History Culture in Bulgaria


The first Bulgarian state dates back from 681 AD with the unification of the Slav and Thracians under Khan Asparuh, but the first written reference that includes the name “Bulgarians” is to be found in a Roman manuscript from 452 AD.

Later on in 700 – 718 AD Khan Tervel turned Bulgaria into a major political force while expanding its territory where during the rule of Khan Krum in 803 – 814 AD the state reached the borders of Carl’s the Great Empire to the west and the walls of Constantinople to the east (the Byzantine Capital)

Christianity was officially adopted in 864 AD.

The reign of Tzar Simeon I (893 – 927 AD) is known as the “Golden Age” in cultural and educational aspects. The creation of the Cyrillic alphabet by Cyril and Methodius along with significant cultural achievements marked that period. The Cyrillic alphabet then spread onto other Slavic states such as Russia and Serbia.

During the reign of Simeon’s successor Bulgaria was weakened by internal fights for the throne and in 1018 after long years of war the country fell under Byzantium.

In 1186 Assen and Peter led a successful campaign against Byzantium and the second Bulgarian Kingdom was formed with Turnovo as its capital. Schools of literature and arts were restored and Bulgaria fully regained its significance in the following years. Under Tzar Ivan Assen II (1218 – 1214 AD) Bulgaria regained its former territories from the Black Sea to the Aegean and Adriatic Seas.

In 1396 after the country was divided into two separate kingdoms it fell under the Ottoman Empire. The first years were marked with sporadic and mal organized attempts on freedom, but nothing was achieved until the appearance of the clandestine movement “hayduti”.  

By the early 18th century Bulgaria has regained its national identity, the church was restored along with the educational and cultural systems. The work of Paissii of Hilendar “History of Slavs and Bulgarians”, Zachary Zograph, Nikolay Pavlovich, Stanislav Dospeski among others helped the nation in realizing its dreams of freedom. The organized revolutionary movement was founded by Georgi Sava Rakovski writer and journalist with Vassil Levski, Lyben Karavelov, Hristo Botev as some of the key figures behind it. The culmination of this movement was the uprising known as the “April Uprising” from 1876. It was brutally crushed, but not before drawing the attention of the European countries. In 1878, as a result of the Russian – Turkish War (1877 – 1878) the Bulgarian state was restored. The country was divided into three: The Principality of Bulgaria with Prince Alexander Battemberg, Eastern Romelia with a Christian governor appointed by the Sultan while Thrace and Macedonia remained under Ottoman influence.

What is more important during those years is the restoration of the Bulgarian culture. In 1878 the National Library in Sofia reopened, the St. Kliment Ohridski University in Sofia was founded in 1888 and the Ivan Vazov National Theatre in 1904. The late 19th century was characterized by remarkable cultural achievements and the work of poets and writers such as: Ivan Vazov, Aleko Konstantinov, Dimcho Debelyanov, Pencho Slaveykov (noble Prize laureate), and Peyo Yavorov. Artists such as Anton Mitov, Ivan Angelov, Ivan Mrkvicka and Yaroslav Veshin created some of the most remarkable works of art from that time.

The decision for the devision of Bulgaria, taken at the Berlin Congress (1878), was never accepted by the people and led to the Kresna-Razlog Uprising (1878-1879). Finally in 1885 the reunification of the Principality of Bulgaria and Eastern Rumelia was anounced. The Ilinden-Preobrazhenie Uprising also broke out (1903). Ferdinand Saxe-Coburg Gotha, Bulgarian Prince since 1887, proclaimed Bulgaria's independence from Turkey in 1908 and became Kniaz. Bulgaria took part in the Balkan War (1912) and fought together with Serbia and Greece for the freedom of Thrace and Macedonia. Bulgaria won that war, but in the subsequent war among the allies (1913) it was defeated by Romania, Turkey and its earlier allies resulting in territorial losses.

The intervention of Bulgaria in World War I on the side of the Central Powers ended with a national catastrophe. In 1918, Kniaz Ferdinand abdicated in favour of his son Boris III. The Neuilly Peace Treaty of 1919 imposed severe provisions on Bulgaria: it lost the outlet to the Aegean Sea, Western Thrace became a part of Greece, Southern Dobroudja was annexed to Romania, and the territories around Strumica, Bosilegrad, Zaribrod and villages around Kula were given to the Serbian-Croatian-Slovenian Kingdom. (Southern Dobroudja was restored to Bulgaria by the Bulgarian-Romanian Treaty of 1940.)

In the early 1940s, Bulgaria became an ally to Germany and the Axis powers. Nevertheless Tsar Boris III supported the public opinion and did not allow the deportation of about 50,000 Bulgarian Jews. In 1944 the Soviet Army entered Bulgaria and a communist party came to power. The Queen-Mother, Tsar Simeon II and Princess Maria-Louisa were forced to leave the country. All political parties outside the communist circle were banned; the economy and the banks were nationalized along with all personal property.

November the 10th 1989 marked the beginning of the democratic changes in Bulgaria. Changes to the Constitution were adopted (1991). Bulgaria’s foreign policy is oriented to cohesion with the European structures. The country has been a member of the Council of Europe since 1991. In 2004, Bulgaria joined NATO. On 25 April 2005, in Luxembourg was signed the Treaty of Accession of Republic of Bulgaria to the European Union. 

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