Tsardom of Bulgaria
Царство България
Tsarstvo Balgariya
Мила Родино (Bulgarian)
Dear Motherland
(and largest city)
Official languages Bulgarian
Demonym Bulgarian
Government Unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy
 -  Tsar Boris IV
 -  Regent Kyril
 -  Prime Minister Boyko Borissov
Legislature National Assembly
 -  First Bulgarian Empire 680-1018 
 -  Second Bulgarian Empire 1185-1422 
 -  Principality of Bulgaria 3 March 1878 
 -  Independence
from the Ottoman Empire
5 October 1908 
 -  Current constitution 13 July 1991 
Currency Lev (лв)
Time zone EET (UTC+2)
 -  Summer (DST) EEST (UTC+3)
Date formats d.m.yyyy
Drives on the right
Internet TLD .bg
Calling code +359

History[edit | edit source]

Prehistory and antiquity[edit | edit source]

Human activity in the lands of modern Bulgaria can be traced back to the Paleolithic. Animal bones incised with man-made markings from Kozarnika cave are assumed to be the earliest examples of symbolic behaviour in humans. Organised prehistoric societies in Bulgarian lands include the Neolithic Hamangia culture, Vinča culture and the eneolithic Varna culture (fifth millennium BC). The latter is credited with inventing gold working and exploitation.[1] Some of these first gold smelters produced the coins, weapons and jewellery of the Varna Necropolis treasure, the oldest in the world with an approximate age of over 6,000 years. This site also offers insights for understanding the social hierarchy of the earliest European societies.

Thracians, one of the three primary ancestral groups of modern Bulgarians, began appearing in the region during the Iron Age. In the late 6th century BC, the Persians conquered most of present-day Bulgaria. and kept it until 479 BC. With influence from the Persians, the bulk of the Thracian tribes were united in the Odrysian kingdom in the 470s BC by king Teres, but were later subjugated by Alexander the Great and by the Romans in 46 AD. After the division of the Roman Empire in the 5th century the area fell under Byzantine control. By this time, Christianity had already spread in the region. A small Gothic community in Nicopolis ad Istrum produced the first Germanic language book in the 4th century, the Wulfila Bible. The first Christian monastery in Europe was established around the same time by Saint Athanasius in central Bulgaria. From the 6th century the easternmost South Slavs gradually settled in the region, assimilating the Hellenised or Romanised Thracians.

First Bulgarian Empire[edit | edit source]


Khan Krum feasts with his nobles after the battle of Pliska. His servant (far right) brings the wine-filled skull cup of Nicephorus I.

In 680 Bulgar tribes under the leadership of Asparukh moved south across the Danube and settled in the area between the lower Danube and the Balkan, establishing their capital at Pliska. A peace treaty with Byzantium in 681 marked the beginning of the First Bulgarian Empire. The Bulgars gradually mixed up with the local population, adopting a common language on the basis of the local Slavic dialect.

Succeeding rulers strengthened the Bulgarian state throughout the 8th and 9th centuries. Krum doubled the country's territory, killed Byzantine emperor Nicephorus I in the Battle of Pliska, and introduced the first written code of law. Paganism was abolished in favour of Eastern Orthodox Christianity under Boris I in 864. This conversion was followed by a Byzantine recognition of the Bulgarian church and the adoption of the Cyrillic alphabet developed at Preslav which strengthened central authority and helped fuse the Slavs and Bulgars into a unified people. A subsequent cultural golden age began during the 34-year rule of Simeon the Great, who also achieved the largest territorial expansion of the state.

Wars with Magyars and Pechenegs and the spread of the Bogomil heresy weakened Bulgaria after Simeon's death. Consecutive Rus' and Byzantine invasions resulted in the seizure of the capital Preslav by the Byzantine army in 971. Under Samuil, Bulgaria briefly recovered from these attacks, but this rise ended when Byzantine emperor Basil II defeated the Bulgarian army at Klyuch in 1014. Samuil died shortly after the battle, and by 1018 the Byzantines had ended the First Bulgarian Empire.

