History of Bulgaria

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The history of Bulgaria encompasses the developments in the territory of the Republic of Bulgaria and the historical Bulgarian empires from prehistory to the present.

Before the founding of the state

Thracian art. Rhyton from the Panagyurishte gold treasure .

Prehistory and antiquity

The area of ​​today's Bulgaria has been settled since the Stone Age (example: Karanowo culture ). A gold treasure found in the cemetery of Varna in 1972 is dated between 4600 and 4200 BC. And is therefore the oldest such excavation in the world. The Thracians who lived there in the Bronze Age were already mentioned by Homer . Macedonians also populated the area. From the 11th to the 6th century BC A first Thracian state structure existed in the 7th century BC. BC experienced its heyday.

29 BC BC the region was conquered by Rome , with the provinces of Macedonia , Thrace , Moesia and Dacia extending over what is now Bulgaria. The Thracians were Romanized and after the partition of the Roman Empire they remained with Byzantium in the 5th century . After the Slavic colonization of the Balkan Peninsula from the 7th century ( the Slavs took over the Balkans ), the remaining Roman and Greek populations ( see also the article Jireček Line ) gradually merged with the newcomers. What remained were isolated groups of Romansh-speaking Wallachians ( Romanians in the north-west and Aromanians in the south) and Greeks (along the Black Sea coast).

From the 2nd half of the 3rd century AD, the migration of peoples began with a movement of tribes and peoples from east to west and from north to south - towards the great cultural centers of the ancient world. The Roman Empire went through a great crisis. Barbarians from Asia and Central Europe easily invaded the Roman provinces, especially the Roman provinces in the Balkans. The border (the Limes) gradually shifted from the Danube to the slopes of the Balkan Mountains . Goths , Gepids , Carps , Sarmatians , Alans , Huns and other peoples cross the area of ​​today's Bulgaria or settled there for a long time. So they brought their tradition and culture with them to this area.

After the death of Attila, the leader of the Huns (453), the Bulgarian tribes split up, only to be called in 482 by the Byzantine emperor Zenon for help against the Ostrogoths . In 493 the first Bulgarians appeared south of the Danube . In the following time the Bulgarians took part in raids and raids on Byzantine territory and reached Thessaloniki in 619 with the Avars and Constantinople in 626 .

Greater Bulgarian Empire

The Greater Bulgarian Empire and its split

The old Great Bulgarian Empire, as it was called by Byzantine scholars ( Greek ἣ παλαιά μεγάλη Βουλγαρία i palea megali Boulgaria , the old large Bulgaria '), created after the liberation of the Bulgarian tribes from the rule of Göktürks to 632 as a military peoples alliance with Khan Kubrat between the Kuban River and the Sea of ​​Azov . In 635 Kubrat signed a peace treaty with the Byzantine emperor Herakleios . Around 654, Greater Bulgaria was divided into three parts, the empires of the so-called Black, White and Blue Bulgarians.

First Bulgarian Empire

In the second half of the 7th century, the Greater Bulgarian Empire of the Proto- Bulgarians in the north-east of the Black Sea collapsed . Kubrat's eldest son , Khan Batbajan, had to submit to the Khazars . In the course of the war against the Khazars, the proto-Bulgarians under Khan Asparuch , the third son of Khan Kubrat, withdrew to the southwest towards the Danube and crossed the river on the border to the now orphaned eastern Roman province of Moesia secunda . In 679 they laid claim to the areas in the Dobruja area and settled there. The Slavs, who had previously been stateless, were subjugated and made subject to tribute. In addition, they were supposed to offer the proto-Bulgarians military successes against the East . A little later, under Khan Asparuch, a large tribal association was founded, which later became known as the First Bulgarian Empire , also known as the Danube Bulgarian Empire or the Empire of the Blue Bulgarians . The Slavic foundation of Pliska was later chosen as the capital .

In the summer of 680 the Byzantine Emperor Constantine IV Pogonatos undertook a campaign against the Proto-Bulgarians. The war ended in 681 with a peace treaty that effectively recognized the new state of Bulgaria. In addition, the concluded treaty regulated the new state borders, a naval moratorium and the obligation to pay tribute to Constantinople. Bulgaria thus became the third recognized state in Europe and one of the few to which the Eastern Roman Empire was subject to tribute.

Territorial expansion of Bulgaria under Khan Krum
The Bulgarian Empire under Simeon
Danube Bulgaria, Volga Bulgaria and Europe around the year 1000
Byzantine thematic administration in the Balkans around 1045

The territory of the empire was expanded considerably under Asparuch's successor Khan Terwel (700–721). During this time Bulgaria developed into a serious political force. Under Khan Krum (803–814) it became a powerful empire within Europe. In alliance with the Frankish emperor Charlemagne , the Avar Khanate was destroyed. From then on, the Bulgarian territory extended in the north to the Tisza and in the east to the Dniester , in the west it now bordered directly on the Frankish Empire , in the south it extended to the Maritsa and Adrianople . Reforms based on the Byzantine model strengthened the position of the ruler and eliminated the influence of the competing Bulgarian nobility (thereby making the state Slav).

After Knjas Boris I. Mikhail (852-889) declared Christianity to be the official religion in 864 , the ethnic differences between Slavs, Proto-Bulgarians and the descendants of the ancient population (Greeks and Thracians) gradually disappeared and a new one began Bulgarian society, which was composed of Slavic, Greek and Bulgarian influences, with the Slavic influence remaining the most prominent. A high culture developed in Bulgaria from Christianization until 1018. At the end of the 9th century, the Thessaloniki brothers Cyril and Method designed the first Slavic alphabet (Glagolica) and were the first to translate the New Testament into what is now called Old Church Slavonic . In 893, Old Slavonic was introduced as the liturgical language in a council of the Bulgarian Church . At the court of the Bulgarian tsars, one of their students, Kliment von Ohrid , reformed the Glagolitic script and founded a university in Ohrid . But above all he was a missionary and writer and made a decisive contribution to the development of Slavic literature . Typical Bulgarian church music also began to develop during this time.

Tsar Simeon I (893-927), who was nicknamed the Great , made Veliki Preslav the capital, possibly also to break with the old pagan traditions ( Tengrism ) completely. Ohrid, Pliska and the new capital became centers of the Golden Century of Slavic culture . During his reign, probably in the Preslaw school where Saint Naum worked, the Cyrillic alphabet was developed and introduced. Simeon founded the Bulgarian Patriarchal Church . Under him, Bulgaria became a powerful empire within Europe, the territory of which encompassed almost the entire Balkan Peninsula and stretched almost to the walls of Constantinople .

Under Tsar Peter I and Tsar Boris II , power was reduced due to internal disputes, and a western Bulgarian empire split off in 963/69 . In 971 Byzantium conquered the eastern Bulgarian empire, and the capital was successively moved to Sredez , Skopje , Prespa , Bitola and Ohrid . Under Tsar Samuil (976-1014), Ohrid became the capital of the Samuil Empire. After the defeat of the army under Samuil in the battle of Kleidion in 1014 and under Ivan Wladislaw in 1018, under Knjaz Presian II, all of Bulgaria was subdued by Basil II of Byzantium, the so-called Bulgar slayer. After the conquest, Bulgaria was divided into five Byzantine themes (provinces): Macedonia , Bulgaria , Paristrion , Thrace and Strimon .

Second Bulgarian Empire

In 1040 there was an uprising under Peter Deljan with the participation of the Varangian Guard (in which the later Norwegian King Harald Hardråde was a member), which was suppressed by Byzantium. Deljan claimed to be the descendant of the great Bulgarian Tsar Samuil, who was defeated by Basil II in 1014. Another attempt at restoration took place under Konstantin Bodin , who in 1072 took part with his father at the head of an uprising against Byzantium in what is now North Macedonia and was crowned Bulgarian tsar in Prizren . He came from the Komitopuli dynasty on his mother's side .

Between the Balkan Mountains and the Danube , the uprisings led by the brothers Assen and Peter were successful in 1185–1187 and culminated in the establishment of the Second Bulgarian Empire in 1186 . Since the first rulers came from the House of Assen , the empire was initially also called "Empire of the Assenen" or "Assenidenreich". The center of the movement was the city of Tarnowo , which therefore became the fourth capital. In the following decades Bulgaria was able to take advantage of the weakness of the Byzantine Empire, which after the conquest of Constantinople by the Latins in 1204 finally split into several states.

Between 1197 and 1207 Kaloyan , the younger brother of Peter and Assen, was Tsar of Bulgaria. Its military successes consolidated the state. The Tsar made an alliance with Pope Innocent III against Byzantine attempts to influence it . Bulgaria was supposed to convert to the Roman Catholic Church , in return Kalojan was given the title Rex . However, the covenant was short-lived. Kalojan's troops marched successfully against the knights of the Fourth Crusade . On April 14, 1205 they defeated part of the crusader army in the battle of Adrianople and were able to capture the emperor of the Latin Empire Baldwin of Flanders .

