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Portal:Bulgarian Empire/Selected article/1

The inscription of Mostich with the title "Tsar" enclosed in red.

Tsar (Bulgarian: цар, Russian: About this sound царь ) is a Slavic term derived from the Latin word Caesar, meant emperor in the European medieval sense of the term, that is, a ruler who claims the same rank as a Roman emperor, with the approval of another emperor or a supreme ecclesiastical official (the Pope or the Ecumenical Patriarch). Occasionally, the word could be used to designate other, non-Christian, supreme rulers. In Russia and Bulgaria the imperial connotations of the term were blurred with time and, by the 19th century, it had come to be viewed as an equivalent of King.

The title was adopted and used for the first time by Simeon I (r. 893-927) in 913 and was officially recognized by the Byzantines in 927. Some of the earliest attested occurrences of the contraction "tsar" (car' ) from "tsesar" (cěsar' ) are found in the grave inscription of the (ichirgu-boil) Mostich, a contemporary of Simeon I and Peter I, from Preslav. The title, later augmented with epithets and titles such as autocrat to reflect current Byzantine practice, was used by all of Simeon's successors until the complete conquest of Bulgaria by the Ottoman Empire in 1422. The last person to hold the title was Simeon II (r. 1943-1946).


Portal:Bulgarian Empire/Selected article/2

The Byzantines defeat the Bulgarians (top). Emperor Samuel dying at the sight of his blinded soldiers (bottom).

The Battle of Kleidion (or Clidium, after the medieval name of the village of Klyuch, "(the) key"; also known as the Battle of Belasitsa) took place on July 29, 1014 between the Bulgarian Empire and the Byzantine Empire. It was the culmination of the nearly half-century struggle between the Bulgarian Emperor Samuel and the Byzantine Emperor Basil II in the late 10th and early 11th centuries. The result was a decisive Byzantine victory.

The battle took place in the valley between the mountains of Belasitsa and Ograzhden near the modern Bulgarian village of Klyuch. The decisive encounter occurred on July 29 with an attack in the rear by a force under the Byzantine general Nikephoros Xiphias, who had infiltrated the Bulgarian positions. The ensuing battle was a major defeat for the Bulgarians. Bulgarian soldiers were captured and blinded by order of Basil II, who would subsequently be known as the "Bulgar-Slayer". Samuel survived the battle, but died two months later from a heart attack, reportedly brought on by the sight of his blind soldiers.

Although the engagement did not end the First Bulgarian Empire, the Battle of Kleidion reduced its ability to resist Byzantine advances and can be considered the pivotal encounter of the war with Byzantium. The heirs of Samuel could not subsequently hold off the Byzantine advance, and in 1018 the Bulgarian Empire was finally destroyed by Basil II.


Portal:Bulgarian Empire/Selected article/3

Fresco of emperor Constantine Tikh, against whose rule the rebellion broke up.

The Uprising of Ivaylo (Bulgarian: Въстанието на Ивайло) was an uprising of the Bulgarian peasantry against the Emperor Constantine Tikh and the Bulgarian nobility. The revolt was fuelled by resentment at the beginning feudalization of the Bulgarian Empire, as well as by the failure to confront the Mongol menace over north-eastern Bulgaria, especially the region of Dobrudzha. Ivaylo proved to be a successful general, defeating the Mongols and the Tsar's armies, and forced the nobility to recognize him as Emperor of Bulgaria.

The Byzantine Emperor Michael VIII Palaiologos tried to exploit this situation and to help the nobility to quell the rebellion, but the Byzantines suffered two major defeats at the hands of Ivaylo. The Mongol intervention however forced him to flee to the important fortress of Silistra, where he was besieged. Thereupon, the nobility used his absence from the capital Tarnovo to proclaim George Terter I as emperor. Surrounded by enemies and with diminished support, Ivaylo had to flee to Nogai Khan and was later murdered by the Mongols.


Portal:Bulgarian Empire/Selected article/4

Bogomil shrine in Travnik, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Bogomilism (Bulgarian: Богомилство) is the Gnostic dualistic sect, the synthesis of Armenian Paulicianism and the Bulgarian Slavonic Church reform movement, which emerged in Bulgaria between 927 and 970 and spread into Byzantine Empire, Serbia, Bosnia, Italy and France.

The now defunct Gnostic social-religious movement and doctrine originated in the time of Peter I of Bulgaria (927–969) as a reaction against state and clerical oppression. In spite of all measures of repression, it remained strong and popular until the fall of Bulgaria in the end of the 14th century.

