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Bulgarian History
Bulgarian Historic Snapshot

Before The Bulgarian State

Before The Bulgarian State

The first known civilization to dominate the territory of present-day Bulgaria was that of the Thracians, an Indo-European group. Although politically fragmented, Thracian society is considered to have been comparable to that of Greece in the arts and economics; these achievements reached a peak in the sixth century B.C. Because of political disunity, however, Thrace then was successively occupied and divided by the Greeks, the Persians, the Macedonians, and the Romans. After the decline of the Macedonian Empire of Alexander the Great, a new Thracian kingdom emerged in the third century B.C. Occupied by the Romans, it remained a kingdom within the Roman Empire until the emperor Vespasian incorporated it as a district in the first century A.D. Roman domination brought orderly administration and the establishment of Serditsa (on the site of modern Sofia) as a major trading center in the Balkans. In the fourth century A.D., when the Roman Empire split between Rome and Constantinople, Thrace became part of the Eastern, or Byzantine, Empire. Christianity was introduced to the region at this time. Both the Latin culture of Rome and the Greek culture of Constantinople remained strong influences on ensuing civilizations.

First Bulgarian Kingdom

First Bulgarian Kingdom

Bulgaria emerged and received official recognition following two victories over the cosmopolitan Byzantine empire. The first battles took place in the Danube delta area in the year 680 A.D. The conflicts continued in the following year, spreading south of the Balkan Range. This is cited in the Acts of the Sixth Oecumenical Council of the Christian Church in Constantinople (present-day Istanbul). This council, over the course of almost a year, debated and asserted - in opposition to the monothelitic heresy - the official thesis that Christ had two wills, one divine and the other human.

On March 18th, 681, the Byzantine emperor Constantine IV Pagonatus departed from the Council to curb the incursions of the Proto-Bulgarians into Thrace, which violated the wholeness of the empire. But he failed to break their dauntless will and strength. The sixteenth sitting of the Council took place on August 9th of the same year and this is how presbyter Constantine of Apameia in Second Syria addressed the Council: 'I have come to your holy council to tell you that if I had been let to come and speak, we should have suffered what we have been through in the war with the Bulgarians. Because I wanted, from the very beginning of this council, to come and ask that peace be made, so that something be done to unite the two sides, and either be spared the misery, that is to say, both those who preach the single will and those who uphold the two wills'. It is asserted on the basis of this source that the decisive event occurred not earlier than March 18th and no later than August 9th of The year 681. The First Bulgarian Empire was able to defeat the Byzantine Empire in 811 and expand its territory eastward to the Black Sea, south to include Macedonia, and northwest to present-day Belgrade. The kingdom reached its greatest size under Tsar Simeon (893-927), who presided over a golden age of artistic and commercial expansion. After moving deep into Byzantine territory, Simeon was defeated in 924. Meanwhile, Rome and Byzantium competed for political and cultural influence in Bulgaria. The Eastern Empire won in 870 when Bulgaria accepted Eastern Rite (Orthodox) Christianity and an autocephalous Bulgarian Church was established. This decision opened Bulgaria to Byzantine culture (and territorial ambitions) through the literary language devised for the Slavs by the Orthodox monks Cyril and Methodius. Establishment of a common, official religion also permanently joined the Bulgarian and Slavic cultures.

After reaching its peak under Simeon, the First Bulgarian Empire declined in the middle of the tenth century. Byzantine opposition and internal weakness led to a loss of territory to the Magyars and the Russians. Bulgaria remained economically dependent on the Byzantine Empire, and the widespread Bogomil heresy opposed the secular Bulgarian state and its political ambitions as work of the devil. Seeking to restore a balance of power in the Balkans, the Byzantines allied with the Kievan Russians under Yaroslav and invaded Bulgaria several times in the late tenth century. Although the Bulgarians expanded their territory again briefly under Tsar Samuil at the end of the tenth century, in 1014 the Byzantines under Basil II inflicted a major military loss. By 1018 all of Bulgaria was under Byzantine control. For nearly two centuries, the Byzantines ruled harsh

