Short History of Bulgaria - Pictures of Bulgaria

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About Bulgaria: Short History of Bulgaria

The Republic of Bulgaria is situated in the middle of the Balkan Peninsula on a busy crossroad of different cultures. According to statistics our country is among the first in the world for the number of its archaeological monuments. Todays land of the Bulgarians is one of the ancient springs of civilization in Europe.

The first traces of human activities in these territories date back to the Paleolithic Age (Old Stone Age). Human activities and culture immutably follow their course through all pre-historic epochs. The Karanovska mound near the town of Nova Zagora reveals exceptionally interesting findings, which allow cultural layers from the beginning of the Neolithic Age to the end of the Early Bronze Age (6th millennium BC 1st half of 3rd millenium BC) to be distinguished.

The ancient inhabitants of Bulgarian lands reached their zenith in the Eneolithic (Halkolithic) Age. It was namely in Bulgarian lands that three decades ago a civilization was found out dating back far before Mesopotamia and Egypt the findings in the Varna Halkolithic Necropolis of 5th millennium BC. Among them is the most ancient golden jewelry in the world and symbols of authority. The Treasure of Hotnitsa found in a village mound from the Late Eneolithic Age nearby the village of Hotnitsa (Lovech region) dates back to the same period. Quite impressive are the findings in the Magoura Cave (which was inhabited even in the Early Bronze Age) and the exceptional drawings (dating back to the Late Bronze Age) made of guano stuck to the rocks. The ancient people have depicted hunting scenes, dances, totemic and pantheistic cult figures.

During the Bronze Age (3100-1200 BC) the life of the local people changed. These were the ancient Thracians who formed themselves as a people by the end of the 1st millennium BC. The Thracians are not only the most ancient historically proven inhabitants of our lands - modern science identifies more and more evidence that namely Ancient Thrace was one of the centres for consolidation of the Indo-Europeans. The most ancient Thracian monuments date back to the same historic period as was the Old Kingdom in Egypt. The Thracians exerted a profound impact on world culture due to their contacts with the civilization of Ancient Greece. Herodotus mentioned the Thracians as the second numerous people in the Ancient World. Homer described them as allies of the Trojans during the 8th century BC. Eschiles, Euripides, Aristophanes and others also wrote about the ancient Thracians. The Thracian culture as a culture of synthesis illustrates the powerful Hellenistic influence in its mature expression. The cult of the Thracian god Dionissius played an essential role in the emerging of Greek tragedy and comedy.

The myths and the cult of the Thracian singer Orpheus (so-called Orphism) nestle deeply in the spiritual life of the ancient civilization. Orpheus was probably a Thracian king-priest from the Mycenaean Epoch whom mythology turned into heroes (a man who had become immortal and had turned into a god) who symbolized art, ancient wisdom, music and healing, prophetic and management abilities. Similar to Orpheuss is the image of Zalmoxis (a Getti priest who spent years long living as a hermit), famous prophet and healer. Some Orphic elements can be traced even in modern world religion Christianity.

Thracian art is known mostly from the tombs and necropolises, which are great in number in some regions. Its zenith is referred to the end of the 4th millenium and the beginning of the 3rd millennium BC. This is the period when the notorious Tomb of Kazanluk was built, famous for its wonderful frescoes, as well as the Thracian mounds in the so-called Lowland of the Thracian kings in the Kazanluk Valley, which recently provoke great interest. The treasures of Panagyurishte, Vulchitrun and Rogozen as classic example of the Thracian art achievements. Findings dating back to Thracian times are still excavated for example, the monumental temple near the village of Starossel, Plovdiv region (5th-4th century BC) found in the summer of 2000; the domed tomb near the village of Alexandrovo, Haskovo region (the second half of 4th century BC); the temple near Perperikon, etc. The exhibitions of Thracian culture in Western Europe and America during the last three decades raised its prestige far beyond Bulgarian borders. The Thracians have expressed their beliefs in numerous monuments the cult stone plates of the Thracian Horseman (Heros), golden and silver plate of various treasures. Some Thracian gods (Ares/Mars (Lat.), Artemida her original was that of the Thracian great mother-godess Bendida, Dionissius, Asklepius, etc.) were worshiped by the ancient Greeks and thence by the Romans. These Thracian gods are well known today, their names have acquired deep symbolic meaning related to war, medicine, etc. However, few are those who know that no ancient-old Greek mythological images are meant but borrowings from Thracians' religion. Same is often true for such a great son of Ancient Thrace as Spartacus who was born on the territory of present-day town of Sandanski, at the foot of the Pirin Mountain. As an adolescent he was sold in slavery in Rome. There he became a gladiator and later a leader of the biggest slave uprising in Antiquity.

