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Bulgarian Historic collections exhibition.

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Part of a series on
History of Bulgaria
Prehistoric Bulgaria
Karanovo culture · Vinča culture
Varna Necropolis · Thrace
Odrysian kingdom · Moesia
Medieval Bulgaria
Bulgarian Empire Portal
Bulgars · South Slavs
Old Great Bulgaria
First Bulgarian Empire
Second Bulgarian Empire
Tsardom of Vidin · Principality of Karvuna
Ottoman Bulgaria
Early Ottoman Bulgaria
National Awakening
April Uprising
Ilinden–Preobrazhenie Uprising
Modern Bulgaria
Principality of Bulgaria · Eastern Rumelia
Kingdom of Bulgaria
People’s Republic of Bulgaria
Republic of BulgariaCoat of arms of Bulgaria.svg
Bulgaria Portal
 v • d • e 

The history of Bulgaria as a separate country began in 681 AD.

In 632 the Bulgars, originally from Central Asia,[1] formed under the leadership of Kubrat an independent state that became known as Great Bulgaria. Its territory extended from the lower course of the Danube to the west, the Black Sea and the Azov Sea to the south, the Kuban River to the east, and the Donets River to the north.[2] Pressure from the Khazars led to the subjugation of Great Bulgaria in the second half of the 7th century. Kubrat’s successor, Asparukh, migrated with some of the Bulgar tribes to the lower courses of the rivers Danube, Dniester and Dniepr (known as Ongal), and conquered Moesia and Scythia Minor (Dobrudzha) from the Byzantine Empire, expanding his new kingdom further into the Balkan Peninsula.[3] A peace treaty with Byzantium in 681 and the establishment of the Bulgarian capital of Pliska south of the Danube mark the beginning of the First Bulgarian Empire. (At the same time one of Asparuh’s brothers, Kuber, settled with another Bulgar group in present-day Macedonia.[4])

A country in the middle of the ethnically, culturally, and linguistically diverse Balkan Peninsula, Bulgaria has seen many twists and turns in its long history and has been a prospering empire, stretching to the coastlines of the Black, Aegean and Adriatic Seas. The First and Second Bulgarian Empires served as cultural centres of Slavic Europe, but the land was also dominated by foreign states twice in its history, once by the Byzantine Empire (1018–1185) and once by the Ottoman Empire (1396 – 1878).

[edit] Prehistory and origins

Prehistoric cultures include the neolithic Hamangia culture and Vinča culture (6th to 3rd millennia BC), the eneolithic Varna culture (5th millennium BC, Varna Necropolis) and the Bronze Age Ezero culture. The Karanovo chronology serves as a gauge for the prehistory of the wider Balkans region.

[edit] The Thracians

Main article: Thracians

Prehistoric cultures in the Bulgarian lands include the Neolithic Hamangia culture and Vinča culture (6th to 3rd millennia BC), the eneolithic Varna culture (5th millennium BC; see also Varna Necropolis), and the Bronze Age Ezero culture. The Karanovo chronology serves as a gauge for the prehistory of the wider Balkans region.

A golden rhyton, one of the items in the Thracian Panagyurishte treasure, dating from the 4th to 3rd centuries BC

The Thracians, one of the three primary ancestral groups of modern Bulgarians, left lasting traces throughout the Balkan region despite the tumultuous subsequent millennia. The Thracians lived in separate tribes until King Teres united most of them around 500 BC in the Odrysian kingdom, which later peaked under the leadership of King Sitalces (reigned 431–424 BC) and of King Cotys I (383–359 BC). Thereafter the Macedonian Empire incorporated the Odrysian kingdom[5] and Thracians became an inalienable component in the extra-continental expeditions of both Philip II and Alexander III (the Great). In 188 BC the Romans invaded Thrace, and warfare continued until 45 AD when Rome finally conquered the region. Thus by the 4th century the Thracians had a composite indigenous identity, as Christian “Romans” who preserved some of their ancient pagan rituals.

[edit] The Slavs

Main article: South Slavs

The Slavs emerged from their original homeland (most commonly thought to have been in Eastern Europe) in the early 6th century and spread to most of eastern Central Europe, Eastern Europe and the Balkans, thus forming three main branches – the West Slavs, the East Slavs and the South Slavs. The easternmost South Slavs settled on the territory of modern Bulgaria during the 6th Century.

A portion of the eastern South Slavs assimilated the Thracians before the Bulgar élite incorporated them into the First Bulgarian Empire.[6]

[edit] Bulgars

Main article: Bulgars

The Bulgars (also Bolgars or proto-Bulgarians[7]) were a semi-nomadic people of Iranic peoples descent, originally from Central Asia, who from the 2nd century onwards dwelled in the steppes north of the Caucasus and around the banks of river Volga (then Itil). A branch of them gave rise to the First Bulgarian Empire. The Bulgars were governed by hereditary khans. There were several aristocratic families whose members, bearing military titles, formed a governing class. Bulgars were monotheistic, worshipping their supreme deity Tangra.

[edit] Old Great Bulgaria

Main article: Old Great Bulgaria

Great Bulgaria and adjacent regions, c. 650 AD

In 632 Khan Kubrat united the three largest Bulgarian tribes: the Kutrigur, the Utugur and the Onogonduri, thus forming the country that now historians call Great Bulgaria (also known as Onoguria). This country was situated between the lower course of the Danube river to the west, the Black Sea and the Azov Sea to the south, the Kuban river to the east and the Donets river to the north. The capital was Phanagoria, on the Azov. In 635 Kubrat signed a peace treaty with emperor Heracluis of the Byzantine Empire, expanding the Bulgarian kingdom further into the Balkans. Later Kubrat was crowned with the title Patrician by Heracluis. The kingdom never survived Kubrat’s death. After several wars with the Khazars the Bulgars were finally defeated and they migrated to the south to the north and mainly to the west into the Balkans where most of the other Bulgar tribes were living in a state vassal to the Byzantine Empire since the 5th century AD.

One of the successors of Khan Kubrat, Kotrag led nine Bulgarian tribes to the north along the banks of the river Volga in what is today Russia, creating the Kingdom of the Volga Bulgars in the late 7th century. This kingdom later became the trade and cultural center of the north, because it stood on a very strategic position creating a monopoly over the trade among the Arabs, the Norse and the Avars. The Volga Bulgars were the first to ever defeat the Mongolic horde and protected Europe for decades, but after countless Mongol invasions the Kingdom of the Volga Bulgars was destroyed and most of its citizens slaughtered or sold as slaves in Asia.

