Bulgars, Balkars, Blkars, Malkars, Bolgars, Bulghars, Bulkhars, Bolghars
Bushki, Bulhi, Ba-go, Bao-guo, Pu-ku, Bu-gu, and other variations
Subdivisions and ethnic affiliates
Ases, Yases, Alans, Barsils, Barsilts, Bersulas, Esegels, Belendzhers, Bandzhars, Balandzhars, Hajlandurs, Hajlandurkh,
Khazars, Kupi-Bulgars, Chdar-Bulgars, Kutigurs, Kutrigurs, Oghondor,
Olhontor-Blkar, Onogurs, Pugurs, Unoguns, Unogundurs, Venenders, Sabirs, Suvars, and other variations
There are plenty of derogatory speculations about the etymology of the name
"Bulgar", semantically profoundly of the exo-ethnonymic nature,
because of their inherent negative connotations not applicable to the
endoethnonyms. Not unlike the extraction of "Slav" as an endoethnonym
from the English, Italian, German etc. "Slave", these etymologies sound
something like this: "Term 'Bolgar' comes from the Türkic 'bulgha' = 'to mix'. These nomadic
horsemen groups were mainly composed of As - Ossetians, Eastern Antes - Iranian-Slavic blend, Khazars - a mixed
Türkic group, and a people known as Sarmatians, an Iranian group." Another
quasi-scientific suggestion deduces "Bulgar" from Türkic yiylga ~ Slavic
vlga/vlaga (moisture) > Volga > Volgar = Bulgar, and correspondingly deduces Bulgars
from later Itil Bulgaria location on the Itil/Volga river. This etymology conflicts with
chronology, which documented Bulgars centuries before the Slavs reached the fringes of
the Volga river, and phonetically, forming an ethnonym with a combination of ostensibly
Slavic root and a Türkic ethnonym-forming word.
The form Bulgar predominates in the sources and in many languages, Synopsis of ideas and
speculations on the etymology of the name Bulgar:
1. Balkh + gar “tribe” > Balkhgar > Bulgar; a conflated version is
Bactr, Bactria + gar “tribe” > Bactrgar ~ Balkhgar > Bulgar (Balkh
2. yiylga “moisture” + gar “tribe” > palatalized
vlga/vlaga “moisture” + gar “tribe” > Blgar, Blkar ~ Bulgar (Volga origin)
3. *bel/*bil Ogur “five” + gar “tribe”> Bilgar “5 tribes
(union)” (unattested form, speculation on phonetical correspondence)
4. bulgha- “to mix”+ gar “tribe” > Bulg(h)ar (derogatory, morphologically incompetent,
In modern Chinese the
Bulgars are known as 'Ba-go' or 'Bao- guo', and B. Simeonov concludes that the in Chinese the ancient word 'Bulgar' should sound as 'Pu-ku' or 'Bu-gu'.
A tribe or a tribal group with Bugu name is repeatedly mentioned
in different Chinese sources from the 103 BC to the 8-th century AD. They speak
about people or tribe Pu-ku/Bu-gu inhabiting western and eastern parts of
the Middle Asia, the lands north and north-west of Tien-Shan,
(in Russ. Semirechye) and west of the rivers Seyhun (also Jaxartes, Yaxartes, Syrdarya)
and Cheyhun (also Oxus, Amudarya).
annals indicate that the structure of the Bulkhar (as in Balkh) administrative hierarchy
moved from the
Middle Asian area to the
Northern Caucasus area. The title Sulifa for the tribal head of the
Middle Asian Puku - Bugu
people, recorded in the Chinese
annals as Sulifa Kenan Bain (Sulifa Khan Bayan?), later in the 10-th century
the title Sulifa (Sulifan) used among the Dagestani Bulgars by a Khazarian vassal, a head of the
Djidjan Kingdom (Kingdom of the
Huns) main city Semender.
