Bulgaria History

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Introduction[edit | edit source]

Effective family research requires some understanding of the historical events that may have affected your family and the records about them. Learning about wars, governments, laws, migrations, and religious trends may help you understand political boundaries, family movements, and settlement patterns. These events may have led to the creation of records such as land and military documents that mention your family.

Your ancestors will become more interesting to you if you learn about the events they may have participated in. For example, by using a history you might learn about the events that occurred in the year your great-grandparents were married.

Political History[edit | edit source]

Early History[edit | edit source]

As part of ancient Thrace and Moesia, Bulgaria was settled by Slavic tribes in the 500s A.D. The Bulgars, a Turkic-speaking people, crossed the Danube, conquered the Slavs, and founded the first Bulgarian Empire in 681. Although the name Bulgaria is not of Slavic origin, the Slavic peoples who had earlier entered the Balkan Peninsula largely absorbed the invaders and were the precursors of the present-day Bulgarians. Under the leadership of Krum who died in 814, the Bulgars expanded and consolidated their empire. Under Boris I the Bulgars adopted Christianity (865). Bulgarian kingdoms continued to exist in the Balkan Peninsula during the Middle Ages though the region was dominated by the Byzantine Empire between 1018-1186.

Ottoman Rule (1396-1878)[edit | edit source]

Because of its proximity to Asia Minor, Bulgaria was the first of the European states to succumb to the Ottoman Turks and one of the last to be liberated from them. During five centuries of Ottoman rule (1396-1878), the country stagnated, untouched by any of the cultural, social, or political movements of Europe. The Russian army liberated Bulgarians from the Ottomans. Bulgarian culture was preserved in the monasteries of the Orthodox Church during Ottoman rule. The Orthodox Church became autonomous from the Greek Orthodox Church in 1860. It was finally recognized by the Turkish sultan in 1870. In 1876 a Bulgarian liberation movement was savagely suppressed by the Ottomans. Independence was achieved in 1878, principally through Russian military assistance. Bulgaria became an autonomous principality under Ottoman control.

Modern History (1878 to 1990)[edit | edit source]


Eastern Rumelia, the southeastern portion of Bulgaria, was added to the country in 1885. Taking advantage of the Young Turk revolution in the Ottoman Empire, Prince Ferdinand of Bulgaria proclaimed the full independence of Bulgaria in 1908 and assumed the title of czar.

Bulgaria participated in the victorious coalition against Turkey in the First Balkan War (1912). The coalition dissolved over territorial disputes, however, and in the Second Balkan War (1913) Bulgaria was quickly defeated by Greece, Serbia, Montenegro, Romania, and Turkey. More territory was added to the southern end of the country at this time. Bulgaria allied itself with Germany in World Wars I and II and twice more suffered defeats. Bulgaria’s involvement in these wars was partly due to its ambitions to regain territory lost in the Second Balkan War. Boris III ruled Bulgaria between the world wars. In 1944 the Red Army entered Bulgaria and installed a communist satellite regime. Under the presidency of Georgi Dimitrov, farms were collectivized and industry nationalized. The communist regime lasted until 1990 when Bulgaria re-emerged as an independent nation.

The ethnic minority of Turks was subjected to forced cultural assimilation beginning in 1984. In May 1989 Turkey announced its willingness to accept ethnic Turks from Bulgaria. Before August 1989 when Turkey closed the border, 310,000 Bulgarian Turks had fled to Turkey. More than 50,000 returned following the adoption of democratic reforms by a new leadership in late 1989.

Republic of Bulgaria (1990 to present)[edit | edit source]

In June 1990 the first free elections since 1931 were held. In July 1991 a new Constitution was adopted. Like the other post-Communist regimes in Eastern Europe, Bulgaria found the transition to capitalism more painful than expected. After a period of calm and receptiveness to the West in the early 1990s, Bulgaria returned to a dictatorial system that distrusted foreign influences.[1] Bulgaria joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 2004 and undertook substantial economic and political reform before joining the European Union in 2007. The government now works towards promoting economic growth and increasing privatization.

Timeline[edit | edit source]

1362 - The Ottomans completed their conquest of Bulgarian lands in 1393. Christians were considered an inferior class of people under the Ottoman system
1876 - The Western European Enlightenment in the 18th century and provided an ideological basis for the liberation struggle resulting in up to 30,000 Bulgarians killed as Ottoman authorities put down the rebellion
1908 - Bulgaria proclaimed itself an independent state
1912 - 1918 Bulgaria increasingly militarized and it became involved in three consecutive conflicts. The wars resulted in significant territorial losses and a total of 87,500 soldiers killed 1912 - 1929 More than 253,000 refugees immigrated to Bulgaria
1944 - A left-wing uprising led to the abolition of monarchic rule and the executions of some 1,000—3,000 dissidents, war criminals, and members of the former royal elite
1946 - 1949 Bulgaria fell into the Soviet sphere of influence under the leadership of Georgi Dimitrov, who established a repressive, rapidly industrializing Stalinist state
1984 - 1984 The government forced the minority ethnic Turks to adopt Slavic names in an attempt to erase their identity and assimilate them. These policies resulted in the emigration of some 300,000 ethnic Turks to Turkey.

Religious History[edit | edit source]

Bulgaria was converted to Christianity in the 9th century. Bulgarian culture was preserved in the monasteries of the Orthodox Church during Ottoman rule. Antagonism towards Greek influence over the Orthodox Church lead to a struggle for autonomy that was declared in 1860 and finally recognized by the Turkish sultan in 1870. A majority of the Christian population remains Orthodox. The Bulgarian Orthodox Church is divided into 11 dioceses. Groups of Muslims, Roman Catholics, Protestants, and Jews also exist in the country.[2]

Online Sources[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Genealogical Library of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Outline for Genealogical Research in Bulgaria,” Word document, private files of the FamilySearch Content Strategy Team, 1982.
  2. Genealogical Library of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Outline for Genealogical Research in Bulgaria,” Word document, private files of the FamilySearch Content Strategy Team, 1982.