Another successor of Khan Kubrat, Asparuh (Kotrag’s brother) moved west, occupying today’s southern Bessarabia. After a successful war with Byzantium in 680, Asparuh’s khanate conquered initially Scythia Minor and was recognised as an independent state under the subsequent treaty signed with the Byzantine Empire in 681. That year is usually regarded as the year of the establishment of present-day Bulgaria and Asparuh is regarded as the first Bulgarian ruler. Another Bulgar horde, led by Asparuh’s brother Kuber, came to settle in Pannonia and later into Macedonia.[8]

[edit] First Bulgarian Empire

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The First Bulgarian Empire’s greatest territorial extent during the reign of Tsar Simeon

During the late Roman Empire several Roman provinces covered the territory that comprises present-day Bulgaria: Scythia (Scythia Minor), Moesia (Upper and Lower), Thrace, Macedonia (First and Second), Dacia (Coastal and Inner, both south of Danube), Dardania, Rhodope (Roman province) and Haemismontus, and had a mixed population of Byzantine Greeks, Thracians and Dacians, most of whom spoke either Greek or variants of Vulgar Latin. Several consecutive waves of Slavic migration throughout the 6th and the early 7th centuries led to a dramatic change of the demographics of the region and its almost complete Slavicisation.

In the beginning of 8th century the throne was taken by Asparuh’s son – Tervel (700-721) from the Dulo dynasty. In 704 the Byzantine emperor Justinian II who was exiled in the Crimean peninsula asked Khan Tervel to help him get his throne back. The Bulgarian khan answered Justinian’s plead and in the winter of 704 besieged Constantinople with an army of 20,000. Tervel slaughtered Justinian’s opponents and the fallen emperor got his throne back. For this khan Tervel was given the Byzantine title “khessar”, which stands for “next to emperor”. The Bulgarians received generous gifts of gold, linen, silk and silver. Also the region “Zagore” was given to the Bulgarian country. Unfortunately, seven years later in 708 emperor Justinian II felt confident and strong enough, broke the peace treaty and attacked Bulgaria to get back the lands of Zagore. The treacherous Emperor’s plans didn’t work and his army was crushed in the batlle of Anchialus in 708. Justinian’s humiliation didn’t end with that. In 711 he became a victim of a coup d’atat and again asked the Bulgarian khan for help. The Empire was torn up by political conflicts, civil unrest and other foreign invaders like Arabs. This forced Byzantium to sign a new peace treaty with Bulgaria in 716. The treaty expanded the Bulgarian borders further south into the Strandzha mountain. The Byzantite empire was forced to pay a regular tribute to the Bulgarians. The two countries also agreed to help each other in case of an attack. In 718 the Arabs besieged Constantinople. Bound by the treaty of 716 khan Tervel arrived at the walls of the Empire’s capital to find the city on the brink of crumbling besieged by an army of 60,000. Although vastly outnumbered the Bulgarians and the Byzantines defeated the Arabs and forever stopped their further conquest into Europe through the Balkans. After this battle khan Tervel was given the title “savior of Europe”.

The Bulgarian throne was taken by Tervel’s son, Komersius (721-738) and then his nephew Sevvar (738-753). Little is known about these two rulers, but few sources tell us that they kept the treaty with The Empire and brought stability to Bulgaria. Sevvar was the last member of the Dulo dynasty. Later the throne was taken by khan Kormisosh of Bulgaria(753-756) probably by a coup. Khan Kormisosh broke the treaty with the Byzantines and launched many attacks and raids against the Empire some of which even reached the Anastasian Wall. Kormisosh was defeated by the new emperor Constantine V Kopronymos who had won a series of victories against the Umayyads and the Abbasids. Known for his fierceness and strongly continuing his family’s tradition of Iconoclasm, Constantine inaugurated a long series of nine successful campaigns against the Bulgarians in the next year, scoring a victory over Kormisosh’s successor Vinekh at Marcelae. However, three years later he was defeated in the battle of the Rishki Pass but the Bulgarians did not exploit their success. In 763, the emperor sailed to Anchialus with 800 ships carrying 9,600 cavalry and 10,000 infantry. Constantine’s victories, including that at Anchialus in 763 caused considerable instability in Bulgaria, where in the span of fifteen years six monarchs lost their crowns on account of their failures.

During these campaigns Bulgaria was severely weakened and torn by internal conflicts, and in these times it was common khans to get assassinated or run away in Constantinople with their families seeking safety. In 775, Constantine was persuaded to reveal to the Bulgarian ruler Telerig, the identities of his agents and spies in Bulgaria, in order for Telerig to use them and run away in Constantinople with his family. Instead the Bulgarian khan Telerig promptly eliminated them; thus, Constantine began preparations for a new campaign against the Bulgarians – during which he died on September 14, 775 after a defeat by the Bulgarian army in Sakkar mountain.

Under the warrior Khan Krum (802-814) Bulgaria expanded northwest and south, occupying the lands between the middle Danube and Moldova rivers, all of present-day Romania, Sofia in 809 and Adrianople in 813, and threatening Constantinople itself. Krum implemented law reform intending to reduce poverty and strengthen social ties in his vastly enlarged state.

Khan Krum was the first member of a new dynasty. During the rule of this dynasty Bulgaria reached its zenith. Taking advantige of the weakened by the franks avar country to the northwest, the warrior Khan conquered what is today Transilvania in 805. The next year Khan Krum organised a huge army, made a military pact with three slavic tribes and attacked the remnants of the Avar country. In 806 he conquered the town of Pesta (Budapest) and most of the territories of what is present day Hungary thus destroying the Avaric country. The following years were marked by minor skirmishes with the Frankish empire from which the Bulgarians arose victorious. In 807 the Bulgarians and the Franks signed a peace treaty in which they split the territories of the conquered avar country. That marks the beginning of the good diplomatic relations between Bulgaria and the Holy Roman Empire.

Khan Krum then turned his eyes to Macedonia and Thrace to solidify the southern borders of his country. In 809 Krum organised an army of 10,000 and conquered the town of Serdica. The Byzantine emperor Nikephoros I Logothetes was determined to put an end to the Bulgarians harassing his northern frontiers. He launched a massive invasion against Bulgaria with an army of 60,000. He crossed Stara Planina defeated the Bulgarian army twice and ignored the Khan’s offer for peace. Nikephoros then sacked the Bulgarian capital Pliska, burned down Krum’s palace and it’s said that over 50% of the population of the city was mercilessly massacred. The emperor arrogantly declared that Bulgaria was destroyed. Enraged by the atrocities done to his people Krum assembled an army from Macedonia, Moesia, Scythia and Thrace, he even armed the women. While returning victorious to Constantinople, Nikephoros’ army was ambushed in the Varbishki Pass and his entire army slaughtered on July 26 – 811. Nikephoros was killed in the battle, the second Roman emperor to suffer this fate since Valens in the Battle of Adrianople (August 9, 378). The Byzantine chronist Theophanes notes “All the beauty of christiendom perished that day”. The Emperor’s son Stavrakis, badly wounded in the chest, was able to retreat to Adrianople with a small group of 250 men, but later died because of his wounds. Krum is said to have made a drinking cup from Nikephoros’ skull.