In 346 BC Thrace was conquered and remained under domination of the Macedonian Kingdom for about 50 years. Ancient Macedonians were a people closely related to the Thracians and according to some scientists they were even their tribal structure, similar to Thracian tribes like the Odrissi, Bessi, Dacians, etc. In the 5th century BC Macedonia played essential role in the Pulpiness Wars and it acquired hegemony in the Balkan Peninsula for the following hundred years. The Hellenisation of the ancient Macedonians was strongly expressed as compared to the other Thracians despite that the former and the latter remained barbarians for the ancient Greeks.

Philip of Macedonia reconstructed the Thracian town of Poulpoudeva and named it after himself Philipopol. The world hegemony established by Alexander III the Great (336-323 BC) in fact did not correspond to the interest of ancient Macedonians or the Thracian world as a whole but rather to the newly formed Hellenistic military-administrative oligarchy. Thracian land became part of the Roman Empire by 46 AD after continuous wars and resistance. During the 2nd-3rd centuries AD our lands are among the most prospering Roman provinces with highly developed towns: Philipopol (Plovdiv), Augusta Trayana (Stara Zagora), Seridica (Sofia), Naissus (Nis), Pautalia (Kyustendil), Durostorum (Silistra), Martsianopol (Devnya), Nikopolis ad Istrum (near Veliko Turnovo), and many others.

Thracian territories attracted settlers from the Middle East as well as Roman veterans. Comfortable roads were built and a clear system of communication was established (it was unsurpassed till modern times - 19th-20th centuries), lifestyle raised to that in the metropolises. The establishment of Roman statehood, demographic and ethnic contacts led to the dominant role of the Latin language (especially to the north of Stara Planina Mountain) while the Hellenistic cultural features were preserved in Thrace and along the Black Sea coast.

In 330 AD Constantine I the Great moved the capital city of the Roman Empire from the old Rome to Byzantion (Constantinople/Istanbul) called by the Bulgarians Tsarigrad (The Town of Tsars). This act was implemented after some hesitations as one of the options for a new capital city was todays' Bulgarian capital Sofia (Serdica in the Antiquity). After the Empire broke in two parts (395) our lands remained in the Eastern Empire (Byzantium). Among the prominent Byzantine personalities not a few were those of Thracian origin, including emperors. Most Orthodox of them was Emperor Markian (450-457, born in the region of todays Plovdiv) and Justinian I the Great (527-565) who was the most notorious ruler in the centuries old Empire.

The Early Byzantine culture in Bulgarian lands was established in its mature forms. The population was among the early adherents to Christianity in Europe. Important ecclesiastic events, as for example the Council in Serdica (343) cut a deep imprint in religious life of the Christian world. The ancient Bulgarians were the basic ethnic component in the structure of the Medieval Bulgarian State. Since Antiquity they were a highly organised people of statehood. Their original homeland was in Central Asia, in the mountainous region of Pamir and Hindukush. There were founded two famous states called Balgar and Balhara according to some sources. As a highly developed civilization, the Bulgars had culturally dominated the territories of Central Asia for a long time. They had left to the world a rich cultural heritage in the field of the philosophic understanding of the world as well as in state administration, social structure, military art, writing, linguistic culture, construction, astronomy and mathematics. Eloquent proof of this is their eternal Bulgarian sun calendar, which is perfect from astronomical and mathematical point of view. Its structure consists of an original 12 months calendar and an excellent 12-year cycle calendar. The constellations in this masterpiece of ancient Bulgarians' thought bear the names of animals. UNESCO has recognized it as one of the most accurate ancient calendars known so far. The presence in Europe of the ancient Bulgarians as a statehood people can be traced about the 2nd century AD, which is confirmed by the Name List of Bulgarian Khans (the calculations refer to the 165 AD when the legendary ruler Avitohol from the Doulo Dynasty took power). These least known centuries of Bulgarian history were connected with the vortex of Great Migration of Peoples when some Bulgarian communities were forced to migrate to Armenia (so-called Bulgarians of Vund), to Panonia (todays Hungary, where later Panonian Bulgarians came to be known), etc. The basic part of the people fought against powerful enemies like Avars and Turks and maintained contacts with Byzantium.

