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

The historian Egishe

These is additional historical evidence in support of our thesis. The preserved in copies Throne diploma of the Armenian nakharars (Gakhnamak) from mid-V c. puts the clan of the Vanandians at the honourable 17th place among all 70 clans. Having in mind that the first 10 clans were regarded as senior, with “inalienable” functions in the public life attached to them, one can imagine that a significant length of time must have passed before the promotion of a clan of immigrants to a front position in the conservative hierarchy of the Armenian aristocracy.

Another clue is given by Egishe - one extremely reliable authors who described events in which he personally had taken part. On the commission of the priest David Mamikonjan Egishe recorded the struggle of the Armenian people for the defence of their Christian faith. In 449 AD the Persian king Jezdigert II (438-457) issued a decree prohibiting the professing of Christianity in his state. Armenia, Georgia and Albania refused to comply. The decision was taken by a council of bishops gathered in the gavar of Ajrarat to discuss the king's order. Among them was a certain Gad - bishop of Vanand.

The hostilities between the rebels and the king's troops broke out one year later, but disagreement split the Christian forces. The collaborationists grouped around Vassak Sjuni, while Vardan Mamikonjan became the leader of the irreconcilable. Byzantium could not provide any help. Only the Khons of the Northern Caucasus kept their word and diverted the Persian forces by deep incursions to the south in Persia. For the second battle with the Persians V. Mamikonjan gathered his forces at Artashat. Four regiments were formed: the Ist was commanded by prince Arcruni; the IInd - by Khoren Khorkhoruni; the IIIrd - by Tatul Vanandaci; the IVth was lead by the sparapet Vardan Mamikojan himself.

The two sides met for a decisive battle on 26.V.451 AD on the field of Avarajr at the bank of the Tlmut river (Arax' tributary). The forces were unequal and the famous Avarajr battle ended with the destruction of the Christian forces. Nine great nakharars lost their lives, together with 287 of their companions and other 740 ordinary soldiers. The Armenian church proclaimed the 1036 Christians for saints. The survivors followed the previous tactic of the Vanandians and retreated via Vanand and the possessions of the Dimaksean clan to Tajk and to the impregnable Parkhar. The captured Armenian aristocrats were put in “royal chains” and locked up in Nishapur. Among them were three men from the clan of Tatul Dimaksean, and among the captives from the Tashrac's clan there was a men called Vren (Bren) - a name attested both for Celts and Bulgars. On the 25 day of the last month 6 priest were executed in Nishapur. Among them was a certain Levond from the village of Indzhevank - “a priest from Vanand”.

Egishe took part in these event as a warrior and secretary of Vardan Mamikojan, he wrote his work in the years between 458-464 when his impressions were still very fresh. The armenists I consulted were unanimous that the name of “Tatul” is unusual for the Armenian system of names. At the same time, although an archaism, it is still found under different modifications in the Bulgarian system of names. Adding to this the ethnicon “Vanandians” we can only conclude: even if there can be some doubts about the Bulgar ethnical identification of the clans of Bren Tashrac and Tatul Dimaksean, still the Bulgar participation in the Avarajr battle is indisputable attested in the person of the leader of the III-rd regiment Tatul Vanandaci and the ordinary Vanandians there. In order to gain such a confidence, besides other things, a certain period of time was necessary to pass before that [9].

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The Bulgarian historians usually pay attention to two other excerpts in Egishe's work. The first one reports that the Khon Eran, obtaining the consent of the king of Balassakan, annihilated the Persian garrisons in Albania and in his campaign reached as far as the Greek lands, that is - the Byzantine border in Asia Minor. After that he retreated carrying back an enormous spoil while the Persians punished the king of Balassakan. Rightfully, some of the Armenian nakharars were also suspected as being among the instigators [10]. In 454 AD Jezdigert prepared a campaign against the Kushans. Egishe says that “the Christians were frightened”, Then a Khon, called Bel, a sympathizer of the Christians, “who with love and desire learned their truths”, defected to the Kushans and informed them about the organized war. He belonged to the king's clan of the country of the Hajlandurs [p. 127]. It is the second excerpt in which a Bulgar presence is supposed.

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9. See Egishe, O Vardane i vojne armjanskoj, E., 1971;
also Eremjan S.T., Narodno-osvoboditel’naja vojna Armjan protiv persov v 450-451 g., Vestnik drevnej istorii, kn. 4/1951 g.

10. Egishe, Op. cit., s. 121.