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Country information on Bulgaria

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When I first came to Ireland, I knew almost nothing about the country. I went to live in a place that was unknown to me. I still know only a few things but they are not enough for a person who lives in the country. I need to know the history, the influences, the towns, of the rivers, the mountains. I discovered new types of characters, traditions, new language and religion.

St. Andrew’s College has students from forty-three other nations. I am one of them and I am the first Bulgarian, as I heard, in the history of the school. So I want to present my country to the others. This will be both educational for me and educational for the others. I have studied everything for my country in school – geography, history, literature, music, dance, but it was few years ago, and now it will be good opportunity to remind me of all the things I have forgotten.

I remember my first days in Ireland, it was few months ago, everybody was asking me where am I from. When I told them, “Bulgaria”, and I see their faces, I understand that some of them even do not know where this is.

Now I have the opportunity to say something more about my country. I can tell many interesting things about the geography, history, language and beliefs, because in many ways Bulgaria is very different from Ireland, as every country in the world is unique.

Geography

Location

Bulgaria is in south-eastern Europe occupying the north-eastern part of the Balkan Peninsula. To the North, via the Danube River, it borders with Romania, to the West with Serbia (formerly part of Yugoslavia) and with the Republic of Macedonia. To the South its neighbours are Greece and Turkey. To the East Bulgaria touches the Black Sea, which links it also to Russia, Ukraine, and Georgia the Black Sea borderline is 378 km (240 miles) long.

Bulgaria is bigger than Ireland – its total territory is 111 000 sq. km (43 000 sq. miles), of which 443km2 is water. The country is situated in the south-east part of Europe, in the eastern part of the Balkan Peninsula. The geographic co-ordinates are 45 00N, 25 00E and if I want to speak with my friends there, I have to be careful, because they are two hours ahead and I do not want to wake them up!

Climate

The climate is unique in the Balkans – from North to South on the territory of Bulgaria there alternate temperate continental climate and transitional climate, while the south as Mediterranean echoes in its climate. The average annual air temperature is 10.5 degrees centigrade (51 F). Altitude differences determine the vertical zoning of the climate. In the East there is an influence by the Black Sea there summers are cooler and autumns warmer and longer. The combination of the course of air and seawater temperatures with average values above 18 C (65 F) is favourable to seaside vacationing in the period from late May till early October. The soft transitional-Mediterranean climate and the fertile soils are very suitable for growing the century famed Bulgarian rose – a valuable raw material for perfumery, medical and food, vine and tobacco industries. Bulgarian rose scent is famous throughout the world.

Relief

The relief of the country is diverse- from high mountains to low hills and vast lowlands planes, many valleys, rivers, beautiful lakes and the Black Sea. The surface structures were formed during different geological eras. The oldest in terms of geological classification are the Moezian platform (the Danubian Hilly Plane) and the Rilo-Rhodopes Massif. The undulating system of Stara Planina and Sreolna Gora mountains and the Sub-Balkan Valleys date from a later geological age.

Mountains

The largest mountain range in Bulgaria is the Stara Planina or Balkan range. Stara Planina means ‘Old Mountain’ indicating its greater size as compared with that of the adjacent ranges. ‘Balkan’ is not a distinctive term, being applied by the Bulgarians, as well as the Turks, to all mountains. It is 550km long. The mountain extends throughout the entire length of the country, starting from the border of Serbia to the Black Sea coast. It gave the name to the entire Balkan Peninsula. In Bulgarian ‘Stara Planina’ means ‘Old Mountain’. Its name is not so much because of geological classification but because of all the events related to it in the history of the country. After all, it is the youngest of all the sixteen Bulgarian Mountains.

In the Stara Planina area are included the Stara Planina Mountains range and the Pre-Balkan region. To the north, the mountains wind and smoothly melt into the Pre-Balkan region and the Danube plain, to the south steep mountain slopes tower above a series of tectonic hollows and fields. The mountain is divided into several regions by high passes and saddles.

