The Earliest States of Eastern Europe
DG-2021, 418-436

Ibn Ḥawqal’s Information on the Route of the Rus’ Campaign against the Khazars in 358 AH

O. B. Bubenok, D. A. Radivilov

In the historical-geographical work of Ibn Hawqal (10th century) there is a passage that still causes controversy among historians. This is a description of the campaign of the Rus’ against the Khazars, dated 358 AH. Several decades ago T.M. Kalinina proved that Ibn Hawqal described here the campaign of 969, and not the campaigns of Prince Svyatoslav of 964965 mentioned in The Tale of Bygone Years. The situation is further complicated by the fact that Ibn Hawqal mentioned, in addition to the Khazars, also the Bulgars and Burtases, who are traditionally localized on the Middle Volga. At first glance, this is confirmed by the information of Ibn Hawqal himself about the localization of the Bulgars and Burtases. Therefore, some historians continue to believe that Ibn Hawqal and The Tale of Bygone Years describe one campaign, which, in their opinion, represented a complex combination of movements along the Don, as well as along the Middle and Lower Volga. T.M. Kalinina showed that such assumptions were far-fetched and expressed an opinion in favor of the fact that in 969 the Rus’ians did not go to the Middle Volga. The grounds for this are provided by the information of some mediaeval Muslim authors about the presence of the Bulgars in the Azov region steppes and Burtases along the Volga-Don haul pass in the 10th century. It is likely that according to the description of Ibn Hawqal, the Rus’ians moved along the well-known route from the Black Sea to the Caspian Sea, which passed through the Sea of Azov and the Lower Don downstream, and from there  through the Volga-Don passage to the Lower Volga and into the Caspian Sea. Particularly indicative in this respect is the information of al-Mas‘udi, which is contained in the description of the Rus’ campaign to the Caspian sea region after 300 AH (912), which ended with an unsuccessful return from there through the lands of the Burtases and Bulgars. It is no coincidence that Ibn Hawqal mentioned the ‘internal Bulgars’, which, according to the data of Hudud al-‘alam, can be localized in the Azov region. There is an opinion that the ‘internal Bulgars’ of mediaeval Muslim sources are the ‘Black Bulgars’ mentioned in the Byzantine-Rus’ian documents. It has long been proven that the latter lived in the steppes of the Azov region. As for the Burtases, some Muslim authors (al-Istakhri, Yaqut, etc.) report that one of the Burtases units was situated on the banks of the Volga, but not far from the Khazar capital, the town of Itil. Thus, in 358 the Rus’ had to move along the well-known waterway from the Black Sea to the Caspian Sea. At the beginning, Rus’ were supposed to attack the Azov Bulgars, and then the Burtases at the Volga-Don haul pass, and only at the very end of the route they attacked the Khazars on the Lower Volga and in the Caspian Dagestan.

As for the confusion of Ibn Hawqal’s data on the localization of the Bulgars and Burtases, this can be explained by the fact that Ibn Hawqal sought to determine the whereabouts of these peoples in accordance with the ideas of his predecessors, whose works he actively used. From this it followed that the Burtases and Bulgars should have been located both in the Middle Volga and in other places in the South of Eastern Europe, while the Khazars were only residents of the Lower Volga and Caspian Dagestan.

Keywords:
Khazars, Rus’, Ibn Hawqal, Bulgars, Burtases, Azov Sea region, Volga-Don haul pass, Lower Volga, Dagestan
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