Mongol tribe, the remnant of the Huns, which gave its name to an area in the Balkan Peninsula.

The Huns never really recovered from the death of Attila in 451 AD. In 454, a Germanic tribe, the Gepids, smashed the Huns at the Battle of Nedao. The Huns' Empire, which stretched from the North Sea to the Caspian Sea, rapidly disintegrated.

The remaining Huns fell back to an area around the Sea of Azov. There were three groups: the Kutrigur north of the Don River, the Utigur south of the Don, and the Sabirian around the delta of the Volga. Historians call these peoples "Proto-Bulgarians".

In 550s, a new Mongol people, the Avars, were chased out of Turkestan. Byzantine Emperor Justinian paid the Avars to conquer the Slavic and Hunnish tribes that raided the empire. The Sabirian Huns were wiped out, and the Kutrigur and Utigur, whose main occupation had been to kill each other, were subjugated.

The Avars held an empire that stretched from the Elbe to the Volga until the year 626, when their attack on Constantinople failed. This empire then fell apart as well.

The remnants of the Kutrigur and Utigur peoples, now called "Bulgars", formed the Khanate of Great Bulgaria in their territory around the Sea of Azov.

Around 650 a new invader came: A Turkish tribe known as the Khazars. These smashed the Khanate of Great Bulgaria and conquered most of today's Ukraine, most of the area around the Volga, and Transcaucasia. Some of the Bulgars fled northward up the Volga, where they became vassals of the Khazars. Some, however, fled westward into the Balkans, capturing territory around the Danube that is now Moldavia and Wallachia.

The Khazars were smashed by the Islamic jihad across the Caucasus Mountains in 737. This allowed the Volga Bulgars to become independent, and the Danube Bulgars to take some more slices of Balkan territory.

In 796, the Bulgars and Charlemagne teamed up to destroy the remnants of the Avars in Hungary. The Bulgars took most of the territory. (This conquest also permanently separated the Northern Slavs from the Southern Slavs, or "yugoslavs").

The Bulgars slowly expanded into more and more of the Balkans as the Byzantine Empire grew weaker and weaker.

Of course, the conveyor belt of invading nomadic hordes hadn't stopped production just yet. In the year 893, a new group, the Magyars, entered Central Europe and took Hungary away from the Bulgars.

The Magyars used Hungary as a base for raiding the rest of Europe, until they were defeated in 955, at the Battle of Lechfeld. After this they adopted European ways and became the people of Hungary we know today.

The Bulgars, on the other hand, had their lands raided by Varangian prince Sviatoslav in 972. Svitaoslav, Byzantine Empire, and Hungary divided the area around the Danube between them, and the Bulgars' area contracted to what is today Serbia and Macedonia (the "Western Bulgarian Empire").

In 1018, the Byzantine Empire finished off the West Bulgarian Empire during a rare period of military strength. The Volga Bulgars held out until they were swept away by the Mongols in 1237.

When the Fourth Crusade smashed the husk of the Byzantine Empire in 1204, all sorts of peoples asserted their identity. One of these was a group of Southern Slavs who occupied the East-central Balkans where the Bulgars once ruled. This was the Bulgarian Empire, where today's Bulgaria is today.

At the end of the 13th Century, Slavic Bulgaria was also wiped out by the advancing Ottoman Turks, the final blow coming at the Battle of Vdin in 1396.

Sources: My own prose. Details taken from Penguin Atlas of Medieval History, Colin McEvedy

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