Western Stara Planina starts from Vrashka Chuka pass and ends at the Zlatiski pass. It has a length of 215km. This is the highest and almost alpine part of the Balkan. The highest point in Western Stara Planina is Midzhur Peak. It is 2168m high. There are many caves in this region and the biggest one is Temnata Dupka. In translation this means ‘The Dark Hole’. Other famous caves are the Ledenika cave and Elata. The picturesque Iskar Gorge is a natural miracle carved out of the stone breasts of the Stara Planina. It is formed as a result of the cleaving of the Iskar river.

Central Stara Planina starts from the Zlatiski pass and ends at the Vratnik pass on the east and stretches 185km. This region is the highest with the Botev Peak being the highest peak in Stara Planina. It is 2376km above sea level and it ranks third in Bulgaria. Botev is the most mist-covered peak of all in the country. It’s older name means ‘The Fist’ and it really resembles a clenched fist, surrounded by stone cliffs and vertical walls. On the Southern wall of the peak is the highest waterfall in Bulgaria – the Raisko Praskalo (Paradise Waterfall). It descends from the Paradise rocks. It is located under the Bulgarian natural reserves – Jendema. This waterfall is the tallest not only in Bulgaria but also on the whole Balkan Peninsula at 124m high. It has a magnificent view.

In this part of the Balkans there are 15 other peaks. Some of them are Vejen – 2198m, Golyam Kupen – 2169m, Malak Kupen – 2141m, Ambaritsa – 2166m. The river Osam, Steneto pass and the Staro Reka river gorge are important natural reservations. The mountain of Stoledov has a 32 meter memorial of granite – the church monument Shipka.

The Central Balkan biosphere reserve includes century-old beech forests.

Eastern Stara Planina starts from the Vratnik pass and ends at the waters of the Black Sea. The highest point of this area is the Bulgarian peak, 1181m. Here is situated the Sliven Mountain; it is part of the Balkan range.

Stara Planina is the most foggy and windy of all Bulgarian Mountains. The snow cover is very irregular in terms of duration and territory.

In Sliven Mountain is home to Sinite Kamani (The Blue Rocks), a natural park which has the role of protecting the natural ecosystems, the specific landscapes and rock formations. The park is famous for its clean air, specific forest climate and the versatile landscape. Many miracles of Nature are situated here: the grey and violet peaks Goliama Chatalka, Malka Chatalka, Kutelka, Bulgarka, the picturesque rock formations Halkata (in Bulgarian, The Ring), Kominite (The Chimneys), Kuklite (The Dolls), Eniova Bulka (Enio’s Bride), Kaloianovi Kuli (Kaloian’s Towers), the lake in the place of Karandila with tis golden-green nuances, the lakes of Arhangela, Kusubanar, Guntehov Izvor, the waterfalls of Sinia Vir (The Blue Pool), the Futula and many others.

Flora and Fauna

In the Natural Park of Sinite Kamani there is a spectacular diversity of flora and fauna. There are more than 700 representatives of the flora, of which 27 are included in the Red Book of Bulgaria (a list of protected species). In the park grow six of the flora species with an international statute of protection – urumovo tulip (Tulipa Urumuffii), tender mullein (Verbascum Lumile), David’s meadow saffron (Lolchicum Davidovii) and forest anemone (Anemone Sylvestis).

The vertebrate fauna is represented by 200 species, 36 of them are under protection. In Sinite Kamani there are foxes, hares, weasels, wild cats, rarely-seen martens, colourful polecats and red deer. A further 145 are birds – Egyptian vultures, the Imperial Eagle, the Honey Buzzard, the White Pelican and the Ossifrage.

Bulgaria has many territories, which have preserved in their natural state unique natural nooks, preserving a remarkable biodiversity. Contemporary natural vegetation demonstrates a considerable ecological diversity. A total of 12,360 species have been found in its composition, of which – 3,700 higher plants. The Bulgarian endemic plants which are to be found nowhere else world-wide, number more than 250: Rila primrose, Balkan violet, Bulgarian blackberry, Rhodopean tulip. Forests abound with wild fruits, briars, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, mushrooms all of them of proven flavour and of qualities strengthening the body. There is also a great diversity of herbs and healing plants. Bulgaria’s fauna numbers some 13,000 species, which is 14 % of the total number of registered animal species in Europe. Rare mammal species are to be found in this country. Reserves and hunting grounds are inhabited by pelicans, stags, deer, does, wild goats, quails, pheasants, etc.

