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Part of a series on
History of Bulgaria

Prehistoric Bulgaria

Karanovo culture · Vinča culture
Varna Necropolis · Thrace
Odrysian kingdom · Moesia

Medieval Bulgaria

Bulgarian Empire Portal
Bulgars · South Slavs
Old Great Bulgaria
First Bulgarian Empire
Second Bulgarian Empire
Tsardom of Vidin · Principality of Karvuna

Ottoman Bulgaria

Early Ottoman Bulgaria
National Awakening

Modern Bulgaria

Principality of Bulgaria · Eastern Rumelia
Kingdom of Bulgaria
People's Republic of Bulgaria
Republic of Bulgaria

Coat of arms of Bulgaria.svg

Bulgaria Portal

The history of Bulgaria as a separate country began in 681 AD. After Old Great Bulgaria disintegrated due to Khazar expansion from the east, one of the Bulgar leaders Asparuh crossed south of the Danube, into the territory of present-day Bulgaria and defeated the armies of the Byzantine Empire. In 680/681, the East Roman Emperor was forced to sign a peace treaty recognizing the First Bulgarian Empire as an independent state, situated on the conquered Byzantine lands with their local Slavic populations.

A country in the middle of the ethnically, culturally, and linguistically diverse Balkan Peninsula, Bulgaria has seen many twists and turns in its long history and has been a prospering empire, stretching to the coastlines of the Black, Aegean and Adriatic Seas. The First and Second Bulgarian Empires served as cultural centres of Slavic Europe, but the land was also dominated by foreign states twice in its history, once by the Byzantine Empire (1018–1185) and once by the Ottoman Empire (1396 - 1878).



Prehistoric cultures include the neolithic Hamangia culture and Vinča culture (6th to 3rd millennia BC), the eneolithic Varna culture (5th millennium BC, Varna Necropolis) and the Bronze Age Ezero culture. The Karanovo chronology serves as a gauge for the prehistory of the wider Balkans region.

The Thracians

Indo-European tribes of Thracian and Daco-Getic descent lived on the territory of modern Bulgaria before the Slavic influx. Their ancient languages had already gone extinct before the arrival of the Slavs and their cultural influence was highly reduced due to the repeated barbaric invasions on the Balkans during the early Middle Ages by Huns, Goths, Celts and Sarmatians, accompanied by persistent hellenization, romanisation and later slavicisation.

The Slavs

The Slavs emerged from their original homeland (most commonly thought to have been in Eastern Europe) in the early 6th century and spread to most of eastern Central Europe, Eastern Europe and the Balkans, thus forming three main branches - the West Slavs, the East Slavs and the South Slavs. The easternmost South Slavs settled on the territory of modern Bulgaria during the 6th Century.


The Bulgars (also Bolgars or proto-Bulgarians[1]) were a semi-nomadic people of Turkic descent, originally from Central Asia, who from the 2nd century onwards dwelled in the steppes north of the Caucasus and around the banks of river Volga (then Itil). A branch of them gave rise to the First Bulgarian Empire. The Bulgars were governed by hereditary khans. There were several aristocratic families whose members, bearing military titles, formed a governing class. Bulgars were monotheistic, worshipping their supreme deity Tangra.

Old Great Bulgaria

Great Bulgaria and adjacent regions, c. 650 AD

In 632 the Bulgars, led by Khan Kubrat, formed a tribal union, often called Great Bulgaria (also known as Onoguria), between the lower course of the Danube river to the west, the Black Sea and the Azov Sea to the south, the Kuban river to the east and the Donets river to the north. The capital was Phanagoria, on the Azov. After Kubrat's death his state disintegrated.

One of the successors of Khan Kubrat, Asparuh moved west, occupying today’s southern Bessarabia. After a successful war with Byzantium in 680, Asparuh’s khanate conquered initially Scythia Minor and was recognised as an independent state under the subsequent treaty signed with the Byzantine Empire in 681. That year is usually regarded as the year of the establishment of present-day Bulgaria and Asparuh is regarded as the first Bulgarian ruler. Another Bulgar horde, led by Asparuh's brother Kuber, came to settle in Pannonia and later into Macedonia.