The year 451 is memorable for the important battle that Bulgarians and Armenians led in the Avarair Plain in defense of Christianity. The Bulgarians who gave their lives in this battle were canonized saints of Armenian Church. In the 7th century the Bulgarians led by he great Khan Koubrat established a powerful state unity known as Old Great Bulgaria, which as ally to Byzantium in its grandiose wars with Avars and Persians. As an expression of honour the Emperor Iraklius conferred on Koubrat, who had already converted to Christianity, the high Roman-Byzantine title of patrician and valuable presents. One of sensations of modern East European archaeology was the treasure of the village of Mala Pereshchepina, nearby todays town of Poltava (Ukraine) where the great rules was buried. The precious findings, golden jewelry, scepter, wonderful sword, etc., are kept in the Hermitage in Saint Petersburg. Those are eloquent evidence of the great political power of Great Bulgaria and the prestige of its ruler.

After the Hazars aggression in the middle of the 7th century part of the Bulgarians remained within the new Hazars' khaganat (namely the tribes of Bat-Bayan, which created in the 10th century the state of the so-called black Bulgarians by the Azov Sea) but the greater part migrated and founded new states Volga Bulgaria and Danubian Bulgaria. They also tried to found their states in the territories of today s Macedonia (the Bulgarians of Kouber) and in Italy (the Bulgarians of Altsek). The Bulgarians from Panonia had their autonomy within the Avars' khaganat, while part of them probably moved to todays Macedonia led by Kouber. Among those many Bulgarian states most perspective in historical point of view proved to be todays Bulgaria on the Balkan Peninsula, founded by Khan Asparuh and Volga Bulgaria (todays Autonomic Republic of Tatarstan within the Russian Federation) founded by Khan Kortag. The two big medieval Bulgarian states were far to each other at a distance of more than one thousand kilometres.

In the 9th century the Danubian State chose the road to Christianity and grew as the third state of cultural importance in Medieval Europe, while the Volga State in the 10th century chose Islam as official religion. The Bulgarians from the state by the river Volga built a great Islam civilization, having in mind the local historical and cultural features, fighting with the peoples from the steppes and the Russian kingdoms.

In the 13th century after severe resistance they were compelled to accept the status of a vassal province within the Tatarian (Mongolian) Golden Horde and their state was completely ruined by the Russian King Ivan Grozni in the middle of the 16th century. Today the remains of their capital city Bolgar Veliki (the Great) are still and imposing sights. Volga Bulgarians were subjected to strong assimilation pressure by the Russian Empire, which continued even after the revolutionary changes in 1917 when they were assigned the incorrect in ethnic point of view name of Tatars. Today in the Republic of Tatarstan there is a civil movement of intellectuals for regaining the name of Bulgarians and the ancient-old name of the country Bulgaristan.

On the Balkans the powerful Bulgarian State headed by Khan Asparuh (680-700) united the ancient Bulgarians with the successors of the ancient Thracians and the Slav tribes of the so-called Bulgarian Group, which settled there in 6th 7th centuries. This group includes tribes, which inhabited Mizia, Thrace, Macedonia, part of today's territories of Greece, Albania, Serbia (Kosovo incl.) and Rumania. The ambitions of Byzantium to conquer those tribes met a powerful barrier the state founded by Khan Asparuh. So after the crucial success in the battle with the Byzantine troops by the delta of the Danube River in 681 emerged Danubian Bulgaria (todays Bulgaria) at the crossroad between Europe, Asia and Africa. Pliska became the first capital. The territories of the state covered Mizia with today's Dobroudzha and further northward of Danube. Due to the ethnic tolerance Danubian Bulgaria attracted the neighbouring Slavs and they gradually accepted Bulgarian way of life and traditions. About 700 Asparuh was killed to the north-east in a war with the Hazars. Archaeologists found his burial tomb near the village of Boznessenka, today's Ukraine. Tradition turned the Khan-founder into an epic hero who built "great towns" and ramparts "between the Danube and the sea" to defend his people. His brother, Khan Kuber founded Bulgaria by the Vardar River in today's Macedonia on the Balkan Peninsula (about 680) after he rebelled against the Avars and settled in the area of the town of Bitolya in present-day Macedonia. Khan Kouber had less authority; he acknowledged the supremacy of Byzantium and established close contacts with the neighbouring Slavs.

Khan Tervel (700-721) was at the head of the powerful Danubian Bulgaria and stopped the Arabian invasion thus saving Byzantium and the whole of Europe from the invasion of the Arab Halifat in 718 when the Islamic troops were on their way to conquer the "world capital" of Christianity Constantinople. Thanks to Bulgarian support to the Emperor Justinian II in 705 Khan Tervel was conferred on the highest ranking Byzantine title of kessar, after the name of the great Gay Julius Cesar. This act was unique in the history of Byzantium and Medieval Europe.

