Bulgars and/or Bulgarians
Who are the Bulgars or Bulgarians?
The Bulgars (also Bolgars or proto-Bulgarians were a seminomadic people, probably of Turkic descent, originally from Central Asia, who from the 2nd century onwards dwelled in the steppes north of the Caucasus and around the banks of river Volga (then Itil). A branch of them gave rise to the First Bulgarian Empire.
Anthropological data collected from medieval Bulgar necropolises from Dobrudja, Crimea and the Ukrainian steppe shows that Bulgars were a high-statured Caucasoid people with a small Mongoloid admixture, and practiced artificial cranial deformation of the round type.
From historical point of view the present-day Chuvash and Bulgarians are believed to originate partly from the Bulgars. According to their DNA data, the genetic backgrounds of both populations are clearly different.
The Chuvash have a Central European and some Mediterranean genetic background (probably coming from the Caucasus), while the Bulgarians have a classical eastern Mediterranean (probably coming from the Balkans) composition. It is possible that only a cultural and low genetic Bulgar influence was brought into the two regions, without modifying the genetic background of the local populations.
A leading theory about the origins of the Bulgars is that they were Turkic speaking people from Central Asia, and their language was, alongside with Khazar, Hunnic and Chuvash, a member of the Oghuric branch of the Turkic language family.
It is supported, among other things, by the facts that some Bulgar words contained in the few surviving stone inscriptions and in other documents (mainly military and hierarchical terms such as tarkan, bagatur, and probably kan and kanartikin "prince") appear to be of Turkic origin, that the Bulgars apparently used a 12-year cyclic Bulgar calendar similar to the one adopted by Turkic and Mongolian peoples from the Chinese, with names and numbers that are deciphered as Turkic, and that the Bulgars' supreme god was apparently called Tangra, a deity widely known among the Turkic peoples under names such as Tengri, Tura etc.
Some also point out the presence of a small number of Turkic loanwords in the Slavic Old Bulgarian language, and the fact that the Bulgars used an alphabet similar to the Turkic Orkhon script, although this alphabet hasn't been satisfactorily deciphered yet: fortunately, the Bulgar inscriptions were sometimes written in Greek or Cyrillic characters, most commonly in Greek, thus allowing the scholars to identify some of the Bulgar glosses. Supposedly, the name Bulgar is derived from the Turkic verb bulga "to mix, shake, stir" and its derivative bulgak "revolt, disorder", transliterated most commonly as Bulgars the "people of mixed blood".
"Further evidence culturally linking the Danubian Bulgar state to Turkic steppe traditions was the layout of the Bulgars' new capital of Pliska, founded just north of the Balkan Mountains shortly after 681. The large area enclosed by ramparts, with the rulers' habitations and assorted utility structures concentrated in the center, resembled more a steppe winter encampment turned into a permanent settlement than it did a typical Roman Balkan city."
Another alternative view is that Bulgar, far from being affiliated to Chuvash, belonged instead to the same branch as all other surviving Turkic languages and more specifically Kazan Tatar. Bulgarian scholar Ivan Shishmanov speculated in 1900 that this was the case, and the same view is espoused also by modern Bulgarist Kazan Tatar linguist Mirfatyh Zakiev.
Cagfar Tarixi, a Russian language document of disputed authenticity, purports to be a 1680 compilation of ancient Bulgar annals. It was published by a Volga Tatar Bulgarist editor in 1993. Cagfar Tarix? contains a very detailed description of Bulgar history. Among other things, it implies that the Bulgars were formed as a result of consolidation of many Turkic and Turkicized tribes.
Archaeological finds from the Ukrainian steppe suggest that the early Bulgars had the typical culture of the nomadic equestrians of Central Asia. They were primarily nomadic herdsmen who migrated seasonally in pursuit of pastures but also planted crops such as wheat and barley. The Bulgars were skilled blacksmiths, stone masons and carpenters. From the 7th century onwards they rapidly began to settle down.
