You heard of Bulgaria and we all know it in present state of it’s existence. But many people do not know that once instead of Orthodox churches Bulgaria had Minarets and such Bulgaria almost became the most important center inside Europe.
Two Bulgarian States
Bulgars embraced Islam according to a legend where Ostensibly a Muslim merchant, arrived in the capital of Volga Bulgaria from Bukhara. He was an educated man and a perfect master of the art of medicine. It so happened that the Bulgar king and his wife at the same time were sick and had a serious illness. They were treated by all known drugs of it’s time, but the illness only increased. Found out about this matter the merchant said he could help in their trouble, but on the condition that they accept the faith. They agreed, were healed and “embraced Islam and converted to Islam the people of their country.” Afterwards, they tried to spread Islam further, proposing Vladimir Svyatoslav to take their religion in the 986 year. But two years later Kievan Russia were baptized, going the other way.
The Khanates, nomadic Turkic states that encompassed the vast territory spreading from China to Balkans were formed in the first millennium Before Christ. These early medieval states have been a predecessor to Great Bulgaria, however it fell apart because of the neighboring Khazar Khanate. After legendary Svyatoslav of Kiev defeated the Khazar Khanate, Bulgars who were their vassals quickly took the opportunity of the Khazar fall and monopolized all the Volga trade routes and trade with the Arab East and Iran. Actually they followed Russian fur traders and where they do business with Arab merchants. In quick time Bulgars and their army were able to afford most advanced weapons because of these trade routs, even Arab author from X century wrote “Bulgars ride on horseback, have a chain armor and full weaponry.”
As years passed by Kievan Rus entered into an “eternal peace” with Bulgaria and not only did those cities become center of trade but also Kievan Rus had mutual military strategy with Bulgars. Heavy fortified castles, forts and outposts as the Bulgarian state grew in it’s size. The land slowly became Bulgarian and this may explain that, in spite of the military defeat, which Bulgars suffered they managed to extended their territory on present day Bulgaria in alliance with Kievan Rus and by controlling trade routs. One of the largest cities in Volga Bulgaria – Bilyar – it was larger than medieval Kiev of Vladimir and even Paris of it’s time. If it wasn’t an invasion of a powerful enemy from the East, the Mongols Volga Bulgaria could have maybe grown to become a center of modern Europe. But because of the mongol horde and their invasion Bilyar within a few days was left as a town with nothing but his name.
The culture and the people of the Volga Bulgars joined the Golden Horde and continued to exist under the new conditions. As a result Volga Bulgaria has lost it’s strategical importance upon these southern lands and Moscow became the main center where Golden Horde collected tax, thus became the central powerhouse of those lands.
Under the fall of Great Volga Bulgaria it’s population dwindled and was forced to migrate. Some of it’s people went westwards and founded present day Bulgaria in Balkans, a state that we know today. These Bulgarians already heavily merged by fate and turbulent history with Slavs as Kievan Rus and other Slavs behind the Carpathians. They settled the areas where already smaller Slavic tribes were settled, mixed with them and in time completely even spoke Slavic. Soon they accepted Orthodox Christianity and the fruitful Balkan lands made their life in this area a permanent one. In a relatively short period of time, for two centuries, there was a large state of Bulgaria (the end of IX century) in this territory.