this as (miraculous) defeat of the enemy. On the other hand, Herakleios had known all what would happen.
This revenge of the Croats, however, does not explain why they did come to Dalmatia. In spite of all the propaganda machine, Byzantium had been in a very weak position in terms of international prestige,18 and the defeat or withdrawal of the anti-Byzantine forces around Constantinople would not promise much to those playing for the Empire.
17 Klaic, Povijest Hrvata, p. 14.
The Avars were anyhow undefeatable. They could easily restore their position, as once mortally injured Byzantium restored itself. Indeed, even a defeat of the Avars by Byzantium was doubtful. In these circumstances, migrating to the lands under the Avar rule and just near to the horde was a zero-sum gamble. Even invasion of those lands was an impossible mission. If they had not been subjects to the horde, who escaped to Byzantium with the vocation of the Emperor, as Dvornik says,19 we have to ask once more: Which factors led the Croats to act so crazily? We have no clues for it; we can for now only guess.
Here is one of the most complicated and best-coordinated games of strategy and diplomacy. The Western Kök Turks and their westernmost components, Khazars, almost all the Caucasian nations and tribes, Armenians, Georgians, Iraqi Arabs, Great Bulgars, Croats, Carantanians, Antic and Vendic Slavs and Franks with their vassals were united by the Byzantine diplomatic web to finally solve the problem of accidentally allied Avars and Persians. Everybody was complaining about the two.
It is clear (that the) Croatian emissaries visited Herakleios, according to Povest’ in the east (Povest’ in the east or Herakleios in the east?). This is associated with a Bulgar/Onoğur connection, if they did come via the shorter Caucasian/Black Sea road. On the other hand, the very abundance of relics of the name Croat in the ancient Carantania inspires the idea that they had been too much in that- region. This might be, however, in the later phases.
19 Dvornik, Byzantine Missions, p. 3.
Such a wide-scale operation was spoken there between Herakleios (610 - 641) and the Croats, however it is difficult to think about then their estimations on migration of Croats to Dalmatia. Migration came later, as a result of the developments that made sure the surrounding people of the end of the Avar story. Croats acted simultaneously with the Moravian and Carantanian Slavs, and Kubrat Khan of the Great Bulgaria in the east, then relative of the Croats, was morally supporting at the beginning, but ready also to act militarily, too.
Povest’ tells, Avars fought also Dulebs, Slavs east of the Carpats, at the same time as the Avars and Persians fought Byzantium.20 This should include also the Kutrigur elements north of the Azov Sea, and thus we may fix an earlier date for the so-called Kubrat rebellion. Might it influence behavior of the Kutrigurs/Bulgars living in the Avaric heartland and in (wider) Dalmatia?
Therefore, one more reason for the withdrawal of the Avar forces from Constantinople becomes clear. Bulgars of the Avar country were in the besieging army before the Byzantine capital, however, the very hostile manner of other Turkic tribes of Eastern Europe, known as briefly Bulgar in historiography, almost all of whom were directly, genetically or politically relatives of the Avaric Kutrigurs, added a new suspicion and fear to the politburo of the horde. It was not out of question that the Avar warriors would remain once between the Byzantine forces defending the capital city and the Slavs and Bulgars, so-called allies of the horde.
20 Povest’, p. 210.
Likewise, according to the Chronicon Paschale, most of the Slavs in the Kagan's army fled.21 Thus, the Kagan ordered to return back as fast as possible, both to control the situation and to prevent new explosions. This sudden withdrawal was interpreted as a defeat by the opposite side.
These are, of course, speculations. We are trying to explain the situation during and after the siege in the best way. Historical events may not always suit to our logic, but logic of behavior of actors in some cases may help us successfully reconstruct the historical case. In our case, too, the very scarce clues lead us to imagine an overall uprising of almost all Slavs and Turks of Eastern Europe. This included inevitably the Dalmatian Slavs and Bulgars, too.
It is not known what happened with the Slavs and Bulgars in the army, but two sources tell about the Avars' war with the Slavs (Σκλάβων). Povest’ in the aforementioned account informs that the Avars fought Slavs, and then passes to the story of the Dulebs. The Slavs of the Lower Danube and Eastern Carpatia were always hard nut for the Avars, even in its most splendid years; thus they would hardly be busy with them in the difficult years of rebellion. The narrated Avar cruelty over the Dulebs may be result of punitive expeditions carried out after the restoration of the formers’ power in the north, if not before the Constantinople siege.
21 Zivkovic, Avarlar, p. 662.
And the “wars with Slavs” should intimate (suggest) to conflicts with nearer Slavs, the Balkanic ones, if not the Carantanians or Moravians. The other source is hymns of Georgios of Pisidia, telling about slaughter of Slavs by the Avars in 628-629, as above said: “The Scythian kills the Slavs and later is killed himself”.22 In those years, the Avars could not march on Moravia or Carantania, and these Slavs were with great probability their immediate subjects.
The trouble was with the Dalmatian Slavs, as well as Kutrigurs. And this trouble was the stimulant for the Croats to migrate there. Almost decline of the Avar authority in Dalmatia, aided likely by Byzantium and the Franks, perhaps the Dalmatian rebels themselves, too, encouraged the Croats to go there. A Byzantine call was also in question. Dalmatia was, together with Bosnia, the only region held by the (Avar) horde out of the Avar heartland. Just in the south of Moravia or in the east of Carantania were the Avars themselves. Thus, Dalmatia, as well as the southeast parts of the erstwhile Pannonia, was the unique and most proper place to annoy the horde. And this was Byzantine soil. Constantine (namely, the Byzantine vision) is right in the 10th century in having Herakleios given that region to the Croats, if we consider the reaction to the Pacta Conventa of the early 12th century,23 which led to a generations-long war between the Byzantine Komnenos and the Hungarian Arpâd dynasties.
Spread of the relics concerning the name Croat clearly indicates that the Croats came there along the northern and western borderlands of the (Avar) horde, by crossing Moravia and Carantania. This indicates also a close cooperation with those Slavs, as well as the Franks24 (cf. fugitive Bulgars of Alzeco applying to the Frank king Dagobert). Even after half a millennium than (of) the Croatian settlement in Dalmatia, Constantinople still viewed that soil had been rented to only the Croats, and nobody else would own it, as Constantinople held all ownership rights.
22 Hersak, The Avars, p. 599; Zivkovic, Avarlar, p. 663.
Coming of the Croats marked the last stroke on the Avar authority. The words of Constantine Porphyrogenitus that they found the Avars as owners of Dalmatia should refer to the Avar forces trying to suppress the uprising, and not to a stable Avar administration. That is, the Croats did a relatively easy job, by receiving so much aid from the allies, and by expelling the tired and exhausted Avar soldiers.
One may ask whether this migration happened before or after the coup d’etat of Bulgars. We can only speculate on this issue, too. The Avar victory at home over the revolted Bulgars likely marks the end of the rapid worsening of the situation for the Avars, and perhaps beginning of the relative restoration. It is hard, thus, to calculate a date after the year 631 for the migration, and also not much earlier. It should have happened just before the Bulgar coup.
To sum up in Gregoire’s words, Croates representent la derniere vague, ou si l'on veut la dernier echelon de l'invasion Slave. Ils ont venus dans les balkans au moment ou les Avares, ebranles par leur echec de 626 devant Constantinople voyaient se soulever contre eux les peuples tributaires, Bulgares et Slaves, menes par Kuvrat et Samo, au cours des annees 30 et 40 du VIIe siecle (Croats represent the last wave, or if you want the last echelon of the Slavic invasion. They came to the Balkans when the Avars, shaken by their failure at Constantinople in 626, saw dependent peoples, Bulgarians and Slavs, led by Kuvrat and Samo, rise against them over the years 30 and 40 of the seventh century).25 We have to delete only the last part about dating, and description of Croats as Slavs.
25 Gregoire, L’Origine, p. 90.
Part VII WHO WERE THE FIRST CROATS?
Indeed, the two sources telling about the events in Herakleios’ days makes identity of the first Croats clear. All actors and events are common in the both sources. The only difference is that the White Oğurs in Povest’ replace the White Croats of DAI.
Thus, the first Croats were Oğurs, that is, Sarağurs, the lost tribe of the erstwhile union. From the context in Povest’ we deduce that they were also of the Scythian stock, as the Bulgars. They, too, came to the country of Slavs, expelled Wlachs (?) and settled there.1 It is habitual to identify the Belye Ugry with a Finno-Ugric tribe or the Hungarians directly. Those claiming presence of such an imaginary tribe have to prove how the little West Siberian Yugra people, if they were called so before one and half millennium ago, too, came there to participate in such world-scale operations. If it was any Finno-Ugric tribe, we have to know whether or not the name Ugor, used for scientific classification in modern times, and not by the so-called Ugric group of people for themselves, was in usage in those times.
1 Povest’, p. 210.
As for the identification with Hungarians, Povest’ tell about them, too, and clearly separate the Belye Ugry and the Hungarians. The Ĉernye Ugry, contemporaries of the Peçenegs (Bechens), passed by Kiev westward in the time of Oleg.2 Three clues here, Oleg, Peçenegs, and the passing by Kiev are sufficient to testify that the Ĉernye Ugry were the Hungarians, that is, the Onoğur component of the Onoğur-Magyar union. We told about their dual classification in white and black. Thus, the Belye Ugry were Croats, and those Croats were the Sarağurs, a Turkic tribe coming to Europe after the collapse of the Hun Empire.
There are other data in DAI proving our idea. In Constantine’s days “the rest of the Croats... called Belocroats, that is, white Croats, have their own prince; they are subject to Otto, the great king of Francia, or Saxony, and unbaptized, and intermarry and are friendly with the Turks (Hungarians).”3 Why does the emperor need to express that the Croats and Hungarians intermarried and were friendly?
2 Povest’, p. 210.
He has no special care in general about people’s preference on marriage and friendship, except the very friendly relations of the Dalmatian Croats and Serbs with the Bulgars of Danube,4 which is also connected with our topic. People can intermarry, but if it forms an outstanding feature, then we have to interrogate. Why do the Croats prefer the Hungarians among so many neighbors? In the days when the Onoğurs together with Magyars came to Pannonnia, Central European Sarağurs still kept their Turkic identity, at least in public memory, because linguistic Slavicization was about to be completed. The three centuries long separation ended and the two brother people were reunited. This was a relation of kinship, as those in the Balkans, upon which we will touch.
Constantine knew that the Croats were not Slavs even in his days; made this idea felt in DAI, but could not go into deepness (depth), likely due to his lack of knowledge or understanding on what had happened in terms of ethnic processes.
How did the Sarağurs disappear in the North of the Caucasus and then appeared in Galicia? In the Caucasus the Sabirs replaced their role of interfering with the Byzantine-Persian struggle. Does it show that the Sabirs replaced also their lebensraum? We can be sure; the Sabirs precluded the Sarağurs from moving down to the south via western coasts of the Khazar Sea. When the Avars reached the region, the Sabirs lived in the northwest of that sea, the Alans and Bulgars were on the northern slopes of the Caucasus, the Utrigurs were just east of the Azov Sea, and the Onoğurs were in the angle of Don and Volga. Therefore, the Sarağurs should have lived in the steppes between them, that is, on the westward road of the Avars. If there had not been the accounts about their (Avar) raids to the Southern Caucasus, we could easily tell (that) they passed the river Don to sail in the Western Steppes, by referring their wars with the Akatziri.
4 “Nor has the Bulgarian ever gone to war with the Croats, except when Michael Boris, prince of Bulgaria (852-889, O.K.),
went and fought them... the two have often made present to another in the way of friendship” (DAI, p. 151). “...up to the time of this Blastimer (Vlastimir, the Serbian prince of mid-9th century, O.K.) the Bulgarians lived at peace with the Serbs... and they were friendly one toward another” (DAI, p. 155).