Bulgaria under Ivan Assen

Tsar Ivan Assen II ruled from 1218 to 1241. His rule was marked by a number of military successes and his diplomatic skills. After the victorious battle of Klokotnitsa on March 9, 1230, the Bulgarian state again extended over a large territory between the Black Sea in the east, the Adriatic Sea in the west, the Aegean Sea in the south, the Carpathian Mountains and the Dniester River in the north and northeast. Thus Bulgaria rose again to become the strongest power on the Balkan Peninsula. As a sign of his victory, Ivan Assen had the Church of the Holy 40 Martyrs built in his capital, Veliko Tarnovo . He had the following inscription chiseled into a column built into it:

“In the year 1230 I, Ivan Assen, the pious tsar in Christ the Lord and autocrat of the Bulgarians, son of the old Assen , had this most holy church built from the foundation walls and decorated with paintings in honor of the Forty Martyrs, with whose help I In the twelfth year of my reign went to battle in Thrace , destroyed the Greek army and even captured the Greek tsar Theodoros Komnenos with all his boyars. I conquered all countries from Adrianople to Durazzo - the Greek, Albanian and Serbian lands. The Franks only kept the cities around Constantinople and this city itself, submitted to the authorities of my power, since they themselves had no other tsar besides me, and spent their days thanks to me, because that is how God commanded it, because without Him neither a word nor a word an act is performed. Glory to him forever and ever! Amen."

The Bulgarian states in the middle of the 14th century

In 1241 Iwan Assen II was defeated by a Mongolian force and died before the Mongol storm in 1242 destroyed his empire, which offered little resistance. Hungary, Nicaea and Serbia tore parts of Bulgaria for themselves in the chaos that followed.

Since the reconquest of Constantinople by the Byzantines (1261) , there have been increased conflicts with Byzantium, but also with Hungary, and since the end of the 13th century the Bulgarian Empire in the up-and-coming Serbia has become a serious competitor on the western border. In the 14th century, the Bulgarian Empire split into several independent states and principalities - the largest was the Tarnow Kingdom, somewhat smaller the Kingdom of Vidin and the Principality of Dobruja and other smaller principalities in the Rhodope and Macedonia. With the fall of Byzantium during the Turkish conquests, Bulgaria also became part of the growing Turkish Empire of the Ottomans.

The Tarnowo School is representative of Bulgarian art during the period of the Second Bulgarian Empire, when architecture, art and literature, music and spiritual life experienced a brisk development. After the fall of Bulgaria, Bulgarian scribes, architects, painters and building craftsmen emigrated from the areas of Tarnowo, Widin and Dobruja to the surrounding countries and significantly influenced cultural development there, for example in Serbia, Wallachia, Moldova , Transylvania and Russia.

Ottoman rule

At the end of the 14th century, Bulgaria had with the downfall of his dynasty to the Ottoman Empire subject and began a nearly 500-year-long Ottoman domination . After the Battle of the Mariza on September 26, 1371, an anti-Ottoman coalition supported by the Bulgarian Army under the Serbian King Vukašin Mrnjavčević was defeated by the Ottomans. The Bulgarian Tsar Ivan Shishman was forced to recognize Ottoman suzerainty over his empire in 1373. Since Bulgaria was not spared from Ottoman attacks in the next few decades, despite nominal submission, Ivan Schischman resigned its vassal status . This led to Bulgaria becoming a major deployment area for the Ottoman conquerors on the Balkan Peninsula. 1378 fell Ihtiman , the Sofia followed in 1383, 1393 the capital Tarnovo was conquered what in fact meant Empire also the end of the Second Bulgarian. Tsar Ivan Shishman survived in the Nikopol fortress , but was captured and executed in 1395 on the orders of Sultan Bayezids I. After the Battle of Nicopolis in 1396, the last Bulgarian kingdom around Vidin fell victim to the Ottomans.

1404 / 1408–1413 led Constantine II Assen , son of the last Bulgarian tsar Ivan Strazimir , with the support of the Serbian and Wallachian rulers, the first unsuccessful uprising against the Ottoman rulers. In 1444 a renewed liberation of Bulgaria by a Polish - Hungarian army under Władysław , king of Poland, Hungary and Croatia, which was destroyed in the battle of Varna, failed .

Until the end of the 16th century, the Bulgarian population was affected by the slave trade that was carried out between the Ottoman Empire and the Italian Maritime Republics . Non-Muslims did not have to serve in the sultan's army , with the exception of those who were trained as janissaries in the elite troops , although the boy reading (Bulgarian: Кръвен данък kraven danak , "blood toll ") was used as a means of forced recruitment until the 17th century . The Ottoman rule also ensured political stability, religious tolerance and, compared to the previous period, moderate tax burdens for at least the first three centuries of its existence. Bulgaria lost its nobility, which had been killed, fled or converted to Islam during the conquest and quickly assimilated into the Ottoman upper class. In the context of the Ottoman Millet system , the non-Islamic subjects were also not represented by territorial representatives, but by the head of their respective religious community. The Millets enjoyed considerable autonomy in family law, religion, and upbringing. The Bulgarians were added to the orthodox millet, which was dominated by the Greek patriarchate. The Bulgarian patriarchate in Tarnovo was dissolved. This would later make the national rebirth more difficult, because it was accompanied by a considerable loss of cultural identity, which survived mainly in remote monasteries in the villages. An administrative penetration of society comparable to that of the early modern European principalities and kingdoms did not take place in the Ottoman Empire. Apart from the tax payments, the villages were largely self-regulating. Economically, Bulgaria, with its fertile land near the capital Istanbul, was the destination of many immigrants, especially Greeks, Turks and Jews, who dominated the cities and economic life.

The decline of the Ottoman Empire and the unsuccessful wars against the Habsburgs sparked off in Tarnowo (1598, 1686 and 1856), Gabrovo (1686), Tschiprovzi (1688 and 1737/1738), Vidin (1850), Belogradchik ( 1856) led to further uprisings, which were also bloodily suppressed.

The Pomaks have been a separate group among the Bulgarian and Slavic Muslims since the 16th century .

National rebirth

Bulgarian cultural and spiritual institutions in the Ottoman Empire in the 18th and 19th centuries century

At the beginning of the 18th century, under the influence of the emerging Bulgarian Enlightenment, a national feeling slowly began to develop, which culminated in the demand for state independence. The book Slavic-Bulgarian History , written by the monk Paisij Hilendarski from 1760–1762 , provided an important impetus for this. It was only used by hand until it was first printed in 1844. It led to the narrow, Greekized Bulgarian upper class rediscovering their own folklore and past.

The changes in cultural and intellectual life were driven by the establishment of the New Bulgarian Enlightenment Movement (Bulgar. Новобългарското просветно движение) and the pursuit of a Bulgarian church of its own. The aim was the separation of education and culture from Greek influences and the establishment of a separate material and spiritual culture. An essential aspect of this development towards national independence was the struggle against the Greek church power and the establishment of Bulgarian monastery schools .

The dispute with the Orthodox Patriarchate of Constantinople led to the so-called Union Movement (Bulgarian Униатско движение), which campaigned for a church organization united with the Roman Catholic Church. This movement was led by Dragan Zankow and Georgi Mirkowitsch . This is how the Bulgarian Catholic Church came into being in the Ottoman Empire in 1860 , going back to the Union of Kilkis in 1859. French Lazarists had taken advantage of the local population's dissatisfaction with the Orthodox Phanariotic bishops and promised the population a national church hierarchy. In 1861, Josif Sokolski was the first Catholic archbishop to be appointed, who was also recognized by the Sultan as the representative of the Bulgarian Christians. The resulting church saw itself as part of the Bulgarian national movement and had up to 60,000 believers.

This development opposed the Orthodox Russia, which supported the Orthodox Church even more massively, also against the Ottoman Sultan. The Bulgarian National Revival (Bulgarian Възраждане) with the Sultansferman of 1870 also led to the establishment of the independent Bulgarian Orthodox Church and to the strengthening of Bulgarian education and culture. With the establishment of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, the Catholic Church was ousted again. The ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople, who did not recognize Ferman, declared the Bulgarian “exarchate” to be schismatic as early as 1872 .

The first secular school was founded and financed in their hometown of Gabrovo in 1835 by the merchants Wasil Aprilow (1798–1847) and Nikola Palausow (1776–1853) . This reform of the monastery schools was started by the head of the school Neofit Rilski . The school in Gabrov quickly became the model for the development of the Bulgarian school system in the 19th century.

In 1864, the Vilâyet Tuna was formed from the amalgamation of the Ottoman provinces of Silistria , Niş and Widin , which existed until 1878. It comprised areas in which the Bulgarians made up the majority of the population: today's south-east Serbia and north Bulgaria (north of the Balkan Mountains and south of the Danube ), as well as the Romanian north dobrudscha from 1878 , which is why it was also called Vilayet Bulgaria . The Vilâyet was built on the French model; According to the conception of the Sublime Porte, it should function as a model province for a new provincial order and thus remove the ground from the Bulgarian independence movement.

