The Bulgars in Armenia - a key to the earliest Bulgarian history

The Bulgar migration to Armenia: evidence in the toponymy

Let us try to make a clear start. The two main questions to be answered are:
   1) Was there in fact any migration of Bulgars to Armenia?, and
   2) If it was the case, when did it occur in the time between the II c, BC and the V c. AD?

Strengthening the northern frontiers, the Armenian king Vakharshak descended near the possession of Sharaja in pastures called Upper, or Woodless Bassian - the places, that were later settled by the immigrants Vekhendur Bulkhar Vend (Blndur Bulgar Vund). After the name of their leader the region was named Vanand, and the villages and the settlers bore the names of his brothers and their descendants up to the time of M. Horenaci [b. II, 6].

This passage does not provide any information about the time of the migration but we can check whether such a migration ever took place by the way of looking for traces in the Armenian toponymy left from the ancient Bulgarian system of names.

Vanand was the ninth gavar (canton) of the nakhang (region) of Ajrarat and it was situated in the river valley of Akhaurjan.

- Horenaci says that the mountain gorge running south-east from the Black Sea coast, which had been known to the ancients under the name of Pariadr, was already called Pakhar [b. II, 6, note 206], and that the region where Tigran II settled the captured Jews was called Tukh. The toponym “Parkhar” was given by S. Glinka [3] as “Barkhara/Pigaria”.

- Jovannes Draskhanakertaci mentions the village of Alcek in the gavar of Aragakont, in the Ajrarat nakhang near Echmiadzin as the birth-place of Catholicos Comitas I Alcekci (615-628). In the same region there was also a village called Doks [4].

- M. Kalankatuaci reports that in 825 AD the Arabs slew the inhabitants of the gavar of Balk, and that the place of the consequent events in 833 was the region of Bulkhar in Armenia [5].

- As late as 1736/1737 AD Abraam Kretaci mentions villages called Doks, Tokh, Parakar in the region of Achmiadzin [6].

There are more examples but the about is enough to prove the existence of Bulgar traces in the Armenian toponymy. That is why no researcher have ever questioned this evidence of M. Horenaci

Three chapters after that Horenaci specifies in passing the date of the migration. It had happened during the reign of the king Arshak. In his days there occurred disturbances in the gorges of the great mountain of Caucasus, in the “Land of the Bulgars”. Many of them parted and settled “for a long time in the foot of Kol, on a fertile soil, in abundant and grain producing places” [b. II, 9]. He also says that Arshak ruled for 13 years, waged wars on the Pontians and placed on the sea-coast a sign of his victory - from a walking position he threw a spear tempered in snake's blood into a stone column. Later, during the second Pontic war waged by Artashes, the column was thrown into the sea.

These details must be used in order to pinpoint the exact date of the event (the migration) of interest to us. But two introductory remarks first. M. Horenaci was one of the few early medieval historians who paid special attention to the chronology and the periodization - he indispensable attributes of any reliable narrative [b. II, 82]. A number of chronological localizations in his work prove his correct positioning of the event in time (for example Cyrus - Nekbanebes - Artashes in b. II, 13). Even when Horenaci departs from the chronological narrative, he mentions this explicitly. The researchers call the chronological system of books II and II “the core and the back-bone of the narration”. Even the anachronisms are regarded as “products of the chronological system”.

The second remark refers to the sources. M. Horenaci preferred the Greek sources, even if the “Chaldean” and the “Assyrian” ones provided more data about the Armenian history. From the start he exclaims: “Greece is the mother and the feeder of all science[b. II, 2]. And although Horenaci was repeatedly forced to build the Armenian dynastic line by correlating it to the Parthian, the Persian kings and the Roman emperors, at the end all armenists with no exceptions, using the ancient authors, link the turning points of the Armenian history to the Christian chronological system and re-position the rest of the events accordingly. The realistic historical narrative of Horenaci comprises the time from the rule of Seleuc I Nicator (312-311 BC) to the death of Sakhak Partev and Mesrop Mashtoc (439/440 AD). These features are directly related to our problem.

[Previous] [Next]
[Back to Index]

3. Glinka S., Istorija armenskogo naroda, M., 1832, s. 159.

4. Istorija Armenii, E., 1986.

5. Istorija stranii Aluank, E., 1984.

6. Povevostvovanie, E., 1973, s. 194, 199, etc.