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The origin of the Bulgarians and their earliest history is lost in the past of remote eastern steppes. They belong to the Altaic linguistic and ethnic community of Middle Asia whose original home was the region of Turan (today's Eastern Kazakhstan). The name "Bulgari" meant 'people' in their ancient language.

The earliest written material in which the Bulgarians are mentioned with their own ethnic name (Vulgares) is part of a short chronicle in Latin from the year 334. It is mentioned that they originate from Ziezi, a son of Noah, and are among the 25 peoples inhabiting the territories in the East. This fact can be also found in the famous Roman Chronograph of 354. The Bulgarians were nomadic people. Among the animals bred by them special place was attributed to the horse, which served them for transportation and food. Their usual home was the yurt. The Bulgarians from aristocratic families were called boils. They served as military commanders and held important positions in society.

Bulgarian religion was monotheistic. It was a mixture of many beliefs and cults (sacred animals, healing stones and various objects of magic effect). The Bulgarians believed in one supreme god Tangra, who lives in heaven and is master of everything. In his praise they performed sacrifices and the priests were engaged in soothsaying and prophesying. Religious rituals were performed in pagan temples called kapishte. The khan was the supreme priest. The Bulgarians buried their dead by laying the body oriented along the north-south axes. In the grave they laid food and objects belonging to the diseased, and sometimes his weapons and his horse.

The weaponry of the Bulgarians included bow and arrows, a long spear, a mace and a sword. The basic army unit was the cavalry. The Bulgarians preferred to wage war on even territory. Their ferocious attacks often left the enemy stupefied.

In the second half of the 4th c. the Bulgarians were included in the large military tribal union of the Huns. Their future was greatly affected by the Great Migration in 4th - 7th c. They divided into two large groups. The major part of the Bulgarians remained in their old territories north of the Caucasus and near the Azov Sea. The other part, swept with the migration of the Huns, settled in Panonia and the Carpathian hollow.

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