The Sabir people (also Savirs, Subars, Savars, Suwārs or Suvars; sbr, Greek: Σάβιροι) inhabited the south-western Caspian Depression of Strabo's Sauromatae (though they are not to be confused with the Sarmatians) prior to the arrival of the Caucasian Avars from Abarshahr (Khorasan). They appear to have been an Oghur Turkic people, possibly of Hunnic origin. The name Sabir, may dates back to the kingdom of Subartu, which some scholars have linked with the name Sib-Ir ("sleeping land") where it may have been an alternative name for the Ugrian-speaking Mansi/Vogul and which David Christian has linked with the far Eastern Hsien-pi.
The Sabir lived predominantly in the region of Azerbaijan (see Sabir, Azerbaijan) and Dagestan bounded on the east by the Caspian Sea, on the west by the Caucasus Mountains. Priscus mentions that the Sabir attacked the Saragur, Urog and Unogur tribes in 461 AD, forcing them north to the Volga once more, as a result of having themselves been attacked by the "Avars". In 515, having recovered from the Avar attacks of the 460s, they "advertised their power in a huge raid south of the Caucasus, in which they attacked Iranian and Byzantine lands with scrupulous impartiality". They eventually came into allegiance with Persia.
However, in the face of the increasing Avar threat, the Sabirs, previously allied with Sassanid Persia, switched their allegiance to the Byzantines in 552 and invaded the Caucasus. Soon afterwards, they were conquered first by the Avars and later by the Göktürks. By the 700s they largely vanish from the historical record, probably being assimilated into the Khazars and Bulgars.
Byzantine documents normally refer to Sabirs as Sabiroi, although the Byzantine Emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos (908-959) writes in his De Administrando Imperio that he was told by a Hungarian delegation visiting his court that the Tourkoi (the Byzantine name for the Magyars) used to be called “sabartoi asphaloi”, generally considered to mean “strong/firm/reliable Sabirs”, and still regularly sent delegations to those who stayed behind in the Caucasus region near Persia.
Dieter Ludwig suggested that the Khazars were Sabirs who had formed an alliance with the Uar of Khwarezm. The intimate ties between the Hungarians and the Sabirs led Lev Gumilev to speculate that rather than Oghuric they may have been Ugric speakers (both terms being of the same etymological origin), while Chuvash historians postulate that their nation is partially descended from Sabirs. They suggest that a Sabir tribe or fraction, called Suars, may have resettled in the Middle Volga region, where they later merged with Volga Bulgarians. Indeed, one of the foremost cities of Volga Bulgaria was called Suar or Suwar.
- Denis Sinor, The Cambridge History of Early Inner Asia, Volume 1, 1990, p. 235.
- Nurettin Koç, İslamlıktan önce Türk dili ve edebiyatı [pre-Islamic Turkic language and literature]: Old Turkic language, İnkılâp kitabevi, 2002, p.52.
- "Ancient Khwarezm" (Moscow 1948), Sergei Pavlovich Tolstov (1907-1976)
- (Tatar) "Suarlar/Суарлар". Tatar Encyclopaedia. Kazan: The Republic of Tatarstan Academy of Sciences. Institution of the Tatar Encyclopaedia. 2002.
- P. Dhorme, Soubartou-Mitani, Revue d’Assyriologie, Volume VIII (Paris 1911), pp. 92 & 98f. Pauly-Wissowa-Kroll, Real-Encyclopädie der classischen Altertumswissenschaft, under Sabiroi and Saspeires. In: Ignace J. Gelb, Hurrians and Subarians, The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, Studies in Ancient Oriental Civilization - No.22, p. 30. The University of Chicago Press - Chicago - Illinois. Quote:
- "P. Dhorme's identification of the Sáspeires, Sápeires, Sábeires, Sábiroi, and Sábēroi (to whom might possibly be added some other similarly named peoples not cited by Dhorme) of classical sources with the Subarians, although phonetically admissible, is at present unprovable. The chief difficulty lies in the fact that it is impossible to localize the peoples of the classical sources in one definite region; at various periods they seem to have occupied widely separated areas of Asia, such as Armenia, Iran, and Turkestan."
- D. Christian, A History of Russia, Central Asia and Mongolia: Inner Eurasia from Prehistory to the Mongol Empire. Blackwell Publishing, 1998. Page 279.
- Priscus. Excerpta de legationibus. Ed. S. de Boor. Berolini, 1903, p. 586
- Christian, pp.279-280.
- De Administrando Imperio
- Struktur und Gesellschaft, D. Ludwig, 1982)