Bulgaria Brief History

Bulgaria Brief History

Bulgaria is almost always associated with beautiful beaches on the Black Sea by holidaying Swedes. But the country has much more to offer a traveler than this.

According to Aristmarketing, the country we today call Bulgaria has a very long, and often dramatic history. In the 6th century BC, parts of the country were inhabited by Thracians, an Indo-European people. Then it was taken by Greeks, Macedonians, Romans and Turks. The first Bulgarian kingdom was founded as early as the 680s AD and the country is thus one of Europe’s oldest. Bulgaria therefore has many historically interesting places and monuments to visit. There are also scenic places and an interesting folk life, especially in the countryside.

My journey in Bulgaria began, and ended, in the capital Sofia.

For almost three weeks I visited different regions and places around Bulgaria. I had access to a rental car for fourteen days and drove 2,680 kilometers with it, which gave me the opportunity to visit places off the beaten track; to mountain villages with several hundred year old wooden houses where life seemed to stand still. Donkey carts are still used here as a means of transport, in the villages the geese often walked peacefully on the cobbled village streets and from the villages the shepherds went out with their herds to graze in the early morning hours. In southwestern Bulgaria are the mountain areas of Rila, Pirin and Rhodopi, with good hiking opportunities. In the mountains are beautiful monasteries, several of which are on the UNESCO World Heritage List. In the cities, Western consumer society is pushing harder, for better or worse.

Driving a car in Bulgaria is a challenge, often with life at stake, every time you get in the car!

Bulgaria has a very interesting offer to offer a committed traveler, much more than just the bathing life on the Black Sea! Unfortunately, many people miss this out of the almost 5 million tourists who visit Bulgaria every year.

Bulgaria – History in brief

Older history

Traces of humanity have been found in Bulgaria dating to 6,000 BC. At this time, it was people who engaged in hunting and fishing and were nomadic. Later, more permanent residents came to the region, which affected future development.

At the end of the fourth millennium BC, ethnic groups migrated from Central Europe, merging with the people already living in the region.

The first ethnic group known by name to inhabit parts of the area we today call Bulgaria were the Thracians, an Indo-European people. The most famous remains after them are several famous burial sites. The foremost tomb has been found in the city of Kazanlak and is more than 2,000 years old. Other interesting remains are the palace ruins at the cities of Plovdiv, Pliska and Veliko Tarnovo.

The kingdom of the Thracian reached its peak in the sixth century BCE

Some Thracian tribes established close contact with the Greeks who began colonizing the Black Sea coast in the 8th century BC.

At the end of the 600s BC. the Persians invaded the kingdom of the Thracians.

In the 300s BC, Thrace was conquered by the Macedonian king Philip II, father of Alexander the Great. Philip founded the city of Philipolis, which today is called Plovdiv. Remains remain after his city.

The Romans became the power factor in the region after they defeated the Macedonians in 168 BC. but it took almost two hundred years to defeat the rebellious Thracians altogether. The Romans founded two provinces in the ancient Thracian Empire, one in the north and one in the south. They came to rule the region for almost 400 years. When the Roman Empire was divided in 395, Thrace came under the Eastern Roman Empire Byzantium.

In the 6th century, a Turkish cavalry, the Bulgarians, invaded the country from the steppes north of the Black Sea. Within a couple of centuries, the Bulgarians had been integrated into the Slavic population that had invaded the area in the 5th century.

The first Bulgarian kingdom, founded in 681 and lasting until 1018, periodically posed a threat to Byzantium. In the ninth century, Orthodox Christianity was adopted as the official religion under King Boris I. Under his son, Tsar Simeon I, the kingdom was the most powerful. After Simeon’s reign, Bulgaria was weakened by recurring wars. In 1014, the country suffered a severe defeat in the battles against Byzantium. The Byzantine ruler Basileios II made himself known as Bulgaroktonos, meaning the Bulgarian killer, after ordering his soldiers to stick out the eyes of 14,000 Bulgarian prisoners of war. Four years later, all of Bulgaria was under Byzantine control and Byzantium came to rule the country for almost 200 years.

In 1185, the Bulgarians successfully revolted and formed a new kingdom based in Tarnovo. But the war continued; against Byzantines, Mongols, Serbs, Hungarians and Christian crusaders. In addition, the empire was weakened by internal strife and peasant uprisings.

The Turks took over the Bulgarian kingdom in 1396. It was the beginning of a hard and long occupation that lasted for almost 500 years and even today the Bulgarians call this period “the Turkish yoke”.

The almost 500 years, 1396 – 1878, of Turkish (Ottoman) rule meant a stagnation of Bulgarian culture.

During the 19th century, a nationalist revival grew strong in the country and a Bulgarian uprising against the Turks was answered with extensive massacres. The outside world reacted strongly to this.

In 1878, Russia invaded Bulgaria and expelled the Turks, who had been weakened by many wars. At the peace of San Stefano the same year, Russia decided that a Greater Bulgaria, under Russian protection, would be established. Other major powers, fearful of too much Russian influence in the Balkans, opposed the peace agreement. At the Berlin Congress in 1878, Greater Bulgaria was divided between five countries. The Bulgarians gained autonomy over an area, albeit formally under Turkish rule.

