Should Bulgarians be called Proto-Bulgarians? Are the Slavs a political fabrication? Are Asparuh's Proto-Bulgarians a Nomadic People? And is it possible that the Proto-Bulgarians are Thracians (Geths / Goths), and are they not the most ancient Christian people on earth? These topics are discussed in the first part of the interview with Bulgarka magazine with Dr. Katya Melamed from the National Archaeological Institute with a Museum at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.

 

Dr. Katya Melamed is an archeologist at the Section for Medieval Archeology at the National Archaeological Institute with a Museum at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. She has specialized in England, Hungary and Poland. She has led archaeological expeditions to ancient and medieval sites in Bulgaria. He is a part-time lecturer at New Bulgarian University, where he holds lectures in archeology, ethnology, English for archeologists and doctoral students. He is the author of numerous scientific articles and studies.

 

Until recently, the textbooks made a verbal distinction between the Orthodox Bulgarian people, which has existed historically since Baptism (864) to the present day, and the Proto-Bulgarians - Gentiles, who are only one of the ethnic components of that same people. Today, the "Bulgarians" are also called the people of the pagan tribe, and the people made up of Proto-Bulgarians, Slavs and local Christians. Does this not lead to misunderstandings?

 

Interesting question to start with. Greater attention should not be misunderstood. In any case, the name is in a context that indicates the timing of the events described. Before baptism, Bulgarians call themselves Bulgarians - so they are described in some of the chronicles. I will not dwell on etymology or all references. It is known that the name first appeared on the historical scene in 334 in a late antique Latin collection known from the transcripts - they were written as Vulgares.

 

It is better to remember the home springs, for example, two inscriptions from the 836th century before the baptism. They were carved on a stone in Greek, official for the state office at that time. One inscription is left by Can Presian (852-XNUMX). It was found in Philippi, not far from Kavala, Greece. I will allow myself to quote the whole text as it presents well the historical moment:
"Whosoever seeks the truth, God sees, whoever lies, God sees. The Christians (Βουλγαρι) have done a lot of good things to Christians. And the Christians forgot them, but God sees. "

the inscription from Philippi, Greece

Bulgarians have called themselves Bulgarians, and their God is not Christ. There is another inscription, probably of Khan Malamir (831 - 836), highly fragmented. It was found in Vasilika (former Tsarsko Selo), south of Thessaloniki. The text mentions "my Bulgarian brothers". There are other examples. At the end of the XIX - beginning of the XX century, when the research of the history and culture of the people began, brought by Khan Asparuh, he was described under the same name - Bulgarians. I will mention only Geza Feher (1890 - 1955), a Hungarian archaeologist who was the first to write about it in more detail, also under the name Bulgarians. In the translation of his works, however, the proto-Bulgarians appeared, a name that remains to this day.

 

An exception is Prof. Veselin Beshevliev (1900 - 1992) - historian, epigrapher and philologist, an unrivaled expert in their language, script and culture - he calls them first Bulgarians. Sometimes proto-Bulgarians also appear. In more recent times, they are also seen as ancient Bulgarians - also an opportunity for excellence, for clarification. If necessary, I allow myself the ancient Bulgarians, but I prefer to call them as they used to be.

 

I would like to add that Bulgarians is just one of the names of the tribes led by Asparuh - and that we do not really know whether it is a tribal name or a collective name that appeared in the chronicles that were not written by Bulgarians. I thought a lot about a passage by Konstantin Bagrenorodni (913-959): "However, since the God-hating Bulgarian people crossed the Ister River" Then their name became known, because before that they were called onogunduri.

 

As for the Slavs, there is a contradiction between the written information about them and the Slavic archeological monuments from the present-day Bulgarian lands until the establishment of the First Bulgarian Kingdom. It is known that at the end of the XNUMXth century, John of Ephesus wrote: “The damned Slavic people took over all Hellas, the vicinity of Thessaloniki and all Thrace. They conquered many cities and fortresses, with fire and sword devastating and plundering the country and ruling there completely freely, as in their home country. They got rich, had gold and silver, whole herds of horses, and many weapons. They learned to fight better than the Roma. "

Will you tell us what archeology is about this topic? Is it the scientific rationale for "creating the Slavs" in a laboratory setting (according to Florin Kurt)?

 

There is indeed a great deal of written information about the Slavs, and the archaeological sites recognized as Slavic in the territory of present-day Bulgaria are scarce. However, the problem is with us, not with the Slavs. We do not ask questions correctly, nor do we properly combine Slavic antiquities and the context in which they fit. On top of that, the question of the Slavs, and whether they exist in our country, is one of the most politicized in our home history.

