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II. PROTO-BULGARIAN RUNIC INSCRIPTIONS

1. Historical Data

Thirty years ago there were no reliable data whether the Asparuh Bulgars had their own alphabet. Since then, a multiplicity of inscriptions written in peculiar characters were discovered in the most important areas of the Balkan Peninsula, that were once were settled by them. Some of these inscriptions were carved on the walls of the first Bulgarian capital Pliska, others were discovered in Madara, in the villages of Krepcha (Targovishte district), Ravna (Provadia district), Popina (Silistra district), and Bjala and Asparuhovo (Varna district). Particularly rich are the finds from the village Murfatlar in the Northern Dobrudja. Dozens of inscriptions of this type were found there.

These inscriptions are most common for North East Bulgaria, i.e. exactly in the areas once most densely populated by the Asparuh Bulgars and which in the VIII-IX century formed the central area of the first Proto-Bulgarian Empire. Isolated inscriptions of that type were found outside this territory - for example in the village of Shudikovo (Eastern Serbia) and on the island of Pakujul lui Soare in Romania. Another alphabet bear inscriptions to the south of the Balkans mountains: in the village of Sitova (Plovdiv district), in the city of Parvomai and in the village Krushevo (Demir Hissar district). As this second alphabet is not attested in the earliest Proto-Bulgarian centres one can assume that it was of local importance and was developed parallel to the writing used in the central Bulgarian areas.

The early Middle Ages were a very interesting period in the history of the alphabets. Various alphabets developed at different places of Eastern Europe at that time, some of them later spread at thousands of kilometres by the large migrations of peoples. During this period in in Caucasus and in its bordering areas were developed almost simultaneously quite different alphabets  - the Armenian alphabet, the Georgian alphabet, the alphabet of the Caucasian Albanians, the Alanian and Kassogian alphabets, as well as the special alphabet of the inscription from the ruins of Humarin. In the areas to the north of Romania was developed the writing of the so called Seklers and even later - the special runic letters of the treasure from Nagy Saint Miklos. Far to the east at the same time appeared two other writings - the Manihean alphabet that was characteristic of the former Sogdiana, and even further to the east - the Orchono-Enissean writing which reached the areas next to China.

In this sea of writings it is not easy to determine the exact position of the inscriptions discovered in Pliska, Madara and in other VII-IX c. Bulgarian settlements. That is why in the first decades of their discovery the researchers compared them mechanically with most diverse Alphabets: the Orchono-Enissean Turkic alphabet, the Seklerian one from Hungary, the Gothic runic writing, the inscriptions from the ruins of Humarin, etc. The result of the comparing was that none of them could help in deciphering the inscriptions from Pliska, Madara and Murfatlar.

The concentration of the inscriptions to the areas once settled by the Asparuch Bulgars clearly shows they were left by the founders of the Bulgarian state. This interpretation is confirmed by the fact that the same characters were discovered on the territory of the former Kubrat Bulgaria.

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