Thus, they (Sarağurs) seem to have fled from the advancing Avars in the mid-6th century. Why they did not turn to Dobrudja (Scythia Minor) can be explained by the very business and crowdedness of that region, as well as power of the actors playing there. We should remember the mighty Avars could obtain a land only after crushing the Gepids in an allied operation. Therefore, the fugitive Sarağurs passed along the northern confines of the Carpats to look for cheaper lands. This is also told in Povest’, which associates their passing to the country of Slavs and settlement there with that of the (Asparukh?) Bulgars coming from the east. The only difference is that the Bulgars went to Danube, while the White Oğurs went only to the country of Slavs.5
5 Povest’, p. 210.
Meanwhile, I have to tell few words about Klaic’s rejection of the White Croatia. Constantine says, “For a number of years the Croats of Dalmatia were also subject to the Franks, as they had formerly been in their own country.”6 Klaic is of the idea that the country, where the Croats had been, and which had been under the Frank hegemony can be merely Carantania, where we find countless toponymic traces of them.7 This is not true. The Dalmatian Croats and the Belocroâts were the same people, and the latter’s fate can be applied to the former, too. Thus, by knowing that the Belocroats were under the Frank rule, which he clearly states, author of that part may tell that once, the Croats in their former land had been under the Franks.
Klaic compares and criticizes the data of the 30th part of. DAI, written by an anonymous author, with the 31st part written by the emperor himself. There is no contradiction between them. The emperor, too, says that the White Croats “(were) constantly plundered by the Franks, and Turks and Pechenegs.”8 Thus, the Frank factor cannot be restricted only to Carantania.
The Sarağurs were surely very few in number. Besides, all of the ulus might not have gone. Indeed, the Oğur entity is an exceptional case in the history of the Western Steppes with their peaceful presence (disregarding the imperceptible Sarağur-Akatziri war). All the other groups (Scythians, Sarmatic tribes, Huns, Peçenegs (Bechens), Oğuz, Cumans) came here and invaded lands as much as they could. The Oğurs did not attempt to such adventures, and even (did not) try to fill the post-Hunnic blank (vacuum that was) presenting very convenient opportunities for new conquerors coming from the east. This can be explained both with their adoption of the more peaceful forest belt life, as Finno-Ugric tribes, and with their small number. The Onoğur population rose within four centuries that passed in relatively peaceful conditions, and departed only after being expelled by the Peçenegs (ca 750).
7 Klaic, Povijest Hrvata, p. 23.
Therefore, rapid Slavicization of this small group in Galicia was inevitable. We learn from DAI that they had a princedom there. To rule over so much Slavs, they had to obey some rules of the Slavic masses, especially speaking in Slavic. Even if not so, there is no example for keeping identity after conquering a more crowded mass: Vandals and Vizigoths in Spain, Lombards and Ostrogoths in Italy, Franks and Burgunds in France, Normans in Britain, Sicily and Russia, Bulgars in Thrace, Mongols in Central Asia, Middle East and Eastern Europe, Turks in India and China, etc.
However, memory of the first Croats was kept for long centuries, and turned to be national myth in the Middle Ages. Later, in the Late Medieval and Renaissance periods, these kinds of legends were disqualified, and scholars tended almost to only Biblical explanations.9 Thus, the Slavic nations, whose public memory was shaped under very scholastic circumstances, has no national legends on their origins, in contrary to almost all nations of Eurasia in the wide sense.
Therefore, we can easily set up the historical connection between the Sarağurs and Croats, and there remains no vacuum in this theory. Indeed, this is enough to proclaim championship of the Oğuric theory among other (Iranic, Gothic, Slavic, as well as Avaric and Bulgaric) contestants. However, there are linguistic evidences also, with which we have to deal, not in order to consolidate the theory, but to show the historical reality more clearly.
9 Cf. Pribojevic of the early 16th century, who disregards even his being a Croat: “...I, being a Dalmatian, and so an
Ilyrian, and eventually being a Slav...” (O podrijetlu, p. 162). It seems, he read almost all famous books of Antiquity and Medieval surviving up to his time, but ironically does not know (or does not credit) the accounts telling about the southward migration of the Slavs, and believes the Slavs were autochthonous people of Illiricum, and descendants of the ancient Thracians (p. 165), and the “Leh, Ceh, Rus” brothers went to the north from Dalmatia (p. 171).
Let us begin with the eponym Croat itself. According to DAI, Croats (Χρωβατοι) in the Slav tongue means “those who occupy, much territory.”10 Such a Slavic word with that meaning is not known at all. Constantine, on the other hand, could not necessarily have fabricated it. A close word does exist in Turkic. The verb
kubrat-/kuvrat- means “to gather, to collect, to bring together.”11 Literary history of this word begins with the Orkhon inscriptions of the early 8th century:
This is also name of the great Bulgar khan of the 7th century. There is a consensus in explaining the latter’s name with this verb. Cf. Ilteriş, the founder of the second Kök Turk Empire, whose name means “bring the country together” or simply “establish the state”. In the steppe conditions, where tribal unions, tribes, clans and even familiesin their capacity were always in pro-liberty and centrifuge tendencies, it was not easy to bring the wandering population into a state authority, and one had to wage sometimes life-long wars to kubrat the people, as the two of our three examples display. This is, interestingly, what Constantine exactly defines. This case, which surely rises credibility of the data given by the Emperor, should be well evaluated by historians. Likewise, the forms Κροβατος in Theophanes, and Crobatus in its Latin translation by Anastasius for the Bulgar khan are almost the same as the name Χροβατος and ethnonym Χροβατοι in Constantine.
10 DAI, p. 147.
Therefore, one can easily say that the eponym and ethnonym Croat is the same word as the name of the Great Bulgar khan. However, here is a linguistic problem: Besides the Turkic verb kubrat, we have the forms Κουβρατος and Κοβρατος in Nikephoros, Quetrades in John of Nikiu, Khudbadr and Khubraat in the Armenian Geography,15 and likely Khovrat in the Mala Peresčepino ring, which represents directly the original form. In all of them “r” is the third consonant. Only Theophanes have the form with “r” being the second. So, we have to ignore or disregard the forms in Theophanes and Anastasius, in contrary to Gregoire, who sees a metathesis in this case.16
15 Zlatarski, Istorija, p. 131; Gregoire, L’Origine, p. 102.
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who came and took power in Kiev.30 Bat-Ugir was the Volga Bulgar khan of the late 9th century,31 before Almuş, who invited a
Caliphal mission to his country and made Islam official religion in 921-922. Bat-Aslan was leader of the Kiev Bulgars in those times.
According to Constantine, a certain Batas was the ruler of the Peçeneg (Bechen) tribe Tzopon.33 Peçenegs came to rule over the remnants of the Onoğurs and Bulgars, and according to their system, reorganized the country, in which the old inhabitants had not disappeared. The alternative reading of Zalesskaya in the Mala Peresčepino ring В as BAT OPXA(N)OY ПАТШ-KOY34 can also be added to the previous examples.
One may also see the same title in the name of Grumbates, the famous emperor of the Huns/Kushans of the east of Iran in the second half of the 4th century. Grum is clearly associated with the famous Danubian Bulgar khan Krum/Kurum of the early 9th century. We learn also from Jagfar Tarihi that Batavil (avil < aul Com. Turk, “village”) meant horde, that is, capital of the Bulgar rulers (Russ. “knjazskaja stavka”).
Bat/pad. is a title probably of Iranic origin, which ultimately may go to the Elamo-Median entity. It was loaned in Central Asia by the Huns, and passed to Europe with them in the 4th century. Then, inheritors of the Hun Empire made abundantly use of it. Baskakov’s explanation that bota ~ botu is “верблюжонок, дитя, любезный” (baby camel, baby, lovely)36 is hard to explain the case (of Bat-Bayan).
30 Baxŝi Iman, p. 44.
Tu turn to the word Croat, it is certain that word is composed of two words Kur/Kür and Bat. This name is of the same class as the Turkic historical names like Kür-Şad, Kür-Han, Kür-Tegin, Kür-Yavı, etc. What is uncertain is the original form of the name of the Great Bulgar khan. Rona-Tas’s reading of the rings is for now our only source to enlighten this problem. Author of Jagfar Tarihi, late 17th century, seems to have tried to find a rhyme with other bats, and changed Kubrat/Kuvrat to Kurbat. Constantine, on the other hand, learned from somebody about the Turkic word kubrat-, and narrated it in his book; thus, there should be this verbal noun somewhere regarding ethnonyms, eponyms or anthroponyms of the Western Eurasia of Bulgar age.
Thus, while Gregoire was relating the names Chrobatos, Koubratos, and Kouver,37 a Bulgar prince who established the first Serbian state, we cannot make any connection even between the first two.
In the previous part, we cited the sentences in DAI giving names of the seven brothers: Kloukas, Lobelos, Kosentzis, Mouchlo, Chrobatos, Touga, Bouga.
We have luck of having so many personal names, as they are substantial materials in defining ethnic background of any historical society. The very difficulty here was in explaining these names in the potential or candidate languages of the region: Slavic, German, Iranic, Latin, Greek, etc.
36 Baskakov, Imena sobstvennye, p. 31.
None of them provided the minimal base to test some etymologies. Mikkola solved this puzzle, by turning rightly to the Turanic sources. He reconstructed those names, respectively, as Külük, Alpel, Kösenci, Mügel, Korvat, Tugay and Buga, but considered them Avaric.20
There is no difficulty with them both linguistically and, in particular, historically. Or, let me say, there have not been better alternatives. Külük is frankly a Turkic word. Lobel < Alpel is very normal in Slavic languages. Cf. Lab < Elbe. Kösenci may be both a development of koşuncu, as Mikkola suggests, and stemming from the ethnonym Küsen/Küşen (Turkic form of Kushan, cf. aforesaid Grumbates), or the toponym Kasan/Kaşan (or rather qazïn “cousin”). Besides, the word kösenci can be grammatically produced from the verbs küs-, kös- and kes-. Mügel, Mouchlo of DAI is associated with Mougel/Mouâgeris, a Bulgar khan of the early 6th century, who replaced on the throne of the Bosphoros Huns Gordas/Grod who had converted to Christianity and been killed by his people due to it.39 This can also be compared to the term mukuli, commandant of the left wing in the army of Genghiz Khan,40 who organized his army, as well as all the state mechanism, according to Turkic traditions. Tugay and Buga are just anthroponyms.
38 After Râsonyi, Tarihte Türklük, p. 84, Mikkola, Avarica.
Gregoire strongly rejects Mikkola by saying that la plupart du temps il est incapable d’indiquer meme un seul rapprochement a moitie plausible, tandis que l'explication par la toponymie slave est plus que satisfaisante, evidente dans la majorite des сas (most of the time he is unable to indicate even a half-plausible approximation, while the explanation of the Slavic place names is more than satisfactory, evident in the majority of сases) 41 In his opinion, Lovelos is associated with Lublin, Kosentzes with Kosice, Klukas with Cracow or Glogau, and Bouga with the river Bug.42
It is true, these toponyms, all of them “accidentally” being grand and famous, and not ordinary county places, belong to the erstwhile White Croatia. However, even if we disregard the very phonemic problems, there is a logical challenge: We do not know whether these toponyms were in usage in those days. If there is a connection between them and the brothers, names of the latter should be source of the former, and not vice versa.
Thus, matching them does not provide an etymological explanation. If we match Poltava and the Proto-Bulgar word Batavul (Batavyl), the very “Slavic” appearance of Poltava does not necessitate the Bulgar word to be Slavic. Thus, not majority or minority, but none of the names at all are virtually explained in Gregoire’s terms.