 

Prior to September 9, 1944, the great efforts of archaeologists and historians involved the Bulgarians. Okay, ancient Bulgarians, not much to wonder! This is the beginning of our modern archeology and history, for some reason mainly concentrated in the northeast, where the First Bulgarian Kingdom stands. The great discoveries in Madara begin - undoubtedly Bulgarian and very inspiring; Pliska - the first capital and also connected with the Bulgarians; Preslav - the Christian rise of the Kingdom. The Slavs are lost, we do not find them, we do not recognize them.

 

After September 9, 1944, the dice turned and stiffened to another number. In 1950 the first national archeological conference was held under the patronage of Valko Chervenkov. Along with all that is said and then printed in a deliberately thick volume, the cardinal question is raised as to how it is possible for the Slavs to have them well studied in the Soviet Union and not have them in Bulgaria. Bulgarian archaeologists have been sent out to look for them and some are indeed finding them.

 

I do not know if I should mention it, but when I started working in the second half of the XNUMXth century, the story of one of the restorers at the Archaeological Institute at the time who carried Slavic pottery in his pockets and tossed it at the sites was still being told. I don't know if it's true, but as a historian I always listen to historical gossip and believe there is a grain of truth in them. However, it is more important to note that the restorer had Slavic ceramics in his pocket and in any case it originated in the Bulgarian lands.

 

And so the Slavs "reign", where indeed, where not, until 1990, when the dice was re-launched. The Slavs were completely renounced, the Bulgarians came to power again. And with a new origin. And the question we have to ask ourselves is where to look for the Slavs, in what context?

 

In the XNUMXth century, and probably a little earlier, a large Slavic migration from Central Europe to the East began. The Balkans are conquered, populated with Slavs - almost all of the Balkans. At that time, the present-day Bulgarian lands were the hinterland (term from the German language - the land behind, belonging to the territory) of Constantinople, especially southern Bulgaria. These lands are well protected. The Slavs appeared as attackers rather than colonizers. Groups of them are included as federations of the Lower Danube limes (border), in the north - lands that Byzantium never manages to control very well. This is the bustling barbaric path of the Great Migration.

 

That is why there are undoubtedly early Slavic monuments in the north - the necropolises in Silistra, in Kozloduy - an extremely interesting territory, unfortunately not explored yet. There are elsewhere in the north. We recognize them, without dispute, by their very typical pots and pans, hand-worked, poorly baked and completely unmatched by the ceramics of other federations, Byzantium or the Bulgarians. South of the Balkans is much more complicated. They mostly come from the lands of present-day Greece or from the west in small groups and quickly fit into the well-functioning administrative, military and church systems of Byzantium. No one has a long turmoil in their patio.

Slavic ceramic vessels

Pro-Bulgarian ceramic vessels

The Slavs are of late antiquity, fit into late antique working structures and are quickly forced to follow their rules. "In Rome, live like a Roman." We do not often find them in the south because we look for them as barbarians - Gentiles. And Christianity too quickly unifies. Recognized as Slavic are Christian necropolises in southern Bulgaria from the XNUMXth century.

 

As for the thesis of "laboratory creation of the Slavs", I find it too violent. I know well the book of Prof. Florin Kurt - I read carefully both the original and the wonderful translation into Bulgarian by one of today's leading historians, Tsvetelin Stepanov. I mention it to avoid any doubt of "lost in translation". This thesis, broadly stated, focuses mainly on the springs, as well as on metal objects, mainly fibulae, which every serious historian knows to be commercially produced in peripheral Byzantine ateliers for the barbaric world and in no way really prove or deny the presence of Slavs. Yes, the Slavs like a kind of fibula, buy and carry, but not only them. Prof. Kurta's thesis does not discuss ceramics, nor does the pagan funeral rite - two basic aspects of Slavic, and of any other culture, especially the unwritten ones, emphasize the unwritten. Fibulae are a fashion that is changing, home ceramics are a traditional tradition, funeral practices are a way of life.

 

Ironically, it is in the lands of present-day Romania, from which the professor himself is located, that one of the largest early Slavic pagan necropolises is located - in Surat-Monteoru, generally dating back to the 1500th century. It has uncovered about 13 cremation graves and sacrificial pits. The fibulae, hinted as an indication of the presence or absence of Slavs, were found in only 50 graves. The necropolis was not published in detail, though it was operational in the XNUMXs.

 

In conclusion: we can recognize the early Slavs, the Gentiles, mainly by their pottery. Not even necessarily in their funeral practice cremation - the Bulgarians and many others are also cremated. But the combination of cremation in the urn - Slavic pot is a pretty sure indication. History has a strong sense of humor. In the present times of strong negation of the Slavs, a few years ago, three early Slavic villages from the end of the XNUMXth - XNUMXth centuries were discovered in the territory of the northern tangent in Sofia Field.