For a time, the title Sulifa
was exploited to prove a non-Türkic genesis of the Bulgars, to
supply Bulgars with an alternate, shiny and more respectable in the eyes of enthusiastic
historians pedigree. As usual
, the problem proved to be non-existent, instead of an Iranian etymology, the
title "Sylifa" turned out to be a Chinese denomination of the Türkic "Elteber",
a viceroy. The Chinese used the word "Sylifa" to describe an appointed position
that reports to the leaders of the Kaganate, Kagan or Yabgu, and supervises the
work of the Tutuks, regional tax collectors. An Elteber was in charge of a
tribe or a group of tribes (Suishu, Ch. 89; Tangshu Ch. 140b). Not only Puku - Bugu
people, but a number of other Türkic tribes had their Sylifas in the areas of the Middle
Asia and Central Asia occupied by the Chinese.
A corroborating evidence comes from comparison of burial
traditions. In several necropolises in the Bishkek valley in Southern
Tajikistan, in the basin of the river Kafir-nigan, a right tributary of
Cheyhun, most of the graves show striking similarities with necropolises from the Lower
Itil. The necropolises in Middle Asia (Northern Bactria) have much in common
with the succeeding Lower Itil and Danube Bulgaria necropolises . The necropolises in Northern
Bactria are well dated, in the Bishkek valley they existed from the end of the 2 c. BC till the beginning of the 1 c. AD, the
existed from the 1 c. BC till the 3 c. AD. The necropolises are
attributed to the northern or north-eastern Middle Asian nomads, who at the
end of the 2 c. BC attacked and ended the existence of the Greko-Bactrian kingdom. The events of that time span in the Bactria area can explain the
pressure for the Türkic nomadic Bulkhar pastoralists to move. After the
fall of the Greko-Bactrian kingdom, in the following period from the 2 c. BC to the 3 c.
AD, Bactria experienced multiple wars and harassments connected with the
Saka's onslaughts culminating in ca. 75 BC, the establishment of the Scythian Kushanid
Empire ca. 10 AD, rout of the
Empire in ca. 118 AD, coming under the
Persian Kushanshah rule in ca. 350 AD and the onslaught of the Ak Huns (White Huns,
in ca. 410 AD. Chronologically, the documented appearance of the Türkic nomadic
relatives, the Khazars and Bulgars, in the Northern Pontic, Northern Caspian and
Northern Caucasus area agrees with the archeological evidence.
The Bactrian nomadic Türkic
necropolises ceased to function during the 2-3 c. AD, exactly
during the time when in the Lower Itil took place profound transformations
of the material culture and burial rites of the "Late Sarmatians". During a
general unrest among the nomadic peoples, which followed the Chinese destruction of the
Eastern Hun Empire, the population maintaining these
necropolises moved westwards and settled in the lands north of the Caspian
Sea. In the following centuries the Bulgars were part of the Hunnish
confederation, until the death of Attila and the following revolt of the Germanic
tribes brought the Bulgars into the head of the confederation.
Bulgar ethnonymic nomenclature:
Kutigurs, Kutrigurs, Kotrags, Kuturgurs etc.
= köturi + ogor , i.e "Western Union", from Türkic köturi
(behind) = "to the west", and ogor (in Ogur languages) = oguz (in Oguz languages) =
union of tribes. Accordingly, Kutigurs, Kutrigurs, Kotrags, Kuturgurs etc. are known to coach in
the western area of the Hunnish Empire and its descendents.
Utragurs, Utrigurs, Otragurs etc. = utra + ogor , i.e "Eastern Union", from Türkic utra
(front, opposite) = "the opposite side, i.e. the east", and ogor = oguz = union of tribes.
Accordingly, Utragurs, Otragurs, etc. are known to coach in the estern area
of the Hunnish Empire and its descendents. When the rebellious Shambat ruled in the "Samo State" in
the west of the "Great Bulgaria", Khan Kurbat sent Asparukh in the opposite direction, to the east,
to lead the Utigurs/Utiguri/Utrigurs and prevent him from supporting the rebellion. After defeat by
Khazars, Asparukh took his subject "Eastern Ulus" Utrigurs west of "Western Ulus" Kutrigurs.
Onogurs, Unoguns etc.
= on + ogor , i.e "10 Tribes Union", from Türkic on = "10", and ogor = oguz =
union of tribes. This is an ethno-political name, because the ten constituent tribes were very
specific tribal communities.