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Ivan Stefan
Tsar (Emperor) of Bulgaria
Reign 1330-1331
Predecessor Michael Shishman
Successor Ivan Alexander
Father Michael Shishman
Mother Anna Neda

Ivan Stefan (Bulgarian: Иван Стефан; in English also John Stephen) ruled as emperor (tsar) of Bulgaria from 1330 to 1331. The date of his birth is unknown, and he died in exile after 1343.

Ivan Stefan was the son of Michael Asen III (called Michael Shishman) and Anna Neda of Serbia, a daughter of King Stefan Uroš II Milutin of Serbia. After his father's accession to the Bulgarian throne in 1323, Ivan Stefan was associated as co-emperor. However, when Michael Asen III divorced Anna (Neda) to marry Theodora Palaiologina, the daughter of Emperor Michael IX Palaiologos, in 1324, Ivan Stefan went into exile in Serbia with his mother and brothers. The death of Michael Asen III in 1330 in the battle of Velbăžd (Kjustendil) was followed by a brief attempt of Ivan Stefan's uncle, the Serbian King Stefan Uroš III Dečanski to conquer Bulgaria. Meeting determined resistance, the king insisted that the Bulgarian nobility accept his nephew Ivan Stefan instead, and Ivan Stefan was installed as Bulgarian emperor in 1330.

Although Ivan Stefan was not a minor at the time of his accession, he seems to have been dominated by his mother Anna (Neda). The new regime was faced by an immediate crisis, brought on not so much by the Serbian victory at Velbăžd, as by the change in relations with the Byzantine Empire. With his sister Theodora Palaiologina and her sons chased out of Tărnovo, Emperor Andronikos III Palaiologos advanced into Bulgaria, and easily occupied the cities of Bulgarian Thrace by 1331. The discontent at the failure of the new government to forestall these losses, helped the opposition hatch a coup d'état, and Ivan Stefan was forced to flee Tărnovo together with his mother and brothers. The conspirators placed his cousin Ivan Alexander on the throne.

Ivan Stefan and his mother fled to Serbia, but after the conclusion of an alliance between Serbia and the new emperor of Bulgaria in 1332 they moved to Dubrovnik. Anna (Neda) intrigued for restoration throughout the 1330s, but the revolt in her son's favor was crushed by 1337. Ivan Stefan died after 1343, and may have married an illegitimate daughter of the prince of Taranto. His brother Shishman (Šišman) sought support from the Mongols and from the Byzantine Empire, but his efforts also came to nothing.


  • John V.A. Fine, Jr., The Late Medieval Balkans, A Critical Survey from the Late Twelfth Century to the Ottoman Conquest, Ann Arbor (1987)

External links

Preceded by
Michael Asen III
Emperor of Bulgaria
Succeeded by
Ivan Alexander


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