The Balkans - A History Of Bulgaria—Serbia—Greece—Rumania—Turkey
by Nevill Forbes, Arnold J. Toynbee, D. Mitrany, D.G. Hogarth
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The authors of this volume have not worked in conjunction. Widely separated, engaged on other duties, and pressed for time, we have had no opportunity for interchange of views. Each must be held responsible, therefore, for his own section alone. If there be any discrepancies in our writings (it is not unlikely in so disputed a field of history) we can only regret an unfortunate result of the circumstances. Owing to rapid change in the relations of our country to the several Balkan peoples, the tone of a section written earlier may differ from that of another written later. It may be well to state that the sections on Serbia and Bulgaria were finished before the decisive Balkan developments of the past two months. Those on Greece and Rumania represent only a little later stage of the evolution. That on Turkey, compiled between one mission abroad and another, was the latest to be finished.

If our sympathies are not all the same, or given equally to friends and foes, none of us would find it possible to indite a Hymn of Hate about any Balkan people. Every one of these peoples, on whatever side he be fighting to-day, has a past worthy of more than our respect and interwoven in some intimate way with our history. That any one of them is arrayed against us to-day is not to be laid entirely or chiefly at its own door. They are all fine peoples who have not obtained their proper places in the sun. The best of the Osmanli nation, the Anatolian peasantry, has yet to make its physical and moral qualities felt under civilized conditions. As for the rest—the Serbs and the Bulgars, who have enjoyed brief moments of barbaric glory in their past, have still to find themselves in that future which shall be to the Slav. The Greeks, who were old when we were not as yet, are younger now than we. They are as incalculable a factor in a political forecast as another Chosen Race, the Jews. Their past is the world's glory: the present in the Near East is theirs more than any people's: the future—despite the laws of corporate being and decline, dare we say they will have no part in it? Of Rumania what are we to think? Her mixed people has had the start of the Balkan Slavs in modern civilization, and evidently her boundaries must grow wider yet. But the limits of her possible expansion are easier to set than those of the rest.

We hope we have dealt fairly with all these peoples. Mediaeval history, whether of the East or the West, is mostly a record of bloodshedding and cruelty; and the Middle Age has been prolonged to our own time in most parts of the Balkans, and is not yet over in some parts. There are certain things salutary to bear in mind when we think or speak of any part of that country to-day. First, that less than two hundred years ago, England had its highwaymen on all roads, and its smuggler dens and caravans, Scotland its caterans, and Ireland its moonlighters. Second, that religious fervour has rarely mitigated and generally increased our own savagery. Thirdly, that our own policy in Balkan matters has been none too wise, especially of late. In permitting the Treaty of Bucarest three years ago, we were parties to making much of the trouble that has ensued, and will ensue again. If we have not been able to write about the Near East under existing circumstances altogether sine ira et studio, we have tried to remember that each of its peoples has a case.


November, 1915.



1. Introductory 2. The Balkan Peninsula in Classical Times 400 B.C. - A.D. 500 3. The Arrival of the Slavs in the Balkan Peninsula, A.D. 500-650


4. The Arrival of the Bulgars in the Balkan Peninsula, 600-700 5. The Early Years of Bulgaria and the Introduction of Christianity, 700-893 6. The Rise and Fall of the First Bulgarian Empire, 893-972 7. The Rise and Fall of 'Western Bulgaria' and the Greek Supremacy, 963-1186 8. The Rise and Fall of the Second Bulgarian Empire, 1186-1258 9. The Serbian Supremacy and the Final Collapse, 1258-1393 10. The Turkish Dominion and the Emancipation, 1393-1878 11. The Aftermath, and Prince Alexander of Battenberg, 1878-86 12. The Regeneration under Prince Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg, 1886-1908 13. The Kingdom, 1908-13


14. The Serbs under Foreign Supremacy, 650-1168 15. The Rise and Fall of the Serbian Empire and the Extinction of Serbian Independence, 1168-1496 16. The Turkish Dominion, 1496-1796 17. The Liberation of Serbia under Kara-George (1804-13) and Milos Obrenović (1815-30): 1796-1830 18. The Throes of Regeneration: Independent Serbia, 1830-1903 19. Serbia, Montenegro, and the Serbo-Croats in Austria-Hungary, 1903-8 20. Serbia and Montenegro, and the two Balkan Wars, 1908-13