Bogomilism is the first significant Bulgarian "heresy" that came about in the first quarter of the 10th century in the area of today’s Plovdiv (Philippopolis). It was a natural outcome of many factors that had arisen till the beginning of 10th century. The forced Christianization of the Slavs and proto-Bulgarians by khan Boris I in 863 and the fact that the religion was practiced in Greek, which only the ‘elite’ knew, resulted in a very superficial level of understanding of the religion, if any understanding at all. Another very important factor was the social discontent of the peasantry.


Portal:Bulgarian Empire/Selected article/5

The Bulgarians annihilate the Byzantines in the battle of Anchialus

The Byzantine–Bulgarian wars were a series of conflicts fought between Byzantines and Bulgarians which began when the Bulgars first settled in the Balkan peninsula in the 5th century, and intensified with the expansion of the Bulgarian Empire to the southwest after 680 AD. The Byzantines and Bulgarians continued to clash over the next century with variable success, until the Bulgarians, led by Krum, inflicted a series of crushing defeats on the Byzantines. Simeon I defeated the Byzantines in the wars of 894–896 and 913–927, forcing them to recognize the imperial title of the Bulgarian monarchs and the Bulgarian Patriarchate.

In 971 John I Tzimiskes, the Byzantine emperor, subjugated much of the weakening Bulgarian Empire, which facing wars with Russians, Pechenegs, Magyars and Croatians, and captured Preslav, the Bulgarian capital. After a a prolonged 50-year conflict, the Byzantines under Basil II completely conquered Bulgaria in 1018. After several unsuccessful revolts, the country won its independence in 1185 under the brothers Peter IV and Ivan Asen I, who established the Second Bulgarian Empire. The Byzantine-Bulgarian conflicts continued with variable success until both countries were conquered by the Ottoman Turks in the 15th century.


Portal:Bulgarian Empire/Selected article/6

The Bulgarians defeat the Byzantine army at Versinikia.

The medieval Bulgarian army was the primary military body of the First and the Second Bulgarian Empires. During the first decades after the foundation of the country, the army consisted of a Bulgar cavalry and a Slavic infantry. The core of the Bulgarian army was the heavy cavalry, which consisted of 12,000–30,000 heavily armed riders. At its height in the 9th and 10th centuries, it was one of the most formidable military forces in Europe and was feared by its enemies. There are several documented cases of Byzantine commanders abandoning an invasion because of a reluctance to confront the Bulgarian army on its home territory.

The army was intrinsically linked to the very existence of the Bulgarian state. Its success under Tsar Simeon I marked the creation of a wide-ranging empire, and its defeat in a prolonged war of attrition in the early 11th century meant the end of Bulgarian independence. When the Bulgarian state was reestablished in 1185, a series of capable emperors achieved a remarkable string of victories over the Byzantines and the Western Crusaders, but as the state and its army fragmented in the 13th and 14th centuries, it proved unable to halt the Ottoman advance, which resulted in the conquest of all of Bulgaria by 1422. It would not be until 1878, with the Liberation of Bulgaria, that a Bulgarian military would be restored.


Portal:Bulgarian Empire/Selected article/7

Clockwise from right: Emperor Ivan Alexander, the remains of the Shumen castle, Sultan Bayazid I

The Bulgarian–Ottoman wars (c.1340–1422) were fought between the Bulgarian Empire and the Ottoman Empire. The wars ended with a crushing Ottoman victory. Bulgaria was destroyed and was to be reborn almost five centuries later in 1878. During the struggle the Bulgarian lands were devastated and looted by the invaders and many towns were wiped out forever.

In the second half of the 14th century the once powerful Bulgarian Empire was only a shadow of its former self. During the reign of Tsar Ivan Alexander the country began to disintegrate and after his death in 1371 it was divided between his sons Ivan Shishman and Ivan Sratsimir and despot Dobrotitsa who were constantly in conflict with one another. On the other hand the young Ottoman state was a quickly rising Islamic power. The strongly centralized Ottomans, with their huge army, managed to make use of the situation in the Balkans and to expand the territory of their Empire.