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# our roots

There is a problem with the periodization of the Pro-Bulgarian archeological culture in our lands. It is known that the monumental construction (of palaces and chapels) in Pliska and other aulas dates not earlier than the middle of the eighth century - the IX century. The dating of the Proto-Bulgarian pagan necropolises before the middle of the eighth century is also a matter of dispute in scientific media (I mean the dispute about the early dating of the necropolis at Balchik).

Does all this mean that the Proto-Bulgarians come here not so civilized as it is modern to say? Do the Proto-Bulgarians in Bulgaria walk the path "from nomadism to cities" for about a century and a half (according to the successful expression of Svetlana Pletnyova)?

 

I do not think that there is a very serious debate today about the dates of the Bulgarian pagan necropolises. It is true that until recently they were dated to the second half of the XNUMXth - the beginning of the XNUMXth century. For quite unclear reasons, and most probably due to insufficient archaeological data, at first their dates were withdrawn at a later time, and then there were indeed disputes. However, the necropolis in Balchik was rightly identified as the earliest of all and provided a database for comparison. I do not see any convincing evidence of a dispute.

On the other hand, in the last 20 - 30 years, excavations in Pliska have revealed an older cultural layer beneath the stone structures. The layer represents the earliest, initial period of the capital from the end of the VII - VIII centuries. The aulus was protected by a land shaft and a moat in front of it. In this sense, it is reminiscent of the structure of the camp near Nikulicel, today in Romania - the place where, around 660, Asparuh and his subordinate people stopped at the Danube Delta and strengthened according to their traditions. Of course, we don't have enough time now for details.

 

The buildings from that early period in Pliska are mostly wood. Some of them are impressive in size - a building with a circular plan and a diameter of about 30 meters is designated as the first Cannes palace. The precise excavations, as well as the interpretation, are by Prof. Rasho Rashev (1943 - 2008), an indisputable expert in Bulgarian culture. After the burning of the city by Emperor Nicephorus I Genick in 811, stone structures began. And let's not talk wholesale and rounded.

 

I will mention Kahn Omurtag (814 - 830) and his Catalar inscription from 821 - 822. The text reports the construction of a bridge, a fortress, a camp in Pliska, a decoration of four pillars and two copper lions between them - all structures that do not look quite wooden. There are other building inscriptions from Omurtag - I mention it only to note that these events are in the first half of the XNUMXth century, and not in the second and ninth centuries is still too far away.

 

And whether the Bulgarians who come to the Lower Danube and found a state are nomads is a question too long and not yet quite clear. No, they are not nomads! At that time, immigrants did not always mean nomads. I'll use a chronicle, and shortly before its date. Reflecting on social fabric and ethnography, Aristotle (384 - 322 BC) notes: "Some live by policies, others by ethnicities." Understand: some live in cities, others in municipalities. This ethnographic observation does not change for millennia to the present day.

 

We can read a similar description of the peoples themselves by the Bulgarians, left nearly 1000 years after Aristotle. It belongs to Zachary Ritor, who lived between the second half of the XNUMXth and the first half of the XNUMXth century, a Syrian historian, bishop of Mytilene. He left a rich written legacy, among which stands out a Church history, which preserves events described in extinct Syrian and Byzantine writings: limits. Beyond the gates live the Bulgarians with their own language, a pagan and barbaric people; they have cities; and the Alans - they have five cities… Avnagur is a people who live in tents… "

 

In addition, we need to clarify what we mean by Bulgarians - ancient Bulgarians! Maybe we should start with that ?! I already mentioned that Bulgarians are a collective name. Behind it we have to - necessarily so that we do not fall into error or unnecessary controversy - so behind this name we must see a conglomerate of tribes! These are different tribes, many of whom we know the names of, and even more remain nameless to us. They are different, though with similar customs and practices. Of different origin. There may be nomads, but some are not. Bulgarians are an equestrian, not necessarily nomadic.

 

We are supposed to be heirs to Slavs and Proto-Bulgarians. That is why it is so important to explore their necropolises. However, you are also dealing with necropolises left in our lands by a population who lived here before the arrival of Slavs and Proto-Bulgarians. What is curious to know about him? Which ethnic groups left their necropolises on our lands in the period IV - VII c.?

 

Yes, we have a variety of necropolises from the XNUMXth - XNUMXth century. First of all, I must point out that the vast majority of them, not to say all, are Christian. I happened to study a few of them dating from the XNUMXth - XNUMXth centuries. They are left behind by Thracians. Undoubtedly embracing Christianity, like everyone else on the territory of the Roman Empire, the Thracians kept alive the memories and practices of previous times. Call them hesitant Christians, still unstable in faith.

