State-formation in Danubian Bulgaria, AD 681-865: Religious dimensions Cover Image

State-formation in Danubian Bulgaria, AD 681-865: Religious dimensions
State-formation in Danubian Bulgaria, AD 681-865: Religious dimensions

Author(s): Tsvetelin Yordanov Stepanov
Subject(s): History
Published by: Издательство Исторического факультета СПбГУ
Keywords: Bulgars; paganism; supremotheism; Zoroastrianism; Tengrism; Mithraism

Summary/Abstract: The purpose of this article is first to present the main hypotheses about the Bulgars / Bulgar religion in modern Bulgarian historiography before the baptism in the Proto-Bulgarians in 864/5. Second, make an attempt to link the processes of centralization of Bulgaria to the development of religious cults. Over the past 20–25 years, there were three main hypotheses about the nature of the Bulgar religious system: a) Tengriism; b) Zoroastrianism; c) Mithraism; in parallel with the recognition of the fact of the existence of a certain number of subjects to the Bulgar khan who practiced Christianity. The author notes that the traditional hypothesis calls the Bulgarian religion the Tengrism, but at the same time emphasizes the well-known fact that this hypothesis was based on a single stone inscription in Madara, greatly damaged and fragmented besides, on which the word TAGGRA (sic) was read. The author considers that a major weakness of the Zoroastrian hypothesis is the fact that in none of the native or foreign sources the Bulgar are mentioned as the followers of Zoroastrianism, though their temples (to this date six such temples were found on the territory of modern Bulgaria) definitely follow the planning concepts of so-called Iranian fire temples. As to the third hypothesis, the author proposes to define it by the term «Indo-Iranian» and not «Mithraic». An existence of a possibility is allowed that at the beginning of the 9th century, when the processes of centralization and «modernization» of the pre- Christian Bulgaria were just being born, the cults of fire, sun and water which were which was amongst the most important in the ancient Iranian and Indo-Iranian religious systems, produced an architectural visualization in the form of the construction of the temples of fire (square shaped or rectangular) in the main centers of pagan Bulgaria, such as Pliska, Preslav, Madara and Silistra — which were the main residences of the Bulgar Khans. Also, one cannot rule out the possibility of perception of the popular cult of the «steppe empire» to Tengri, the bright sky, as the cult of the Bulgar «Mannerbunde». Whatever the truth of the religious system of the Bulgar on the Danube is, it is very clear today that, on a theoretical level, it can be represented by the concept of «supremotheism».

  • Issue Year: 2013
  • Issue No: 1
  • Page Range: 5-32
  • Page Count: 18
  • Language: English