@”Rex Hatson” The other arguments, the only possible honest ones, are that we simply don’t have enough data to be certain about anything. Nonetheless, I personally think it’s highly likely that the ancient Bulgars, like many other major peoples in the steppe belt, consisted of tribes of varying origins, in this case both Hunnic and Sarmatian (potentially some Ugrians, quite likely some Slavs, maybe a few Tetraxite Goths etc). The question is: Which is which? Which part was more dominant in political power, which part was more dominant in numbers, what influences did each group give and receive to/from the others etc. And for that our data is minimal. The arguments in favour of the Sarmatian influence started appearing even in communist times, when the Turkic theory was absolute dogma. Ever since, they’ve only increased, while the arguments in favour of the Turkic dogma have been crumbling one by one. Nonetheless, I personally do think that Hunnic elements existed (whether they were Turkic or not is a separate matter) and perhaps they even formed the core of the military aristocracy, like the late Rasho Rashev used to think (although, later on he also became convinced that the Iranic/Sarmatian element was stronger; also, if the aristocracy was predominantly Turkic, it wouldn’t explain why most of the rulers’ names in Danubian Bulgaria, as per Beshevliev’s article above, are Iranic – maybe only the Dulo clan was Hunnic, as they supposedly claimed to be). Archaeology has also spoken in several aspects in favour of the Sarmatian theory.

In any case, the point is that many of the postulates of the Turkic dogma, since the fall of the communist regime, have been shown to be false. Let’s take the supposed god Tangra f.e. – what are the arguments in favour of the existence of such a god? There is only one – a highly damaged inscription on a column near Madara, where the letters ‘TAGGRA’ (read as tangra in Greek) can be found. Before and after these letters the inscription is damaged and there is no reference to a god whatsoever (although the Turkicists, and namely the aforementioned Beshevliev, btw, who was indeed a Turkicist, despite his Iranic breakthrough, immediately declared the inscription to be about a “sacrifice to the God Tangra”). On the contrary, from all the fully preserved Bulgar inscriptions (in Greek), all references to a god were written simply as “God” (Theo in Greek), no Tangra whatsoever – f.e. Persian’s inscription, “If someone seeks the truth, God sees, and if someone lies, God sees. The Bulgars did many good deeds to the Christians [Romans/Byzantines] and the Christians forgot, but God sees.” So Tangra goes out the window, especially considering the archaeology of the Bulgar temples has nothing to do with the Tengrist sacred sites (Tengrists don’t have temples), but has some parallels in its planning with early Iranic temples. What else? The language? Classifying the Bulgar language is a causa perduta simply because there’s hardly anything surviving from it – the vast majority of the Bulgar inscriptions are written on Greek (both alphabet and language), with only a few military ranks and titles, calendar terms and, of course, the names. As we already saw, a few of the Bulgar names are Turkic, but even more are the Iranic ones, so that’s a no-go. The military terms, ranks, titles etc. – a few can be classified as Turkic (f.e. bagatur; although some Iranists (non-Bulgarian ones) argue in favour of them being Turkic adoptions of Iranic basis – generally the Turkic languages have endured serious Iranic influences through time), while others have no Turkic parallel whatsoever. And, in any case, military terms and ranks don’t serve to prove the language of the people, especially if we assume the military elite was Hunnic (likewise, many of the military terms and ranks in the Second Bulgarian Empire are Greek, just like today they’re English/Latin in origin). Now, the calendar terms – traditionally they’ve been interpreted as Turkic, though there are new Iranic interpretations as well, which seem to make more sense in terms of the calendar’s mathematics (i.e. the older Turkic interpretations caused mathematical discrepancies, which is obviously not a good thing for a calendar). So that one’s inconclusive at best. Of course, the main argument in favour of the Bulgar language being Turkic is the surviving Chuvash language, which is the only surviving Lir Turkic. However, the proponents of this theory forget that the ancestors of the Chuvash people might have been subjects of Volga Bulgaria, but they were a separate ethnic group called Suvars/Sabirs, which is attested since the times of the Great Migration and which is a presumably Hunnic tribe.

Now, on the other hand, we have archaeology and archaeology rather points to connections with the local (Pontic-Caucasian) Sarmatian peoples and practices – the burial rituals are closely related to the late Sarmatian ones and in contrast with the typical Turkic ones (at the very least, inhumation vs. cremation, although cremation was practised also by the early Slavs), the artificial cranial deformation is also corresponding directly with the late Sarmatian ACD practises, the early Bulgar runes are also closely related with the Sarmatian ones (and distanced both in time and space from the nearest Turkic relation, i.e. the Orkhon script), Bulgar architecture bears resemblances to both groups (f.e. Zacharias Rhetor, while describing the peoples north of the Caucasus, mentions that only the Bulgars and Alans have towns, but also includes them among the tribes living in tents, i.e. leading a semi-nomadic way of life) etc. etc. Now, all this doesn’t come to disprove the presence of Hunnic tribes among the ancient Bulgars, but it does come to show that the Huns were just a part, possibly even a small (but powerful) part of the early Bulgar society and not as widespread and as certain as the old Turkic theory claimed to be. At least in my opinion…