In the early 2nd century, some groups of Bulgars migrated from Central Asia to the European continent and settled on the plains between the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea. The Bulgars appear (under the ethnonym of ‘Bulensii’) in certain Latin versions of Ptolemy’s second century AD mapping, shown as occupying the territory along the northwest coast of Black Sea east of Axiacus River (Southern Bug).
Between 351 and 389, some of the Bulgars crossed the Caucasus to settle in Armenia. Toponymic data testify to the fact that they remained there and were eventually assimilated by the Armenians.
Swept by the Hunnish wave at the beginning of the 4th century, other Bulgar tribes broke loose from their settlements in Central Asia to migrate to the fertile lands along the lower valleys of the Donets and the Don rivers and the Azov seashore, assimilating what was left of the Sarmatians. Some of these remained for centuries in their new settlements, whereas others moved on with the Huns towards Central Europe, settling in Pannonia.
Those Bulgars took part in the Hun raids on Central and Western Europe between 377 and 453. After the death of Attila in 453, and the subsequent disintegration of the Hunnish empire, the Bulgar tribes dispersed mostly to the eastern and southeastern parts of Europe.
At the end of the 5th century (probably in the years 480, 486, and 488) they fought against the Ostrogoths as allies of the Byzantine emperor Zeno. From 493 they carried out frequent attacks on the western territories of the Byzantine Empire. Later raids were carried out at the end of the 5th century and the beginning of the 6th century.
In the middle of the 6th century, war broke out between the two main Bulgar tribes, the Kutrigur and Utigur. To the west, The Kutrigurs fell under Avar dominion and became influential within the Khaganate. The eastern Utigurs fell under the western Gokturk empire in 568.
United under Kubrat or Kurt of the Dulo clan (supposedly identical to the ruler mentioned by Arabic chronicler At-Tabari under the name of Shahriar), they joined forces of the Utigur and Kutrigur Bulgars and probably the non-Bulgar Onogurs, and broke loose from the Turkic khanate in the 630s. They formed an independent state, the Onogundur-Bulgar (Oghondor-blkar or Olhontor-blkar) Empire, often called by Byzantine sources ‘the Old Great Bulgaria’. The empire was situated between the lower course of the Danube to the west, the Black Sea and the Azov Sea to the south, the Kuban River to the east, and the Donets River to the north. It is assumed that the state capital was Phanagoria, an ancient city on the Taman peninsula (see Tmutarakan). However, the archaeological evidence shows that the city became predominantly Bulgarian only after Kubrat's death and the consequent disintegration of his state.
The Byzantine Patriarch Nicephorus I tells that after the death of Kubrat around 665, the Khazar expansion eventually led to the dissolution of Great Bulgaria.
The khan’s eldest son, Batbayan (also Bayan or Boyan), remained the ruler of the land north of the Black and the Azov Seas, which was, however, soon subdued by the Khazars. Those Bulgars converted to Judaism in the 9th century, along with the Khazars, and were eventually assimilated into the main-stream of the European ashkenazi Jews. Furthermore the Balkars in Kabardino-Balkaria may be also the descendants of this Bulgar branch.
Another Bulgar tribe, led by Kubrat’s second son Kotrag, migrated to the confluence of the Volga and Kama Rivers in what is now Russia (see Volga Bulgaria). The present-day republics of Tatarstan and Chuvashia are considered to be the descendants of Volga Bulgaria in terms of territory and people, but only Chuvash is thought to be similar to the old Bulgar language.
A third Bulgar tribe, led by the youngest son Asparukh, moved westward, occupying today’s southern Bessarabia. After a successful war with Byzantium in 680, Asparukh's khanate setteled in Dobrudja and conquered later Moesia Superior So it was recognized as an independent state under the subsequent treaty signed with the Byzantine Empire and emperor Constantine IV Pogonatus in 681. The same year is usually regarded as the year of the establishment of modern Bulgaria.
A fourth group of Bulgars, ruled by Kuber, existed in Pannonia. After breaking off Avar overlordship, they moved on to Macedonia (Hellas). Bulgarian scholar Vasil Zlatarski posits that Kuber was also a son of Kubrat. He believes that Kuber's Bulgars formed a khanate in Macedonia (Hellas), which joined Slavs to attack the Byzantine Empire, although the majority of historians do not see any evidence for the existence of a Bulgar khanate in Macedonia before 850 AD. In addition this group from around 70, 000 people, included also descendents of Roman captives of various ethnicities that had been re-settled in Pannonia by the Avars.