Waters

Rivers of great significance flow from Stara Planina into the Black Sea to the north and into the White Sea to the south. Some of them are the rivers Lom, Ogosta, Yantra, Russenski, Kamichia, Struma, Stara Reka, Tunja and Mochuritsa.

Bulgaria does not have very large rivers. However it does have a relatively large number of rather unevenly distributed smaller rivers, which rise in the mountains and generally flow either to the Black or Aegean Seas. In all there are 526 rivers more than 2,3 km long, and the longest, the Iskar, is 368 km. Other bigger rivers of Bulgaria are the Maritza, Tundzha and Struma. Running through mountaineous regions the rivers form scenic waterfalls. The highest and one of the most beautiful is the Raiskoto Praskalo waterfall in Stara Planina. There aren’t many natural lakes in Bulgaria, although there are no fewer than 260 high-mountain alpine glacial lakes. These can mostly be found in the Rila and Pirin mountains at altitudes of 1900 to 2400 metres.

The lakes and swamps along the Danube have been drained with the exception of Sreburna lake, which has the status of an UNESCO reserve due to its unique flora and fauna. However numerous dams have been built. Bulgaria is one of the countries richest in thermal spas in Europe, ranking third after the Czech Republic and Spain in number of mineral springs. These vary in mineral content and temperature (170 C to over 1000 C in Sapareva Banya) and are thus used as remedies for a wide variety of ailments. Of particular balneological importance are the thermal spas at Bankya, Velingrad, Kyustendil, Sapareva Banya, Momin Prohod and Hissarya.

The river Lom is the last southern tributary of the Danube. It is located west of the major city of Ruse, in the north of the country. Over time, it carved a complex of limestone gorges, stream valleys and plateaux interspersed with meadows, farmland, scrub and forest. The well-vegetated Lom River flows through a large canyon and there are small ponds scattered over surrounding farmland.

Bulgaria has some 500 deposits of mineral waters with over 1,600 water sources. These are localised chiefly at the mountain foothills. The spa resorts of all-national significance are Bankya, Velingrad, Sandanski, the mineral baths of Stara Zagora, Narechen, Sliven and Haskovo, as well as Kyustendil, Vashets, Pavel banya, Hissarya, Merichleri, Momin Prohod, and Kostenets. Climatic sea-side resorts offering various recreation services are Balchik, Bourgas, Varna (“Zlatni Pyassatsi” – “Golden sands”), Kiten, Pomorie, Primorsko, Nessebur (“Slantchev Bryag” “Sunny beach”), and Sozopol. Picturesque lakes hide in the cirques of the Rila and Pirin mountains.

Northern Bulgaria is watered by the Lom, Ogosta, Iskar, Vid, Osem, Yantra and Eastern Lom, all, except the Iskar, rise in the Balkan mountains, and all flow into the Danube. The channels of these rivers are deeply furrowed and the fall is difficult and navigation impossible. The course of the Iskar is remarkable: rising in the Rilska Planina, the river descends into the basin of Samakov, then passes through a snake-like defile into the plateau of Sofia, where in ancient times it formed a lake; it now forces its way through the Balkans by the picturesque gorge of Iskretz. Similarly the Deli, or “Wild,” Kamchrk breaks the central chain of the Balkans near their eastern extremity and, uniting with the Great Kamchik, falls into the Black Sea. The Maritza, the ancient Hebrus, springs from the slopes of Musallh, and, with its tributaries, the Tunja and Arda, waters the wide plain of Eastern Rumelia. The Struma (known ancient and modern Greek as ‘Strymon’) drains the valley of Kiustendil, and, like the Maritza, flows into the Aegean.

People and Language

In the great movement of Steppe Peoples westward, when the Huns and the Avars came to Europe, some Bulgar tribes arrived from Central Asia and settled in Pannonia and were dominated by the Avars. In the 7th century many of the Pannonian Bulgars settled in Italy, in Lombardy, the Rimini-Osimo area, and the region of Beneveto.

These pastoral people, in 632, combined their tribes to become Great Bulgaria. But, unfortunately, when their leader, Kubrat, died Great Bulgaria broke up under Khazar pressure.

