Sunday, July 23, 2006



The thracians
The boundaries of the Thracian ethnos comprise not only the territory of present-day Bulgaria but also the land of present-day Romania, Eastern Serbia, Northern Greece and Northwestern Turkey. According to the Greek historian Herodotus (5th century BC) the Thracians were the most numerous people in Europe and came second in the world after the Indians (obviously the world Herodotus knew).

Regrettably, during their 2000-year-long history the Thracians have not created an alphabet of their own. The reconstruction of the past of this people - builder of one of the pillars of the ancient European civilization, has been based on the scanty information available in the literary tradition of Hellenians and Romans and, naturally, on the results obtained from the particularly large-scale archeological excavations carried out over the past three or four decades.

Without doubt the basis of the Thracian economy during the first centuries of the development of the Thrace people had been the production of foodstuffs, raw materials and other goods which fully satisfied the local needs, leaving considerable quantities for exports in all directions. The Thracian export is particularly easy to trace in the southeastern and southern directions, i.e. the trade routes leading to the peoples inhabiting Asia Minor, the Middle East and the Aegian Sea region. The exchange of merchandise was chiefly carried out by sea through the ports of Thrace, Phoenicia, Egypt, Caria, Crete and Mycenae. This inevitably led to active exchanges of people, of political and cultural ideas and of technological information, too. All this, in turn, precipitated a revolution in the social and political life of Thrace and its people.

It seems that the social differentiation in Thrace has gained momentum and has given rise to the first class and social formations quite early (as far back as the latter half of the II millennium BC). This process comprised all Thracian tribes whose number was some several dozens. Their social structure was simple - the leader or the ruler who was also the supreme priest was at the top of the social pyramid. He exercised his powers aided by a retinue of aristocrats who ranked above the stratum of free community farmers and artisans. Bondage had not been widely practiced in the Thrice economy, except for the limited royal domains where it was, but to an insignificant degree. This structure of the Thracian society remained unchanged up to the Roman Conquest of Thrace in the first century AD, i.e. over a span of more than fifteen hundred years.

In the beginning of the 13th century BC, some Thracian state formations comprising the territorial and ethnic borders of the individual tribes are already mentioned by ancient authors with relation to the Trojan War. They were linked with the lands of Southern Thrace and were allies of the Trojans with whom, as it looks, they had economic, political and, perhaps, ethnic relations. Among the Thracian rulers in this zone, there lived king Rhesus who was famous for his influence, treasures and tragic fate. He was killed by Ulysses in his camp before joining the battles near Troy.

The political detachment of the Thracian tribes was preserved until the beginning of the 5th century BC. Then Theres, the chieftain of one of the tribes, the Wends, made a successful attempt at organizing a unified Thracian state. Under his successors Sparadokus, Sitalkus and Sevtum (5th century BC), all Thracian tribes in present-day Bulgarian homeland had been united within the borderlines of the Thraco-Wendish kingdom. Allies of Athens in the Peloponnesian Wars, the Wends' rulers inspired with respect the adversaries of ancient democracy in its northern zones of influence by ensuring steady supplies of grain, raw materials and metals. Also during the 5th century BC, the Wends suppressed the attempts of Macedonia to come up the big political stage. However, in the middle of the next century (4th century BC) the Macedonians, headed by Philip and his son, Alexander the Great, took their revenge. The Wendish kingdom suffered severe blows and its borderlines shrunk into the relatively small region of the Upper Thracian Valley. New Thracian states enjoying brilliant, though transient, political success, those of the Bessae, Astae, Getae and the Dacean tribes, emerged on the Thracian political and battle scene in the quickly changing atmosphere between the end of the 4th and the beginning of the 1st centuries BC. The endless scuffles for political domination between the Thracian family dynasties facilitated the invasion of Rome which, after a series of sanguinary wars and complex diplomatic combinations, succeeded in imposing its power on the Thracian people in the year 46 BC. Spartacus, the Thracian who rose the biggest uprising of slaves in the antique world and thus, nearly brought to the downfall of Rome, was captured in the vicissitudes of this nearly two-century-long resistance and was made a gladiator.

Within the borderlines of the Roman empire most of the Thracian lands were structured in two big provinces - Moesia and Thrace. Apparently, both names have outlived the Thracians and even nowadays two of the three major Bulgarian historic regions (Moesia, Thrace and Macedonia) are still called by these names. The bloody decades of seizure of the Thracian lands were followed by peace and calm, and by years of construction. Soon the Thracians were declared fully-fledged citizens of Rome. Agriculture and cattle-breeding remained as the basis of livelihood in these lands and the manufacturing sector stayed in the hands of free farmers. The enormous latifundia of Italy employing tens of thousands of slaves were a phenomenon unknown in the Thracian lands.

During the first two centuries of their rule in the lands of ancient Thrace, the Romans embarked on the construction of well-designed roads. Some of these routes do indeed coincide with the European highway network of the modern times. Dozens of well-planned and well-built towns with well-developed craft industry (its social basis being again the free artisan association), cultural enterprises and a highly developed urban infrastructure, cropped up one after the other. The Thracians penetrated the state machinery, some of them reaching high administrative and military positions. They even made their way to the emperor's throne. The line of Thraco-Roman emperors began with the name of Mixjminus (235-238), a Thracian farmer who climbed up the career ladder from the dagger of a tyro in the Roman legions to the warder of the Divine Augustus very fast.

The almost idyllic picture of life in the Bulgarian lands got seriously overshadowed in the middle of the 3rd century AD. These flourishing parts of the Roman empire were swept by frightfully consistent waves of barbaric invasions, marking the advance of the Great Migration of Peoples. Tens of peoples coming either from the ice-frozen steppes and marshlands of present-day Russia or from the deserts of Asia, broke through the system of Roman borderline fortifications. On the incomplete columns of extant written and epigraphic records, Bulgarian historians have counted as many as 54 peoples 'assailing' those lands between the 3rd and the 5th centuries AD. Having worn down the resistance of the legions and the city garrisons, the barbarians began plundering the treasures in the provinces, dragging away the population and razing the resplendent Thraco-Roman civilization.

The Roman authorities made serious efforts to stop the destructive pressure exerted by the barbarians. Castles and roads were rebuilt and constructed anew and the barbarian tribes got down to settling as foederati in the devastated regions. These efforts doubled after the division of the empire into two parts and upon the establishment of the capital of the Eastern Roman empire in Constantinople. The Bulgarian lands appeared as an immediate hinderland to this city of one million population.

It appears that all this was in vain. The blows of the barbarians followed one after the other. At the beginning of the 7th century AD the ancient culture of Thrace and Moesia was destroyed and life in the still existing settlements rusticated and became barbarian-like. Having suffered considerable demographic losses, the Thracians literally disappeared from the stage of history. Only small groups managed to survive here and there in the high, unscalable mountains or cared to withdraw to the big, well-fortified city-centers of the empire, beyond present-day Bulgarian lands. De facto, the power of Rome there was purely nominal and it was represented only in several of the city centers which stood out as isolated islands in the rough and wild sea warming with barbarians.

It looked as if those lands had not been fated to accommodate peaceful and creative life ever again. However, along the roads of the northern regions of the Balkan Peninsula, there could be heard the still indistinct steps of a people whose right, as assigned by history, was to bring the lands of Moesia, Thrace and Macedonia back to the bosom of the European civilization.

The Bulgarians

The foundation of the Bulgarian state on the territories inhabited by numerous tribes speaking different languages, is definitely connected with the Bulgarians. It is purely for reasons of convenience and as a mark of distinguishing them from the Bulgarian nation formed during the 9th-10th c. on the Slav language basis, that contemporary historians call them proto-Bulgarians, ante-Bulgarians, Turko-Bulgarians or other similar names. They used to call themselves Bulgarians and so did the Byzantines and all other peoples who had known of them in those days. It is, therefore, more than appropriate that when referring to them, the narrative herein-after should use only the name Bulgarians. The Franks who had founded the France of the antiquity are, in fact, Germans, and the population there consists mainly of Gallo-Romans whose language is still the language spoken by the French. Nevertheless, French historians have never called them 'proto-French' or the like. The same is true for Russia where the tribe of Norman Russians, having nothing in common with Slavdom, is rarely, if ever, referred to in the Russian history as 'proto-Russians'.

The origin and the homeland of the Bulgarian tribes have been an object of both past and present study and research. They have generated and are still generating many hypotheses and violent disputes. This is most likely to continue for a long time to come. The scarcity of clear and reliable sources could hardly be expected to be made up for. There is still one fool-proof fact which is that the Bulgarians' land of origin was in the highland regions of AItai in Siberia. Their language is related to the so-called Turko-Altai group. In other words, the Bulgarians belong to the same ethnolingual group as the Huns, the Avars, the Pechenegs and the Cumans, i.e., the peoples, parts of which are to flow into the Bulgarian nation between the 7th and 14th centuries.

The Bulgarian tribes seem to have been numerous enough, for large congregations of them started drifting towards Europe between the 2nd and the 6th centuries AD. The surges of migration worth noting are three. The Bulgarians were to suffer serious losses during the so-called barbaric raids against the Roman possessions on the Old Continent and in the inter-tribal feuds. Nevertheless,their demographic resources were sufficient to last them out in founding two powerful states, the one near the Volga and the other near the Danube, as well as to inhabit whole areas in other states, too.

As early as the 2nd century AD some Bulgarian tribes came down to the European continent, settling in the plains between the Caspian and the Black seas. In 354 AD they were noticed there for the first time by an European chronicler. In the so-called Anonymous Roman Chronograph, their border in the south was marked along the Caucasian ridge.

The snow-covered crags of the Caucasus were no deterrent for them. According to the Armenian historian Moses of khorene, between 351 and 389 AD Bulgarian tribes headed by their chieftain Vund, crossed the Caucasus and migrated to Armenia. Toponymic data testify to the fact that they had remained there for ever and that, centuries later, they had been assimilated by the Armenians.

Swept by the Hunnish wave heading towards Europe at the beginning of the 4th century AD, other numerous Bulgarian tribes broke loose from their settlements in eastern Khazahstan to migrate to the fertile lands along the lower valleys of the Donets and the Don rivers and the Azov littoral assimilating, in their turn, what was left of the ancient tribe of the Sarmatians. Some of those tribes remained for centuries in their new settlements, whereas others moved on, together with the Huns, towards Central Europe and eventually made their homes in Pannonia and in the plains around the Carpathians.

The Hunnish-Bulgarian association existed throughout the period between 377-453 AD - the time of the Hunnish hegemony in Central Europe. It is true that their name was rarely mentioned by the European authors of those times. The invaders, spreading like a dark cloud over Europe are identified with the collective notion 'Huns', but serious modern researchers are probably right in saying that Attila's combat power came chiefly from the mounted troops of the Bulgarians. It is not fortuitous that when tracing back khan Kubrat's dynasty of statesmen, the ancient Bulgarians always put at the top of his genealogy Avitokhol and Erink, obviously identifying them with the famous Hun leader Attila and his son Ernakh.