Gluhak is right in criticizing Koscak,43 who claims those seven names are Alanic, but not so in quoting Abaev in order to show how these names cannot be phonetically Alanic. This is an imaginary Iranic language not known at all in the real world, as before-stated, and Abaev, himself an Ossetian, tries to read even Proto-Bulgar Caucasian inscriptions in the so-called Alanic, by interpreting clear Turkic words in that language, as he does in the example cited by Gluhak: Olkâbas < *val- < *upari. This is a Turkic word with two components olka and bas, and means “attack (any) land”, and is very common among Turks.
41 Gregoire, L’Origine, p. 93.
Explanations of Gluhak by referring to the Baltic world44 are also full of difficulties. The Alanic theory might have some historical bases, but here are, first of all, historical questions. Matching the seven Croat names with some phonetically close Lituanian, Latvian or Prussian names cannot explain such a case as politically organizing people at state level, invading lands of a mighty nation and settling in the mid of the civilized world. In those days Slavs were newly acquainting themselves with that level of social organization, Germans had just done it, and the Baltic people, very primitive in all senses, were in no way capable of succeeding such an operation. It is ironic that the Galician Slavs needed Baltic guide to go southward, while millions (millions figuratively, a multitude) of Slavs had already settled in the Balkans.
This can be compared to the migration of the Goths from Scandinavia to the north of the Black Sea. However, the Goths came as a people, crowded enough, making use of the post-Sarmatic vacuum in the region. In our case there is no such a people, but seven brothers with their obas, surely not so crowded. One may refer to the organizing role of a small group, by eventually being assimilated among the ruled mass, as in the Vareng-Rus’ case. In the Balto-Croatian theory, this can be only a fantastic proposal, because, contrary (in contast) to the Rus’ case, of the total lack of historical data to support it.
44 Gluhak, Porijeklo, p. 218-220.
Likewise, the Rus’ came to Kiev thanks to the weakening Khazar power, and set up their tradition by basing upon the Bulgar heritage. There was no such environment (circumstance) when the Croats migrated to the Balkans. They have had to be fully equipped before their departure.
On the other hand, personal names are “either substantial' words, not changing so easily, except for dialectical differences, or explainable in basic linguistic terms, as the seven Croat names can be easily etymologized in Turkic. Otherwise, even Polynesian languages might have some words and names phonetically equivalent to our seven names. The examples of Gluhak were collected from the Baltic family, and no unique Baltic language can itself provide the satisfactory material. This is more divergent of the historical norms of behavior, as associated with an all-Baltic or inter-Baltic endeavor. Normally only a group should be in question, as in the Turkic theory all names are explained only in Turkic.
Another feature making the seven brothers Turkic is their “people”. In the Turkic steppe tradition,
il (state with its people) was property of the dynasty, and not merely of the land, and people on the land were used to be shared among family members. The well-attested account about Kubrat’s five sons is a clear and the closest example. Four of them went “with their people”, and one remained in his fatherland “with his people”. Salçuk abandoned the Oğuz Yabğu state with his people, and founded the Saljukid
(Seljuk) state. Özbek migrated from the steppes to Transoxiana with his people. In traditions of other nations, there is no such a practice.
How did the name Kurbat become eponym? If the Kurbat of the seven was the eponymous father, then, why were the Galician Oğurs and their derivations called also Croats? I think, here we witness a classical case of making an ulus (nation, i.e. “men of a certain man”) according to steppe traditions. Kurbat of the seven was the leader and ruled much in Galicia. Thus his people, including the subjected Slavs, were called by his name. Then he decided to migrate. He did not live much in Dalmatia (probably due to his very age), because even in the time of Herakleios (d. 642), Porgas was prince of the Dalmatian Croats.45
Croat was the political name, adopted by even non-Turks, but the Turkic component of this nation did not forget their tribal name for a long time. Thus, we find the word Oğur in the Russian primary chronicle, while telling about the events in the days of Herakleios, and the word Croat (Xorvat), while telling about the Slavic + Slaviçized group, living in the north and northeast of the Carpats (Carpathians).
Therefore, the first Croats were a) White Oğurs, b) Dalmatian Kutrigurs, and c) Slavs of Galicia and, then, Dalmatia/Pannonnia (perhaps Carantania and Moravia also). Remnants of the Avars in Dalmatia still existed in the 10th century,46 joined slowly to this ethnic process. Slavic majority normally imposed its language and the ruling minority its ethnico-political name. Assimilation of the coastal Latin population lasted more than one millennium. In modern times, Catholicism has become the determinant factor in identity, and Catholic non-Croats turned to be Croats, while non-Catholic Croats were becoming Serbs or Bosniacs.
45 DAI, p. 149.
Part VIII THE DESERTION OF KUBER KHAN AND ROOTS OF THE SERBIAN STATE*
The Vends or Western Slavs made use of the alliance with the Avars in their quarrel with the Germans, fought zealously for a long, time, and, it seems, received fruit of their very work, as the Germanic population withdrew before them from the present Czech lands and parts of Eastern Germany. Slavs with inferior military capacity compared to the well organized and disciplined, as well as equally crowded Germans, could hardly succeed in invading those regions, and this was done thanks to the Avars.1 On the other hand, it seems, the Avars unmercifully exploited this situation (this can be compared to the behavior of the Nazi Germans towards their ally people, like Ukrainians, during the WWII), and the Slavs came about to rebel within two generations.
After the death of Kurbat Khan of Great Bulgaria (likely ca. 665), his five sons could not save their unity and the rising Khazar pressure catalyzed dismemberment of the state.
*This part was shortened and adopted from the article Kuber Han’ın Göçü (2001).
“The eldest son, called Baianos, in accordance with his father’s command, has remained until this day in his ancestral land. The second, called Kotragos, crossed the river Tanais (Don) and dwelt opposite the first; the forth went over the river Istros (Danube) and settled in Pannonia, which is now under the Avars, becoming an ally of the local nation. The fifth established himself in the Pentapolis of Ravenna, and became tributary to the Romans. The remaining third brother, called Asparuch, crossed the rivers Danapris (Dnieper) and Danastris (Dniester) and settled near Istros...”
This story is repeated by Theophanes, too, with almost the same sentences, The story of the son with the number four seems very simple, but it likely contains the beginning of the making of a new nation in Eastern Europe, which is still of great importance and determinant actor in the regional, and even global politics. This story also poses one of the most difficult puzzles of historiography, due to very lack of sources.
According to Miracula Sancti Demetrii, a Byzantine script telling mostly on the siege of Thessaloniki by the barbarians, a Bulgar chief called Kuver/Kuber3 (Κουβερ) was appointed by the Avar Kagan to the leadership of the Byzantine community in the region of Sirmium. They had been captivated about 60 years ago, and had intermarried with the local people and there appeared a mixed population. But things did not go well and Kuber broke with the Kagan.
2 Nikephoros, p. 89.
“ Celui-ci ayant appris par des entretiens avec ses familiers que ses sujets avaient la nostalgie des cites d’ou ils etainet originaires, examina ce qu’il avait a faire, rassembla toute la masse des exiles romains ainsi qu ’une partie des patens ou, pour employer les expnressions de I’exode mosaique, les proselytes, avec leur armes et bagages; et tous 'ensemble se revoltent, s’insurgent contre le Khagan avec ce resultat que le Khagan, lorsqu’il eut connaissance de leur secession, se mit â leur poursuite. Mais ils en vinrent aux mains; et apres cinq ou six bataill.es, le Khagan, vaincu .chaque fois par ses anciens sujets, fut force de s’enfuir avec la partie de la nation qui lui restart fidâle. II se rendit dans le regions interieures de son empire vers le septerıtrion, de sorte que finale-ment le prince Kouver, victorieux, passa la Danube avec toute sa nation et vint aussi dans nos regions (c’est â dire dans les regions voisines de Thessalo-nique) ou il occupa la plaine Ceramesienne.” (The latter has learned through interviews with his intimates that his subjects were nostalgic for the cites from which they originated, and on examination of what he had to do, he gathered the mass of all Roman exiles and a part of the pagans, or to use idiomatic expression a relocation mosaic, converts with their arms and baggage; all insurgents who rebelled against the Kagan, resulting that Kagan, when learned of their secession, began a pursuit. They came to blows, and after five or six battles where Kagan was defeated each time by his former subjects, he was forced to flee to restore his nation with people loyal to him. He went to the north to the inland regions of his empire, so that at the end the victorious Prince Kouver crossed the Danube with his entire nation and also came to our land (that is to say to the area neighboring Thessalonique) where he settled on the Ceramesienne plain.)4
After their settlement in Macedonia, we lose their sight. But there remains many questions: What happened to them in Macedonia? How and why did Byzantium, willy-nilly, permit them to settle in such a region as very near to Thessaloniki, which had survived many sieges? If the companions of Kuber were all descendants of the once captivated Romans, how did then he, in the role of Spartacus, succeeded in such victories against the restored Avar might? Did all those developments realize out of Byzantine control? Why did not the Avars follow the fugitives?
4 Gregoire, L’Origine, pp. 110-111. Ceramesienne is to be the region around Monastir and Prilep in Macedonia (ibid, footnote 26).
Now, we turn to the migration of the Serbs, narrated by Constantine:
Here also are many contradictions and ironies. First of all, we understand and accept Constantine’s view in advance that everybody comes to the Roman soil with the permission or vocation of the Emperor, even if they were aggressors. It is known well that those countries had already been Slavicized when Herakleios became emperor, while Constantine tells that those countries were desolate in Herakleios’ time.
Slav was Slav, without taking their friendship or enmity into consideration. Then, why did the wise emperor need to contribute to further Slavicization of the Balkans by inviting or permitting the Serbs? If they were to be made use of saving (safeguarding) the imperial boundaries, as a traditional Roman-Byzantine policy, would they settle somewhere near the border, and not in Macedonia? If not, they would be given any (other) land. Why did they receive such a strategic point as north of Thessaloniki? Was Herakleios so confident of the Serbs or their leaders, so that he never estimated on their any act contradicting with Byzantine policies?
5 DAI, p.153, 155.
Answers of these questions would better explain the indefinite points in the aforesaid three sources, and even provide us the necessary logical chain to relate the accounts given by them. According to Szâdeczky-Kardoss, the forth son (of Kurbat) in Theophanes and Nikephoros is to be identified as Kuver of Miracula Sancti Demetrii.6
Gregoire does not need to search for the forth son and directly relates his father, Kubrat, to Kuber of Miracula. He also does not need to separate Croats and Serbs, and associates their migration with the activities of Kuber. The eponymous Chrovatos in DAI is normally, in his opinion, nobody else than Kubrat and Kuber.7
6 Szâdeczky-Kardoss, Avarlar, pp. 294-295.
One may regard Gregoire responsible for precluding advance of Proto-Serbian studies with these identifications full of anachronism, incompatibilities in geography,8 and many contradictions in the events, and especially gens of the actors. Thus Ostrogorsky9 and Charanis10 strongly reject this theory. However, they do not make any statement about the identification of Kuber’s and Serbs’ migrations.
There is a chronological tie between the forth son’s going to Pannonnia and Kuber’s leaving that region for Macedonia. And, escape of Kuber is clearly associated with the migration of the Serbs. That the migration occurs in DAI ever together and just after the migration of the Croats also reminds one this chronological succession. The Serbian migration could not happen during the “rebellion years”, due to lack of the suitable environments (conditions); and we cannot pursuit such a case in the sources.
The Croats had reasons, ways and might in inclining towards Dalmatia. How did the Serbs dare to cross the Avar realm, if they really departed from the Greater Serbia, i.e. Little Poland, and what stimulants did they have in venturing on such a dangerous experiment? It is even more illogical to estimate that they saw the example of the Croats, and did the same. A few years were not, and even are not in today’s conditions, enough to see results of the Croatian migration. A few decades later, however, the Avar authority was restored, and there remained no possibility to pass along or around the Avar polity to the south, especially via the western borderlands.
8 As Ostrogorsky, Byzantium, p. 17, states, Kubrat worked in the north of the Caucasus during the Herakleios’ days, while Kuber was acting in Pannonia and Macedonia in the time of Constantine IV (668-685).
