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Travel Guide 2   >   Europe   >   Bulgaria   >   History


Bulgarian History

Bulgaria is the site of one of the world's oldest civilizations, and the oldest known writing system (the Gradeshnitsa Tablets which date to at least 4000 BC).

In early classical times the territory of Bulgaria was inhabited by the Thracians. The Thracians were divided into various tribes, but eventually united as the Odrysian kingdom under King Teres in the 5th century BC. The region was invaded by the Romans in 188 BC, and wars continued until 45 AD when Thrace became a Roman province.

Beginning in the 2nd century AD, a semi-nomadic people, the Bulgars, began to migrate towards the West from Central Asia. By the 4th century, the Bulgars had settled in the lands to the North of the Black Sea, around the Sea of Azov, and by the 7th century had established a state known as "Great Bulgaria" or "Onoghuria" in the region. Later in the 7th century, one tribe of Bulgars moved West, defeated the Byzantine empire in a war, and were recognized in the subsequent peace treaty with the Byzantines as an independent state in 681.

The First Bulgarian Empire was established under the warrior Khan Krum (802 to 814) who conquered a number of lands in the Balkans. The empire eventually encompassed all of present day Romania, as well as parts of Serbia, Macedonia, Albania and Greece. It was during this period the Cyrillic alphabet was adopted, and Christianity was introduced to the Bulgarians.

The Byzantine Empire ruled Bulgaria from 1018 to 1185, but after a revolt in 1185, a Second Bulgarian Empire was established. However, this Empire was relatively short lived. In 1354 the Ottoman Turks crossed into Europe, and by 1396 had conquered the whole of Bulgaria.

Veliko Tarnovo - capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire (1185 to 1393)

After hundreds of years of Ottoman rule, Bulgaria began to experience a national revival inspired by western ideas from the enlightment, and the Greek revolt against Ottoman rule. In 1870, a Bulgarian Church ("Exarchate") was established, and in 1876 Bulgarians revolted against Ottoman rule in the April Uprising. Russia declared war on the Ottomans in 1877, and by 1878, most of Bulgaria was liberated from the Ottomans. Additional Ottoman territories in Europe were liberated in the First Balkan War (1912 to 1913), however Bulgaria was then defeated by the combinaton of Serbia, Greece, Romania and the Ottoman Empire in the Second Balkan War (1913) and lost a significant amount of territory as a result.

During World War I, Bulgaria was allied with Germany, Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire, and was for a while successful in making territorial gains. However, the war gradually became increasingly unpopular because of economic hardships, and because the population did not wish to fight in alliance with the Muslim Ottoman Empire against the Orthodox Christians of Serbia and Greece. As a result, mutinies broke out in the army, the government resigned, and a republic was proclaimed.

During World War II, Bulgaria attempted to avoid involvement in the war, and even managed to peacefully regain the territory of Southern Dobruja from Romania as a result of the 1940 Treaty of Craiova. Ultimately however, in 1941, Bulgaria had no choice but to join the Axis when German troops passed through the country in order to invade Greece.

After World War II, Bulgaria became officially known was the People's Republic of Bulgaria, and was ruled by the Bulgarian Communist Party. Communist rule ended in 1990, when the Communists voluntarily gave up power and held the first free elections since 1931. The transition from communism to capitalism has not been easy for Bulgaria; living standards fell dramatically and the country even experienced a sharp decline in population. However, since 1997, the economy has been growing steadily, and in 2007, Bulgaria joined the European Union.

Here are some books about the history of Bulgaria:

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Books about Bulgarian History

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A Concise History of Bulgaria (Cambridge Concise Histories)

By R. J. Crampton

Brand: Cambridge University Press
Released: 2006-01-09
Paperback (312 pages)

A Concise History of Bulgaria (Cambridge Concise Histories)
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Richard Crampton presents a general introduction to Bulgaria at the cross-roads of Christendom and Islam. This concise history traces the country's growth from pre-history, through its days as the center of a powerful medieval empire and five centuries of Ottoman rule, to the political upheavals of the twentieth century which led to three wars. It highlights 1995 to 2004, a vital period during which Bulgaria endured financial meltdown, set itself seriously on the road to reform, elected its former King as prime minister, and finally secured membership in NATO and admission to the European Union. First Edition Hb (1997) 0-521-56183-3 First Edition Pb (1997) 0-521-56719-X

Border: A Journey to the Edge of Europe

By Kapka Kassabova

Graywolf Press
Released: 2017-09-05
Paperback (400 pages)

Border: A Journey to the Edge of Europe
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“Remarkable: a book about borders that makes the reader feel sumptuously free.” ―Peter Pomerantsev

In this extraordinary work of narrative reportage, Kapka Kassabova returns to Bulgaria, from where she emigrated as a girl twenty-five years previously, to explore the border it shares with Turkey and Greece. When she was a child, the border zone was rumored to be an easier crossing point into the West than the Berlin Wall, and it swarmed with soldiers and spies. On holidays in the “Red Riviera” on the Black Sea, she remembers playing on the beach only miles from a bristling electrified fence whose barbs pointed inward toward the enemy: the citizens of the totalitarian regime.

