Established on a global crossroads over the ruins of Greek, Thracian and Roman civilizations, Bulgaria has a tumultuous and proud history spanning 13 centuries. Since its foundation in 681 AD, it has ruled over most of the Balkans, suffered two conquests, been responsible for the creation of the Cyrillic alphabet, endured 500 years under Ottoman rule and earned its liberation, and woven through the stormy seas of history like the now tiny sailboat that it is. It’s a former ally of Hitler, a former USSR satellite, a space-conquering nation, a manufacturer of AK-47s, and, most recently, a member of the European Union.
Its history is broken up into the following rough periods:
First Bulgarian Empire (681 – 1018): Bulgars came to Moesia and established a state in 681, became Christian and created the Cyrillic alphabet, experiencing an 80-year Golden Age in the 9th century and were a rival of the Byzantine Empire for dominance on the Balkans until Bulgaria’s decline and eventual conquest by Basil II in 1018. (more…)
Second Bulgarian Empire (1185 – 1396): An uprising against a weakening Byzantine empire reestablished the Bulgarian state. The Asen dynasty ruled from 1185 to 1280, establishing Veliko Tarnovo as the capital and the cultural heart of South-Eastern Europe. Succession disputes and disunity brought an end to the state under the hoof of the Ottoman Empire in 1396. Bulgaria became a province of the empire. (more…)
Revival and Liberation (1762 – 1878): After a recorded history of Bulgaria’s former greatness was written in 1762, Bulgarians began to plot their liberation. The deaths of two national heroes (revolutionary Vasil Levski and poet Hristo Botev) and the brutal quelling of the ill-fated April Uprising of 1876 set the stage for the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-78 in which a volunteer Bulgarian corps fought several crucial battles to ensure the success of the war and the reestablishment of Bulgaria on March 3, 1878. (more…)
Third Bulgarian Kingdom (1878 – 1946): Cut up by the Great Powers into disparate regions and principalities, Bulgaria spent the first half of the 20th century trying, and failing, to unite the lands considered ethnically Bulgarian. This led to two national catastrophes (after the Balkan wars of 1912-13 and after WWI in 1919) and to Bulgaria being on the wrong side of every major conflict in Europe, siding with the Axis in 1941, and being practically annexed by the USSR on September 9, 1944. (more…)
People’s Republic of Bulgaria (1944 – 1989): A period of a state-controlled economic and industrial prosperity followed, coupled with freedom of speech repressions, executions of the pre-Communist elite and tight-controlled media channels. As a conflicting period in Bulgaria’s history, opinion is divided to this day about its benefits and atrocities. The first Bulgarian cosmonaut (of two) flew in 1979 on a joint mission with the USSR. (more…)
Modern Bulgaria (1989 – present): With the fall of Communism on Nov. 10, 1989, Bulgaria received democracy, free-market reform and lawlessness, leading into the 90’s – a period of hyperinflation and mass stripping of the national wealth by opportunistic businessmen. Bulgaria won 4th place at the World Cup of Soccer in the USA in 1994, suffered its first wartime casualties since WWII in Iraq in 2003, and became a member of the EU in 2007. (more…)