According to the administrative tasks of a department , the vilayet was divided into several sanjaks , which in turn took on the task of the French arrondissements . At the head of the vilayet was the wali instead of the earlier Beylerbey . The sanjaks were led by a mutasarrif , instead of the previous sanjakbeg. The advisory Dīwān was abolished and a board of directors was set up in its place at both vilayets and sanjak levels, which included Muslim dignitaries as well as three non-Muslim religious communities (Armenians, Greek Orthodox and Jews). This should include the non-Muslim population. The administrative center of the vilayet was Russe (Ottoman Rusçuk), the most important Ottoman fortress on the Danube and at that time a flourishing city in northeastern Bulgaria.

The formation of the Vilayet Tuna could not appease the dissatisfied Bulgarian population, who made up the majority, as they were not represented in the new administrative system either. Because with the Greek-influenced ecumenical patriarchate of Constantinople , which she was supposed to represent, she fought for an independent Bulgarian church ( Bulgarian-Greek church struggle ).

The liberation movement suffered a severe setback in January / February 1873 with the arrest and execution of its ideologist Wassil Lewski . Levski, who is celebrated as a national hero in Bulgaria today, built the structures of the liberation movement within the Ottoman Empire. Other important personalities of the liberation movement were Georgi Rakowski , Lyuben Karawelow , Todor Kableschkow , Sophronius von Wraza and Christo Botew .

With the uprising of Stara Sagora (1875) and the April uprising of 1876 the bloody climax of the liberation movement came. It is controversial whether it was, as claimed by Bulgarian historians, a national uprising of the “Bulgarian” population against foreign rule. The number of national Bulgarian revolutionaries was always too few and locally isolated to have any influence on the rural illiterate population. Ultimately, the leaders of the April uprising were only able to organize a few hundred insurgents and were quickly defeated. Ultimately, one cannot speak of a “national liberation struggle”.

Principality and Tsarist Bulgaria

Development up to the Balkan Wars

The insurgent areas during the April uprising of 1876 and the borders of Bulgaria after the Conference of Constantinople
Bulgaria's borders after the Peace of San Stefano (March 3, 1878) and the Berlin Congress (June 1878)
Appeal of the Macedonian Bulgarians to the great powers against the decisions of the Berlin Congress
Bulgaria around 1888

The April uprising of 1876 was an attempt to liberate Bulgaria from Ottoman rule. After its suppression, the then British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli convened the international conference of Constantinople between December 23, 1876 and January 20, 1877 . Great Britain sent Lord Salisbury as ambassador extraordinary, where he and the Russian ambassador Count Ignatiev made such demands on Turkey that the conference was unsuccessful. For Bulgaria, the demarcation of one or more future autonomous Bulgarian provinces within the Ottoman Empire was proposed. However, Sultan Abdülhamid II refused to carry it out and finally dissolved the conference.

The Russian Empire took the bloody suppression of the April Uprising by the Turks in 1876 and the failure of the Conference of Constantinople as legitimation for declaring war within the framework of Pan-Slav ideology. The Russo-Ottoman War was fought with severity and great losses on both sides. After crossing the Danube and the Balkan Mountains in the middle of winter, the Russian troops won and advanced until shortly before Constantinople . Here the peace of San Stefano was concluded, in which large areas were separated from the Ottoman Empire and added to the new state of Bulgaria. This should initially be administered by Russia through the governor-general Alexander Michailowitsch Dondukow-Korsakow .

This was partially revised by the Berlin Congress in 1878. Bulgaria became an autonomous principality , which, however, remained tributary to the Ottoman Empire. Eastern Rumelia initially remained an Ottoman province, but the Ottoman Empire renounced a military presence.

The reactions to the decisions of the Berlin Congress were different in the “San Stefano Land”. The parliament meeting in Tarnowo at this time wanted to dissolve and not elect the prince proposed by the great powers; Petitions were written, appeals and delegates were sent to the embassies in the capitals of the great powers. In the country itself, committees called " Edinstvo " ( Единство / unit) were established. The First Committee was founded in Veliko Tarnowo by Stefan Stambolow, among others . The committees had set themselves the goal of revising these decisions and "restoring Bulgaria within its national borders from the peace of San Stefano". One of their first acts was the preparation and implementation of the Kresna-Raslog uprising (1878) in Macedonia . The refusal of these national claims and "a union of all Bulgarians" on the part of the great powers is anchored in the collective national consciousness of the Bulgarians to this day.

The first democratic constitution was passed in Tarnowo , the medieval capital of Bulgaria, in April 1879 . The constitution of the Kingdom of Belgium served as a model for the constitution of Tarnowo named after the city . Bulgaria became a constitutional monarchy and was the first country in the region to introduce universal male suffrage. Prince Alexander von Battenberg was elected prince. On June 25th, Jul. / 7th July 1879 greg. he took his oath in Tarnowo before the Grand National Assembly and then confirmed the first government of Bulgaria. The conservative politician Todor Burmow became the first prime minister . Until the First World War , Bulgarian politics was divided into a pro-Russian (Bulgarian русофили / russophile) conservative party and a pro-Western (Bulgarian русофоби / russophobe) liberal party . Macedonian emigrants represented a considerable potential for unrest in the long term.

The first election in 1879 resulted in an overwhelming victory for the Liberals , who had previously shaped the constitution; they received 140 of the 170 mandates. Prince Alexander I (1879–1886) tried to carry out internal reforms. However, he opposed the policies of the liberals and tried to rule with the Russia-friendly conservative camp. With the help and approval of Russia, Alexander I suspended the liberal constitution on July 1, 1881 and ruled the country through the power of attorney until September 1883 , but finally had to recognize parliament. During the Bulgarian crisis, against the will of the great powers, he succeeded in uniting Eastern Rumelia with the Principality of Bulgaria and, under his leadership, Bulgaria defeated the Serbs in the Serbian-Bulgarian War in 1885.

After the Treaty of Bucharest on March 3, 1886, Tsar Alexander III refused . To recognize Alexander I as ruler of enlarged Bulgaria. At the instigation of Russia , a group of pro-Russian officers launched a coup against the Bulgarian Prince Alexander I and forced him to abdicate on August 9, 1886. He was abducted to Russia. With the support of the Bulgarian Parliamentary President Stefan Stambolow, who carried out a counter-coup with the help of the military, Alexander was able to return to Bulgaria and briefly to the throne again. On September 7, 1886, however, he finally renounced the rule because he no longer enjoyed the confidence of the Russian tsar. Ferdinand von Sachsen-Coburg and Gotha was elected as his successor in 1887 after long internal political turmoil .

The Bulgarian Prince Ferdinand I. declared 30 years after the Russo-Turkish War from 1877 to 1878 on September 22nd July. / October 5, 1908 greg. in the medieval Bulgarian capital Veliko Tarnowo through the declaration of independence the Principality of Bulgaria independent from the Ottoman Empire and crowned itself with the title of Tsar. This point in time was well chosen, as the interests of the great powers were directed primarily towards these two countries because of the almost simultaneous annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina by Austria-Hungary. There is some evidence that Ferdinand had discussed things with Emperor Franz Joseph I at a meeting shortly before that in Budapest .

Macedonian question

The unresolved Macedonian question drew a strong stream of refugees from Macedonia (Macedonian Bulgarians, Bulgar. Македонски българи). The Macedonian refugees organized with the Thracian Bulgarians . Above all, however, the emigrants from Macedonia, such as Andrei Lyaptschew (Prime Minister of Bulgaria from 1926 to 1931), Simeon Radew (diplomat) and Ilija Georgow , soon established themselves as an important political force, which in the 1920s also had its own parliamentary group and was at times viewed as a " state within the state ", which resulted in constant pressure being exerted on the country's political circles to deal with the Macedonian issue.

The initially only politically active refugee organizations were given a militant wing, the Komitaji , which took military action in the areas not included in the Bulgarian state, uprisings, including the Kresna Raslog uprising in 1878, the Gorna Jumaya uprising in 1902 and the Ilinden uprising in 1903 -Preobraschenie uprising organized and carried out. This contributed to the further radicalization of politics, the pursuit of the realization of the idea of ​​the Bulgarian state within the borders of San Stefano. The Bulgarian state tried, depending on the foreign policy situation, to support or forbid them. The attempt to at least influence the actions through a state-controlled organization failed. The radicalized refugee organizations (such as the Inner Macedonian Revolutionary Organization and the Macedonia-Adrianople Supreme Committee ) tried for their part to influence Bulgarian politics by setting up groups of thugs, sending death threats and executing death sentences, such as those of Stefan Stambolov , to make certain political decisions enforce on Macedonia.

A collective national feeling was only slowly forming in the new state. He was burdened with heavy mortgages right from the start: The Macedonian emigration in the country created a permanent potential for unrest. The borders envisaged in San Stefano were seen by the Bulgarian elites as the legitimate framework of a Bulgarian national state and conveyed to the population as an integral part of the national identity.

