WI: Kingdom of the two bulgarias?

Following the decline of the Khazar Khangate, what if the Volga Bulgars conquered all of southern Russia, as well as the kingdom of Bulgaria? I can imagine the Byzantines calling for a crusade against this new massive Islamic horde, what would that have looked like? I imagine they would have to conquer some land from the Kieven Rus, which would cause a lot of butterflies in the history of Russia. Could they have lasted until the 1200’s? If so, how would that impact the Mongol Empire?
 
Wait so the volga Bulgarians do what Sviatoslav did? Well for one the Rus and Pechenegs would be great allies for the byzantines in getting rid of the this empire and I don't see alt Volga Bulgaria doing better than Sviatoslav it's simply has to many enemies
 
"Sir Bulgaria has fallen!"
"By god! Who has conquered them servant?"
"Bulgaria sir!"


Seriously though, Southern Russia was a massive steepe that was pretty much never conquered except by other steepe nomads, and even then it was more migration then conquest in the classical sense. If Volga Bulgaria does become the newest steepe peoples, their rule over Bulgaria would be more or less tributary then anything else.

The Byzantines never cared about the religion of the people who controlled the steepe, and wouldn't particularly care if they were Muslims.
 
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The Byzantines never cared about the religion of the people who controlled the steepe, and wouldn't particularly care if they were Muslims.
Wouldn’t the situation have been different if they were right on the Byzantine’s doorstep? I imagine they at least would want to liberate the orthodox Bulgarians from their Bulgarian subjugation
 
Wouldn’t the situation have been different if they were right on the Byzantine’s doorstep? I imagine they at least would want to liberate the orthodox Bulgarians from their Bulgarian subjugation

I'm not sure that's quite the way it looks in Byzantine eyes, where Bulgaria is already "barbarians" ruling rightfully Roman territory and this is just a different set of barbarians doing so.

I'm sure they'd try to break up a mighty Bulgarian empire on their doorstep - but that has far more to do with "mighty" than "Muslim".
 
"Sir Bulgaria has fallen!"
"By god! Who has conquered them servant?"
"Bulgaria sir!"


Seriously though, Southern Russia was a massive steepe that was pretty much never conquered except by other steepe nomads, and even then it was more migration then conquest in the classical sense. If Volga Bulgaria does become the newest steepe peoples, their rule over Bulgaria would be more or less tributary then anything else.

The Byzantines never cared about the religion of the people who controlled the steepe, and wouldn't particularly care if they were Muslims.
It would care a lot of they cross the Danube and go for Bulgaria as the Romans want to reconquer the area
 
Wait so the volga Bulgarians do what Sviatoslav did? Well for one the Rus and Pechenegs would be great allies for the byzantines in getting rid of the this empire and I don't see alt Volga Bulgaria doing better than Sviatoslav it's simply has to many enemies
it might work if we set the POD back a century. Let’s say the Khazars go into decline a century earlier in the mid 800’s for whatever reason. The Volga Bulgars conquer it around the turn of the 900’s, then conquer Kiev, maybe with the help of allies like the Drevlyans, before it has the chance to establish itself as anything more than a city state with a series of tributaries. They still have enemies, but their main one is gone. They might also be able to profit from the Kieven trade and have their own golden age.
I'm not sure that's quite the way it looks in Byzantine eyes, where Bulgaria is already "barbarians" ruling rightfully Roman territory and this is just a different set of barbarians doing so.

I'm sure they'd try to break up a mighty Bulgarian empire on their doorstep - but that has far more to do with "mighty" than "Muslim".
That’s true, but holy wars have always been political wars with the pretext of religion. I can see them making it about religion at least later on, if only to get the attention of the pope.

On second thought, given that the Volga Bulgars converted in 922, I think it’s more likely they convert to orthodoxy for the sake of trade with Constantinople. It’s more realistic, but it crushes my dreams of a Bulgarian crusade
 
If Byzantium couldn't conquer normal Bulgaria, why would they conqueror Mega Bulgaria?
???? the byzantines conquered bulgaria they first destroyed Sviatoslav who did something very similar to what volga bulgaria is doing in this timeline took the west part of Bulgaria then Basil after a long campaing ended the first bulgarian empire if the volga bulgars want to conquer danube bulgaria they will get in to conflict with the romans
 
That’s true, but holy wars have always been political wars with the pretext of religion. I can see them making it about religion at least later on, if only to get the attention of the pope.

On second thought though, given that the Volga Bulgars converted in 922, I think it’s more likely they convert to orthodoxy for the sake of trade with Constantinople

I don't think they would make it about religion. It's a different worldview than one where being Muslim makes them more illegitimate/acceptable to fight than a Christian Bulgaria would be.

Also, getting a different steppe group to fight the Bulgarians makes more sense in this period (the dates aren't clear, but this is obviously prior to Basil II) than calling on the Pope.

