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Armies of the Volga Bulgars & Khanate of Kazan (Men-at-arms) [Paperback]

Viacheslav Shpakovsky & David Nicolle
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

20 Oct 2013 Men-at-arms
The Bulgars were a Turkic people who established a state north of the Black Sea. In the late 500s and early 600s AD their state fragmented under pressure from the Khazars; one group moved south into what became Bulgaria, but the rest moved north during the 7th and 8th centuries to the basin of the Volga river. There they remained under Khazar domination until the Khazar Khanate was defeated by Kievan Russia in 965. In the 1220s they managed to maul Genghis Khan's Mongols, who returned to devastate their towns in revenge. By the 1350s they had recovered much of their wealth, but they were caught in the middle between the Tatar Golden Horde and the Christian Russian principalities. They were ravaged by these two armies in turn on several occasions between 1360 and 1431. A new city then rose from the ashes - Kazan, originally called New Bulgar - and the successor Islamic Khanate of Kazan resisted the Russians until falling to Ivan the Terrible in 1552. The costumes, armament, armour and fighting methods of the Volga Bulgars during this momentous period are explored in this fully illustrated study.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 48 pages
  • Publisher: Osprey (20 Oct 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1782000798
  • ISBN-13: 978-1782000792
  • Product Dimensions: 24.4 x 18 x 0.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 273,816 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description

About the Author

VIacheslav Shpakovsky was born in 1954. He teaches in the History Department of Penza University in Penza, Russia, where he holds the position of Assistant Professor and Chief Historical Scientist. He has written a number of articles on various aspects of Russian and military history for both academic journals and popular magazines in Russia. David Nicolle, born in 1944, worked in the BBC's Arabic service for a number of years before gaining an MA from the School of Oriental and African Studies, London, and a doctorate from Edinburgh University. He has written numerous books and articles on medieval and Islamic warfare, and has been a prolific author of Osprey titles for many years. David Nicolle, born in 1944, worked in the BBC's Arabic service for a number of years before gaining an MA from the School of Oriental and African Studies, London, and a doctorate from Edinburgh University. He has written numerous books and articles on medieval and Islamic warfare, and has been a prolific author of Osprey titles for many years. Gerry Embleton has been a leading illustrator and researcher of historical costume since the 1970s, and has illustrated and written Osprey titles on a wide range of subjects over more than 20 years. He is an internationally respected authority on 15th and 18th century costumes in particular. He lives in Switzerland, where since 1988 he has also become well known for designing and creating life-size historical figures for museums. His son SAM EMBLETON is also an illustrator and they have completed many joint projects for Osprey.

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
4.0 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mistreated Topics? 3 Dec 2013
By JPS TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This Osprey Men-at-Arms title has value because it tells the story of the Volga Bulgars, or those Bulgars that chose to migrate towards the North while their "cousins" moved to the Danube. The topic is little known, except perhaps in Russia. Also little known is the history of the Khanate of Kazan, one of the "successor states" that emerged after the Mongol onslaught and conquests, and one of the vassals of the Golden Horde, at least for a time.

This is where my first problem came up: essentially, the contents of this booklet make up two somewhat different topics. You therefore have two topics covered within an Osprey title that is already too short to treat either one of them adequately. Moreover, covering almost eight hundred years within some 48 pages implies that the narrative is only "succinct", as another reviewer puts it rather over-generously. In other words, it is simply superficial, barely scratches the surface and cannot be anything else than that.

My second problem is that while this title can be no more than a primer, as most of these booklets in these series tend to be, it is one that does not allow me to go any further and learn more about either the Volga Bulgars or the Khanate, assuming that I would have wanted to. In fact I did but it was simply not possible. This is because out of some 28 references listed in the bibliography, one two are in English (translations of primary sources), 18 are in Russian and the rest are in German or in French.