In Sofia's foreign policy, too, a central point remained the pursuit of a Bulgaria within the borders of San Stefano, which included the annexation of Macedonia, Thrace and Eastern Rumelia, which took place in 1885. In addition, the Slavic, non-Serbian population in Macedonia saw themselves as Bulgarians until the 19th century, and this was also viewed as such by the Bulgarian side: Even before 1878, Macedonia was an immovable part of “Bulgarianism” among the relevant elites. This was justified with linguistic arguments, with "historical rights" with reference to the medieval Bulgarian empires, or membership of the Bulgarian Church. However, the beginnings of the Bulgarian National Revival also lie in Macedonia . Greater Bulgaria, which was projected in San Stefano in 1878, became an integral part of the national movement. To this day, Macedonia, as part of the Bulgarian nation, is firmly anchored in the collective national consciousness of the Bulgarians, and the questioning of this ideal has remained a taboo subject in broad sections of society.

Balkan Wars and World War I

Bulgaria , Serbia , Greece and Montenegro formed the Balkan Alliance in 1912 and attacked the Ottoman Empire in the First Balkan War in order to win Turkish Macedonia for themselves. Under the leadership of General Ivan Fitschew , the Bulgarian army captured Adrianople , Lüleburgaz ( Battle of Lüleburgaz ) and Kırklareli . As a loser, the Ottoman Empire had to cede most of its European territory. Because of a dispute over the division of Macedonia, Bulgaria, which had borne the brunt of the first war, began the Second Balkan War against Serbia and Greece in 1913 . While the Bulgarian armed forces were tied to the Greek and Serbian fronts, the Romanians who had entered the war advanced as far as Sofia. At the end of the Second Balkan War, the Ottomans had recaptured Eastern Thrace with Edirne (Adrianople) with the help of the militants from " Teşkilât-ı Mahsusa " and, like later with the genocide of the Armenians, expelled or murdered the entire Bulgarian population there . In the Treaty of Bucharest on August 10, 1913, Bulgaria lost the territories it had previously won, with the exception of western Thrace, and had to cede southern Dobruja to Romania . Macedonia came mostly to Serbia and Greece, Adrianople back to the Ottoman Empire.

Bulgarian refugee column from Macedonia (1914)

The next few years were marked by the search for revenge for this national catastrophe. The refugees who poured into the country also contributed to the dissatisfaction with the neighbors. In 1914, around 100,000–150,000 refugees and new immigrants lived in the country. Bulgaria, whose population grew to over four million as a result of the refugees, was facing an economic collapse. This could only be fended off with foreign loans. When Parisian banks refused to grant the Bulgarian government any more loans in the summer of 1914, the Deutsche Diskonto-Gesellschaft granted it . The money was put into military armament.

After the departure of the Triple Entente , Bulgaria approached the German Empire and took the side of the Central Powers in the First World War in part. On the eve of the First World War, Macedonian Bulgarians held central positions in all major parties in Bulgaria. They did not form an organized political group, neither in the people nor in the army, but they had great influence and made it clear that they would act by all means against a policy and its sponsors that did not see Macedonia's union with Bulgaria as the main point of the program. At the beginning of the war, 60% of the army officer corps came from Macedonia. 40% of the officials and 37% of the priests also came from Macedonia. The press, which was partly dominated by emigrants from Macedonia such as Danail Kraptschew or Andrei Lyaptschew , fueled the domestic political mood with frequent reports on the situation in Macedonia. The "Macedonian circles" also used the social difficulties for their unification propaganda. At that time Macedonia became the central question of their politics for almost all Bulgarian parties, the national question of life , as well as for the king, the church and the army.

The war aims of Bulgaria were detained in the treaty of alliance of the German Reich with Bulgaria on 6 September 1915th A secret agreement, which was concluded in addition to the alliance treaty, contained territorial agreements to enlarge Bulgaria: the German Empire guaranteed Bulgaria the acquisition and annexation of "Serbian Macedonia " and old Serbia from the confluence with the Danube to the confluence of the " Serbian " and " Bulgarian " rivers Morawa ”, over the ridges of Crna Gora and Šar Planina to the Bulgarian border of San Stefano. In the event of a Romanian or Greek entry into the war on the part of the Allies, the new ally would also be offered parts of the Dobruja and “which fell to Greece through the Bucharest Treaty”, new parts of Greece . With this, Bulgaria wanted to return the favor for the territorial losses in the summer of 1913 and to bring back at least some of the territories that had been lost in the Second Balkan War. When the war broke out, state and church pursued the same goal of regaining lost territories and zones of influence.

France tried in vain to persuade Bulgaria to go to war on the side of the Entente: Financed by the Compagnie Financière de Paribas , the French merchant Fernan de Closier was supposed to acquire almost the entire Bulgarian grain harvest of the year. However, the action was caught and the Bulgarian Prime Minister Vasil Radoslawow nationalized the entire harvest. On October 14, 1915, the country entered the world war on the side of the Central Powers.

Military operations of the Central Powers in 1915/16 in the First World War in the Balkans

Bulgaria occupied the Dobruja together with the allies in 1916 . The Peace of Bucharest (1918) gave Bulgaria back the southern Dobruja and parts of the northern Dobruja. The occupation areas in the west, Macedonia and the Morava region, were administered by the BMARK .

From September 15, 1918, the resistance of the Bulgarian army collapsed completely after a breakthrough by the Allies on the Salonika Front. On September 25, 1918, the government asked for an armistice, which was signed in Thessaloniki on September 29 . Ferdinand's “excess”, which had decisively favored the decision in favor of the Central Powers, had driven Bulgaria into a second catastrophe after the Balkan Wars. In the First World War, the Bulgarian armed forces lost just over 100,000 dead and over 140,000 wounded, with a pre-war population of around 4.5 million and a total of 1.2 million mobilized.

After the First World War

Bulgaria under the Treaty of Neuilly-sur-Seine

In the Treaty of Neuilly in 1919, Bulgaria had to surrender its access to the Aegean Sea, the land area of ​​Thrace, between the rivers Mesta and Mariza , with the port of Dedeagac (today: Alexandroupolis) to the Allies . These handed it over to Greece at the Sanremo Conference in April 1920. Romania now received the southern part of the Dobruja, the areas around Caribrod , Bosilegrad and Strumiza went to the newly founded " Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes ".

Bulgaria was thus far from realizing its national ideal. Traditional national politics had reached a dead end and left a heap of ruins with the hostility of neighboring states. The consequences of the First World War were devastating: Bulgaria lost a total of 8% of its pre-war area or around 10,750 km². In addition, Bulgaria should pay reparations amounting to 2.25 billion gold francs . The amount was reduced to 550 million in 1923 and the remainder canceled in 1932. The administration and distribution of finances was overseen by an Allied Control Commission. In addition, there was an influx of at least 200,000 refugees, although the figures vary. By 1926, more than 800,000 refugees came into the country, mainly from Eastern Thrace and Dobruja, and a little over 100,000 came from Vardar-Macedonia. At the same time, 50,000 Greeks, mostly from the Black Sea coast, and around 230,000 Turks from Bulgaria in 1923–1945. This changed the ethnic composition of Bulgaria and caused considerable social problems. The country, which was already overcrowded with refugees from the Balkan Wars, was on the verge of collapse. Some of the refugees were able to settle in the areas of the displaced Greeks and Turks. Lands owned by monasteries were partially dissolved in order to create a livelihood for many with smaller estates. However, many refugees lived miserably in neighborhoods on the outskirts of the big cities and flooded the labor market. Some then emigrated overseas. All of this led to a number of extended strikes - 150 are known for 1919 alone.

Trade, industry and agriculture were badly affected. Agriculture barely had any seeds left . There was a shortage of raw materials and energy in industry. The trade lacked the means of transport that had been used and destroyed in the war. The prices rose enormously. The unfortunate outcome of the war prompted the Tsar, on October 3, 1918, in favor of his son Boris III. to resign. In the unrest-torn country, he initially played a subordinate political role until he seized power as an absolutist monarch in 1935, one year after the coup d'état by the group "Sweno".

Government of the Bauernbund (1919–1923)

The social hardship and political dissatisfaction erupted in the parliamentary elections in August 1919, which became a settlement with the entire previous political establishment. The world war had politicized the population, including the peasants in particular, and thus shook the previous political system. The parties tried to manipulate the partially illiterate population, but hardly represented the interests of the population adequately. Despite the usual semi-legal electoral manipulation by the administration, which was occupied by people close to the government through clientelism (“partizanstvo”), the old parties together achieved less than 40% of the votes. The winner was the Bulgarian National Peasant Association under Aleksandar Stambolijski (31%), which Communists (18%), who achieved success in the urban lower classes, and the Social Democrats (13%). In another election in March 1920, the farmers' union even received a slim majority of the seats.

The Stambolijski government, which had been in office since October 1919, wanted Bulgaria out of its international isolation in terms of foreign policy, but the only success in this direction was Bulgaria's admission to the League of Nations in 1920 . By rejecting revisionism , he angered the country's old elites, who clung to Bulgaria within the borders of San Stefano, and the military. The Inner Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO), a right-wing extremist terrorist organization fighting for the annexation of Macedonia to Bulgaria , declared him its main enemy.