Indeed, some West-European authors mention the Bulgarians even during that epoch. These were mainly accounts of battles describing them or their participation. We could only guess as to why did the Pannonian and the Carpathian Bulgarians not come to terms with the Longobards but the frequent wars between them are a fact. It is thanks to them that we know of the battle in which the Bulgarians had cruelly defeated the Longobards, slayed their king Agelmundi and took his daughter captive. Then Lamissio, the new king of the Longobards, hit back and defeated the Bulgarians.

The utter defeat of the Huns in the fields of Chalonssur-Marne led to the dissolution of the Hun-Bulgarian alliance and to new, though individual, activities of the Bulgarians on the international arena. In 480 AD Byzantium signed its first agreement with Bulgarians, hoping to use them as allies in its onerous war against Ostrogothic invaders. The respect the Bulgarian troops enjoyed in those days can be felt in the enthusiastic eulogy by the Ostrogothic poet Enodius. It is about an Ostrogothic leader who was only slightly wounded a Bulgarian commander in a battle. This laudation describes the Bulgarians as supermen and as invincible war

In 488 AD the Goths were forced by the Byzantines and the Bulgarians to move away from the Balkan Penninsula for good. The bad days for Byzantium, however, were still to come. During the 8-year-long campaign against the Goths, the Bulgarians being Byzantium allies, had been eligible to walking freely across Moesia Thrace and Macedonia and they had evidently grown to like these lands.

There started the era of the Bulgarian incursions on the European possessions of the empire.

Only five years after the Goths had been driven out, the Bulgarian troops invaded Thrace, defeated the Byzantine army and killed their leader, Julian. Byzantium could sense the new frightful danger and emperor Anastasius I manifested unprecedented activity in the construction of fortresses. But in 499 AD a new attack of the Bulgarians led up to another humiliating rout - the whole Illyrian army perished in the battle by the river Zurta. In 502 AD the Bulgarians conquered and plundered all of Thrace. From 513 AD onwards the Bulgarian raids against the European possessions of the empire became annual, but from 540 AD a basically new feature became apparent: the Bulgarians were no longer satisfied whit only looking and taking away the population from the rural areas, but adopted besiege techniques and started conquering the forts, too. Thus, only during year quoted, in the region of Illyricum alone, they managed to seize 32 of these forts and to carry away their population together with abundant loot.

It had become too obvious that if things went on like this Illyricum, Moesia, Thrace and Macedonia would soon be devastated and depopulated lands and, even before the turn of the 6th century AD, they would be inhabited by the Bulgarians instead. Byzantium was fortunate that its diplomacy had managed to instigate internecine wars between the two most powerful Bulgarian tribal branches, the Kutrigurs and the Utigurs. This temporarily stopped the Bulgarian incursions against Byzantium. The last one mentioned by the chroniclers was dated 562 AD. During the next five or six decades, the Slav tribes were to be the lucky ones to inhabit the lands of present-day Bulgaria.

The Bulgarian tribes' involvement in joint operations with other peoples would eventually disperse a great many of those who inhabited Central Europe. Thus in 568-569 AD, when the Longobardic king Alboin conquered three big areas in northern Italy - Liguria, Lombardy and Etruria, the population that the king sent there did not consist of Longobardic tribes only, but also of Bulgarian allied tribes from Pannonia. The numerous Italian family names such as Bulgari and Bulgarini extant in northern Italy, have remained as a memento of the Bulgarians brought by Alboin and later assimilated into the Italian people.

Other Bulgarian tribes in the Avar khanate also took part in the Avar campaigns against Byzantium. In 631-632 AD they launched fierce battles to take over the supreme power in the khanate, but were defeated and 9000 of them left Pannonia and withdrew to Bavaria under the Frankish king Dagobert. It is not known why Dagobert welcomed them but later gave orders for them to be killed overnight. The survivinq 700 families succeeded in escaping in battle, crossing the Alps and arriving in Longobardy, where many of their compatriots had already been living. At long last they were well received and offered their first accommodation in the region of Venice but after the year 668 AD they had to move to the deserted coast of Ravena, an exarchate in present-day Italian region of Campobasso. Two hundred years later an ancient writer, Paulus Diaconus, visited them and heard them speak Latin and Bulgarian. Naturally, as the years went by they had also been assimilated into the Italian people. Even today some regions in Rimini and Osimo are called 'the Bulgarian parts', 'the Bulgarian land', 'the land of the Bulgarian Baron ..

The Bulgarians living in the plains between the Caucasus, the Black and the Caspian seas preserved intact and even increased their human, economic and military potential. Despite the vicissitudes of fate, they were predestined to found the Bulgarian state.

Khan Kubrat

The contemporary Bulgarian is obsessed by the notion that in the middle of the 6th century AD the Bulgarians living between the Caucasus, the Black and Caspian seas were conquered and then fell under the yoke of the Turkic khanate. This is not very precise and it is not true either, at least in terms of the modern definitions of the words 'conquered' and 'yoke'. The relationship between the ancient peoples and their rulers often had dimensions which could not be fitted into the parameters of present-day notions and inter- pretations.

The truth is that in 567-568 AD khagan Sildjibu, a supreme ruler of the so-called Turkic khanate (state type formation, established in the Altai region by means of uniting many Turkic tribes none of which could dominate over the others) forced the Bulgarians, the Khazars and the Belenzers to join his Turkish empire. The very nature of this state association excluded 'slavery' as an option for the Bulgarians. The Bulgarian tribal chieftains were neither killed nor driven away. They continued to govern their tribes. What was more, perhaps for the first time ever, they were able to see their tribes united. For, it is known that the Turkic khanate, though governed only by one ruler, was divided into eight semi-independent parts which were ruled by governors chosen from among their own people. For instance, such a governor was Gostun, mentioned in the Enrolment List of the Bulgarian khans. As early as 581 AD, as a consequence of the internal skirmishes for the throne, the khanate fell apart to form two separate khanates - eastern and western. The Bulgarians who found themselves in the western khanate had probably been, or had gradually become, the multitude of the population. Their leaders started fighting to attain the supreme power.

It seems that similar to their confreres in the Avar khanate, they did not succeed, but acted much more wisely. In 632 AD they united under Kubrat, leader of one of the tribes, broke loose from the khanate and then founded a state. Byzantine authors-contemporaries of those events, do mention a state, too. They even attribute it as 'Great'. Evidently, having observed it they noticed all signs characteristic of a state, i.e. borders, territory, economy, state structure, independent centralized rule and legislation. All these distinguished it from the tribal alliance which would, only provisionally, gather together in order to raid and plunder some province of the Byzantine empire or some other tribe which had also become rich from looting.

It can only be regretted that the historical sources lack any verbosity when referring to the first head of the Bulgarian state.

The earliest Bulgarian chronicle, the Enrolment List of the Bulgarian khans, informs us that he was from the Dubo clan. The chronicle of the Byzantine patriarch Nicephorus who lived a century later, states that he was Organa's nephew. As to who Organa was, it could undoubtedly be said that he was an important person the ancients had known but had failed to tell about. It is only logical to assume that he had probably been a proxy of the western part of the Turkic khanate, comprising Bulgarian tribes as well.

It is difficult to specify the exact date of khan Kubrat's birth. Another Byzantine writer tells us that in his childhood Kubrat was sent to Constantinople for reasons unknown. He grew up in the palace of the emperor. There he was baptized as a Christian. Comparing the scanty data, the historians surmised that khan Kubrat had lived in Constantinople between 610-632 AD. The uncertainties concerning the reasons why, as a child, he had been sent to the capital of the Eastern Roman empire, can be reduced to two logical possibilities: to be made a hostage or to be given education as in the case of tsar Simeon who was sent there two and a half centuries later. Kubrat could not have been a hostage since the Bulgarian tribes did not exist independently therefore, the decision as to whether there would be war with Byzantium or not did not rest with them. If Byzantium were in any position at all to require hostages from the west Turkic khanate, it would ask for the son of the ruler. This leads to the only assumption remaining that Kubrat's famous uncle had sent him out there to study.

Twenty two years of one's life spent in Constantinople - the capital city of the European civilization in that remote epoch and for some centuries after, could be experienced in many different ways. For example, one could easily indulge in the merry and care- free life bubbling over the renowned Constantinople pubs full of frivolous even wanton young women, some or most of whom were known to be from aristocratic families.

On the other hand, Constantinople was the home of rich libraries, antique heritage and culture, as well as of the moral and aesthetic values of Christianity - the state tradition of the great empire which had remained unbent and unshakable in the wilderness of barbarity.

Despite the absence of any information we should hardly have any doubt that Kubrat made use of the high-standard education he had received and which enabled him to devour both culture and state-building experiences. It looks as if no one has yet come to realize that Kubrat spent more time studying in Constantinople than Simeon the Great or Kaboyan did.

The novelists and screen-play writers who had often represented khan Kubrat as a primitive steppe chieftain, with filthy sticky hair and with the rustic manners of an uncivilized elder, would probably have to correct their vision of the first Bulgarian ruler - one of the most learned men in Europe at that time. His life and deeds are the most eloquent testimony to this last point.

Birth of Great Bulgaia
In 632 AD, according to the account of Byzantine chroniclers, khan Kubrat availed himself of the failing power of the Turkut khagan, shook off the vassal age his tribe was in, and declared himself an independent ruler. Virtually all Bulgarian tribes living in the region of the Black Sea, the Sea of Azov and the Caspian Sea immediately united under him. The newly founded state-like formation was evidently not a military-tribal alliance as there had been no such legal category in the antiquity, but it was a state. As such, it had a strictly outlined territory, its own administration, uniform laws (probably based on the customary law observed by the Bulgarian tribes) and its own foreign policy. It is viewed as a state both in the Bulgarian historical records of that time and in the annals of Byzantium. The Byzantine statesmen and chroniclers referred to it as Bulgaria or even Great Bulgaria. It is no accident that about that time the individual names of all Bulgarian tribes were deleted from every page written by the ancient chroniclers. Bulgarians was the only name used thereafter.

No sources bear any evidence of the Turks counteracting Kubrat's undertaking. Obviously, the khanate did not have any military capacity to make the break-away Bulgarian tribes come back to their state. Apparently, the Khazars broke away in the same manner and at the same time.

The scanty information that has come down to us from Byzantine and Armenian chronicles makes it possible to determine, though with some doubt, the boundaries of Great Bulgaria: the lower course of the Danube in the west, the Black and the Azov seas in the south, the Kuban river in the east, and the Donets river in the north. Based on some suppositions is the information about the capital of Old Great Bulgaria. It was at the town of Phanagoria on the coast of the Azov Sea.