First Bulgarian Empire

The First Bulgarian Empire's greatest territorial extent during the reign of Tsar Simeon

During the late Roman Empire several Roman provinces covered the territory that comprises present-day Bulgaria: Scythia (Scythia Minor), Moesia (Upper and Lower), Thrace, Macedonia (First and Second), Dacia (Coastal and Inner, both south of Danube), Dardania, Rhodope and Haemismontus, and had a mixed population of Byzantine Greeks, Thracians and Dacians, most of whom spoke either Greek or variants of Vulgar Latin. Several consecutive waves of Slavic migration throughout the 6th and the early 7th centuries led to a dramatic change of the demographics of the region and its almost complete Slavicisation.

In the beginning of 8th century Byzantine emperor Justinian II asked Khan Tervel to create a union against Arabs invading from the south. The union defeated the Arabs and Khan Tervel received the Byzantine title "khesar", which stands for "next to the emperor". Under the warrior Khan Krum (802-814) Bulgaria expanded northwest and south, occupying the lands between the middle Danube and Moldova rivers, all of present-day Romania, Sofia in 809 and Adrianople in 813, and threatening Constantinople itself. Krum implemented law reform intending to reduce poverty and strengthen social ties in his vastly enlarged state.

During the reign of Khan Omurtag (814-831), the northwestern boundaries with the Frankish Empire were firmly settled along the middle Danube. A magnificent palace, pagan temples, ruler's residence, fortress, citadel, water mains and baths were built in the Bulgarian capital Pliska, mainly of stone and brick.

Under Boris I, Bulgarians became Christians, and the Ecumenical Patriarch agreed to allow an autonomous Bulgarian Archbishop at Pliska. Missionaries from Constantinople, Cyril and Methodius, devised the Glagolitic alphabet, which was adopted in the Bulgarian Empire around 886. The alphabet and the Old Bulgarian language that evolved from Slavonic[2] gave rise to a rich literary and cultural activity centered around the Preslav and Ohrid Literary Schools, established by order of Boris I in 886.

Ceramic icon of St Theodore from around 900, found in Preslav

In the early 10th century, a new alphabet — the Cyrillic alphabet — was developed at the Preslav Literary School, based on the Greek and the Glagolitic cursive. An alternative theory is that the alphabet was devised at the Ohrid Literary School by Saint Climent of Ohrid, a Bulgarian scholar and disciple of Cyril and Methodius.

By the late 9th and early 10th centuries, Bulgaria extended to Epirus and Thessaly in the south, Bosnia in the west and controlled all of present-day Romania and eastern Hungary to the north. A Serbian state came into existence as a dependency of the Bulgarian Empire. Under Tsar Simeon I of Bulgaria (Simeon the Great), who was educated in Constantinople, Bulgaria became again a serious threat to the Byzantine Empire. Simeon hoped to take Constantinople and become emperor of both Bulgarians and Greeks, and fought a series of wars with the Byzantines through his long reign (893-927). At the end of his rule the front had reached the Peloponnese in the south. Simeon proclaimed himself "Tsar (Caesar) of the Bulgarians and the Romans", a title which was recognised by the Pope, but not of course by the Byzantine Emperor.

In 986, the Byzantine emperor Basil II undertook to reconquer the lands lost to the Bulgarians. After a war lasting several decades he inflicted a decisive defeat upon the Bulgarians in 1014 and completed the campaign four years later. Bulgaria was once again under Roman rule.

Byzantine Bulgaria

Byzantium ruled Bulgaria from 1018 to 1185, subordinating the independent Bulgarian Orthodox Church to the authority of the Ecumenical Patriarch in Constantinople but otherwise interfering little in Bulgarian local affairs.

After the death of the soldier-emperor Basil II the empire entered into a period of instability. There were rebellions against Byzantine rule in 1040-41 at the wars with the Normans and the 1070s and the 1080s, at the time of the wars with the Seljuk Turks. After that the Komnenos dynasty came into succession and reversed the decline of the empire. During this time the empire experienced a century of stability and progress, though it was the time of the Crusades.

In 1180 the last of the capable Komnenoi, Manuel I Komnenos, died and was replaced by the relatively incompetent Angeloi dynasty, allowing Bulgarians to regain their freedom.