The fifth and smallest group, of Alcek (also transliterated as 'Altsek' and 'Altcek' or 'Ducca Alzeco'), after many wanderings, ended up led by Emnetzur and settled mainly in Italy, near Naples in the Benevento and Salerno.
The End of the "Great Bulgaria"
Basil II, surnamed the Bulgar-slayer (Greek: Βασίλειος Β΄ Βουλγαροκτόνος, Basileios II Boulgaroktonos, 958 – December 15, 1025), also known as Basil the Porphyrogenitus and Basil the Young to distinguish him from Basil I the Macedonian, was a Byzantine emperor from the Macedonian dynasty who reigned from January 10, 976 to December 15, 1025. Under his reign, the Byzantine Empire reached its greatest strength in nearly five centuries.
Basil also wanted to restore to the empire territories that it had long lost. At the start of the second millennium, he took on his greatest adversary, Samuil of Bulgaria, who also was of Armenian descent. Bulgaria had been partly subjugated by John I Tzimiskes, but parts of the country had remained outside Byzantine control, under the leadership of Samuil and his brothers.
The Bulgars having been raiding Byzantine lands since 976, the Byzantine government sought to cause dissention by first allowing the escape of the captive emperor Boris II of Bulgaria. This having failed, Basil used a respite from his conflict with the nobility to lead an army of 30,000 men into Bulgaria and besiege Sredets (Sofia) in 986. Taking losses and worried about the loyalty of some of his governors, Basil lifted the siege and headed back for Thrace but fell into an ambush and suffered a serious defeat at the Battle of the Gates of Trajan.
Basil escaped with the help of his Varangian Guard and attempted to make up his losses by turning Samuil's brother Aron against him. Aron was tempted with Basil's offer of his own sister Anna in marriage (the same Anna wed to Vladimir I of Kiev, two years later), but the negotiations failed when Aron discovered that the bride he was sent was a fake. By 987 Aron had been eliminated by Samuil, and Basil was busy fighting both Skleros and Phokas in Asia Minor.
Although the titular emperor Roman of Bulgaria was captured in 991, Basil lost Moesia to the Bulgarians. In 992, Basil II concluded a treaty with Pietro Orseolo II by the terms that Venice's custom duties in Constantinople would be reduced from 30 nomismata to 17 nomismata in return for the Venetians agreeing to transport Byzantine troops to southern Italy in times of war.
From 1000, Basil II was able to focus on his war with Bulgaria again. Samuil had extended his rule from the Adriatic Sea to the Black Sea and raided into central Greece, and Basil was determined to reverse the fortunes of the empire. By 1000 Byzantine generals Theodorokan and Xiphias had taken the old Bulgarian capital of Great Preslav and in 1001–1002, the Byzantines were able to regain control of Moesia. In the year 1003, he raided into Macedonia, taking Skopje and in 1005, the governor of Durazzo surrendered his city to the Byzantines. During the next several years, the Byzantines failed to make any significant gains.
Finally, on July 29, 1014, Basil II outmaneuvered the Bulgarian army in the Battle of Kleidion, with Samuil separated from his force. Having crushed the Bulgarians, Basil was said to have captured 15,000 prisoners and blinded 99 of every 100 men, leaving 150 one-eyed men to lead them back to their ruler, who fainted at the sight and died two days later suffering a stroke. Although this may be an exaggeration, this gave Basil his nickname Boulgaroktonos, "the Bulgar-slayer" in later tradition.
Bulgaria fought on for four more years, but finally submitted in 1018. This victory and the later submission of the Serbs fulfilled one of Basil's goals, as the empire regained its ancient Danube River frontier for the first time in 400 years.
Before returning to Constantinople, Basil II celebrated his triumph in Athens.
Bulgarians appear active in History again around 1204.