Domestically, Stambolijski relied on the peasants, who made up 80 percent of the Bulgarian population. He tried to make them and their political organization the decisive vehicle for the political-democratic, economic-social and intellectual-cultural development of the country. In doing so, he represented the interests of the rural majority of the population, which represented a democratization of Bulgaria's politics, but neglected the cities and broke with the still powerful old elite of the urban upper classes. He implemented a progressive income tax and elected judges, de-ideologized the curriculum and cleared the teaching staff of both extremely nationalist and communist representatives. He promoted cooperatives of the many small farmers in order to make their production more efficient. His goal was a corporationist third way between communism and capitalism.

With the law on compulsory work of June 14, 1920, a kind of labor service was established for the first time. Men over 20 and women over 16 should be asked to work in all branches of the economy for 12 and 6 months respectively. Married and Muslim women as well as those men who did 12 years of voluntary military service were excluded. In the event of natural disasters and national emergencies, men between the ages of 20 and 50 could be required to serve for up to four weeks.

The central project of the Bauernbund, however, was the land reform, which met resistance from the landowners. In the land reform, all property was divided over 30 hectares. According to the principle that the land should belong to whoever works it, an individual should work one hectare and a family ten hectares. In fact, around six percent of Bulgarian land has been expropriated and redistributed. Nowhere in Southeastern Europe was the soil so evenly distributed among the owners as here.

However, Stambolijski's domestic policy was more radical than anything Bulgaria had known before. There was press censorship and government officials were banned from participating in demonstrations. His “Orange Guard”, a militia of his party made up of peasants - party militias were not uncommon in Europe at the time - was increasingly seen as a sign of his “reign of terror”. Stambolijski's tone against the allegedly morally depraved cities became increasingly radical. He made no secret of his skepticism towards parliamentarianism, who saw himself as the representative of two thirds of the people.

Out of distrust of the old elite, he seldom used the administrative apparatus, but instead expanded his party into a kind of parallel organization, which turned the civil servants against him. The corruption, which he had strongly criticized in the old parties, continued unabated under his government. However, many of his reforms continued after the end of the farmers' union.

Putsch and government of "Democratic Unity" (1923–1926)

The policy of the farmers' union had many opponents. In the parliamentary elections in the spring of 1923, the Bauernbund won an overwhelming majority without any manipulation, even if the introduction of the majority vote had helped. As a result, political forces from the army, the administrative apparatus , the IMRO and the old parties joined forces to form Democratic Unity (bulg. Демократически сговор / Demokratitscheski Sgowor). On the night of June 8th to 9th, 1923, a coup against Stamboliysky took place under the command of Captain Ivan Walkow and the right-wing politician Professor Aleksandar Zankow . King Boris III Presumably knew about it, but did not intervene, and neither did the Communist Party . The “Orange Guard” was smashed, Alexandar Stambolijski was taken prisoner on June 14th and was finally cruelly murdered by members of the IMRO . With him, many supporters of the farmers' union were eliminated without judgment with the support of IMRO. In Pirin-Macedonia, IMRO's base of operations for its guerrilla warfare in the Serbian Vardar-Macedonia, IMRO became the “state within the state” and in the course of the 1920s it became the “state above the state” throughout Bulgaria.

Prisoners after the September uprising in 1923

The new right-wing government under Aleksandar Zankow also persecuted the communists and had 2,500 of them jailed on September 12, 1923. Although Stambolijski was also taken against the Communists, and they had insulted the Bauernbund long as "rural petty bourgeoisie," the Communist Party allied under the pressure of Moscow (more precisely, the Communist International ) with Stamboliyski trailers and launched on September 23, an uprising to to correct the "mistakes" of June 9th. The leaders of this uprising were Vasil Kolarov and Georgi Dimitrov . This belated rebellion was bloody ended in just a few days with more than 20,000 victims and an army victory. The Communist Party was banned.

The government formed a bloc "Democratic Unity" ( Demokraticeski sgovor ) by trying to attract politicians from all parties. An "association of related parties" should be created. As soon as this happened, a differentiation into the so-called wings ("tribes") began. One group was grouped around Zankow, the others followed the moderate Andrei Lyaptschew of the Democrats and Atanas Burow of the United National Progressive Party, which wanted to renew the parliamentarism of the period before 1918 without compromise. Overall, Zankov's government must be viewed as right-wing authoritarian rule. Its goals were the fight against innovations, the increase of the effectiveness of the state, economic recovery and foreign policy peaceful revision of the Treaty of Neuilly.

The government did not succeed in restoring public order, however, because the communists now switched to terror in their fight against the regime. The most sensational thing was a bomb attack on the Sveta Nedelja Cathedral in April 1925, in which more than 150 people were killed. Tsar Boris III, who was the target of this attack, happened to be absent. Then from April to October 1925 the state of emergency was in effect. The previous sympathies for communism were thereby considerably diminished. The farmers' union, which had been in opposition since 1923, also declared its rejection of terror and the Comintern . In addition to the communists, the IMRO continued to terrorize the country.

In terms of foreign policy, the Zankow government, like Stambolijski before it, was unable to achieve a decisive breakthrough in the revision of the Neuilly Treaty. A minority agreement was signed with Greece in 1924 and a peace and friendship treaty was concluded with Turkey in 1925 . Relations with Yugoslavia were strained by increased gang activity by IMRO. Hopes for a border revision in Thrace were dashed at the Lausanne conference .

The economic recovery has lagged far behind expectations (and population growth). It was only gradually approaching the pre-war level. New fields and pastures were opened up, swamps drained, higher-yielding plants and new animal breeds introduced. Tobacco, cotton, sugar beets and sunflowers remained the most important export goods. New branches of production opened up in industry: rubber, glass and porcelain. Another problem that intensified the internal unrest was the wave of refugees from Dobruja, Macedonia and Trakia with over 250,000 refugees in the years 1919 to 1925. The very important trade access to the Aegean, which Bulgaria got from Neuilly according to Art. 48 should, had never received it. When the granting of the bonds urgently needed for the economic recovery of the country in London and Paris was made dependent on domestic political stabilization in Bulgaria, Zankov had to resign. The next chapter in Bulgarian history was called “The Era of Real Democracy”.

Lyaptschew government, "People's Bloc" and the Great Depression (1926–1934)

Bulgarian refugees from Western Thrace at the
Svilengrad train station

On January 4, 1926, the radical Zankow was replaced by the moderate Andrei Lyaptschew and Atanas Burow (until 1931). They tried to get back to democratic principles by underlining the importance of parliament, calling for freedom of the press and political discussion. A comprehensive amnesty for political prisoners took place in February 1926. The Communist Party and its organizations, workers' youth leagues and trade unions were approved a year later. By holding local, district and parliamentary elections in 1926/27, the government had fulfilled the essential liberalization expectations at home and abroad. Lyaptschev's moderate course was rewarded with a refugee loan from British and American banks amounting to 2.4 million pounds sterling and 4.5 million dollars.

On May 31, 1927, the Inter-Allied Control Commission left Bulgaria. This was followed on December 9, 1927 by the Mollow-Kaphantaris Agreement with Greece on the resettlement of Bulgarians from Western Thrace. This brought a new wave of refugees to Bulgaria and led to renewed supply problems. In his foreign policy Lyaptschew documented the peaceful intentions of Bulgaria on November 14, 1928 by joining the Briand-Kellogg Pact . On January 20, 1930, as part of the Hague Final Act, the reparation sum was reduced from 2.25 billion gold francs to the still unpaid amount of 171.6 million gold francs.

The Catholic Hospital in Plovdiv after the Chirpan earthquake (1928)

On April 14, 1928, Holy Saturday , Bulgaria was struck by a severe earthquake . The center was located 8 km north of Chirpan in the Thracian plain .

The world economic crisis first manifested itself in Bulgaria as an agricultural crisis, which led to a price reduction of agricultural products that was far below the profitability value for farmers. The agrarian reform of 1921 under Stambolijski as well as the failures in agrotechnical innovations also played a certain role. Industrial production fell by half. The number of unemployed rose to 200,000. The crisis caused general discontent, which was directed against the Conservative government. In the relatively free elections of June 21, 1931, the opposition “people's bloc” came to power. It was a coalition government of democrats, liberals and moderate agrarians, initially under the leadership of Aleksandar Malinov , and from October 12, 1931 by Nikola Muschanow . The government disappointed the hopes placed in it through internal disagreements, continued corruption and failure to fight the economic crisis. Even after the Hoover moratorium expired (July 1931 to July 1932), it had to stop servicing interest on foreign debts. In public, their failure was also seen as the failure of democracy.

In terms of foreign policy, these governments did not make any progress either. This was shown in 1934 in the conclusion of the Balkan Pact between Turkey, Greece, Yugoslavia and Romania. In Article 8 he was directed against the Bulgarian revision efforts and thereby affirmed the isolation of Bulgaria.

Putsch and royal dictatorship (1934–1944)

On May 19, 1934, members of the military league and the small group " Sweno " (chain link) launched a coup against the government, which had visibly failed to achieve its goals. Democracy was eliminated and a dictatorship introduced. On May 30, 1934, the "Sweno" dissolved itself in order to facilitate the action of the Kimon Georgiev government against the other parties, all of which were banned.

