Travel Guides: History Of Bulgaria
Bulgaria, officially the Republic of Bulgaria is a European country situated in the Balkan Peninsula. It borders with Romania in the north, Serbia and Macedonia to the west and Greece and Turkey to the south. To the east, the country is bordered by the Black Sea.
The first Bulgarian kingdoms on European soil were formed in the early Middle Ages, in the seventh century. All Bulgarian political entities that emerged later continued the traditions of the First Bulgarian Empire (632/681-1018), which during its existence has covered most of the Balkans by providing the alphabet, literature and its culture between the peoples of Eastern Europe.
Several centuries later, after the decline of the Second Bulgarian Empire (1185-1396/1422), the country came under Ottoman control for a period of almost five hundred years. The Russo-Turkish War (1877-1878) allowed Bulgaria to restore as a constitutional monarchy. The signing of the Treaty in San Stefano marked the rebirth of the Bulgarian state. Bulgaria declared its independence from Ottoman Turkey in 1908, immediately after the Young Turk Revolution. After the World War II, Bulgaria became a communist state in an area of influence of the Soviet Union.
Todor Zhivkov dominated the state politically for thirty-three years (between 1956 and 1989). In 1990, after the Fall of Peoples, Bulgaria became a capitalist democratic republic. Now, Bulgaria is a parliamentary democracy, organized as a unitary constitutional republic. It integrated into the European Union in 2007 and in NATO in 2004. It has a population of approximately 7.6 million inhabitants.
From a geographical and climatically point of view, Bulgaria has a notable diversity, with landscapes ranging from snow-covered mountain peaks in Rila, Pirin and the Balkan Mountains, to the temperate and sunny weather on the Black Sea coast, to the typical continental Danubian Plain (ancient Moesia) in the north to the strong Mediterranean influence in the valleys and lowlands of the southern Macedonian Thrace.
Bulgaria is made up of parts of the ancient provinces of Thrace, Moesia and Macedonia. The mountainous southwest of the country has two alpine ranges – Rila and Pirin – and further east are the Rhodope Mountains, shorter but wider. Rila Mountain includes the highest peak in the Balkan Peninsula, Musala, with 2925 m of the Balkan Mountains stretched chain oriented in a west-east direction across the country, north of the famous Valley of Roses.
Hills can be found in the southeast, along the eastern Black Sea coast, and along Bulgaria’s main river, the Danube in the north. Other major rivers are the Struma and Maritsa in the south. There are about 260 glacial lakes in the Rila and Pirin, several large lakes on the Black Sea coast and more than 2,200 lakes. Mineral springs are abundant, located mainly in southwestern and central regions in the mountains.
Bulgaria has a temperate climate with cold winters (with lots of rainfall) and hot and dry summers, and Mediterranean influence along the Black Sea coast. The barrier effect of the Balkan Mountains influences climate throughout the country: northern Bulgaria is slightly cooler and rainy than the southern regions. Average precipitation in Bulgaria is about 630 mm per year. The most arid regions are Dobrogea and the northern costal area, while the highest parts of the mountains Rila and Stara Planina present the highest amounts of precipitation.
In the summer, the temperatures in southern Bulgaria often exceed 40 degrees, but remain lower on the coast. The highest temperature so far was 46.7 degrees Celsius, recorded near Plovdiv. The country has relatively large deposits of minerals, including vast reserves of lignite and anthracite, or non-ferrous minerals such as copper, lead, zinc and gold.
There are large deposits of manganese in the northeast. Smaller deposits of iron, silver, chromate and nickel are also present. Bulgaria is rich in salt, gypsum, kaolin and marble.
Balkan Peninsula takes its name from Stara Planina or Balkan mountain range that stretches across the center of Bulgaria, reaching eastern Serbia.
The President of Bulgaria, who is head of state and commander in chief of the army, is elected for a term of five years. The main roles of the President are organizing data for elections and referenda; he represents Bulgaria and signs international treaties. He is also Head of National Security Advisory Council. The President has the right to block the law by sending the law back to Parliament, although if a law is passed a second time with a simple majority, he has no veto power.