It is clear that khan Kubrat was a man who had acquired in Byzantium great knowledge about the structure and functioning of the state machinery and who, without doubt, tried to establish a perfectly workable administration in his new state after bringing it in conformity with the local conditions and tradition. Old Great Bulgaria was ruled by a khan who made the decisions after discussing them with the Council of the Great Boyls. His deputy, effectively the second man in the administrative hierarchy, was the kavkhan. The third man was the lchirguboyl. Both of them were high-ranking officers in the administration and in the chain of command. In time of war they were in charge of large army units. The practice of combining administrative and military responsibilities was applied to all ranks down the hierarchy ladder, too.

It is regrettable that the ancient records contain very little in- formation about the domestic and international policies of Bulgaria in the reign of khan Kubrat. Raised and educated in Byzantium, baptized as a Christian and known as a personal friend of emperor Heraclius, the khan maintained peaceful neighborly relations with the empire up till the end of his rule. In 635 AD these relations were impressed with a signature and a seal affixed to an inter-state agreement - an indirect act of recognition of the new state. Khan Kubrat was honored with the title of a patrician. Judging by some events after Heraclius's death, we could say that khan Kubrat's friendship with the emperor was of a purely human nature, too. Running the risk of worsening relations with Byzantium, upon the death of the emperor in 642 AD, khan Kubrat supported his widow Martina and their children to whom he had been strongly attached, in their battle for the emperor's throne.

According to the Ethiopian chronicler Joan Niciusky, just the news of khan Kubrat backing up Martina and her children had risen in arms in their support the people and the army of Constantinople under a certain Jutalius, the son of Constantine. The Ethiopian chronicle also sheds light on the fact that khan Kubrat was already in conflict with some barbarian tribes along the border. However, his being baptized as a Christian helped his troops be victorious. This was most probably the beginning of the serious conflict with the Khazars who would later on, after Kubrat's death, tear away the eastern territories of the state and force khan Asparukh to seek territorial expansion and a city for a capital somewhere to the south of the Danube.

The war with the state of the Khazars was the second and last occasion on which the then chroniclers cared to record an event of the relations of the Bulgarian state with other states at the time of khan Kubrat's rule. The rest of the neighboring peoples were rather loosely-knit to try their strength against the Bulgarians or to submit any claims to them. The Khazar state, established on the northern Caspian Sea coast, proclaimed itself a successor to the Turkic khanate and, on these grounds, claimed all its former lands and tribes in the east. However, it was they who formed the territory the population of Bulgaria.

The conflict looked imminent and inevitable but its vicissitudes had regrettably never become known to us. Some indirect sources of reference, as quoted above, indicate that the raids had been beaten off successfully, at least up till Kubrat's death.

A close study of the text of a medieval legend, cited as an example of political wisdom, has brought out some information about the Bulgarian public opinions after the long-lasting war with the Khazars. This is the legend which has come down to us from Byzantine chroniclers. It goes that at his death bed khan Kubrat bid his sons to break a bundle of vine twigs. None of them succeeded. Then Kubrat, himself, took the vine shoots and broke them one by one with his old frail hands. The moral was clear - as long as the Bulgarians and their political leaders are united, Bulgaria will be invincible. If they allowed a split or dissension in their community and in their actions, they would be destroyed one by one, causing Bulgaria to be swept away, too.

Wanting to give this lesson to his closest kin, khan Kubrat must have had serious doubts and worries about some trends in the Bulgarian political statecraft engendered by the Khazar invasion. And these doubts were well justified. The successful repulsion of the Khazar raids was at the cost of numerous victims and heavy losses for the economy. The Bulgarian lands were all plains offering no natural shelters, and thus being an easy pillaging target for the attacking Khazar cavalry. Perhaps hundreds of villages, crops and herds had been plundered or set on fire before the Bulgarian troops could locate, overpower and eventually destroy the Khazar invaders. Most Bulgarians were aware that their lands occupied a strategic position at the major junction of routes called the Great Road of the peoples migrating from Asia and Europe, and that even if the Khazar raids against Bulgaria were stopped and the Khazars completely destroyed, other peoples would soon rush to take their place at lightning speed. The developments that followed khan Kubrat's death indicate that part of the Bulgarians, or rather their political leaders, had insisted on the state being defended only within its existing territories (khan Kubrat had evidently belonged to that group, and his supreme power and prestige had those who disagreed with his policy refrain from action). Now, having long realized that the prospects to keep these territories intact were very slim, they also began to insist on conquering new lands blessed with natural defence lay, natural resources and better climate. How- ever, within that group there were also conflicting opinions: some of them insisted on looking for these new lands far enough from the Road of the peoples and from strong neighboring state formations; the others were concerned only about the quality of the new lands and had no fears regarding any potential contenders of their possessions. As proof of the existence of such diversity comes the fact that upon khan Kubrat's death some Bulgarians set out to the north and founded a new state near the upper course of the Volga, while others extended Bulgaria into territories south of the Danube and moved the capital city there.

Kubrat died in 651 AD. It was once believed that this had happened in Phanagoria, the capital city of his realms. However, the new reading of a sumptuous burial, advanced by the German academic Joachim Werner, shows that Kubrat had died hundreds of kilometers further up to the north, in the present-day steppes of Ukraine. The German scholar's interpretation has also allowed to take a better look at the khan's last efforts as a statesman. It is worth devoting some space to the end of this great Bulgarian leader and to his last resting place.

In 1912 an exceptionally rich burial was discovered in the sand dunes of the Vorskla river near the Ukrainian village of Malaya Pereshchepina, 13 km away from the town of Poltava. The deceased was buried in a wooden coffin, set with 250 rectangular gold plates, 6.5x5.5 cm each. A considerable number of utensils made of precious metals (20 silver and 17 gold), arms inlaid with precious metal, a gold horn and a gold spoon - symbols of authority, 69 gold coins, a gold buckle weighing almost half a kilogram, gold rings, etc. were arranged around the body. The find obviously made its first researchers specify the burial as the last abode of not only a rich or high-born chieftain, but also the head of state of any one of the barbarian formations which had possessed those lands for any length of time.

The utensils were of no great importance for determining the precise 'age' of the treasure since they had obviously been collected over a 200-year period. However, the 'youngest' coins of emperor Constantine II of Byzantium were dated 647 AD. This gave clear proof that the burial had taken place after that date. Some of the pots, an integral part of the Christian cults, indicated that the man buried was a Christian.

The above facts alone lead to the conclusion that of all possible potentates who had ruled tribes or states in those times, khan Kubrat was the one corresponding to the archeological findings concerning the burial near Malaya Pereshchepina. In 1983 Dr W. Seibt of the Byzantine Studies Institute in Vienna managed to puzzle out the monograms on the two gold signet rings as Kkubratu, and Khubratu Patrichiu. There was no further doubt that in 1912 the Russian archeologists had discovered the tomb of khan Kubrat, the founder of Great Bulgaria.

The place of the burial which was in the furthest northern point of the state, hundreds of kilometers away from its capital, puts in a totally different light the last days in the life of the great Bulgarian. It now appears that he did not meet his death as a decrepit and sick man. As a matter of fact, if in 610 AD he was still a child, then in 651 AD the khan must have been a 55 or 60-year-old man in the prime of his life. It is only logical to assume that he was leading his troops to beat off another consecutive raid of the Khazars but, this time the latter were taken unawares and defeated at the very borderline. The burial itself attests the khazars' defeat and banishment. The specially made expensive coffin, the lavish burial gifts and the strict observance of the rites showed that the funeral had taken place in a peaceful atmosphere. If this were a defeat, the khan would not have been buried at all.

Then how did the Bulgarian ruler pass away? Was he taken to bed with a treacherous illness at the time of the combat march, or did he fall during the fight with a sword in his hand, or did he die of his wounds after the victorious battle? This, unfortunately, we do not know exactly, but in fact, it makes no difference whatsoever. Khan Kubrat died in a defensive battle, safeguarding Bulgaria. There is something else that has also been causing bewilderment: why was not the khan's body taken back to the capital and buried there with the same honors? And why was his vault erected on the border itself It seems that khan Kubrat has had time before he died to oblige his commanders bury him there, right on the borderline. In this way, he had turned his last resting place into a defender of Bulgaria, too. The enemy could not afford treading unpunished a Bulgarian grave because they cherished high the cult to their ancestors. Thus, even with his tomb khan Kubrat put his successors under the obligation to defend the borders of Bulgaria into death.

Khan Aspaukh - expansion of Bugarian state to the south of the danube
After khan Kubrat's death Bulgaria suffered further Khazar raids. The Khazars succeeded in occupying the Bulgarian territories in the Caucasian region, the river valleys of the Kuban and the Don, as well as the Crimean Peninsula. Some of the Bulgarian tribes accepted their dependence on the Khazars, while others withdrew to the north, as far as the valleys of the rivers Kama and Volga. There they founded a big Bulgarian state, the so-called Volgo-Kama Bulgaria which existed up till the 13th century when it vanished under the smashing blows of the Tatars. Descendants of those Bulgarians are still extant in the present-day autonomous region of Chuvashia in Russia. In the early 70s of the 7th century khan Asparukh, khan Kubrat's successor, was already ruling over the realms between the Dnepr, the Donets and the Danube . After desperate defensive bat- tles, he managed to drive the Khazars back across the Dnepr and to utterly defeat them, thus stopping their offensive westwards.

However, khan Asparukh was awake to his being unable to ensure a complete life for his state and for the people dwelling in the plains, the only surviving piece of Old Bulgaria - land infertile and marshy, short of natural shelters, ore deposits, and forests. It was for this reason that in the next few years the Bulgarian politicians also decided to undertake a territorial expansion campaign at the lands of ancient Moesia. According to Byzantine sources those lands had been to the Bulgarians' taste for quite some time because they were well-protected by the deep-flowing Danube in the north, by the rock fence of the Balkan Mountains in the south and by the Black Sea in the east.

In those days Moesia,as well as the whole of the Balkan Peninsula were inhabited by populous Slav tribes. They almost succeeded in assimilating the native population as their presence there had lasted for nearly a century. Engaged in crippling wars with Persians and Arabs in the 6th-7th century AD, the Byzantine empire had completely lost control over its European realms. But from the middle of the 7th century AD, extricated from its solicitude in Asia Minor, Byzantium began reconquering the Balkan Peninsula. The disunited Slav tribes in Greece, Albania, Macedonia and Thrace were brought under the sway of the imperial power. With a view to resisting the Byzantine reconquest, seven Slav tribes inhabiting Moesia, entered into a military and political union but its chances to counteract efficiently the mighty empire were minimal as the Slav troops consisted only of lightly armed infantry.