Thus, the White Serbs, “another Sarmatian tribe” of Dvornik, then living in Saxony, could hardly apply to Herakleios to request “what the Croats had requested”, according to Dvornik and Constantine.11 Thus, we have to make a new reconstruction, by not disregarding the Avar will.
The Serbian homeland was to be in the Little Poland and/or Saxony. According to Novakovic, the Serbs were, together with other Slavs, inhabitants of the lands along the Elbe river. They were there at least from the 5th, and even 4th century on.12 Boïki, the Serbian land according to Constantine, was adjacent both to the Franks and the White Croats.13 This name comes from the Celtic tribe Boy, which had left Central Europe in the 4th century BC, and thus the primary Serbian land was Bohemia (Boyohemum), whose name also stems from the word Boïki, as well as name of Baviera (Bayuvaria, in DAI Baguvaria).14
Therefore, the Serbs were either the westernmost Slavs (or what?). The presence of the Sorbs, a Slavic group in Eastern Germany, just north of Bohemia, proves this. It is undoubted that these Sorbs and the Balkanic Serbs are relatives and originally the same people. Or, we have to look for their roots in Poland. Indeed, there are 36 toponyms with that name in Poland: 31 villages, 3 lakes and 2 rivers.15 Details of the Serbian homeland are out of the topic here. What we have to stress is that there is no doubt in their coming from that direction.
11 Dvornik, Byzantine Missions, p. 4.
Not Serbian (Sorbian) migration to the south, but their preference is questionable. The Sorbs were spreading westward, at the expense of the Germanic people. There should be special conditions that oriented them to the Balkans, which had been inhabited by the Slavs of the southern belt of the original Slavic home.
We have told about the wide-scale cooperation between the Western Slavs and Avars. The aforesaid account of Theophanes about three men of the Slavic race from the Ocean coasts, who were arrested and interrogated by Byzantine authorities in the time of Mauricios, signs that distant Slavs used to come to the horde as allies. To what degree we can believe in the three Slavs’ statement that they did not know about iron, and to what degree the Byzantines believed them is not known to us. They should certainly have tried to show their innocence.
Therefore, if the Sorbs and Serbs are the same people, then the latter’s coming to the south can be explained within a relation of alliance with the Avars. A group of them, likely a military gang, and likely with their families, if we credit Constantine’s news, came to the hearth of the Avar state as allies. During or after the shaking off the Avar authority, they settled in Sirmium to keep (guard) the Byzantine border. This wonderful land was satisfactory enough to keep them loyal to the (Avar) horde; furthermore, they had no reason and interest to join the wide-scale rebellion of the surrounding Turks and Slavs. They were not like Duljebs, had not been in close contact with the Avars. This can be compared to the Bulgaro-Slavic cooperation in the Lower Danube under the Khan Asparukh (late 7th century); in that case, too, the seven Slavic tribes were organized to protect the boundaries of the newly established Bulgar state.
We should also point to the fact that dynamism of the Slavic westward spread was to exhaust in those days, and the Germanic people started to press for returning. This might have posed a pressure to the Sorbs, and compelled part of them to search for new lands. Thus, their search for land and the Avars’ need for an ally coincided.
The fact that no neighbor of the Avars was in pleasure with them shows that they were difficult neighbors, as well as lords. Therefore, the dream of the Sorbs in Sirmium should not have lasted so much. Relative settlement of the European affairs led Byzantium to focus more on the Islamic front. Thus, no opportunity was presented to the Sorbs, until the uprising of Kuber towards the end of the 7th century.
As we deduce from the Miracula, the captives or the deported Byzantine citizens intermarried with the local “barbarians”.16 These barbarians were not surely, except individual case, the Avars. They cannot be Bulgars of Kuber, too, as he was separated from his people and appointed to Sirmium by the (Avar) horde, which did not forget the Kutrigur coup in 630-631, as Szâdeczky-Kardoss pointed out,17 and which was very careful in managing the Bulgars. Thus, the barbarians were Slavic people, likely those Sorbs. This should have contributed to the alienation of the Sorbs from the (Avar) Kaganate.
16 Charanis, Ethnic Changes, pp. 38-39.
So, everybody in Sirmium, except the inspectors and agents of the (Avar) horde, had a reason to hate the Avar rule. Kuber khan, son of the Great Bulgar khan Kubrat, never gained full confidence of the horde, and disgracefully separated from his own people. The Romans, then sons and grandsons of the once captivated or deported Romans, wanted liberty and return to their home. The Sorbs were alienated from their allies, especially after fully comprehending what had been done to the other Slavs, and saw the Balkanic Slavs, who had escaped from or never been under the yoke of the Avars, were in better situation.
After the maturation of the conditions, there came the event, of great or tiny importance, which had Kuber decided to rise up. Certainly he had Bulgar companions with him, and it was not much difficult to organize the Sorbs and Romans, whose administrator was Kuber himself. The punitive forces of the horde were beaten; but the rebels could not endure much and fled to the Byzantine soil.
The liberated Romans were surely welcomed by the Byzantine authorities, but Kuber and his Bulgars and Sorbs could not be invited to the just north of Thessaloniki. It is difficult to say that Constantinople and Thessaloniki considered Kuber as their enemy, as Gregoire states,18 because he was son of Kubrat, “the eternal friend of the Romans”, but there was surely many doubts on the Byzantine side. They came here on their own decision, because Southern Macedonia was the most suitable place to flee. Natural ways, then protected by the Byzantine-held Belgrade, used to come from the mid-Danube basin to Macedonia and the Vardar basin via the Morava valley. They could not stop in the Morava basin, what is today Serbia, as the Avars were just in the north (today Voivodina) and the west (Bosnia). They could not advance towards southeast, i.e. Thrace, as it would be perceived more dangerous by Constantinople. Kuber estimated this, and arrived at the Vardar plain.
18 Gregoire, L’Origine, p. 113.
Thessaloniki, however, being busy in those days with taming the adjacent Slavic masses, did not want new barbarians in the vicinity. Therefore, Kubrat (Kuber), having no force to invade Macedonia and to resist the Byzantines, returned and was settled along the Morava river by the interference of the commandant of Belgrade, who acted in accordance with the directives of Constantinople. This man is the crucial personality in all these affairs, and may have responsibility even in their beginning. But lack of sources do not let us to go far about him.
For now, we have no data to at least chronologically, compare and relate the activities of Kuber to the migration of the Bulgars of his brother Asparukh (679 or earlier). It is certain that they influenced each other, likely by encouraging the other, and there was no much interval of time between their migrations. One can surely claim that the success of the Asparukh Bulgars contributed to the consolidation of the Kuber’s power, which represented a semi-independent polity, if not a Sklavinia. This polity was beginning of the Serbian state tradition, within which ultimately the Serbian nation was created.
Number of the Bulgaric Turks, who launched the process of the making of the Serbian nationality, were surely too small, compared to those in the Croatian, especially Danubian Bulgar cases. With the Sorbic wave, the region was Slavicized for the second time. Thus, Kuber and his relatives and companions had no ethnical chance among the Slavs, except adopting their language and traditions as soon as possible, so that they keep their leading and distinguished position, in which policy they seem to be successful.
We can find some Turkic names among the leaders of the later Serbs. For example, one of the three sons of Vlastimer, Serbian prince, who fought the Bulgar khan Persiam in the mid 8th century, was Goïnikos.19 The second syllable in his name seems to be the Slavic suffix -nik. What the first part means is, however, not clear. Turkic Göynük might be a proper suggestion.20
One of his cousins was Borenas/Branos.20 This name is not attested among Slavs, but abundantly used among Turks as Boran. This name was later associated with, especially among the Serbs, the verb braniti (“to defense”) (to fight, to battle), and the both became source of new names: Branko, Bronislav, etc.
The Serbian prince before the aforesaid Vlastimir was Prosigois.21 This name is also difficult to etymologize within Slavic. Turkic popular name Porsuk might be explanatory in this case. Here is an ordinary example of heaping consonants at the beginning of words, peculiar to the Indo-European, especially South Slavic languages (cf. Sorb > Srb [Serbian self-calling (self-name, endonym)], Kurbat > Horvat > Hrvat [Croatian self-calling]). These are names belonging to the 9th century. Therefore, we can conclude that there was more (were other) or only Turkic names among the first Serbian princes.
19 DAI, p. 155.
We have told about Constantine’s call of our attention to the friendship between Croats, Serbs and Bulgars. Kinship does not necessarily provide peace, but anyway (nevertheless are) very important in inter-dynastic relations. Serbian and Bulgar rulers were cousins of each other; and the Croatian ruling strata, which expressed its sincere feelings towards their direct relatives Hungarians (Onoğurs), was also conscious of the political and partly ethnic kinship with the Serbian and Bulgar courts, or hordes. However, this does not show that their linguistic assimilation was not yet completed in the 10th century. Only the Bulgar case can be questioned; but the others (Croats and Serbs), as shown by their names, were already Slavs at that time.
Part IX ORIGINS OF THE BOSNIAN STATE AND THE ROYAL KOTROMAN FAMILY*
The Bosnian state was founded in Medieval in the mid of what is today Bosnia and Herzegovina, and in the course of time encompassed almost all of the current country and some regions around it. There is no confirmed information about the beginning of the state, which lasted up to the Turkish conquest in 1463. Relatively detailed accounts on this country and its rulers began to appear from the 12th century on. For earlier days, we have some information, which is sufficient only to make comments and suggestions on whether there was a political formation here. Thus, historians face a very difficult task in finding origin of the ruling Kotromanids (Kotromaniči), while existence and quality of the state for a long period is not obvious at all.
Becoming country1 of a certain land is connected with not only geography, but also geoculture with thousands of years of experiences. Many of modern countries have their projections even in ancient times.
* This part is an abbreviated adoption of my essay Bosna Krallık Soyu (2002).
France, Bulgaria, Iraq and Iran are appropriate examples. In the west of the Balkans, the ex-Yugoslavia region together with modern Albania was a “country” in ancient times, and the province of “Ilyricum”, continuation of the old Ilyria, saved its existence not only in Rome and Byzantium, but also during the Ottoman days. Today’s ex-Yugoslav countries, except Macedonia, are almost totally products of medieval formations. Ancient Dalmatians lived in the coastal region, exactly where is now modern Dalmatia, but Bosnia was also, like Herzegovina and Montenegro, part of “political” Dalmatia of Rome and Byzantium.2
Bosnia, being in a location where two lines in north-south and east-west directions cross each other, developed its own peculiar identity and form of behavior, in spite of the constant influences from all directions;3 that is, it had its own geoculture. Moreover, this land is separated from neighboring lands with certain lines, forming a geopolitical unity. That it was not able to become a country at an earlier date can be attributed to the political developments and ethnical processes, which had started with the Sarmatic raids, coinciding with the Germanic assaults to the northwestern borders of the Roman Empire, and which had lasted by the decline of Avar state (end of the 8th century).
2 “In olden times, therefore, Dalmatia used to start at the confines of Dyrrachium, or Antibari, and used to extend as far as the mountains of Istria, and spread out as far as the river Danube.” (DAI, p. 140).
The most obvious proof for the fact that Bosnia was not a “country” for a long time is absence of a comprehensive name for it. The name Bosnia is firstly mentioned in mid-10th century in DAI:
We will not deal with debates on the origin of the word, since it is out of matter. In DAI, Bosnia is mentioned as a region. Taking the two cities Katera and Desnik, told to be here, into consideration, one can say that the mid-10th century Bosnia was of almost exactly the same size as the Bosnia, which declared its independence two centuries later, and in the same location. This is what is now Central Bosnia, where are upper courses of the river with the same name. As the state founded here extended its lands, the country called Bosnia extended also to reach eventually the present size. Such a question may be posed at this point: Considering that the spread of the name Bosnia was connected to the political expansion, might appearance and continuation of Bosnia as a country be related to the premises of the same political structure? That is, was there a “political” Bosnia in the days when Constantine was writing his DAI?