1. From Ancient to Modern Greece 2. The Awakening of the Nation 3. The Consolidation of the State


1. Introduction 2. Formation of the Rumanian Nation 3. The Foundation and Development of the Rumanian Principalities 4. The Phanariote Rule 5. Modern Period to 1866 6. Contemporary Period: Internal Development 7. Contemporary Period: Foreign Affairs 8. Rumania and the Present War


1. Origin of the Osmanlis 2. Expansion of the Osmanli Kingdom 3. Heritage and Expansion of the Byzantine Empire 4. Shrinkage and Retreat 5. Revival 6. Relapse 7. Revolution 8. The Balkan War 9. The Future



The Balkan Peninsula: Ethnological The Balkan Peninsula The Ottoman Empire




The whole of what may be called the trunk or massif of the Balkan peninsula, bounded on the north by the rivers Save and Danube, on the west by the Adriatic, on the east by the Black Sea, and on the south by a very irregular line running from Antivari (on the coast of the Adriatic) and the lake of Scutari in the west, through lakes Okhrida and Prespa (in Macedonia) to the outskirts of Salonika and thence to Midia on the shores of the Black Sea, following the coast of the Aegean Sea some miles inland, is preponderatingly inhabited by Slavs. These Slavs are the Bulgarians in the east and centre, the Serbs and Croats (or Serbians and Croatians or Serbo-Croats) in the west, and the Slovenes in the extreme north-west, between Trieste and the Save; these nationalities compose the southern branch of the Slavonic race. The other inhabitants of the Balkan peninsula are, to the south of the Slavs, the Albanians in the west, the Greeks in the centre and south, and the Turks in the south-east, and, to the north, the Rumanians. All four of these nationalities are to be found in varying quantities within the limits of the Slav territory roughly outlined above, but greater numbers of them are outside it; on the other hand, there are a considerable number of Serbs living north of the rivers Save and Danube, in southern Hungary. Details of the ethnic distribution and boundaries will of course be gone into more fully later; meanwhile attention may be called to the significant fact that the name of Macedonia, the heart of the Balkan peninsula, has been long used by the French gastronomers to denote a dish, the principal characteristic of which is that its component parts are mixed up into quite inextricable confusion.

Of the three Slavonic nationalities already mentioned, the two first, the Bulgarians and the Serbo-Croats, occupy a much greater space, geographically and historically, than the third. The Slovenes, barely one and a half million in number, inhabiting the Austrian provinces of Carinthia and Carniola, have never been able to form a political state, though, with the growth of Trieste as a great port and the persistent efforts of Germany to make her influence if not her flag supreme on the shores of the Adriatic, this small people has from its geographical position and from its anti-German (and anti-Italian) attitude achieved considerable notoriety and some importance.

Of the Bulgars and Serbs it may be said that at the present moment the former control the eastern, and the latter, in alliance with the Greeks, the western half of the peninsula. It has always been the ambition of each of these three nationalities to dominate the whole, an ambition which has caused endless waste of blood and money and untold misery. If the question were to be settled purely on ethnical considerations, Bulgaria would acquire the greater part of the interior of Macedonia, the most numerous of the dozen nationalities of which is Bulgarian in sentiment if not in origin, and would thus undoubtedly attain the hegemony of the peninsula, while the centre of gravity of the Serbian nation would, as is ethnically just, move north-westwards. Political considerations, however, have until now always been against this solution of the difficulty, and, even if it solved in this sense, there would still remain the problem of the Greek nationality, whose distribution along all the coasts of the Aegean, both European and Asiatic, makes a delimitation of the Greek state on purely ethnical lines virtually impossible. It is curious that the Slavs, though masters of the interior of the peninsula and of parts of its eastern and western coasts, have never made the shores of the Aegean (the White Sea, as they call it) or the cities on them their own. The Adriatic is the only sea on the shore of which any Slavonic race has ever made its home. In view of this difficulty, namely, the interior of the peninsula being Slavonic while the coastal fringe is Greek, and of the approximately equal numerical strength of all three nations, it is almost inevitable that the ultimate solution of the problem and delimitation of political boundaries will have to be effected by means of territorial compromise. It can only be hoped that this ultimate compromise will be agreed upon by the three countries concerned, and will be more equitable than that which was forced on them by Rumania in 1913 and laid down in the Treaty of Bucarest of that year.

