BŪLĀN , Khazar king. According to tradition he instituted Judaism in Khazaria. The "Reply of Joseph" to the letter of *Ḥisdai ibn Shaprut in the "Khazar Correspondence" refers to Būlān as a reforming king who drove the diviners and idolaters (i.e., shamanists) from the land, and accepted monotheism (Judaism) in consequence of a dream or vision. In consequence of another dream or vision he made a successful military expedition south of the Caucasus to Ardabil, from the spoils of which he consecrated cult objects (tabernacle, ark, candelabrum, etc.), still preserved in the time of the writer. After a religious debate held in Khazaria on the merits of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism respectively, Būlān gave his verdict in favor of Judaism which henceforth became the religion of the king and his servants, i.e., apparently the leading Khazars, rather than the people as a whole. Būlān here appears as the Khazar khaqan to whom the beg (Heb. sar, "general") is subordinate. M.I. Artamonov makes Būlān the beg. The most probable date for these events, the historicity of which is confirmed at least in part by other sources, is 730–40 c.e. Parallels for the acceptance of a new faith after a religious debate are the conversion of the Uigurs to Manichaeism shortly after 762 and the account of the missions of the Muslims, Latins, Jews, and Greeks to Vladimir i in 986 in the "Russian Chronicle," before Vladimir's final acceptance of Orthodoxy. The name Būlān appears to be Turkish, but there is no agreement as to the meaning. The suggestion of J. *Brutzkus that it is a participial form from the root bil, "know," in the sense of "wise," has met with no general acceptance. S. Szyszman, followed by Artamonov, proposes bulan, "elk" or "stag" in some Turkish dialects, as the origin of the name, and finds numerous place and personal names in Russia of which Būlān is the principal component.
S. Szyszman, in: Ephemerides Theologicae Lovanienses, 33 (1957), 68–76; Dunlop, Khazars, index; idem, in: Roth, Dark Ages, 336–40; M.I. Artamonov, Istoriya Khazar (Rus., 1962), 276–8; A. Zajączkowski, Ze studiów nad zagadnieniem chazarskim (1947), 38–39.
[Douglas Morton Dunlop]