Khan Krum (802-814) introduced a new type of legislation and strengthened the image of Bulgaria as well-organized and modern state for that time. Byzantium attacked the Bulgarian State in 811 and burned down the capital Pliska. The Bulgarians immediately counterattacked - the warriors of Khan Krum defeated the Byzantine army in a pass in the Balkan Mountain. Emperor Nikiphorus I was killed in the battle. Since the reign of Emperor Valent (378) there was no emperor to die in a battle. Byzantium, being obsessed of fear, sought union with the Frank King Carl the Great and to facilitate it acknowledged his title of emperor.

During the rule of Khan Omourtag (815-831) the pre-Christian Bulgarian culture reached its zenith and in political aspect the state expanded to the Middle Danube and Tissa River (todays Hungary) and to the Dnepur River (today's Ukraine). The administrative reforms established by Krum were further developed and improved.

Khan Pressian (836-852) expanded further the Bulgarian territories and the borders almost reached the Aegean Sea and Albania. Bulgaria became the third Great Power in Medieval Europe along with the Byzantine and the Franks Empires.

Khan Boris I (852-889) converted the Bulgarians to Christianity after long diplomatic negotiations, almost two centuries after the foundation of the Bulgarian State on the Balkans. He accepted the name Mihail and was the first to built Bulgarian churches and monasteries. The Bulgarian Church canonized him and in history he remained as St. Tsar Boris-Mihail. The creation and the establishment of the Bulgarian-Slavic writing by the brothers St. St. Cyril and Methodius is especially important in both cultural and historical terms. The Vatican acknowledged them patrons of Christian Europe. The alphabet created by them was adopted by other nations through the Orthodox religion. Nowadays it is used in Macedonia, Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Yugoslavia, and Mongolia. In the past this graphic system dominated in the Wallachian and Moldova Kingdoms in Romania, in Lithuania, etc.

The one who continued the policy of Boris-Mihail is his son Tsar Simeon the Great (893-927). Simeon received a brilliant education in Constantinople and had the talent of a writer and the exceptional qualities of a statesman. He organized the translation of a number of Christian Orthodox books from Greek into Bulgarian, patronized the Pliska-Preslav and Ohrid Literary Schools and himself was a man of letters. He moved the capital to Veliki Preslav and expanded almost twice the territory of Bulgaria. The country bordered three sea the Black Sea, the Aegean Sea and the Adriatic Sea. A connoisseur of the antique Greek and Byzantine culture, he transformed the Bulgarian State into a mighty power with a great impact on the then existing world. The period of his reign is known as The Golden Age. In its greater part the Bulgarian people were adherents to their grandparents' Orthodox faith. However, the many-faced Bulgarian society was not at all sterile and was open to various spiritual phenomena and processes.

The birth of the Bulgarian Bogomil heresy took place during the reign of Tsar Peter (927-969). Its rise is due to the influence of the old dualistic doctrines as well as to the possibility the Gospel to be read and interpreted by various people in their own language. Priest Bogomil is considered its founder. The Bogomil heresy possessed a number of original features at first place, moderate dualism and open asceticism. Bogomils' doctrine regarded the sinful world full of injustice as a Satans deed as compared to the Lords Kingdom of Heaven and its expanded the Bulgarian borders. The heresy exerted strong impact in the Christian world the Catars and Albigenses in France, the Patarens in Italy, the heretics from Bosnia (their successors are todays Bosnian Muslims), the strigolnitsi in Russia, everyone sharing different than the official ideas in Serbia, Croatia, Hungary, even in distant England, considered the Bogomils their spiritual fathers. The French religious rebels were proud to call themselves Burges (Bulgarian in faith) thus outlining their connection with the senior Bulgarian brothers in faith. These ideas, persecuted with sword and fire by the Catholic Church, had their impact on the Reformation and the Protestant doctrines in Western Europe. Despite the difficulties the Bulgarian Kingdom remained an important political power during the reign of Tsar Peter but the intrigues of Byzantium provoked the aggression of Svetoslav the ruler of the Rus of Kiev. The Norman-Russian occupation led to the pretended "help" of Byzantium and as a result the Bulgarian Kingdom suffered a great stroke pushing back Prince Svetoslav, the Emperor Joan Tsimishi in 971 conquered the eastern Bulgarian territories with the capital Veliki Preslav. The lands to the west, whose centre is today's Macedonia, preserved their freedom.

It was then that the genius of Tsar Samuil (997-1014) showed itself. During his reign the capital was moved to Ohrid. The "Bulgarian Epic" in the wars with Byzantium was marked with great victories, including the liberation of the former capital Preslav, as well as with great defeats. In 1014 the troops of Samuil were defeated and the Byzantine Emperor Vaslilii II (called The Killer of Bulgarians) captured 15, 000 Bulgarian soldiers. He ordered that 99 out of 100 be blinded and leave the 100th one-eyed so that he could lead them. Such was the barbarism and the national catastrophe that put an end to the first period in the history of Danubean Bulgaria. Bulgaria fell under Byzantine oppression for almost 170 years. In 1186-1188, after a number of more or less numerous uprisings, the noble brothers Peter and Assen managed to unite the Bulgarians in Mizia and to gain back the independence of their country from Byzantium. Veliko Turnovo became the capital of the Bulgarian Kingdom.