In 680 AD khan Asparukh transferred a significant part of the Bulgarian army and population to the south of the Danube delta and took up the lands of present-day Dobrudja. Essentially, this move was equivalent to declaring war on the Byzantine empire. Common interests made the Slavs and the Bulgarians, both equally threatened by Byzantium, conclude a treaty under which the Slav tribes in Moesia recognized their dependence on the Bulgarian state and the latter committed itself to defend its subjects against attacks by any enemy coming from any direction.

n 680 AD, in the thick heat of the war between Byzantium and Bulgaria, Bulgarian cavalry and Slav infantry contingents struck a series of stunning blows on the Byzantine troops under the personal command of emperor Constantine IV Pogonatus. The military operations were shifted to Thrace. While the capital city of Pliska - the new state-administrative and political center was under construction in the northeastern part of Moesia, the rumble of the Bulgarian cavalry reverberated more and more often over the hills off the Bosphorus. In the autumn of 681 AD Byzantium was forced to conclude a peace treaty with the Bulgarians. It recognized the detachment of Moesia from the empire and the Bulgarians coming to terms with the Slavs dwelling in Byzantium.

The structure of the Bulgarian state was changed to comply with the treaty between khan Asparukh and the Slav princes in Moesia. The supreme power was given to the Bulgarian aristocracy as recognition for its merits in the struggle against the external enemies of the state and the real military force supporting it. The state administration was headed by a khan whose power was hereditary. There was also a council of twelve great boyls representing the noble families. The decisions of paramount state importance were made by the so-called people's assembly - a meeting of representatives of all Bulgarian noble families and the princes of the Slav tribes dwelling in the Bulgarian state. The Slav tribes retained their internal self-government and the territories as specified in the treaty of 680 AD. Their obligation was to pay the Bulgarian central authority an annual tribute and to secure the military contingents in charge of the country's defence.

The Bulgarian lands under Vyzantine rule (1018-1185)
The subjection of Bulgaria to direct Byzantine rule had, undoubtedly, grave consequences for the Bulgarian people. It had been deprived of opportunities to manifest itself as one of the nations in human history and its line of independent political, cultural and economic development had been interrupted.

It must be conceded that the Byzantine emperor issued an order that the tax system of the Old Bulgarian kingdom continue to be applied in the occupied Bulgarian lands. It was, undeniably, much fairer than its Byzantine analogue. The Bulgarian patriarchal was downgraded to an archbishopric. Called Ohridska, meaning 'of or belonging to Ohrida', it retained its autocephalous status. Hundreds of Bulgarian aristocracy retained their position of landlords in their feudal possessions. Moreover, the better part of the Bulgarian lands, comprising mainly the lands of Macedonia, was joined in administrative districts called 'Bulgaria themes'. Troops were recruited mainly from the Bulgarian population.

Only ten years later the Byzantine tax system was introduced into the Bulgarian lands, too. Strangers were appointed incumbents of the Ohrida archbishopric. The Bulgarian literacy, liturgy and traditions were subjected to ruthless persecution. The greed and selfishness of the Byzantine officials, commissioned to work in the Bulgarian lands, gradually ruined the local economy. To most of them the years of service there meant no more than a golden opportunity to make a fortune.

The Bulgarian aristocracy had slowly but consistently been removed from its lands. Many of them were sent on 'assignments' in other realms of the empire remote enough from the Balkans, while others were bribed to pass over to the Byzantines.

This situation gave rise to discontent among all Bulgarian population strata. Mass rebellions aimed at restoring the Bulgarian state broke out. The first one rose in Belgrade (present-day capital of Serbia) in 1040. It was headed by Peter Delyan, grandson of glorious tsar Samuel and it ended with his being proclaimed a Bulgarian tsar. Peter Delyan reigned for two years (1040-1041) and succeeded in liberating a great part of the Bulgarian lands. The insurrection collapsed quickly when the tsar was treacherously blinded by one of his relatives aspiring to the Bulgarian throne.

Another massive insurgence broke out in 1072. Its standard was raised by Georgi Voiteh in the town of Skopje (present-day capital of Macedonia). It took two years of fighting before it was crushed. In 1074-1078 and in 1084-1086 fresh revolts broke out in the areas of modern Silistra, Plovdiv and Nessebur. These were also put down by the Byzantine authorities.

At the end of the 11th century the Byzantine domains in the Balkans which, for nearly a century, had comprised chiefly Bulgarian lands, became the arena of fierce hostilities: the Normans invading from the south and the knights of the First (1096-1097) and then the Second (1146-1147) crusade advancing along the trans- European route with swords drawn and fire blazing. Most frightful of all, however, were the renewed raids of the barbarians from the steppes, raids unseen in those lands since the 7th century. In times gone the Bulgarian state had reliably safeguarded not only Byzantium but also the whole of Europe against the raids of bellicose Nomads. The now emasculate Byzantine imperium was no longer in the position to effectively defend the territory of the empire, so the burden of safeguarding the metropolitan mainstays fell on Bulgarian shoulders. During the 11th century all attempts at organizing a liberation movement had stopped. The Bulgarians were busy organizing their life-and-death struggle to keep body and soul together. At the cost of numerous lives lost they managed to restrict, within certain limits, the advance of the crusaders along their mapped-out routes and to crush or beat off the raids of the Uzes, the Pechenegs and the Cumans. A paradoxical situation arose at the end of the 12th century. Formally Byzantium was the sovereign of the Bulgarian lands, but whole areas (Moesia, Dobrudja and Macedonia) the Byzantine power was nominal. There ruled representatives of the Bulgarian aristocracy - harsh warriors who had been through dozens of battles. The population, inured to the privations of war and inspired by spurious accounts, supported them. Some fabulous chronicles told of how intelligent patriots wistfully imagined the Bulgarian kingdom by idealistically representing it as a piece of Eden.

The insurgent sea of patriotism pervades some of the political pamphlets which have come down to us, naturally in the form of religious prophecies. Their spirit is of Messianic nature as it is sustained in them that out of the three kingdoms in the world - the Alemanic (German), the Roman (Byzantine) and the Bulgarian, the first two would go to rack and ruin as they had departed from Christian canons and had lapsed into depravity. Resurrection and eternal life were awaiting the Bulgarian kingdom which would have the mission to redeem and, then, render imperishable the values of the Christian civilization.

In this atmosphere, at the end of the 12th century just a spark was needed to flare up a fresh liberation uprising.

Restoration and rise
The spark that kindled the Bulgarian liberation insurrection in the spring of 1185 was the heavy special taxes imposed in the Bulgarian lands with a view to meeting the exorbitant expenses on the occasion of the Byzantine emperor's dynastic marriage with the juvenile Hungarian princess. Sporadic, not well-planned riots broke out in the southern Bulgarian Black Sea littoral, the Balkan Range area and in Macedonia. Engaged in severe battles with the Normans, Byzantium failed to suppress these riots on time. This made the rebels even more audacious. The sources shedding light on these events are rather scanty, but there is some secondary evidence that the idea to restore the Bulgarian state had quickly pushed to the background the initial economic motives of the unrests. There was a provision in the Bulgarian law that the Bulgarian throne should be ascended only by persons of royal descent. This must have made riot leaders approach two remote descendants of the Simeon dynasty, the brothers Assen and Theodor - military and administrative governors of a region in Moesia at the time. The brothers, however, were hesitant in responding to the rebels' ideas. The military confrontation with the still mighty empire kept everyone alert. Thus, they tried to achieve the goals of the movement by peaceful means. Assen and Theodor were sent to see the emperor at his military camp on the Aegian coast. They asked to be appointed military and administrative governors of all Bulgarian lands which would probably give them a certain taste of autonomy within the empire. The emperor's consent would have committed them to incorporating the rebels' combat forces into the emperor's army7 then at war with the Normans.

One could hardly think of a better proposal which would so well come up to the interests and save the reputation of both parties to the conflict. It is known, though, that wisdom and sagacity are qualities not often inherent to politicians. In that case, too, the emperor not only rejected the idea but also literally slapped Assen in the face. The Bulgarians returned to their fortifications in the mountains which, according to a Byzantine chronicler, had busily been renewed and reinforced.

It seems, however, that a large proportion of the Bulgarian people was still reluctant to tread the path of open confrontation with the imperium. On that account, the two brothers did something which may look strange by today's standards but was fully justified by the spirit of that epoch. At the time of the Norman seizure of Thessalonica (1185), a group of Bulgarians managed to salvage and transfer to the Balkan mountain fort of Turnovo the i

n of St. Demetrius - the most worshiped military patron in Byzantium. Assen and Theodor erected a church in Turnovo, accommodated the icon in there and, during the official inauguration in November 1186, announced that St. Demetrius had turned his eyes away from Byzantium and would thereafter be the patron of Bulgaria and the Bulgarian army. Gripped by a flush of inspiration a multitude of warriors immediately proclaimed Theodor a tsar of Bulgaria. As such he goes by the name of Peter. Assen assumed the command of the Bulgarian armies. Then the Bulgarian contingents left Turnovo and rode swiftly to the old Bulgarian capital of Preslav where tsar Peter had remained. Assen stayed back in Turnovgrad to govern his and his brother's patrimonium there.

Turnovo was soon to assume the functions of a capital city, for the real power was in the hands of Assen. He was, incidentally, also given the title of tsar of Bulgaria in 1187.

It During the first year of the rebellion only the regions of Moesia and Wallachia had their independence from Byzantium restored. In the subsequent year, however, the armies of the Bulgarians made an entry into the formerly Bulgarian southern territories. And, while Macedonia - the kernel of the Bulgarian resistance against the Byzantine aggression in the 10th and the 11th centuries, was freed without any particular difficulty, battles waged in Thrace could be compared, by scope and severity, only with those at the time of the so-called Bulgarian epic. There followed about a ten-year period of alternating twists: at times the Bulgarian troops reached the neighborhood of Constantinople and Thessalonica - the two main cities of the empire and, at times, the Byzantines led battles in Moesia. At one stage the Bulgarians had just gained superiority in the fighting when the seeds of discord yielded their fruit that fell among the Bulgarian palace aristocracy. In 1196, tsar Assen I (1187-1196), a victim of a plot, was murdered. Shortly after, his brother tsar Peter (1189-1197) suffered a similar fate. The conspirers did not succeed in consolidating their power.

The two assassinated royal brothers - liberators of Bulgaria, had a third brother who ascended the Bulgarian throne as tsar Kaloyan (1197-1207). Having suppressed the strong boyar opposition, the young Bulgarian ruler declared war on Byzantium in 1199. By 1202 he succeeded in liberating the parts of Thrace, Macedonia and the Black Sea littoral still under Byzantine rule. This time Byzantium's attempts to repeat its 9th- 11th century experience of using the Hungarians against the Bulgarians, failed. In 1203 the Hungarian imperial troops were defeated and some parts of the central Danubian tableland, which had been taken away from the Bulgarians during their agony at the beginning of the 11th century, were restituted to the Bulgarian state.