If no arrangement on a principle of give and take is made between them, the road to the East, which from the point of view of the Germanic powers lies through Serbia, will sooner or later inevitably be forced open, and the independence, first of Serbia, Montenegro, and Albania, and later of Bulgaria and Greece, will disappear, de facto if not in appearance, and both materially and morally they will become the slaves of the central empires. If the Balkan League could be reconstituted, Germany and Austria would never reach Salonika or Constantinople.


The Balkan Peninsula in Classical Times

400 B.C. - A.D. 500.

In the earlier historical times the whole of the eastern part of the Balkan peninsula between the Danube and the Aegean was known as Thracia, while the western part (north of the forty-first degree of latitude) was termed Illyricum; the lower basin of the river Vardar (the classical Axius) was called Macedonia. A number of the tribal and personal names of the early Illyrians and Thracians have been preserved. Philip of Macedonia subdued Thrace in the fourth century B.C. and in 342 founded the city of Philippopolis. Alexander's first campaign was devoted to securing control of the peninsula, but during the Third century B.C. Thrace was invaded from the north and laid waste by the Celts, who had already visited Illyria. The Celts vanished by the end of that century, leaving a few place-names to mark their passage. The city of Belgrade was known until the seventh century A.D. by its Celtic name of Singidunum. Naissus, the modern Nish, is also possibly of Celtic origin. It was towards 230 B.C. that Rome came into contact with Illyricum, owing to the piratical proclivities of its inhabitants, but for a long time it only controlled the Dalmatian coast, so called after the Delmati or Dalmati, an Illyrian tribe. The reason for this was the formidable character of the mountains of Illyria, which run in several parallel and almost unbroken lines the whole length of the shore of the Adriatic and have always formed an effective barrier to invasion from the west. The interior was only very gradually subdued by the Romans after Macedonia had been occupied by them in 146 B.C. Throughout the first century B.C. conflicts raged with varying fortune between the invaders and all the native races living between the Adriatic and the Danube. They were attacked both from Aquileia in the north and from Macedonia in the south, but it was not till the early years of our era that the Danube became the frontier of the Roman Empire.

In the year A.D. 6 Moesia, which included a large part of the modern kingdom of Serbia and the northern half of that of Bulgaria between the Danube and the Balkan range (the classical Haemus), became an imperial province, and twenty years later Thrace, the country between the Balkan range and the Aegean, was incorporated in the empire, and was made a province by the Emperor Claudius in A.D. 46. The province of Illyricum or Dalmatia stretched between the Save and the Adriatic, and Pannonia lay between the Danube and the Save. In 107 A.D. the Emperor Trajan conquered the Dacians beyond the lower Danube, and organized a province of Dacia out of territory roughly equivalent to the modern Wallachia and Transylvania, This trans-Danubian territory did not remain attached to the empire for more than a hundred and fifty years; but within the river line a vast belt of country, stretching from the head of the Adriatic to the mouths of the Danube on the Black Sea, was Romanized through and through. The Emperor Trajan has been called the Charlemagne of the Balkan peninsula; all remains are attributed to him (he was nicknamed the Wallflower by Constantine the Great), and his reign marked the zenith of Roman power in this part of the world. The Balkan peninsula enjoyed the benefits of Roman civilization for three centuries, from the first to the fourth, but from the second century onwards the attitude of the Romans was defensive rather than offensive. The war against the Marcomanni under the Emperor Marcus Aurelius, in the second half of this century, was the turning-point. Rome was still victorious, but no territory was added to the empire. The third century saw the southward movement of the Germanic peoples, who took the place of the Celts. The Goths invaded the peninsula, and in 251 the Emperor Decius was killed in battle against them near Odessus on the Black Sea (the modern Varna). The Goths reached the outskirts of Thessalonica (Salonika), but were defeated by the Emperor Claudius at Naissus (Nish) in 269; shortly afterwards, however, the Emperor Aurelian had definitively to relinquish Dacia to them. The Emperor Diocletian, a native of Dalmatia, who reigned from 284 to 305, carried out a redistribution of the imperial provinces. Pannonia and western Illyria, or Dalmatia, were assigned to the prefecture of Italy, Thrace to that of the Orient, while the whole centre of the peninsula, from the Danube to the Peloponnese, constituted the prefecture of Illyria, with Thessalonica as capital. The territory to the north of the Danube having been lost, what is now western Bulgaria was renamed Dacia, while Moesia, the modern kingdom of Serbia, was made very much smaller. Praevalis, or the southern part of Dalmatia, approximately the modern Montenegro and Albania, was detached from that province and added to the prefecture of Illyria. In this way the boundary between the province of Dalmatia and the Balkan peninsula proper ran from near the lake of Scutari in the south to the river Drinus (the modern Drina), whose course it followed till the Save was reached in the north.

