History of BulgariaThis is the history of Bulgaria.
In the ancient Bulgarian chronology, there were periods of 3, 10, 12, 17, 19, 21, 30, 47, 50, 53, 300, 600, 4332, etc. ancient Bulgarian years which were used both as denominators and intervals of time. The longest one was of 6328 ancient Bulgarian years. It is mentioned in the fragmentary inscription of Khan Omurtag and refers to the year 823 AD. The text consists of 14 lines, probably the concluding part of a contract between Danube Bulgaria and Byzantium. The inscription is carved with beautiful letters on a marble stone most probably from the capital town of Pliska. Here is what it says: “[…of the ruler] the name is [Khan Omurtag Juvigi]. The year of the appearance of the true god was 6328. They made a sacrifice and they swore in the written in the books [mutual contracts]…” This historic source may be accepted as a proof of the early beginning of the chronology of Bulgarians. According to the counts the new year, 2003 AD, is the year 7508 of the ancient Bulgarian chronology. Thus, the Bulgarians are among the peoples with the most ancient system of measuring time – a fact, which indicates their early civilising force.
Long a crossroads of civilizations (archaeological finds date back to 4600 B.C.), Danube Bulgaria(Bulgaria of present) was first recognized as an independent state in AD 681 and is among the countries in Europe, which survived and kept their original name from the longest time ago. Bulgarian Orthodox Christianity, which became a hallmark of national identity, was established in the 9th century. Bulgaria was ruled by the Byzantine Empire from 1018 to 1185 and the Ottoman Empire from 1396 to 1878. In 1879, Bulgaria adopted a democratic constitution and invited a German nobleman, Alexander of Battenberg, to be prince.
The present-day Republic of Bulgaria is situated in South-eastern Europe, to the right of the lower reaches of the Danube River. Her Black Sea coastline is famous for its resorts. The distinguishing geographic feature of the Balkan Peninsula - the Balkan Range (the Haemus, the Balkan) - stretches within its borders. The mountain massifs the Balkan Range, Sredna Gora, Strandja, the Rhodopes, Rila and the Pirin mountains - and the open plains make up the relief of this country which, over the elapsed thirteen centuries, has more than once discovered, rediscovered and revived itself; it has been discovered and rediscovered by other nations and countries as well. Bulgaria emerged and received official recognition following two victories over the cosmopolitan Byzantine empire. The first battles took place in the Danube delta area in the year 680 A.D. The conflicts continued in the following year, spreading south of the Balkan Range. This is cited in the Acts of the Sixth Oecumenical Council of the Christian Church in Constantinople (present-day Istanbul).
This council, over the course of almost a year, debated and asserted - in opposition to the monothelitic heresy - the official thesis that Christ had two wills, one divine and the other human.
On March 18th, 681, the Byzantine emperor Constantine IV Pagonatus departed from the Council to curb the incursions of the Proto-Bulgarians into Thrace, which violated the wholeness of the empire. But he failed to break their dauntless will and strength. The sixteenth sitting of the Council took place on August 9th of the same year and this is how presbyter Constantine of Apameia in Second Syria addressed the Council: 'I have come to your holy council to tell you that if I had been let to come and speak, we should have suffered what we have been through in the war with the Bulgarians. Because I wanted, from the very beginning of this council, to come and ask that peace be made, so that something be done to unite the two sides, and either be spared the misery, that is to say, both those who preach the single will and those who uphold the two wills'. It is asserted on the basis of this source that the decisive event occurred not earlier than March 18th and no later than August 9th of The year 681.
THE YEAR 681 is accepted as Year One of Bulgaria's history. The formation of the state was not the result of a single act. The western chronicler Siegebert added to his notes on the year 680: 'Henceforth the Bulgarian kingdom must be noted'. This statement was fully justified, for Khan Asparouh's Bulgaro-Turks had united with the Seven Slav tribes who inhabited the territory north of the Balkan Range from as early as the first battles with Byzantium. The Byzantine chroniclers Patriarch Nicephorus (8th century) and Theophanes the Confessor (late 8th and early 9th century) gave a more detailed account of the occurrences of the time. To quote Theophanes on the treaty of the Byzantine empire with the new state, forced by the actions of the Proto-Bulgarians, 'the emperor made peace with them, undertaking to pay an annual tax to the disgrace of the Byzantines and because of our numerous sins. It is a wonder for all people, both far and near, to hear that the man who had made all people to the East, West, North and South pay taxes to him, was defeated by this new people'.