Later on, led by Asparugu, some tribes migrated to the area between the Dnieper and the Danube delta. They invaded Byzantine territory south of the Danube and in 681 they formed the First Bulgarian Empire.

Since then the location of the country at the nexus of the European and Asian continents brought strong cultural and political influences from centuries of Byzantine and Ottoman occupation, and the absolute loyalty to the Soviet Union.

But although we are crossroads, our population is fairly homogenous. Ethnic Bulgarians compose 85% of the population, people of Turkish origin 9%, then Armenians, Roma (gypsies), Greeks and Macedonian Slavs. The total population estimated in 2001 is 7 million. This is a relative drop compared to previous years, when there were over 8 million. In our days there is a decrease in the country mainly through emigration. I know many people who went to live in different countries. They are mainly students who went to study abroad and did have not returned. There are many Bulgarians in the US, France, Germany and especially in England. Let us not forget Ireland too!

The official language of the Republic of Bulgaria is Bulgarian. It belongs to the groups of the south Slavonic languages and uses the Cyrillic alphabet, as do the Russian, Serbian and Macedonian languages.

The history of the Bulgarian language is divided into four main periods – pre-literal (until the 9th century), Old, Middle and Modern. The Old Bulgarian period lasted from the 9th century through to the 11th century. The language is termed Old Church Slavonic, or Old Bulgarian, and is an alternate name for the Literary and Liturgical language. Although it is still the liturgical language for most branches of the Orthodox Eastern Church, it is extinct today as a spoken language.

The Old Church Slavonic Alphabet was created some time around the 860s by the ‘Slav Apostles’, the brothers Constantine Cyril the Philosopher and Methodius for their translation of the Gospels and other religious texts. This was the first Slavic language known to have been recorded in writing.

Constantin-Cyril was born in Salonika (now Thessaloniki) in Greece. In 863 he and his brother were sent by the Byzantine Emperor Michael III to convert the Western Slavs to Christianity and arrange that the divine service in Greater Moravia be performed in their native tongue. They used the Slavic dialect of the Bulgarian Slavic tribes as the basis for the new language of their translations. They drew on the vocabulary and syntax of Greek so as to enrich and transform this dialect because it was inadequate for their purpose. They created the first alphabet devised for the Old Church Slavonic, termed Glapolitic. Later on their disciple Saint Climent, the Bulgarian archbishop of the town of Ohrid, invented the simpler Cyrillic alphabet and named it in honour of his teacher.

The Cyrillic alphabet, like the Roman, stems from the Greek. From Bulgaria, the cultural centre of the medieval Slavs, this alphabet spread to the neighbouring countries such as Serbia and the far-lying Eastern Slavs – the Russians, Ukranians and the Belorussians. Various forms of the Cyrillic alphabet are continued to be used in these countries today. So, contrary to what many people may think, the Russian alphabet came from the Bulgarian.

The Middle Bulgarian Period lasted from the 12th century to the 14th century. This was a transitional stage during which the language took underwent crucial stages and this turned into the ‘Balkan’ language with analytic characteristics. The language current in this period was named Bulgarian Church Slavonic. The Turkish conquest of Bulgaria in 1396 hampered the development of the Bulgarian language for about five centuries.

After the Independence in 1878, modern literary language based on the vernacular came into its own. Generally the Modern Bulgarian Period started in the 15th century. There are two major dialect groups in the Modern Bulgarian – the eastern and the western dialects and each is subdivided into north and south varieties. The language borrowed many words from Greek and Turkish during the Ottoman domination but recently it has borrowed words from Russian, French and German. The modern Bulgarian alphabet has 30 letters. Most fo them stand for one specific sound, but three letters stand for one expression of combinations of sounds, two sounds do not have separate letters assigned to them, so they are expressed by the combination of two letters and there is one letter which is not pronounced, but it softens.

Most words in Bulgarian are spelled phonetically but some are spelled etymologically, first of all to preserve and clearly indicate the origin of the word and second of all, because some words are still spelled the way they are pronounced centuries ago.

History

The historical development of the Bulgarian land is determined by its location on a crossroads between Europe and Asia. Many settlers swept from both continents in the plains of Thrace, Moesia, Macedonia and the Balkan mountains and turned this land to the most contended of the European civilisations.