While I do not blame the author for this, it is clearly disappointing. Again, this could have been alleviated to some extent if the topics covered had been split into two and dealt with in two titles, rather than only one.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Anther piece of the puzzle. 19 Jan 2014
By Scipio
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Pirates, Mongols and Ivan the Terrible all feature in Shpakovsky and Nicholle's fascinating introduction to these relatively obscure armies. The authors outline the pressures and influences upon these peoples from all points of the compass at the edge of the Islamic world in medieval south-central Russia in a 6 centuary fight for survival.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wars of the Volga Bulgars. 12 Dec 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
In "Armies of the Volga Bulgars & Khanate of Kazan" authors Viacheslav Shpakovsky & David Nicolle provide an outstanding "history in a nutshell" about the Volga Bulgars, covering the period between the 9th and 16th Century. As this is an area and a period of European history I knew next to nothing about, I was intrigued when I discovered this title and decided to buy it. The authors did not disappoint me. But be aware that the 48-page limit of the Osprey Men-at-Arms titles prohibits in-depth coverage of the subject.

The writers narrate in a clear, succinct manner the history of Volga Bulgaria, or Volga-Kama Bolghar, which was a historic Islamic Bulgar state that existed between the seventh and thirteenth centuries around the confluence of the Volga and Kama rivers, in what is now European Russia. The population was mostly Bulgars, who had conquered Finno-Ugrics and Turkic speakers of the region. In the period between 1360 and 1431, they were caught in the middle between the Tatar Golden Horde and the Christian Russian princedoms. In later years, the successor Islamic Khanate of Kazan resisted the Russians until falling to Ivan the Terrible in 1552.

The book is divided into two main parts: after the introduction, there follows a section on "Wars of the Volga Bulgars" which recounts the history mentioned above; and a section called "Armies: Organization & Tactics" divided into segments on "Arms & Armor" and "Fortifications & Warfare", thus illustrating how the Volga Bulgars, a relatively small society that was under military threat from several stronger neighbors, adopted differing military cultures and technologies.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good Story of unknown history 22 Mar 2014
By VVV
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I found much to interest me in this book a tale of clear but unknown area of military history good read
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.0 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mistreated topics? 3 Dec 2013
By JPS - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This Osprey Men-at-Arms title has value because it tells the story of the Volga Bulgars, or the Bulgars that chose to migrate towards the North while their “cousins” moved to the Danube which they crossed. The topic is little known, part perhaps in Russia. Also little known is the history of the Khanate of Kazan, one of the “successor states” that emerged after the Mongol onslaught and conquests, and one of the vassals of the Golden Horde, at least for a time.

This is where my first problem came up: essentially, this is two topics treated within an Osprey that is already too short to treat either one of them as it would have merited. Moreover, covering almost eight hundred years within some 48 pages implies that the narrative is only “succinct”, as another reviewer puts it rather over-generously, it is simply superficial, barely scratches the surface and cannot be anything else than that.

My second problem is that while this title can be no more than a primer, as most of this booklets tend to be, it is one that does not allow me to go any further and learn more about them, assuming that I would have wanted to - and I did want to learn more, given that the contents were superficial, as already mentioned. This is because out of some 28 references listed in the bibliography, one two are in English (translations of primary sources), 18 are in Russian and the rest are in German or in French.

While I do not blame the author for this fact, this is clearly disappointing. Again, this could have been alleviated to some extent if the topics covered had been split and dealt with in two titles, rather than one. An additional reason to do this is that, despite the author’s efforts to show some continuity between the periods prior to the Mongol invasion and those after it; this point is not made in a very convincing way.

Despite all these flaws, the author does have some very interesting things to say, even if each element is barely an overview. One is the rather fascinating case of ethnogenesis, as the initial Turkic Bulgars seem to have fused with the Finno-Ougrian populations that they found when they first occupied the country. Another is their conversion to Islam by missionaries who doubled as ambassadors, the most well-known of them being perhaps Ahmad Ibn Fadlan (the historical character played by Antonio Banderas in “The Thirteenth Warrior”), when their Khazar overlords chose to become Jews (or at least their elites did). A third interesting point is the emergence of the Khanate of Kazan in the 14th century and its struggles against the Russian principalities. The piece about the river raids of Russian adventurers (or perhaps more accurately pirates and raiders) was particularly interesting. I was a bit confused at one point because the author at times stresses the devastating campaigns of the Khanate of Kazan against the Russians and almost straight afterwards shows the Khanate as being rather weak and in a decline. The last piece aboiut the decline and fall to the armies of Ivan IV (the one who was "Terrible") is pretty good. In particular, it makes the point that the Khanate simply had nothing that could really oppose and stand up to the Tsar's cannons, especially since fortifications seem to have been in wood.