Second Bulgarian Empire

In 1185 Peter and Asen, leading nobles of supposed and contested Bulgarian, Cuman, Vlach or mixed origin, led a revolt against Byzantine rule and Peter declared himself Tsar Peter II (also known as Theodore Peter). The following year the Byzantines were forced to recognize Bulgaria's independence. Peter styled himself "Tsar of the Bulgars, Greeks and Vlachs".

Resurrected Bulgaria occupied the territory between the Black Sea, the Danube and Stara Planina, including a part of eastern Macedonia and the valley of the Morava. It also exercised control over Wallachia and Moldova. Tsar Kaloyan (1197–1207) entered a union with the Papacy, thereby securing the recognition of his title of "Rex" although he desired to be recognized as "Emperor" or "Tsar". He waged wars on the Byzantine Empire and (after 1204) on the Knights of the Fourth Crusade, conquering large parts of Thrace, the Rhodopes, as well as the whole of Macedonia. The power of the Hungarians and to some extent the Serbs prevented significant expansion to the west and northwest. Under Ivan Asen II (1218–1241), Bulgaria once again became a regional power, occupying Belgrade and Albania. In an inscription from Turnovo in 1230 he entitled himself "In Christ the Lord faithful Tsar and autocrat of the Bulgarians, son of the old Asen". The Bulgarian Orthodox Patriarchate was restored in 1235 with approval of all eastern Patriarchates, thus putting an end to the union with the Papacy. Ivan Asen II had a reputation as a wise and humane ruler, and opened relations with the Catholic west, especially Venice and Genoa, to reduce the influence of the Byzantines over his country.

However, weakened 14th-century Bulgaria was no match for a new threat from the south, the Ottoman Turks, who crossed into Europe in 1354. In 1362 they captured Philippopolis (Plovdiv), and in 1382 they took Sofia. The Ottomans then turned their attentions to the Serbs, whom they routed at Kosovo Polje in 1389. In 1393 the Ottomans occupied Turnovo after a three-month siege. It is thought that the south gate was opened from inside and so the Ottomans managed to enter the fortress. In 1396 the Kingdom (Tsardom) of Vidin was also occupied, bringing the Second Bulgarian Empire and Bulgarian independence to an end.

Ottoman Bulgaria

In 1393, the Ottomans captured Tarnovo, the capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire, after a three-month siege. In 1396, the Vidin Tsardom fell after the defeat of a Christian crusade at the Battle of Nicopolis. With this the Ottomans finally subjugated and occupied Bulgaria.[3][4][5] A Polish-Hungarian crusade commanded by Władysław III of Poland set out to free the Balkans in 1444, but the Turks emerged victorious at the battle of Varna.

The new authorities dismantled Bulgarian institutions and merged the separate Bulgarian Church into the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople (although a small, autocephalous Bulgarian archbishopric of Ohrid survived until January 1767).

The Ottomans reorganised the Bulgarian territories as the Beyerlik of Rumili, ruled by a Beylerbey at Sofia. This territory, which included Moesia, Thrace and Macedonia, was divided into several sanjaks, each ruled by a Sanjakbey accountable to the Beylerbey. Significant part of the conquered land was parcelled out to the Sultan's followers, who held it as feudal fiefs (small timars, medium ziyamet and large hases) directly from him. That category of land could not be sold or inherited, but reverted to the Sultan when the fiefholder died. The rest of the lands were organized as private possessions of the Sultan or Ottoman nobility, called "mülk", and also as economic bases for religious foundations, called "vakιf". Bulgarians regularly paid taxes as a tithe ("yushur"), a capitation tax ("dzhizie"), a land tax ("ispench"), a levy on commerce and so on and also various group of irregularly collected taxes, products and corvees ("avariz").

The Ottomans did not normally require the Christians to become Muslims. Nevertheless, there were many cases of forced individual or mass islamization, especially in the Rhodopes. Non-Muslims did not serve in the Sultan's army. The exception to this were some groups of the population with specific statute, usually used for auxiliary or rear services, and the famous "tribute of children" (or blood tax), also known as the "devsirme", whereby every fifth young boy was taken to be trained as a warrior of the Empire. These boys went through harsh religious and military training that turned them into an elite corps subservient to the Sultan. They made up the corps of Janissaries (yenicheri or "new force"), an elite unit of the Ottoman army.

