Szabolcs Polgár (University of Szeged, Hungary) “Nomads, Traders, Steppe Empires in Medieval Eurasia (with Special Regard to Khazaria and Volga Bulgharia)”


The paper focuses on the relations of the sedentary and nomadic empires of Eurasia from the point of view of commerce and trade. The Silk Road ran via the Eurasian steppe zone, and the nomads were interested in international trade. The nomad elites, founding ’empires’ in the steppes, were interested in a permanent trade with their sedentary neighbours, as opposed to the great empires of China or Persia. The history of China’s relations with nomadic empires can be a good indication of these contrasted interests. There were similar relations in the western periphery of the steppe; the Byzantine Empire endeavoured to have trade contacts with the nomads only in a small degree. The nomadic empires often obtained the sedentary empires by force to make trade contacts. There were special cases. The Khazars and Volga Bulghars organized a successful commercial system with their sedentary neighbours in Eastern Europe. The original model was Khazaria, and all its neighbours took part in it. The success of the system was based on some special factors: a mutual interest in the international trade of three participants – the nomads, the Islam, and the Rus’. After the decline of Khazaria the Volga Bulghars continued the trade in a restricted territory.