Among domestic sources on the foundation of the Bulgarian state the most important is the Book of the Bulgarian Khans - the first Bulgarian chronicle, compiled at two different times: initially during the rule of the founder of the Bulgarian state Khan Asparouh (680-701), and during the second half of the eighth century.
The new Bulgarian state united Proto-Bulgarians, Slavs and the native population, which consisted mainly of Thracians. Its borders in the centuries that followed varied between the Black Sea, the Aegean and the Adriatic Sea. Included into its border for a long time were the central and northeastern parts of the Balkan Peninsula where traces of human life have been found from the end of the early paleolithic period, dating 200,000 years. A centre of civilization, considered to be the earliest in Europe and comparable to ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, has been found in this region and mainly in the plains to the north and south of the Balkan Range during archaeological excavations. It has been established that the people who lived in the farming communities of the Early and New Stone Age were familiar with metal casting and applied it independently of other early civilizations.
BULGARIA'S RELATIONS WITH BYZANTIUM to a large extent determined the political situation in the Balkans. What we have in mind here are not the relations between two Balkan nations. Byzantium was an agglomeration of various ethnic communities - within her borders lived various Hellenized peoples, apart from the Greeks. In the multi-national empire, which stretched across three continents - Europe, Asia and Africa, the dominant language was Greek, which in the seventh century was made the official state and religious language. In this sense we can only conditionally differentiate between the Greek and Byzantine identity. The Greeks themselves, the Thracians, and the other Balkan peoples, were conquered by Rome. The Greeks called themselves Hellenes, and their country Hellas. The Romans were the first to call them Greeks - after the Grecoes, a small tribe in Epirus who were the most familiar to the Romans. This name was later adopted by the Slavs. The relations between Bulgaria and Byzantium from the foundation of the Bulgarian state in 681 to the end of the fourteenth century when Bulgaria was conquered by the Ottomans, had two major features. The Bulgarian rulers, on the one hand, aspired to conquer Constantinople and inherit the empire. On the other hand, the Byzantines regarded the Bulgarian state as temporarily holding imperial territory and tried by various means - wars, political dealing and manoeuvering, religion and culture, to subjugate it. Byzantium eventually succeeded in conquering the Bulgarian state and kept it for more tFian a century and a half - from 1018 to 1187. For this reason the history of Mediaeval Bulgaria is divided into three periods: the First Bulgarian Kingdom, Byzantine domination and the Second Bulgarian Kingdom.
Despite repeated demonstrations of her military might in the wars against Byzantium, Bulgaria suffered defeat with fatal consequences at a time when it had reached the peak of its territorial expansion and political power. Researchers point out many reasons for this, one of which was the conquering strategy itself of the Bulgarian rulers: they tried to conquer Constantinople by land only. This is characteristic both of Khan Kroum (803-814) and Tsar Simeon (b.864; 893-927). Simeon was the first to title himself 'Tsar of all Bulgarians and Byzantines'. The Bulgarian royal title 'Tsar' derived from the Gothic 'kaisar', which, having passed through the Latin 'Caesar', had been transcribed into tsar in accordance with the specifics of the Bulgarian speech. This title makes no secret of the desires of the Bulgarian rulers to occupy the throne of the Eastern half of the former Roman empire.
Constantinople, however, could be captured only after a siege and in complete isolation from its Balkan and Asian hinterland. Tsar Samouil (976-1014), who pushed Bulgaria's borders further to the South and to the West, and who made Ohrid his capital (the third Bulgarian capital after Pliska and Preslav), set out t achieve this. The country's resources at that time, however, were thinning out. Bulgaria found herself isolated in the acute conflicts between Rome and Constantinople, and despite all endeavours, failed to win the support of any Central European state. After half a century of warring with various degrees of success for both sides, Byzantium conquered Bulgaria.