Vasil Levski (1837-1873), one of the key figures of the Bulgarian liberational movement of the 19th century and the national hero of Bulgaria

The theocratic[citation needed] Ottoman system started to decline by the 17th century and at the end of the 18th had all but collapsed. Central government weakened over the decades and this had allowed a number of local Ottoman holders of large estates to establish personal ascendancy over separate regions.[6]

In the 18th and especially the 19th centuries conditions improved in certain areas. Some towns — such as Gabrovo, Tryavna, Karlovo, Koprivshtitsa, Lovech, Skopie — prospered. The Bulgarian peasants actually possessed their land, although it officially belonged to the sultan. The 19th century also brought improved communications, transportation and trade. The first factory in the Bulgarian lands opened in Sliven in 1834 and the first railway system started running (between Rousse and Varna) in 1865.

Throughout the five centuries of Ottoman rule the Bulgarian people organized many attempts to re-establish their own state. The National awakening of Bulgaria became one of the key factors in the struggle for liberation. The 19th century saw the creation of the Bulgarian Revolutionary Central Committee and the Internal Revolutionary Organisation led by liberal revolutionaries such as Vasil Levski, Hristo Botev, Lyuben Karavelov and many others.

National awakening

Bulgarian nationalism emerged in the early 19th century under the influence of western ideas such as liberalism and nationalism, which trickled into the country after the French Revolution, mostly via Greece. The Greek revolt against the Ottomans which began in 1821 (see History of Ottoman Greece) also influenced the small Bulgarian educated class. But Greek influence was limited by the general Bulgarian resentment of Greek control of the Bulgarian Church and it was the struggle to revive an independent Bulgarian Church which first roused Bulgarian nationalist sentiment. In 1870 a Bulgarian Exarchate was created by a Sultan edict and the first Bulgarian Exarch (Antim I) became the natural leader of the emerging nation. The Constantinople Patriarch reacted by excommunicating the Bulgarian Exarchate, which reinforced their will for independence.

In April 1876 the Bulgarians revolted in the so-called April Uprising. The revolt was poorly organized and started before the planned date. It was largely confined to the region of Plovdiv, though certain districts in northern Bulgaria, in Macedonia and in the area of Sliven also took part in it. The uprising was crushed with cruelty by the Ottomans, who also brought irregular Ottoman troops (bashi-bazouks) from outside the area. Countless villages were pillaged and tens of thousands of people were massacred, the majority of them in the insurgents towns of Batak, Perushtitsa and Bratsigovo in the area of Plovdiv. The massacres aroused a broad public reaction led by liberal Europeans such as William Ewart Gladstone, who launched a campaign against the "Bulgarian Horrors". The campaign was supported by a number of European intellectuals and public figures. The strongest reaction, however, came from Russia. The enormous public outcry which the April Uprising had caused in Europe gave the Russians a long-waited chance to realise their long-term objectives with regard to the Ottoman Empire.

Having its reputation at stake, Russia had no other choice but to declare war on the Ottomans in April 1877. The Bulgarians also fought alongside the advancing Russians. The Coalition was able to inflict a decisive defeat on the Ottomans at the Battle of Shipka Pass and at Pleven and by January 1878 they had liberated much of the Bulgarian lands.

Kingdom of Bulgaria

Borders of Bulgaria according to the Preliminary Treaty of San Stefano and the subsequent Treaty of Berlin

The Treaty of San Stefano of March 3, 1878 provided for an independent Bulgarian state, which spanned over the geographical regions of Moesia, Thrace and Macedonia. However, trying to preserve the balance of power in Europe and fearing the establishment of a large Russian client state on the Balkans, the other Great Powers were reluctant to agree to the treaty.