Resurrected Bulgaria occupied the territory between the Black Sea, the Danube and Stara Planina, including a part of eastern Macedonia (Hellas) and the valley of the Morava. It also exercised control over Wallachia and Moldova. Tsar Kaloyan (1197-1207) entered a union with the Papacy, thereby securing the recognition of his title of "Rex" although he desired to be recognized as "Emperor" or "Tsar". He waged wars on the Byzantine Empire and (after 1204) on the Knights of the Fourth Crusade, conquering large parts of Thrace (Hellas), the Rhodopes (Hellas), as well as the whole of Macedonia (Hellas).
The power of the Hungarians and to some extent the Serbs prevented significant expansion to the west and northwest. Under Ivan Asen II (1218-1241), Bulgaria once again became a regional power, occupying Belgrade and Albania. In an inscription from Turnovo in 1230 he entitled himself "In Christ the Lord faithful Tsar and autocrat of the Bulgarians, son of the old Asen".
The Bulgarian Orthodox Patriarchate was restored in 1235 with approval of all eastern Patriarchates, thus putting an end to the union with the Papacy. Ivan Asen II had a reputation as a wise and humane ruler, and opened relations with the Catholic west, especially Venice and Genoa, to reduce the influence of the Byzantines over his country.
However, weakened 14th-century Bulgaria was no match for a new threat from the south, the Ottoman Turks, who crossed into Europe in 1354. In 1362 they captured Philippopolis (Plovdiv), and in 1382 they took Sofia. The Ottomans then turned their attentions to the Serbs, whom they routed at Kosovo Polje in 1389. In 1393 the Ottomans occupied Turnovo after a three-month siege. It is thought that the south gate was opened from inside and so the Ottomans managed to enter the fortress. In 1396 the Kingdom (Tsardom) of Vidin was also occupied, bringing the Second Bulgarian Empire and Bulgarian independence to an end.
The Ottomans reorganised the Bulgarian territories as the Beyerlik of Rumili, ruled by a Beylerbey at Sofia. This territory, which included Moesia, Thrace and Macedonia, was divided into several sanjaks, each ruled by a Sanjakbey accountable to the Beylerbey. Significant part of the conquered land was parcelled out to the Sultan's followers, who held it as feudal fiefs (small timars, medium ziyamet and large hases) directly from him. That category of land could not be sold or inherited, but reverted to the Sultan when the fiefholder died. The rest of the lands were organized as private possessions of the Sultan or Ottoman nobility, called "mulk", and also as economic base for religious foundations, called "vakιf". Bulgarians gave multiple regularly paid taxes as a tithe ("yushur"), a capitation tax ("dzhizie"), a land tax ("ispench"), a levy on commerce and so on and also various group of irregularly collected taxes, products and corvees ("avariz").
The Ottomans (Turks) did not normally require the Christians to become Muslims (of course! they were their blood).
Nevertheless, there were many cases of individual or mass forced islamization, especially in the Rhodopes (Hellas).
Non-Muslims did not serve in the Sultan's army. The exception to this were some groups of the population with specific statute, usually used for auxiliary or rear services, and the famous "tribute of children" (or blood tax), also known as the "devsirme", whereby every fifth young boy was taken to be trained as a warrior of the Empire. These boys went through harsh religious and military training that turned them into an elite corps subservient to the Sultan. They made up the corps of Janissaries (yenicheri or "new force"), an elite unit of the Ottoman army.
Bulgarian nationalism emerged in the early 19th century under the influence of western ideas such as liberalism and nationalism, which trickled into the country after the French Revolution, mostly via Greece. The Greek revolt against the Ottomans which began in 1821, also influenced the small Bulgarian educated class.
The Treaty of San Stefano of March 3, 1878 provided for an independent Bulgarian state, which spanned over the geographical regions of Moesia, Thrace and Macedonia. However, trying to preserve the balance of power in Europe and fearing the establishment of a large Russian client state on the Balkans, the other Great Powers were reluctant to agree to the treaty.