An event of far-reaching importance in the following century was the elevation by Constantine the Great of the Greek colony of Byzantium into the imperial city of Constantinople in 325. This century also witnessed the arrival of the Huns in Europe from Asia. They overwhelmed the Ostrogoths, between the Dnieper and the Dniester, in 375, and the Visigoths, settled in Transylvania and the modern Rumania, moved southwards in sympathy with this event. The Emperor Valens lost his life fighting against these Goths in 378 at the great battle of Adrianople (a city established in Thrace by the Emperor Hadrian in the second century). His successor, the Emperor Theodosius, placated them with gifts and made them guardians of the northern frontier, but at his death, in 395, they overran and devastated the entire peninsula, after which they proceeded to Italy. After the death of the Emperor Theodosius the empire was divided, never to be joined into one whole again. The dividing line followed that, already mentioned, which separated the prefecture of Italy from those of Illyria and the Orient, that is to say, it began in the south, on the shore of the Adriatic near the Bocche di Cattaro, and went due north along the valley of the Drina till the confluence of that river with the Save. It will be seen that this division had consequences which have lasted to the present day. Generally speaking, the Western Empire was Latin in language and character, while the Eastern was Greek, though owing to the importance of the Danubian provinces to Rome from the military point of view, and the lively intercourse maintained between them, Latin influence in them was for a long time stronger than Greek. Its extent is proved by the fact that the people of modern Rumania are partly, and their language very largely, defended from those of the legions and colonies of the Emperor Trajan.

Latin influence, shipping, colonization, and art were always supreme on the eastern shores of the Adriatic, just as were those of Greece on the shores of the Black Sea. The Albanians even, descendants of the ancient Illyrians, were affected by the supremacy of the Latin language, from which no less than a quarter of their own meagre vocabulary is derived; though driven southwards by the Romans and northwards by the Greeks, they have remained in their mountain fastnesses to this day, impervious to any of the civilizations to which they have been exposed.

Christianity spread to the shores of the peninsula very early; Macedonia and Dalmatia were the parts where it was first established, and it took some time to penetrate into the interior. During the reign of Diocletian numerous martyrs suffered for the faith in the Danubian provinces, but with the accession of Constantine the Great persecution came to an end. As soon, however, as the Christians were left alone, they started persecuting each other, and during the fourth century the Arian controversy re-echoed throughout the peninsula.

In the fifth century the Huns moved from the shores of the Black Sea to the plains of the Danube and the Theiss; they devastated the Balkan peninsula, in spite of the tribute which they had levied on Constantinople in return for their promise of peace. After the death of Attila, in 453, they again retreated to Asia, and during the second half of the century the Goths were once more supreme in the peninsula. Theodoric occupied Singidunum (Belgrade) in 471 and, after plundering Macedonia and Greece, settled in Novae (the modern Svishtov), on the lower Danube, in 483, where he remained till he transferred the sphere of his activities to Italy ten years later. Towards the end of the fifth century Huns of various kinds returned to the lower Danube and devastated the peninsula several times, penetrating as far as Epirus and Thessaly.


The Arrival of the Slavs in the Balkan Peninsula, A.D. 500-650

The Balkan peninsula, which had been raised to a high level of security and prosperity during the Roman dominion, gradually relapsed into barbarism as a result of these endless invasions; the walled towns, such as Salonika and Constantinople, were the only safe places, and the country became waste and desolate. The process continued unabated throughout the three following centuries, and one is driven to one of two conclusions, either that these lands must have possessed very extraordinary powers of recuperation to make it worth while for invaders to pillage them so frequently, or, what is more probable, there can have been after some time little left to plunder, and consequently the Byzantine historians' accounts of enormous drives of prisoners and booty are much exaggerated. It is impossible to count the number of times the tide of invasion and devastation swept southwards over the unfortunate peninsula. The emperors and their generals did what they could by means of defensive works on the frontiers, of punitive expeditions, and of trying to set the various hordes of barbarians at loggerheads with each other, but, as they had at the same time to defend an empire which stretched from Armenia to Spain, it is not surprising that they were not more successful. The growing riches of Constantinople and Salonika had an irresistible attraction for the wild men from the east and north, and unfortunately the Greek citizens were more inclined to spend their energy in theological disputes and their leisure in the circus than to devote either the one or the other to the defence of their country. It was only by dint of paying them huge sums of money that the invaders were kept away from the coast. The departure of the Huns and the Goths had made the way for fresh series of unwelcome visitors. In the sixth century the Slavs appear for the first time. From their original homes which were immediately north of the Carpathians, in Galicia and Poland, but may also have included parts of the modern Hungary, they moved southwards and south-eastwards. They were presumably in Dacia, north of the Danube, in the previous century, but they are first mentioned as having crossed that river during the reign of the Emperor Justin I (518-27). They were a loosely-knit congeries of tribes without any single leader or central authority; some say they merely possessed the instinct of anarchy, others that they were permeated with the ideals of democracy. What is certain is that amongst them neither leadership nor initiative was developed, and that they lacked both cohesion and organisation. The Eastern Slavs, the ancestors of the Russians, were only welded into anything approaching unity by the comparatively much smaller number of Scandinavian (Varangian) adventurers who came and took charge of their affairs at Kiev. Similarly the Southern Slavs were never of themselves able to form a united community, conscious of its aim and capable of persevering in its attainment.