As a result, the Treaty of Berlin (1878), under the supervision of Otto von Bismarck of Germany and Benjamin Disraeli of Britain, revised the earlier treaty, and scaled back the proposed Bulgarian state. An autonomous Principality of Bulgaria was created, between the Danube and the Stara Planina range, with its seat at the old Bulgarian capital of Veliko Turnovo and including Sofia. This state was to be under nominal Ottoman sovereignty but was to be ruled by a prince elected by a congress of Bulgarian notables and approved by the Powers. They insisted that the Prince could not be a Russian, but in a compromise Prince Alexander of Battenberg, a nephew of Tsar Alexander II, was chosen. An autonomous Ottoman province under the name of Eastern Rumelia was created south of the Stara Planina range. The Bulgarians in Macedonia and Eastern Thrace were left under the rule of the Sultan. Some Bulgarian territories were also given to Serbia and Romania. A revolutionary organization was created in Eastern Rumelia, called "VMORO" (which stands for Internal Macedonian-Adrianople Revolutionary Organization). VMORO worked in collaboration with the kingdom and managed to unite the kingdom and Rumelia on September 6, 1885. There was military response from Serbia against the union a few days later, but it was soon defeated and the union was admitted. The Bulgarians left outside the newly united kingdom continued their fight to join Bulgaria and the result was the uprising in 1903. The uprising managed to add some territories populated with Bulgarians to the kingdom. Most of the Bulgarians who were still under Ottoman empire emigrated to Bulgaria. In 1908 Bulgaria was recognized as an independent country.

Balkan Wars

Balkan Wars boundaries

In 1911 the Nationalist Prime Minister Ivan Geshov formed an alliance with Greece and Serbia to jointly attack the Ottomans. In February 1912 a secret treaty was signed between Bulgaria and Serbia and in May 1912 a similar treaty with Greece. Montenegro was also brought into the pact. The treaties provided for the partition of Macedonia and Thrace between the allies, although the lines of partition were left dangerously vague. After the Ottomans refused to implement reforms in the disputed areas, the First Balkan War broke out in October 1912. The allies defeated the Ottomans.

Bulgaria sustained the heaviest casualties of any of the allies and so felt entitled to the largest share of the spoils. The Serbs in particular did not agree and refused to vacate any of the territory they had seized in northern Macedonia (that is, the territory roughly corresponding to the modern Republic of Macedonia), saying that the Bulgarian army had failed to accomplish its pre-war goals at Adrianople (to capture it without Serbian help) and that the pre-war agreement on the division of Macedonia had to be revised. Some circles in Bulgaria inclined toward going to war with Serbia and Greece on this issue.

In June 1913 Serbia and Greece formed a new alliance against Bulgaria. The Serbian Prime Minister Nikola Pasic told Greece it could have Thrace if Greece helped Serbia keep Bulgaria out of Serbian part of Macedonia and the Greek Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos agreed. Seeing this as a violation of the pre-war agreements, and discretely encouraged by Germany and Austria-Hungary, Tsar Ferdinand declared war on Serbia and Greece and the Bulgarian army attacked on June 29. The Serbian and the Greek forces were initially on the retreat on the western border, but soon took the upper hand and forced Bulgaria to retreat. The fighting was very harsh, with many casualties, especially during the key Battle of Bregalnitsa. Soon Romania entered the war and attacked Bulgaria from the north. The Ottoman Empire also attacked from the south-east.

The war was now definitely lost for Bulgaria, which had to abandon most of its claims of Macedonia to Serbia and Greece, while the revived Ottomans retook Adrianople. Romania took southern Dobruja.

World War I

In the aftermath of the Balkan Wars Bulgarian opinion turned against Russia and the western powers, whom the Bulgarians felt had done nothing to help them. The government of Vasil Radoslavov aligned Bulgaria with the German Empire and Austria-Hungary, even though this meant becoming an ally of the Ottomans, Bulgaria's traditional enemy. But Bulgaria now had no claims against the Ottomans, whereas Serbia, Greece and Romania (allies of Britain and France) held lands perceived in Bulgaria as Bulgarian.

Bulgaria sat out the first year of World War I recuperating from the Balkan Wars. When Germany promised to restore the boundaries of the Treaty of San Stefano, Bulgaria, which had the largest army in the Balkans, declared war on Serbia in October 1915. Britain, France and Italy then declared war on Bulgaria.

In alliance with Germany, Austria-Hungary and the Ottomans, Bulgaria won military victories against Serbia and Romania, occupying much of Macedonia (taking Skopje in October), advancing into Greek Macedonia, and taking Dobruja from Romania in September 1916.