As a result, the Treaty of Berlin (1878), under the supervision of Otto von Bismarck of Germany and Benjamin Disraeli of Britain, revised the earlier treaty, and scaled back the proposed Bulgarian state. An autonomous Principality of Bulgaria was created, between the Danube and the Stara Planina range, with its seat at the old Bulgarian capital of Veliko Turnovo, and including Sofia.
This state was to be under nominal Ottoman sovereignty but was to be ruled by a prince elected by a congress of Bulgarian notables and approved by the Powers. They insisted that the Prince could not be a Russian, but in a compromise Prince Alexander of Battenberg, a nephew of Tsar Alexander II, was chosen.
An autonomous Ottoman province under the name of Eastern Rumelia was created south of the Stara Planina range. The Bulgarians in Macedonia (Hellas) and Eastern Thrace (Hellas) were left under the rule of the Sultan. Some Bulgarian territories were also given to Serbia and Romania.
In 1911 the Nationalist Prime Minister, Ivan Geshov, formed an alliance with Greece and Serbia to jointly attack the Ottomans. In February 1912 a secret treaty was signed between Bulgaria and Serbia, and in May 1912 a similar treaty with Greece. Montenegro was also brought into the pact. The treaties provided for the partition of Macedonia and Thrace between the allies, although the lines of partition were left dangerously vague. After the Ottomans refused to implement reforms in the disputed areas, the First Balkan War broke out in October 1912. The allies defeated the Ottomans.
In June 1913 Serbia and Greece formed a new alliance against Bulgaria. The Serbian Prime Minister, Nikola Pasic, told Greece it could have Thrace if Greece helped Serbia keep Bulgaria out and the Greek Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos agreed. Seeing this as a violation of the pre-war agreements, and discretely encouraged by Germany and Austria-Hungary, Tsar Ferdinand declared war on Serbia and Greece and the Bulgarian army attacked on June 29.
The Serbian and the Greek forces were initially on the retreat on the western border, but soon took the upper hand and forced Bulgaria to retreat. The fighting was very harsh, with many casualties, especially during the key Battle of Bregalnitsa. Soon Romania entered the war and attacked Bulgaria from the north. The Ottoman Empire also attacked from the south-east.
The war was now definitely lost for Bulgaria, which had to abandon most of its claims of Macedonia to Serbia and Greece, while the revived Ottomans retook Adrianople. Romania took southern Dobruja.
World War I
In the aftermath of the Balkan Wars, Bulgarian opinion turned against Russia and the western powers, whom the Bulgarians felt had done nothing to help them. The government of Vasil Radoslavov aligned Bulgaria with the German Empire and Austria-Hungary, even though this meant becoming an ally of the Ottomans, Bulgaria's traditional enemy.
But Bulgaria now had no claims against the Ottomans, whereas Serbia, Greece and Romania (allies of Britain and France) held lands perceived in Bulgaria as Bulgarian.
Bulgaria sat out the first year of World War I, recuperating from the Balkan Wars. But when Germany promised to restore the boundaries of the Treaty of San Stefano, Bulgaria, which had the largest army in the Balkans, declared war on Serbia in October 1915. Britain, France and Italy then declared war on Bulgaria.
In alliance with Germany, Austria-Hungary and the Ottomans, Bulgaria won military victories against Serbia and Romania, occupying much of Macedonia, taking Skopje in October, advancing and taking Dobruja from Romania in September 1916.
But the war soon became unpopular with most Bulgarians, who suffered great economic hardship and also disliked fighting their fellow Orthodox Christians in alliance with the Muslim Ottomans. The Agrarian Party leader, Aleksandur Stamboliyski, was imprisoned for his opposition to the war.
The Russian Revolution of February 1917 had a great effect in Bulgaria, spreading antiwar and anti-monarchist sentiment among the troops and in the cities. In June Radoslavov's government resigned. Mutinies broke out in the army, Stamboliyski was released and a republic was proclaimed.
World War II
The Axis occupation of Greece during World War II (Greek: Ç Êáôï÷Þ, I Katochi, meaning "The Occupation") began in April 1941 after the German and Italian invasion of Greece, and was carried out together with Bulgarian forces. The Occupation lasted until the German withdrawal from the mainland in October 1944. In some cases however, such as in Crete and other islands, German garrisons remained in control until May or even June 1945.