The Bulgarian nation, already a stable community, tenaciously resisted the foreign domination. A number of uprisings sparked off in Macedonia, Epirus, Thessaly, Thrace, Moesia and other regions. Two of the revolts proclaimed their own Bulgarian kings: Peter Delyan (1040), and Constantine Bodin (1072). The foreign rulers were over-thrown by the liberation movement of the Bulgarians, in the area between the Balkan Range and the Danube River (1185-1187), led by the brothers Assen and Peter who claimed to be the heirs of a royal family from the time of the First Bulgarian kingdom. The centre of the movement was the city of Turnovo, which became the fourth capital of Mediaeval Bulgaria. The resurrected kingdom took up and developed further the traditians of the First Bulgarian state.
Bulgarian-Byzantine relations also had a number of objective consequences, as a result of which the Bulgarian people became an alloy which weathered all vicissitudes of history. Of tremendous importance was the adoption of Christianity in 865. An oecumenical council in the second Bulgarian capital of Preslav voted in 893 to introduce a script, valid both for state and church, based on the spoken vernacular of the majority of the country's population - the language of the Bulgarian Slavs. Both acts were the doing of Prince Boris (852-889; d. in 907). At great expense of effort and bloodshed, not even sparing the first-born son, Prince Boris overcame the internal rejection of contemporary Bulgarian society and imposed Christianity as the official state religion. The adoption of Christianity was above all an important political act, aimed at bringing Bulgaria up to the level of the advanced states of the time. Having joined Bulgaria to the Eastern Orthodox Church, Prince Boris made the next decisive move. With his support and aid, after 886 religious activities began to be carried out in the Slavonic language, using the script and the works of the Slav apostles Constantine-Cyril and Methodius. The mission of the two brothers as official emissaries of Byzantium to Great Moravia encountered hardships and ordeals to eventually mature into a great cause which radically affected the better part of the Slavs. Persecuted and tortured by the German clergy, the disciples of Cyril and Methodius were heartily welcomed in Bulgaria, which thus became the cradle of the Slav alphabet and culture. The daring rejection of the trilingual dogma (according to which Christianity could only be preached in Latin, Greek and Hebrew) quickly found practical application. Ten years after the cause of Cyril and Methodius became Bulgarian state policy, Greek was banished from the religious service. Even in the remotest settlements, the western areas included, where Kliment of Ohrid, the disciple and associate of Cyril and Methodius, worked (840-916), the service was read in Slav-Bulgarian, or as it has been named for the sake of accuracy - in Old Bulgarian.
The Old Bulgarian literary language helped the independent development of the Bulgarians. This took place at a time when the greater part of Mediaeval Europe had no national literary languages and made use of Latin and Greek. The Bulgarian script spread on the basis of a rich folklore heritage.
Turning to account Byzantium's experience, Bulgaria began very early to draw on the cultural heritage of many countries and peoples. The father of the Slav script and culture, Constantine-Cyril the Philosopher (c. 826-869), a graduate of the renowned Magnaur school in Constantinople and later a teacher of philosophy at the same school, was well-versed in ancient classics and some of the cultural achievements of the East, including those of the famous Armenian philosopher David Anaht the Invincible. The works of Cyril and Methodius helped educated Bulgarians get to know the philosophical and literary wealth of Graeco-Hellenic and Roman times. The works of the Bulgarian men of letters ofhe ninth and tenth centuries revealed their knowledge of the works of such ancient scientists and philosophers as Thales, Permenides, Democritus, Plato, Aristotle, Strabo and Ptolemy. The Bulgarian rulers themselves were intensively involved in this upsurge of Bulgarian literature and culture, especially the son of Prince Boris - Tsar Simeon, who also was educated at the Magnaur school. The compilation of the Zlatostrui (Didactic Gospel), a collection of excerpts from the writings of John Chrysostom, and a theological encyclopedia entitled 'A collection of the writings of many priests' are attributed to his name. Presbyter Kozma's 'Lecture against the Bogomils' (tenth c.) betrays a good measure of patriotism. From the positions of the official ideology he does not confine himself solely to the castigation of a heresy, but goes on to disclaim certain failings and weaknesses of the social system, rejecting the moral decay among the high clergy and the feudal aristocracy and seeking the underlying reasons for the people's discontent.
The creation of these and many other works of spiritual value was paralleled by extensive building. Many new churches and palaces were erected, of which The Golden Church in the second Bulgarian capital of Preslav, the fortresses of the third Bulgarian capital Ohrid, and others were particularly notable. The peculiar Bulgatian-Byzantine symbiosis, which is of late frequently mentioned in historiographical studies, gave birth to an entirely new civilization-the Eastern Orthodox.