Second Bulgarian Kingdom

Second Bulgarian Kingdom

By 1185 the power of the Byzantine Empire again waned because of external conflicts. The noble brothers Asen and Peter led a revolt that forced Byzantine recognition of an autonomous Bulgarian state. Centered at Turnovo (present-day Veliko Turnovo), this state became the Second Bulgarian Empire. Like the First Bulgarian Empire, the second expanded at the expense of a preoccupied Byzantine Empire. In 1202 Tsar Kaloian (1197-1207) concluded a final peace with Byzantium that gave Bulgaria full independence. Kaloian also drove the Magyars from Bulgarian territory and in 1204 concluded a treaty with Rome that consolidated Bulgaria's western border by recognizing the authority of the pope. By the middle of the thirteenth century, Bulgaria again ruled from the Black Sea to the Adriatic. Access to the sea greatly increased commerce, especially with the Italian Peninsula. Turnovo became the center of Bulgarian culture, which enjoyed a second golden age.

The final phase of Bulgaria's second Balkan dominance was the reign of Kaloian's successor, Ivan Asen II. In this period, culture continued to flourish, but political instability again threatened. After the death of Ivan Asen II, internal and external political strife intensified. Sensing weakness, the Tatars began sixty years of raids in 1241, the Byzantines retook parts of the Second Bulgarian Empire, and the Magyars again advanced. From 1257 until 1277, aristocratic factions fought for control of the Bulgarian throne. Heavy taxation by feudal landlords caused their peasants to revolt in 1277 and enthrone the "swineherd tsar" Ivailo. After 1300 Tatar control ended, and a new period of expansion followed under Mikhail Shishman (1323-1330) and Ivan Aleksandur (1331-1370). As before, however, military and commercial success paralleled internal disorder; the social chaos of the previous century continued to erode the power of Bulgarian leaders. Meanwhile, Serbia had risen as a formidable rival in the Balkans, and the Ottoman Turks had advanced to the Aegean coast. In the late fourteenth century, Bulgaria was weakened by the division of its military defenses between the two perceived threats.

Rila Monastery

Under Foreign Control

The pre-history of the Ottoman Turks (after the name of the dynasty of their first ruler Osman), proceeded for centuries in Central Asia. Driven out of there by the Mongolian-Tartars, according to some sources in the 13th century they, numbering about 50,000, settled within the borders of the ephemerial and disintegrating nomadic empire of the Seljuks to whom they were related. Their small Islamic state in north-western Anatolia swelled rapidly at the expense of the Byzantine territories in Asia Minor a large part of whose population they succeeded in assimilating. Instead of storming Constantinople as many of their predecessors had done, they went round it and set foot on the Balkan Peninsula in the middle of the 14th century (immediately after the plague epidemic that had raged in the whole of Europe, decimating two thirds of the population in some western countries). After gaining a foothold in the Balkans, they made Edirne their capital. That was a real threat to the population of the peninsula and they put up stubborn resistance. It was after fifty years of constant attacks and bloodsheds coupled with stratagems and combinations vis-a- vis the disunited feudal rulers that they conquered Bulgaria and headed west. Meanwhile, they seized Constantinople in 1453 and made it their capital. The fact that Suleiman the Magnificent (1520-1566) considered himself successor to the emperors of the Eastern Roman Empire and proclaimed himself Caesar was evidence of their growing appetites. Their campaigns of conquest in the west were stopped at the gates of Vienna. Thus Bulgarians, Greeks, Serbs, Albanians, Ukrainians, Armenians and Arabs remained in Ottoman bondage for several centuries. After taking Egypt and Syria in 1517, the Sultans also assumed the title of caliphs.

During the fall of Constantinople the representatives of the clerical elite of the Byzantine Empire headed for the West taking along valuable ancient literature. Because the Ottoman Empire had imposed control over what were until then considered traditional sea and land merchant routes to the Asian continent, the search for new routes was encouraged in the Western countries. What was achieved surpassed all expectations: a new continent was discovered, a new route to India was found and there appeared colonial empires of a capitalist type whose expansion was also in the direction of the Ottoman empire.
What remained from the long rule of the Ottoman sultans was the memory of the education system (medreses) that fettered the spiritual development of their people, of the atrocities committed by them and the wars that followed one another as well as of the many tax registers (unlike the Arab caliphs, for example, who also ruled over part of Spain for seven centuries, and of the Great Mongols who ruled over part of India for nearly a century, but patronized the sciences and the arts and encouraged and facilitated the establishment of important cultural centres). The resources obtained from the Vassal States enabled the Ottoman upper crust to keep their own people in obedience and patriarchal oriental backwardness. The decline of the empire was precipitated by the national- liberation movements of the peoples ruled by them as well as by the series of Russo-Turkish wars. As a result of the successful antiimperialist lit)eration movement headed by, Kemal Ataturk, the modern Repeblic of Turkey was founded.