The reign of Tzar Kaloyan (1197-1207) and that of Tsar Ivan Assen II (1218-1241), who were great army leaders and exceptionally good diplomats, was a very fruitful and favourable period for the Bulgarian nation. They made a multitude of brilliant steps, striking war actions, and tactful peace treaties, which expanded the boundaries of Bulgaria and brought stable peace and welfare to the Bulgarians. In 1204 Tsar Kaloyan became the first ruler in Eastern Europe to defeat the knights cavalry up to then considered invincible. Tsar Ivan Assen II gained new territories for Bulgaria and the state expanded as it was during the reign of Tsar Simeon the Great. During the next decades the Bulgarian Kingdom suffered the hegemony of the Tatars (Mongolians) as well as political crises (including the great uprising of the rural Tsar Ivailo) but withstood the hardships.

The reign of Tsar Ivan Alexander (1331-1371) was called the Golden Sunset of Medieval Bulgaria. Bulgarian arts and culture from that period developed rapidly and were akin to the pre-Renaissance in Western Europe. However, the days of the free Bulgarian Kingdom were numbered because of the advancement of the Muslim-Turkish wave from the south-east. In 1393 the Tsars metropolis Turnovo was conquered by the Ottomans and in 1396 the last free territories fell under their domination.

The Turnovo Literary School, especially during the work of the great man of letters and clerical leader Patriarch Euthimius (1375-1394), exerted powerful influence on the Orthodox world, mostly to the emerging new great power Russia of Moscow. At the end of the 14th and the beginning of the 15th centuries the clerical leaders, heads of the Churches in Russia, Lithuania, Moldova, Wallachia, Serbia were Bulgarians. St. Kiprian of Moscow (in Russia), St. Efrem of Serbia, St. Hikodim Tismanski (in Wallachia) were honoured by those peoples as national saints. The Bulgarian clergymen and writer Grigorii Tsamblak who escaped from Ottoman rule, possessed the unique quality of representing several national schools of literature from that epoch the Bulgarian, the Serbian, the Moldovan, the Russian and the Byzantine. The most obscurant period in Bulgarian history started to continue several centuries. During those hard times for the Bulgarian people the Ottoman Empire conducted a policy of discrimination of the Christian population, especially as regards Bulgarians, as well as made attempts for assimilation. As a result of the Ottoman invasion many mosques were built, the Arabic alphabet was introduced for official and religious documents and many Christian sanctuaries were destroyed or turned into Muslim shrines. Many Turks, mainly soldiers, settled in the territory of today's Bulgaria. The Bulgarians suffered the so-called "blood tax" most of all. Blood tax required that a boy from the family be taken to Asia Minor where he would be converted into Islam and trained for a janissar - a warrior with no knowledge of parents, kin and motherland. Those janissars as well as the Turkish army of volunteers - the bashibozouk - were the real ruthless masters of the situation in Bulgaria.

Rebellions and uprisings became the expression of the live Bulgarian strive to freedom and independence. Most numerous they were at the end of 17th century when only in the period 1686-1689 three big uprisings broke out: The Second Turnovo Uprising (the first was in 1598), the Chiprovtsi Uprising and the Uprising of Karposh in Northern Macedonia. The fire of the haidout (outlaw rebels) movement burned during the centuries of foreign domination the lands between the Danube to the Aegean Sea and to the mountains of today's Albania were roved by armed Bulgarian detachments, which revenged for the abuses and oppression by the authorities. This military aand political experience later grew into organized movement for liberation of Bulgaria. Bulgarian Revival began in the middle of the 18th century. The struggle for independent church and freedom of religious belonging, the publishing of books, and later of Bulgarian periodicals, the foundation of Bulgarian secular schools as well as the official establishment of Bulgarian language and culture, were the steps towards the revival of the nation.

