Portal:Bulgarian Empire

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The Bulgarian Empire in its expansion in the 13th century

The Bulgarian Empire (Bulgarian: Българско царство, Balgarsko tsarstvo [ˈbəlɡɐrskʊ ˈt͡sarstvʊ]) existed in two distinct periods: between the seventh and eleventh centuries, and again between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries.

The First Bulgarian Empire was the first country of the modern 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 what is now Romania. In 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 centre of culture and learning. Literature flourished in the Preslav and Ohrid Literary Schools. The Bulgarian scholar Clement 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. Old Bulgarian became the lingua franca of much of Eastern Europe and it came to be known as Old Church Slavonic. The beauty and wealth of the 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 was established in 1185 as a result of the Uprising of Asen and Peter. Until 1256, the Second Bulgarian Empire was the dominant power in the Balkans, defeating the Byzantine Empire in several major battles. In 1205 Emperor Kaloyan defeated the newly established Latin Empire in the Battle of Adrianople. His nephew Ivan Asen II defeated the Despotate of Epirus and made Bulgaria a regional power again. During his reign, Bulgaria spread from the Adriatic to the Black Sea and the economy flourished. In the late 13th century, however, the Empire declined under constant invasions by Mongols, Byzantines, Hungarians, and Serbs, as well as internal unrest and revolts. The 14th century saw a temporary recovery and stability, but also the peak of Balkan feudalism as central authorities gradually lost power in many regions. Bulgaria was divided into three parts on the eve of the Ottoman invasion.

Despite strong Byzantine influence, Bulgarian artists and architects created their own distinctive style. In the 14th century, during the period known as the Second Golden Age of Bulgarian culture, literature and art flourished. The capital city Tarnovo, which was considered a "New Constantinople", became the country's main cultural hub and the centre of the Eastern Orthodox world for contemporary Bulgarians. After the Ottoman conquest, many Bulgarian clerics and scholars emigrated to Serbia, Wallachia, Moldavia, and Russian principalities, where they introduced Bulgarian culture, books, and hesychastic ideas.

Selected Article

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.

Selected Biography

Part of the Presian Inscription, which references Isbul.
Isbul (Bulgarian: Исбул) (fl. 820s–830s) was the kavhan, or first minister, of the First Bulgarian Empire during the reigns of Omurtag, Malamir and Presian I. Appointed to the kavhan office under Omurtag, Isbul was a regent or co-ruler of the underage Malamir and his successor Presian.

Under Malamir and Presian, Isbul headed Bulgaria's successful campaigns against the Byzantines in southern Thrace and Macedonia, which led to a significant territorial expansion of the Bulgarian realm. As a co-ruler of Malamir, Isbul also financed the construction of a water conduit in the capital Pliska. As second-in-charge, Isbul held enormous power and wealth, and was unusually often mentioned beside the name of the ruler in inscriptions. Due to his merits, Isbul has been described as an architect of medieval Bulgarian statehood by historians.

Selected Picture

A page of the manuscript

The Tetraevangelia of Ivan Alexander is a 14th century illuminated manuscript, a Gospel Book in Middle Bulgarian, prepared and illustrated during the rule of Tsar Ivan Alexander in the Second Bulgarian Empire. The manuscript is regarded as one of the most important literary treasures of the medieval Bulgarian culture.

Did You Know?

Preslav fortress 11.jpg
*... that Preslav (pictured) was a capital of Bulgaria for 78 years between 893 and 971 and was a rival of Constantinople in its splendour? *... that Emperor Chaka (1300) was a Mongol ruler of Bulgaria and was even a Muslim? *... that the battle of Rusokastro (1332) was the last major battle fought between the Bulgarian and the Byzantine Empires? *... that the Croatian–Bulgarian wars were series of three wars fought between the Bulgarian Empire and the Kingdom of Croatia in the 9th and 10th centuries?


Battles Rulers
Byzantine–Bulgarian wars
Bulgarian–Hungarian wars
Croatian–Bulgarian wars
Bulgarian–Rus' wars
Bulgarian–Latin wars
Bulgarian–Serbian wars
Bulgarian–Ottoman wars
Tsars (Emperors)







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