On the eve of the Ottoman occupation, the population of Bulgaria split into two kingdoms and two independent feudal areas, numbered, according to rough estimates, about 2,500,000 people. It is assumed that immediately after the establishment of Ottoman power it was reduced by half - some part of the Bulgarians perished in the course of the war, others were taken captive and sold in slavery.

From the fifteenth to the eighteenth century the Bulgarian population, which was composed primarily of peasants, was placed in the conditions of feudal oppression much graver than in previous times. The land was regarded as the property of the supreme ruler, the Sultan, who distributed it among his subordinate administrators (judges), war veterans and servicemen of the reserve, and to the so-called spahi - regular servicemen all of whom were granted the rights of feudal landowners for life. It was the duty of the landed officers and servicemen to report in times of war in full battle trim at the places of muster in various districts (sandjaks).
The Bulgarian lands became part of the region governed by theRoumelibeilerbei with a seat first in the town of Edirne and later in Sofia, including the Balkan provinces of the Ottoman Empire. The lands with a predominantly Bulgarian population were covered (in wholeor in part) by the sandjaks of Silistra, Nikopol, Vidin, Pasha (the regions of Edirne, Elhovo and Plovdiv), Chirmen (the Sub-Balkan valley), Kyustendil, Ohrid and Sofia. The Bulgarian Patriarchate was abolihed; the Christian Bulgarians were subordinated toan alien church, i.e. the Constantinople Patriarch, who appointed mainly Greeks to Bulgarian bishoprics.

The Ottoman military-feudal system was influenced by Arab, Persian, Turkic, Mongolian and Byzantine political practices. This system of government headed by the sultan (the padishah) accorded primary role to the estste of the ulems (theologians and legislators upholding theocracy). Overcoming duality in the political structure and the unification of these two forces into a unitary system of the "realm of the faith" was achieved through the proclamation of the sultan as "Allah's shadow on Earth" and by including most of the ulems into the state apparatus. Unity and centralization in the large empire was maintained mainly by extra-economic methods, primarily through highly developed socio-political institutions. Prime importance was accorded to Islam (the word means obedience, submissiveness) - to that last offshoot of monotheism which had become a world religion. The Ottomans claimed that it was they who spread the pure, orthodox so called Sunni Islam contrary to the Shiite branch of Islam which had estahlished itself in Iran. (By this,they also justified their numerous conflicts with Iran in the 16th and 17th centuries). As the Soviet scholar of Ottoman Turkey M. S. Mayer points out, the sultans "devoted a great deal of attention to the spreading of the Muslim religion in the newly conquered European territories, both by forcible Islamization of the population and by creating numerous faith-propagating centres (imarets) on the basis of vakif property". The aim was to inculcate obedience and submissiveness to the supreme authority, given the existing economic fragmentariness and ethnic and religious diversity of the subjects in the Empire. Naturally, the results of these efforts fell far short of expectations. It was a system under which the central authorities were mainly interested in the efficient functioning of the fiscal institutions.

Every one of the feudal lords in the Empire was entitled to a portion of the incomes of his subordinate households and the fees on the issued certificates (tapis) through which the households acquired plots of land (the fee equalled half of the yearly revenue from the land). The "owners" thus bound to the soil had to conform to the preferences of the lord as to what to plant on the soil and had no right to leave their feudal lord.
The service feudal estates (spahiliks) in many respects resembled the Byzantine pronia. Naturally, the Ottoman system of land ownership sustained substatial transformations, especially at the turn of the 19th century when in the regions suitable for industrial crops new estates called cifliks were formed. They were subject to lawful sale and purchase, could employ hired labour and produced crops for the market (e.g. in north-western Bulgaria, in the Macedonia area and in Thrace). That was a process similar to the "enclosures" in 16th and 17th century England as a result of which the land was expropriated from the peasants who became hired hands to the new owners or joined the urban plebs.