The writing of the History of the Slav-Bulgarian People by Father Paisii of Hilendar (1762) and its later spreading, at first in manuscript version, marked an important moment in our history. The traditional for Bulgaria cultural centres - chitalishta (pubic libraries, cultural clubs) were created to preserving and elating the national spirit. Thus they gave the chance to many young Bulgarians get in touch with the treasures of European culture, which made national self-awareness and strive to political freedom grow further. The struggle for church and national freedom, which in the middle of the 19th century grew into a large scaled civil movement, did not possess clerical but rather secular features. It turned into struggle for national emancipation, which made the Porte acknowledge the Bulgarians as an independent nation and not just as part of the amorphous mass of "rum millet" (the Christians in the Empire). Thus the Bulgarians got their way before the Oecumenical Patriarchy in Istanbul, which was a channel for the assimilation tendencies of the Greek megali idea, aimed at spiritual melting of Bulgarian population.

The zenith of this unsurpassed in scale whole-nation activities was marked by the "Bulgarian Easter" in 1860 when the Bulgarians bravely raised their requests in defense of the national, religious and human rights. Bulgaria was also strongly influenced by the Russian-Turkish Wars waged in the 18th - 19th centuries. The myth about Grandpa Ivan was created then - it was the story about the strong Russian hero who would come from the north and would liberate his Christian brothers living on the Balkans. Russia also nurtured this faith because of its actual interests for permanent influence on the Balkan Peninsula. To our regret, these wars did not yet bring freedom to Bulgaria but made thousands Bulgarians emigrate to the north in Danubian Kingdoms and Besarabia, which was then part of Russia. Still today hundred thousands of ethnic Bulgarians live in the southern regions of Moldova and Ukraine, preserving their origin, language and traditions. The participation of Bulgarian volunteers in those wars, especially in the Crimean War during 1853-1866, was a good reason for Russia, depite rather late as compared to its policy towards Serbia and Greece), to plan and organize the liberation of Bulgaria from the Ottoman rule. The situation on the Balkans was more than unfavourable to the Bulgarians who lived in close proximity to the big centres of the neighbouring empires, which were main source of supplies for the Ottoman military machine and bureaucracy. The neighbouring Wallachia and Moldova (united in Romania in 1859), Serbia and Greece had managed to overthrow the Ottoman domination far more easily thanks to their geopolitical features. And yet the Bulgarians did not give up as they had to fight not only against the degraded Ottoman State but with the aspirations of their neighbours.

In 1862 Georgi Rakovski, ideologist of the Bulgarian National Revolution, organised the First Bulgarian Legion in Belgrade. Young people were trained in the military art with the aim of organizing an uprising. A great number of Bulgarian emigrants received excellent military education abroad, while some others took prominent positions in the Ottoman Empire and were seeking for diplomatic ways to obtain independence of Bulgaria. In 1869 the Central Bulgarian Revolutionary Committee was set up in Bucharest (with the writer Lyben Karavelov being its chairman), which organised the preparation for the uprising from Romanian territory.

A key figure was Vassil Levski (1837-1873), simply called by the Bulgarians the Deacon (i.e. the Monk) or the Apostle. Casting off the cassock he managed to create an intricate network of secret revolutionary committees in Bulgaria united in a Central Revolutionary Committee with the town of Lovech as Headquarters. Persecuted for years by the Ottoman police the genius conspirator was captured, sent to trial and hanged in Sofia without betraying any of his assistants. Still today Levski is worshiped and considered a saint and the dearest victim of Bulgaria throughout its millennium-old history.

The April Uprising from 1876 was a turning point in the movement for the national liberation of Bulgaria. The uprising, which enjoyed widest support in Thrace (there Georgi Benkovski was its leader) took numberless innocent victims. Thousands of revolutionaries gave their lives for Bulgaria and among them stands Hristo Botev the genius national poet. The sanguinary suppression of the April Uprising placed the Bulgarian issue in the schedule of the world democratic community. A wave of protests, gatherings, fund-raising about the Bulgarian victims spread through the whole of Europe, from Slav Russia to England and Ireland far away. The "horrors in Bulgaria" retold in touching articles by the American journalist McGahan occupied the headers of the press in Europe and worldwide. "The Empires, which kill should be put to an end", exclaimed the great French writer Victor Hugo. William Gladston and Otto Von Bismarck - notorious political figures expressed support to the cause for liberation of Bulgaria. The following brightest intellects in Europe raised protests and expressed sympathy and support to the Bulgarians Darwin, Mendeleev, Dostoevski, Tolstoi, Tourgenev, Garibaldi and many more. This time it was not possible for the Great Powers to ignore the Bulgarian cause purposefully overlooked for decades. A conference was held in Tsarigrad in 1875, which aimed but did not succeed in the diplomatic effort to grant autonomy to Bulgaria within its ethnic boundaries (divided in two parts, eastern and western, with Veliko Turnovo and Sofia as capitals, respectively).