The Slavs did not invade the Balkan peninsula alone but in the company of the Avars, a terrible and justly dreaded nation, who, like the Huns, were of Asiatic (Turkish or Mongol) origin. These invasions became more frequent during the reign of the Emperor Justinian I (527-65), and culminated in 559 in a great combined attack of all the invaders on Constantinople under a certain Zabergan, which was brilliantly defeated by the veteran Byzantine general Belisarius. The Avars were a nomad tribe, and the horse was their natural means of locomotion. The Slavs, on the other hand, moved about on foot, and seem to have been used as infantry by the more masterful Asiatics in their warlike expeditions. Generally speaking, the Avars, who must have been infinitely less numerous than the Slavs, were settled in Hungary, where Attila and the Huns had been settled a little more than a century previously; that is to say, they were north of the Danube, though they were always overrunning into Upper Moesia, the modern Serbia. The Slavs, whose numbers were without doubt very large, gradually settled all over the country south of the Danube, the rural parts of which, as a result of incessant invasion and retreat, had become waste and empty. During the second half of the sixth century all the military energies of Constantinople were diverted to Persia, so that the invaders of the Balkan peninsula had the field very much to themselves. It was during this time that the power of the Avars reached its height. They were masters of all the country up to the walls of Adrianople and Salonika, though they did not settle there. The peninsula seems to have been colonized by Slavs, who penetrated right down into Greece; but the Avars were throughout this time, both in politics and in war, the directing and dominating force. During another Persian war, which broke out in 622 and entailed the prolonged absence of the emperor from Constantinople, the Avars, not satisfied with the tribute extorted from the Greeks, made an alliance against them with the Persians, and in 626 collected a large army of Slavs and Asiatics and attacked Constantinople both by land and sea from the European side, while the Persians threatened it from Asia. But the walls of the city and the ships of the Greeks proved invincible, and, quarrels breaking out between the Slavs and the Avars, both had to save themselves in ignominious and precipitate retreat.

After this nothing more was heard of the Avars in the Balkan peninsula, though their power was only finally crushed by Charlemagne in 799. In Russia their downfall became proverbial, being crystallized in the saying, 'they perished like Avars'. The Slavs, on the other hand, remained. Throughout these stormy times their penetration of the Balkan peninsula had been peacefully if unostentatiously proceeding; by the middle of the seventh century it was complete. The main streams of Slavonic immigration moved southwards and westwards. The first covered the whole of the country between the Danube and the Balkan range, overflowed into Macedonia, and filtered down into Greece. Southern Thrace in the east and Albania in the west were comparatively little affected, and in these districts the indigenous population maintained itself. The coasts of the Aegean and the great cities on or near them were too strongly held by the Greeks to be affected, and those Slavs who penetrated into Greece itself were soon absorbed by the local populations. The still stronger Slavonic stream, which moved westwards and turned up north-westwards, overran the whole country down to the shores of the Adriatic and as far as the sources of the Save and Drave in the Alps. From that point in the west to the shores of the Black Sea in the east became one solid mass of Slavs, and has remained so ever since. The few Slavs who were left north of the Danube in Dacia were gradually assimilated by the inhabitants of that province, who were the descendants of the Roman soldiers and colonists, and the ancestors of the modern Rumanians, but the fact that Slavonic influence there was strong is shown by the large number of words of Slavonic origin contained in the Rumanian language.

