Young researchers in the capital of Volga Bulgaria discussed the historical foundations of Greater Eurasia

On May 8, 2018, on the second day of the international “Greater Eurasia” Young Researchers School – 2018, the participants visited the Bulgarian Civilization Museum in Tatarstan, Russia and took part in a scientific and practical round table discussion at the Bulgarian Islamic Academy.

Only 5 years ago the Bulgarian Civilization Museum was opened in the city of Bulgar – a famous historical site and tourist attraction in Tatarstan. The first chronicle mention of this city, located on the picturesque high banks of the Volga river, dates back to the 10th century. Today, the ancient city is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The purpose of the trip was to immerse the participants of the School in the historical environment and expand  their knowledge about the historical unity of Eurasia.

At first the participants got acquainted with numerous exhibits of the Bulgarian civilization museum complex. The excursion, like the history of this area, began with “Greater Bulgaria”, a Turkic and steppe state that flourished briefly in the early Middle Ages in the Black Sea region. After its disintegration, one part of this peoples migrated to the northeast into the territory of modern Tatarstan, where they founded the capital of Bulgar. Another part invaded south-west into the Byzantine Empire. The Volga Bulgars became the ancestors of modern Tatars, while the Danube Bulgars quickly assimilated with the local Slav population and became the elite of the first Bulgarian kingdom. In 865 the baptism of the Danube Bulgars took place under the reign of St. Prince Boris. And in 922  Volga Bulgaria became the northernmost Islamic state in the world. After the Mongolian Western expeditions in the first half of the 13th century, the city of Bolgar became the first capital of the Golden Horde.

The participants of the School were especially interested in learning that Volga Bulgaria, through which the northernmost branch of the ancient Silk Road passed, was an important trade and economic crossroads of the continent. Using modern terminology, we might call the Mongol Empire the first free trade zone of Eurasia. The inhabitants of Volga Bulgaria, and later of the Golden Horde, imported bread, furs, honey, wax – from Rus; carpets and glassware – from Persia and the Arab world; silk products, porcelain and precious stones – from China; spices, pearls and paints – from India, iron products – from Europe. This proves that the contemporary initiatives of the Eurasian Economic Union  (EAEU) and its partners on the revival of the Silk Road and the formation of a Greater Eurasian Partnership are not only motivated by economic benefits of our days, but also based on a solid historical foundation.

After the tour of the museum, the participants made a walk through the ancient settlement and dined at the Volga river bank, enjoying an unforgettable view of the historical sights and of the famous Russian river.

Then, the young researchers went to the Bulgarian Islamic Academy to participate in the scientific and practical round table discussion on “The historical foundations of Greater Eurasia.” The event was opened by Azat Khurmatullin, PhD Philology, Head, Department of Science of the Bulgarian Islamic Academy. He greeted the participants and spoke about the activities and goals of creating the new academic and educational institution that strives to transform the Republic of Tatarstan and the Russian Federation into one of the world’s leading centers of Islamic thought. In 1881, the Crimean-Tatar philosopher Ismaye Bay-Gasprinsky wrote: “In the future, perhaps not far off, Russia will be destined to become one of the most significant Muslim states, which, I think, does not detract from its importance as a great Christian power.” In the same article he noted: “We think that sooner or later the borders of Russia will enclosed all the Turkic-Tatar tribes and by virtue of things, despite temporary stops, Russia will reach where the population of the Turk-Tatars in Asia ends.”

Oleg Lushnikov, PhD in History, orientalist, director, Vernadsky Center for Eurasian Studies, gave a report on “The historical foundations of Greater Eurasia”. Based on the works of the classical Eurasianists, Dr. Lushnikov substantiated the existence of a distinct and unified “Eurasian civilization”, the peoples of which are share common historical ties, traditions, cultural elements and destiny.  He also noted the climatical and geographic factors that contribute to the natural proccesses of Eurasian integration troughout history. The Eurasian geographer and economist Peter Savitsky proved the existence of the Eurasian subcontinent – “Eurasia in sensu stricto”, which conditionally coincides with the borders of the former Russian Empire. Historian George Vernadsky in his works defined periods of disintegration and periods of integration of the Eurasian space. In this regard, Oleg Lushnikov listed 5 episodes of Eurasian integration since ancient times:

  1. The Proto-Indo-European (PIE) language community and the Scythian “union” (around 3000 BC – 300 AD)
  2. The Turkic “union” (5th – 8th centuries)
  3. The “Greater Mongolian Partnership” (12th – 15th centuries)
  4. The Russian “union” (16th – 20th centuries)
  5. The Soviet Union (20th century)

The establishment  in 2015 of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) marked the beginning of the sixth stage of Eurasian integration in the history of the continent. As the speaker noted, the Turkic and Mongolian experience made a huge contribution to the development of the “Greater Eurasian space”. As was already established in the Bulgarian Civilization Museum, the Mongolian Empire created a single economic and military space, which ensure an inner security and economic growth. According to the expert, history teaches that in the modern world, the countries of Eurasia need to cooperate and integrate in the aim of mutually beneficial development.

Jordan Hristov, chairman of the public association “European Youth Initiatives” from Bulgaria, told the participants about the historical origins of the first Bulgarian kingdom as a synthesis of the Turkic steppe Bulgars, the south-western Slavs and the Greco-Byzantine worldview. To Jordan’s opinion, such historical cross-continental interactions are another example that justify the creation a common economic and cultural space between Europe and Eurasia, between the modern EU and EAEU.

Natalia Bogdan, coordinator of the NGO “Youth of Eurasia” named the main principles that have become characteristic of all five of the above described historical periods of Eurasian integration. They are:

  1. Cultural pluralism
  2. Collective security
  3. A common economic space
  4. The supremacy of law
  5. The supremacy of spiritual values

According to the speaker, these principles are historically justified, since they stood, in one way or another, behind the success of past integration efforts in Eurasia. Natalia Bogdan suggested that these principles in the future could constitute the “acquis communitaire” of the Eurasian Economic Union.

After the main reports were given, an open discussion took place. Farhad Gumarov, PhD in History, head, Tatarstan branch of the international discussion club “Greater Eurasia”, asked the participants what could serve as an incentive for integration within the EAEU in addition to mutual economic benefits. To a greater extent, the participants tended to name scientific and educational cooperation, as well as collective security.

The results of the day will be used by the young researchers to write their working paper on the topic “Eurasian Economic Union: Cultural and Historical Foundations and Economic Benefits for the Member States”.

The organizers and guests expressed their gratitude to the management of the Bulgarian Islamic Academy and expressed their desire to further strengthen cooperation between the Academy and the analytical media “Eurasian Studies”.

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