I know I’ve heard of the Volga Bulgars before, but certainly, the Volga is not the area I commonly think  of when discussing the Bulgars. So, this is a good book for broadening my horizons right there.

The Bulgars are actually another tribe that first shows up moving out of the area north of the Black Sea. Unlike the Sarmatians and Alans who came before them, the Bulgars spoke a Turkic language instead of an Iranian one. Sometime around AD 600, the Bulgars split into two groups, one of which headed southwest and adopted a Slavic language, and still survive in the name of a Balkan country. The other group went north to the Volga around Tartarstan, and founded a state that lasted until destroyed by the Mongols (after they first mauled a Mongol army), and gave rise to the Khanate of Kazan as the Mongol Empire broke up.

All of this is well-covered in the usual good Osprey capsule history at the start of this book, and with my lack of knowledge, was very informative just in those three pages. The next section is a more in-depth look at the military history, with a fair amount of chaos surrounding who should be in charge of the disintegrating Kazan state in the face of the rising power of Muscovy (including revolting against a Muscovite-installed leader, and then asking for him back a few years later). There’s three good maps showing the extent of Bulgar/Kazanite expansion at various times, which is also a help.

Along with a good section and arms and equipment, there’s also a short bit on siege warfare, which includes a good diagram of a typical wooden wall used in the area. As usual, there’s some good photography of various pieces of equipment, though I’ve gotten used to other recent Osprey titles moving to color for that, while this is still all black-and-white, though the reproduction quality is quite good.

As usual, the main problem is only having 48 pages for roughly seven centuries of history, but within that, the subject is presented very well. The eight color plates are a bit abstract in the backgrounds (the one on the cover is the only fully-fleshed-out one in the lot), but are quite good, and have extensive commentaries.