This is the timeline of Ancient Bulgaria from A.D. 500-1878. This is a brief outline although my hope is that it will paint a vivid picture of a beautiful people group and the strong foundation of a country with a rich heritage deeply rooted in unity and resilience.
A.D. 500-600 – Migration of Slavs to Balkan Peninsula
681 – First Bulgarian Kingdom
A treaty was signed by Byzantine rulers agreeing to pay tribute to the newly founded state of Slavs and Bulgars. This alliance with the bulgars being a achievement for the seven Slavic tribes as it gave the multiethnic tribes a sense of unity.
Bulgaria then controlled major roads linking Eastern Europe and Asia. Thus, becoming a focal point for strife. This alliance gave a barrier of protection against nomadic incursions from the northeast. Contributing greatly to political stability in this part of Medieval Europe.
The First Bulgarian Kingdom reached its highest point in political, military, social and cultural development during the reign of Czar Simeon (889-927).
1000-1100 – Byzantine rule
After the death of Czar Simeon the Bulgarian kingdom went into a deep social and political crisis and eventually fell to Byzantium. For a century and a half the Bulgarian people suffered extreme taxation, destruction of literature and cultural monuments and other forms of abuse. Even so, they did not lose their spirit of freedom and resistance. Over and over the Bulgarians shook the foundations of the Byzantine Empire through uprisings and rebellions.
1185 – Second Bulgarian Kingdom
The aristocratic boyar brothers Ivan and Peter Asen led the movement to free Bulgaria’s land between Danube River and the Balkan Mountains. This leading to the formation of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom.
The kingdom in its greatest hour of triumph during the reign of Ivan Asen II between 1218-41. With skillful diplomatic maneuvers Ivan Asen II expanded Bulgaria’s territory as in the Golden Age of Czar Simeon’s reign. The Balkan fortress of Veliko Turnovo was the capital and was extolled as the city “saved by God” and called “a second Rome”and “a new Constantinople”.
1352 – Beginning of Ottoman rule
Due to peasant revolt and fierce attacks from Mongol tribes Bulgaria faced political crisis and they fell pray to the new great power rising in Eastern Europe, the Ottoman Empire.
The last half of the 14th century, Bulgaria was conquered by the Ottoman Empire. Bulgaria would not gain independence for another 500 years. Ottoman invaders reduced hundreds of churches, settlements, monasteries and fortresses to ashes. Soldiers and civilians were slaughtered. Tens of thousands, sold into slavery. Thousands sought refuge abroad. Christians were forced to convert to Islam or forced to relocate.
1800 – Striving for Independence
By the 18th century the spirit of the Bulgarian people began to stir and by the first half of the 19th century the National Revival Movement gathered support and gained momentum. Schools and library clubs opened in villages and towns. Literature and journalism as well as churches, urban architecture and visual arts flourished.
In 1870 the Bulgarians finally won the struggle for a national church separate from the Greek Patriarchate. The independent church of Bulgaria Exarchate became the first recognized national political institution.
April Uprising of 1876
The National Revival Movement aimed at liberating Bulgaria from Ottoman rule came to a culmination in the April Uprising of 1876. The Ottoman army slaughtered men, woman and children and 80 villages were destroyed.
In 1877 Russia declared war on the Ottoman Empire and thousands of Bulgarians volunteered to join the efforts.
March 3, 1878 – Liberation from Ottoman rule
Turkey signed a treaty of capitulation, the San Stefano peace settlement, recognizing Bulgaria’s independence.
It is evident by this timeline of Bulgaria’s ancient history that there is one constant, unbreakable thread that runs deep and binds this people group tightly to their heritage, Perseverance. Despite constant oppression and great tribulation they continued to press on, fight threw, hold true and cherish their language, culture and glorious historical past. The Bulgarian people never giving up on the hope of a brighter future.
[This post is part of the Heart for Bulgaria series. An overview of our research on the country of Bulgaria.]