History - Bulgaria

Bulgarian history fortressThe geographical situation at crossroads, the favourable climate and the variety of relief are prerequisites for the interweaving of fates and routes of many tribes and peoples on the Bulgarian lands. The territory of Bulgaria was inhabited since the earliest historical ages - the Stone Age and the Stone-Copper Age. Archaeological findings of that time were excavated near Karanovo, in the region of Nova Zagora, near Varna, Veliko Turnovo, Vidin, Sofia, Teteven, Troyan, in the Rhodopes. In the Bronze Age Thracians settled here. They dealt in field farming and stock breeding and left evidence of a rich culture (the treasure of Vulchitrun, the Sofia golden vessel and others). In the 11th-6th centuries B.C. there appeared Thracian state units the efflorescence of which took place between the 6th and 2nd centuries B.C. In the 1st C. B.C. their lands were conquered by Rome and in the 5th C. were included in Byzantium. In the 5th-6th centuries the Slavs settled on the Balkan Peninsula, soon to be followed by the Proto-Bulgarians. The constant threat in the face of Byzantium was the cause for these settlers to unite. Thus, in 681 the Bulgarian state was established with Khan Asparouh at the head. Pliska became the capital city. In the years to follow the state underwent periods of greatness and decline.

Under the reign of Khan Tervel (700-718) Bulgaria expanded in territory and rose to a higher political standing. Under Khan Kroum (803-814) Bulgaria bordered on the west with the empire of Charlemagne and on the east the Bulgarian troops reached the walls of Constantinople.

In 864 under Knyaz Boris I Mihail (852-889) the Bulgarian people adopted Christianity as official religion.

At the end of the 9th C. the students of Constantin-Cyril the Philosopher and his brother Methodius - founders of the Slavonic alphabet, came to Bulgaria. Here they enjoyed favourable working conditions and soon undertook large-scale educational and literary activities. Ohrid and Pliska, and later the new capital Veliki Preslav became centres of the Bulgarian and, generally speaking, the Slavonic culture. The reigh of Tsar Simeon (893-917) was the "golden age of Bulgarian culture", when the state expanded to reach the Black Sea, the Aegean Sea and the Adriatic Sea.

Under the successors of Simeon the state weakened by reason of internal turmoil; there spread the heretical teaching of the Bogomils that exerted influence over the heresy of the Cathars and the Albigenses in Western Europe.

In 1018, after long-lasting wars, Bulgaria was conquered by Byzantium. As early as the first years of Byzantine rule the Bulgarians began to struggle for liberation. In 1186 the uprising led by the brother boyars Asen and Petur overthrew the power of Byzantium. As a result the Second Bulgarian Kingdom was established, with Turnovo as a capital city. Up to 1197 the state was under the rule first of Asen and next of Petur.

The mighty power of Bulgaria was restored under their youngest brother Kaloyan (1197-1207), and under Tsar Ivan Asen II (1218-1241) the Second Bulgarian Kingdom reached its highest efflorescence establishing political hegemony in South-East Europe, expanding its borders, pushing forward economical and cultural development. After 1300 the cultural life in Bulgaria marked a new uplift. The literary and artistic school of Turnovo carried on the traditions in the Bulgarian culture - evidenced in the mural paintings in the Boyana Church, the churches in Turnovo, the Zemen Monastery, the rock churches near Ivanovo, the miniatures in the London Gospel, the Chronicle of Manasses.

Separatist tendencies, though, on the part of the boyars led to the splitting of the state in two kingdoms - the Vidin Kingdom and the Turnovo Kingdom. This weakening of the state made it an easy prey for invaders and in 1396 it was conquered by the Ottoman Turks. In the course of almost 5 centuries Bulgaria was under Ottoman rule. The initial years were characterized by unrest and attempts for liberation, later on the haidouts (rebels) appeared who took revenge on the Turks for their wrong doings and this finally led to the establishment of a well-organized national liberation movement.

Bulgaria history slavThe beginning of the 18th C. saw the first stages in the formation of the Bulgarian nation - the Bulgarian enlightenment set in. It was initiated by the work of the monk Paisiy Hilendarski "Slav-Bulgarian History", written in 1762. This writing urged the Bulgarian people to become conscious of and appreciate its own nationality. The ideas of national liberation were conceived and led to the establishment of national church, education and culture.

The organized revolutionary activities are associated with the life-work of Georgi Stoikov Rakovski (1821-1867) - writer and publicist, founder and ideologist of the national-liberation revolutionary movement; Vasil Levski (1837-1873) - strategist and ideologist of the movement, captured by the Turks and put to death near Sofia, a national hero; Lyuben Karavelov (1834-1879) - writer and publicist, leader and ideologist of the movement; Hristo Botev (1847-1876) - poet and publicist, revolutionary democrat, who got killed as voivode (chieftain) of a volunteer detachment fighting the Turkish army, a national hero, and many others.

1876 saw the outbreak of the April Uprising, ruthlessly crushed and drowned in blood, but of major political significance, as it drew the attention of the European states to the Bulgarian national issue.

In 1878, as a result of the Russo-Turkish War of Liberation (1877-1878), the Bulgarian state was restored, but national integration was not attained. The Principality of Bulgaria was proclaimed with an elective knyaz (prince) (Alexander of Battenberg), Eastern Rumelia with a governor of Christian faith to be appointed by the sultan, while Thrace and Macedonia remained under the rule of the Ottoman Empire.

The opposition to this unfair decision of the Congress of Berlin (1878) let to the Kresna-Razlog Uprising (1878-1879), to the unification of the Principality of Bulgaria and Eastern Rumelia (1885), to the break up of the Ilinden-Preobrazhenie Uprising (1903). Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, a prince since 1887, proclaimed the independence of Turkey and in 1908 became tsar (king) of the Bulgarian people, Bulgaria waged the Balkan War (1912) together with Serbia and Greece for the liberation of Thrace and Macedonia. Bulgaria won that war, but in the Inter-Allies War that followed (1913) was defeated by Romania, Turkey and its former allies that tore off territories populated by Bulgarians.

The intervention of Bulgaria in World War I on the side of the Central Powers ended up in a national catastrophe. In 1918 Tsar Ferdinand abdicated to the advantage of his son Boris III. The Peace Treaty of Neuilly imposed harsh clauses on Bulgaria.

Towards the beginning of the 40ies Bulgaria swerved towards Germany and the Axis powers, but later on the participation of Bulgarian troops on the Eastern Front was prevented, Jews living in the country were rescued from deportment.

In August 1943 Tsar Boris III died and a regency was proclaimed that governed the state in lieu of the young Tsar Simeon II. On 5 September 1944 the Soviet army invaded Bulgaria and on 9 September a government of the Fatherland Front was instated headed by Kimon Georgiev. In 1946 Bulgaria was proclaimed a republic. The Bulgarian Communist party came into power. The political parties were suppressed, the economy and the banks were nationalized, the arable land was joined in co-operatives. At the head of the state and the communist party there stood in succession Georgi Dimitrov, Vasil Kolarov, Vulko Chervenkov, Anton Yugov, Todor Zhivkov.

10 November 1989 saw the democratic changes in Bulgaria. A new constitution was adopted, the political parties were re-established, the property, taken away in 1947, was reinstated, as was the land, privatization started.

From 1990 to 1996 Zhelyu Zhelev was a Bulgarian president. In 1996 Petur Stoyanov became president of the country. Since then prime ministers have been: Andrei Loukanov, Dimitur Popov, Filip Dimitrov, Lyuben Berov, Reneta Indzhova, Zhan Videnov, Stefan Sofiyanski, Ivan Kostov.

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