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Mediaeval Bulgaria

The seven-century-old history of Mediaeval Bulgaria (7th – 14th centuries) had fundamental significance for the course of our national history in Modern and Contemporary Times. During this long period the Bulgarian state system was established and the Bulgarian nation was formed with its characteristic features of identity expressed in the specific language, culture, mentality and morale. A number of other processes also developed successfully due to which Bulgaria and the Bulgarians permanently entered the history of Europe and preserved themselves through the ages.

In the period of the Bulgarian Khanate – Empire (7th – 11th centuries) of biggest importance were: the centralization of state organization in the fist half of the 9th century; the conversion to Christianity in 865 and the subsequent Christianization of the society and the state in the second half of the 9th century; the establishment of the Bulgarian Church in 870 and its consolidation as a state institution with the active support by Prince Boris I- Michael (852-889 † 907); the Slavicizing of liturgy and literature which started with the reformist activities of Cyril and Methodius’ disciples having arrived to Bulgaria in 886; the rising and strengthening of the Bulgarian black clergy as an extremely important factor in the life of church, state and society.

These processes stimulated the development of the Old Bulgarian culture conceived as a way of living and a view of life of all strata of population. “The Golden Age” of the Old Bulgarian literature turned Bulgaria into a new center of the European Christian culture and civilization. The capital towns of Pliska, Veliki Perslav and Ohrid became leading cultural centers which generated ideas and created models of decisive importance for the historical continuity in the development of the Bulgarians and their state.

The consolidation of national consciousness, the building of a stable state and cultural tradition during the Early Mediaeval Ages were of definite significance for the Bulgarians’ resistance to trials and hardship under Byzantine Rule (11th – 12th centuries). The Archbishopric of Ohrid became the spiritual center of the Bulgarian people and the monasteries and towns in the southwest Bulgarian lands developed as main centers of Bulgarian cultural life: the Rila Monastery, the Lesnovo Monastery, the Osogovo Monastery as well as the Zograf Monastery of St George on Mount Athos.

In the 13th – 14th centuries Mediaeval Bulgaria and its capital Tǎrnovo turned into one of the strongholds of the East Orthodoxy. The historical merit for that belonged to the tsars of the Asen dynasty who protected the Bulgarian Church and developed their capital town into one of the most important East Orthodox centers along with Constantinople, Thessaloniki, Mount Athos, Jerusalem, Nicaea and Trebizond. The destruction of Byzantium by the knights of the Fourth Crusade in 1204 and the restoration of the Bulgarian Patriarchate (1235) decisively contributed to this. The Ascension of Christ Patriarchal Cathedral on Tsarevets became “Mother of all Bulgarian churches” and Tǎrnovo turned into a center of black clergy from the Balkan peninsula. The rich cultural and historical heritage which the Bulgarian Mediaeval Ages has left us is a constant source of Bulgarian historical memory and national identity.