Converting does make some sense, I think, if they somehow manage this.
 
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it might work if we set the POD back a century. Let’s say the Khazars go into decline a century earlier in the mid 800’s for whatever reason. The Volga Bulgars conquer it around the turn of the 900’s, then conquer Kiev, maybe with the help of allies like the Drevlyans, before it has the chance to establish itself as anything more than a city state with a series of tributaries. They still have enemies, but their main one is gone. They might also be able to profit from the Kieven trade and have their own golden age.
well the wild card in this scenario is still the pechenegs who began migrating west some time around the 9th century as for conquering Kyiv well that is a massive blow to the rus they still have other centers while this does fix things the problem now is the conquest or danube or just regular bulgaria as the 9th century was a time were the first bulgarian empire was quite strong due to krum dynasty and their success
 
well the wild card in this scenario is still the pechenegs who began migrating west some time around the 9th century as for conquering Kyiv well that is a massive blow to the rus they still have other centers while this does fix things the problem now is the conquest or danube or just regular bulgaria as the 9th century was a time were the first bulgarian empire was quite strong due to krum dynasty and their success

Whether or not the Pechenegs are also conquered is up in the air, but regardless they’d probably still be Byzantine allies, just with a different common enemy.

Trying to conquer the first Bulgarian empire would probably end the same way it did for Sviatoslav. But let’s imagine that Basil II’s conquests happen just as they did OTL. The Balkan Bulgarians, unable to secure independence from Byzantium in the mid to late 11th century, turn to their northern neighbors for help. The bulgar khanate supports their independence, and Bulgaria becomes a mostly autonomous vassal state in exchange for protection from the byzantines. Here their shared origin myth could help. Propaganda would portray this moment as the descendants of Khan Kubrat finally coming together and listening to his advice. The kingdom of two bulgarias is more of a peaceful unification than a military conquest.
Also, getting a different steppe group to fight the Bulgarians makes more sense in this period (the dates aren't clear, but this is obviously prior to Basil II) than calling on the Pope.

Converting does make some sense, I think, if they somehow manage this.

You’re right. Part of this was me forgetting that we’re not in the crusade period yet, and part of it was wishful thinking. Maybe Bulgarian crusades could happen if the khanate remains around during the 12th century, but even then it’s likely they become orthodox instead of Muslim.

Also what do you mean by “if they could somehow manage this?” I think the conversion would be pretty easy. It’s not like they need to enforce it on their subjects, most nomadic empires don’t, and the Byzantines would probably send missionaries anyway. The whole “Bulgarian Unity” thing would help too.
 
Also what do you mean by “if they could somehow manage this?” I think the conversion would be pretty easy. It’s not like they need to enforce it on their subjects, most nomadic empires don’t, and the Byzantines would probably send missionaries anyway. The whole “Bulgarian Unity” thing would help too.
The conversion is relatively easy. Conquering from Volga Bulgaria to what-we-know-as Bulgaria is going to be harder as far as not being sure how feasible it is for it to happen or to last if it does (the usual succession disputes of nomad empires and so on).
 
The conversion is relatively easy. Conquering from Volga Bulgaria to what-we-know-as Bulgaria is going to be harder as far as not being sure how feasible it is for it to happen or to last if it does (the usual succession disputes of nomad empires and so on).

The Huns did it and so did the mongols, that’s about as plausible as it gets. If the bulgars have an Atilla/Genghis khan equivalent and maybe some innovation in tactics or technology, they could do it

As for longevity, I don’t think they could maintain control over all of OTL south Russia for long. What could work is if we have something similar to what happened with the Timurids->Mughals happen, where whoever inherits Kyiv once the empire fractures uses it as his capital to create a new Bulgarian kingdom, this time settled and based around the OTL Ukraine region, which could last at least until Genghis Khan shows up.

Thoughts?
 
The Huns did it and so did the mongols, that’s about as plausible as it gets. If the bulgars have an Atilla/Genghis khan equivalent and maybe some innovation in tactics or technology, they could do it

Potentially, yes. I'm kind of wary of assuming that because one group could do something with the right circumstances and leadership that we could see any other group doing it, but I don't know enough on the Volga Bulgarians to properly compare their chances of this.

As for longevity, I don’t think they could maintain control over all of OTL south Russia for long. What could work is if we have something similar to what happened with the Timurids->Mughals happen, where whoever inherits Kyiv once the empire fractures uses it as his capital to create a new Bulgarian kingdom, this time settled and based around the OTL Ukraine region, which could last at least until Genghis Khan shows up.

Thoughts?

My suspicions are that while it might hold out, the steppe is going to keep producing more groups. What's now Ukraine is not easy to dominate in this era as far as settled kingdoms, but it would be interesting to see someone try.
 
