The Bulaqs were a Turkic tribe from the Karluks tribal union located in the Altai Mountains. The tribe was attested in the Middle Ages and was eventually conquered by the Russians.
Károly Czeglédy and Lajos Ligeti deciphered the Bulaqs name from the Chinese sources in which were mentioned as Mou-luo/Mou-lo or Mou-la. Omeljan Pritsak also derived Mou-la < *bu-lak, but without any reference to previous scholar's work. As already Gyula Németh noted, the mi̯əu-lôk or miə̯u-lâk ~ bulaq is etymologically related to the colour of horses which was a usual tribal designation on the steppe. It could mean "white-piebald" horse in some Turkic and Mongolian languages, "white-legged" horse in Chagatai language, or "broad-backed" horse.
The Chinese and Arab manuscripts mentioned the tribal names of the Karluks. According to the Chinese sources, the Mou-luo/Mou-lo or Mou-la i.e. the Bulaqs were one of the three core tribes of the Karluk confederation who lived in the Altai Mountains and were among the Western Turkic troops who were defeated in the Tang campaigns against the Western Turks in 650. In 657 CE, the Tang dynasty set up a Yinshan dudufu (district/prefecture; Yinshan mean "the dark mountain", Ildikó Ecsedy considered northern slopes of Tarbagatai Mountains) for the Bulaqs. The other two tribes also received separate prefectures with their chiefs appointed as governors. Between 690s and 718 the three tribes allied themselves with the Göktürks (Second Turkic Khaganate) or Tang dynasty, while in 718 were conquered by Bilge Khagan and the Tang-alinged chiefs were replaced. Between mid-6th and mid-7th century the Karluk tribes migrated between Mongolian plateau, Altai, and regions south and west, depending on the political-diplomatic orientations of the Karluk yabgu. By 766 they were in possession of the cities of Suyab and Talas around which formed Karluk yabghu (756–940) and Kara-Khanid Khanate (840–1212).
The later Arabic sources, like Sharaf al-Zaman al-Marwazi depicted a union of nine tribes, including the Bulaq (bdw, bwâwî), Hudud al-'Alam noted that the blâq were one of the Yagma constituent components, "mixed with the Toquz Oghuz", while Al-Kashgari in his 11th century work Dīwān Lughāt al-Turk among the listed Turkic tribes mentioned Bulaq and Elke/Älkä Bulaq. According to him, the Bulaqs became captives of the Kipchaks, but later regained their independence and thus came to be called with the former name. The Bulaqs were mentioned in the 11th and 12th century, and after only in the 16th century before the Russian conquest (1592). Before the 12th century, the Karluks migrated towards the Islamic territories, that is south and not west.
Confusion with Vlachs
According to the accounts of William of Rubruck and Roger Bacon, during the Huns migration to Europe "also came the Blacs, the Bulgars and the Vandals. For from that Greater Bulgaria come the Bulgars, who are beyond the Danube near Constantinople. And near the land of Pascatir (Magna Hungaria i.e. somewhere around the Ural Mountains and the Volga River from where came the Huns) are the Iliac (Blachi from greater Blachia, from which came the Blachi in the land Assani between Constantinople and Bulgaria and lesser Hungary), which is the same word as Blac but the Tatars do not know how to pronounce (the letter) B, and from them come those who are in the land of Assan (i.e. the Vlachs in the Second Bulgarian Empire). They call both of them Iliac, the former and the latter".
The cartographers Johannes Schöner (1523) and Pierre Desceliers (1553) located the Blaci people north of the Caspian Sea. Rásonyi located Magna Blacia, Magna Bulgaria and Magna Hungaria as neighboring Bashkiria, based on missionaries' works from the Middle Ages.
A remark by William of Rubruck about the origin of the population called Illac i.e. Vlachs resulted with historians erroneous considerations. This opinion considered that the Blaci/Blasi of Anonymous, Blacki of Simon of Kéza and Villehardouin, Blaci of William of Rubruck, Roger Bacon and Johannes Schöner, even of the Hungarian charters between 1222 and 1224, were not related to the Latin Vlachs, instead there was a difference between Turkic Blac/Blaq and Latin Vlach people.
The remark by Simon of Kéza from his work Gesta Hunnorum et Hungarorum about the Székelys living in the mountains which they shared with the Vlachs, where mingled with them, and (erroneously) adopted their alphabet, sparked a controversy about the Old Hungarian alphabet Rovás, while other scholars noticed that Simon did distinguish between Ulahis (Vlachs) and Blackis and identified the Blacki people with the Bulaqs.
According to Lajos Tardy the name Ivlach and Ivlat, mentioned by Archbishop Johannes de Galonifontibus in 1404, refers to previous William of Rubruck's account, which István Ferenczi related to the Bulaqs. Ferenczi argued that the records of slave sales from Kaffa also suggest that the word "Ivlach" denotes the Bulaqs, as well the Aulaqu people, mentioned by Abu al-Ghazi Bahadur.
The theories by László Rásonyi, György Bodor, Dezső Pais, Géza Nagy, János Makkay and István Ferenczi, recall similar opinions from the early 20th century, like by J. Peisker who considered that the Vlachs were descendants of Romanized Turko-Tatars. Such speculations were supported by Hungarian nationalistic ideologies, as would deprive the Romanians of their own history.
According to Victor Spinei, beside the etymological and historical differences between the terms Blaci and Bulaqs, there is not a single historical or archaeological indication for a possible Bulaqs migration towards the Carpathian-Balkan area. Also, it is impossible to explain how such insignificant population was unassimilated for several centuries far from the place of origin, or could be labeled as "the Roman shepherds" implying a clear Latin origin. László Makkai wrote that although "there has been some speculation that Anonymus' Blaks were the Turkic people who are mentioned in medieval sources as bearing the same name and living east of the Carpathians, but this hypothesis does not bear the test of scholarly scrutiny".
Referring to László Rásonyi's work Bulaqs and Oguzs in Medieval Transylvania (1979), the historian Alexandru Madgearu characterized this theory as "not suitable... The Blaci are the Romanians, as other medieval Hungarian chronicles and deeds are clearly showing". István Vásáry noted that Rásonyi tried to prove the Blaci of Transylvania were not the Vlachs, but Turkic people Bulaqs who were confused with the Vlachs. He concluded that the thesis has no sound evidence, and every historical argument speaks against it, being an "abortive attempt that cannot be proved".
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