After this battle, Kuber’s Bulgarians of Macedonia and Pannonia, and the slavs from Illyria were joined in the Bulgarian country. This wasn’t enough for khan Krum though. In the Autumn of 812 he conquered the city of Odessos, using a new generation of siege technology and siege towers, then resettled it’s population northern of the Danube river. In 813 an army of 20,000 Bulgarians 5,000 avars and 7,000 magyars reached the walls of Constantinople. Peace negotiations began, but emperor Leo V attempted to assassinate the Bulgarian Khan. The Empire’s treachery was brutally punished. A large part of the Anastasian Wall was demolished, most of the fortresses between Adrianople and the Capital were rased to the ground and their inhabitants resettled in different parts of Bulgaria. The khan then began a new campaign against the great city. He gathered an army of 40,000 but mysteriously died on the 13 of April 814. The Bulgarians lost a mighty ruler and Byzantines had time to catch a breath.

During the reign of Khan Omurtag (814-831), the northwestern boundaries with the Frankish Empire were firmly settled along the middle Danube. A magnificent palace, pagan temples, ruler’s residence, fortress, citadel, water mains and baths were built in the Bulgarian capital Pliska, mainly of stone and brick. For this Omurtag is known as “The Builder Khan”.

In the beginning of the IX-th century a thirty years peace treaty was signed. Both countries were so exhausted from all the wars, both sides wanted peace so badly that when signing the treaty the Bulgarian ambassadors swore in the holy cross and the Byzantine aristocracy committed pagan tengrinistic rituals.

After securing the southern borders, khan Omurtag decided that it was time to expand his empire to the north. He led a successful campaign against the Khazar Khaganate and finally defeated them near the river of Dnepr in 821, expanding the borders to the northeast. He crushed the revolt of three separatist slavic tribes in the northwestern parts of the kingdom and after a conflict with the franks about the territories around the upper course of the river Danube, the khan signed a peace treaty with them. Also Omurtag swiftly prevented an alliance between the Byzantine and the Frankish Empire, which would pose a danger to Bulgaria. Although being a wise and benevolent ruler, Omurtag is known for his hatred against Christians and unlike his tolerant predecessors, he began a persecution of Christians. Perhaps the reason for this violent act is the fact that his firstborn son Enravota converted to Christianity. Khan Omurtag dies in 831 and the throne was taken by his third son Malamir.

Khan Malamir came to the throne when he was only sixteen years old, and being the third male child of the previous monarch he defied the Bulgarian laws, which stated that the throne must be taken by the firstborn. Unfortunately khan Omurtag’s firstborn Enravota was exiled, because he accepted the Christian faith and his second son Zvinitsa died at a very young age. So the only one who could take the throne was Omurtag’s third son Malamir. Despite all expectations khan Malamir proved to be a capable ruler and a successful strategist. The Byzantine Emperor had died and the new emperor Theophilus (829-842) broke the peace treaty and launched an invasion against southern Bulgaria. He conquered many fortresses in the Thracian valey. He took cities of Adrianople and Philippoupolis. The young khan and his loyal kavkhan(regent) Isbul, quickly reacted and created a counterattack on the Byzantines, taking these fortresses back. After the empire was defeated yet again, peace negotiations began. Aegean Thrace and the Rhodope mountains were given to the Bulgarian country as a reparation.

The rule of Malamir is also marked by a demographic growth and cultural development. Important is the role of the kavkhan Isbul who ordered the construction of many sewer systems, public baths and aqueducts in the capital Pliska and in most of the major cities.

At the end of his reign, Malamir was forced by the bolyar aristocracy to execute his older brother Enravota and his brother’s best friend, the Byzantine war captive, Kinam, because of their Christian faith. The bolyars believed that Christianity is the faith of their biggest enemies – the Byzantines and that it would be best to clung to their deity Tangra or else they risked direct influence in Bulgaria’s affairs from the Empire and that Christianity posed a great danger to the unity of Bulgaria. Malamir pleaded many times Enravota and Kinam to denounce themselves from the foreign faith and save their lives, but after their solid refusal they were executed. A legend says that before his death Enravota told his brother Malamir that despite his death in time Bulgaria will be a Christian state.

After Malamir’s early death in 836, his nephew Presian (836-852) ascended the throne. Presian was an energatic young ruler that continued the military campaign of his predecessors against the Empire. In 837 backed by the rebelous slavic tribe “smolyani” in southern Macedonia around the city of Thessaloniki, Presian conquered many lands, but failed to take the city itself. Nonetheless, the khan turned to the west and conquered entire Macedonia, which had a dominant slavic population, asserting the cities of Ohrid, Skopie and Drach under his rule. Many cities freely joined the Bulgarian Empire. During the reign of khan Presian is lead the first war in history with the young kingdom of Serbia. The war lasted four years (839-842), and though the Serbians were victorious, no territorial changes were made. The reasons for this war were unknown.

The reign of Boris I (852–889) began with numerous setbacks. For ten years the country fought against the Byzantine and Eastern Frankish Empires, Great Moravia, the Croats and the Serbs[45] forming several unsuccessful alliances and changing sides. In August 863 there was a period of 40 days of earthquakes and there was a lean year, which caused famine throughout the country. To cap it all, there was an incursion of locusts.

In 864 the Byzantines under Michael III invaded Bulgaria on suspicions that Khan Boris I prepared to accept Christianity in accordance with the Western rites. Upon the news of the invasion, Boris I started negotiations for peace.[46] The Byzantines returned some lands in Macedonia and their single demand was that he accept Christianity from Constantinople rather than Rome. Khan Boris I agreed to that term and was baptised in September 865 assuming the name of his godfather, Byzantine Emperor Michael, and became Boris-Mihail.[47] The pagan title “Khan” was abolished and the title “Knyaz” assumed in its place. The reason for the conversion to Christianity, however, was not the Byzantine invasion. The Bulgarian ruler was indeed a man of vision and he foresaw that the introduction of a single religion would complete the consolidation of the emerging Bulgarian nation, which was still divided on a religious basis. He also knew that his state was not fully respected by Christian Europe and its treaties could have been ignored by other signatories on religious basis.

