Ancient Thracian, Greek, and Roman civilizations have each left their mark on the Bulgarian lands, but the story of the modern Bulgarian people began with the Slavic migrations into the Balkan Peninsula in the 6th and 7th centuries. The name ”Bulgaria” comes from the Bulgars, a Turkic people who migrated from the steppe north of the Black Sea, conquered the Slavic tribes and founded the First Bulgarian Kingdom in 681. The Bulgars were absorbed in the larger Slavic population, a process that was facilitated by the adoption of Orthodox Christianity by Boris I in the 9th century. Under Boris’s son, Tsar Simeon I, the kingdom reached the height in the vigor of its commercial and intellectual life.
Bulgaria declined under Simeon’s successors, and in 1014 the Byzantine emperor Basil II won a battle over the Bulgarian army after which he ordered 14000 prisoners to be blinded. For this Basil II took the title ”Bulgaroktonus”, or Bulgar slayer, and Bulgaria was ruled by Byzantium until 1185. In that year the brothers Ivan and Peter Assen launched a successful revolt that led to the establishment of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom with its capital at Turnovo. Under Tsar Ivan Assen II (1218-41) the state was weakened by peasant revolt and attacks from Mongols, Serbs, and finally succumbed to the invasion of the Ottoman Turks.
During the nearly 500 years of the ”Ottoman Yoke”, Bulgaria’s national customs and values were preserved in the monasteries and in mountain villages isolated from Turkish influence. In the 18th century, Paisi, a Bulgarian monk of the Khilendar Monastery on Mt. Athos, used mediaeval texts to prepare a history of his people, calling on them to remember their past and former greatness. Paisi’s history is regarded as the beginning of the National Revival that was marked by the rapid expansions of Bulgarian schools and by the achievement of an independent Bulgarian Orthodox, Exarchate in 1870. Six years later Bulgarian revolutionaries launched the April Uprising, whose brutal suppression created outrage in Europe and helped to provoke the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78. The war ended with the Treaty of San Stefano that created a large Bulgarian state, whose borders were based on those of the Exarchate. The Western Powers, however, feared that Bulgaria would be a satellite of Russia and insisted on a revision of the treaty. At the Congress of Berlin in 1879 only the part of the country between the Balkan range and the Danube was allowed to become an autonomous principality. The lands south of the Balkan Range were given the name ”Eastern Rumelia” under Christian governor appointed by the Porte. And Macedonia was returned entirely to the Ottoman administration. A convention held in Turnovo adopted a constitution for the new state and chose Alexander Battenberg as its first prince.
In 1885, when the Bulgarians of Eastern Rumelia declared their union with the north, Serbia attacked. Prince Alexander led the Bulgarian forced to victory, but abdicated because he had lost the good will of Russia. Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was elected to the throne in 1887. In 1908, Ferdinand took the title of Tsar, and his desire to regain all the lands of the San Stefano Treaty led to the formation of an alliance with Serbia, Montenegro, and Greece. In the First Balkan War (1912) the allies forced Turkey to relinquish its remaining Balkan territories. However, they fell out among themselves and fought the Second Balkan War (1913), which Bulgaria lost. Bulgaria was also on the losing side in World War I, and had to give up territory to Serbia and Greece. Ferdinand was forced to abdicate, and the throne passed to his son Boris III. The government was then in the hands of Alexander Stambolijski, leader of the Bulgarian Agraran National Union, who lauched a dramatic series of reforms before he was overthrown and murdered in 1923. Gradually, Tsar Boris III with the support of the army established his personal control over the country.
During the World War II, Boris was a reluctant ally of Germany. Bulgaria declared ”symbolic war” on Great Britain and the United States, but did not send its forces into combat and declined to deport its Jewish population to the death camps in Poland. In September 1944 the Soviet Union suddenly declared war on Bulgaria and quickly occupied it. In conjunction with the Soviet invasion, a Communist-led coalition, called the Fatherland Front, seized power in Sofia. Under Georgi Dimitrov the Communists consolidated their power, and by the end of 1947 completely eliminated their opponents.
During the Communist era, Bulgaria acquired the reputation of being the most loyal ally of the Soviet Union, imitating Soviet Collectivization and industrialization policies. The removal from office of longtime leader Todor Zhivkov on 10 November 1989 began the current era of political and economic transition.
The democratic changes in Bulgaria started at the end of 1989, when multi-party elections were held and a new constitution was adopted. At this time Bulgaria began its transition to democratic development and a market economy. Its foreign policy was redirected towards rapprochement with European institutions. Since 1991, Bulgaria has been a member of the Council of Europe, and in 2004 Bulgaria became a member of NATO. In 1995, it filed an application to join the European Union, with negotiations commencing in 1999. On 25 April 2005, the Accession Treaty granting the Republic of Bulgaria the right to join the European Union was signed in Luxemburg. On 1 January 2007, after fulfilling all membership criteria, Bulgaria became of full-fl in Luxemburg was signed edged member of the European Union.
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