The Georgiev government made profound changes in a short time and suspended parts of the Tarnovo constitution , which had been in force since 1879 . Above all, great austerity measures were carried out in the administration. The number of municipalities was reduced from 2,500 to 800 and the number of civil servants was reduced. On June 12, 1934, the parliament, the parties and other organizations (including the refugee organizations VMRO and VTRO) were dissolved and press censorship was introduced. The local self-administration was replaced by a central administration. The autonomous, party-oriented trade unions came under state control.

The new leadership met with approval in Nazi Germany and Italy, while England and France criticized it. The first foreign policy steps were in the direction of Yugoslavia. In the first few days after the coup, the government violently dissolved the IMRO. The positive effect on Belgrade was evident on May 24, 1934, through a trade agreement (no treaty had been concluded with Yugoslavia for 30 years). Another point was the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Soviet Union and Bulgaria. A joint chamber of commerce and a Bulgarian-Soviet company were established.

Despite promising approaches in foreign, domestic and economic policy, the putschists did not succeed in integrating the political forces that had previously dominated. They stayed isolated. On January 22, 1935 Kimon Georgiev had to give up his office. In the following months the military union was gradually disempowered and dissolved on March 3, 1936. Supported by royalist officers, Tsar Boris III. full power.

The following years were characterized by the stabilization of the royal dictatorship, the affirmation of an independent foreign policy and increased economic cooperation with Germany. In contrast to other dictatorial regimes that emerged in Europe in the 1930s, the Bulgarian one held on to a comparatively large number of democratic elements. Tsar Boris III. put the constitution, which was largely repealed in 1934, back into force. Right-wing organizations were disbanded. In order to prevent further coup attempts, the military was "depoliticized" and thus eliminated as a political factor. Local elections were held in March 1937, and the following year in March 1938 a parliament was even re-elected, even if the elections were distorted by rigid guidelines. Women's suffrage was gradually introduced, first for married women in local elections, then for divorced and widowed women in parliamentary elections. It was not until October 1944 that Bulgarian women received general active and passive suffrage.

At the head of the government was Andrei Toshev until November 1935 and then until February 15, 1940 Georgi Kjosseiwanow , who was a confidante of the Tsar. During his tenure, Kjoseivanov reshuffled the government eight times, an indication of the lack of a leading idea and a political force that would support the government. The state was not based on specific parties, but on united elements of parliamentarism and royal dictatorship.

In March 1937, Kjoseiwanow had local elections, a year later parliamentary elections, in which the candidates were not allowed to appear as representatives of parties, but only as individuals, if the party ban continued. The government did not organize its supporters into a fixed party either. When parliament was opened in May 1938, 106 out of 170 deputies declared themselves in favor of the government and 64 against it.

In its foreign policy, the government tried to repeal the Neuilly military clauses. On July 31, 1938, she reached an agreement with Greece on the lifting of arms restrictions and permission to reoccupy the demilitarized zone on the Thracian border. A year earlier, on January 24, 1937, the Bulgarian-Yugoslav friendship and non-aggression pact had been ratified.

Bulgaria was very dependent on Germany in terms of trade policy. Bulgarian exports to Germany amounted to 47.1% in 1937 and rose to 58.9% in 1938 and 67.8% of total Bulgarian exports in 1939. Imports rose from 58.2% in 1937 and 52.0% in 1938 to 65.5% of total Bulgarian imports. The total volume of Bulgarian trade with Germany was around 2.5 billion leva in 1930 and increased to three times that figure in 1939, namely around 7.5 billion leva, with a positive trade balance for Bulgaria. In the war years 1941–1944, Germany even achieved a share of 79% of Bulgaria's imports and 73% of Bulgaria's exports. Although Bulgaria was so economically dependent on Germany, a closer political connection to Germany was established by Boris III. avoided.

The political and state, economic and social, legal and cultural development of Bulgaria between the end of the First and the beginning of the Second World War varied between failed attempts to establish a democratic-parliamentary order and multiple catastrophes, upheavals and coups d'état as a result various forms of dictatorship emerged.

In terms of foreign policy, Bulgaria was largely isolated from 1919-1934 because it had demands for revision against all neighboring countries with the exception of Turkey. However, the Bulgarian governments did not pursue a unified revisionist foreign policy during this period. The Stambolijski government wanted to create a Greater South Slavic federation of states. Bulgarian policy in the 1930s was faced with three tasks: it was necessary to overcome foreign policy isolation, to revise the Treaty of Neuilly through an understanding with the neighbors and with the approval of the great powers, and to regain the lost territories.

But the territorial losses had brought tensions and problems with Greece, Yugoslavia and Romania that were very difficult to alleviate. Due to the constant attacks, the Macedonian question was an almost insoluble permanent problem. The Dobruja question, which separated Bulgaria from Romania, was of lesser importance. Domestically and economically, the situation has not changed much in these years. Since there was no great social differentiation in Bulgaria, neither a landed nobility nor a large-scale property bourgeoisie, officers and civil servants played a decisive role, as in the years of state formation.

The complete predominance of the rural population changed only slightly by the end of the Second World War. In 1900 the proportion of the rural population was 80.2% and in 1934 78.5%.

Bulgaria and the Second World War

The Tsar's policy of neutrality

After the military coup of May 19, 1934 and the dissolution of the political parties, an authoritarian government emerged under Tsar Boris III. Nevertheless, the tsar faced a strong parliament, which in the following years repeatedly took a stand on important domestic and foreign policy issues. In addition, after the loss of the First World War, the Bulgarian army was underfunded, poorly equipped and outnumbered the armies of neighboring countries. In April 1939, for example, Bulgaria defined its foreign policy priorities with a special directive, stipulating that foreign policy goals such as the adaptation of the Neuilly Peace Treaty can only be pursued with diplomatic means. With the outbreak of World War II , Bulgaria tried to maintain neutrality for as long as possible and therefore issued a declaration of neutrality on September 15, 1939, two weeks after the outbreak of war. Two shipping contracts (December 11, 1939 and January 5, 1940) were signed with the Soviet Union. The right-wing government of Bogdan Filov (February 1940 to September 1943) rejected a pact offered by Moscow on mutual support because it feared that it would exert too much influence on internal conditions and "Sovietization".

However, in 1940 the Balkan state saw itself threatened by both the Soviet Union and Turkey. Greece itself had plans, if Bulgaria were not on the side of the Greeks, to occupy the southern part. On March 13, 1940, the Greek chief of staff, General Papagos , demanded in writing an alliance between Bulgaria and Greece, otherwise Bulgaria should be neutralized and occupied instead. In the event of neutrality or opposition, he threatened the occupation for traffic-technical, operational reasons and the saving of armed forces (border security). So isolated in the Balkans, Bulgaria moved closer to the Axis powers . By the Treaty of Craiova of September 7, 1940, Bulgaria got the southern part of the Dobruja back from Romania under Italian and German pressure . The new border line was not changed after the end of the war.

On November 18, 1940, Tsar Boris III came. to Berlin. In his state, because of its geographical location, German and Soviet interests overlapped. The king had already refused to join the Tripartite Pact twice, on October 22nd and November 17th of that year. On November 25, Bulgaria rejected a friendship treaty with the Soviet Union, which provided for the stationing of parts of the Soviet Black Sea Fleet in Bulgaria.

anti-Jewish law to protect the nation

At the instigation of Interior Minister Petar Gabrowski, Bulgaria published the anti-Jewish law for the protection of the nation on January 23, 1941. There is no evidence of any direct influence on the part of the German Reich. Initially, only the provisions regarding Jewish property and assets from the law were consistently applied.

On 22/23 January 1941 there was a meeting between General Field Marshal Wilhelm List with his Chief of the General Staff, General Hans von Greiffenberg , and a Bulgarian General Staff delegation under General Boydeff in Predeal in Romania. At that time, the Bulgarian government was exposed to pressure from Nazi Germany , but was also unable to protect the country from possible attacks by the Soviet Union, Turkey or Greece. Accordingly, the Tsar and the government were convinced that they were dependent on military aid from Nazi Germany, whereupon German troops were to be stationed in the country to take on air defense tasks, among other things. As soon as this was guaranteed, Bulgaria agreed to join the tripartite pact. The diplomat Herbert von Richthofen got the same impression on January 23, 1941 during a meeting with the command of the Bulgarian Air Force. On February 17, 1941, a Bulgarian-Turkish friendship and non-aggression pact was signed.

In view of Bulgaria's imminent accession on the side of the Axis Powers and the demands of the Allies to oppose the Germans, Danail Kraptschew described the general public mood at the time in the newspaper Zora :

“Why don't you stop them? Why didn't you stop them when they invaded Austria? Why did you agree with them in Munich by invading Czechoslovakia? Why didn't you stop them when they invaded Poland? Why didn't you stop them when they took Paris? … In 1919 you took our weapons from us - what should we fight with now? ... In the Treaty of Neuilly-sur-Seine you only affirmed and broadened our divisions ... Shall we fight for the borders of Neuilly-sur-Seine you set? "

On the Axis side

Territorial acquisitions of Bulgaria during the Second World War
Administrative division of Bulgaria during the Second World War

On February 28, 1941, German troops moved from Romania near Giurgiu south of Bucharest across the Danube into Bulgaria. At the same time, German troops deployed in Dobruja crossed the Bulgarian border towards Varna . On March 1, the Bulgarian Prime Minister Bogdan Filov signed the declaration of accession to the Axis powers in Vienna. The document does not contain any territorial clauses or concessions to Bulgaria in return. The Soviet Union reacted violently to the announcement that Bulgaria had joined the "Tripartite Pact" and called the occupation of Bulgaria a threat to its own security. When the Yugoslav putsch of March 1941 brought about the Wehrmacht's Balkan campaign , Hitler ordered the administration of large parts of western Thrace and Macedonia to Bulgaria. In December 1941, Bulgaria declared war on Great Britain and the United States - but not on the Soviet Union.