Above quoted sentence of Constantine is open to speculation and says nothing obvious about political relationship of Bosnia with Serbia. The former might be both a part of the latter, or an independent country created by Slavic nations like the Pagani.
4 DAI, p. 160.
Constantine once mentions Bosnia as “Pagania, which was at that time (beginning of the 10th century, O.K.) under the control of prince of Serbia”5 and in another place tells that Croatia “...at Tzentina (now Cetina, O.K.) and Chlebena (now Livno, O.K.) becomes neighbor to the country of Serbia.”6 That is, Serbian-Croatian border crossed along Central Bosnia at that time. Salinas, included among the cities in Serbia, is modern Tuzla of Bosnia. This means, Serbian and Croatian states were neighbors in Northern Bosnia, too. Therefore, at least half of the current Bosnia once became part of the early Serbian princedom. We know that the western half was for a long time under the Croats, and the Bihac region was heartland of the Croatian State. Furthermore, Constantine tells about Bosnia in the Chapter 32, which is dedicated to Serbs and their countries.
But this does not clearly.explain political situation the “nucleus” of Bosnia between Serbian and Croatian states. What is more, Serbian or Croatian hegemony in Bosnia does not show that its people was of Serbian and Croatian stock. As expressed by Serbian historian Cirkovic, such a question contains mistakes within itself.7
Thus, our attempts to fix existence of the Bosnian “country” in order to reach the Bosnian “state” in an age ignored by sources become fruitless. However, Constantine gives interesting data on the ethnic groups of the region. We can deduce whether early Bosnia was a country and its inhabitants were an ethnie, by analyzing them.
5 DAI, p. 157.
One of the Dalmatian nations mentioned by the Emperor is the one called Arentani (Αρεντανοι) by the Romans and Pagani (Παγανοι) in their own language.8 Historians, who rely on the fact that the Pagani deals with piracy on the Dalmatian islands,9 unanimously think that they were the Slavic group known as Neretljani (Neretvans), and which used to live in Western Herzegovina.10 Constantine also includes some Dalmatian cities and islands in the country of the Pagans.11
But a detail given in another place contradicts the Emperor himself in describing the country of the Pagans. According to this account, Slavs converted to Christianity, but Pagans living in a mountainous and remote place resisted to it.12 Western Herzegovina, where Neretvans used to live, is by no means mountainous, and contrarily, is the most level land in the region. There is a plain from the coast to the city Mostar. This area is not only accessible, but also the most accessible part of the Dalmatian coastal region. Likewise, Ottomans coming from the inside got an exit to the Adriatic Sea at this point, and the Venetians, in turn, easily advanced there and seized Mostar during the long-lasting wars after the Vienna siege of Turks (1683). South and east of Mostar is mountainous, but this cannot be Pagania, as it was called Hum and as there lived the people called Zachlumi (Ζαχλουμυ).13
8 DAI, p. 125.
Pagans could not be in south or north of Mostar, because Terbouniotes (Τερβουνιωτων) and Kanalites (Καωαλιτων) used to live in the south,14 while the northern area was Croatian soil. Therefore, Pagania can only be in the inner regions, where are now Northern Herzegovina and Central Bosnia. In the succeeding eras, in these regions was Christianity the weakest, and Bogomilism the most powerful.
Therefore, the pagans resisting to Christianization were likely the people, who used to live in Central Bosnia and Northern Herzegovina, where later Bogomilism-based Bosniac nation emerged. Any connection of the pirate Pagans, Neretvans, with them seems not very likely. Otherwise, we have to suppose a political formation in a long stripe from Central Bosnia to the coast along the Neretva valley. We have no data to confirm it. So, here are two possibilities: Constantine makes a mistake, as he does often, and either is confused of the two groups, or unifies the two. Any alliance of temporary nature between Bosnians and Neretvans, as well as the fact that the both coincidently might have resisted to Christianization, would lead to such an envisaging, as unifying their stories.
In all cases, the fact that the Emperor does not give clear information about Bosnia shows his lack of information. Otherwise, it would be very meaningless to tell a lot about small places like Trebinje, and to say almost nothing about who used to live in Bosnia, which is labeled as a region in his own book. Likewise, he would tell about Bosnian parts of the Serbo-Croatian border, besides the Dalmatian ones, if he had known.
14 DAI, p. 163.
That he takes borders of the province of Dalmatia before the Avaro-Slavic invasion to Danube is another mistake of Constantine. Dalmatia used to finish where Bosnia finished in east and north, that is, on the rivers Sava and Drina. It cannot reach Danube in the north, now Hungaro-Croatian border, since there was the famous province of Pannonnia; if the Emperor means an eastern direction, then today’s Voivodina and Belgrade, that region had been organized as the province of Sirmium, and never been within Dalmatia. Thus, we can understand why Constantine does not put the region of Bosnia and the mountainous Pagania together.
So, we have two points to be evaluated together: (1) The region Bosnia, (2) The Pagans (Arentani), who used to live in â mountainous region, who resisted to Christianization, and who were not Serbs, though once they had once been under the former. Constantine etymologizes the word pagan in the language of Slavs as “unbaptized”, that is unbeliever.15 Arentani, the Roman equivalent of that name, should have given in attribution to an ancient Illyric tribe, which had lived here. This is a Byzantine custom. For example, Serbs were called even in the 13th century Tribali,16 referring to a small tribe that had lived in the same region almost 1500 years ago. Since we know which parts of Bosnia were under Serbs and Croats in those days, we have no other choice except locating Pagans in Central Bosnia, remaining between the two invading neighbors.
15 DAI, p. 165.
This would lead us to accept Bosnia as a “nucleus country” at the beginning of the 10th century, with its people being in ethnos quality. Since it was unconceivable for them to adopt the Byzantine word Arentani or their own word Pagan meaning “unbeliever” as their public name, and since Slavic communities everywhere used to adopt toponyms as their ethnonyms,17 unless outsiders imposed their own names,18 people of Bosnia took the names Boŝnjan, Воŝnjak and later, in modern times, Bosanac, just due to the river Bosna, like Polabiani (those living along Elbe), Podrinjaci (those living along Drina), Timočani (those living along Timok), etc.
Withdrawal of the Rome from the borders about the mid-Danube ranges and loss of parts of Pannonnia begins with the Sarmatic age.19 Then the Goths running away from the Huns and the Huns themselves, who based in Pannonnia, became lords of the region. Bosnia was under Byzantine administration when Avar raids started in the second half of the 6th century. The Avar Kaganate appointed governors, of Avaric origin and called “ban” and “župan”, to the Slavic masses, which had settled down in the Western Balkans under the Avar supervision, and thus, a permanent and powerful central administration was founded.
As before said, the only Turkic element, upon which the Avar state relied, were not the Avars. A number of Kutrigurs joined them on the road to the west. These Kutrigurs invaded Bosnia and Dalmatia in 578 in the name of the Kaganate. Given the fact that the Avars had no much (significant) human resource, Kutrigurs should have held a great part of the cadre of provincial administration. They were brought from the Western Eurasian steppes with their obas (“encampment”), and not only as recruited soldiers. In addition to the 10 thousand soldiers, who invaded Bosnia and Dalmatia, their families should have also came, at least partially, and therefore, not only an administrative and military class, but also an important number of civil Kutrigur population settled in Bosnia.
17 “I ot etix Slavjan razoslis’ slavjane po zemle i prozvalis’ imenami svoimi, gde kto sel na kakom meste. Tak, naprimer, odin, pridja, seli ne reke imenem Morava, i prozvalis’ morava.”
(And from these Slavs spread the Slavs upon the earth, and named themselves
with their names, where who settled at what place. So, for exmple, one, upon coming, settled by the
river calld Morava, and named themselves Morava.) (Povest’, p. 207).
In this regard, two Greek sources from the 15th century mention Kudugers living in Herzegovina. Chalcocondilias says that “In the country of Sandalj (Prince of Herzegovina at that time, O.K.) live people called Kuduger”, and Gennadios, the first archbishop appointed by Mehmed II after the conquest of Istanbul, tells about the same people with exactly the same name and the same living place. It was Serbian historian Vaso Gluŝac, who firstly wrote that they might be Kutrigurs.20 The country of Sandalj21 was the stronghold of resistance to Christianity in the last years of the Bosnian kingdom, which then accepted Catholicism as official religion and started to suppress its Bogomil citizens. This can be compared to the case under the Khan Omurtag in the Danubian Bulgar kingdom, where Slavic masses were easily and rapidly Christianized, which caused reaction of Bulgars, still keeping their Turkic identity, and which ultimately led to a Bulgaro-Slavic internal strife.
20 Babic, Iz istorije, p. 38.
The Avar power, having been in warfare with all surrounding states and nations for 250 years, seems to have lost its authority over bans and župans of Bosnia, coinciding (concurrently) with its weakening in the last decades, if not earlier. Sudden collapse of this state at the end of the 8th century left Bosnian begs (Princes) of Avaric and Bulgaric origin stateless. According to N. Klaic, well before the Franks’ coming and declining the Avar state, Bosnian begs were de facto independent.22 It is not well known to what degree the Bulgars and Franks, the powers that had destroyed the Avar state, controlled Bosnia. They shared (divided) the Avar realm in Central Europe, today’s Hungary and Transilvania. There is no record on their (Bulgars and Franks) entry in Bosnia, though Croatia was invaded by the Franks. A temporary reconstruction of the Byzantine administration can be estimated. In the days of Michael II (820-829), Dalmatian cities and inner regions became independent by making use of the internal and external difficulties that Byzantium faced.23 Pagans are mentioned among those declaring independence. This makes Byzantium the third force, except local formations, squandering the Avar inheritance.
There are two more accounts, of reliable nature, from the time of Michael II (820–829), informing that Bosnia was a political formation at that time. Franks seeking to dominate the Croats, after destroying the Avar state, forced Ljudevit, then Croatian prince, to flee in 822. The latter killed ruler of the place to where he escaped, and replaced him. He tried to establish diplomatic relationship with Franks from that country.
22 Klaic, Srednjovijekovna Bosna, p. 33.
Almost all historians agree that the place he fled was Central Bosnia.24 Both Frank annals and the chronicle of Ljudevit gave this account. The sources, both of which are in Latin, give title of the killed ruler as, respectively, “dux” and “princeps”. According to Klaic, these titles were counterparts of “župan” at that time.25 On the other hand, the both Latin titles are translated into Slavic languages as “knjaz/knez” in general usage. Likewise, there was no important difference between župan and knez, the former perhaps being only a Turkic loanword. The word knez intimates (means) a polity, independent or autonomous. That is, Bosnia was a polity at the beginning of the 9th century. Among the Slavic states getting independence in the time of Mrchael II, as mentioned by Constantine, only that of the Pagans suits to Bosnia. Thus, the Pagans seem more to be Bosniacs, rather than Neretvans.
The difficulty here is that the vast region from Drina to the river Vrbas had yet no a general name in the 9th century. Bosnia was name of a small land, central part of the region from Drina to Vrbas, and from Sava to Neretva. Constantine seems to be in difficulty in describing this region. Frank annals, however, solve this problem with a term, which they loaned likely from Byzantium. A Frank source mentions Knez Ratimir, who was ruling Sklavinia in 838.26 This is clearly Bosnia, because Frank sources mention the lands of Croats and Serbs with their names. It cannot be the Slavonija region, the Croatian soil north of Sava, because it was under Franks at that time.
24 Klaic, Srednjovijekovna Bosna, p. 57.
There is no other possibility in the region, except Bosnia. We deduce from this account that political structure in Bosnia was well consolidated, as Ljudevit’s killing of native knez 16 years before did not cause any interruption in, at least existence of the state. Ljudevit was also killed, and the Bosnian state continued likely with its own rulers.
