A Brief History of Bulgaria

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Bulgaria is a very ancient country. Recently one of the oldest towns in the world has been found. This town dates back some 6500 years.  Many tribes and people have left their mark on this Balkan country.  The first people to leave lasting traces and cultural heritage throughout the Balkan region were the Thracians. Most Thracians are thought to have lived simply in small villages, usually on hilltops.  They were eventually romanized, with the last remnants surviving in remote areas until 400 AD.

From about 500 AD, the traditional Greco-Roman culture was still very influential, but Christian philosophy and culture were beginning to dominate and replace it.  From 600 AD, Greek became the predominant language in the Eastern Roman Empire’s administration, church, and society. Greek replaced Latin.

After the fall of the Greco-Roman empire, the Slavs appeared in 500 AD and spread to most of the Balkans. At that time they formed three main branches – the West Slavs, the East Slavs, and the South Slavs. The Slavs settled on the territory of modern Bulgaria during the 6th century.

The Bulgars were a semi-nomadic people of Turkic origin. They came from the Russian steppes just north of the Caucasus Mountains. From 100 AD onwards they began to slowly move west. Some of them gave rise to the First Bulgarian Empire.

During the First Bulgarian Empire, Bulgarians converted to Christianity and a new Cyrillic alphabet was invented by the brothers Cyril and Methodius.

Bulgaria became a major economic and religious center.

In 1393, the Ottomans captured Tarnovo. The new authorities took Bulgarian institutions apart. Turkish authorities destroyed most of the medieval Bulgarian fortresses to prevent rebellions. Bulgarians were forced to leave the large towns and the areas where Ottomans were in power until the 19th century. The Ottoman Turks forced many Christians to become Muslims, especially in the Rhodopes. Bulgarians who converted to Islam, retained Bulgarian language, dress and some customs compatible with Islam.

In April 1877 Russia and Bulgaria declared war to the Ottomans. This war gave Bulgaria its independence and liberty back. The Treaty of San Stefano was signed on 3 March 1878. The new territory of Bulgaria consisted of the territory between the Danube and the Stara Planina, with its old Bulgarian capital Veliko Turnovo and including Sofia.

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