Then we have the plates which I found rather good, although I confess to knowing little about the arms, armour and equipment of the Volga Bulgars and of the Khanate of Kazan. This is because they support the main text rather well, showing the mixed Russian and Asiatic Steppe nomad influences to which these states were subjected to.

So despite all of its limitations, I believe this title is just about worth three stars. It is simply a pity that the topics were not developed in more detail, especially since the bibliography is essentially of little use if you do not read and understand Russian…
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wars of the Volga Bulgars. 3 Dec 2013
By D. C. Stolk - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
In "Armies of the Volga Bulgars & Khanate of Kazan" authors Viacheslav Shpakovsky & David Nicolle provide an outstanding "history in a nutshell" about the Volga Bulgars, covering the period between the 9th and 16th Century. As this is an area and a period of European history I knew next to nothing about, I was intrigued when I discovered this title and decided to buy it. The authors did not disappoint me. But be aware that the 48-page limit of the Osprey Men-at-Arms titles prohibits in-depth coverage of the subject.

The writers narrate in a clear, succinct manner the history of Volga Bulgaria, or Volga-Kama Bolghar, which was a historic Islamic Bulgar state that existed between the seventh and thirteenth centuries around the confluence of the Volga and Kama rivers, in what is now European Russia. The population was mostly Bulgars, who had conquered Finno-Ugrics and Turkic speakers of the region. In the period between 1360 and 1431, they were caught in the middle between the Tatar Golden Horde and the Christian Russian princedoms. In later years, the successor Islamic Khanate of Kazan resisted the Russians until falling to Ivan the Terrible in 1552.

The book is divided into two main parts: after the introduction, there follows a section on "Wars of the Volga Bulgars" which recounts the history mentioned above; and a section called "Armies: Organization & Tactics" divided into segments on "Arms & Armor" and "Fortifications & Warfare", thus illustrating how the Volga Bulgars, a relatively small society that was under military threat from several stronger neighbors, adopted differing military cultures and technologies.

The overall narrative is accompanied with clear, detailed maps and in eight color plates of the "men-at-arms" involved, the costumes, armament, armor and fighting methods of the Volga Bulgars during this significant period are surveyed. The artwork for these plates is done by illustrators Gerry and Sam Embleton, and they do an consummate job. Many photographs and illustrations enliven the text.

Any points of critique? Well, the 48-page format of the Men-at-Arms titles is not nearly enough to do this subject justice. And, as the Battle of Samara Bend, fought between Volga Bulgaria and the Mongols in 1223, was probably one of the first skirmishes or battles the "invincible" Mongols lost, I would have liked it if this had been expanded upon in more detail. Also, the "further reading" section is useless to most readers, interested in reading more on the subject of the Volga-Bulgars, as most of the books mentioned are either in Russian or another non-English language.
For those interested in reading more about the opponents of the Volga-Bulgars, the Mongols, I recommend: "The Mongols: From Genghis Khan to Tamerlane" by W.B. Bartlett and "The Mongol Art of War" by Timothy May. On the Khanate of Kazan, I recommend: "The Elusive Empire: Kazan and the Creation of Russia, 1552-1671" by Matthew P. Romaniello.
Anyway, this book serves as an excellent primer on the topic of the Volga Bulgars!
2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Good detail but not enough overview 16 Dec 2013
By Mak Nichols - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I was disappointed in this monograph because it assumed the reader was familiar with the history of this era. I was not and had difficulty in following who was doing what where. I am a map person and specific maps would have been a great help. The plates were good and helped some, but for me not enough.
2 of 13 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars the thrue story 28 Nov 2013
By simwallace - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Bulgarians are not turkish people.As so Alanies and Osetines are not turkish people.It is time to check the historical watch.The mother land of bulgarians is nowadays north east state BIHAR-INDIA.Late bulgarians build next big city BIHAR/BILAR/BILYAR at the Bank of Volga river and foundet Volga-Bulgaria(nowadays-Chuvashia,Tatariya,mordova and Maria).Good luck with reading and again check a historical watch.
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