Тhe Byzantines’ goal was to achieve with peace what they were unable to after two centuries of warfare: to slowly absorb Bulgaria through the Christian religion and turn it into a satellite state, as naturally, the highest posts in the newly founded Bulgarian Church were to be held by Byzantines who preached in the Greek language. Knyaz Boris I was well aware of that fact and after Constantinople refused to grant autonomy of the Bulgarian Church in 866, he sent a delegation to Rome declaring his desire to accept Christianity in accordance with the Western rites along with 115 questions to Pope Nicolas I[48][49]. The Bulgarian ruler desired to take advantage of the rivalry between the Churches of Rome and Constantinople as his main goal was the establishment of an independent Bulgarian Church in order to prevent both the Byzantines and the Catholics from exerting influence in his lands through religion. The Pope’s detailed answers to Boris’ questions were delivered by two bishops heading a mission whose purpose was to facilitate the conversion of the Bulgarian people. However, Nicolas I and his successor Pope Adrian II also refused to recognize an autonomous Bulgarian Church, which cooled the relations between the two sides, but Bulgaria’s shift towards Rome made the Byzantines much more conciliatory. In 870, at the Fourth Council of Constantinople, the Bulgarian Church was recognized as an Autonomous Eastern Orthodox Church under the supreme direction of the Patriarch of Constantinople. It was the first Church officially accepted, apart from the Churches of Rome and Constantinople. Eventually, in 893, the Old Bulgarian language became the third official language, recognized by the Churches and used during services and in Christian literature.

Although the Bulgarian Knyaz succeeded in securing an autonomous Church, its higher clergy and theological books were still Greek, which impeded the efforts to convert the populace to the new religion. Between 860 and 863 the Byzantine monks of Greek origin[50] Saint Cyril and Saint Methodius created the Glagolitic alphabet, the first Slavic alphabet by order of the Byzantine Emperor, who aimed to convert Great Moravia to Orthodox Christianity. However, these attempts failed and in 886 their disciples Clement of Ohrid, Naum of Preslav and Angelarius, who were banished from Great Moravia, reached Bulgaria and were warmly welcomed by Boris I. The Bulgarian Knyaz commissioned the creation of two theological academies to be headed by the disciples where the future Bulgarian clergy was to be instructed in the local vernacular. Clement was sent to Ohrid[51] in Southwestern Bulgaria, where he taught 3,500 pupils between 886 and 893. Naum established the literary school in the capital Pliska, moved later to the new capital Preslav. In 893, Bulgaria adopted the Glagolitic alphabet and Old Church Slavonic (Old Bulgarian) language as official language of the church and state, and expelled the Byzantine clergy. In the early 10th century the Cyrillic alphabet was created at the Preslav Literary School.

By the late 9th and the beginning of the 10th century, Bulgaria extended to Epirus and Thessaly in the South, Bosnia in the West and controlled the whole of present-day Romania and Eastern Hungary to the North. With Byzantine support, a Serbian state came into existence in the mid-9th century as a response to the Bulgarian expansion West of the Morava[52]. Switching loyalties between Bulgaria and the Byzantines, the Serb rulers successfully resisted several Bulgarian invasions until 924 A.D., when it was fully subordinated under the general and possibly Count of Sofia Marmais. Under Tsar Simeon I (Simeon the Great), who was educated in Constantinople, Bulgaria became again a serious threat to the Byzantine Empire and reached its greatest territorial extension[53]. Simeon I hoped to take Constantinople and fought a series of wars with the Byzantines throughout his long reign (893–927). The border close to the end of his rule reached the Northern limits of Attica in the South. Simeon I styled himself “Emperor (Tsar) of the Bulgarians and Autocrat of the Greeks”, a title which was recognized by the Pope, but not of course by the Byzantine Emperor nor the Ecumenical Patriarch of the Eastern Orthodox Church. He was recognized “Emperor (Tsar) of the Bulgarians” by the Byzantine Emperor and the Patriarch only at the end of his rule.

Between 894 and 896 he defeated the Byzantines and their allies the Magyars[54] in the so called “Trade War” because the pretext of the war was the shifting of the Bulgarian market from Constantinople to Solun[55][56]. In the decisive battle of Bulgarophygon the Byzantine army was routed[57] and the war ended with favourable for Bulgaria peace which was, however, often violated by Simeon I[58]. In 904 he captured Solun which was previously looted by the Arabs and returned it to the Byzantines only after Bulgaria received all Slavic-populated areas in Macedonia and 20 fortress in Albania, including the important town Drach[59].

After the unrest in the Byzantine Empire that followed the death of Emperor Alexander in 913, Simeon I invaded Byzantine Thrace, but was persuaded to stop in return for official recognition of his Imperial title and marriage of his daughter to the infant Emperor Constantine VII[60][61]. Simeon I was supposed to become regent of the Emperor and temporary to rule the Byzantine Empire. However, after a plot in the Byzantine court, the mother of Emperor Constantine VII, Empress Zoe, rejected the marriage and Simeon’s title, and both sides prepared for a decisive battle. By 917 Simeon I broke every attempts of his enemy to form an alliance with the Magyars, the Pechenegs and the Serbs, and Byzantines were forced to fight alone. On 20 August the two armies clashed at Anchialus in one of the greatest and bloodiest battles in the Middle Ages[62]. The Byzantines suffered an unprecedented defeat leaving 80,000 killed on the battlefield. The pursuing Bulgarian forces defeated the reminder of the enemy armies at Katasyrtai[63]. However, Constantinople was saved by a Serb attack from the West; the Serbs were thoroughly defeated, but that gave precious time for the Byzantine admiral and later Emperor Romanos Lakepanos to prepare the defense of the city. In the following decade the Bulgarians gained control of the whole Balkan peninsula with the exception of Constantinople and Pelopones.

After Simeon’s death, however, Bulgarian power slowly declined. In a peace treaty in 927 the Byzantines officially recognized the Imperial title of his son Peter I and the Bulgarian Patriarchate. Peace with Byzantium, however, did not bring prosperity to Bulgaria. In the beginning of his rule the new Emperor had internal problems and unrest with his brothers, and in the 930s was forced to recognize the independence of Rascia[64]. The biggest blow came from the North: between 934 and 965 the country suffered five Magyar invasions[65]. In 944 Bulgaria was attacked by the Pechenegs, who looted the Northeastern regions of the Empire. Under Peter I and Boris II the country was divided by the egalitarian religious heresy of the Bogomils[66].

In 968 the country was attacked by the Kievan Rus, whose leader, Svyatoslav I, took Preslav[67] and established his capital at Preslavets[68]. Three years later, Byzantine Emperor John I Tzimiskes interfered in the struggle and defeated Svyatoslav at Dorostolon. Boris II was captured and ritually divested of his imperial title in Constantinople,[69] and eastern Bulgaria was proclaimed a Byzantine protectorate.