The Russian Emperor Alexander II declared war on Turkey in 1877. Finns, Polish volunteers, Romanians and numerous Bulgarian volunteers took part in it together with the Russian and Ukrainian soldiers. After heavy and epical battles fought for about a year, the most memorable if which took place in Shipka Pass and around Pleven, Turkey was forced to declare capitulation and sign the San Stefano Peace Treaty in front of the walls of Istanbul.

That was how Bulgaria gained back its independence on 3rd March 1878 and its territories should have expanded to the old Bulgarian lands (Mizia, Thrace and Macedonia) whose ethnic-cultural features were defined by the dominant Bulgarian element. But in July of 1878 at the Berlin Congress the Great Powers revised the San Stefano Peace Treaty and divided the Bulgarian people. An autonomic Principality of Bulgaria, subjected as vassal to the Sultan was established on the territory north of the Balkan Mountains (Mizia), including Sofia region. Southern Bulgaria (Thrace) became Eastern Roumelia (with Plovdiv as centre) under the political and military domination of the Port even though it enjoyed administrative autonomy. Macedonia and the Odrin region of Thrace remained under Turkish rule, Northern Dobroudzha was given to Romania and the Moravian region with the big town of Nis - to Serbia. An epic struggle for liberation started in the Bulgarian lands, which remained under foreign domination, especially in Macedonia. It followed the traditions of the Apostle Levski and its peak was marked by the Ilinden-Preobrazhenie Uprising in 1903. Despite the bitter disappointment with the unfair Berlin Treaty the Bulgarians took up with reviving their state. The historical capital Veliko Turnovo hosted the Constituent (Great) National Assembly, which passed the Turnovo Constitution on of the most democratic in the world at that time. Bulgaria became a constitutional monarchy with a strong Parliament and modern legislation.

The first Knyaz (Prince) of liberated Bulgaria was Alexander I of Battenberg (1879-1886). He ruled a people who managed on their own to unite the two separated territories of Bulgaria in 1885 against the will of all the Great Powers. In the Serbian-Bulgarian War to follow (1885) the Bulgarians defended their right to be united in a non-divided territory. During the term of office of the Prime Minister Stefan Stambolov (1887-1894) - prominent politician and statesman, called Bismarck of Bulgaria, Bulgaria was recognized as a European country of international prestige.

During the reign of Prince (later King) Ferdinand Saxe-Coburg Gotha (1887-1918) the role of the monarch grew due to objective and subjective reasons but the multi-party political system had already established solid grounds. In 1908 Bulgaria declared independence thus rejecting the last elements of unequal position as regards the Ottoman Empire.

In 1912-1913 Bulgaria was the backbone in the efforts of the Balkan countries, which united against the Empire for liberation of the "brother slaves" in Macedonia. Bulgarian soldiers demonstrated unsurpassed bravery and heroism, the airplane was used for the first time in military actions, new methods in artillery were adopted, etc. The nation-wide exultation was nipped by the selfish policy of the allies Serbia and Greece, by the stab in the back by Romania, facilitated by inadequate diplomatic steps.

During the World War I Bulgaria, with view to the not effected national liberation, had no chance and suffered a catastrophe together with Germany and the other defeated countries out of the so-called Central Powers. The heroism of the Bulgarian army remained in vain after all attempts for the liberation of Macedonia and its accession to Bulgaria failed. The national catastrophe became even worse after a Peace Treaty was signed in Neuilly, a Paris suburb in 1919.

During the reign of Tsar Boris III (1918-1943) the country was with reduced territories and hostile neighbours, and experienced deep social cataclysms and fierce interior political struggle. Despite that, all branches of economy were modernized, scientific research, education and arts enjoyed support. One of the Prime Ministers at that time was Alexander Stamboliiski (1919-1923) - an ideologist and leader of the Bulgarian Agrarian Peoples Union. He implemented some successful reforms but made big mistakes in his interior policy and diplomatic efforts. The political situation in the country became more complex due to the uprising in September 1923 and the terrorist attack in St. Nedelya Church in Sofia two years later, which were followed by fierce repression on the part of the right-wing forces. Despite these extremes and hardships Bulgarian people still had faith in the Turnovo Constitution and strived to democracy and just social life.

The non-precedent salvation of the Bulgarian Jews from being sent to German concentration camps during World War II is associated with the name of Tsar Boris III. Thanks to the pressure of the democratic forces, the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and prominent intellectuals 50,000 Jews did not leave the country in the echelons of death. Bulgaria did not send troops to the Eastern Front to fight as an ally of Fascist Germany. Our army participated in the final stage of the war on the side of the Soviet Union and its allies.