Kassabova discovers a place that has been shaped by successive forces of history: the Soviet and Ottoman empires, and, older still, myth and legend. Her exquisite portraits of fire walkers, smugglers, treasure hunters, botanists, and border guards populate the book. There are also the ragged men and women who have walked across Turkey from Syria and Iraq. But there seem to be nonhuman forces at work here too: This densely forested landscape is rich with curative springs and Thracian tombs, and the tug of the ancient world, of circular time and animism, is never far off.

Border is a scintillating, immersive travel narrative that is also a shadow history of the Cold War, a sideways look at the migration crisis troubling Europe, and a deep, witchy descent into interior and exterior geographies.

The Balkans: A History Of Bulgaria, Serbia, Greece, Rumania and Turkey: (Timeless Classic Books)

By Nevill Forbes, D. Mitrany & Timeless Classic Books

CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Paperback (188 pages)

The Balkans: A History Of Bulgaria, Serbia, Greece, Rumania and Turkey: (Timeless Classic Books)
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This book was written in 1915. This was a time that saw many significant events that affected the Balkans. Written by four different authors from different locations, here is their preface to "The Balkans". PREFACE The authors of this volume have not worked in conjunction. Widely separated, engaged on other duties, and pressed for time, we have had no opportunity for interchange of views. Each must be held responsible, therefore, for his own section alone. If there be any discrepancies in our writings (it is not unlikely in so disputed a field of history) we can only regret an unfortunate result of the circumstances. Owing to rapid change in the relations of our country to the several Balkan peoples, the tone of a section written earlier may differ from that of another written later. It may be well to state that the sections on Serbia and Bulgaria were finished before the decisive Balkan developments of the past two months. Those on Greece and Rumania represent only a little later stage of the evolution. That on Turkey, compiled between one mission abroad and another, was the latest to be finished. If our sympathies are not all the same, or given equally to friends and foes, none of us would find it possible to indite a Hymn of Hate about any Balkan people. Every one of these peoples, on whatever side he be fighting to-day, has a past worthy of more than our respect and interwoven in some intimate way with our history. That any one of them is arrayed against us to-day is not to be laid entirely or chiefly at its own door. They are all fine peoples who have not obtained their proper places in the sun.

Bulgaria: History Retold in Brief

By Valeria Fol & Raina Gavrilova

Brand: Riva Pub House
Hardcover (159 pages)

Bulgaria: History Retold in Brief
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Book by Fol, Valeria, Ovcharov, Nikolai, Gavrilova, Raina, Gavriolv, Borislav

The BalkansA History of Bulgaria-Serbia-Greece-Rumania-Turkey

By Nevill Forbes & D. Mitrany

Released: 2012-05-17
Kindle Edition (301 pages)

The BalkansA History of Bulgaria-Serbia-Greece-Rumania-Turkey
Product Description:
This book was converted from its physical edition to the digital format by a community of volunteers. You may find it for free on the web. Purchase of the Kindle edition includes wireless delivery.

Under the Yoke

By Ivan Vazov

JiaHu Books
Paperback (246 pages)

Under the Yoke
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Under the Yoke is a novel by Ivan Vazov written in 1888. It depicts the Ottoman rule of Bulgaria and is the most famous piece of classic Bulgarian literature. The tranquillity in a Bulgarian village under Ottoman rule is only superficial: the people are quietly preparing for an uprising. The plot follows the story of Boicho Ognyanov, who, having escaped from a prison in Diarbekir, returns to the Bulgarian town of Byala Cherkva to take part in the rebellion. There he meets old friends, enemies, and the love of his life. The plot portrays the personal drama of the characters, their emotions, motives for taking part in or standing against the rebellion, betrayal and conflict.

A Concise History of Bulgaria (Cambridge Concise Histories) by R. J. Crampton (1997-01-28)

By R. J. Crampton

Cambridge University Press

A Concise History of Bulgaria (Cambridge Concise Histories) by R. J. Crampton (1997-01-28)
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