After the Byzantine betrayal the lands to the West of the Iskar River remained in Bulgarian hands and resistance against the Byzantines was headed by the Comitopuli brothers. By 976, the fourth brother, Samuil concentrated all power in his hands after the deaths of his eldest brother. When the rightful heir to the throne, Roman, escaped from captivity in Constantinople, he was recognized as Emperor by Samuil in Vidin[70] and the later remained the chief commander of the Bulgarian army. A brilliant general and good politician, he managed to turn the fortunes to the Bulgarians. The new Byzantine Emperor Basil II was decisively defeated in the battle of the Gates of Trajan in 986 and barely escaped[71][72]. Five years later he eliminated the Serbian state of Rascia[73]. In 997, following the death of Roman, who was the last heir of the Krum dynasty, Samuil was proclaimed Emperor of Bulgaria[74]. However, after 1001 the war turned in favor of the Byzantines who captured the old capitals Pliska and Preslav in the same year, and beginning ub 1004 launched annual campaigns against Bulgaria. The Byzantine further benefited from a war between Bulgaria and the newly established Kingdom of Hungary 1003[citation needed]. The Byzantine victories of Spercheios and Skopje decisively weakened the Bulgarian army, and in annual campaigns, Basil methodically reduced the Bulgarian strongholds. Eventually, at the Battle of Kleidion in 1014, the Bulgarians were completely defeated.[1] The Bulgarian army was captured, and it is said that 99 out of every 100 men were blinded, with the remaining hundredth man left with one eye so as to lead his compatriots home. When Tsar Samuil saw the broken remains of his army, he suffered a heart attack and died. By 1018, the last Bulgarian strongholds had surrendered, and the First Bulgarian Empire was abolished.

[edit] Byzantine Bulgaria

For more details on this period, see Byzantium under the Komnenoi.

Byzantium ruled Bulgaria from 1018 to 1185, subordinating the independent Bulgarian Orthodox Church to the authority of the Ecumenical Patriarch in Constantinople but otherwise interfering little in Bulgarian local affairs.

No evidence remains of major resistance or any uprising of the Bulgarian population or nobility in the first decade after the establishment of Byzantine rule. Given the existence of such irreconcilable opponents to Byzantium as Krakra, Nikulitsa, Dragash and others, such apparent passivity seems difficult to explain. Some historians[9] explain this as a consequence of the concessions that Basil II granted the Bulgarian nobility to gain their allegiance. In the first place, Basil II guaranteed the indivisibility of Bulgaria in its former geographic borders and did not officially abolish the local rule of the Bulgarian nobility, who became part of Byzantine aristocracy as archons or strategoi. Secondly, special charters (royal decrees) of Basil II recognised the autocephaly of the Bulgarian Archbishopric of Ohrid and set up its boundaries, securing the continuation of the dioceses already existing under Samuil, their property and other privileges.[10]

After the death of the soldier-emperor Basil II the empire entered into a period of instability. There were rebellions against Byzantine rule in 1040-41 at the wars with the Normans and the 1070s and the 1080s, at the time of the wars with the Seljuk Turks. After that the Komnenos dynasty came into succession and reversed the decline of the empire. During this time the empire experienced a century of stability and progress, though it was the time of the Crusades.

In 1180 the last of the capable Komnenoi, Manuel I Komnenos, died and was replaced by the relatively incompetent Angeloi dynasty, allowing Bulgarians to regain their freedom.

[edit] Second Bulgarian Empire

In 1185 Peter and Asen, leading nobles of supposed and contested Bulgarian, Cuman, Vlach or mixed origin, led a revolt against Byzantine rule and Peter declared himself Tsar Peter II (also known as Theodore Peter). The following year the Byzantines were forced to recognize Bulgaria’s independence. Peter styled himself “Tsar of the Bulgars, Greeks and Vlachs“.

Resurrected Bulgaria occupied the territory between the Black Sea, the Danube and Stara Planina, including a part of eastern Macedonia and the valley of the Morava. It also exercised control over Wallachia and Moldova. Tsar Kaloyan (1197–1207) entered a union with the Papacy, thereby securing the recognition of his title of “Rex” although he desired to be recognized as “Emperor” or “Tsar“. He waged wars on the Byzantine Empire and (after 1204) on the Knights of the Fourth Crusade, conquering large parts of Thrace, the Rhodopes, as well as the whole of Macedonia. In the Battle of Adrianople in 1205, Kaloyan defeated the forces of the Latin Empire and thus limited its power from the very first year of its establishment. The power of the Hungarians and to some extent the Serbs prevented significant expansion to the west and northwest. Under Ivan Asen II (1218–1241), Bulgaria once again became a regional power, occupying Belgrade and Albania. In an inscription from Turnovo in 1230 he entitled himself “In Christ the Lord faithful Tsar and autocrat of the Bulgarians, son of the old Asen”. The Bulgarian Orthodox Patriarchate was restored in 1235 with approval of all eastern Patriarchates, thus putting an end to the union with the Papacy. Ivan Asen II had a reputation as a wise and humane ruler, and opened relations with the Catholic west, especially Venice and Genoa, to reduce the influence of the Byzantines over his country.

Emperor Theodore Svetoslav (reigned 1300–1322) restored Bulgarian prestige from 1300 onwards, but only temporarily. Political instability continued to grow, and Bulgaria gradually began to lose territory. This led to a peasant rebellion led by the swineherd Ivaylo, who eventually managed to defeat the Emperor’s forces and ascend the throne.

However, weakened 14th-century Bulgaria was no match for a new threat from the south, the Ottoman Turks, who crossed into Europe in 1354. In 1362 they captured Philippopolis (Plovdiv), and in 1382 they took Sofia. The Ottomans then turned their attentions to the Serbs, whom they routed at Kosovo Polje in 1389. In 1393 the Ottomans occupied Turnovo after a three-month siege. It is thought that the south gate was opened from inside and so the Ottomans managed to enter the fortress. In 1396 the Kingdom (Tsardom) of Vidin was also occupied, bringing the Second Bulgarian Empire and Bulgarian independence to an end.

[edit] Ottoman Bulgaria

Main article: History of Ottoman Bulgaria

In 1393, the Ottomans captured Tarnovo, the capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire, after a three-month siege. In 1396, the Vidin Tsardom fell after the defeat of a Christian crusade at the Battle of Nicopolis. With this the Ottomans finally subjugated and occupied Bulgaria.[11][12][13] A PolishHungarian crusade commanded by Władysław III of Poland set out to free the Balkans in 1444, but the Turks emerged victorious at the battle of Varna.

The new authorities dismantled Bulgarian institutions and merged the separate Bulgarian Church into the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople (although a small, autocephalous Bulgarian archbishopric of Ohrid survived until January 1767).