During the Paleolithic and Mesolithic times there was presence of human life and many drawings in some Bulgarian caves that prove that. So these lands were inhabited for a long time and when the people improved their living conditions there was a demographic boom – a result of mechanic influx of human groups from the south and from the north. This process has been accompanied by ethnic changes and towards the middle of the second millennium BC the features of Thracian ethnic community have begun showing up. These were the people who populate the Bulgarian lands until the appearance of the Bulgarians. During their 1000 year long history, in the year 46BC, the Thracians were invaded by the Roman empire, who structured the Thracian lands in two big provinces – Thrace and Moesia which nowadays are two of the three mahor historic regions (Moesia, Thrace and Macedonia).

In the 3rd century, when the Thracians were already declared citizens of Rome, came waves of barbaric invasions, marking the advance of the Great Migration of People. Although the Roan authorities made serious efforts to stop the pressure from the barbarians, at the beginning of the 7th century AD the ancient culture of Thrace and Moesia was destroyed and the life in still existing settlements became barbarian like.

In these territories, inhabited by numerous tribes speaking different languages, the Bulgarians formed their state.

The homeland of the Bulgarian tribes was in the highland regions of Altai in Siberia (a Russian restaurant in Dublin has Altai vodka!) and they belong to the same ethnolingual group as the Huns, the Avars, the Pechenegs and the Cumans. Their language is related to the Turko-Altai group.

These tribes were numerous enough to stand advancing towards Europe between the 2nd and the 6th centuries AD. In the Old Continent they suffered serious losses during the barbaric raids against the Roman possessions. Finally they succeeded in founding two powerful states – one near the Volga and the other near the Danube, but they inhabited whole areas in other states as well.

As early as the 2nd century AD the tribes settled in the plains between the Caspian and the Black Seas, which border in the south – the Caucasian Ridge. Between 351 and 389 AD they migrated to Armenia headed by their chieftain Vund. In the beginning of the 7th century, swept by the Hunnish wave, many Bulgarian tribes moved to the lower valleys of the Donets and the Don rivers and the Azov. Some of these tribes stayed for centuries in their new settlements but others moved on, together with the Huns, towards central Europe and made their homes in Pannonia and in the plains around the Carpathian mountains.

The Hunnish-Bulgarian association existed throughout the period between 377-453 AD, spreading like a dark cloud over Europe. But the defeat of the Huns led to the dissolution of this alliance. In 480AD Byzantium signed its first agreement with the individual Bulgarians to use them against the Ostrogothic invaders. But, when in 488AD, the Goths moved away from the Balkan Peninsula, the Bulgarians being Byzantine allies, were allowed to walk across Moesia, Thrace and Macedonia and liked these lands.

Only five years after the Goths were driven out, the Bulgarian troops invaded Thrace, defeated the Byzantine army and killed their leader, Julian. After this the Bulgarians living in the plains between the Caucasus, the Black Sea and the Caspian Seas preserved intact and increased their human, economic and military potential.

In 567-568AD khagan Sildjibu, a ruler of the Turkish khanate, forced the Bulgarians, the Khazars and the Belenzers to join his Turkish empire. But the tribal chieftains were not killed or driven away; they continued to govern their tribes and this was the first time ever that these tribes were united. When in 581AD the khanate collapsed into two separate khanates – the eastern and the western – the Bulgarians, who were in the western part, became the greater part of the population and their leaders started fighting for the supreme power.

Kubrat, leader of one of the tribes, united them, broke loose from the khanate and then founded a state in the year 632. He spent his childhood in Constantinople, in the palace of the emperor. There he was baptised as a Christian. In this capital city of the European civilisation, home of rich libraries, antique heritage and culture and aesthetic values of Christianity, Kubrat gained a high standard of education. He became one of the most learned men in Europe at that time.

When he declared himself as an independent ruler,all the Bulgarian tribes living in the region of the Black Sea, the Sea of Azov and the Caspian Sea, immediately united under him. This was not a military-tribal alliance but it was a state with its strictly outlined territory, its own administration, uniform laws and its own foreign policy. The Byzantines called the state Great Bulgaria. Its boundaries were the lower course of the Danube in the west, the Black Sea and the Azov seas in the south, the Kuban river in the east and the Donits river in the north. The capital of the Old Great Bulgaria was the town of Phanagoria on the coast of the Azov Sea.

