The most conspicuous evidence of Ukraine-Bulgaria friendship is the common historic past of our nations, which dates back ages ago. In 1912, at a small village of Mala Pereshchepyna near Poltava, Europe’s greatest hoard of gold jewelry was unearthed, which had belonged to the founder of Old Great Bulgaria, Khan Kubrat (Kuvrat). This fact is yet another proof of our common roots.
The centennial of the unique find was marked in Mala Pereshchepyna, where numerous guests from Kyiv, Odesa, Simferopol, Dnipropetrovsk, Kharkiv, Lviv, and many places in Bulgaria, Moldova, Tatarstan, and Chuvashia – i.e., all who consider themselves to be descendants of Khan Kubrat, convened. This day became a true festival of art not only for the guests, but also for the whole Novosanzhary area, which has rested for many ages the remnants of the great king of Bulgarians, Khan Kubrat.
In June 1912, the newspapers of Moscow and Saint Petersburg carried a sensational story of two little shepherds, who had found an unprecedented hoard of gold and silver artifacts, with the total weight of almost 75 kilograms, near a tiny town of Mala Pereshchepyna, Kostiantynohrad uyezd. The treasure was believed to have been hidden underground for at least twelve centuries. Later it became known that Europe had not seen a similar find before. The hoard included Bulgarian, Sassanian, Sogdian, Turkic and Avarian objects from the period of the Volkerwanderung, i.e., the 4th-7th centuries.
I would like to tell about the man who found the hoard, Karpo Madzhar. He just happens to be my fellow countryman. He was born in the village of Sokiltsi, Kobeliaky uyezd, where his ancestors had been living since times immemorial.
Just fancy that: archeologists often spend their entire lives digging for something, and here fortune smiled at a little shepherd.
Unfortunately, no witnesses of the event live now. But Madzhar has left his hand-written memoirs. “Once at noon I and Fedir Derkach drove the sheep into a shed and ran to the river, for a swim. It was a hot day. We had a dip, then a second, and a third. Just as we were leaving, my foot sank in the sand. And not only did it sink, it got stuck in something. It turned out to be a gold jug. The boys who had been swimming nearby helped pull it out. I wasn’t strong enough to do it on my own. It weighed at least a pood. We rinsed it and carried it home. On seeing our find, my mother nearly fainted. She thought we had robbed a church. So, without even listening to our explanations, she told us to bring it back to where we took it, then and there. But it was too late. Outside, we were caught by the local police officer, Yosypenko. He had already learned about the treasure (and not only him: the entire village got to know in a jiffy), and he even rushed to see the site of the find, but was only able to find a couple of small coins. Every bigger piece had already been picked by the local boys and taken home.
“Two days later, several high-ranking officials, led by the governor himself, arrived at Mala Pereshchepyna. The governor lined everyone up and started yelling. It took him quite a while, and he also swore dirtily. Then he punched every man in the face, sort of to teach them how they should serve the tsar.
“In the three days that followed, gendarmes left no stone unturned in the village. They turned every house upside down, and rummaged them from cellar to loft. Of course, they managed to restore almost every item. Not that some failed to nick a handful of gold coins or rings. But compared to what the cops were able to collect, it was just a trifle.
“At the end of the week, a few more men arrived at Mala Pereshchepyna. We were told they were members of the Imperial Archeological Commission. Professors, that is. I cannot recall any of them but one, Makarenko by name. He was a most intelligent man. He had a way with us, boys, and managed to win our confidence. He told us the story of the treasure in such a simple and interesting way that we were ready to give him all the world’s treasures, let alone our finds.
“I remember Makarenko eliciting the place of each object from us, and how deep they had lain. He said this information was of critical importance for science. We saw Makarenko weigh each of those items, and make an entry in his notebook. Even now I can clearly see a big silver platter with a gold rim. It was decorated with images of sheep, surrounded by floral ornaments. The platter weighed almost three kilograms. A gold chalice with images of twelve animals weighed one and a half kilograms. All in all, the Pereshchepyna hoard consisted of more than three hundred items.”
