Eastern Bulgaria, formerly a powerful kingdom which existed from the 5th to the 15th century on the middle Volga, in the present territory of the provinces of Samara, Simbirsk, Saratov and N. Astrakhan, perhaps extending also into Perm. The village Bolgari near Kanzañ, surrounded by numerous graves in which most interesting archaeological finds have been made, occupies the site of one of the cities - perhaps the capital - of that extinct kingdom. The history, Tarikh Bulgar, said to have been written in the 12th century by an Arabian cadi of the city Bolgari, has not yet been discovered; but the Arabian historians, Ibn Foslan, Ibn Haukal, Abul Hamid Andalusi, Abu Abdallah Harnati, and several others, who had visited the kingdom, beginning with the 10th century, have left descriptions of it. The Bulgars of the Volga were of Turkish origin, but may have assimilated Finnish and, later, Slavonian elements. In the 5th century they attacked the Russians in the Black Sea prairies, and afterwards made raids upon the Greeks. In 922, when they were converted to Islam, Ibn Foslan found them not quite nomadic, and already having some permanent settlements and houses in wood. Stone houses were built soon after that by Arabian architects. Ibn Dasta found amongst them agriculture besides cattle breeding.
Trade with Persia and India, as also with the Khazars and the Russians, and undoubtedly with Biarmia (Urals), was, however, their chief occupation, their main riches being furs, leather, wool, nuts, wax and so on. After their conversion to Islam they began building forts, several of which are mentioned in Russian annals. Their chief town, Bolgari or Velikij Gorod (Great Town) of the Russian annals, was often raided by the Russians. In the 13th century it was conquered by the Mongols, and became for a time the seat of the khans of the Golden Horde. In the second half of the 15th century Bolgari became part of the Kazañ kingdom, lost its commercial and political importance, and was annexed to Russia after the fall of Kazañ.
(P. A. K.)