Around 60,000 Jews lived in pre-war Bulgaria in 1943, almost half of them in Sofia. About 12,000 Jews lived in the annexed areas of Thrace and Macedonia, most of them Greek or Yugoslav citizens. In March 1943 Bulgaria delivered the “foreign” (Thracian and Macedonian) Jews for deportation. The Bulgarian Jews were spared after protests from the population and parliament. Later, in view of the turning point in the war, the Bulgarian leadership was less and less prepared to discredit itself internationally by extraditing Bulgarian Jews. So the Jews of the Bulgarian heartland were able to survive.

The SS leader Theodor Dannecker was responsible for the deportation of Bulgarian Jews from January to September 1943 as a “ Jewish advisor ” to the German embassy in Sofia . Together with Aleksandar Belew , the “Commissioner for Jewish Affairs” appointed in August 1942 , he worked out an agreement with a plan according to which 20,000 Jews should initially be deported. Belew first organized the deportation of those Jews who lived in the areas occupied by Bulgaria in Macedonia and Greece. Around 4,000 were deported from Western Thrace, a further 7,100 people, including 2,000 children, from Macedonia and 158 from Pirot to the Treblinka extermination camp . Only 196 of them survived. A total of 11,343 and 11,459 Jews were deported. However, when 6,000 Bulgarian Jews were to be deported, as provided for in the agreement, the royal house, the Bulgarian government, the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and the population for the most part successfully opposed the persecution and after the plan was discovered by Dimitar Peschew the deportation . So the Grand Rabbi of Sofia was hidden by the Bulgarian Patriarch Stefan I. Stefan I. even publicly opposed the persecution. This saved the 48,000 Jews of the old Bulgarian territory from mass murder. The anti-Semitic laws were repealed on August 30, 1944.

Bulgaria also refused to send troops to the Eastern Front . The local fascists (Ratnizi) quickly lost their importance after the overthrow of Prime Minister Petar Dimitrov Gabrowski . After the death of Tsar Boris III. the minor Simeon II ascended the throne in 1943. He was represented by a Regency Council under Prince Kyril vis-à-vis the government under Prime Minister Dobri Boschilow . He resigned on June 1, 1944. His successor was Ivan Ivanov Bagrjanow , who tried to enter into negotiations with the Western Allies.
On August 27, 1944, Bagrjanov resigned Bulgaria's membership in the Tripartite Pact and instructed the Bulgarian troops to withdraw from Serbia. The Wehrmacht leadership reacted immediately with countermeasures, for example to secure strategically important railway lines.

Soviet occupation

On September 2, 1944, Konstantin Murawiew was appointed Prime Minister by the Regency Council. The detachment of Bagryanov sent a signal to the Allies that had rejected Bulgaria's previous advances. On September 5, 1944, the council ratified a law that abolished discrimination against Jews. The Soviet Union declared war on Bulgaria on the same day, while Bulgaria, despite the alliance with Germany, did not participate in the war against the Soviet Union or even established a state of war.

Muraview then broke off diplomatic relations with the German Reich on September 6th. The following day all Jews who had been persecuted under the anti-Semitic laws of January 1941 were given amnesty. On September 8th, Muraviev was overthrown. An alliance of officers, communists, social and radical democratic politicians and representatives of the left wing of the Bauernbund took over the government and declared war on the day of the overthrow of Germany. At the same time the Red Army invaded Bulgaria and occupied the whole country. On September 8th and 9th, Bulgaria was occupied by the Soviet Black Sea Fleet .

People's Republic of Bulgaria

Communist seizure of power

Murawiev's Anglo-American sympathies were not only criticized by the communist movement. A government in exile formed in the areas controlled by Germany advocated loyalty to the German Reich. It was led by Alexander Zankow . Between September 9 and 12, 1944, several hundred leading figures were captured or murdered by communists. These days went down in Bulgarian history as the days of the red terror . On September 15, the Red Army held a military parade in Sofia. During this time, the Bulgarian State Archives for the years 1918–1944 were transported to the Soviet Union. A small part of it was returned in the 1950s, the greater part is still in Russian possession.

Since the conquest, Bulgaria has been under Soviet influence and has been made part of the Eastern Bloc as a satellite state . Dominated by communists, the Patriotic Front made up of communists ( Bulgarian Communist Party , BKP), social democrats and two other groups took power in the course of the Soviet occupation. Actual power lay - at least until the conclusion of the peace treaty in 1947 - with the Allied Control Commission (AKK) under its chairman, the Soviet General Sergei Biryusov .

On February 1, 1945, large sections of the country's political, military and intellectual elite who survived the days of the red terror in 1944 were sentenced to death by communist people's courts . Among them were 67 members of parliament, all members of the governments between 1941 and September 3, 1944 including the Prime Minister, the Tsar's regents ( Kyril , Bogdan Filow and Nikola Michow ), nine state and government secretaries , the publishers of the major newspapers and magazines, intellectuals, 47 Generals and officers. As early as December 1944 and January 1945, the deputy head of the International Information Department at the Central Committee of the CPSU , Georgi Dimitrov , ordered a zero tolerance policy from Moscow and demanded that there should be no acquittals. The death sentences were carried out on the night of February 2. The People's Court sentenced a total of 2,730 people to death and 1,305 to life imprisonment.

The chairman of the Bulgarian Agrarian People's Union (BZNS, Bulgarian: Българският земеделски народен съюз (БЗНС), Balgarski Zemedelski Naroden Sajuz), GM Dimitrov (not to be confused with Georgi Dimitrov was forced to emigrate at the beginning of 1945 and was also sentenced to death in 1945) . His successor Nikola Petkow was sentenced to death in a show trial in 1947 and then murdered. Unlike many contemporaries, Konstantin Murawiew escaped sentencing to death. He was sentenced to life imprisonment and remained in prison until 1955.

In November 1945, the chairman of the Bulgarian communists, Georgi Dimitrov, returned to Bulgaria from exile in the Soviet Union. On November 18, 1945, the Communists' takeover of power was formally legitimized by the “election” of parliament (the “people's assembly”). Only the Fatherland Front was available for election; she received 88.2% of the vote. Democratic parties were not allowed. With a turnout of 85.6%, 11.8% of those eligible to vote voted against the standard list. Opposition parties were not allowed to vote. The women's suffrage was introduced in 1945 only.

On September 8, 1946, a referendum was boycotted by opposition parties to abolish the monarchy. According to the official results, with a turnout of 91.6%, 95.6% spoke out against the monarchy. Under the leadership of Georgi Dimitrov, the country was declared a communist people 's republic on September 15, 1946 . On October 27, 1946, the elections for the Constituent Assembly took place. The Bulgarian Communist Party received (allegedly or actually) 53.5 of the vote and 278 of the 465 seats with a 92.6% turnout. On November 23, 1946, the incumbent President , Vasil Kolarow , dismissed Prime Minister Kimon Georgiev and appointed Georgi Dimitrov as his successor.

Proclamation of the People's Republic

On December 4, 1947, the Constitution of the People's Republic of Bulgaria was enacted, which replaced the Constitution of Tarnovo . In Article 12, the planned economy ( the state directs state, cooperative and private economic activity through the national economic plan ) was imposed as an economic principle. As in the other Eastern Bloc countries, land reform took place in Bulgaria . Beginning in 1944, all farms with an area of ​​more than 20 hectares were expropriated. In 1947 the Bulgarian Stock Exchange was closed.

The Bulgarian Communist Party was the country's leading party. This role was clearly emphasized in the Constitution of the People's Republic of Bulgaria of May 18, 1971. All state activities were under the control of the party. However, Bulgaria (like the GDR ) was not a one-party dictatorship. In addition to the BKP there was a bloc party , the BZNS. In parliament, the BZNS had 100 out of 400 seats, but was also under the control of the BKP.

Zhivkov era

In 1955 Bulgaria became a member of the UN . In the same year Bulgaria joined the Warsaw Pact as a founding member . Todor Zhivkov became General Secretary of the Communist Party on March 4, 1954; until November 1989 he remained the political leader of Bulgaria.

In April 1965, renegade army officers and party members attempted a coup. Such an incident was unique in a communist country. Zhivkov survived this coup attempt. He continued his policy of extreme severity against the political opposition in the country and against - supposed or actual - internal party opponents until 1989.

In 1968 he advocated a military crackdown on the Prague Spring . On the night of August 21, 1968, Bulgarian troops, together with troops from the Soviet Union , Poland and Hungary, occupied the ČSSR and crushed the democracy movement.