In any case, the Ottoman state developed best those of its functions which most helped plunder the population. The heaviest tax collected by the state from the non-Muslim people was the poll-tax (ciziye). Every non-Muslim from the age of 15 to 75 had to pay only for figuring in the lists of the Sultan's subjects (such lists were made once in 30 years). According to a 1736 decree, the wealthier Christians paid 10 grosh each, the middling ones - 5 grosh and the poorer ones - 2.5 grosh (one grosh at that time bought 13 loaves of bread of 750 g each).
The local lord was paid by the non-Muslim households a land tax (ispenc ) which was greater than the tax owed by a Muslim household on the same size of land. Another regular obligation of the raya (subjects) towards the feudal lord was the tithe on the produce of the land (usur) - between 1/10 and 1/8 of the yield.

These were the main taxes which were systematically infringed, i.e. they were arbitrarily increased by their collectors, to say nothing of various other levies, fees, fenes and corvee, extraordinary taxes during military campaigns which subsequently became permanent and which burdened the non-Muslim population. In addition to this economic pressure, there were regular campaigns of Islamizing the Bulgarian people by force, especially in the Rhodopes and in Northern Bulgaria. A particularly cruel form of oppression was the blood tax (devsirme), levied periodically from the 15th to the 18th century. The Bulgarian families were forced to give up their best male children who were then Turkified and educated in exceptional Muslim fanaticism. They made up the janissary corps and became the mainstay of the Ottoman authorities. Other forms of assimilation included abductions of Christian women who were forced to become wives and mothers of Muslims, the forcible re-settlement of Bulgarians in Anatolia, physical extermination, etc.

Under these conditions, the Bulgarians found refuge-particularly in the initial centuries of Ottoman domination-in their traditional commune and also in the local cloister, newly-built or remaining from the past age. Although their state had been abolished and they themselves were reduced to living in primitive conditions, the Bulgarians succeeded in preserving themselves as a nationality. The more stouthearted resorted to armed resistance, fleeing into the mountains. From acts of personal revenge, the haidout movement of rebels became a means of collective self-defence. There were also periodic rebellions and insurrections.

The campaigns against the Ottomans by the rulers of certain Central European states sparked off armed unrest among the Bulgarians but failed to bring about the expected change in the state of affairs. However, it was Russia who became the mainstay of the Balkan Christian population, the Bulgarians included. (By the end of the 15th century Russia had already freed itself from Tartar domination).
Cultural and political links between the Bulgarian people and Russia were restored during the 16th century, when the Moscow kingdom had come to stay as the only large, independent state where the Eastern Orthodox religion had survived and struck roots as the official religion. In the words of Priest Philotey of Pskov after the Turks conquered Constantinople, i.e. after 1453, Moscow became the third Rome, 'and a fourth there will never be'. The legendary myth of 'grandfather Ivan' as the personification of protective Russia was widespread among the Bulgarians. The Russo-Turkish wars of the 18th and 19th centuries, some of which were fought on Bulgarian soil, helped confirm the credibility of this legend.
All along economy had forged ahead. Through trade and finance the Ottoman empire worked its way into the Western European economy. European merchandise appeared on the markets of the empire and ports were built for the export of farm products to Western and Central Europe. Many Bulgarians were engaged in this area of trade.

The changes affected the rural areas too, leading to somewhat easier living circumstances. A great number of peasants migrated to the towns, where the Bulgarian element was beginning to gain dominance. The Bulgarians, quick at learning commerce and mastering the crafts, formed their own trade guilds, which had a large membership. The husiness section of the Bulgarians was coming to the fore. Well-off Bulgarians became the proprietors of trading firms, in import and export of goods, organized large-scale stock-breeding or took over the collection of state taxes. The Bulgarians did brisk business on the markets in Central Europe (Hungary, Poland, Walachia and Russia) where full-fledged colonies of Balkan and Bulgarian merchants sprang up.