Bulgaria has a unicameral parliament consisting of the National Assembly or Narodno Sabranie. The National Assembly has 240 members elected for terms of four years. Political parties must receive at least 4% of total national vote to be represented in the Parliament. The National Assembly is responsible for the formation of laws, approving the state budget, organizing data for presidential elections, the selection of the prime minister, declarations of war, sending troops to international commitments and ratifies international treaties.
Bulgaria’s economy contracted dramatically after 1989 with the loss of Soviet markets, from which the Bulgarian economy was closely linked. The standard of living dropped by 40% but was expected to reach the pre-1990 levels by the end of 2003. In addition, the UN sanctions against Yugoslavia and Iraq took a heavy toll on the Bulgarian economy. The first signs of recovery emerged in 1994 when the GDP grew and inflation fell.
In 1996, the economy collapsed due to poor economic reforms and an unstable banking system. Since 1997 the country was on the path of recovery, with the GDP growth at a rate of 4-5%, increasing FDI, macroeconomic stability and EU membership set for 2007.
The government, elected in 2001, pledged to maintain economic objectives adopted by its predecessor in 1997.
Despite the economic forecasts for 2002 and 2003 predicted continued growth in the Bulgarian economy, the government still had to do with high unemployment and low standards of living. Bulgaria joined the EU on January 1, 2007. Bulgaria would cover up to 98% of Russian imports of natural gas. Bulgaria annually consumes 3.2 to 3.4 billion cubic meters of natural gas and 95-98% of it imported from Russia.
Under communist rule, Bulgaria exported weapons worth $ 700-800 million per year. Weapons production sector had 115,000 employees when compared to 20,000 in May 2008. In 2007 Bulgaria has exported arms and military equipment worth 180 million euros, and in 2006 worth of 173 million euros.
In 2006, Bulgaria’s telecommunications market value reached 1.55 billion euros, of which mobile phones – 921 million euros, cable TV – EUR 82.7 million, providing information and Internet – EUR 72.7 million. In 2006, the number of customers of the three telecommunications companies, Mobitel, Globe and Vivatel, exceeded the total population over 8.2 million active SIM cards.
According to the 2001 census, Bulgaria’s population is mainly ethnic Bulgarian (83.9%), but also contains two large minorities, Turks (9.4%) and gypsies (4.7%). The remaining 2% consists of several smaller minorities, including Armenians, Tartars, Greeks, Russians, Romanian, Ukrainian and Hebrew. 84.8% of the Bulgarian population speaks Bulgarian, a member of the Slavic group, which is the only official language but other languages are spoken, according to existing ethnic groups.
Most Bulgarians (83.9%) are at least nominal members of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, Eastern Orthodox national church. Other religions include Islam (12.1%), Roman Catholicism (1.7%), Judaism (0.8%), but there are also members of the Protestant church, Gregorio-Armenian etc. among the remaining 1.6% of the citizens.
On the UNESCO World Heritage List are included in Bulgaria the following objectives: Bojana Church in Sofia (1979); the relief of the Madara Equestrian Knight (1979); Church of Ivanovo rock (1857); Thracian Tomb of Kazanlâc (1979); the old town of Nessebar (1983); Rila monastery (1983); Pirin Mountains National Park (1983); Nature Reserve complex at Srebarna (1983); Thracian Tomb of Sveštari / Daosdava (1985).
History of Bulgaria – Prehistoric cultures in the territory of present Bulgaria include the Hamangia and Vinca cultures, Varna Culture (5 millennium BC) and Bronze Age culture Ezero. The Thracians are the oldest known people who lived in Bulgaria; their historical presence left a mark in the entire Balkan region, despite their tumultuous history of conquest. The Thracians lived divided into numerous tribes, until most were united by King Teres around 500 BC, forming the Odriz Empire, whose heyday was in the period of the kings Cotys and Sitalkes I (383-359 BC).
In 341 BC, the Macedonian kingdom was destroyed, but was reorganized at the end of the fourth century BC, under the leadership of Seuthes III. In 188 BC, the Romans invaded Thrace and the wars against them continued until 45, when Thrace became a Roman province. Most part of today’s Bulgaria was part of the Dac Kingdom trained and led by Burebista.