After Byzantium was conquered by the Fourth Crusade at the end of the 12th century and the so-called Latin empire was formed, Bulgaria again stood out as a major power in the south-east of Europe. Tsar Kaloyan (1197-1207) routed near Adrianople the troops of the Latin emperor Baldwin of Flanders and took him prisoner. To win the official recognition of the Bulgarian state he concluded a union with the Roman Curia (1204 - 1232). Tsar Ivan Assen II (1218-1241) restored Bulgaria's territory to the extent of its former greatest territorial power with an outlet to the three seas - the Aegean, the Black and the Adriatic. After his great victory over the despot Theodor Comnenus (1230) near the village of Klokotnitsa (in the present-day Haskovo region) he became the most powerful ruler on the Balkans. The Latin crusaders and the guardians of the teenage Baldwin were forced to seek his protection and betrothed Ivan Assen's very young daughter to the teenage emperor. Thus the title of Ivan Assen II - 'King of Bulgarians and Greeks' - reflected to a great extent the power that he exercised. With the blessing of all Eastern patriarchs he restored the Bulgarian Patriarchy which had existed during the reign of Tsar Simeon, thereby restoring the independence of the Bulgarian church (1235).
With its policy and actions, the second Bulgarian state managed to check the attempts of the western colonizers to conquer the entire south - east of Europe. This allowed the Nycean Byzantine state in Asia Minor breathing space, to pick up strength and in 1261 to repulse the Latins and restore Byzantium.From the 12th to the 14th century Bulgaria also made progress in its socio-economic development. The Bulgarian rulers minted and put in circulation their own coins, the urban population grew, stable trading contacts were established with the western Balkan states and North-Italian city-republics, such as Venice and Genoa. Another characteristic feature of Bulgarian feudal society at this time was also its openness to the surrounding world, to near and faroff countries and cultures.
In the 13th and 14th centuries Bulgaria again became a thriving cultural centre. The flowering of the Turnovo school of art was related to the feudal construction of palaces and churches, to literary activity in the royal court, the patriarchy and the monasteries, and to the development of the handicrafts. Remarkable achievements of this school have been preserved down to this day: the murals of the Boyars' houses in Trapezitsa and the 'Forty Holy Martyrs' church in Veliko Turnovo, the Boyana Church (1259), the rock church near the village of Ivanovo (Razgrad region) - fourteenth century, etc. Book illuminations also developed, particularly during the reign of Tsar Ivan Alexander (1331-1371) - the Manasses Chronicle, the Tetraevangelia of Ivan Alexander and the Tomich psalter. Hesychasm also found its way into official literature of the 14th century. This 'heresy' among the highest feudal aristocracy and the religious and writing elite of the time was expounded in the so-called Kilifarevo school by such writers as Theodosius of Turnovo, Patriarch Euthimius of Turnovo, Grigorii Tsamblak and Constantine Kostenechky. The time they worked in was a critical period in Bulgaria's history - the Ottoman invaders were pressing up against the country's borders. The various literary and spiritual works created by the above-mentioned men served as a bridge to the future preservation of the Bulgarian nationality and to fruitful contact with other cultures. Of particularly great importance was the orthographic reform initiated by Patriarch Euthimius of Turnovo, which introduced a new, all-valid, Old Bulgarian spelling. This was later adopted in Serbia, Walachia, Moldavia and Russia.
Secular works - chronicles, novelettes and short stories - appeared side by side with religious works in official Bulgarian Mediaeval culture. The chronicle of the Byzantine writer Constantine Manasses, translated during the reign of Tsar Ivan Alexander, contains additional information about Bulgarian history from the birth of the state to the fourteenth century. Particularly interesting is fhe so-called 'Bdin collection', written during the reign of Tsar Ivan Srazimir and Tsaritsa Anna (1360), which deals solely with women in the Middle Ages. This collection, unique in terms of Slav literature, is kept in the Central Library of the Belgian town of Ghent (published in Belgium and reprinted in Britain in 1980). Translation of works of prose were also widespread in mediaeval Bulgaria. The 'Alexandria', which tells of the life and deeds of Alexander of Macedon, at that time a very popular literary work, was translated into Bulgarian in the 10th and 11th centuries. This book was copied and read in Bulgaria by people from all walks of life until the second half of the nineteenth century.