In 1352 the Turks seized their first fortress in the Balkans, Tsimpe. By the death of Ivan Alexander they conquered almost the whole of Thrace and defeated the Bulgarians in the battle of Ihtiman. In 1371 the Ottomans scored a major victory over a large Bulgarian-Serb army at Chernomen. Two years later they seized northern Thrace and the Rhodopes and Ivan Shishman had to become their vassal in order to stop the devastation of his country. However this only postponed the end of Bulgaria. In 1393 the Ottoman Turks seized Tarnovo and, after the disaster of the crusade of Sigismund of Hungary at Nikopol, Vidin fell, the capital of Ivan Sratsimir. Fighting continued to 1422 when the last resistance diminished.


Portal:Bulgarian Empire/Selected article/8

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.


Portal:Bulgarian Empire/Selected article/9

A golden coin of Emperor Ivan Asen II.

The Medieval Bulgarian coinage are the coins minted by the Bulgarian Emperors during the Middle Ages. In fact they all date from the Second Bulgarian Empire because there are no proofs that coins have been minted during the First Bulgarian Empire and after the fall of the Empire under Ottoman domination in 1396 (or 1422) it ceased. According to the material they were golden (perperi), silver (aspri), billon (coinage of silver and copper) and copper coins. According to their shape they were flat and hollow. The inscriptions were usually in Bulgarian language and rarely in Greek. Due to the limited space they were shortened, often written with a few letters and a special signs. In artistic point of view they continue the Byzantine tradition but they were often more schematic. The main means of expression were lines and dots. In the Bulgarian coins there were images which had no analogy with the Byzantine and Slav coinage which makes them unique and they could form a separate group. The coins are very important as a source for the history of the Second Bulgarian Empire.

Tsar Ivan Asen II (1218-1241) is the first Bulgarian ruler from whom there are preserved coins. It is known that his predecessors Kaloyan (1197-1207) and Boril (1207-1218) minted imitations of Byzantine coins. Although Kaloyan was given the right to mint coins by Pope Innocent III (and Boril inherited it from him) there are no preserved coins of their own and the historians assume that Ivan Asen II was the first ruler to mint coins.


Portal:Bulgarian Empire/Selected article/10

A detail from St Dimitar of Solun Church in Tarnovo.

The Architecture of the Tarnovo Artistic School is a definition for the development of architecture during the Second Bulgarian Empire (1185-1396). In the 13th and 14th centuries the capital Tarnovo determined the progress of the Bulgarian Architecture with many edifices preserved or reconstructed which show the skills of the Medieval Bulgarian architects and the construction and decorative techniques they used. With its diverse architecture, the Tarnovo School may be separated to several branched according to the function of the buildings.

The churches were usually small. Typical of the Tarnovo School of Architecture were relatively small cruciform dome churches or basilicas. At the expense of their small length and width, the churches rose to height. The churches were richly painted with colourful frescoes and from the outside they had beautiful decorative ornaments.

During the Second Empire the fortresses were usually built on locations which were difficult to access (hills or plateaus) and thus they sharply differed from the monumental construction in the north-east of the country from the period of the First Bulgarian Empire. The walls of the fortresses were built from stones welded together with plaster; they had two faces and the space between them was filled with a mixture of gravel and plaster (blockage). A wooden scaffolding was built from the inside which protected the walls from collapse until the blockage dried up. The height and thickness of the walls varied depending on the terrain and in the different parts of one castle complex they could vary. The top of the walls and the towers had pinnacles. Counterforts were used as additional protection from landslip


Portal:Bulgarian Empire/Selected article/11

Khan Krum celebrates his victory over Nicephorus.

The Battle of Pliska or Battle of Vărbitsa Pass (Bulgarian: битката при Върбишкия проход) was a series of battles between troops, gathered from all parts of the Byzantine Empire, led by the Emperor Nicephorus I Genik, and Bulgaria, governed by Khan Krum. The Byzantines plundered and burned the Bulgarian capital Pliska which gave time for the Bulgarians to block passes in the Balkan Mountains that served as exits out of Bulgaria. The final battle took place on July 26, 811, in some of the passes in the eastern part of the Balkans, most probably the Vărbitsa Pass. There, the Bulgarians used the tactics of ambush and surprise night attack to effectively trap and immobilize the Byzantine Army, thus annihilating almost the whole army, including the Emperor. After the battle, Krum encased the Nicephorus's skull in silver, and used it as a cup for wine-drinking. This is probably the best documented instance of the custom of skull cup.

The battle of Pliska is one of the worst defeats in Byzantine history. It deterred Byzantine rulers to sent their troops north of the Balkans for more than 150 years afterwards which increased the influence and spread of the Bulgarians to the west and south of the Balkan Peninsula, resulting in a great territorial enlargement of the First Bulgarian Empire.