Meanwhile tsar Kaloyan was well-aware of his country's serious international isolation. A conflict with the Latins interpolated into the conflict with Byzantium which had permanently been seething with the help of the Hungarians, always at hand for a revenge. For this reason, as early as 1199, he wrote to Pope Innocent III to propose subordination of the Bulgarian church in return for his being crowned as a sign of the legitimacy of his reign. The negotiations, conducted with perfect diplomatic skill by both parties, ended in 1204. Tsar Kaloyan received from Rome a crown, a sceptre and a blessing for his title as a king while the Bulgarian archbishop Basil was consecrated as primate of the Bulgarian church. This act enabled tsar Kaloyan to declare illegal all Hungarian revenge-seeking intentions with respect to Bulgaria, already a fully fledged Catholic country and even, with the Pope's blessing, to strike a preventive stunning blow on the Hungarians in Transilvania and Serbia.

At that juncture, in 1204 Bulgaria's perennial enemy - the Byzantine empire, unexpectedly collapsed. Debilitated by the 20- year long hostilities with the Bulgarians, it yielded to the pressure of and eventually fell to the crusaders in the Fourth crusade. The foundations of the political prodigy of Western Europe, the Latin empire, were laid in conquered Constantinople. The new state quickly got down to occupying almost all Byzantine territories in Europe and Asia Minor.

Tsar Kaloyan was anxious to negotiate a settlement of the borderline dispute with the Latin emperor Baldwin of Flanders (1204- 1205). However, the Latins' reply was haughty and rude. They said that, as far as they were concerned, Bulgaria was an illegitimate political formation and that its territory, as part of the former Byzantine empire whose heirs-at-law they thought to be, would belong to them by rights. They informed Kaloyan in a sarcastic fashion that their coming was imminent. Kaloyan's plea to Pope Innocent III to bring the crusaders to their senses took no effect at all.

In that situation the Bulgarian ruler, who surely did not like being at the tail-end of events, decided to strike first. In the spring of 1205 a rebellion, inspired by tsar Kaloyan, broke out in Latin Thrace. Only when the Latin army besieged the main city of the region, Adrianople (present-day Edirne), did the crusaders see, in spell-binding amazement, that the fortress walls had Bulgarian standards fixed on top. Surviving Byzantine nobility had to recognize the supremacy of the Bulgarian tsar. Soon after, the Bulgarian army also arrived at the walls of Adrianople. Confident of their invincibility, the knights raided the Bulgarian army on 14 April 1205 and sustained tremendous losses and a defeat. On that day, in the vicinity of Adrianople, emperor Baldwin was taken prisoner and the that day. It marked the end of the reveries of some West European political circles about their enduring presence in the East. For, the Adrianople disaster was a death blow to the infant empire which did, never again, succeed in assuming the role of a primary political power in the European East and which, after a painful agony six decades long, was to disappear completely from the political stage.

During the couple of years that followed, the Bulgarian contingents struck fresh and severe blows on the crusaders. The last of the Fourth crusade leaders, Boniface of Montferrat, 'king' of Thessalonica, got slain in a battle with the Bulgarians. The Byzantine aristocracy, confused by and frightened of Bulgaria's triumphant marches which had already pushed it forward again as a predominant power in the Balkans, backed out of its alliance with the Bulgarians, and, as a result, was completely done away with in Thrace. A legend was circulated among the few survivors in which Kaloyan was seen as the Providence itself retaliating the evil caused to the Bulgarians in the beginning of the 11th century.

In October 1207 tsar Kaloyan besieged Thessalonica. On the eve of the battle, the Bulgarian tsar died in circumstances which are rather vaguely described in the various sources. According to some he had died of heart failure and, according to others, he had been ambushed and murdered. Boril, Kaloyan's nephew and the only adult descendant of Assen's House, was set on the throne.

Tsar Boril (1207-1218) possessed none of the diplomatic or military abilities of the three royal brothers. A number of discontented boyars - regional governors in Macedonia, Thrace and the Rhodopes refused to obey the central power and set up autonomous feudal possessions. The exhausted Bulgarian state could not counteract a Latin raid in 1208 and lost Thrace. The Hungarians were also on the offensive from the west. As late as 1214 Boril succeeded in defeating the invaders. The hostilities with the Latins and the Hungarians were discontinued by the intercession of the Pope, while peace was being consolidated by dynastic marriages. Opposition against Boril was gaining momentum which was due to the tsar's political and military ineptitude, as well as to his suspected complicity in the plot that had resulted in tsar Kaloyan's death.

In 1217 the legitimate heir to the Bulgarian throne - the son of tsar Assen I, by name Ivan Assen II, returned from exile in the Russian principality of Galich where he had been sent as a juvenile at the time of Boril's ascension to the throne. Now Ivan Assen was at the head of a company of Russian mercenaries. One after the other the fortresses opened their gates to him. Boril shut himself up in the capital city of Turnovo which took until the spring of 1218 to fall. Boril was deposed and blinded, and Ivan Assen began his I reign as a Bulgarian tsar.

The young sovereign differed from his predecessor in his extraordinary statecraft skills. From the very beginning of his reign he had to cope with a rather complex foreign political situation. The bipolar pattern of political relations, i.e. Byzantium versus Bulgaria, which had been typical of the development of the European East for centuries on end, was substituted by a conglomerate of state formations with equal power and ambitions: the Latin empire, Byzantium's successors Epirius and Nicaea, Bulgaria, Serbia, and Hungary. By choosing to negotiate (this approach was not common in medieval political affairs all that much), rather than to get bogged down in unrestrained military confrontation, tsar Ivan Assen II succeeded in attaining goals almost as high as those achieved by Simeon the Great and tsar Samuel. His diplomatic marriage with the daughter of the Hungarian king guaranteed the return of Belgrade and Branichevo - territories in the central Danubian tableland which had been detached from Bulgaria earlier on. Ivan Assen II also had the region of Upper Thrace returned under a Treaty of alliance with the Latin empire.

In 1230 Bulgaria was raided by the troops of the Epims despotate. Its despot, Theodore Comnenus, who regarded himself a legitimate heir to the Byzantine emperor's throne, was defeated in a pitched battle near the village of Klokotnitsa and was taken prisoner. The Bulgarian state occupied all his realms and thus, once again, became an unrivaled power on the Balkans. Similar to the situation back in the 10th century, its territory comprised almost the whole of the Balkan Peninsula.

During the subsequent ten years of his rule, the Bulgarian tsar became famous for his expert maneuvers among the rest of the political powers on the peninsula, not allowing even one of them to dispute Bulgaria's hegemony. The status quo was preserved until the tsar's death in 1241. Even in the last months of his life Ivan Assen II managed to demonstrate the potentialities of Bulgaria. The Bulgarian army crushed hordes of Tatars who had been invincible until that time. It is worth reminding that the Tatars, obsessed with the Asian mania for world hegemony, had already engulfed all state formations west of the Urals including Russia, had defeated and unmanned Hungary and were then heading towards Bulgaria in order to cover their flank - a prerequisite needed for their planned invasion of Western Europe. But in 1241 the Bulgarians routed the Tatars which took the edge off their intended aggression against Western Europe once and for all. They remained a major political power for long centuries ahead but their ambitions did, never again, stretch beyond the borders of Eastern Europe - the lands reached thusfar.

The territorial expansion of the Bulgarian state within the boundaries of the Bulgarian ethnos had created favorable conditions for its successful economic and cultural development. From that time on, the Bulgarian economy took an active part in the all- round exchanges with the economy of Western Europe. Ivan Assen II signed many agreements with European political formations which helped regulate their trade with the East. Fully restored in 1235, the Bulgarian patriarchal became the only institution of the Eastern Orthodox religion to be backed up by a well-established political power, bearing in mind the collapse of Byzantium and Russia as it really was at that time. Thus, it gained enormous authority with the whole of the East. The cultural exchanges initiated by the intellectual circles in the bosom of the Bulgarian church became an example to follow for the intellectuals of the East.

The Medieval Bulgarian State 1300-1371
In the year 1300 Svetoslav Terter (1300-1322), the son of tsar George Terter, saw his chance in the rampant internecine conflict in the khanate of the Tatars, deposed the Tatar from the Bulgarian throne and proclaimed himself as a Bulgarian tsar. With a firm hand, the young and vigorous Bulgarian ruler put an end to the boyar ruinous skirmishes, eliminated through negotiations the Tatar threat, and started fighting for the recovery of the Bulgarian territories lost hitherto. After decades being on the defensive, the Bulgarian state was back on the offensive against Byzantium. As a results of a winning war between 1304-1308, the Bulgarians retrieved the southern Black Sea littoral and eastern Thrace. The Bulgarian foreign policy established fruitful political and economic contacts with Venice and Genoa. Its relations with all Balkan neighbors improved, too.

The measures to restore the Bulgarian state organism had yielded good results. It was comparatively easy for Bulgaria to over-come the dynasty crises of 1322 and 1330. Similar situations in the past had invariably led to lingering stagnation and to an ultimate headlong decline. In 1331 Ivan Alexander came to the throne and ruled Bulgaria for forty years, a political longevity unattained by any other sovereign of Bulgaria after the restoration of its independence in 1185.

At the very beginning of his reign, tsar Ivan Alexander struck with awe Byzantium - Bulgaria's eternal rival in the Balkans. Invading Byzantine troops were stopped and defeated in the vicinity of Russocastro fortress, not far from the big modern Bulgarian port of Burgas. A long period of peace, confirmed by dynastic marriages set in. The relations with the new Balkan power, the kingdom of Serbia founded in th
year 1300, were handled in the same pattern. Peace treaties covering the whole range of relations had also been signed with the Venetians and the Genoese.

The successful foreign policy of Bulgaria was no help in stopping the creeping feudal fragmentation of its territory. A number of local feudal governors in Macedonia, Thrace, Moesia and Dobrudja had gradually become independent landlords with purely formal connections with the central authorities in Turnovo. Tsar Ivan Alexander himself gave an example to this end. In 1356 he separated off Vidin from the Bulgarian monarchy and set up his son Ivan Sratsimir as a ruler there. Although the governors of the Bulgarian feudal possessions had never been in obvious conflict with the monarch, their independent foreign policy was not always in line with the sovereign interests of the Bulgarian state, to say nothing of the numerous occasions of strife and collision between the various Bulgarian, Byzantine, Serbian, Wallach and Hungarian feudal possessions in the middle of the 14th century, which had largely contributed to the impermissible depletion of the demographic and economic potentialities of the Christian East.