This big territory was ruled by a khan who made decisions after discussing them with the council of the Great Boyls. In the administrative hierarchy the khan was the first man, the second was the khavkhan and the third man was the Schirpuboyl. The last two were in charge of the army in times of war.

In 635 AD, khan Kubrat was honoured with the title of Patrician and signed an inter-state agreement for the recognition of the new state. He was a good friend of the Byzantine emperor and after his death, in 641 AD, there was a risk of worsening the relations with the empire because he supported his widow Martina and their children in their battle for the throne. Kubrat, being baptised as a Christian, helped his troops in the conflict he had with some barbarian tribes and he succeeded in beating off the Khazars until his death.

There is a medieval legend which gives an example of political wisdom, which came from the opinions of the Bulgarian people after this long lasting war with the Khazars. It goes that at his death bed khan Kubrat called his sons and made them break a bundle of vine twigs with only their hands. None of them succeeded. Then Kubrat, himself, took the vine shoots and broke them one by one with his own frail hands. The moral was that as long as the Bulgarians and their political leaders were united, it would be hard to break the state apart. If they allowed a split in their community and their actions they would be destroyed one by one, letting Bulgaria be swept away.

After khan Kubrat’s death, in 651AD, Bulgaria suffered many Khazar raids. They occupied the Bulgarian territories and some Bulgarians accepted their dependence on the Khazars, but others moved to the north, to the valleys of the rivers Koma and Vilga. In that place they founded a big Bulgarian state called Volgo-Koma Bulgaria. This state existed until the 13th century when the Tatars took it over. And still people of Bulgaria origin exist in the autonomous region of Chuvashia in Russia.

Khan Asparukh was khan Kubrat’s successor, already ruling over the territories between the Dnepr, the Donets and the Danube. He managed to drive the Khazars back across the Dnepr and stop their offensive on the west. In the next few years, the Bulgarian politicians decided to undertake the lands of ancient Moesia. This place was perfect for them because they could use the protection of the Danube in the north, the Balkan Mountains in the south and the Black Sea in the east. But populous Slav tribes inhabited these territories.

In 680AD khan Asparukh transferred a big part of his army and population to the south of the Danube delta and took up the lands of present-day Dobruja (the name of the region where I am from, in the north east of Bulagria). This led to a war between Bulgaria and Byzantine, when Constantine IV Pogonatus commanded Byzantia. In the autumn of 681AD Byzantium was forced to conclude a peace treaty with the Bulgarians.

During the 8th century, the Bulgarian statesmen showed surprising political tact in steering the state boat to a salutary coast. But dramatic incidents happened at the beginning of 8th century, when the Arab invasion extended to Europe passing through Gibraltar and the Bosphorus. In the west, the warriors of Mohammed conquered the Iberian Peninsula in the battle at Poitiers in 732 AD. It was going to take a few hundred years to move them out of Spain.

The whole of Byzantium was taken over by Arab cavalry hooves and its capital was forced to surrender. In main time, the Bulgarians put their oar in the conflict. In that same year, 716 AD, the Bulgarian heavy cavalry under the command of khan Tervel came in Constantinople and after the two- year-long fighting the Bulgarians and the Byzantines defeated the Arabs. This success put an end to the Arabs attempting to penetrate into the Old Continent through the Balkan Peninsula.

In 756 AD Byzantium concentrated all its forces to destroy the Bulgarian state. And after fierce battles in the plains of Thrace and in the Balkan Range passes in the end of the 8th century, the Bulgarians succeeded in withstanding the Byzantine aggression.

All this made the Bulgarian state rulers think about the need of a new state and political conception, which will help for the independence of Bulgaria. During the rule of khan Krum (803- 814) this was strictly observed and continued for over half a century by most of the Bulgarian political minds during the rule of khan Omurtag (814-831), khan Malamir (831-837) and khan Presian (837-852). This helped Bulgaria to become a state equal in territory, population, economy and military strength to the European political giants.