A small number of dissidents protested against the communist dictatorship . However, they were unable to achieve any relevant political impact. The control of the Bulgarian secret service Darschavna Sigurnost was effective. Some dissidents fled to the west. The murder of Georgi Markov with a poisoned umbrella in London in 1978 , for which the Bulgarian secret service was held responsible, became known worldwide . Compliance with human rights was never guaranteed. Even after Bulgaria joined the CSCE in 1975 , the human rights situation did not change.

From the beginning of the 1980s, the repression against the Muslim and Turkish minorities in Bulgaria intensified . In 1986, Bulgarian authorities forced the Turkish minority to adopt Slavic names and forbade school classes in Turkish. Around 380,000 ethnic Turks were forced to emigrate to Turkey with drastic measures or were deported to labor camps such as Belene . This was practiced until around 1990. According to official information, around 400 people died as a result of torture and massacre. To this day, this chapter has not been dealt with in Bulgarian society. The archives of the former State Security were only open for a short time, so that only a thousand could inspect, although their opening was requested or promised in the association agreement with the EU. In 2001, the government of the former King Simeon Sakskoburggotski repealed the law on opening the archives, which had been passed by the previous government. Above all, circles in the Communist successor party , the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), are opposed to the opening up .


In the years after the overthrow of the communist head of state Todor Zhivkov on November 10, 1989 , various governments separated relatively quickly.

On January 15, 1990, the Bulgarian Communist Party removed its claim to leadership from the constitution . The end of the socialist era began in 1990 with free elections. Bulgaria convened a people's constituent assembly as the first parliament and adopted a reformed democratic constitution. Since then, political and economic reforms have been pursued.

The end of 1994 elected BSP -Regierung (successor party of the Communist Party) of Zhan Videnov filed the application for accession to the European Union (EU) one on 14 December 1995th It was able to hold out until the beginning of 1997 and its economic policy led Bulgaria into a severe economic crisis. When the GNP negotiated with the IMF to fix the Bulgarian currency lev at the end of 1996 , the conservative democratic SDS mobilized the masses with the thesis that the GNP could not cope with this currency reform. With this she achieved the dissolution of parliament at the beginning of 1997 and the socialists renouncing an interim government.

For three months, the SDS ruled through the then Mayor of Sofia, Stefan Sofijanski , initially on an interim basis with the help of decrees, and during this time negotiated the modalities for a new financial policy that subsequently determined the situation in the country. After the victory of the SDS in the parliamentary elections on April 19, 1997, in which the SDS received 52.3 percent of the vote and 137 of the 240 parliamentary seats, Ivan Kostov became Prime Minister on May 21, 1997 as successor to Stefan Sofijanski. EU integration accelerated significantly during his reign. The government cooperated extensively with international institutions and lowered inflation; Long-delayed economic reforms such as the adaptation of the laws to the market economy and the privatization of state-owned companies have been implemented. During his tenure, a currency council was set up to combat inflation and the lev was tied to the DM (1999 to the EURO). While Bulgaria's position in the world economy improved under the Conservative government, the social situation of the population deteriorated.

From 2001 to 2005 Simeon Sakskoburggotski was Bulgarian Prime Minister, who had been deposed as Tsar Simeon II in 1946. This makes him the only monarch in world history who was deposed and later democratically elected.

Flags of NATO, Bulgaria and the European Union placed side by side in front of the Plovdiv Military Association : the symbol of European alliances.

At the NATO summit in Prague on November 22, 2002, seven Eastern European countries, including Bulgaria, were invited to admission interviews. On March 26, 2003, the Accession Protocols were signed, and on March 29, 2004 Bulgaria and the other six countries were admitted to NATO.

An association agreement with the European Union (EU) has also been signed and largely implemented. The accession negotiations were successfully concluded in 2004. As a further step, on April 13, 2005, the EU Parliament approved accession to the European Union with 522 votes out of 660, and on April 25, 2005 the Accession Treaty was signed in Luxembourg . Bulgaria has been a member of the EU since January 1, 2007 (also Romania; the EU-25 became the EU-27 on this day). On May 1, 2004, the EU had admitted ten Eastern European countries (" EU enlargement 2004 ").

Presidential elections were held in October 2006, shortly before joining the European Union. President Georgi Parvanov thus linked the election with government policy, although the president only has a representative role. Although none of the candidates questioned joining the EU, the chairman and candidate of the "Ataka", Wolen Siderow , stood out for his rejection of NATO and the demand for more referendums and came in second. Parvanov received almost 2/3 of the votes cast, but because of the strict electoral law he had to run for the runoff election. In the election of the head of state, a minimum participation of 50% of the electorate, which was not reached, is required. In the runoff election, all government and opposition parties with the exception of Ataka stood behind Parvanov; this contributed to the defeat of Siderov. Among the two strongest candidates Parvanov was confirmed without a participation quorum with 73.4% of the vote.

On January 11, 2012, on the proposal of the chairman of the Blue Coalition Ivan Kostov , the Bulgarian parliament unanimously passed a declaration against the assimilation policy of the former totalitarian regime towards the Muslim minority . With this, the Bulgarian state recognized the crimes against the Bulgarian Turks and Muslims during the communist era.

See also


  • Stefan Appelius : Bulgaria. Europe's Far East. Bouvier, Bonn 2006, ISBN 3-416-03154-7 .
  • Frederick B. Chary: The History of Bulgaria. (= The Greenwood Histories of the Modern Nations). Greenwood, Santa Barbara 2011, ISBN 978-0-313-38446-2 .
  • Sigrun Comati: Bulgarian regional studies. Helmut Buske Verlag, Hamburg 2003, ISBN 3-87548-327-8 .
  • Richard J. Crampton: A short history of modern Bulgaria. Cambridge University Press, New York 1987, ISBN 0-521-27323-4 . (Digitized at Google Books)
  • Richard J. Crampton: A concise history of Bulgaria. Cambridge concise histories. Cambridge University Press, New York 1997, ISBN 0-521-56719-X . (Digitized at Google Books)
  • Richard J. Crampton: Bulgaria. Oxford University Press, New York 2007, ISBN 978-0-19-820514-2 .
  • Richard J. Crampton: The Balkans since the Second World War . Pearson Education, 2002, Chapter 4.
  • Raymond Detrez: Historical dictionary of Bulgaria. Scarecrow Press, Lanham 1997, ISBN 0-8108-3177-5 .
  • Wassil Gjuselew : Research on the history of Bulgaria in the Middle Ages. Friends of the House of Wittgenstein, Vienna 1986, DNB 930052145
  • Hans-Joachim Härtel, Roland Schönfeld: Bulgaria. From the Middle Ages to the present. Verlag Friedrich Pustet, Regensburg 1998, ISBN 3-7917-1540-2 .
  • Harald Heppner (ed.): Public without tradition. Bulgaria's departure into the modern age. Lang, Frankfurt am Main 2003, ISBN 3-631-50737-2 .
  • Edgar Hösch , Karl Nehring, Holm Sundhaussen (Hrsg.): Lexicon for the history of Southeast Europe. Böhlau, Vienna / Cologne / Weimar 2004, ISBN 3-205-77193-1 .
  • Hans-Joachim Hoppe : Bulgaria - Hitler's willful ally. A case study on the National Socialist Southeast European Policy. (= Institute for Contemporary History, Volume 15). Deutsche Verlagsanstalt, Stuttgart 1979, ISBN 3-421-01904-5 .
  • Mark Mazower : The Balkans. A short history. Modern Library, New York 2002, ISBN 0-8129-6621-X .
  • Manfred Oppermann : Thracians, Greeks and Romans - On the west coast of the Black Sea. In: Zabern's illustrated books on archeology. Philipp von Zabern, 2007, ISBN 978-3-8053-3739-7 .
  • Nikolaj Ovcharow : History of Bulgaria. Brief outline. Lettera, Plovdiv 2006, ISBN 954-516-584-7 .
  • Nikolaj Poppetrov: Escape from Democracy. Authoritarianism and Authoritarian Regimes in Bulgaria 1919–1944. In: Erwin Oberländer (Ed.): Authoritarian Regime in East Central and Southeast Europe 1919–1944. Paderborn et al. 2001, ISBN 3-506-76186-2 , pp. 379-401.
  • Simeon Radew : Stroitelite na săvremenna Bălgarija. (Eng. The builders of modern Bulgaria) 3 volumes, Verlag Zacharij Stojanov, Sofia 2004/2009 (Bulgarian).
  • Daniel Ziemann: From wandering people to great power: the emergence of Bulgaria in the early Middle Ages (7th – 9th centuries). Böhlau Verlag, Cologne / Weimar 2007, ISBN 978-3-412-09106-4 .
  • Vassil Vassilev: Nationalism under the Red Star: Prehistory, implementation and effects of the name change campaign 1984-89 against the Turkish minority in Bulgaria, LIT, Münster 2008, ISBN 978-3825812966

Web links

Wikisource: Bulgaria  - Sources and full texts
Commons : History of Bulgaria  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

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