tribe, the remnant of the Huns
, which gave its name
to an area in the Balkan
The Huns never really recovered from the death of Attila in 451
AD. In 454, a Germanic tribe, the Gepids, smashed the Huns at the Battle
of Nedao. The Huns' Empire, which stretched from the North Sea to the
Caspian Sea, rapidly disintegrated.
The remaining Huns fell back to an area around the Sea of Azov. There
were three groups: the Kutrigur north of the Don River, the Utigur
south of the Don, and the Sabirian around the delta of the Volga. Historians
call these peoples "Proto-Bulgarians".
In 550s, a new Mongol people, the Avars, were chased out of Turkestan.
Byzantine Emperor Justinian paid the Avars to conquer
the Slavic and Hunnish tribes that raided the empire. The Sabirian Huns
were wiped out, and the Kutrigur and Utigur, whose main occupation had
been to kill each other, were subjugated.
The Avars held an empire that stretched from the Elbe to the Volga until
the year 626, when their attack on Constantinople failed. This empire
then fell apart as well.
The remnants of the Kutrigur and Utigur peoples, now called "Bulgars",
formed the Khanate of Great Bulgaria in their territory around the Sea
Around 650 a new invader came: A Turkish tribe known as the Khazars.
These smashed the Khanate of Great Bulgaria and conquered most of today's
Ukraine, most of the area around the Volga, and Transcaucasia. Some
of the Bulgars fled northward up the Volga, where they became vassals of
the Khazars. Some, however, fled westward into the Balkans, capturing territory
around the Danube that is now Moldavia and Wallachia.
The Khazars were smashed by the Islamic jihad across the Caucasus
Mountains in 737. This allowed the Volga Bulgars to become independent,
and the Danube Bulgars to take some more slices of Balkan territory.
In 796, the Bulgars and Charlemagne teamed up to destroy the remnants
of the Avars in Hungary. The Bulgars took most of the territory. (This
conquest also permanently separated the Northern Slavs from the Southern
Slavs, or "yugoslavs").
The Bulgars slowly expanded into more and more of the Balkans as the
Byzantine Empire grew weaker and weaker.
Of course, the conveyor belt of invading nomadic hordes hadn't stopped
production just yet. In the year 893, a new group, the Magyars, entered
Central Europe and took Hungary away from the Bulgars.
The Magyars used Hungary as a base for raiding the rest of Europe, until
they were defeated in 955, at the Battle of Lechfeld. After this they
adopted European ways and became the people of Hungary we know today.
The Bulgars, on the other hand, had their lands raided by Varangian
prince Sviatoslav in 972. Svitaoslav, Byzantine Empire, and Hungary
divided the area around the Danube between them, and the Bulgars' area
contracted to what is today Serbia and Macedonia (the "Western Bulgarian
In 1018, the Byzantine Empire finished off the West Bulgarian Empire
during a rare period of military strength. The Volga Bulgars held out until
they were swept away by the Mongols in 1237.
When the Fourth Crusade smashed the husk of the Byzantine Empire in
1204, all sorts of peoples asserted their identity. One of these was
a group of Southern Slavs who occupied the East-central Balkans where
the Bulgars once ruled. This was the Bulgarian Empire, where today's
Bulgaria is today.
At the end of the 13th Century, Slavic Bulgaria was also wiped out by
the advancing Ottoman Turks, the final blow coming at the Battle of
Vdin in 1396.
Sources: My own prose. Details taken from Penguin Atlas of Medieval
, Colin McEvedy http://members.uk.tripod.de/~Groznijat/p_bulgar/p_bulg1a.htm