Under the rule of the Ottoman Empire 15th-l8th CC
The fall of the medieval Bulgarian states under the Ottoman rule interrupted the Bulgarian people's natural development within the framework of the European civilization. To the Bulgarians that was not just a temporary loss of their state independence as it was in the case of other European peoples which had had this bitter experience at different stages of their history. In the course of centuries the Bulgarians were forced to live under a state and political system that was substantially different from and distinctly alien to the European civilization which had evolved on the basis of Christianity and the Christian economic, social and cultural patterns. The intrusive nature of Islamism and its intolerance to anything that was not part of it, resulted in the continued confrontation between the Ottoman empire and Christian Europe in the l5th-l8th centuries. That fact drew an iron curtain between the Bulgarian people on the one side, and Europe and the free Slav countries on the other. In other words, Bulgaria was separated from the progressive trends of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment as well as from the nascent modern bourgeois world. The Bulgarians were pushed into a direction of development which had nothing in common with their seven-century history until then, history deeply connected with the natural course of the European political, economic and cultural development.

The Turkish conquerors ruthlessly destroyed all Bulgarian state and religious structures. The natural political leaders of the people in the Middle Ages, i.e. the boyars and the higher clergy, vanished from sight. That deprived the Bulgarians of both the possibility for self-organization and any chance of having foreign political allies for centuries on end.

The place allotted to the Bulgarian people in the Ottoman feudal political system entitled it to no legal, religious, national, even biological rights as Bulgarian Christians. They had all been reduced to the category of the so called rayah (meaning 'a flock', attributed to the non-Muslim subjects of the empire). The peasants who represented the better half of the Bulgarian population were dispossessed of their land. According to the Ottoman feudal system which remained effective until 1834, all of it belonged to the central power in the person of the Turkish sultan. The Bulgarians were allowed to cultivate only some plots. Groups of rural Christian families, varying in number, were put under an obligation to give part of their income to representatives of the Muslim military, administrative and religious upper crust, as well as to fulfil various state duties. The number of the families liable to that payment was determined according to their position in the Ottoman state, military and religious hierarchy. The establishment of that kind of intercourse in agriculture - the fundamental pillar of the economy at that time, clearly led to the total loss of motivation for any real farming or and production improvements both among the peasants and the feof-holders. The complex and incredibly burdensome tax system forced the farmers to produce as much as needed for their families' subsistence, while the feudals preferred to earn a lot more from looting and from the incessantly successful wars waged by the Ottoman empire in all directions until the end of the 17th century.

The Ottoman Turkish state was founded on and propped up by the dogmas of the Koran. At the beginning of the 15th century when the empire prostrated from India to Gibraltar and from the mouth of the Volga to Vienna, it proclaimed itself the supreme leader of Islam - Prophet Mohammed's standard and sword, and a leader of the Koran-prescribed perpetual jihad (holy war) against the world of Christianity. It went without saying that under this conception the Bulgarian Christians could not hope for any. access to even the lowest levels of statecraft. The enormous imperial bureaucratic machinery recruited its staff only from among Muslims.

The Bulgarian people was subjected to national and religious discrimination unheard of in the annals of all European history. During court proceedings, for example, a single Muslim's testimony was more than enough to confute the evidence of dozens of Christian witnesses. The Bulgarians were not entitled to building churches, setting up their offices or even to wearing bright colors. Of the numerous taxes (about 80 in number) the so called 'fresh blood tax' (a levy of Christian youths) was particularly heavy and humiliating. At regular intervals, the authorities had the healthiest male- children taken away from their parents, sent to the capital, converted into Islam and then trained in combat skills. Raised and trained in the spirit of Islamic fanaticism, the young men were conscripted in the so called janissary corps, the imperial army of utmost belligerence known to have caused so much trouble and suffering to both the Bulgarians and Christian Europe.

The Turkish authorities exerted unabating pressure on parts of the Bulgarian people to make them convert their faith and become Muslims. That policy was meant to limit the Bulgarian ethnos parameters and to increase the Turkish population numbers. For, according to the medieval standards in that part of Europe, the affiliation of a given people was determined by the religion it followed. With a view to facilitating the assimilation process, the Turkish authorities took the Christian names of those who had converted into Islam and gave them Arab names instead.

A variety of ways and means was used in the assimilation of the Bulgarian people. Some of these were the aforementioned 'blood tax, and the regular kidnaping of children, pretty women, girls and young men to Turkish families. Quite frequently, whole areas were encircled by troops and their inhabitants forced to adopt Islam and new Arab names, while the objectors were 'edifyingly' slain. In those cases, however, the 'new Muslims' were allowed to go on living in the compact Bulgarian environment, i.e. as a community which retained both its language and its Bulgarian national consciousness. The present-day Bulgarian Muslims representing about five percent of modern Bulgaria's population, are descendants of those Mohammedanized Bulgarians, whom the Bulgarian Christians used to call pomaks (from the Bulgarian root-words macha or maka, meaning harassed or caused to suffer). And yet the thousands of Bulgarians whom Bulgaria lost once and for all were those who had been subjected to individual conversion to Islam. For, it is only natural that having fallen into a community of strangers, speaking a different language and practicing different customs and faith, they had easily and quickly been assimilated. The genocide carried out by the Ottoman Turks during hostilities in the Bulgarian lands, at the time of uprising or riot suppression, during the frequent spells of feudal anarchy, or even of Ottoman troops move-ups from garrison stations to the battle-field, had struck heavy blows on the Bulgarian nation. The Bulgarian Christian population was treated as infidel and hostile and it was outlawed even at the time of peace. Individual and mass emigration of Bulgarians to foreign lands was another cause for no lesser losses to the Bulgarian nation. There were times when whole regions became depopulated. Thus, in 1688-1689 the whole of the north- eastern Bulgarian population emigrated and in 1829-1830 the same thing happened with the population of southeastern Bulgaria, Thrace, etc. Unprotected by Bulgarian state, religious and cultural institutions the immigrants, with only few exceptions, amalgamated into the people whose country had received them. That was the way in which thousands of Bulgarian immigrants had vanished in Romania, Hungary and Serbia.

During the l5th-l7th centuries the Bulgarian nation had suffered a gradual but grave biological collapse which predetermined, to a large extent, its demographic, economic, political and cultural place in the European civilization. According to some Bulgarian historians' estimations, the beginning of the Turkish oppression in the 15th century found Bulgaria with a population of about 1.3 million. Those were the then demographic parameters of any of the large European nations, for example, the population in the present-day territories of England, France or Germany. One hundred years later, the Bulgarians were already down to 260 000 people and remained as many in the course of two more centuries. The demographic growth was suppressed through genocide, Mohammedanization and emigration. The biological collapse of the l5th-l7th centuries had repercussions which are still being keenly felt. The Bulgarian nation, nowadays, amounts to some ten million people while its European equals in number, back in the 15th century, are now sixty to eighty million-strong.

The unbearable conditions during the Ottoman yoke could not deaden the Bulgarians' anxiety for resistance. Deprived of social and political organizations of their own, they were unable to undertake any sizeable liberation initiatives. Thus, during the first centuries of the oppression, armed resistance was only of local and sporadic nature. The so-called haidouk movement was its most frequent manifestation. The haidouks were brave Bulgarians who took refuge in the high-mountain woods, organizing there small armed detachments and bringing them down for merciless struggle against the provincial administrators. This guerrila-type struggle continued for centuries on end (one group destroyed was instantaneously replaced by another) and succeeded in sustaining the morale of the Bulgarians by preserving, to some extent, their properties and their honor. In some places, it even had the authorities maintain more humane relationships with the Bulgarian Christians. The haidouk movement indirectly encouraged and safeguarded other forms of resistance such as maintaining the style of life, the language, the traditions and the religion, or incompliance with forced obligations and refusal to pay heavy unjustifed tax.

Liberation uprisings were the supreme form of struggle against the oppressors. The first one broke out still in 1408. Significant uprisings, proclaiming the independence of Bulgaria, took place in 1598, 1686, 1688 and 1689. They were connected with the anti- Ottoman wars waged by the West European Catholic states with which some Bulgarian representatives, mainly merchants and both Orthodox and Catholic clergymen, had established joint venture contacts. All insurrections were quelled and accompanied with inhuman atrocities.

The Bulgarian people were living through one of the most difficult periods in its centuries long existence. It had been deprived of its state, its church, its intelligently and its legitimate rights. Furthermore, its survival as an ethnos had also been put at stake. Linder the heel of that powerful, ruthless and uncivilized Asiatic despotism, it lasted out but remained without any substantial material and spiritual resources needed for its further development. Thus, the Bulgarians, along with all the other European peoples which had been engulfed by the Ottoman empire, were to lag some centuries behind the attainments of present-day Europe.

The Bulgarian Revival
n the middle of the 17th century the feudal Ottoman empire plunged into serious decline. Significantly behind Christian Europe in a technological aspect, it gradually began losing the 'holy war against the unfaithful'. In 1571 the bells of the Holy league of Christian fleets tolled the beginning of the end of its military might at Lepanto. By force of habit the Ottoman war machinery kept pushing the imperial troops towards the heart of Europe, but their strength was obviously no longer up to the task. In 1683, after a series of ups and downs and at the expense of heavy bloodshed, the Ottoman armies were brought to utter catastrophe at Vienna by the troops of the Holy league. The latter combined the efforts of the European states to which Muslim aggression was a menace Venice, Austria, Poland and Russia. Christian Europe was already on the offensive and thereon the European possessions of the Ottoman empire were to be consistently shrinking.

Incapable of reforming itself in the spirit of the new times, the decrepit empire sank into a deep economic and social crisis which was never overcome. Dry rot had long been growing into obvious corruption all over the Ottoman government and economic administration. This created favorable conditions for the preparation and the actual attainment of Bulgaria's national liberation. In its essence this process had the features and the character of a bourgeois- democratic revolution. As a result of the all-round economic, political and cultural uplift of the Bulgarian society in the l7th-l9th centuries, there arose a natural conflict between the new Bulgarian bourgeoisie and the Turkish feudal state. The specific conditions of life, peculiar to Bulgaria and its people, determined the character of this conflict. Unlike the other economic analogues in Europe, it was not only of social but also of national bearing. The decline of the Ottoman Turkish state, paradoxical as it may sound, was one of the strongest incentives for the economic upsurge of the Bulgarian people. Exempted from participation in the imperial armies, the Bulgarians did not suffer the monstrous losses, incurred during the post-seventeenth century unsuccessful wars which had reduced the number of the Turkish population in the Bulgarian lands several times. Lacking in basic living culture and obssessed with the Muslim fanatical prejudice that no disease cure could be better than the one from the hands of Allah, the Turkish population had tangibly shrunken as a result of the frequent plague epidemics. These did not affect the Bulgarians who had the experience, the knowledge and the will to fight any illness. Despite its losses in the previous centuries, the Bulgarian Christian population considerably outnumbered the Muslim part of it through the whole of the 18th century. In some towns and even in whole regions, the Turkish population was represented only by the families of the local administration sent to work there.