But the war soon became unpopular with most Bulgarians, who suffered great economic hardship and also disliked fighting their fellow Orthodox Christians in alliance with the Muslim Ottomans. The Agrarian Party leader Aleksandur Stamboliyski was imprisoned for his opposition to the war. The Russian Revolution of February 1917 had a great effect in Bulgaria, spreading anti-war and anti-monarchist sentiment among the troops and in the cities. In June Radoslavov's government resigned. Mutinies broke out in the army, Stamboliyski was released and a republic was proclaimed.

Interwar years

In September 1918, Tsar Ferdinand abdicated in favour of his son Boris III in order to head off anti-monarchic revolutionary tendencies. Under the Treaty of Neuilly (November 1919) Bulgaria ceded its Aegean coastline to Greece, recognized the existence of Yugoslavia, ceded nearly all of its Macedonian territory to that new state, and had to give Dobrudzha back to Romania. The country had to reduce its army to no more than 22,000 men and pay reparations exceeding $400 million. Bulgarians generally refer to the results of the treaty as the "Second National Catastrophe".[7][8]

Elections in March 1920 gave the Agrarians a large majority and Aleksandar Stamboliyski formed Bulgaria's first peasant government. He faced huge social problems, but succeeded in carrying out many reforms, although opposition from the middle and upper classes, the landlords and officers of the army remained powerful. In March 1923, Stamboliyski signed an agreement with the Kingdom of Yugoslavia recognising the new border and agreeing to suppress Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO), which favoured a war to regain Macedonia from Bulgaria. This triggered a nationalist reaction and the Bulgarian coup d'état of 9 June 1923 eventually resulted in Stamboliykski's assassination. A right-wing government under Aleksandar Tsankov took power, backed by the army and the VMRO, which waged a White terror against the Agrarians and the Communists. In 1926, the Tsar persuaded Tsankov to resign, a more moderate government under Andrey Lyapchev took office and an amnesty was proclaimed, although the Communists remained banned. A popular alliance, including the re-organised Agrarians, won the elections of 1931 under the name "Popular Bloc".

In May 1934 another coup took place, removing the Popular Bloc from power and establishing an authoritarian military régime headed by Kimon Georgiev. A year later, Tsar Boris managed to remove the military régime from power, restoring a form of parliamentary rule (without the re-establishment of the political parties) and under his own strict control. The Tsar's regime proclaimed neutrality, but gradually Bulgaria gravitated into alliance with Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy.

World War II

Upon the outbreak of World War II, the government of the Kingdom of Bulgaria under Bogdan Filov declared a position of neutrality, being determined to observe it until the end of the war, but hoping for bloodless territorial gains, especially in the lands with a significant Bulgarian population occupied by neighbouring countries after the Second Balkan War and World War I. But it was clear that the central geopolitical position of Bulgaria in the Balkans would inevitably lead to strong external pressure by both sides of World War II. Turkey had a non-aggression pact with Bulgaria.

Bulgaria succeeded in negotiating a recovery of Southern Dobruja, part of Romania since 1913, in the Axis-sponsored Treaty of Craiova on 7 September 1940, which reinforced Bulgarian hopes for solving territorial problems without direct involvement in the war.

However, Bulgaria was forced to join the Axis powers in 1941, when German troops that were preparing to invade Greece from Romania reached the Bulgarian borders and demanded permission to pass through Bulgarian territory. Threatened by direct military confrontation, Tsar Boris III had no choice but to join the fascist bloc, which was made official on 1 March 1941. There was little popular opposition, since the Soviet Union was in a non-aggression pact with Germany. However the king refused to hand over the Bulgarian Jews to the Nazis, saving 50,000 lives.

Euxinograd, once a summer palace of the Bulgarian tsars.

In September 1944 Soviet troops reached Bulgaria and the country then changed sides and joined the Allies.

People's Republic of Bulgaria

During this time (1944–1989), the country was known as the "People's Republic of Bulgaria" (PRB) and was ruled by the Bulgarian Communist Party (BCP). The BCP transformed itself in 1990, changing its name to "Bulgarian Socialist Party".