At the beginning of the 9th century Bulgaria joined forces with the Frankish empire of Charles the Great in destroying the Avar khanate in Central Europe and annexing its lands inhabited by Bulgarians and Slavs in Transylvania. In 807 AD, after a battle with Byzantium which lasted almost seven years the Bulgarians had Thrace and Northern Macedonia detached to them from the empire of the Romans. During the reign of khan Omurtag (814-831) the Bulgarians took the offensive against the empire of the Franks.

Pannonia (present-day Hungary) was conquered in 829, khan Malamir (831-837) and khan Presian (837-852) helped extend Bulgaria’s borders to its present-day mountains to the south: Rhodopes, Rila and Pirin, as well as the northern coast of the Aegean and Macedonia. So, by 852 Bulgaria had the territories of Panonnia (present-day Hungary), Transylvania, Wallachia (in present-day Romania, also the kingdom of Vlad the Impaler, who inspired the character Dracula), Moldavia, Moesia, Thrace and Macedonia with their numerous inhabitants, and was already a European super-power.

Under Krum (803-814) and Omurtag (814-831) the independence of the Slav principalities was eliminated. The huge territory of the country was divided into eleven administrative areas – one of them was the capital and was called internal area and the other ten were external. Their leaders were officials appointed by the central power. That is how from a federation of voluntarily associated tribes, Bulgaria became an early feudal centralised monarchy. This united Bulgarian nation was situated on the most contended land on the European continent.

There were many religions and heretic diversions on this enormous territory. The Turkic Bulgarians believed in Tangra, the God-Heaven, but anyway part of them were Christians. The Slavs were polytheists, and they believed in Perun, Lada and Volos who were also patrons of large territories in Moesia, Pannonia, part of Macedonia, Wallachia and Moldavia. The areas in Thrace and Macedonia which had been detached from Byzantium were inhabited by Christianised Slavs and Thracians some of whom were Christian heretics.

A problem confronted the Bulgarian political minds, who had to find resolution. The problem was not so much in the ethnic or language differences as in the impossibility to have the population of the state observe only one consistent law.

In 852 AD khan Boris sat on the Bulgarian throne. He took part in the high European politics over a period of ten years. With the king of France Charles the Bald, he participated in the war against a coalition formed by the West Germanic kingdom and Croatia. In 862, this time in alliance only with the West Germanic kingdom, Bulgaria waged war on Great Moravia and Byzantium. These contacts with the European Christian countries convinced the Bulgarian politicians that despite its military might Bulgaria held an inequitable position on the international stage. So, khan Boris decided to adopt the Christian faith as the one and only official religion of the Bulgarians and the state, using his contacts with the German king Ludowig I. He took the obligation to send over his preachers while the Bulgarians had to submit to the Roman Catholic Church in religious and administrative respect. Byzantium did not like this appearance of a powerful Catholic power near the Greek-Orthodox Constantinople, and declared immediately war on Bulgaria.

At this time Boris’ population was exhausted and at the border, the Byzantine troops were met by Bulgarian envoys who announced the decision of the Bulgarians to assume the Christian faith from Constantinople, which signified an observance of the Eastern Greek Orthodox rite.

In 863 Christianity was proclaimed as the official state religion and the conversion of all none-Christians was started. All churches, from the huge basilicas in the capital down to the modest parish churches in the villages, conducted their service in Greek. This was a danger of national decomposition. And the brothers Constantine Cyril the Philosopher and Methodius were sent to spread the Christianity around. They invented the earliest Bulgarian alphabet and translated the principal books of the Christian doctrine into the Christian ideological and theoretical heritage.

In 889 AD, Boris, the Baptist of the Bulgarian people, gave the throne to his son Vladimir-Rassate (889-893) and retired to a monastery near the capital. The new Bulgarian ruler made some attempts in favour of paganism, and Boris, following his policy-supporting Bulgarian aristocracy, deposed his son and blinded him. Finally he put his younger son, Simeon (893-927) on the Bulgarian throne.

The Bulgarian state conception was that each people on the earth had the right to independent political, economic and cultural development. This ideology, which served as the basis of the modern European civilization, had been accepted only by the Bulgarian state during this time. Byzantium knew, that the Christianisation of Bulgaria was a chance to take over the barbarian state formation and decompose the Bulgarian state. The plan was to annex the Bulgarian territory to the empire at a time convenient, and ultimately, to do away with its independence.

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