Bulgaria History

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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.

Early History

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)

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. 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. Russia intervened and defeated the Turks in 1878. Bulgaria became an autonomous principality under Ottoman control.

Modern History (1878 to 1990)

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. It 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)

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 has returned to a dictatorial system that distrusts foreign influences.

Online Sources