Whether or not the Pechenegs are also conquered is up in the air, but regardless they’d probably still be Byzantine allies, just with a different common enemy.

Trying to conquer the first Bulgarian empire would probably end the same way it did for Sviatoslav. But let’s imagine that Basil II’s conquests happen just as they did OTL. The Balkan Bulgarians, unable to secure independence from Byzantium in the mid to late 11th century, turn to their northern neighbors for help. The bulgar khanate supports their independence, and Bulgaria becomes a mostly autonomous vassal state in exchange for protection from the byzantines. Here their shared origin myth could help. Propaganda would portray this moment as the descendants of Khan Kubrat finally coming together and listening to his advice. The kingdom of two bulgarias is more of a peaceful unification than a military conquest.

You’re right. Part of this was me forgetting that we’re not in the crusade period yet, and part of it was wishful thinking. Maybe Bulgarian crusades could happen if the khanate remains around during the 12th century, but even then it’s likely they become orthodox instead of Muslim.

Also what do you mean by “if they could somehow manage this?” I think the conversion would be pretty easy. It’s not like they need to enforce it on their subjects, most nomadic empires don’t, and the Byzantines would probably send missionaries anyway. The whole “Bulgarian Unity” thing would help too.
But the Byzantines literally never bothered trying to convert the steppe people at all. They were considered barbarians and barely human, it was expected they wouldn't be religious compatriots. Why should they care about these horse raiders? The Byzantines simply wanted the steepe to not be a threat to them, they would pay each other to attack but other then that, they couldn't care less.
 
But the Byzantines literally never bothered trying to convert the steppe people at all. They were considered barbarians and barely human, it was expected they wouldn't be religious compatriots. Why should they care about these horse raiders? The Byzantines simply wanted the steepe to not be a threat to them, they would pay each other to attack but other then that, they couldn't care less.


Here’s two missionaries who put in a lot of effort into converting the Slavs/khazars to orthodoxy, even respecting their culture and translating bibles. The Byzantine church absolutely did care about their religion, barbarian or not. Part of what made Christianity so successful was that they converted anyone who was willing and sent missionaries absolutely everywhere. The Byzantines are the reason so much of modern Eastern Europe is orthodox.
 
Potentially, yes. I'm kind of wary of assuming that because one group could do something with the right circumstances and leadership that we could see any other group doing it, but I don't know enough on the Volga Bulgarians to properly compare their chances of this.

You’re right to be skeptical, and I’m not very familiar with how nomadic steppe empires form, but I did a bit of research and it seems like some form of dominant nomadic empire existing in the area was the norm, not the exception (though usually not with borders as large as the ones I’m proposing). There were the Huns, then the Avars, then the Khazars, then the Rus prevented any tribe from becoming dominant, but after that there were the mongols and the Golden Horde. It seems like the geography facilitated the creation of these khangates. Also, this is the beginning of the medieval warm period, which means conditions are pretty good for an empire. But what about the Volga bulgars themselves? Well here’s what I gathered just by reading their Wikipedia article:

Pros:
-they control the profitable Volga trade
-there weren’t any real military threats to them OTL besides the Rus
-all of the tribes I mentioned are migrants from the east, and so are the Bulgars (is this an advantage? I’m really not sure what the implications here are).

Cons:
-they only really cared about trade and not military conquest
-they would transition from nomadic to semi-nomadic

Since their culture was still developing in the 9th century, a PoD then could eliminate both of the cons, but at that point we’re talking about a completely different alt culture rather than the Volga bulgars of OTL. Still, might be the best way to achieve the unification of two Bulgarias.

In retrospect I should have made this an AHC, I didn’t realize how many hurdles needed to be jumped to make this plausible.

So, is this plausible? If it is, how does this affect the history of Eastern Europe?
 
In retrospect I should have made this an AHC, I didn’t realize how many hurdles needed to be jumped to make this plausible.

So, is this plausible? If it is, how does this affect the history of Eastern Europe?

I don't want to say it's impossible as a short lived thing, for it to last until the 1200s (you're probably butterflying Genghis Khan away, or at least not having things all line up the way they did OTL for him) seems unlikely - steppe succession practices seem to encourage short lived empires, though how the Volga-Bulgarians compare to other groups I do not know.

The Rus' are certainly impacted, although most of their lands are outside this empire there's still it being where it is on their trade and raid routes, as well as anything to do with losing Kiev.

Pretty sure things change for the Magyars as far as being caught up in this, you may not see something like OTL Hungary at all.

Stuff from the north is going to occupy more Byzantine attention than OTL, which impacts campaigning in the east.

If the (Volga) Bulgars convert to Orthodoxy, that impacts its spread on the steppes quite a bit I imagine - but how depends on how far that goes past the rulers, and I'm not the right person to suggest anything there.
 
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