The Ottomans reorganised the Bulgarian territories as the Beyerlik of Rumili, ruled by a Beylerbey at Sofia. This territory, which included Moesia, Thrace and Macedonia, was divided into several sanjaks, each ruled by a Sanjakbey accountable to the Beylerbey. Significant part of the conquered land was parcelled out to the Sultan‘s followers, who held it as feudal fiefs (small timars, medium ziyamet and large hases) directly from him. That category of land could not be sold or inherited, but reverted to the Sultan when the fiefholder died. The rest of the lands were organized as private possessions of the Sultan or Ottoman nobility, called “mülk”, and also as economic bases for religious foundations, called “vakιf”. Bulgarians regularly paid taxes as a tithe (“yushur”), a capitation tax (“dzhizie”), a land tax (“ispench”), a levy on commerce and so on and also various group of irregularly collected taxes, products and corvees (“avariz”). Turkish authorities destroyed most of the medieval Bulgarian fortresses to prevent rebellions. Large towns and the areas where Ottoman power predominated remained severely depopulated until the 19th century.[14][page needed]

The Ottomans did not normally require the Christians to become Muslims. Nevertheless, there were many cases of forced individual or mass islamization, especially in the Rhodopes. Non-Muslims did not serve in the Sultan’s army. The exception to this were some groups of the population with specific statute, usually used for auxiliary or rear services, and the famous “tribute of children” (or blood tax), also known as the “devsirme”, whereby every fifth young boy was taken to be trained as a warrior of the Empire. These boys went through harsh religious and military training that turned them into an elite corps subservient to the Sultan. They made up the corps of Janissaries (yenicheri or “new force”), an elite unit of the Ottoman army. Bulgarians who converted to Islam, the Pomaks, retained Bulgarian language, dress and some customs compatible with Islam.[12][13][page needed]. The origin of the Pomaks remains a subject of debate.[15][16])

Vasil Levski (1837-1873), one of the key figures of the Bulgarian liberational movement of the 19th century and the national hero of Bulgaria

The theocratic[citation needed] Ottoman system started to decline by the 17th century and at the end of the 18th had all but collapsed. Central government weakened over the decades and this had allowed a number of local Ottoman holders of large estates to establish personal ascendancy over separate regions.[17] During the last two decades of the 18th and first decades of the 19th centuries the Balkan Peninsula dissolved into virtual anarchy. Bulgarian tradition calls this period the kurdjaliistvo: armed bands of Turks called kurdjalii plagued the area. In many regions, thousands of peasants fled from the countryside either to local towns or (more commonly) to the hills or forests; some even fled beyond the Danube to Moldova, Wallachia or southern Russia.[12][18]

After that, 19th century conditionsgradually improved in certain areas. Some towns — such as Gabrovo, Tryavna, Karlovo, Koprivshtitsa, Lovech, Skopie — prospered. The Bulgarian peasants actually possessed their land, although it officially belonged to the sultan. The 19th century also brought improved communications, transportation and trade. The first factory in the Bulgarian lands opened in Sliven in 1834 and the first railway system started running (between Rousse and Varna) in 1865.

Throughout the five centuries of Ottoman rule the Bulgarian people organized many attempts to re-establish their own state. The National awakening of Bulgaria became one of the key factors in the struggle for liberation. The 19th century saw the creation of the Bulgarian Revolutionary Central Committee and the Internal Revolutionary Organisation led by liberal revolutionaries such as Vasil Levski, Hristo Botev, Lyuben Karavelov and many others.

[edit] National awakening

Bulgarian nationalism emerged in the early 19th century under the influence of western ideas such as liberalism and nationalism, which trickled into the country after the French Revolution, mostly via Greece. The Greek revolt against the Ottomans which began in 1821 (see History of Ottoman Greece) also influenced the small Bulgarian educated class. But Greek influence was limited by the general Bulgarian resentment of Greek control of the Bulgarian Church and it was the struggle to revive an independent Bulgarian Church which first roused Bulgarian nationalist sentiment. In 1870 a Bulgarian Exarchate was created by a Sultan edict and the first Bulgarian Exarch (Antim I) became the natural leader of the emerging nation. The Constantinople Patriarch reacted by excommunicating the Bulgarian Exarchate, which reinforced their will for independence.

In April 1876 the Bulgarians revolted in the so-called April Uprising. The revolt was poorly organized and started before the planned date. It was largely confined to the region of Plovdiv, though certain districts in northern Bulgaria, in Macedonia and in the area of Sliven also took part in it. The uprising was crushed with cruelty by the Ottomans, who also brought irregular Ottoman troops (bashi-bazouks) from outside the area. Countless villages were pillaged and tens of thousands of people were massacred, the majority of them in the insurgents towns of Batak, Perushtitsa and Bratsigovo in the area of Plovdiv. The massacres aroused a broad public reaction led by liberal Europeans such as William Ewart Gladstone, who launched a campaign against the “Bulgarian Horrors”. The campaign was supported by a number of European intellectuals and public figures. The strongest reaction, however, came from Russia. The enormous public outcry which the April Uprising had caused in Europe provoked the 1876-77 Constantinople Conference of the Great Powers, and Turkey’s refusal to implement the conference decisions gave the Russians a long-waited chance to realise their long-term objectives with regard to the Ottoman Empire.

Having its reputation at stake, Russia had no other choice but to declare war on the Ottomans in April 1877. The Bulgarians also fought alongside the advancing Russians. The Coalition was able to inflict a decisive defeat on the Ottomans at the Battle of Shipka Pass and at Pleven and by January 1878 they had liberated much of the Bulgarian lands.

[edit] Kingdom of Bulgaria

Borders of Bulgaria according to the Preliminary Treaty of San Stefano and the subsequent Treaty of Berlin

The Treaty of San Stefano of March 3, 1878 provided for an independent Bulgarian state, which spanned over the geographical regions of Moesia, Thrace and Macedonia. However, trying to preserve the balance of power in Europe and fearing the establishment of a large Russian client state on the Balkans, the other Great Powers were reluctant to agree to the treaty.

As a result, the Treaty of Berlin (1878), under the supervision of Otto von Bismarck of Germany and Benjamin Disraeli of Britain, revised the earlier treaty, and scaled back the proposed Bulgarian state. An autonomous Principality of Bulgaria was created, between the Danube and the Stara Planina range, with its seat at the old Bulgarian capital of Veliko Turnovo and including Sofia. This state was to be under nominal Ottoman sovereignty but was to be ruled by a prince elected by a congress of Bulgarian notables and approved by the Powers. They insisted that the Prince could not be a Russian, but in a compromise Prince Alexander of Battenberg, a nephew of Tsar Alexander II, was chosen. An autonomous Ottoman province under the name of Eastern Rumelia was created south of the Stara Planina range. The Bulgarians in Macedonia and Eastern Thrace were left under the rule of the Sultan. Some Bulgarian territories were also given to Serbia and Romania. A revolutionary organization was created in Eastern Rumelia, called “VMORO” (which stands for Internal Macedonian-Adrianople Revolutionary Organization). VMORO worked in collaboration with the kingdom and managed to unite the kingdom and Rumelia on September 6, 1885. There was military response from Serbia against the union a few days later, but it was soon defeated and the union was admitted. The Bulgarians left outside the newly united kingdom continued their fight to join Bulgaria and the result was the uprising in 1903. The uprising managed to add some territories populated with Bulgarians to the kingdom. Most of the Bulgarians who were still under Ottoman empire emigrated to Bulgaria. In 1908 Bulgaria was recognized as an independent country.

