Savirs – Bulgars – Chuvash. Ed. Peter Golden. – Saarbrücken: Lambert Academic Publishing, 2014. – 147 p.


  • Peter B. Golden. Preface 
  • Introductions
  • The Savir Version
  • The Bulgar Version
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Conditional reductions

Savirs – Bulgars – ChuvashIn this book I have analyzed the two main versions of the origins and formation of the Chuvash people – the Savir and Bulgar hypotheses.

The tribes of Eurasia were all connected with each other to one degree or another; yet each people travelled its own historical road. For the ancestors of the Chuvash the genetically nearest tribes and closest neighbours up until the middle of the first century AD were the Ugrians and Iranians, in the second to fifth centuries the Huns. After that came the Bulgars, Khazars, Eastern Finns, Tatars and Russians. Originally the Savirs were closest to the Ugrians and Iranians. According to the primary sources and in my own opinion, the Savir hypothesis is closest to the truth. Nevertheless the present-day Chuvash cannot be called direct descendants of the Savirs because their history, anthropology, traditional rites and beliefs as well as their language have to one extent or another absorbed components from all their historical neighbours.

Those who research history and religion (whether on a world or a national level) will inevitably find themselves in the firing line. Attacks might come from the guardians of state policy, from zealous adherents of major religions or from nationalist camps. None of them will accept fully as the truth the writings of a historian and ethnographer who is doing no more than systemizing the real picture of what took place. We should not, however, fall into thinking that politicians and politics decide the fate of people. Religion, language, ethnography, art, folklore, the leaders of tribes and nations – those are the factors that cement and determine an ethnic identity. We know that bilingualism foreshadows the assimilation of one tribe or people by another. In the realm of traditional culture (for example, economiccultural type) there may be mutual influences, enrichment and absorption. However, dual faith and still more the adoption of an outside religion means a sea change in ethnic consciousness and embarking on a course of rejecting original values accumulated through centuries of ancestral experience. For that reason the years from the eighteenth century to the present do not look so successful against the background of ethnic history. The facts indicate that the Sepers – Sepirs – Sapirs – Savars – Savirs – Suvarscorrectly assessed situations along their strategic journey. The Suvars who went off to the right bank of the Volga in 922 were the ancestral nucleus of today’s Chuvash that managed on its long historical path to hold on to original traditions and to avoid the fate of being swallowed up by Islamic or Orthodox culture. The path travelled by the ancestors of the Chuvash has been the story of a search for themselves.

A love of one’s history elevated to the level of blind fanaticism, unmindful idealization and the desire to set one’s own ancestors higher than those of other tribes and nations is akin to extremism. And generally speaking a strong sense of ethnic identity can manifest itself differently in different situations. In some cases it can help people to adapt; in others it can become a threat to the integrity of the state.

Any piece of research is incomplete. Especially if it attempts the nearimpossible – the comprehensive study of the history of the provenance of a people. Like any scholarly work, this essay cannot be considered the final word. If only because material that might lead to amendments has been left outside the bounds of the book. Those amendments would, however, only affect individual paragraphs and not the general tenor. The conclusions put forward are based on a reliable corpus of primary sources and on the works of leading scholars.