The Bulgarian apocryphal writings and culture (heretic), rejecting the existing social system, were greatly beneficial to Bulgaria's contacts with the West and the rest of the world in the context of antagonistic relations of Catholicism and the Eastern Orthodox religion. The apocrypha spread across Bulgaria as early as the tenth century. Most of the apocryphal writings were translations of Byzantine religious romances - both Old and New Testament. The so-called Bulgarian apocryphal chronicle, which relates the formation of the Bulgarian state and lauds the Bulgarian people as 'God's elect' was compiled in the eleventh century during the years of Byzantine domination. 'The Salonika legend', written in the same period, glorified the cause of the Slav Apostles Cyril and Methodius, while 'The popular life' of Ivan of Rila praised the founder of the Rila Monastery as an exponent of the Bulgarian people.
The apocrypha also greatly influenced the thematic range and style of folk art. The apocryphal writings crossed Bulgaria's borders to other countries too. It has been established, for instance, that in writing his Divine Comedy, Dante Alighiery used the apocryphal concept of the structure of the 'nether world' and the 'life' therein as described in the Bulgarian New Testament apocrypha 'The Descent of the Virgin into Hell' and 'The presentation of the Apostle Paul' (in the Divine Comedy Dante explicitly quotes the latter).
One of the greatest composers of the 14th century, Joan Koukouzel, was of Bulgarian origin. He created a new musical style based on folklore with Bulgarian song motifs penetrating the church singing of other orthodox countries as well.
The Heretic Traditions, whose roots in the Balkans go back to the times before the migration of the Slavs and the proto-Bulgarians to the Peninsula, continued in Mediaeval Bulgaria. The Byzantine emperors were also instrumental in maintaining this tradition by resettling the population of Asia Minor as a border population of the Empire. Among the most widespread heretic teachings of the tenth to fourteenth centuries was the Bogomil movement. This teaching comprised elements of the Christian religion and the Anatolian religious dualism, which sprangfromManicheanism in the early Christian era. The Bogomil teaching held that man must strive for the consummate spiritual world of virtues, i.e. strive for what is God's creation and disclaim the material, the carnal, including the official institutions, which were regarded as the infernal creation of Satan. The Bogomil movement reflected 'the spirit of democracy,the desire for equality and justice inherent in early Christianity, and the religious humanism typical of the gospels which was theoretically shared by the representatives of the church. However, in the conditions of feudal reality it was relegated to the background' (Academician D. Angelov).
The Bogomil teaching became a mass phenomenon among the Bulgarians in the years of Byzantine domination. The Bogomils were actively involved in some of the Bulgarian uprisings of the time. Their leader in the 12th century, Vasilii, after a debate held in Constantinople, was condemned to be burnt at the stake.
Throughout the Middle Ages the Bogomil teaching held sway in many countries: it infiltrated Byzantium, particularly Byzantium's provinces in Asia Minor, Italy, France, Serbia, Bosnia and Russia. The teachings of the Cathars and the Albigoians in Western Europe, which appeared in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, were connected with the Bulgarian Bogomils from the organizational and ideological point of view. Typically Bogomil dualistic writings such as John's Gospel (the Secret Book) probably compiled in the 11th century, the Cathar Prayer Book (a ritual book dating from the first half of the 13th century which has not come down to us and which the dualist Cathars in France borrowed from the Bulgarian Bogomils and translated it into Latin).
In times of extraordinary oppression and crises, the peasants rose also in armed revolts against exploitation both by domestic and by foreign masters. Noteworthy here is the uprising of 1277, which in actual fact was the first mediaeval peasant war and whose leader, the swineherd Ivailo, ascended the throne, albeit for a limited period.
During the years of Ivailo's rebellion and afterwards Bulgaria suffered at the hands of the Tartars of 'the Golden Horde', who for a number of years interfered in the domestic affairs of the country. The Bulgarian state survived the crisis, beat off the Tartars, and strengthened and consolidated its resources to make new progress in its development at a time when all the Eastern Slavs were conquered by the Tartars.