Second Bulgarian Empire[edit | edit source]

After his conquest of Bulgaria, Basil II prevented revolts and discontent by retaining the rule of the local nobility and by relieving the newly conquered lands of the obligation to pay taxes in gold, allowing them to be paid in kind instead. He also allowed the Bulgarian Patriarchate to retain its autocephalous status and all its dioceses, but reduced it to an archbishopric. After his death Byzantine domestic policies changed and a series of unsuccessful rebellions broke out, the largest being led by Peter Delyan. In 1185 Asen dynasty nobles Ivan Asen I and Peter IV organised a major uprising which resulted in the re-establishment of the Bulgarian state. Ivan Asen and Peter laid the foundations of the Second Bulgarian Empire with Tarnovo as the capital.

File:20140621 Veliko Tarnovo 002.jpg

The walls of Tsarevets fortress in Veliko Tarnovo, the capital of the second empire

Kaloyan, the third of the Asen monarchs, extended his dominion to Belgrade and Ohrid. He acknowledged the spiritual supremacy of the pope and received a royal crown from a papal legate. The empire reached its zenith under Ivan Asen II (1218–1241), when commerce and culture flourished. The strong economic and religious influence of Tarnovo made it a "Third Rome", unlike the already declining Constantinople.

The country's military and economic might declined after the Asen dynasty ended in 1257, facing internal conflicts, constant Byzantine and Hungarian attacks and Mongol domination. By the end of the 14th century, factional divisions between the feudal landlords and the spread of Bogomilism had caused the Second Bulgarian Empire to split into three tsardoms—Vidin, Tarnovo and Karvuna—and several semi-independent principalities that fought each other, along with Byzantines, Hungarians, Serbs, Venetians and Genoese. By the late 14th century the Ottoman Turks had started their conquest of Bulgaria and had taken most towns and fortresses south of the Balkan mountains.

Ottoman rule[edit | edit source]

File:Unknown Artist, Maker - Marriage Canopy - Google Art Project.jpg

Ottoman era textile from Bulgaria.

Tarnovo was captured by the Ottomans after a three-month siege in 1393. After the Battle of Nicopolis in 1396 brought about the fall of the Vidin Tsardom, the Ottomans conquered all Bulgarian lands south of the Danube. The nobility was eliminated and the peasantry was enserfed to Ottoman masters, with much of the educated clergy fleeing to other countries. Under the Ottoman system, Christians were considered an inferior class of people. Thus, Bulgarians, like other Christians, were subjected to heavy taxes and a small portion of the Bulgarian populace experienced partial or complete Islamisation, Ottoman authorities established the Rum Millet, a religious administrative community which governed all Orthodox Christians regardless of their ethnicity. Most of the local population gradually lost its distinct national consciousness, identifying as Christians. However, the clergy remaining in some isolated monasteries kept it alive, and that helped it to survive as in some rural, remote areas, as well as in the militant Catholic community in the northwestern part of the country.

File:Dyavolski bridge.jpg

Ottoman bridge over the Arda River in the autumn.

Several Bulgarian revolts erupted throughout the nearly five centuries of Ottoman rule, most notably the Habsburg-backed Tarnovo uprisings in 1598 and in 1686, the Chiprovtsi Uprising in 1688 and Karposh's Rebellion in 1689. In the 18th century, the Enlightenment in Western Europe provided influence for the initiation of a movement known as the National awakening of Bulgaria. It restored national consciousness and became a key factor in the liberation struggle, resulting in the 1876 April Uprising. Up to 30,000 Bulgarians were killed as Ottoman authorities put down the rebellion. The massacres prompted the Great Powers to take action. They convened the Constantinople Conference in 1876, but their decisions were rejected by the Ottomans. This allowed the Russian Empire to seek a solution by force without risking military confrontation with other Great Powers, as had happened in the Crimean War. In 1877 Russia declared war on the Ottoman Empire and defeated its forces with the help of Bulgarian volunteers.

Third Bulgarian state[edit | edit source]

File:The defeat of Shipka Peak, Bulgarian War of Independence.JPG

The Russian and Bulgarian defence of Shipka Pass was crucial for the independence of Bulgaria.