Great Bulgaria in Roman times was called Moesia and was inhabited by a mixed population of Thracian origin, Greek, and Dac, the majority speaking Greek or Latin, known as Roman language. The region has been invaded by the Slavs to the mid seventh century. In 632 the Bulgarians, led by khan Kubrat, formed an independent state known as the Old Great Bulgaria, bounded to the west of the Danube Delta, south of the Black Sea, south-east of the Caucasus Mountains and the Volga River eastward.
Byzantium recognized the new state by a treaty signed in 635. Pressure from the Khazars has resulted in loss of the eastern part of Great Bulgaria in the second half of the VII century. Some of the Bulgarians in that area would migrate to the north-east, forming a state known as Volga Bulgaria (at the confluence of the Volga and Kama rivers), state that lasted until the thirteenth century.
Kubrat’s successor, the Han Asparuh, migrated, along with some Bulgarian tribes, to the lower course of the rivers Danube, Dniester and Dnieper (known as Ongal), winning Moesia, Scythia minor (Dobrudja), at the expense of the Byzantine Empire further expanding the territory of Great Bulgaria in the Balkan Peninsula. Historians signed a peace treaty with Byzantium in 681, and established the capital at Pliska, south of the Danube, founded the first Bulgarian Empire.
At the same time one of his brothers, Kuber, settled with another group in the current Bulgarian region of Macedonia. In 718 the Bulgarians helped to defend the Arab siege of Constantinople, 40-60000 soldiers killing Arabs. Their leader, the Han Tervel was called by his contemporaries Savior of Europe. The influence and territorial expansion of Bulgaria have increased during the reign of Khan Krum, who in 811 won a decisive victory against the Byzantine army led by Nicephorus I, in the Battle of Pliska.
In 864, Bulgaria has accepted orthodoxy in religion and became a great power in the centuries IX and X, while the Byzantine Empire fought for supremacy in the Balkans. It got it during the reign of Boris I. During that period the Cyrillic alphabet was developed in Preslav and Ohrid, as adapted by glacolitical alphabet, created by the monks Saints Cyril and Methodius.
The Cyrillic alphabet became the cornerstone for future cultural development. Centuries later, this alphabet, along with the Old Bulgarian language was to become educated in written language (lingua franca) of Eastern Europe, known as Church Slavonic.
The greatest territorial extension was reached during the reign of Simeon I, the first Bulgarian Tsar, son of Boris I, covering almost the entire Balkan Peninsula. However, his greatest achievement was a rich Christian Slavonic culture, which served as an example for the other Slavonic peoples in Eastern Europe, ensuring the continued existence of the Bulgarian nation in the coming centuries.
This was followed by a decline in the mid-tenth century, caused by wars with Croatia and frequent Serbian rebellions (aided by Byzantine gold), and the Hungarians and Pechenegs disastrous invasions. After the Russian assault 969-971, Bulgaria has been greatly weakened. Immediately after, the Romans began their conquest of Bulgaria. In 971, they entered the capital Preslav and captured the Emperor Boris II.
Western Bulgarians Resistance took another half century, under Tsar Samuil. The country has managed to recover and defeated the Byzantines in several major battles and came to control much of the Balkans, and in 991 invaded the Serbian state. However, the state came to be finally destroyed in 1018, by the Byzantines led by Basil II, after the Battle of Kleidion.
In the first decade that followed the establishment of Byzantine occupation, there is evidence to show any attempt to resistance from the Bulgarian population or nobility. Since there were convinced opponents of Byzantium, and Krakra or Nikulitsa, Dragash and others, it is difficult to explain that period of passivity. Some historians attribute this to the concessions offered by Basil II to the Bulgarian nobility, in order to gain their obedience.
First, it guaranteed the indivisibility of Bulgaria in its geographical borders, and has not officially canceled leadership to Bulgarian nobility, now part of Byzantine aristocracy as Arhon and strategists. Secondly, the autocephalous Ohrid was recognized by royal decrees, which have established boundaries, dioceses, property and other privileges. Bulgarian people oppose Byzantine rule several times, in the eleventh century and the beginning of the twelfth century.