To our regret, at the Paris Peace Conference in 1947 the historic and ethnic rights of Bulgaria were once again not observed and Macedonia was included in the territories of Yugoslavia of Tito. This part of Bulgaria became a test field for an experiment a Macedonian nation and language to be created on an anti-Bulgarian basis. However, being a state of centuries-old historical experience marked of severe and unsurpassed suffering, Bulgaria was the first to acknowledge today's Republic of Macedonia (1991) and to continue rendering it assistance in the complex reality on the Balkans in the end of the 20th and the beginning of the 21st century. After 9th September 1944 the democratic trends in Bulgaria were revived. However, the Soviet intervention put forward the Communist Party.

In 1945 Georgi Dimitrov returned from Moscow. He is known as the victor in the trial of the 20th century in Leipzig when he was accused by the Nazi authorities together with three more Bulgarians of having put the Reichstag on fire. In 1946 Dimitrov was elected Prime Minister and at the same Secretary General of the Bulgarian Communist Party.

The period, when at the head of the Bulgarian state was Vulko Chervenkov (1950-1956), was marked by the so-called cult of personality, which got deep roots in society.

The long period of totalitarianism during the term of office of Todor Zhivkov (1950-1989) was the time when state and party completely merged. During the 1970-s national economy achieved stabilization and was modernized.

Democracy in Bulgaria revived in November 1989. In the new situation of real parliamentary democracy, the Bulgarian people chose their leaders - Presidents Zhelyo Zhelev, Peter Stoyanov and Georgi Purvanov, and Prime Ministers Andrei Loukanov, Dimiter Popov, Philip Dimitrov, Lyuben Berov , Zhan Videnov and Ivan Kostov.

Since 2001 Prime Minister of Bulgaria is Simeon Saxe-Cobourg Gotha, the son of Tsar Boris III. The country made quick steps for integration with the big European family, creating its own model of ethnic tolerance based on traditional Bulgarian democratic values and historical experience.

It is no mere chance that today's Bulgaria is a factor of stability on the Balkans nevertheless the hard and complex social and economic transition. Ancient and strong blood runs in the veins of today's Bulgarian people the blood of ancient Bulgarians and Slavs, who settled on the Balkans in the 7th century winning their land in arms. This same land they turned into a cradle of Medieval European civilization by their hard work, energy and talent. The ancient Thracians and other old inhabitants of Mizia, Thrace and Macedonia joined their magnificent river of peoples thus giving birth to one of the most ancient in origin, restless in spirit and full of life people the Bulgarians. A people, who established notorious traditions in statehood and culture, who adopted and rethought the achievements of ancient and modern cultures, who emitted strong civilization impulses to other peoples, especially in Orthodox Europe. This people gave Europe the saint brothers Cyril and Methodius, Priest Bogomil the religious rebel, the great musician St. Yoan Koukouzel, prominent figures like St. Kliment Ohridski, St. Yoan Ekzarh and St. Patriarch Eutimius of Turnovo, as well as a multitude of clerical leaders of other Orthodox peoples, starting from St. Mihail "the Bulgarian" - the first Metropolitan of the Rus of Kiev at the end of the 10th century. And in the dramatic 14th 15th centuries there were St. Kiprian Metropolitan of Kiev and Moscow, Grigorii Tsamblak his successor in Kiev and Lithuania, St. Patriarch Efrem of Serbia, the leader of Romania clergymen St. Nikodim Tismanski and many others All of them Bulgarians, who promoted the development of spiritually close peoples like Russians, Ukrainians, Belorussians, Serbians, Romanians, Moldavians, etc. In the end, the creative spirit of Bulgarians in Bulgaria and abroad was suppressed neither by the five centuries-long Turkish yoke, nor by the dramatic turns during the last hundred years, which led to national catastrophes and hard social and political experiments, to open deprivation of ancient-old Bulgarian lands.

The creative spirit of Bulgarians survived regimes, wars, oppressions and rivers of Bulgarian blood. It gave the world even its most remarkable invention the computer, invented by John Atanassov, whose father survived, by miracle in the April Uprising of 1876. Let us outline the names of Assen Yordanov, the constructor of Boeing, of Ivan (John) Nochev under whose skilful (and strictly confidential) guidance man first stepped on the Moon. Could we not mention the cult names of the opera singers Boris Hristov and Nikolai Gyaurov, Gena Dimitrova and Raina Kabaivanska? Or the "Mystery of Bulgarian Voices" which charmed not a one of world rock music stars! Or Bulgarian artists throughout the world including Kristo (Hristo Yavashev) - the legend of modern art... These outlines are not an attempt of modest "self-promotion", nor provoked by romantic national understandings nevertheless we believe or not, nevertheless we understand the essence of what was achieved, these are the truth, the truth, which we shall not forget, which obliges us before our successors and ourselves.

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