The scholars conjecture that the precious relics might well be part of a great ransom, paid to nomadic tribes by the sieged Byzantine city of Tomis (Constanta). There have also been other versions. It was not till the late 1980s, that the German scholar Joachim Werner and his Austrian colleague Werner Seibt put a period to the discussions. The two scholars were able to decipher the Greek monograms on the signet rings, and identify the Pereshchepyna find as a hoard from the grave of the king of Old Great Bulgaria, Khan Kubrat. Various historical sources attest that Kubrat’s Great Bulgaria of the 7th century A.D. was quite a large early feudal political union, which also included modern Ukrainian territory.
Naturally, many people might wonder where Khan Kubrat came from. Vira Zhuk, Ph.D., an expert in history, would probably give the best answer to this question, because she has authored a most substantial paper on the subject. Based on a huge mass of historical documents, Zhuk has proved that Kubrat descended from the clan of Aibat Dulo, the same as the leader of the Huns, Khan Attila. Zhuk argues that in the Nominalia of the Bulgarian Khans Kubrat is registered after Attila and his sons, Ellak (Irnik) and Bezmer (Bel-Kermek). After their father’s death Ellak, Dengizich, and Bel-Kermek, together with Bulgarians and Ulgians (Ulychy, a Slavic tribe), made a camp against Farangians (Franks, Western European tribes), but suffered a defeat. Ellak was killed in battle. They retreated then to the mouth of the Bury-Chai (Dnipro), losing Dengizich, who was killed from an ambush. From Bel-Kermek descended a line of Bulgarian kings, who called themselves kans (khans) or baltavars, the word baltavar meaning “leader” or “ruler.”
The Dulo tribe, which had made a long way from the far-off Asia, assimilating on its way with Ugrians, Bulgarians, and other Iranian- and Turkic-speaking ethnoses, lived for several decades in Europe, on the Balkans, and in the outskirts of the Byzantine Empire, among Slavic tribes, and settled in the modern Ukrainian territory, following the collapse of the Hun multi-tribal union. It entered ancient Rus’ chronicles as a Slavic tribe.
Information on Kubrat has survived in Byzantine and Arabic sources, as well as in collections of Old Bulgarian chronicles. In particular, they relate that Kubrat was born in the late 6th century and died in 667. He was brilliantly educated for the time, being fluent in Latin, Greek, Turkic, Alanian, and Old Slavic. Besides, he knew math and military science.
The chronicle of Gazi-Baradja (8th c.) relates that after completing his education, Kubrat moved around between the villages of Askal (a settlement near present-day Kyiv) and Kharka (present-day Kharkiv). His headquarters were in Baltavar (near Poltava).
According to Professor Fargat Nurutdinov, who cites the work by the Bulgarian scholar Khristo Todorov-Bemberski Khan Kubrat’s Great Bulgaria, in 619 some separatist-minded beys were able to use bribe to defeat Kubrat’s headquarters. Kubrat had nothing else left to do but flee to Byzantium, where he found Emperor Heraclius’ warm and hearty welcome. As a sign of his favor, the emperor granted him the title of patrician (then the highest Byzantine title), which Kubrat was very proud of and valued till the end of his days.
Two written sources have survived to the effect that at that time Kubrat converted to Christianity. A year later, he and his uncle Organa crushed the separatists and Avars. After this brilliant victory and restoration of unity, all power was concentrated in the hands of Kubrat. He ordered a city to be built on the site of the ancient headquarters of the Hun and Bulgarian kings, Kan Bulun (the King’s Hill). Centuries later, this city would be known as Kyi, or Kyiv.
The Bulgarian union, created by the wise and prescient Khan Kubrat, sprawled over a huge area. Besides, it broke completely free from its subjugation to the Turkic Khaganate, was widely known and internationally acknowledged in the Middle East, and, thanks to Byzantium, is known in history under the name of Great or Golden Bulgaria.
A lot has been lost and forgotten as time passed. Later, many pages of our history were re-written and altered. Under Peter I and Catherine II history underwent the most drastic revision. Some events were merely erased. That is how the name and deeds of great Kubrat were deleted, too.
And only thanks to the Pereshchepyna hoard, things were restored to their rightful places. This would have been impossible, had it not been for our fellow citizen, Karpo Madzhar. It is due to a fortunate coincidence that he became involved in the great historic discovery. Yet nothing is incidental. Maybe this was the destiny he was born to pursue, catching a jug of gold with a bare foot?