Although communist leader Dimitrov had been in exile, mostly in the Soviet Union, since 1923, he was everything but a Soviet puppet. He had shown great courage in Nazi Germany during the Reichstag Fire trial of 1933 and had later headed the Comintern during the period of the Popular Front. He was also close to the Yugoslav Communist leader Tito and believed that Yugoslavia and Bulgaria, as closely related South Slav peoples, should form a federation. This idea was not favoured by Stalin and there have long been suspicions that Dimitrov's sudden death in July 1949 was not accidental, although this has never been proven. It coincided with Stalin's expulsion of Tito from the Cominform and was followed by a "Titoist" witch hunt in Bulgaria. This culminated in the show trial and execution of Deputy Prime Minister Traicho Kostov. The elderly Prime Minister Kolarov died in 1950 and power then passed to an extreme Stalinist, Vulko Chervenkov.

Bulgaria's Stalinist phase lasted less than five years. Agriculture was collectivised and peasant rebellions crushed. Labor camps were set up and at the height of the repression housed about 100,000 people. The Orthodox Patriarch was confined to a monastery and the Church placed under state control. In 1950 diplomatic relations with the U.S. were broken off. The Turkish minority was persecuted and border disputes with Greece and Yugoslavia revived. The country lived in a state of fear and isolation. But Chervenkov's support base even in the Communist Party was too narrow for him to survive long, once his patron Stalin was gone. Stalin died in March 1953 and in March 1954 Chervenkov was deposed as Party Secretary with the approval of the new leadership in Moscow and replaced by Todor Zhivkov. Chervenkov stayed on as Prime Minister until April 1956, when he was finally dismissed and replaced by Anton Yugov.

Republic of Bulgaria

By the time the impact of Mikhail Gorbachev's reform program in the Soviet Union was felt in Bulgaria in the late 1980s, the Communists, like their leader, had grown too feeble to resist the demand for change for long. In November 1989 demonstrations on ecological issues were staged in Sofia and these soon broadened into a general campaign for political reform. The Communists reacted by deposing the decrepit Zhivkov and replacing him with Petar Mladenov, but this gained them only a short respite. In February 1990 the Party voluntarily gave up its claim on power and in June 1990 the first free elections since 1931 were held, won by the moderate wing of the Communist Party, renamed the Bulgarian Socialist Party. In July 1991 a new Constitution was adopted, in which there was a weak elected President and a Prime Minister accountable to the legislature.

President Georgi Parvanov (left) with former Russian president Vladimir Putin, 2008

Like the other post-Communist regimes in Eastern Europe, Bulgaria found the transition to capitalism more painful than expected. The anti-Communist Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) took office and between 1992 and 1994 carried through the privatisation of land and industry through the issue of shares in government enterprises to all citizens, but these were accompanied by massive unemployment as uncompetitive industries failed and the backward state of Bulgaria's industry and infrastructure were revealed. The Socialists portrayed themselves as the defender of the poor against the excesses of the free market.

The negative reaction against economic reform allowed Zhan Videnov of the BSP to take office in 1995. By 1996 the BSP government was also in difficulties and in the presidential elections of that year the UDF's Petar Stoyanov was elected. In 1997 the BSP government collapsed and the UDF came to power. Unemployment, however, remained high and the electorate became increasingly dissatisfied with both parties.

On 17 June 2001, Simeon II, the son of Tsar Boris III and himself the former Head of state (as Tsar of Bulgaria from 1943 to 1946), won a narrow victory in elections. The Tsar's party — National Movement Simeon II ("NMSII") — won 120 of the 240 seats in Parliament. Simeon's popularity declined quickly during his four-year rule as Prime Minister and the BSP won the elections in 2005, but could not form a single-party government and had to seek a coalition. In the parliamentary elections in July 2009, Boyko Borisov's right-centrist party GERB won nearly 40% of the votes.

Since 1989 Bulgaria has held multi-party elections and privatized its economy, but economic difficulties and a tide of corruption have led over 800,000 Bulgarians, including many qualified professionals, to emigrate in a "brain drain". The reform package introduced in 1997 restored positive economic growth, but led to rising social inequality. Bulgaria became a member of NATO in 2004 and of the European Union in 2007 and is generally accepted as having an excellent freedom of speech and human rights record.[9] In 2007 it was ranked 36th (between the PRC and Iceland) out of 122 countries in the Globalization Index.[10]