In the new conditions the labour-devoted Bulgarians, quite unexpectedly, turned out to be much better off than the sparse Muslim population lacking in economic experience as a result of its centuries long sole responsibility - to be part of the war machinery of the empire. Slowly but steadily craft manufacture - the foundation of all manufacturing industry in the Bulgarian lands, passed into the hands of the nascent Bulgarian bourgeois class. This Bulgarian-manned crafts industry was reorganized on the basis of new bourgeois manufacture principles. The incorporation of the Ottoman empire into the European capitalist economic system gave further impetus to manufacture and trade. International trade was chiefly carried out by Bulgarian merchants, who had accumulated capital to invest it in the expansion and modernization of new enterprises. Upon the official abolition of the feudal system of land ownership, the bourgeois style of production penetrated in agriculture, too. The peasants started buying their land back from the Ottoman authorities or from Muslims nearly ruined and got down to organizing prosperous private farms. Big farms called chifliks occupied themselves with wholesale food production. Towards the end of the Ottoman rule in the Bulgarian lands the chifliks comprised about twenty five percent of all land and of the total agricultural produce.

The economic development of the Bulgarians was impeded by the Ottoman political reality. As late as the middle of the 19th century, a number of historical factors made the Turkish government 127 unable to abolish the medieval feudal pattern of statecraft and management of its economy Heavy tax, absence of state protection, corrupt administration, lack of legal guarantees and national discrimination - these were some of the hindrances to substantial industry. A scrutinizing look at the Turkish state realities and potentialities for headway development brought the various strata of the Bulgarian society to the conclusion that there would be no future for them within the boundaries of that state. The Bulgarians from all walks of life, the Bulgarian bourgeoisie in particular, were interested in restoring the Bulgarian independence and building up a modern Bulgarian state. It was the bourgeoisie who were at the head of the Bulgarian national liberation movement during the 19th century.

The struggle for national liberation flared up with several parallel actions launched almost at the same time. The movement for national enlightenment and for independent Bulgarian church was the first to break out as it was possible to wage with methods prescribed by the law. This slant was extremely important in the first decades of the 19th century since the Bulgarians were not officially recognized as a separate people within the Ottoman empire. When the Turks conquered the country at the end of the 15th century, they placed the Bulgarian bishoprics under the oecumenical patriarchal in Constantinople and considered all Christian peoples one Romilet i.e. a Roman people. That Graecized Christian institution with corruption pervading it, unloaded fresh tax burden on the Bulgarians, and yet, the consequences of the official introduction of the Greek language in public worship and in schools were much more detrimental. This tendency extended particularly after the establishment of the Greek state independence in 1829. The Greek bishops in the Bulgarian lands became ardent supporters of the so called Greek state megali idea, envisaging restoration of the Byzantine empire within the boundaries of the Balkan Peninsula. They did not acknowledge the Bulgarians existing as an independent ethnic community and waged persistent struggle aiming at their denationalization.

The Bulgarian society reacted sharply to the nationalistic ambitions of the patriarchal in Constantinople. The local communities led a stubborn struggle against the Greek bishops' presence in the Bulgarian bishoprics. Meanwhile a network of Bulgarian elementary and secondary schools was set up. The Bulgarian initial demands boiled down to requests for the replacement of the Greek bishops with Bulgarian ones and for the wide-spread use of the Bulgarian language in church service. The patriarchal in Constantinople was relentless which made the Bulgarians claim full independence of the Bulgarian church immediately after the Crimean War in 1858. Between 1856-1860 the Greek bishops were expelled from everywhere. A national center took shape around the Bulgarian community in Constantinople, attracting eminent writers and public figures. That center took up the leadership of church independence struggle. On 3 April 1860, during Easter Sunday service in Constantinople, the Bulgarian bishop Illusion of Makariopol expressed the will of the whole Bulgarian people by solemnly proclaiming the separation of the Bulgarian church from the patriarchal in Constantinople. The day commemorating the Resurrection of Jesus Christ coincided with the resuscitation of the Bulgarian people. However, that unilateral act of the Bulgarians was not sanctioned either by the see of Constantinople or by the Turkish government. Russia, in her capacity as patron of the Orthodox peoples within the boundaries of the Muslim empire - a right obtained as a result of her victories over the Turks, did not approve of it either. The struggle continued for another ten years. It was only when the Catholic propaganda in the Bulgarian lands became disturbingly successful that Russia changed her attitude and, eventually, forced Turkey to recognize de jure the situation which had existed de facto. In 1870 a firman of the sultan decreed the establishment of an autonomous Bulgarian church institution - the Bulgarian exarchate. All lands inhabited by Bulgarians in Moesia, Thrace, Dobrudja and a large part of Macedonia came under its jurisdiction.

The independence of the church and the establishment of national educational institutions became heralds of the victory of the Bulgarian national revolution for at least two reasons: they put an end to the assimilation of the Bulgarian population and led to the formal international recognition of the Bulgarian nation.

The struggle for autonomous church and for national enlightenment and culture was waged along with the struggle for the political liberation of the country. On this problem the Bulgarian bourgeoisie was not united. Some circles were of the opinion that the Bulgarians had not been up to carrying out the armed revolution by themselves and thus prescribed help from abroad, mainly from the neighbouring Balkan countries and Russia. The upholders of this standpoint cared to organise large Bulgarian armed detach- ments for both the Russo-Turkish wars and the liberation uprisings of the other Balkan peoples. Their opponents thought it possible to achieve the cherished political independence by duplicating the so called 'Hungarian pattern' - a velvet revolution within the Turkish state by gradually infiltrating the upper tiers of power in the economy, local government, culture and education and then, by turning the Muslim empire into something like the dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary

The most radically-minded part of the Bulgarian bourgeoisie saw no other way to the liberation of Bulgaria except the one passing through the cathartic flames of a nation-wide armed revolution. The first leader of that ideological trend was Georgi As for the tactics, obviously influenced by past experiences of the haidouk movement, he envisaged the setting up of Bulgarian armed detachments in all of Turkey's Balkan neighboring states whose task it would be to make their way into the Bulgarian lands. Rakovski expected these armed main bodies to grow into an avalanche of discontented Bulgarians who would spontaneously join in to ultimately form a strong national army capable of winning the country's independence.

Rakovski's attempts in the 60s to carry out the Bulgarian national revolution with 'pressure and sword' failed. Taking advantage of conflicting situations between the Balkan states and their Muslim neighbor Rakovski tried, on several occasions, to make his dream of shaping up the kernel of the Bulgarian national army come true. However, upon the settlement of any of these conflicts, the governments of Serbia and Romania always found their own reasons and excuses to limit Rakovski's activity. In 1867 Rakovski died. His death put an end to one of the significant stages of the Bulgarian national revolution.

Rakovski's revolutionary activity awakened the Bulgarian immigrants in Romania and Russia. Their activity was a direct after- effect of the changes taking place in European political life. The unification of Germany, the liberation of Italy, the autonomy of Hungary - all these events inspired hope for the approaching settlement of the Bulgarian national question. Several centers of revolutionary activity had been set up to unite various groups of the Bulgarian immigrant bourgeoisie looking for the best possible way to national liberation. Their quests ranged from political combinations with Balkan and European powers, through revolutionary printed propaganda to the dispatch of armed detachments to the Bulgarian lands. In 1868 the last one of these, known as the cheta of Stefan Karadja and Hadji Dimiter, consisted only of 120 men but they had both the Balkans and Europe lost in admiration for their heroism. Leading ceaseless battles against the Turkish regular and mercenary troops many thousands strong, the cheta crossed Moesia. Stranded and besieged in the Balkan Range, the revolutionaries fought to the last bullet. Rather than surrendering they died in a desperate man-to-man battle.

After the failure of Rakovski's tactics and the utter defeat of the detachments in 1867-1868, the Bulgarian liberation movement entered a phase of total reassessment of its revolutionary strategy and tactics. In Bucharest in 1869, young revolutionaries moving in the circle of the eminent Bulgarian intellectual Liuben Karavelov and his newspaper Svoboda (Freedom) formed a group which was the precursor of a Bulgarian Revolutionary Central Committee I (BRCC), set up before the end of that year. This new center had I the revolutionary trends merge and come under the same hat. The center's political programme subjected to criticism the social situation in Turkey, condemning it as an indecent anachronism in the modern European civilization and exposing the Turkish government as the obvious adversary to human rights and human progress. Karavelov's notion of the liberation revolution placed, first and foremost, reliance on the Bulgarian people and then, on aid from a foreign power. He wrote: 'The Bulgarians should not count on Napoleon Ill, Alexander II, Pius IX or Queen Victoria, they should rely only on themselves'. In this the staunch democrat saw a prerequisite for Bulgaria 'to set its state in order, according to the best ordinances (read 'constitutions') which had already been used by the enlightened peoples - the American, the Belgian and the Swiss'.

However, in 1869-1870 the BRCC confined its activities to nothing else but verbose public statements. The center did not undertake any real practicable measures. For this reason, a group of radically-minded associates with Vassil Levski at the head of it, launched some resolute and efficient initiatives aiming at the political liberation of Bulgaria.

Vassil Levski, whom the present-day Bulgarians consider their greatest national hero of all times and epochs, was born in Karlovo, a prosperous center of craftindustry in 1837. At the age of twenty four he took the vows of a deacon. The lot in store for the young Bulgarian was obviously not the one of a monk living in resignation to the world. In 1862 he fled to Serbia and enlisted as a volunteer in the Bulgarian legion raised by Rakovski. The legion took part in the Serbo-Turkish hostilities. Between 1862-1868 Levski participated in almost all Bulgarian armed assaults against the Ottoman empire.

The revolutionary theory which took form in Vassil Levski's mind towards the end of the 60s, turned out to be a leap forward for the Bulgarian liberation movement. Levski viewed the national liberation revolution as a concomitant armed upheaval of the whole Bulgarian population in the Ottoman empire. It followed that this uprising had to be well-prepared in advance, with all adequate military training and proper coordination on the part of an internal revolutionary organization branching out into committees in each living area. That organization was supposed to operate independent from the plans or the political combinations of any foreign powers which, as known by previous experience, had brought only trouble and failure to the national revolutionary cause.

Levski also determined the future form of government in liberated Bulgaria - a democratic republic, standing on the principles of the Human and Citizen Rights Charter of the Great French Revolution. That was the only document hitherto known to guarantee the individual freedom of expression, speech and association. In their essence Levski's ideas tallied with the most radical ideas of the European bourgeois-democratic revolution.

In more practical terms, in 1869 Levski addressed himself to the task of setting up local committees. By the middle of 1872 he had scoured the Bulgarian lands with the dedication of an apostle, and succeeded in establishing a strong network of committees in hundreds of Bulgarian towns and villages which were in constant contact with and subordination to the clandestine government in the town of Lovech. They provided weapons, organized combat detachments, and got traitors and Turkish officials punished.

