Portal:Bulgarian Empire

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Coat of Arms of the Bulgarian Empire in the 14th century
The Bulgarian Empire in its expansion in the 13th century

The First Bulgarian Empire (Bulgarian: Първо Българско царство, Parvo Balgarsko Tsarstvo), was the first country of the contemporary Bulgarian people located in Southeastern Europe. Since its foundation it occupied a large part of the Balkan peninsula and struggled with the Byzantine Empire for control of the region.

Founded as a crude form of a confederacy between Bulgars, Slavs and Thracians in 681 on the two banks of the Danube river, it became the first Slavic country and is the oldest state still in existence in Europe. In 802-805 it destroyed the Avar Khanate and expanded its territory twice covering the whole area of contemporary Romania. During the 9th and the beginning of the 10th century in the course of the Byzantine-Bulgarian Wars the Bulgarians took control of most of the Balkans. However in the mid 10th century the Empire suffered disastrous invasions of Magyars, Pechenegs and wars with Kievan Rus' and after a 50-year struggle it was destroyed by the Byzantines in 1018.

After the Christianization of Bulgaria the country became a major center of culture and learning. Literature flourished in the Preslav and Ohrid Literary Schools. The Bulgarian scholar Climent of Ohrid (840 - 916), who was a student of Saints Cyril and Methodius, invented the Cyrillic alphabet which carries the name of one of his teachers. The beauty and wealth of the new capital Preslav was compared by some contemporaries with Constantinople. In the 10th century in Bulgaria emerged one of the major heretic movements in Medieval Europe, the Bogomils.

The Second Bulgarian Empire (Bulgarian: Второ българско царство, Vtorо Bălgarskо Tsartsvo) was established in 1185 as a result of the Uprising of Asen and Peter and reached the peak of its power under Kaloyan and Ivan Asen II before gradually being conquered by the Ottomans in the late 14th and early 15th centuries.

Up until 1256, the Second Bulgarian Empire was the dominant power in the Balkans. The Byzantines were defeated in several major battles, and in 1205 the newly-established Latin Empire was crushed in the battle of Adrianople by Emperor Kaloyan. His nephew, Ivan Asen II (r. 1218–1241), defeated the Despotate of Epiros and made Bulgaria a regional power once again. However, in the late 13th century the Empire declined under the constant invasions of Tatars, Byzantines, Hungarians, Serbs, and internal instability and revolts.

The capital Tarnovo became a major cultural, religious and literary center during 13th and 14th centuries and was considered by some as the Third Rome for a time. During the rule of Ivan Alexander (1331-1371) Bulgaria experienced its Second Golden Age.

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The Bulgars slaughter Byzantines
The Bulgars (also Bolgars or proto-Bulgarians) were a seminomadic people, originally from Central Asia, who from the 2nd century AD inhabited the steppe north of the Caucasus and the banks of river Itil (now Volga). There are different theories about their origin, the most widely accepted theory being that they were a Turkic people. The second most spread theory is that they were an Iranian people.

In the 4th and 5th centuries the Bulgars took part in the raids of the Huns in Europe. In 630s Khan Kubrat united most of the Bulgars in Old Great Bulgaria which encompassed a vast area between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. However, after his death in 668 the Bulgars disintegrated. His eldest son Batbayan fought against the Khazars who soon overran the country. His second son Kotrag headed to the north-east and founded the powerful Volga Bulgaria and his third son Asparukh marched westward and after his victory against the Byzantines in the battle of Ongal in 680 he laid the beginning of contemporary Bulgaria.

Selected Biography

Maria Palaiologina Kantakouzene (Bulgarian: Мария Палеологина Кантакузина, Greek: Μαρία Παλαιολογίνα Καντακουζηνή; reigned 1269-1279) was a Byzantine princess, niece of emperor Michael VIII Palaiologos, and empress consort of Constantine Tikh and Ivaylo. As the health of Constantine Tikh deteriorated she took control of the government and poisoned the despot of Vidin Jacob Svetoslav who seemed the most prominent threat to her son Michael for the throne. During the Uprising of Ivaylo the peasant leader personally killed Constantine Tikh in battle but Maria married Ivaylo under the condition that he would be inherited by Michael. After the failure of the rebellion the empress was exiled to the Byzantine Empire. The last mention of Maria was from 1300.

Selected Picture

Interior of the Hagia Sophia Church.
Credit: MrPanyGoff

The Hagia Sophia Church is the second oldest church in Sofia. In the 14th century, the church gave its name to the city, previously known as Sredets.

Did You Know?

  • ... that the first Bulgarian capital Pliska encircled an area of 27 km² and had a sewerage long before cities such as Paris or London?

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Nuvola apps kate.png Requested articles : Manuel IvatsTrapezitsaConquest of Serbia (924)Conquest of Serbia (998)Bulgarian-Khazar WarsVlachs in the First Bulgarian empireMedieval Bulgarian economyMedieval Bulgarian aristocracyWar of 894-896Joasaph of BdinCouncil of Tarnovo (1211)Council of Tarnovo (1360)VoysilRadoslavByadan

Nuvola kdict glass.png Expansion needed : KrumShishman dynastyDulo clanPliskaTarnovoTheodore SvetoslavBattle of Adrianople (1205)Siege of TarnovoKaloyanPeter IPereyaslavetsIrene Doukaina LaskarinaConstantine IIIvan Asen IIByzantine conquest of BulgariaGreat Basilica, Pliska

Cleanup and/or improvement needed : OhridBulgarsFirst Bulgarian EmpireSecond Bulgarian EmpireUprising of Peter DelyanUprising of IvayloByzantine–Bulgarian Wars

Nuvola apps kappfinder.png Requested images : Battle of KlokotnitsaCroatian-Bulgarian WarsOhrid Literary SchoolConstantine of Preslav

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