At home the Bulgarian townfolk competed with the Greeks and the Walachians for business. The Bulgarian side of the competition was supported hy the peasantry, which was suffering under the arbitrary taxation policy of the Constantinople patriarchy, which controlled, in addition to the Church, the Bulgarian schools where instruction was given in Greek. The Bulgarians longed to exterminate the Greek language and influence in the Bulgarian church, schools and public life. The most outstanding exponent of such endeavours was Father Paissi of Hilendar (1722 - 1773). He himself came from a village (Bansko, present-day Blagoevgrad district), whose craftsmen and merchants were competing with the Greeks both on the domestic and Austrian markets. Being familiar with the Greek and Serbian national movements (they developed, for a number of reasons, earlier than the Bulgarian) he sat down and wrote a small book called 'Slav-Bulgarian History' (1762), which became a 'popular patriotic gospel' (Prof. Hristo Gandev).

Paissi's book was the result of several decades of uplift, which spread throughout the Central and North - Eastern Balkans, where the population was predominantly Bulgarian. This was an epoch of the re-creation of Bulgaria, known as the Bulgarian national revival.

Bulgarian Revival

Bulgarian National Revival

which spanned a period from the early 18th c. to 1878. The revival process was in full swing during the first half and especially during the third quarter of the 19th century, the time when the Bulgarian bourgeoisie, having gained in number, economic power and social status, was highly susceptible to West European political and cultural influence and was able to appreciate the significance of national enlightenment and science. All this came as a result of the intense trade with Europe.
And, while we know of the existence of some 390 monasteries and settlements in which books were handcopied and most of which had small schools during the 17th and 18th century (in these schools, mostly set up at monasteries, instruction was given by the synthetical method, the church psalms and basic arithmetic, though on a smaller scale; teachers at such schools used to exercise the pupils on a wax-coated board), in the '70s of the 19th century there were some 2000 schools in the Bulgarian-populated lands - democratic in character and secular in the nature of education. Textbooks, too, began to be published as early as the first stage of the ensuing education work. After the 'Fish Primer' was issued in 1824 (the first textbook for elementary school), textbooks in grammar, arithmetic, history, geography, physics and other school subjects began to appear at various times.

During the early 19th century a unified spoken and written new Bulgarian language started to establish itself through education, literature and journalism. This language became prevalent in all regions populated by Bulgarians who, towards the mid-19th century, numbered no fewer than 4 million in Moesia, Thrace and Macedonia, which equalled four times as much as the ruling nationality - the Turks (according to approximate estimates, based on a 1844 household census taken in the Balkan provinces vassal to the Porte).

The Bulgarian parishes (the sole form of organization for the Bulgarians after their state was conquered) during the 19th century gradually became a major institution of the Bulgarian nation, carrying out administrative, taxation, educational and c'ultural work. They also became schools for public life, notwithstanding their limited authority and the conservatism of the well-to - do Bulgarians (the chorbadjii). The trade guilds too were involved in this upsurge and the teachers, both in the town and in the country, stood at its helm. The movement for Bulgarian education and an independent Bulgarian church, this 'bourgeois peaceful revolution in the Bulgarian lands' (Dimiter Blagoev) engaged generations of national enlighteners, some of whom fell prey to the persecution and slander of the Patriarchy and the Ottoman rule. Such was the fate, for instance, of the brothers Dimiter and Kostadin Miladinov, who pioneered the collection and publication of Bulgarian folklore (their work has today been published in ten volumes). In 1870 the Porte officially recognized the independent Bulgarian church and hence the Bulgarians as an independent nationality (prior to this the Bulgarians were categorized either as Christians or Greeks).

The intellectual life of the Bulgarians in the 19th century was influenced strongly by Russian culture. Russian scholars and public figures placed themselves at the service of the Bulgarian revival. The government of Russia issued grants to Bulgarian youths who were sent to study in Russia by Bulgarian village communes and city municipalities, school trustees and parish councils. Among those educated in Russia were such distinguished Bulgarians as Naiden Gerov (author of a six-volume dictionary of the Bulgarian language), Prof. Marin Drinov, Nesho Bonchev, Lyuben Karavelov and Hristo Botev.

The Bulgarians also drew on the experience of the European democratic movements. Quite a few Bulgarians were involved in these movements and the liberation struggles of neighbouring peoples.