In May 1872, the Bulgarian Revolutionary Central Committee and the Internal Revolutionary Organization, convinced that a coordination of the efforts would be for the general good, merged into one organization. Revolutionary uplift overwhelmed the whole country.

This enthusiasm was short-lived as only a few months on, in the autumn of that year, during a robbery of a Turkish post-office meant to procure money for weapons, the Turkish police picked up the trail of some committees in northeast Bulgaria including the organization headquarters in Lovech. Numerous arrests of revolutionaries followed, threatening the organization to fall through. karavelov demanded that Levski should immediately rise the Bulgarians in revolt. Levski, who was in Bulgaria at that time and was well-aware that the population was yet unprepared, refused to fulfil the order and tried to take into his charge all documentation belonging to the organization - a safety precaution against its getting into Turkish hand, which could destroy the movement completely. Unfortunately, he himself fell in the hands of the Turkish authorities who put him on trial and sentenced him to death by hanging. Levski was sent to the gallows in Sofia in February 1837. The death of Vassil Levski - a generally recognized leader of the national revolutionary movement, caused temporary crisis. The Bulgarian Revolutionary Central Committee was groping for new ways and means. A number of revolutionaries undertook actions without coordinating them with the underground headquarters, while others sank into apathy.

By 1875 a group of young revolutionaries - Hristo Botev, Stefan Stambolov, Nikola Obretenov and others, was ready to play an important role in the Bulgarian Revolutionary Central Committee. They attempted at and partly succeeded in restoring the internal revolutionary committee network. Taking advantage of the deep crisis of the Ottoman empire (in 1875 Turkey was adjudged bankrupt, while Bosnia and Herzegovina were shaken up by uprisings), the young revolutionaries speeded up the preparation for an armed uprising. It broke out in the spring of 1876 and was recorded in the annals of Bulgarian history as the April uprising.

However, that uprising did not spread all over the Bulgarian lands. Only the towns and villages, nestling among the mountain hills surrounding Plovdiv - the capital city of Thrace, rose on a mass scale. In the other regions only guerilla detachments had been set up. After several days of heroic fighting, it was crushed with cruelty unheard of in the human history. The Turkish atrocities were unprecedented. The troops made a massacre of the population both in rebellious and non-rebellious settlements. In some places the inhabitants were killed to the last man without distinction of age or sex. The Bulgarian immigrants in Romania formed a detachment of 200 rebels. Led by Hristo Botev, they seized the Austrian packet boat 'Radetzky' and, eventually, landed on the Bulgarian bank of the Danube. It took some heroic battles for this cheta (detachment) to be defeated, too. That happened in June 1876 when the Bulgarian liberation uprising was fought to its bitter end.

The liberation of Bulgaria
The Turkish atrocities that accompanied the April uprising illustrated to the whole world the true face of the Ottoman state and its barbarity. World public opinion raised its voice in defence of the Bulgarian people. British, American, Italian, French, German and Russian journalists and consuls made known to their governments and their peoples the truth about these monstrous crimes. Prominent statesmen, political and public figures, intellectuals and scholars to whom the Bulgarians would always be indebted, joined in a campaign for the Bulgarians' right to lead free life. Some of the names that stand out among the champions of the Bulgarian people's cause are those of William Gladstone - leader of the Liberal party of Britain, Charles Darwin, Oscar Wilde, Victor Hugo and Giuseppe Garibaldi. The first Chancellor of the German Reich, Bismarck made a speech in the Reictistag to the effect that the abominable bloodshed in Bulgaria had rendered Turkey no longer eligible to a place in the community of the European states.

The events in Bulgaria had admittedly raised a tide of compassion, solidarity and willingness for support among the Russian public. The Russian people, sharing with the Bulgarians kindred languages, cultures and religions, insisted that its emperor and government circles declare war on Turkey.

The Russian government did not evidently see any reasons for not responding to the Russian and European public outcry since it coincided with the long-term objectives of Russian policies with respect to Turkey. These envisaged total destruction of the Turkish empire and annexation of most of its lands to the Russian empire. The plan was to achieve this either directly or by allowing the existence of formally independent states which would effectively come under Russia's sway. Russia's interests in this region, however, clashed with the interests of other European powers such as Britain and Austria-Hungary. Either of them claimed its share of the Ottoman heritage. Moreover, everybody was afraid of a big, strong and independent state emerging in southern Europe as it could seriously impugn the Great Powers' presence in that part of the European continent. Appalled and indignant as it could be, the European public opinion also urged their respective governments to undertake decisive actions against the Asiatic barbarians.

In the summer, autumn and winter of 1876 the Russian government went out of its way to settle the Bulgarian question in a peaceful way. It made attempts to smooth its contradictions with the other European powers. The so-called Tsarigrad conference (the south Slavonic name for Constantinople) which took place in December 1876, was the culmination of their diplomatic effort with Russia, Britain, France, Austria-Hungary, Germany and Italy all taking part in it. The joint reform-prescribing plan to which Turkey committed itself in advance, made provision for the autonomy of all Bulgarian-inhabited lands in Macedonia, Moesia, Thrace and Dobrudja. These lands were part of the two Bulgarian states with their respective capital cities of Turnovo and Sofia. The territories of these two states extended as far as the ethnic boundaries of the Bulgarian people and, despite their artificial division, they were adequate to the Bulgarians' needs and aspirations. Turkey, however, impudently rejected that plan on the very day of its signing. This last-minute prestige-harming flop made even the Turkey-supporting West European states withdraw their customary back-up and agree to a military settlement of the Bulgarian question.

After preliminary talks with the European Great Powers on the possible outcome of hostilities, Russia declared war on Turkey on 12 April 1877. As early as that day, a military campaign was launched along the Russo-Turkish Caucasian border. On the Balkans the Russian army had to overcome the Danube - a major water barrier, before coming anywhere near the Turkish troops. The Russians crossed the Danube in June 1877. The Russian strategic war plan appeared to be based on the miscalculated presumption that Turkey was a colossus on clay stilts which should collapse at the first blow and envisaged the engagement of only a small Russian contingent 15 000-strong. Linder General Gurko's command it was to rush through a narrow corridor to Constantinople and to prompt the terms of peace to the Turkish government. According to this same plan the 300 000-strong Ottoman troops in Bulgaria had to be counteracted by the Russian officers and soldiers about 250 000-strong in attacks outfianking the narrow passage.

The Turkish atrocities that accompanied the April uprising illustrated to the whole world the true face of the Ottoman state and its barbarity. World public opinion raised its voice in defence of the Bulgarian people. British, American, Italian, French, German and Russian journalists and consuls made known to their governments and their peoples the truth about these monstrous crimes. Prominent statesmen, political and public figures, intellectuals and scholars to whom the Bulgarians would always be indebted, joined in a campaign for the Bulgarians' right to lead free life. Some of the names that stand out among the champions of the Bulgarian people's cause are those of William Gladstone - leader of the Liberal party of Britain, Charles Darwin, Oscar Wilde, Victor Hugo and Giuseppe Garibaldi. The first Chancellor of the German Reich, Bismarck made a speech in the Reictistag to the effect that the abominable bloodshed in Bulgaria had rendered Turkey no longer eligible to a place in the community of the European states.

The events in Bulgaria had admittedly raised a tide of compassion, solidarity and willingness for support among the Russian public. The Russian people, sharing with the Bulgarians kindred languages, cultures and religions, insisted that its emperor and government circles declare war on Turkey.

The Russian government did not evidently see any reasons for not responding to the Russian and European public outcry since it coincided with the long-term objectives of Russian policies with respect to Turkey. These envisaged total destruction of the Turkish empire and annexation of most of its lands to the Russian empire. The plan was to achieve this either directly or by allowing the existence of formally independent states which would effectively come under Russia's sway. Russia's interests in this region, however, clashed with the interests of other European powers such as Britain and Austria-Hungary. Either of them claimed its share of the Ottoman heritage. Moreover, everybody was afraid of a big, strong and independent state emerging in southern Europe as it could seriously impugn the Great Powers' presence in that part of the European continent. Appalled and indignant as it could be, the European public opinion also urged their respective governments to undertake decisive actions against the Asiatic barbarians.

In the summer, autumn and winter of 1876 the Russian government went out of its way to settle the Bulgarian question in a peaceful way. It made attempts to smooth its contradictions with the other European powers. The so-called Tsarigrad conference (the south Slavonic name for Constantinople) which took place in December 1876, was the culmination of their diplomatic effort with Russia, Britain, France, Austria-Hungary, Germany and Italy all taking part in it. The joint reform-prescribing plan to which Turkey committed itself in advance, made provision for the autonomy of all Bulgarian-inhabited lands in Macedonia, Moesia, Thrace and Dobrudja. These lands were part of the two Bulgarian states with their respective capital cities of Turnovo and Sofia. The territories of these two states extended as far as the ethnic boundaries of the Bulgarian people and, despite their artificial division, they were adequate to the Bulgarians' needs and aspirations. Turkey, however, impudently rejected that plan on the very day of its signing. This last-minute prestige-harming flop made even the Turkey-supporting West European states withdraw their customary back-up and agree to a military settlement of the Bulgarian question.

After preliminary talks with the European Great Powers on the possible outcome of hostilities, Russia declared war on Turkey on 12 April 1877. As early as that day, a military campaign was launched along the Russo-Turkish Caucasian border. On the Balkans the Russian army had to overcome the Danube - a major water barrier, before coming anywhere near the Turkish troops. The Russians crossed the Danube in June 1877. The Russian strategic war plan appeared to be based on the miscalculated presumption that Turkey was a colossus on clay stilts which should collapse at the first blow and envisaged the engagement of only a small Russian contingent 15 000-strong. Linder General Gurko's command it was to rush through a narrow corridor to Constantinople and to prompt the terms of peace to the Turkish government. According to this same plan the 300 000-strong Ottoman troops in Bulgaria had to be counteracted by the Russian officers and soldiers about 250 000-strong in attacks outfianking the narrow passage.

Newest Bulgarian history
In 1944 the Fatherland Front took over the power. The presence of the Soviet Army in Bulgaria sped up the changes in the political life and the following events - the declaration of the Republic (1946) and the coming to power of the Bulgarian Communist Party; the political parties were dismantled, nationalization of industry and banks, cooperation of land were implemented.

In 1989 democratic changes began in Bulgaria - the political parties and the parliamentary functions were restored. The National Assembly adopted a new Constitution which regulates the functions of the three main powers - legislative, executive and legal.



Blogger Anna said...

A very commendable effort - to cover the whole of Bulgarian history! It appears that you are using the "official" version of events, as lined out during communist times. I wish I have the time to read this thoroughly to be able to comment on it properly. Hopefully I sould be able to do so in the near future.
Well done on the mamouth effort!

Annie B

6:43 AM  

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