At the end of the 19th century, the first political parties in the country were formed. In 1891, the Social Democratic Party was founded, from which later the Bulgarian Communist Party arose.

History of Bulgaria, modern 1900 – 1999


King Ferdinand proclaimed Bulgaria’s independence when a coup took place in Turkey


In the First Balkan War, the country achieved great success.


In the Second Balkan War, Bulgaria lost the lands it had won in 1912

1912 -1918

Hoping to recapture Macedonia, the country allied with Germany and Austria during World War I. When it became clear that the war would be lost, King Ferdinand resigned. He was replaced by his son, Boris III


Aleksander Stambolijski, leader of the Agrarian Party, became Prime Minister. Under his authoritarian rule, a land reform was implemented and a progressive income tax was introduced


Aleksander Stambolijski was overthrown and murdered by a right-wing group


A communist coup attempt failed

1920s, late and 1930s, beginning

Bulgaria was governed alternately by coalition governments and military regimes. Farmers and communists were forced into exile


Through a military-backed coup, an authoritarian regime came to power


Dissatisfaction with the regime was exploited by King Boris III and he himself took power

1940s, early

The Bulgarians give Germany permission to use the country as a base for attacks on Yugoslavia and Greece


The Bulgarians occupy the Yugoslav part of Macedonia and take part in World War II on the side of the Axis powers, but refuse to take part in the war against the Soviet Union


King Boris III dies. His six-year-old son Simeon II succeeds the
Foster Front, formed in 1942, fighting the Germans


The Red Army occupies Bulgaria. The patriotic front, dominated by the Communist Party and supported by the Soviets, appoints a new government.


Bulgaria is declared a People’s Republic and King Simeon II goes into exile The
Foster Front gets over 70% of the vote in the first elections and Communist Party Secretary Georgi Dimitrov was elected Prime Minister


The new position is introduced after the Soviet model.
The multi-party system is abolished. Communist Party and Agrarian Party become only allowed parties
Major purges were carried out and over 2,000 people were sentenced to death


Introduced collective leadership according to Soviet model. The post of party leader went to Todor Zhivkov. He came to dominate the country’s politics for over 30 years. Bulgaria becomes one of the most loyal allies of the Soviet Union. Planned economy was introduced, the earth was collectivized and heavy industry was built up

1980s, early

The country is suffering from economic stagnation, which leads to dissatisfaction with the regime

1980s, mid

Bulgaria was affected by the new openness in the Soviet Union.


The country’s leader Todor Zhivkov launches a variant of Mikhail Gorbachev’s reform policy perestroika, called preustrojstvo.


Allowed for the first time independent candidates in the local elections

1980s, late

Political awareness increased and new opposition groups were formed. The environmental movement Ecoglasnost and human rights associations played an important role
The Turkish minority openly protests against the regime’s repression


A “palace coup” was carried out and Todor Zhivkov was overthrown. He is replaced by Petar Mladenov, who promised extensive political and economic change. The
Communist Party renounced the monopoly of power and gave opposition parties the right to operate freely.


More than 200,000 Bulgarians demanded in a demonstration in Sofia in February that the Communist Party relinquish power. The government is forced to introduce multi-party systems and call elections. Communist Party changes name to Bulgaria’s Socialist Party
In the first democratic elections in June, the Socialist Party won a majority of parliamentary seats
President Mladenov is forced to resign after revelations he proposed military action against protesters 1989 The
Socialist government resigns in November


In the September election, an anti-communist alliance won. Filip Dimitrov became Prime Minister


In the first democratic presidential election, Zhelju Zhelev won.


The government was led by the non-partisan Ljuben Berov. Under his leadership, several former communist politicians were prosecuted for embezzlement of state funds, including former President Todor Zhivkov, who was sentenced in 1994 to seven years in prison.
In December 1994, parliamentary elections were held for the third time in five years. The BSP party, which was still dominated by former communists, returned to power through promises of economic recovery without major cuts in social welfare.

1990s, mid

Bulgaria is marked by demonstrations and social unrest. Inflation was up to several hundred percent, the currency floated freely and the central government debt increased sharply. The banking system was in acute crisis. Starvation occurred among the country’s inhabitants


In the presidential election in November, Petar Stojanov from the UDF won a landslide victory over the government candidate Ivan Mazarov. Mass demonstrations took place across the country against the economic crisis.


In January, protesters stormed parliament, injuring two hundred people. The
April parliamentary elections were won by the bourgeois alliance United Democratic Forces, which immediately launched economic reforms and privatizations, resulting in the stabilization of the economy. UDF leader Ivan Kostov was appointed Prime Minister


Despite economic growth, unemployment rose, which contributed to dissatisfaction with the government for supporting NATO’s intervention in the Kosovo crisis. As a result of the war there, the EU wanted to accelerate membership for countries in the Balkans

Bulgaria Brief History

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