Portal:Bulgarian Empire/Selected article/12

The oath of the Byzantine soldiers on the eve of the battle.

The Battle of Acheloos (Bulgarian: Битката при Ахелой, Greek: Μάχη του Αχελώου), also known as the Battle of Anchialus, took place on August 20, 917, on the Acheloos river near the Bulgarian Black Sea coast, close to the fortress Tuthom (modern Pomorie) between Bulgarian and Byzantine forces. The result of the battle was a decisive Bulgarian victory which not only secured the previous successes of Simeon I but made him de facto a ruler of the whole Balkan Peninsula excluding the well-protected Byzantine capital Constantinople and the Peloponnese.

The battle of Acheloos was one of the worst disasters that ever befell a Byzantine army, and conversely one of the greatest military successes of Bulgaria. Among the most significant consequences was the official recognition of the Imperial title of the Bulgarian monarchs, and the consequent affirmation of Bulgarian independence and equality vis-à-vis Byzantium.


Portal:Bulgarian Empire/Selected article/13

Kaloyan and Desislava from the Boyana Church.

The Painting of the Tarnovo Artistic School was the mainstream of the Bulgarian fine arts between 13th and 14th centuries named after the capital and the main cultural center of the Second Bulgarian Empire, Tarnovo. Although it was influenced by some tendencies of the Palaeogan Renaissance in the Byzantine Empire, the Tarnovo painting had its own unique features which makes it a separate Artistic School. Depending on whether it was mural decoration of the churches or easel painting it could be divided into two types: Mural painting and Iconography. Little remains of mosaics were found during archaeological excavation which shows that this technique was rarely used in the Bulgarian Empire. The works of that school have some extent of realism, portrait individualism and psychology.

For the first time in Eastern Europe the Tempera method became wide-spread in the murals of the Tarnovo School of Art. That technique allowed the work to proceed slower than the fresco method as well brighter and more saturated colouring and had potential for more additional colours. The fresco technique continued to be used, for instance in the beautiful frescoes of the Rock-hewn Churches of Ivanovo and the chapel of the Hrelyo Tower in the Rila Monastery. The splendid frescoes in the Boyana Church are considered as forerunners of the Renaissance.


Portal:Bulgarian Empire/Selected article/14

Bulgaria and Byzantium after the treaty.

The Treaty of 716 was an agreement between Bulgaria and the Byzantine Empire. It was signed by the son of the ruling Bulgarian Khan Tervel, Kormesiy and the Byzantine Emperor Theodosios III. The treaty settles the border between the two countries in Thrace and obliged the Byzantine Empire to pay annual tribute to Bulgaria. It also arranged the exchange of political refugees which was pushed by the instable Byzantine government and allowed the import and export of good provided with state seals.

Based on the treaty the Bulgarians sent army to relieve the Second Arab siege of Constantinople and defeated the Arabs in the decisive battle near the city. It lasted until 756 when the hostilities between the two countries were resumed which resulted in more than 50 years of warfare and short uneasy peace periods until 815 when a new 30-year peace treaty was signed between the new Khan Omurtag and Leo V the Armenian.


Portal:Bulgarian Empire/Selected article/15

Frontal view of the church.

The Church of the Holy Mother of God (Bulgarian: църква „света Богородица“, tsarkva „sveta Bogoroditsa“; Serbian: црква свeте Богородице, crkva svete Bogorodice) is a medieval Eastern Orthodox church in the village of Donja Kamenica in Knjaževac municipality, Zaječar District, eastern Serbia. The church is generally considered to have been built in the 14th century, when this area was part of the Second Bulgarian Empire's Vidin appanage, though alternative datings have been proposed.

While small, the Church of the Holy Mother of God is notable for its unusual architectural style, in particular for its high narthex flanked by two sharp-pointed towers. These features, which hint at Hungarian or Transylvanian influences, are highly atypical for medieval Bulgarian church architecture. The church is richly decorated on the inside, with as many as eleven frescoes of historical figures. One of these portraits, captioned as a despot, is variously identified with an eponymous son of Bulgarian tsar Michael Shishman, with an undocumented son of co-tsar Michael Asen IV, or, previously, with Michael Shishman himself or Serbian noble Mihailo Anđelović. Besides historical images, the interior walls of the church were painted with canonical murals, which can stylistically be assigned to the 14th–15th century.


