BULGARS, TURKIC, also Proto-Bulgarians, Pra-Bulgarians.


A pastoral people, originally living in Central Asia.

Swept westward in the great movement of steppe peoples that brought the Huns and later the Avars to Europe, some Bulgar tribes settled in Pannonia, where they were dominated by the Avars and took part in their campaigns against the Franks, Lombards, and Byzantines.

In the 7th century many of these Pannonian Bulgars settled in Italy, in Lombardy, the Rimini-Osimo area, and the region of Benevento.


The main body of the Bulgar tribes, dwelling north of the Azof Sea and the river Kuban, were dominated by the Western Turkic khaganate from the mid-6th century onward.

In 632, profiting from divisions among their Turkic rulers, these Bulgars revolted successfully and formed a powerful confederation of Bulgar and related tribes known as Great Bulgaria, led by Kuvrat. Herakleios, seeking a reliable ally to block the Khazar advance westward, concluded a treaty with Kuvrat.

After Kuvrat diet, Great Bulgaria broke up under Khazar pressure.


In 681 Asparugh and his followers invaded Byzantine territory south of the Danube and established the First Bulgarian Empire.

About the same time a group of Pannonian Bulgars and their Slav and Greek subjects led by Kouber migrated to northern Macedonia;

Byzantine authorities recognized their presence there.


Both Bulgar groups had long been in contact with agricultural peoples and had largely given up their pastoral way of life. They quickly mingled with the Slavs among whom they settled, becoming a single people called Bulgarians.

By the end of the 9th century the Bulgars had probably ceased to exist as a separate ethnic and linguistic group.  



Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium (1991), vol.1, p.338