 

One necropolis is located at the foot of Pirin - Karagonsko area, Bansko. It is well dated with a superbly preserved bronze belt trim. Along with all the earlier traces, several memorial stone structures have been preserved in the necropolis, one with a domed hearth. A little later, they will be finally forgotten. Even more interesting is the other necropolis - in the area of ​​Church Ridge (Klise Burun), the village of Nova Mahala, Batashko. One of the earliest Christian monasteries in the Rhodope Mountains was discovered there, as well as a necropolis near it. The graves are empty - thoroughly cleaned of bones, buried, left only to the sacrificial vessels and covered with large stone slabs. The custom is known as the "grave equation", well described by Stoyo Shishkov (1865 - 1937), which has provided magnificent accounts of the ethnography of the Rhodopes and Thrace.

 

According to this custom, some time after the funeral (3 or 5 years, depending on the qualities of the soil) the tomb is opened, the bones are washed with wine and taken to the local church, and after a few days they are brought to the ossuary next to it. The grave is no longer a place of change. We do not know the beginning of this custom or its causes, but it is probably pre-Christian. Several more necropolises with empty graves have been explored in the Rhodopes. We associate them with the Thracians, possibly with the demons.

 

There are also several necropolises left behind by Goths or Sarmatians. To mention one in the Strazhata area near Pleven. The analysis of burial gifts leads to the conclusion of the paramilitary population. Recently, the Gothic topic has quite rightly and long-awaited research. And there are many written sources for them, and archaeological data are increasing. I will note that the Goths in the Bulgarian lands, and especially north of the Balkans, are also Christians.

 

A very interesting necropolis with a large number of ceramic vessels and pieces of slag in the graves was explored near the village of Popovyan, Samokovsko. It is associated with the ore settlers from the west. A large Pechene necropolis has been explored near the village of Odurtsi, Dobrich. Let us not forget that the present-day Bulgarian lands are almost in the middle of the centuries-old road from East to West and from North to South. Many people have gone this route. We are not heirs only to Slavs and Bulgarians. Our ancestors are many more, our inheritance is rich. If we had the time, we could look at what is happening in the different geographical areas of Bulgaria - we will be amazed at the diversity.

 

Would you comment on the hypothesis that the Proto-Bulgarians are locally resident in the Balkans? They came from nowhere, but from prehistoric times they lived here. And, moreover, they accepted Christianity not from Prince Boris, but directly from the apostles Paul and Andrew in the first century AD. Therefore, the Proto-Bulgarians, who are actually a type of late Thracians (Getty / Gothic), are one of the first Christian nations, and why not the most ancient Christian people on earth…

 

Very entertaining question - but also very serious! At first, an old complaint came to my mind - or a conclusion: Hard times have come, everyone writes and no one reads. These statements are not serious. There are many chronicles of ancient events, many archeology. I have already mentioned some of them. In general, the events are known, now we are supplementing and refining, enriching. We learn to ask questions correctly. We still don't know many details, but we know the order.

 

I will admit that sometimes I read such works because I want to know what we are up against. And I'm also collecting material for an essay on Balkan Syndrome. In fact, this syndrome is not unique to Bulgarians. He conquered the entire Balkans. As if no one wants to be who they are. Stories are reshaped, moments or events that don't like or can't be stuffed in the established order are just dropped. We are like the most ancient, most orthodox. In general, everyone writes their story as they like, as they think.

 

But what about this event in 713?

 

On the throne in Pliska is Kan Tervel, and in Constantinople - Emperor Anastasius II. Agathon, deacon and Hartofilax, protonotary of the Patriarch of Constantinople, writes a dissertation. Among other things, he reports that "during the 11 Indictments (= 713 years) on the Sabbath of St. Pentecost, at sundown, suddenly rebelled against him (the emperor - note mine), the army assembled in Thrace, because - in violation of the agreements concluded, he became the reason for the onslaught of the onogour - the Bulgarians, which ended with the capture and the slaughter of Christians in Thrace. "

# interview

What about the rebellion of the Bulgarian notables against baptism in 864? We know what's going on - Kahn Boris - Prince Michael is killing all the rebel families, until the last baby. We know this well from Pope Nikolai's answers to the inquiries of Bulgarians. What happens to Kahn Rasate - Prince Michael and why? We should know the answers from school. I will add just one miniature from the XNUMXth Century Emperor Basil II Minology from the Vatican Library. One of the best illustrations of the Bulgarian military suit.

 

We are not the only ones claiming to be the first Christian people in the Balkans. As well as for the oldest people. Maybe with a little more effort we will find out that we are in the Balkans before the beginning of time,… as well as Christians before Christ himself ?! The experiments will surely continue!…

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