In Byzantine sources, the term sklavinia (Σκλαβηνια) is used for the Balkan lands invaded by Slavs, where Byzantine administration had de facto ended, and, however, over which Constantinople still kept its claims.27 After Slavicization was completed and the peninsula got an ethnic stability with new faces, Slavs were called according to their states or regions, in which they lived. Thus, sklavinia got out of mode (fashion). For instance, Constantine himself does not use it. As an exception, lands of the Slavic colonies in Peloponnese were for a long time called so, because those Slavs kept their independence more than the others, but could not set up a state, and thus, receive a convenient political name for themselves. Usage of this term in Frank annals for Bosnia can also be explained with absence of a name. The political formation in Bosnia was at that time clearly of international importance to some degree, but the land called Bosnia was yet composed of a few valleys,, like other neighboring polities or simply pre-feudal structures. That is, early medieval Bosnia was only one of the equals in what is today Bosnia. Spectrum of Constantine in telling about the region can also be interpreted as that Bosnia was yet too small in the 10th century; thus Byzantium did not pay much care on it.
27 Ostrogorsky, Bizans, p. 88.
But it was no longer, at least, a sklavinia. In the following century, Bosnia would be one of the determining forces in the Balkans, according to Byzantine diplomacy. The Montenegrin Chronicle of the aforesaid Pope Doclean, the first South Slavic chronicle written by a Montenegrin bishop (ca. 1149), mentions Bosnia in equal gravity with Croatian and Serbian states.28
Thus, it becomes clear that Bosnia had an independent political formation, at least in its nucleus land, after the withdrawal of the Avar power. There are clues to make sure that this formation continued more than three centuries, by the mid-12th century, when the first known Bosnian ban lived, of course, with some interruptions. These kinds of interruptions affected the neighboring Croatian and Serbian states more. Hard debates begin from the point of evolution of the Bosnian state tradition. One side tries to delay formation of the state here to very late times, and to characterize it as a newcomer in regard to the neighbors.
According to Croatian historian Knezovic, state formation was rapidly realized in the countries open to external impacts, namely in Serbia, Croatia and Montenegro; but Bosnia, feeling itself sure and naturally protected, did not need for a state for a long time. Knezovic, who does not accept a Bosnian state before the 12th century, suggests that Bosnia be forced to establish its state, by becoming helpless after the invasion of Montenegro by Byzantium and unification of Croatia with Hungary.29
28 Imamovic, Historija, p. 25.
Serbian historian Cirkovic, being more equitable in this issue, comments the information given by Constantine that Bosnia was part of Serbia in the first half of the 10th century. In his opinion, basing on accounts of the Montenegrin Chronicle, Serbian knez Ĉaslav, who revived the Serbian state after the demise of Bulgarian tsar Simeon, extended his rule also on Bosnia, and Constantine tells about it. Bosnia appeared as a state after killing of Ĉaslav by Hungarians. But there had been Bosnian bans from the Avar time on, and they were of Avaric origin.30
N. Klaic, being very angry of historians delaying Bosnia’s getting state degree, criticizes also Cirkovic among others, by showing their inconsistency and contradictions: If Bosnia was a banate from the Avar time on, then why did it wait for the demise of Ĉaslav to become a state?31 She goes further: Political development of Bosnia started simultaneously with that of Serbs and Croats. Interference of foreign powers to the latter two caused interruptions even in the existence of the states. Bosnia, in contrary to them, did not face those kinds of interference and threats, thanks to its defensive advantages.32
Here are two certain cases: Administration of Bosnia by another state did not interrupt the institution of banate. There was a ban in the time of Ğaslav, likely called Ratimir, as there had been bans before and after the Croatian refugee Ljudevit. Briefly, from the days when Bosnia lost its ties with the Avar state, there had been a Bosnian political structure, of sometimes independent and sometimes autonomous character.
30 Cirkovic, Istorija, pp. 40-41.
Bosnia seems to cover a relatively greater land after the days under Ĉaslav. That the battle between the Croatian king Kresimir and the anonymous Bosnian ban in 968 happened about the river Vrbas, a highly western location, proves this. This river, on which is now the famous city Banja Luka, used to draw eastern border of the historical Croatia (what is now “broader” Krajina). Given the fact that Kresimir was the attacking side, one may imagine even a more western Bosnian border. After his victory, the Croatian king became owner of Bosnia even though of very temporary nature.
Another temporary lord of Bosnia was Samuil the Macedonian, who tried to revive the Bulgarian Empire swallowed by Byzantium in 969. Samuil, who enjoyed a surprising popular support after his rebellion in 976, and who unexpectedly became ruler of a great state, established the greatest South Slavic state throughout history. This polity, however, lasted only by the year 1014, and included all South Slavic groups except Croats and Slovenes. After the Byzantine Emperor Basileus II the Bulgar-slayer (Βουλγαροκτονοσ) gave an end to that polity, Bosnia also fell under his rule. But Bosnia, Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia saved their state status as vassals, while Bulgaria and Macedonia were directly taken into the thema organization.34
33 Knezovic, Bosna i Hercegovina, p. 186.
It seems Byzantium lost its governance in the west of the Balkans after Basileus II. When Stefan Vojislav, prince of Montenegro (Doclea, Duklja) declared his independence, Byzantine forces tried to crush him with help of Bosnian, Herzegovinian and Serbian forces, but Vojislav defeated the alliance and swept the Byzantine forces. Mihajlo, his son and successor, punished the three neighbors collaborating with Constantinople by seizing and annexing them. So, a period of Montenegrin hegemony began in Bosnia, but again of temporary nature. A fact here forces one to grill the so-called vassal status of Bosnia before Byzantium. The emperor had to pay a heavy sum of money to the ban of Bosnia to provide help against Montenegro. It is very difficult to think such an act for a “vassal” state. Thus, as Knezovic states, it would be more convenient to imagine an independent Bosnia after Basileus II.36
Bosnia was likely more powerful after repulsing Montenegrins. Croatia unified with Hungary with an agreement (Pacta Conventa) signed in 1102, which caused very strong protests of Byzantium, claiming that Hungary had annexed the lands essentially belonging to Constantinople. Severe wars and campaigns directed to both Hungary and the tiny South Slavic states followed these protests. The Bosnians were allies of the Hungarians in these long-lasting struggles. Byzantine forces captured a certain chief-župan called Bankin in 1153. Byzantine authors Niketas Khoniates and Ioannes Kinnamos mention him.37
35 Cirkovic, Ста Gora, p. 130.
Some historians claim that this man was indeed Ban Kulin, and that Byzantine authors dropped the consonant “l” while writing Bankilin(os).38 However, it is hard to think so because of two reasons: Firstly, both of the authors, contemporaries of the events, could not make the same mistake. And, secondly, Ban Kulin39 was on Bosnian throne between 1180 and 1203. If he was chief župan in 1153, and also very powerful and “mature” warrior, then he would be very old in the known period. Sources, however, do not mention such an elder Ban Kulin. Another difficulty is in explaining the name Bankin in any of the regional languages.
After Bankin, whose identity is not yet certain, Boric is recorded as the first Bosnian ban, whose name is known. He was “certainly” ban between 1154-1164 according to the sources. Like Bankin, he was also together with the Hungarians to fight Byzantium. And as Bankin, he is also mentioned as an ally, not vassal, of the Hungarian king.40 After this period, not only Bosnia, but all the Western Balkans, including Serbia and Croatia (then Hungarian soil according to the Pacta Conventa), were invaded and seized by forces of the Byzantine Emperor Manuel I Komnenos (1143-1180), who was energetically trying to reconstruct the Byzantine authority in the Balkans.41
38 Perojevic, Ban Boric i Ban Kulin, p. 201.
The Empire, however, could not again set up centralized administration, and local rulers remained in power. Thus, the Manuel rule also did not interrupt the Bosnian statehood. Moreover, Bosnia had a land in those days as vast as Croatia and Serbia, the two powerful neighbors had. Eastern confines were for a long time along Drina. The state extended on the west as far as Livno, which was included in the “historical” Croatia. The city Rama and surroundings, mentioned within the Hungarian realm in decrees of the latter’s crown, were also taken into composition of Bosnia.42
For the period from those days on, nobody rejects statehood of Bosnia. After Ban Kulin, bans and kings with the family name Kotromanic constantly ruled Bosnia to the Turkish conquest in 463.
The socio-political structure that Bosnia had was reflected on the basis of the state, and a medieval feudal state with all relevant institutions, but anyway different from its neighbors, took shape. Administrative division of the country and division of the administrative ranks and tasks took place within the status quo, because a powerful centralized authority was out of question. That is, the land regime based on tribal inheritance (plemenita baŝtina), but organized around županias by the Avar capital, got fief-like character within the process of feudalization, which became visible in the Byzantine realm in the 12th century, and which rapidly spread to the Balkans. Zupanias were parts of banates, also a political institution remaining from the Avar age. The banate of Bosnia, the most important and powerful one, unified the other banates to establish the Bosnian state.43 This chain of župan-ban-king can be compared to the western feudal relationship between lord, baron and king.
42 Perojevic, Ban Boric i Ban Kulin, p. 203.
In regard to the state mechanism, the medieval Bosnian state can be viewed as a union of volunteers and a federation in proper sense. After consolidation of the state tradition and consciousness around the Kotromanic dynasty, “federal” units became, at least mentally, more adherent to the center, and represented a more centralized state against the outside world. This was totally product of a popular mentality and tradition; otherwise the royal power was never able to realize a military or political centralization by its own efforts and sources. Since the state was a union, its administrative mechanism was formed in accordance with it. The assembly (Stanak), composed of grand and petty magnates (vlastelji and velmoži) and religious representatives, had a power well above that of banate or kingdom. Kingship was not hereditary in Bosnia. Neither king, nor his son knew who would be the next king. Stanak elected Bosnian kings, but among only and conditionally members of the dynasty. Dethronement or even execution of the kings, not doing well their duties, was not so rare.44 From this aspect, political structure of the Bosnian state is associated with Turkic states, especially with the Khazar Kaganate, which applied steppe tradition to a settled and semi-nomad society.
44 Babic, Iz istorije, p. 17; Kulenovic, Bosanski stanak, p. 51.
The only difference in making of the administrative cadres is likely that Turkic hordes tried to rule subject tribes, states or regions with governors of A-shih-na origin, while Bosnian ban and župan families descended with great probability from those appointed there by the Avar state. King or Stanak could not change them, or even confiscate their lands.45
So, the Bosnian state was based on two essences: a) Gathering of local rulers around a center to defend themselves; b) Presence of the Kotromanids (Kotromanici), as ruling dynasty of the banate and then of the kingdom. The need for defense is something very relative and subjective. A focal ruler might change his side in the case that he believed to get more benefits from another side, mostly from any neighboring country.
Likewise, history of Croato-Bosnian relationships in medieval is, in a sense, history of exchange of feudal forces and rulers. Thus, it would not be exaggeration to say that the Kotromanic family saved the state, which had been product of many geo-political and geo-cultural factors, as well as the Avar legacy. M. Imamovic, pointing to the very popular prestige of this family, concludes that “The Medieval Bosnian state existed and disappeared with them.”46
According to E. Imamovic, another Bosniac historian, the Kotromanic dynasty governed Bosnia for about 600 years, from the 8th or 9th century, when the state was founded, up to its fall in 1463.47 It is possible to start the state in those centuries, but he does not explain on which sources and thoughts he bases the claim that the Kotromanids were ever (always the) rulers of the state.
45 Babic, Iz istorije, p. 10.
We can refer to view of N. Klaic in this matter, who says that no foreign power changed any of Bosnian bans and župans 48 That is, the administrators (of Avar and Bulgar/Kutrigur stock) appointed by the Avar state, and their descendants ruled Bosnia by the end of the state. In fact, this idea is not well challenged, except a case to be discussed below. Not the continuity of the ban dynasties, but whether these local administrative units can be regarded as states is on the center of objections and discussions.