The largest revolt was led by Peter II Delyan proclaimed Emperor of Bulgaria in Belgrade in 1040. Towards the middle of the eleventh century, the Normans, recent conquerors in southern Italy and Sicily, entered the Balkans in order to attack the Byzantine Empire. The Romans have not managed to defeat the Normans until 1185, while the Normans were a threat to Byzantine Bulgaria.
In 1091 took place the invasion of Pechenegs. However, they were crushed at the Battle of Levounion, and again in 1120. After that, the Hungarians tried to extend their influence beyond the Danube; Ioannes Comnenus’s campaigns over the Danube forced the Hungarians to retreat in 1140. Bulgaria will need another 45 years to gain the independence.
Until that time, Bulgarian nobles will lead the province in the name of the Byzantine Empire until a rebellion of the last noble vassal will lead to the creation of the Second Bulgarian Empire. Since 1185, the Second Bulgarian Empire was a major power in Europe for two centuries. With the capital at Veliko Tarnovo and being led by Romanian dynasty Asan, the empire fought for supremacy in the region against the Byzantine Empire, the Crusader states and Hungary, reaching its zenith during John Asen II (1218-1241).
As a result of the Tatar invasions, internal conflict and constant attacks of the Byzantines and the Hungarians, state power has declined in the late twelfth century. Since 1300, under Emperor Theodore Svetoslav, Bulgaria regained power, but by the end of the fourteenth century the state had to disintegrate into several feudal principalities, eventually conquered by the Ottoman Empire. A Polish-Hungarian crusade, led by Wladyslaw III of Poland, in order to free the Balkans was crushed in 1444, in the Battle of Varna.
The five centuries of Ottoman rule was characterized by violence and oppression. Bulgaria’s population has been decimated and many cultural relics were lost. Major cities where Ottoman power was high were heavily devastated by the nineteenth century. After the Russian-Romanian-Turkish War, 1877-1878 and the Peace Treaty of San Stefano on 3 March 1878 the independent Principality of Bulgaria was proclaimed. But the treaty was rejected by the Great Powers, fearing that a large country in the Balkan Slavic language would have served Russia’s interests.
This led to another peace treaty, the Treaty of Berlin (1878) which proclaimed autonomous Bulgarian Principality. The first Bulgarian prince was Alexander von Battenberg. Most of Thrace was included in the region of Eastern Rumelia, and the rest of Thrace and Macedonia to the Ottomans. After the Bulgarian-Serbian war and unification with Eastern Rumelia in 1885, the principality was proclaimed an independent kingdom on October 5, 1908, during the reign of Ferdinand I of Bulgaria.
In 1912-1913, Bulgaria was involved in the Balkan Wars, entering into conflict Greece and Serbia against the Ottoman Empire and then against former allies in a desperate attempt to win the national unity and to expand its territory. After being defeated in the Second Balkan War, Bulgaria lost much of the territory conquered in the first war. The defeat of the Central Powers led to further territorial losses. World War led to the arrival of a wave of 250,000 refugees arrived in Macedonia, Thrace and Dobrudja.
In the 1930s the number has increased because of the Serbian aggression against the Bulgarians. In World War II, Bulgaria joined the Axis side in the conflict, although no Bulgarian soldiers
had fought against the Soviets. Meanwhile, the Bulgarians have occupied part of Greece and Yugoslavia, inhabited by Bulgarians. Bulgaria was one of the two countries (along with Finland) that saved the Hebrew citizens of Nazi camps. In September 1944, the Soviet army entered Bulgaria, and later the Communist Party laid the foundation building a communist dictatorship.
In 1944, Bulgaria has turned arms against Germany. More than 30,000 Bulgarian soldiers have died in the war. After the Second World War, Bulgaria entered the sphere of influence of the USSR, People’s Republic in 1946 became one of the most faithful allies of the USSR. In the ’70s, began normalizing relations with Greece, and in the ’90s relations with Turkey. People’s Republic ended in 1989, when several communist regimes in Eastern Europe have declined. Communist leader Todor Zhivkov was ousted on November 10, 1989.11