Fascist Italy had initially invaded Greece in October 1940 but was defeated, and the Greek army pushed the invaders back deep into Albania. This forced Germany to shift its military focus from the preparation of "Operation Barbarossa" to an intervention on its ally's behalf in the southern Balkans. A rapid German Blitzkrieg campaign followed in April 1941, and by the middle of May, Greece was under joint occupation by three Axis powers: Germany, Italy and Bulgaria.
The occupation brought about terrible hardships for the Greek civilian population. Over 300,000 civilians died from starvation, thousands more through reprisals, and the country's economy was ruined. At the same time Greek Resistance, one of the most effective resistance movements in Occupied Europe, was formed. These resistance groups launched guerrilla attacks against the occupying powers and set up large espionage networks...
The Triple Occupation of Greece (Macedonia) WWII
The occupation of Greece was divided between Germany, Italy, and Bulgaria. German forces occupied some strategically important areas, namely Athens, Thessaloniki with Central Macedonia, and several Aegean islands, including most of Crete. Northeastern Greece (Eastern Macedonia and Western Thrace with the exception of the Evros prefecture) came under Bulgarian occupation and was annexed to Bulgaria, which had long claimed these territories.
The remaining 2/3 of Greece was occupied by Italy, with the Ionian islands directly administered as Italian territories. After the Italian capitulation in September 1943, the Italian zone was taken over by the Germans, often accompanied by violence towards the Italian garrisons. There was a failed attempt by the British to take advantage of the Italian surrender to reenter the Aegean, resulting in the Battle of Leros. For Greece, the strength of the Axis occupation forces always owed more to the threat of invasion from the Allies than to active resistance.
The Bulgarian occupation zone in Greece - WWII
Bulgaria joined World War II siding with the Axis in an attempt to solve its "national question" and fulfill the aim of "Greater Bulgaria", especially in the area of Macedonia (where much territory was lost in the Second Balkan War) and Western Thrace (lost to Greece in the Treaty of Neuilly). Bulgaria joined the Axis on 1 March 1941, explicitly requesting German support for its territorial claims.
The Bulgarian Army entered Greece on 20 April 1941, at the heels of the Wehrmacht and eventually occupied the whole of northeastern Greece east of the Strymon River (eastern Macedonia and Western Thrace), except for the Evros prefecture, at the border with Turkey, which was occupied by the Germans. Unlike Germany and Italy, Bulgaria officially annexed the occupied territories, which had long been a target of Bulgarian irredentism, on 14 May 1941.
A massive campaign of "Bulgarisation" was launched, which saw all Greek officials (mayors, school-teachers, judges, lawyers, priests, gendarmes) deported. A universal ban was placed on the use of the Greek language even on a private basis, the names of towns and places changed to the forms traditional in Bulgarian. In addition, the Bulgarian government tried to alter the ethnic composition of the region, by expropriating land and houses from Greeks in favour of Bulgarian settlers, and by the introduction of forced labour and of economic restrictions for the Greeks in an effort to force them to migrate.
A spontaneous and badly organized uprising around Drama in late September 1941 was violently crushed by the Bulgarian Army.
By late 1941, more than 100,000 Greeks had been expelled from the Bulgarian occupation zone. In May 1943 deportment of Jews from the Bulgarian occupation zone began as well.
The advance of the Red Army into Bulgaria in 1944, the withdrawal of the German armed forces from Greece in October, and the "Percentages Agreement" between Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin, meant that the Bulgarian Army had to withdraw from Greek Macedonia and Thrace, leaving Greece with the difficult task of post-occupation reconstruction.
Greater Bulgaria was re-created as a state during World War II by Nazi Germany, as a reward to Bulgaria, which had fought with Germany as one of the Axis powers. It was granted territory in Greece, namely Eastern Macedonia and parts of Thrace (Hellas), as well as north Macedonia (Hellas). With the exception of the Dobruja, these concessions were reversed with Greek victory.
Nikos Deja Vu