Beginning with Boric, there are 15 Kotromanids ruling Bosnia, whose names are known to us. Seven of them were bans, and seven kings. There was a queen, too. The bans were Boric, Kulin, Stjepan, Matej Ninoslav, Prijezda, Stjepan I Kotroman. and Stjepan II Kotromanic; and the kings were Stjepan I Tvrtlco, Stjepan Dabiŝa, Queen Jelena Gruba, Stjepan Ostoja, Stjepan II Tvrtlco, Stjepan Ostojic, Stjepan Tomas and Stjepann Tomaŝevic.
As before stated, we have no clear information about the origins of the Kotromanids. Sources point to existence of a small polity between Sarajevo and Zenica. It seems this polity continued from the very beginning up to the known periods, under various circumstances and status; and there is no account about change of line of its rulers. According to Mauro Orbini, who firstly claimed an origin for the Kotromanids in 1603, king of Hungary had sent one of his commandants called Kotroman the German to govern Bosnia, after demise of Ban Kulin. Finding Bosnia without any ruler and defense, Kotroman easily seized it, and the king appointed him new ban of Bosnia.49
48 Klaic, Srednjovijekovna Bosna, p. 25.
A document intimating (recording) such a case was found in the archives of Dubrovnik. This is a diplomatic note of the city government of Dubrovnik sent to the Bosnian king in 1432. It reminds that the friendship between Bosnia and Dubrovnik had a very rich past, that previous Bosnian rulers appreciated importance of Dubrovnik, and that this view took its roots from Kotroman the Goth, ancestor of the Bosnian kings, who provided (procured?) help of Hungarian king, then his relative, to Bosnia, and who established very good relationships with Dubrovnik, by regarding the latter city as his dome (home?).50
Mauro Orbini likely used this document or any narration or belief in his thesis. Relying on his claims, many historians, mainly Germans, accepted in advance that the Kotromanids were of Germanic origin. Additional proof is found in the so-called “German” suffix -man. However, this suffix is not peculiar to the German language, and some other information contradicts with the Dubrovnik letter.
Taking the name into consideration, in accordance with the ban and king lists, the first Kotroman must be Stjepan I Kotroman, succeeding Prijezda, if they had came from abroad. Thus, son of Stjepan has the surname Kotromanic. Kulin Ban died in 1203. Stjepan I Kotroman was enthroned ca 1270 as the earliest date.51 Between the two is a great interval of time. Tvrtko, the legendary Bosnian king of the late 14th century, states in a decree that his uncle (so his father also, following him) renowned the decision about an ecclesiastical land, given by Prijezda, his grandfather. Therefore, the first man called Kotroman known to us was of the same family as the previous kings and bans, at least Prijezda.
50 Imamovic, E., Bosanska dinastija Kotromanica, p. 22.
A document from the archives of the Papacy takes this to earlier dates. In a latter of the Pope Gregorius II, dated in 1233, Ban Ninoslav and the later Prijezda are shown to be from the same family. The letter tells that “ancestors of Ninoslav ruled in Bosnia from the ancient times on”52 The days of Kulin Ban, or even those of Boric cannot be “ancient times” in the year 1233. Thus, it becomes clear that all the known rulers of Bosnia belong to the same family, and their root. goes to the “unknown” period. By confirming this, Tvrtko I tells in another letter that his family had ruled Bosnia from its appearance (as a country) on.53
In addition, Kulin Ban, who had followed Boric, and his successors exhibited national policies, and never acted as governors appointed by the Hungarian crown, though sometimes they yielded by being troubled about the power of Hungarian forces. Continuation of the Hungaro-Bosnian wars for centuries display this fact.
E. Imamovic, who believes that the Bosnian ruling dynasty was native, suggests that the ancient settlement Kotorac, which is now just near to the Sarajevo airport, and which is mentioned by Constantine Porphyrogenitus might have given its name to the noble Kotroman family. In this discourse, he points also to the fact that the medieval Bosnian polity also emerged in this region.
52 Imamovic, E., Bosanska dinastija Kotromanica, p. 23.
In his opinion, the name had a development of Kotorac > Kotoran + ič > Kotroman + ič.54 However, such a phonetic development has no parallel in this region, and is very hard to explain linguistically. If the place name kept its form for such a long time, a family name generated from the same word, especially name of the royal dynasty would naturally kept the original form. Even the suggested form Kotoranic is unusual in usage with the unreasonable addition -an. Expected forms would be Kotoračevic, Kotorevic, Kotoric etc.
According to Perojevic, that Stjepan Kotroman, ban of Bosnia in the second half of the 13th century, established kinship with famous families of Central Europe like the Arpad (Hungarian), Angou (Napolitan/Norman, Hungarian), Nemanja (Serbian) and Ŝubic (Croatian) dynasties caused later some confusions about origins of the Bosnian dynasty, and this led to fabricating relevant stories. The narration about Kotroman the German coming from Hungary do not get along with with historical facts, because we know that the Kotromanids lived in Bosnia before that date. Perojevic, a Croatian historian of the nationalist ecole, states further that this family cannot be related not only to Hungary, but also to Croatia.55 Hungarian scholar Thalloczy, making the first special study in this matter, believes also that the Kotromanid family was originally Bosnian, and claims that Mauro Orbini fabricated the story about the German origin or narrated it from a source unknown to us.56
54 Imamovic, E., Bosanska dinastija Kotromanica, pp. 24-25.
When Thalloczy wrote his article (1914), the aforesaid Dubrovnik letter was not known to the scholarship.
Indeed, Orbini points to a historical fact with the narration about the imported German, but mistakes in dating. A Kotroman is mentioned in the time of Boric (mid-12th century). While Hungarians and Bosniacs were fighting Byzantium in the time of Geza II, the latter died and an internal strife began in Hungary. Boric supported Istvân IV in this struggle, but eventual victory was of Istvân III, son of Geza II. After consolidating his position, Istvân III started to punish his opponents, including Boric. He sent one of his commandants, a German called Gotfrid, to Bosnia. Boric was defeated by the punitive forces and a man called Kotroman was enthroned with the Hungarian support (1163). This man was expectedly from the ruling family. That is, the Bosnian crown was interfered and changed by a German, and not with a German.57
With the full enlightenment of this event, a very obscure period in the Bosnian history would be explained. Boric left the throne likely in 1163, and Kulin Ban was enthroned likely in 1180 thanks to support of the Byzantine Emperor Manuel Komnenos. What about the 17 years between them? Thus, we can conclude, not very certain for now, that the ban or one of the bans in those years was somebody called Kotroman. The succeeding Bosnian rulers, it seems, used his name in their surnames. Therefore, the German theory loses its base.
57 Corovic, Pitanje, pp. 16-17.
The claims about the Serbian or Croatian origin of the Kotromanids stem from the assumption that Bosnian people were just Serbs or Croats. Kotromanids were natives of Bosnia in these views, too. But such a thesis as that Bosnians were indeed Serbs and Croats, is wrong and meaningless from the very beginning, as above-stated. Bosnians in majority belonged to the first wave of Slavs (i.e. future Bosnian Slavs driven by Avars, not the Türkic people of Kangar-Bechen union?); while Croatian and Serbian nation-makers came to the Balkans later. Thus, we will not deal with these ideas.
After fixing (validating) that this dynasty was native of Bosnia, it is very easy to tie their far ancestors to the Avars and Bulgars. As mentioned, in Bosnia, which was governed via administrative institutions called banate and župania, it was very natural for bans and župans to be of Avar or Bulgar origin. No historian rejects this fact. After the collapse of the Avar state at the end of the 8th century, many banates remained independent and almost all of them were in Bosnia, except those invaded by Frank, Bulgar and Byzantine forces. There is no record on changing of these local rulers by foreign powers. That the two institutions survived even so long, by the mid-15th century in Bosnia, and (for banate) by the fall of the Habsburg Empire in Croatia, and their direct reflections in the 20th century,58 indicates in a sense that not only order and institutions, but also power of local dynasties were continuous. The little banate of Bosnia, composed of the lands on the Sarajevo-Visoko-Zenica line, was one of them.
58 The Kingdom of Yugoslavia before the WWII was divided into banates (banovina); today Croatia is administered via
županijas, and cantons of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina are called županija by the Bosnian Croats.
So, we have assumptions that mostly the descendants of the Avar and Bulgar officials and commandants ruled Bosnia by the fall of the state. Owners of high ranks from other ethnic origins, mainly Slavs, are never excluded in this theory. Etymologizing the word Kotroman would help us to go further in fixing identity of the dynasty. It is very hard to explain this word or its components in Slavic. Thus, due to lack of a substantial Slavic explanation, the Germanic theory has got some base. A few etymologies are based on the toponyms Kotor-, but these have linguistic difficulties, and do not well illuminate the problem, as there are a lot of Kotors in the region from Montenegro to Austria. Almost all of them may be candidates to be homeland of the Kotromanids. Likewise, some German scholars related the Bosnian dynasty to the settlement Kotrou in the southeast of Austria, and claimed that they had found a new proof for the German theory.59
We guess and know that there were Avars and Bulgars in Bosnia, not only as members of the administrative and military cadres, but also as a population. Thus, their remnants in toponyms should also be traced. Scholarship, which worked on Ilyric, Latin, Slavic and other names, still remain passive in dealing with, at least, Avaric linguistic remnants. The later Turkic groups like Peçenegs (Bechens), Oğuz and Cumans, who settled in Central and Eastern Europe not as rulers, but subjects and refugees, left too many traces. Moreover, there is no record about any Khazar migration to Bosnia, but a town in the Northwest Bosnia and its surroundings are called Kozarac (“Khazarian”, “ that from the country Khazar”), as a parallel to other similar cases mostly in Poland and Ukraine.
55 Imamovic, E., Bosanska dinastija Kotromanica, p. 25.
Thus we should give more importance to searching relics of the Avars and Bulgars, who lived in Bosnia, and who were assimilated among Slavic masses in the course of time.
The first part of the word Kotroman is associated, at the first glance, with the Kutrigurs sent to Bosnia by the Avar Kagan at the beginning of the invasion. We told about the Herzegovinian Kudugers, who were likely remnants of the Avar time Kutrigurs. Mahmûd of Kasğar, writing a rich and comprehensive all-Turkic glossary in the 11th century, gives meaning of the verb kotur as boşaltmak, aktarmak (“to empty, to transfer”).60 In modern Turkish, the same verb is used as kotarmak. As another possible word, kutur means haddini aşmak, azmak, şımarmak (“to go too far, to get out of control, getting pert”).61 This meaning is still kept in many Turkic dialects, especially in Kirgiz. In Turkish of Turkey, losing some other meanings, it became kudurmak (“to become rabid, to be beside oneself with anger”). In Bulgaric, which is a dead Turkic language (Çuvaş is to be its derivation), it might have meant “being out of control, not to be able to stop, to be hyperactive”.
There are also examples as anthroponym. For instance, in the Legend of Migration of the Uygurs, one of the five children having born of the holy light is called Kutur Tigin (The Prince Kutur). In modern Uygur, kotur means uyuz, çepel 62 (“itchy, scabious, foul”). This meaning is kept in Common Turkic, too.63 But, our Kotor should not have such a meaning, contrary to the suggestion of Tekin.
60 Kaşgarlı, II, pp. 72-73, 164, 170.
One of the sons of Kubrat, khan of the Great Bulgaria, was called Kotrag (Κοτραγοσ).64 The latest consonant -g may be the diminutive suffix, as in Omurtag,65 or the word can be divided as Kotur + ok. This ok means with great likelhood “tribe”, if not “arrow”. That a Bulgaric tribe was called Kotrags (Κοτραγοι),66 shows that this name was used both as anthroponym and ethnonym. Counterpart of this name in “ŝaz” Turkic languages would be kutuz Αn Egyptian Mamlûk sultan is called so.
