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After falling almost entirely under Ottoman rule in the end of the 14th century, the Bulgarian state ceased to exist as an independent entity and remained part of the Ottoman Empire for nearly five centuries until 1878. The period is widely regarded as a time of cultural and national decline as contrasted to the best years of the medieval Bulgarian Empire, mainly owing to the foreign character of the dominant empire, as well as its stagnation and decline in the later years.


Organization of Ottoman Bulgaria

The Ottomans reorganized 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 vilayets, each ruled by a Sanjakbey or Subasi accountable to the Beylerbey. Significant part of the conquered land was parceled out to the Sultan's followers, who held it as benefices fiefs (small timars, medium ziyamet and large hases) directly from him, or from the Beylerbegs. That category of land could not be sold or inherited, but reverted to the Sultan when the fiefholder died. The lands were organized as private possessions of the Sultan or Ottoman nobility, called "mülk", and also as economic base for religious foundations, called vakιf and other people. Bulgarians gave multiple regularly paid taxes as a tithe ("yushur"), a capitation tax (jizyah), a land tax ("ispench"), a levy on commerce and so on and also various group of irregularly collected taxes, products and corvees ("avariz").

Condition of the Bulgarian population

In the Ottoman Empire, Christian subjects (known as “gyaurs”, i.e. non-believers) had a legal, tributary and judicial status different form those of Muslims

The Ottomans did not normally require the Christians to become Muslims. Nevertheless, there were many cases of individual or mass conversion, especially in the Rhodopes.[1] 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 infamous blood tax (кръвен данък), also known as devşirme, 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. These corps were called Janissaries (yeni çeri or "new force") and were an elite and loyal unit of the Ottoman army.

After the Ottoman conquest all major centers of Bulgarian culture were destroyed, most of the written works were lost and the educated clergy that survived escaped to other Slavic countries.[2] Bulgarian culture entered a long period of slumber, during which it was isolated from many of the processes that occurred throughout the rest of Europe.

The Bulgarian Orthodox Church

The Sultan regarded the Ecumenical Patriarch of the Constanstinople Patriarchate as the leader of the Christian peoples of his empire. The independent Bulgarian Patriarchate was suppressed, and the Patriarch of Constantinople given control of the Bulgarian Church. The autonomous Ochrid Archbishopric was abolished in 1767. This remained a source of discontent throughout the Ottoman period. Since few outside the church were literate, the dominance of the Greek clergy led to the decline of Bulgarian elite culture. There was not a single pure Bulgarian-language modern school in the country until 1835.

First revolts and the Great Powers

While the Ottomans were ascendant, there was overt opposition to their rule. First revolt began over 1408 when two Bulgarian nobles, Konstantin and Fruzhin, liberated some regions for several years. Then there were rebellions in 1598 (First Tarnovo Uprising) and 1686 (Second Tarnovo Uprising) around the old capital Tarnovo followed by the Chiprovtsi Uprising in 1688 and insurrection in Macedonia led by Karposh in 1689, both provoked by the Austrians as part of their long war with the Ottomans. All of the uprisings were unsuccessful and were drowned in blood. Most of them resulted in massive waves of exiles, often numbering hundreds of thousands. In 1739 the Treaty of Belgrade between Austrian empire and the Ottoman Empire ended Austrian interest in the Balkans for a century. But by the 18th century the rising power of Russia was making itself felt in the area. The Russians, as fellow Orthodox Slavs, could appeal to the Bulgarians in a way that the Austrians could not. The Treaty of Küçük Kaynarca of 1774 gave Russia the right to interfere in Ottoman affairs to protect the Sultan's Christian subjects.

The struggle for independence

Following the rise of Bulgarian nationalism and cultural revival in the 18th and 19th century as part of a region-wide trend, an autonomous Bulgarian Church was established in 1870, the Bulgarian Exarchate, which was the result of a decade-long struggle with the Ottoman and Greek authorities and paved the way to the Bulgarian independence.

Armed resistance to the Ottoman rule escalated in the third quarter of the 19th century and reached its climax with the massive April Uprising of 1876 that covered much of the ethnically Bulgarian territories of the empire and was suppressed by Ottoman troops, taking the lives of many. The uprising was a reason for the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78 that ended with the establishment of an independent Bulgarian state in 1878, albeit far smaller than what Bulgarians had hoped and what was projected by the preliminary Treaty of San Stefano of 1878.

See also


  1. ^ Petrov Petar. Fateful centuries for the Bulgarian ethnicity (in Bulgarian). Sofia, 1975
  2. ^ Jireček, K. J. (1876) (in German). Geschichte der Bulgaren. Nachdr. d. Ausg. Prag 1876, Hildesheim, New York : Olms 1977. ISBN 3-487-06408-1.  




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