Bulgaria had a beneficial influence on the initial development of the Russian state. Bulgaria sent missionaries to Russia when Russia adopted Christianity in 988, and Old Bulgarian became the official state and religious language of Russia in the eleventh century. However, the life-giving juices which flowed to the Eastern Slavs from the South during the fourteenth century, after a break of two centuries, were even more significant. In the history of Russian culture this period of Old Bulgarian influence is known as the 'Second South Slavic Influence'. Its main agents were the monks and priests: Russian monks visited the schools and monasteries in Bulgaria or settled to live in the monasteries on Mount Athos, which were inhabited by Bulgarian monks and were supported by the Bulgarian rulers.
The Old Bulgarian literary language became the official state and religious language in the Walachian lands in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. After 1352, when the Ottomans began to penetrate the Balkans, many Bulgarian men of letters and monks left the country with literary masterpieces and travelled to monasteries and bishoprics in Walachia and Russia. By the end of the fourteenth and the beginning of the fifteenth century, literary activities in Serbia flourished under the influence of Old Bulgarian culture through such pan-Slavic writers as Constantine Kostenechky, Grigorii Tsamblak, Vladislav the Grammarian and Dimiter Kratovski.
Bulgaria and her neighbours frequently found themselves in conflict during the Middle Ages. Rivalry between East and West after 1054 ran very high, particularly after the break of relations between the two main centres of the Christian religion, Rome and Constantinople. Despite various peculiarities, differences and nuances, it can be said that a standard cycle prevailed in the socio-economic development of the various nationalities and regions on the continent during the Middle Ages. The situation on the Balkans and in part of Central Europe changed radically when they became provinces of the Ottoman Empire. They entered the orbit of a backward, but sturdy and stable military feudal system. The Bulgarian lands fell under ottoman domination.
In the early part of the 20th century, in an effort to liberateMacedonian and other bulgarian territories, occupied by neighbouring states, Bulgaria engaged in two Balkan wars and became allied with Germany during World War I. It suffered disastrous losses as a result. The interwar period was dominated by economic and political instability and by terrorism as political factions, including monarchists and communists, struggled for influence. In World War II, Bulgaria ultimately allied again with Germany but protected its Jewish population of some 50,000 from the Holocaust. When Tsar Boris III died in 1943, political uncertainty heightened. The Fatherland Front, an umbrella coalition led by the Communist Party, was established. This coalition backed neutrality and withdrawal from occupied territories. Bulgaria tried to avoid open conflict with the Soviet Union during the war, but the U.S.S.R. invaded in 1944 and placed the Fatherland Front in control of government.
After Bulgaria's surrender to the Allies, the Communist Party purged opposition figures in the Fatherland Front, exiled young Tsar Simeon II, and rigged elections to consolidate power. In 1946, a referendum was passed overwhelmingly, ending the monarchy and declaring Bulgaria a people's republic. In a questionable election the next year, the Fatherland Front won 70% of the vote and Communist Party leader Georgi Dimitrov became Prime Minister. In 1947, the Allied military left Bulgaria, and the government declared the country a communist state. Forty-two years of heavy-handed totalitarian rule followed. All democratic opposition was crushed, agriculture and industry were nationalized, and Bulgaria became the closest of the Soviet Union's allies. Unlike other countries of the Warsaw Pact, however, Bulgaria did not have Soviet troops stationed on its territory.
Dimitrov died in 1949. Todor Zhivkov became Communist Party Chief in 1956 and Prime Minister in 1962. Zhivkov held power until November 10, 1989, when he was deposed by members of his own party (the Bulgarian Communist Party) was renamed the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) by hitherto Prime Minister Petre Mladenov.
Bulgaria has been a parliamentary democracy since 1990. In contrast to violent civil conflicts and ethic cleansing which charaterized the departure of totalitarian communism in the Western Balkans (former Yugoslavia), Bulgaria was a successful example of a peaceful transition from communist rule to democracy. Although its economic reforms progressed slower than in Hungary, Poland and the Czech republic, it managed to overcome difficult periods of economic distress and havoc and settled in a civilized European manner its inter-ethnic and minority issues. Bulgaria is expected to become a NATO member in May 2004 and join the EU in 2007.
See also: Bulgarian monarch - Bulgaria/Government - history of Europe - history of present-day nations and states