However, the struggle of the Bulgarians for political liberation encountered many complications. Russia and the Austrian empire had, since the end of the 16te century, been putting systematic pressure on the Porte, directing their expansion to the Balkans. In the meantime the economic contacts of the Ottoman empire with Western Europe facilitated the development of productive forces on the empire's territory and the promotion of the new, mor'e progressive bourgeois social relations. The credits allocated to the empire by the West European capitalist countries bound it to economic dependency and in time the Ottoman empire became a kind of a semi-colony and a target of the conflicting interests of the Great Powers who spelled the course of European affairs. These conflicting interests, the designs of the foreign powers on the possessions of the withering Ottoman empire were impersonally known as the 'Eastern Question'. The object of the antagonistic aspirations was very much partial, however. In the chronically ailing empire the oppressed nationalities were standing up for their rights, seeking ways and means to throw off foreign domination. They also were a part of this 'Eastern Question'.

During the first half of the nineteenth century Russia dominated the scene, becoming, by virtue of her political and military might, a major factor in European politics. At the time Russia acted more or less unimpeded against the Ottoman empire, and her aspirations objectively coincided with those of the liberation struggles of the Balkan peoples.

During the war of 1810-1811 Russian troops controlled for some time the Bulgarian towns of Dobrich, Pleven, Razgrad, Lovech and Sevlievo. Organizing their assistance to the Russians, the Bulgarians set up their own People's Committee for Liberation, headed by bishop Sophronius of Vratsa, one of the first writers of the Bulgarian Revival. The Committee also organized a Bulgarian People's Army, which took part in the siege of Silistra in 1811. During the war of 1828-29, when the Russian army crossed the Balkans from the Danube on the way to Adrianople, the Bulgarians again organized themselves to fight for liberation. The Porte relinquished its hold on some of its possessions, albeit on the outlying ones. It granted autonomy to Serbia in 1815 and independence to Greece in 1829. The attainment of the political freedom of the Bulgarians, due to the country's proximity to the capital of the empire and for a number of other reasons, proved the crux of the Eastern question. Many Bulgarians over this period left their native parts to settle in Russia.

After the Crimean War (1853-1856) external circumstances from the point of view of the Bulgarian struggles for political liberation were complicated. Russia suffered defeat. The West European capitalist states, whose designs provided for the preservation of the entity of the Ottoman empire, gained superiority in the settlement of the Eastern question. From the beginning of the 19th century the Porte launched some reforms aimed at revitalizing the empire. A regular army was set up on the Western European model. The spahi institution was abolished in the '30s to let the basic producers, the farmers and artisans, settle their relationship with central power directly through taxation, independent of their local masters. These and other reforms that followed were, however, either only half - way implemented or simply remained on paper. Great care was expended only on the upkeep of a well-equipped and modernized army.

The penetration of European capitalism into the economy of the Ottoman empire led to a one-sided economic development within the empire and the Bulgarian lands. Many of the workshops, whose produce had been sold on the empire's markets all the way from Bosnia to Egypt and throughout the Arab Peninsula, failed to keep up with the competition and went bankrupt. The Ottoman empire became an exporter of farm produce (cotton, wool, leather, fur, silk, etc.) to the European markets and a consumer of a large portion of Europe's industrial goods.

It was in these circumstances that the Bulgarians' patriarchal and regional awareness became a national awareness. In the context of foreign domination the structure of Bulgarian society did not become entirely bourgeois. In the third quarter of the 19th century four textile and two silk-spinning mills, two soap-making factories, a salt-petre factory, a state printing house and rolling stock repair shop, a macaroni factory, a beer and liquor breweries, a shoepolish factory, three tanneries, six steam-operated flour mills and some twenty more advanced water-mills went into operation on territories populated by Bulgarians. This made a total of 25 industrial enterprises employing no more than 750 workers. The numbers of the working class grew also as a result of the differeritiation that took place among the artisans and the increasing demand for wage labour by city firms, shops and inns. According to latest research, hired- and white-collar workers in the cities by the end of the '60s amounted to 12 per cent. Their wages were paltry and labour legislation non-existent.