[edit] Balkan Wars

Main article: Balkan Wars

Balkan Wars boundaries

In 1911 the Nationalist Prime Minister Ivan Geshov formed an alliance with Greece and Serbia to jointly attack the Ottomans. In February 1912 a secret treaty was signed between Bulgaria and Serbia and in May 1912 a similar treaty with Greece. Montenegro was also brought into the pact. The treaties provided for the partition of Macedonia and Thrace between the allies, although the lines of partition were left dangerously vague. After the Ottomans refused to implement reforms in the disputed areas, the First Balkan War broke out in October 1912. The allies defeated the Ottomans.

Bulgaria sustained the heaviest casualties of any of the allies and so felt entitled to the largest share of the spoils. The Serbs in particular did not agree and refused to vacate any of the territory they had seized in northern Macedonia (that is, the territory roughly corresponding to the modern Republic of Macedonia), saying that the Bulgarian army had failed to accomplish its pre-war goals at Adrianople (to capture it without Serbian help) and that the pre-war agreement on the division of Macedonia had to be revised. Some circles in Bulgaria inclined toward going to war with Serbia and Greece on this issue.

In June 1913 Serbia and Greece formed a new alliance against Bulgaria. The Serbian Prime Minister Nikola Pasic told Greece it could have Thrace if Greece helped Serbia keep Bulgaria out of Serbian part of Macedonia and the Greek Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos agreed. Seeing this as a violation of the pre-war agreements, and discretely encouraged by Germany and Austria-Hungary, Tsar Ferdinand declared war on Serbia and Greece and the Bulgarian army attacked on June 29. The Serbian and the Greek forces were initially on the retreat on the western border, but soon took the upper hand and forced Bulgaria to retreat. The fighting was very harsh, with many casualties, especially during the key Battle of Bregalnitsa. Soon Romania entered the war and attacked Bulgaria from the north. The Ottoman Empire also attacked from the south-east.

The war was now definitely lost for Bulgaria, which had to abandon most of its claims of Macedonia to Serbia and Greece, while the revived Ottomans retook Adrianople. Romania took southern Dobruja.

[edit] World War I

In the aftermath of the Balkan Wars Bulgarian opinion turned against Russia and the western powers, whom the Bulgarians felt had done nothing to help them. The government of Vasil Radoslavov aligned Bulgaria with the German Empire and Austria-Hungary, even though this meant becoming an ally of the Ottomans, Bulgaria’s traditional enemy. But Bulgaria now had no claims against the Ottomans, whereas Serbia, Greece and Romania (allies of Britain and France) held lands perceived in Bulgaria as Bulgarian.

Bulgaria sat out the first year of World War I recuperating from the Balkan Wars. When Germany promised to restore the boundaries of the Treaty of San Stefano, Bulgaria, which had the largest army in the Balkans, declared war on Serbia in October 1915. Britain, France and Italy then declared war on Bulgaria.

Main article: Serbian Campaign (WWI)

In alliance with Germany, Austria-Hungary and the Ottomans, Bulgaria won military victories against Serbia and Romania, occupying much of Macedonia (taking Skopje in October), advancing into Greek Macedonia, and taking Dobruja from Romania in September 1916.

But the war soon became unpopular with most Bulgarians, who suffered great economic hardship and also disliked fighting their fellow Orthodox Christians in alliance with the Muslim Ottomans. The Agrarian Party leader Aleksandur Stamboliyski was imprisoned for his opposition to the war. The Russian Revolution of February 1917 had a great effect in Bulgaria, spreading anti-war and anti-monarchist sentiment among the troops and in the cities. In June Radoslavov’s government resigned. Mutinies broke out in the army, Stamboliyski was released and a republic was proclaimed.

[edit] Interwar years

In September 1918, Tsar Ferdinand abdicated in favour of his son Boris III in order to head off anti-monarchic revolutionary tendencies. Under the Treaty of Neuilly (November 1919) Bulgaria ceded its Aegean coastline to Greece, recognized the existence of Yugoslavia, ceded nearly all of its Macedonian territory to that new state, and had to give Dobrudzha back to Romania. The country had to reduce its army to no more than 22,000 men and pay reparations exceeding $400 million. Bulgarians generally refer to the results of the treaty as the “Second National Catastrophe”.[19][20]

Elections in March 1920 gave the Agrarians a large majority and Aleksandar Stamboliyski formed Bulgaria’s first peasant government. He faced huge social problems, but succeeded in carrying out many reforms, although opposition from the middle and upper classes, the landlords and officers of the army remained powerful. In March 1923, Stamboliyski signed an agreement with the Kingdom of Yugoslavia recognising the new border and agreeing to suppress Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO), which favoured a war to regain Macedonia from Yugoslavia. This triggered a nationalist reaction and the Bulgarian coup d’état of 9 June 1923 eventually resulted in Stamboliykski’s assassination. A right-wing government under Aleksandar Tsankov took power, backed by the army and the VMRO, which waged a White terror against the Agrarians and the Communists. In 1926, the Tsar persuaded Tsankov to resign, a more moderate government under Andrey Lyapchev took office and an amnesty was proclaimed, although the Communists remained banned. A popular alliance, including the re-organised Agrarians, won the elections of 1931 under the name “Popular Bloc”.

In May 1934 another coup took place, removing the Popular Bloc from power and establishing an authoritarian military régime headed by Kimon Georgiev. A year later, Tsar Boris managed to remove the military régime from power, restoring a form of parliamentary rule (without the re-establishment of the political parties) and under his own strict control. The Tsar’s regime proclaimed neutrality, but gradually Bulgaria gravitated into alliance with Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy.

[edit] World War II

Main article: Bulgaria during World War II

Upon the outbreak of World War II, the government of the Kingdom of Bulgaria under Bogdan Filov declared a position of neutrality, being determined to observe it until the end of the war, but hoping for bloodless territorial gains, especially in the lands with a significant Bulgarian population occupied by neighbouring countries after the Second Balkan War and World War I.[citation needed] But it was clear that the central geopolitical position of Bulgaria in the Balkans would inevitably lead to strong external pressure by both sides of World War II.[citation needed] Turkey had a non-aggression pact with Bulgaria.[citation needed]

Bulgaria succeeded in negotiating a recovery of Southern Dobruja, part of Romania since 1913, in the Axis-sponsored Treaty of Craiova on 7 September 1940, which reinforced Bulgarian hopes for solving territorial problems without direct involvement in the war.

