History | The Rus, Khazars, and Bulgars: Ambition and Competition in the Heart of Central Eurasia, 8th-13th Centuries
T500 | 30698 | Lazzerini

Above class open to graduates only
Above class meets with CEUS-R596

Course Description

Three kaganates—the Rus, the Khazar, and the Bulghar—vied for
political and economic influence in the heart of Central Eurasia
during the 500 years preceding the grand unification of the region
by Mongols and their allies. Representing the last, spectacular
bloom and power of pastoral nomadism, the Mongol Empire swept up
Central Eurasia, wrecking in the process numerous state formations,
including that of the Bulghars and Rus. Before then, from the Dnepr
River eastward beyond the Caspian Sea, and from Crimea and the
Caucasus northward to the Gulf of Finland, Lake Ladoga, and the
upper reaches of the Volga River, the three kaganates emerged to
create the earliest extensive urban cultures in this large region.
With urbanization came commercialization and the development of long-
distance trade routes and their necessary markets; following the
merchants came institutionalized religion with their attendant
cultures that drew upon the rich store of Christian, Judaic, and
Islamic traditions. Economic competition, political alliances,
cultural interaction, and wars forged and reflected development of a
zone of common interest that also attracted foreign attention from
powerful neighbors, including Byzantium, the Abbasid Caliphate, and
finally the Mongols.

Of the three “states,” only that of Rus has much of a
historiography, partly explained by the complete disappearance of
the other two by the 13th century and the cultural tradition that
has claimed continuity between Rus and the Russian Empire through
Muscovy. Challenging that tradition, while analyzing the extant
sources revealing the parameters of Khazar and Bulghar history, this
course will examine the three kaganates in all of their aspects and


Quality reading of primary sources—textual, archeological, and
numismatic—as well as portions of major secondary studies. My
intention is to make all readings available online through OnCourse
CL, along with relevant maps and images, the full syllabus, and
other course-related materials.

No purchases required.

No examinations

Written project of approximately 15 pages derived from a reading of
Ibn Fadlan’s "Risale" (Journal of his travels to the Bulghars, 10th
century), the text of which is digitized and online.