A fair number of Bulgarians had intentions of building new factories but they came up against insurmountable difficulties and their capital thus went mostly into commerce or money-lending. In this way Bulgarian society was unable to go beyond the manufacturing, commercial and money-lending stage of capitalist development. In this situation the individual social groups had two-way functions -they were bound both to the old disintegrating system and to the new economic activities opposing the old system. All strata of Bulgarian society suffered, to a varying degree, under the burden of foreign political oppression and were aware of the need for their own Bulgarian state organization. For this reason patriotic aspirations prevailed in the Bulgarian liberation movement despite class and ideological differences. This found expression in social charity: the well-off Bulgarians donated money for the construction of schools and public buildings, the decoration of churches and monasteries, the development of their native places, the erection of water-fountains, book publication, the education of the young, etc.

By the mid-nineteenth century the Bulgarian nation already had its own intelligentsia whose members had obtained their degrees in various European universities and who had learned from the experience of the other liberation movements on the continent. This intelligentsia began to revise the traditional national virtues in unison with the cultural upsurge of Western Europe, supplemented by the general pan-Slavic spiritual awakening. This brought in its wake the creation of inimitable works of Bulgarian art (particularly during the third quarter of the 19th century, and in iconography and church-painting as early as the beginning of the century). There were many Bulgarians among the numerous builders, icon-painters, woodcarvers and stone-masons who travelled to work in Constantinople, Jerusalem and Alexandria. Upon return to their country they constructed and decorated the tall and elegant houses, preserved to date in Plovdiv and Koprivshtitsa. In the meantime the first Bulgarian scholars obtained their degrees and began to work outside their homeland, in Russia, Romania, France and other countries. Suffice it to follow the work and progress of Spiridon Palaouzov, Marin Drinov and Dr Peter Beron of Kotel (author of the Fish Primer) who worked in France, building his own cosmogony-panepistemology.

The Bulgarian Revival, this 'wonder of the 19th century', as Louis Leger called it, does not lend to a sketchy, diagrammatical description; it cannot be conceived as the direct result of the existing economic base, which remained but implicit. The main-spring of the potential of the nation, elevated to a maximum, was something different. The antipodes stood out clearly and when the prerequisites and conditions were at hand they brought to life titans of the mind and the cause. When a community combines its forces to overcome the factors impeding its progress, it professes an extraordinary affinity for the accomplishments of the preceding generations and the surrounding world. The maxim: 'We are in time and time is in us. We transform it and it transforms us' (Vassil Levski) holds good in this case.

The third quarter of the century was characterized by the rapid development of Bulgarian culture which, permeated by Renaissance, Enlightenment and humanistic ideas, adapted modern bourgeois conceptions of social life to regional conditions and tasks.

Most of the writers and revolutionaries of the Bulgarian National Revival were educated in Russia, in the atmosphere and spirit of the Russian populist intelligentsia, who fought against the autocracy for a republic and a representative popular government. We must add to this the direct or oblique influence of the forces opposing national and social injustice in the European countries - the platform of Giuseppe Mazzini which had acquired European significance, the Italian national liberation movement headed by Giuseppe Garibaldi, the Polish revolutionaries, the revolutionary democratism of Hertzen, Chernishevski, Dobrolyubov and Nekrasov, of Proudhon and Bakunin, of the First International and the example set by the Paris Commune.

The preparations for the national liberation revolution began in the early '60s under the guidance of Georgi Sava Rakovski (1821 - 1867). The revolutionary actions of the time, the dispatching to Bulgaria across r'eighbouring borders of Bulgarian revolutionary chetas did not meet the support of the local population. The well-to-do Bulgarians were as yet reserved and hesitant.

Relatively better prospects for the Bulgarian national liberation movement opened up only at the end of the '60s and the early '70s after the Austro-Prussian war (1866) and the Franco-Prussian war (1870-1871) when the Ottoman empire lost two of its most ardent patrons (Austria and France) and Russia rejected the restrictive clauses of the 1856 Treaty of Paris and regained its status as a great power. As far as Russian foreign policy was concerned, however, the Eastern Question remained in the background during this period, too. This made it imperative for the Bulgarians to surmount the policy of temporization and accommodation towards Great Power policy and turn to active revolutionary work which would bring about the final resolution. The Bulgarian revolutionaries became aware of this necessity in time. This is shown by the way in which the great Bulgarian poet and revolutionary Hristo Botev (1848-1876) called for 'a revolution of the people, immediate, desperate': 'Europe and the political circumstances grant freedom and independence only to those who can win it alone'.