But we do not necessarily tie this word to the verb kutur-. Mahmûd of Kasğar, who did not know Bulgaric, gives a word kutuz, meaning “yaban sığırı, yak” (Tibetian wild cattle, bos grunniens).67 Almost all Turkic languages have this word in different forms such as kotaz, kodas, kotos, kutaz, kotaz, kotuz.6i This is more likely and appropriate to be personal name in Turkic custom and usage, and its Bulgaric form would be nothing else than “kotur, kutur”.
The word “Kotorac”, above-mentioned place name near Sarajevo, means “Kotorian, man of Kotor”. That is, the simple word is Kotor. The form Kotorac implies belonging to a place or group called Kotor, namely to an ethnic or regional identity. In this sense, Kotur may be the tribal name occuring in the Great Bulgaria: Kotur-ok “the Kotur tribe”. One may even offer its plural Kotur-oğur “the Kotur tribes” is indeed Kutrigur. However, we keep our belief in South Caucasian origin of the Kutrigurs and Utrigurs.
64 Nikephoros, pp. 88-89.
As for the syllable or suffix -man in Kotroman, this is a productive suffix used mostly in stressing adverbs in Turkic as in the examples kocaman, koloman, toraman, kopraman, kodaman, ataman, etc. In addition, this suffix is widely used in making ethnonyms: Türkmen, Karaman, Yalaman (a Başkurt tribe). Thus, the word Kotroman in Turkic is proper equivalent of the Bosnian word Kotorac.
Even if we ignore the possibility of a local Bosnian dynasty taking its roots from the Avar time, now there is the Hungarian factor in this region. Magyars, who came to the current land at the end of the 9th century from the Don basin together with the Onoğurs, were bilingual for a few centuries. Both the Finnic Magyar and Turkic Oğur languages were spoken until the full assimilation of the Onoğurs into the Magyar mass. Onoğurs were the governing and fighting class within the division of labor in the state of the Arpadians. As a never confirmed possibility, this Turanic state might have sent or appointed an Onoğur governor called Kotor to Bosnia, in the first years of the “home-occupying”, which resulted in invading and plundering most of early medieval Europe, including Bosnia.
Bosnia is situated in a region, where the worlds Eurasia and Mediterranean, the Balkans and
Central Europe, East and West meet, cross and confront. This position has led the country to be
continuously troubled. This annoyance was reflected on its political culture and the concepts of
state and country did not develop for a long time.
After the fall of the Avar Empire, Bosnia found itself between superpowers of that time, and this started or accelerated the process of making of Bosnian political culture, which can be briefed as a reaction to the outside world. Bosnia decided to belong to itself, no more to anybody else, and developed its own state. This preference necessitated continuous struggle with and a talented diplomacy between Byzantium and Hungary. This struggle for keeping autonomy/independence gave rise to the prestige of the ruling Kotromanid family, and this ultimately led to the consolidation of the state tradition.
State tradition is an advanced level in social development, but acquaintance with this tradition and concept was not always sufficient to establish or have a state, even up to the modern times. There needed people having legitimacy to rule. Thus, for instance, the Balkan states, modern nation-states, which were set up within very tense nationalist environments, had to import rulers from the West European courts after getting independence from the Ottoman Empire. This was a more strictly applied rule in the Medieval (period).
In Bosnia, only Kotromanids were the legitimate rulers. Feudal structure was very powerful in Bosnia in its decentralist sense. Kings often had no power to struggle with local rulers. Especially in the late years of the state, kings were many times defeated, and captivated
(captured) by different cliques, some of which controlled all the country, but nobody except Kotromanids could dare to sit on the throne. In
the neighboring Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro, there was no such continuous dynasty. Their dynasties were started by a capable man, and ended by another powerful man or family. The most important reason was that these states were interfered by neighboring empires (Byzantium, Bulgaria, Hungary and
Franks) very often and for long duration.
In Bosnia this was not the case. It had only one dynasty in the Medieval
(period). Legitimacy of this dynasty can be compared to that of the Hungarian Arpad family. Like the Arpad family of Onoğur-Bulgaric origin appointed by the Khazar
Kagan to govern the dual union of Magyars and Onoğurs, the Kotromanids, likely Kutrigur-Bulgaric family appointed by the Avar
Kagan to rule Bosnia, were also exalted by their people, identified with the state and became legendary. Thus, Bosniacs still say “as in the time of Kulin Ban” to recall their happy days.
History is, from a perspective, an accumulation of ethnic processes, within which some groups disappeare to produce news groups. This is not was (the past) only. Even today, some nations are in making, and some ethnies face to melt among greater masses. Ethnic process is related to individual and social consciousness, and not to genetic affiliation. No nation has been extirpated by any genocide. Nations were lost, but only socially; physically they do exist. There is no today any Ilyrian, but Ilyric gens appear in Montenegro, Sandjak, Krajina etc. so powerful that they may even challenge the Slavic blood. Certainly, there is no pure race, nation, and even tribe, as we could not find any pure language.
The greatest changes and ethnic processes in human geography have taken place in the regions which are more open to waves of Eurasian movements. Korea (thus Japan also), north of China, north of India, Iran, Anatolia and the Caucasus have a rich ethnic history, whose dynamics lay in the lifestyle of the peoples of the Central and Inner Asian steppes.
But, Central and Inner Asia influenced Eastern Europe the most. There are two main reasons:
Firstly, the Khazar gate was always open to newcomers from East. Any group departing from any point
of Asia could easily pass the river Volga to enter Europe, and there hardly been any power or will
to prevent their movement.
This lasted by the early 18th century, as the Mongolian Kalmuks, now living in the old Khazar country, being the latest wave. Only (the) rise of the Russian power precluded those Trans-Eurasian movements. Secondly, the above said countries became centers of civilization in very ancient times, and thus consolidated their political-human (national) identities. This let them resist and block ethnic torrents more easily than (did the) other regions. In the cases they surrendered to military might of their enemies, they became eventual winners in ethnic battles, by assimilating the invaders.
Eastern Europe, and Europe in general, was primitive and uncivilized for a long time, and could not go beyond the level of clan-tribe until the coming of the Asiatic groups, Scythians, Sarmatians, Huns etc., who taught them forms of social organization. It is noteworthy that the ancient Greek and Rome were also products of interaction with the Oriental Mediterranean world. Germanic tribes, who had been in interaction with Rome for about one millennium, could learn state-making only during and after the Hunnic days. Slavic states, on the other hand, were established almost totally by foreigners. And those medieval states, both in the east and west, paved the ways for making of the nations in relevant lands.
In making of Eastern Europe, the exaggeration of cultural influence of Byzantine and of ethnic contribution of imaginary Iranic groups, and underestimation of the really existing Turkic factor both in culture and ethnos cause many problems in historiography, ethnology,
and linguistics. Many issues that can likely be easily solved from another perspective are left to
agnosticism due to insistence in looking for Iranians.
This is only a result of the dominant political views of the last few centuries. Thus, suggestions themselves pose many new problems. And thus, Croatian school-books still write that the origin and meaning of the word Croat is not known; and historiography today knows not more than what Vjekoslav Klaic wrote in the 19th century.
Croats are products of an ethnic mixture, as Budak expresses, and became “Croats” when they came to the old Roman lands.1 Thus, one cannot claim an ethnic root. There are many components of this nation. What we did throughout this book in not finding ethnic roots of the Croats, but ethnic identity of those who started to establish the nation. Role of the Turks in this process is of great importance and should not be found strange. First of all, the historical environment necessitates this, as in the age when Croatian ethnie started its formation, Eastern Europe from the Adriatic to the river Volga was full of Turks, mainly of Bulgaric and Oğuric origin. They participated in many political and ethnic cases in Medieval Europe. Organization of the local people was the most accustomed norm of behavior for them, and this lasted in Romania and Bulgaria by the very end of Medieval (period). The Ottomans seized those countries from Turkic dynasties of Cuman origin.
A group of Oğurs, who had been expelled by the Avars from their lands in the northwest of the Khazar Sea to Galicia in the mid-6th century, attacked Dalmatia and expelled the Avars, in turn, from there in the 620’s, just three generations later.
1 Budak, Prva stoljeca, p. 9.
They established two princelings there, both being called Croat. This was beginning of the Croatian state and the later Croatian nation.
Widely accepted theory is that Croats are an Iranian tribe coming from the Caucasus to the North, of the Carpathians, being Slavicized there (while) migrating to the northwest of the Balkans. The same theory is applied to the Serb, too. Any trace of such a tribe like Croat does not exist in the Caucasus, but there are a few words, found on stones in the north of the Black Sea, pronunciation of which reminds the ethnonym Croat. Name of one region in Western Afghanistan is also associated with the word.
But these are only linguistic resemblance-based hypotheses and (they are) far from explaining the case (cause?) of migration to the west and making the nation, especially in terms of events of the first half of the 7th century. None of the existing theories makes (demonstrates) any relation between the eastern origin and the western entity, which would contribute to continuity of the chain of events. The migration is at all (hypotheses) obscure.
In this work, an alternative thesis, aiming mainly to enlighten
(illuminate) the unknown parts, is developed. The method preferred in this work could be called retrospective. First we should know what happened exactly in the time of Herakleios, and about what
(which) Constantine Porphyrogenitus, our seemingly only source, speaks. Nature and development of events, supported by clear linguistic proofs, lead to the assessment that the Croats of the Central Europe, the “White Croats”, were from the Oğur group of Turks, and were brothers of the Danube, Volga and Caucasus Bulgars. They came to Galicia, the heartland of Slavs in the mid 6th century, after being expelled by the Avars, as above said; so were not yet,
or at all, Slavicized in the time of Herakleios.
They everywhere organized the local people, overwhelmingly Slavs, to resist the Avar invasion. A group of them, led by seven brothers, whose names we know and (they) are all Turkic, left the country (Galicia) to move to Dalmatia, as allies of Byzantium, which was likewise in an endless conflict with the Avars.
Interesting enough, seven brothers of Porphyrogenitus and 'Belye Ugry' (White Oğurs) of the Russian chronicle Povest' did the same thing in the time of Herakleios. In their new country, in spite of the very scarce sources, we find Turkic-named governors among Croats in the first generations, but later they disappear and the people became purely Slavic, which was very normal in its peculiar conditions.
The Croatian case is basically a copy of the Danubian Bulgar one. Thanks to the Byzantine neighborhood we know well about the latter. Early Croatian history faces a serious lack of material sources, but even those few ones present enough proof to think that the nation and state founders of Croats were of Turkic origin.
The same can be thought for Serbs also, but with less Turkic influence. After about half a century later from the Croat migration, Kuber Khan, brother of the Danubian Bulgar state-founder Asparukh, came with his people
for refuge to the Avars. Being afraid of a new Oğur uprising, which had been experienced in the Avar capital in 630-631, about the time of the Croat migration, the Avars separated Kuber from his own people and appointed
(him) as governor of a region near Byzantine frontier, likely today's Srem. There he eventually became head of a mutiny, a common action of Oğuro-Bulgar remnants, Slavs (Sorbic Slavs coming from Eastern Germany
as Avar allies) and Byzantine captives.
He and his followers fled to Southern Macedonia, then turned back and settled in the heart of today's Serbia. Kuber was likely the first Serbian prince. There are a few Turkic names among the first Serbian governors. Around this political formation, the process of making of the Serbian nation developed.
Alemany, Agusti, Sources on the Alans. A Critical Compilation, Lei-den-Boston-Köln, 2000.
KaraM Publication No: 8 The Medieval Series: 2
In Russian (Later)
Ogur and Oguz
Mario Alinei Kurgan Culture
Ethnic Affiliation Scythians
Scythians and their descendents
Karatay О. Eastern References to the White Croats
Shipova E.N. 2000 Turkisms in Russian