However, Bulgaria was forced to join the Axis powers in 1941, when German troops that were preparing to invade Greece from Romania reached the Bulgarian borders and demanded permission to pass through Bulgarian territory. Threatened by direct military confrontation, Tsar Boris III had no choice but to join the fascist bloc, which was made official on 1 March 1941. There was little popular opposition, since the Soviet Union was in a non-aggression pact with Germany.[21] However the king refused to hand over the Bulgarian Jews to the Nazis, saving 50,000 lives.[citation needed]

Euxinograd, once a summer palace of the Bulgarian tsars.

In September 1944 Soviet troops reached Bulgaria and the country then changed sides and joined the Allies.

[edit] People’s Republic of Bulgaria

During this time (1944–1989), the country was known as the “People’s Republic of Bulgaria” (PRB) and was ruled by the Bulgarian Communist Party (BCP). The BCP transformed itself in 1990, changing its name to “Bulgarian Socialist Party“.

Although communist leader Dimitrov had been in exile, mostly in the Soviet Union, since 1923, he was everything but a Soviet puppet. He had shown great courage in Nazi Germany during the Reichstag Fire trial of 1933 and had later headed the Comintern during the period of the Popular Front. He was also close to the Yugoslav Communist leader Tito and believed that Yugoslavia and Bulgaria, as closely related South Slav peoples, should form a federation. This idea was not favoured by Stalin and there have long been suspicions that Dimitrov’s sudden death in July 1949 was not accidental, although this has never been proven. It coincided with Stalin’s expulsion of Tito from the Cominform and was followed by a “Titoist” witch hunt in Bulgaria. This culminated in the show trial and execution of Deputy Prime Minister Traicho Kostov. The elderly Prime Minister Kolarov died in 1950 and power then passed to a Stalinist, Vulko Chervenkov.

Bulgaria’s Stalinist phase lasted less than five years. Under his leadership, agriculture was collectivised, peasant rebellions were crushed, and a massive industrialisation campaign was launched. Labor camps were set up and at the height of the repression housed about 100,000 people.[citation needed] The Orthodox Patriarch was confined to a monastery and the Church placed under state control. In 1950 diplomatic relations with the U.S. were broken off. But Chervenkov’s support base even in the Communist Party was too narrow for him to survive long, once his patron Stalin was gone. Stalin died in March 1953 and in March 1954 Chervenkov was deposed as Party Secretary with the approval of the new leadership in Moscow and replaced by Todor Zhivkov. Chervenkov stayed on as Prime Minister until April 1956, when he was finally dismissed and replaced by Anton Yugov.

During the 1960s, Zhivkov initiated reforms and passed some market-oriented policies on an experimental level.[22] By the mid 1950s standards of living rose significantly, and in 1957 collective farm workers benefited from the first agricultural pension and welfare system in Eastern Europe.[23] Lyudmila Zhivkova, daughter of Todor Zhivkov, promoted Bulgaria’s national heritage, culture and arts on a global scale.[24] On the other hand, an assimilation campaign of the late 1980s directed against ethnic Turks resulted in the emigration of some 300,000 Bulgarian Turks to Turkey,[25][26] which caused a significant drop in agricultural production due to the loss of labor force.[27]

[edit] Republic of Bulgaria

By the time the impact of Mikhail Gorbachev‘s reform program in the Soviet Union was felt in Bulgaria in the late 1980s, the Communists, like their leader, had grown too feeble to resist the demand for change for long. In November 1989 demonstrations on ecological issues were staged in Sofia and these soon broadened into a general campaign for political reform. The Communists reacted by deposing the decrepit Zhivkov and replacing him by Petar Mladenov, but this gained them only a short respite. In February 1990 the Party voluntarily gave up its claim on power monopoly and in June 1990 the first free elections since 1931 were held, won by the Communist Party, ridden of its hardliner wing and renamed the Bulgarian Socialist Party. In July 1991 a new Constitution was adopted, in which the system of government was fixed as parliamentary republic with a directly elected President and a Prime Minister accountable to the legislature.

President Georgi Parvanov (left) with former Russian president Vladimir Putin, 2008

Like the other post-Communist regimes in Eastern Europe, Bulgaria found the transition to capitalism more painful than expected. The anti-Communist Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) took office and between 1992 and 1994 carried through the privatisation of land and industry through the issue of shares in government enterprises to all citizens, but these were accompanied by massive unemployment as uncompetitive industries failed and the backward state of Bulgaria’s industry and infrastructure were revealed. The Socialists portrayed themselves as the defender of the poor against the excesses of the free market.

The negative reaction against economic reform allowed Zhan Videnov of the BSP to take office in 1995. By 1996 the BSP government was also in difficulties and in the presidential elections of that year the UDF’s Petar Stoyanov was elected. In 1997 the BSP government collapsed and the UDF came to power. Unemployment, however, remained high and the electorate became increasingly dissatisfied with both parties.

On 17 June 2001, Simeon II, the son of Tsar Boris III and himself the former Head of state (as Tsar of Bulgaria from 1943 to 1946), won a narrow victory in elections. The Tsar’s party — National Movement Simeon II (“NMSII”) — won 120 of the 240 seats in Parliament. Simeon’s popularity declined quickly during his four-year rule as Prime Minister and the BSP won the elections in 2005, but could not form a single-party government and had to seek a coalition. In the parliamentary elections in July 2009, Boyko Borisov‘s right-centrist party GERB won nearly 40% of the votes.

Since 1989 Bulgaria has held multi-party elections and privatized its economy, but economic difficulties and a tide of corruption have led over 800,000 Bulgarians, including many qualified professionals, to emigrate in a “brain drain“. The reform package introduced in 1997 restored positive economic growth, but led to rising social inequality. The political and economic system after 1989 virtually failed to improve both the living standards and create economic growth. According to a 2009 Pew Global Attitudes Project survey, 76% of Bulgarians said they were dissatisfied with the system of democracy, 63% thought that free markets did not make people better off and only 11% of Bulgarians agreed that ordinary people had benefited from the changes in 1989.[28] Furthermore, the average quality of life and economic performance actually remained lower than in the times of communism well into the early 2000s.[29]

Bulgaria became a member of NATO in 2004 and of the European Union in 2007 and is generally accepted as having good freedom of speech and human rights record.[30] In 2010 it was ranked 32nd (between Greece and Lithuania) out of 181 countries in the Globalization Indexthe end @copyright Dr Iwan suwandy 2010 .[31



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