See also


  1. ^ The term proto-Bulgarians was introduced after WWII.
  2. ^ L. Ivanov. Essential History of Bulgaria in Seven Pages. Sofia, 2007.
  3. ^ Lord Kinross, The Ottoman Centuries, Morrow QuillPaperback Edition, 1979
  4. ^ R.J. Crampton, A Concise History of Bulgaria, 1997, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-567-19-X
  5. ^ D. Hupchick, The Balkans, 2002
  6. ^ Kemal H. Karpat, Social Change and Politics in Turkey: A Structural-Historical Analysis, BRILL, 1973, ISBN 9004038175, pp. 36-39
  7. ^ Независимостта, тази скъпа покойница, Nova Zora, September 30, 2008
  8. ^ Цар Фердинанд І и премиерът Малинов са в Петербург, bg-history.info: Фердинанд I Сакскобургготски е отговорен за обявяването на Междусъюзническата война и претърпяната от България първа национална катастрофа. Под негово влияние България се присъединява към Тройния съюз по време на Първата световна война. Последвалата втора национална катастрофа принуждава Фердинанд I да абдикира от българския престол на 3 октомври 1918 г. в полза на своя син Борис III. [Translation: "Ferdinand I of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, dissuaded from declaring for the Inter-Allied war, brought on Bulgaria the first national catastrophe. Under his influence Bulgaria joined the Triple Alliance in the period of the First World War. The consequent second national catastrophe forced Ferdinand I to abdicate from the Bulgarian throne on 3 October 1918 in favor of his son Boris III."]
  9. ^ Bulgaria - Media and Human rights
  10. ^ See Globalization Index



  • Raymond Detrez. Historical Dictionary of Bulgaria Second Edition. 2006. lxiv + 638 pp. Maps, bibliography, appendix, chronology. ISBN 978-0-8108-4901-3.
  • R J Crampton. A Concise History of Bulgaria (1997)
  • Hristo Hristov. History of Bulgaria [translated from the Bulgarian, Stefan Kostov ; editor, Dimiter Markovski]. Khristov, Khristo Angelov,. 1985.
  • Barbara Jelavich. History of the Balkans (1983)
  • D. Kossev, H. Hristov and D. Angelov; Short history of Bulgaria (1963).
  • Lampe, John R., and Marvin R. Jackson. Balkan Economic History, 1550-1950: From Imperial Borderlands to Developing Nations. 1982. online edition
  • Lampe, John R. The Bulgarian Economy in the Twentieth Century. 1986.
  • Nikolai Todorov. Short history of Bulgaria (1921)

Pre 1939

  • Nevill Forbes. Balkans: A history of Bulgaria, Serbia, Greece, Rumania, Turkey 1915.
  • Hall, Richard C. Bulgaria's Road to the First World War. Columbia University Press, 1996.
  • Mercia MacDermott; A History of Bulgaria, 1393-1885 (1962) online edition
  • Duncan M. Perry; Stefan Stambolov and the Emergence of Modern Bulgaria, 1870-1895 (1993) online edition
  • Steven Runciman; A History of the First Bulgarian Empire (1930) online edition


  • Michael Bar-Zohar. Beyond Hitler's Grasp: The Heroic Rescue of Bulgaria's Jews
  • Alexenia Dimitrova. The Iron Fist: Inside the Bulgarian secret archives
  • Stephane Groueff. Crown of Thorns: The Reign of King Boris III of Bulgaria, 1918–1943
  • Tzvetan Todorov The Fragility of Goodness: Why Bulgaria's Jews Survived the Holocaust
  • Tzvetan Todorov. Voices from the Gulag: Life and Death in Communist Bulgaria


  • John D. Bell, ed. Bulgaria in Transition: Politics, Economics, Society, and Culture after Communism (1998) online edition


  • 12 Myths in Bulgarian History/ [by] Bozhidar Dimitrov; Published by "KOM Foundation," Sofia, 2005.
  • The 7th Ancient Civilizations in Bulgaria [The Golden Prehistoric Civilization, Civilization of Thracians and Macedonians, Hellenistic Civilization, Roman [Empire] Civilization, Byzantine [Empire] Civilization, Bulgarian Civilization, Islamic Civilization]]/ [by] Bozhidar Dimitrov; Published by "KOM Foundation," Sofia, 2005 (108 p.)

External links


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