Portal:Bulgarian Empire/Selected article/16

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.


Portal:Bulgarian Empire/Selected article/17

Khan Boris I converts to Christianity.

The Christianization of Bulgaria is the process of converting 9th-century medieval Bulgaria to Christianity. Prior to the Christianization, the First Bulgarian Empire was one of the last remaining pagan states of Europe.

Following the conquests of Khan Krum of Bulgaria from the beginning of the 9th century, Bulgaria raised as an important regional power in Southeastern Europe. Its future development was connected with the Byzantine and East Francia. Since both of these states were Christian, pagan Bulgaria remained more or less in isolation, unable to interact on even grounds, neither culturally nor religiously.

In 864 Khan Boris I was secretly converted into Christianity in his palace in Pliska by Byzantine clergymen. Upon the news of the conversion all 10 komitats (provinces) in Bulgaria revolted. Boris I managed to handle the revolt and the Christianization continued smoothly. However, he knew that the Byzantine influence could become dangerous and exploited the conflict between the Patriarch of Constantinople and the Papacy in Rome to gain an autonomous Bulgarian Church.


Portal:Bulgarian Empire/Selected article/18

The ruins of the Golden Church.

The Round Church (Bulgarian: Кръгла църква, Kragla tsarkva), also known as the Golden Church (Златна църква, Zlatna tsarkva) or the Church of St John (църква „Свети Йоан“, tsarkva „Sveti Yoan“), is a large partially preserved early medieval Eastern Orthodox church. It lies in Preslav, the former capital of the First Bulgarian Empire, today a town in northeastern Bulgaria. The church dates to the early 10th century, the time of Tsar Simeon I's rule and was unearthed and first archaeologically examined in 1927–1928. Considered to be one of the most impressive examples of medieval Bulgarian architecture, the Round Church takes its name from the distinctive shape of one of its three sections, the cella (naos), which is a rotunda that serves as a place of liturgy. The church's design also includes a wide atrium and a rectangular entrance area, or narthex, marked by two circular turrets.

The church has been likened to examples of religious architecture from the late Roman (Early Christian) period, the Caucasus, and the Carolingian Pre-Romanesque of Charlemagne because of its characteristic plan, which is significantly different from contemporaneous Bulgarian or Byzantine buildings. The church's alternative name, the Golden Church, stems from its possible and popular identification with a "new golden church" in Preslav referenced in a medieval literary source. The Round Church's rich interior decoration, which makes ample use of mosaics, ceramics and marble details, distinguishes it from other churches in Preslav. Its interior features hundreds of drawings depicting ships, fauna, and Christian figures. Medieval inscriptions on the walls range from names of saints in Byzantine Greek to separate letters and short texts in the Glagolitic and Cyrillic alphabets.


Portal:Bulgarian Empire/Selected article/19

A page of Codex Zographensis.

Old Church Slavonic or Old Bulgarian was developed in the First Bulgarian Empire. The 9th century Byzantine missionaries Saints Cyril and Methodius are credited with standardizing the language and using it for translating the Bible and other Ancient Greek ecclesiastical texts as part of the Christianization of the Slavic peoples. It played an important role in the history of the Slavic languages and served as a basis and model for later Church Slavonic traditions, and some Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic churches use Church Slavonic as a liturgical language to this day.

With the creation of the Cyrillic alphabet the literary schools of Preslav and Ohrid became the cradle of Bulgarian and Slavic culture. The existence of two major literary centres in the Empire led in the period from the ninth to the eleventh centuries to the development of two recensions, named "Eastern Bulgarian" and "Western Bulgarian" or "Macedonian" respectively.


Portal:Bulgarian Empire/Selected article/20

The icon of Saint Theodor.

The Bulgarian Orthodox Church or the Bulgarian Patriarchate (Bulgarian: Българска православна църква или Българска патриаршия, Balgarska pravoslavna tsarkva; Balgarska patriarshia) is an autocephalous Eastern Orthodox Church with some 6.5 million members in the Republic of Bulgaria and between 1.5 and 2.0 million members in a number of European countries, the Americas and Australia. The recognition of the autocephalous Bulgarian Patriarchate by the Patriarchate of Constantinople in 927 AD makes the Bulgarian Orthodox Church the oldest autocephalous Slavic Orthodox Church in the world, which was added to the Pentarchy of the original Patriarchates - those of Rome (which became today's Roman Catholic Church after the Schism), Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem - and the autocephalous Georgian Catholicosate.


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