It became apparent that armed struggle was the only way out and that the path was irreversible. It was in this spirit that an entire generation of revolutionaries matured, whose humanism and uncompromising patriotism, respect for equality and freedom went hand in hand with the building of a revolutionary organization congenial to the conditions prevailing in Bulgaria. Lyuben Karavelov, the classic of Bulgarian prose-writing and publicism, complemented the Balkans and in Europe from the point of view of the Bulgarian cause, while Hristo Botev, through his poetry and dazzling publicism elevated responsibility before the nation and mankind's freedom to the level of a cult. Together with other Bulgarian revolutionaries Hristo Botev enthusiastically hailed the Paris Commune and proclaimed 'The Credo of the Bulgarian Commune'. Unlike the pioneers of the Bulgarian Revival, who as individuals gave an impression of timidity, Hristo Botev was one of those people who came across powerfully with a clear-cut individuality of their own. He was also fully aware of what the times and duty to his country demanded of him. Reviewing what was achieved during the epoch under consideration, literary critics place Botev on a par with such world-renowned poets as Adam Mickiewicz and Sandor Petofi, and rightly so.

During the decisive stage of the struggle for political liberation there stood out the genius of Vassil Levski (1837- 1873) as an organizer who inspired hope in the Bulgarian nation's own strength and also took into account its possibilities of creating a military force of its own. Twice during the 1860s he joined the Belgrade legion (voluntary task force) which took part in operations carried out by the Serbian government against the Turkish garrison in Belgrade. A professional revolutionary, Vassil Levski toured the country on various occasions. During one of these tours, in 1869, he distributed propaganda materials both among Christians and Muslims.

Vassil Levski advanced a new tactics of revolutionary struggle which consisted in carrying out a purposeful and prolonged political and organizing work among the Bulgarians within the movement for national education and for an independent Bulgarian church, a movement that had developed during the preceding decades. Instead of engaging in scattered and sporadic actions depending on the f.oreign political situation, he advocated the establishment of a political structure and military organization backed up by the mass of the people. Levski himself took up the difficult task setting up as he did a network of local revolutionary committees, a secret postal service and security guard whose leadership was elective and subordinate to a single centre based in the town of Lovech. He drew up the Statutes of this Internal Revolutionary Organization which was approved by the General Assembly of the Bulgarian Central Revolutionary Committee headquarters in Bucharest. The Statutes indicated the way of casting off tyranny and outlined the administration of the future free Bulgarian state.

In setting up the revolutionary organization Vassil Levski proceeded from the strictly established principles which he further developed and upheld during his practical revolutionary activity: democratic centralism, internal organizational discipline, collective method of work, criticism and self-criticism in the relations between his followers. According to Levski, only 'sensible, persevering, fearless and magnanimous people' were to be entrusted with responsible work. The Apostle of Freedom, as he was called by his contemporaries, was categorical: if one of these qualities was absent, the organizer of the 'people's work' could harm the cause. Respect for the rights and freedoms of every individual was, to his mind, a sacred law dictated by the imperatives of the time. At the height of his activity, in early 1873, Levski was caught and hanged in Sofia. His work was continued by his adherents in the four revolutionary districts that had taken shape in the Bulgarian lands. After the settlement of policy problems and some reshuffles the Central Revolutionary Committee organized an armed uprising by the Bulgarians on both sides of the Balkan Range, in the region of Sredna Gora Mountain and in the northern parts.of the Rhodopes against the oppressors. This was the April uprising of 1976.

Third Bulgarian State

Third Bulgarian State


Third Bulgarian State

People's Republic of Bulgaria


Bulgaria Today

Bulgaria Today

Presented coins: 449
(Released on: 15.09.2017)
.925 Silver 23.33 gm.
Official Mintage: 3,000
(November 2017)
.925 Silver 23.33 gm.
Expected mintage: 0
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2 1/2 STOTINKI Монета
1888 2 1/2 STOTINKI
Mintage: 11,646,666

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