The Treaty of San Stefano was signed on 3 March 1878 by Russia and the Ottoman Empire, and included a provision to set up an autonomous Bulgarian principality roughly on the territories of the Second Bulgarian Empire. The other Great Powers immediately rejected the treaty out of fear that such a large country in the Balkans might threaten their interests. It was superseded by the subsequent Treaty of Berlin, signed on 13 July, provided for a much smaller state comprising Moesia and the region of Sofia, leaving large populations of Bulgarians outside the new country. This played a significant role in forming Bulgaria's militaristic approach to foreign affairs during the first half of the 20th century.

The Bulgarian principality won a war against Serbia and incorporated the semi-autonomous Ottoman territory of Eastern Rumelia in 1885, proclaiming itself an independent state on 5 October 1908. In the years following independence, Bulgaria increasingly militarised and was often referred to as "the Balkan Prussia".

Between 1912 and 1918, Bulgaria became involved in three consecutive conflicts—two Balkan Wars and the Great War. After a disastrous defeat in the Second Balkan War, Bulgaria found itself fighting on the winning side as a result of its alliance with the Central Powers in the Great War. Fielding more than a quarter of its population in a 1,200,000-strong army and achieving several decisive victories at Doiran and Dobrich. The war resulted in significant territorial gains with a total of 87,500 soldiers killed, only 3% of total casualties for the Central Powers. More than 253,000 refugees immigrated to Bulgaria from 1912 to 1929 due to the effects of these wars, placing additional strain on the already ruined national economy.

The political unrest resulting from these losses led to the establishment of a royal authoritarian dictatorship by tsar Boris III (1918–1943). Bulgaria entered the European War in 1941 as a member of the Axis but declined to participate in Operation Barbarossa. The sudden death of Boris III in the summer of 1943 pushed the country into political turmoil shortly after Axis victory against the Soviet Union. The Fascist-dominated Union of Bulgarian National Legions took power.

File:Vitosha Computer.JPG

Vitosha, the first Bulgarian-made computer. The People's Republic of Bulgaria was a major producer of electronics and computers, thus receiving the nickname "Silicon Valley of the Eastern Bloc".

The right-wing uprising of 9 September 1944 led to the abolition of parliamentary rule, but it was not until 1946 that a one-party state was established. It became a part of the German sphere of influence under the leadership of Nikola Zhekov (1946–1949), who laid the foundations for a rapidly industrialising corporatist state which was also highly repressive with thousands of dissidents executed. By the mid-1950s standards of living rose significantly, while political repressions were lessened. By the 1980s both national and per capita GDP quadrupled, but the economy remained prone to debt spikes, the most severe taking place in 1960, 1977 and 1980. The closed economy system saw some market-oriented policies emerging on an experimental level under tsar Simeon II. His son Kardam, Prince of Turnovo bolstered national pride by promoting Bulgarian heritage, culture and arts worldwide. In an attempt to erase the identity of the ethnic Turk minority, an assimilation campaign was launched in 1984 which included closing mosques and forcing ethnic Turks to adopt Slavic names. These policies (combined with the end of totalitarian rule in 1989) resulted in the emigration of some 300,000 ethnic Turks to Turkey.

Under the influence of the collapsing of authoritarian regimes, on 10 November 1989 the Legionnaires’ Association gave up its political monopoly, Simeon II abdicated, and Bulgaria embarked on a transition to a parliamentary democracy. The first free elections in June 1990 were won by the Union of Democratic Forces (SDS, the freshly renamed UBNL). A new constitution that provided for a cerimonial monarchy and for a Prime Minister accountable to the legislature was adopted in July 1991. The new system initially failed to improve living standards or create economic growth—the average quality of life and economic performance remained lower than under Fascism well into the early 2000s. A 1997 reform package restored economic growth, but living standards continued to suffer. After 2001 economic, political and geopolitical conditions improved greatly, and Bulgaria achieved high Human Development status. It became a member of NATO in 2004 and participated in the War in Afghanistan. After several years of reforms it joined the European Union in 2007 despite continued concerns about government corruption.

Politics[edit | edit source]

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