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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A ship depicted on a fresco in the Boyana Church.
The Medieval Bulgarian Navy was the Navy of the Bulgarian Empire. During most of the Middle Ages the Bulgarians did not maintain naval forces. The first records of Bulgarians ships come from the reign of Khan Omurtag: during his war against the Franks (827-829) he came with ships from the Danube and landed troops in the rear of the Franks.

The first organised Bulgarian navy was built under Emperor Ivan Asen II (1218–1241). It was rather small and included galleys to guard the coast. The Navy's importance increased during the reign of Dobrotitsa and Ivanko in the Principality of Karvuna in the late 14th century. The Bulgarian fleet took part in successful actions against the Genoese and the Turks with its range reaching Crimea and Trebizond.

During the Second Bulgarian Empire the Bulgarians used a unique ship design combining features both from Mediterranean and North Sea ships. The main Bulgarian shipyard was situated in the mouth of the Kamchia river due to the abundance of wood and was burned down when the Turks overran the country.

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Ivan the Russian (Bulgarian: Иван Русина, Ivan Rusina; Hungarian: Iván Orosz) (fl. 1288/1323–1332) was a 14th-century Bulgarian military leader of Russian origin who served Bulgarian tsars Michael Shishman and Ivan Alexander. Prior to joining the armed forces of the Second Bulgarian Empire, Ivan the Russian may have been a military commander in the service of the Hungarian governor of Severin.

Ivan the Russian rose to a high rank in the Bulgarian military in the wake of the accession of Michael Shishman to the throne. In 1323, he was in charge of the Bulgarian defence of Plovdiv during the prolonged and ultimately successful Byzantine siege of the city. In 1328, he was involved in a failed Bulgarian attempt to capture the Byzantine capital Constantinople from within. Probably taking part in the turbulent events that surrounded and followed Michael Shishman's death, Ivan the Russian was last mentioned as a representative of Ivan Alexander in 1332.

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A view of Baba Vida.
Credit: Klearchos Kapoutsis

Baba Vida is a medieval fortress in Vidin, on the banks of the Danube river. It was in important fortress of the Second Bulgarian Empire and was the last Bulgarian stronghold to be subjected by the Ottomans in 1396.

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

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