Place-names are a good index of the extent and strength of the tide of Slav immigration. All along the coast, from the mouth of the Danube to the head of the Adriatic, the Greek and Roman names have been retained though places have often been given alternative names by the Slavonic settlers. Thrace, especially the south-eastern part, and Albania have the fewest Slavonic place-names. In Macedonia and Lower Moesia (Bulgaria) very few classical names have survived, while in Upper Moesia (Serbia) and the interior of Dalmatia (Bosnia, Hercegovina, and Montenegro) they have entirely disappeared. The Slavs themselves, though their tribal names were known, were until the ninth century usually called collectively S(k)lavini ([Greek: Sklabaenoi]) by the Greeks, and all the inland parts of the peninsula were for long termed by them 'the S(k)lavonias' ([Greek: Sklabiniai]).

During the seventh century, dating from the defeat of the Slavs and Avars before the walls of Constantinople in 626 and the final triumph of the emperor over the Persians in 628, the influence and power of the Greeks began to reassert itself throughout the peninsula as far north as the Danube; this process was coincident with the decline of the might of the Avars. It was the custom of the astute Byzantine diplomacy to look on and speak of lands which had been occupied by the various barbarian invaders as grants made to them through the generosity of the emperor; by this means, by dint also of lavishing titles and substantial incomes to the invaders' chiefs, by making the most of their mutual jealousies, and also by enlisting regiments of Slavonic mercenaries in the imperial armies, the supremacy of Constantinople was regained far more effectively than it could have been by the continual and exhausting use of force.



The Arrival of the Bulgars in the Balkan Peninsula, 600-700

The progress of the Bulgars towards the Balkan peninsula, and indeed all their movements until their final establishment there in the seventh century, are involved in obscurity. They are first mentioned by name in classical and Armenian sources in 482 as living in the steppes to the north of the Black Sea amongst other Asiatic tribes, and it has been assumed by some that at the end of the fifth and throughout the sixth century they were associated first with the Huns and later with the Avars and Slavs in the various incursions into and invasions of the eastern empire which have already been enumerated. It is the tendency of Bulgarian historians, who scornfully point to the fact that the history of Russia only dates from the ninth century, to exaggerate the antiquity of their own and to claim as early a date as possible for the authentic appearance of their ancestors on the kaleidoscopic stage of the Balkan theatre. They are also unwilling to admit that they were anticipated by the Slavs; they prefer to think that the Slavs only insinuated themselves there thanks to the energy of the Bulgars' offensive against the Greeks, and that as soon as the Bulgars had leisure to look about them they found all the best places already occupied by the anarchic Slavs.

Of course it is very difficult to say positively whether Bulgars were or were not present in the welter of Asiatic nations which swept westwards into Europe with little intermission throughout the fifth and sixth centuries, but even if they were, they do not seem to have settled down as early as that anywhere south of the Danube; it seems certain that they did not do so until the seventh century, and therefore that the Slavs were definitely installed in the Balkan peninsula a whole century before the Bulgars crossed the Danube for good.

The Bulgars, like the Huns and the Avars who preceded them, and like the Magyars and the Turks who followed them, were a tribe from eastern Asia, of the stock known as Mongol or Tartar. The tendency of all these peoples was to move westwards from Asia into Europe, and this they did at considerable and irregular intervals, though in alarming and apparently inexhaustible numbers, roughly from the fourth till the fourteenth centuries. The distance was great, but the journey, thanks to the flat, grassy, treeless, and well-watered character of the steppes of southern Russia which they had to cross, was easy. They often halted for considerable periods by the way, and some never moved further westwards than Russia. Thus at one time the Bulgars settled in large numbers on the Volga, near its confluence with the Kama, and it is presumed that they were well established there in the fifth century. They formed a community of considerable strength and importance, known as Great or White Bulgaria. These Bulgars fused with later Tartar immigrants from Asia and eventually were consolidated into the powerful kingdom of Kazan, which was only crushed by the Tsar Ivan IV in 1552. According to Bulgarian historians, the basins of the rivers Volga and Don and the steppes of eastern Russia proved too confined a space for the legitimate development of Bulgarian energy, and expansion to the west was decided on. A large number of Bulgars therefore detached themselves and began to move south-westwards. During the sixth century they seem to have been settled in the country to the north of the Black Sea, forming a colony known as Black Bulgaria. It is very doubtful whether the Bulgars did take part, as they are supposed to have done, in the ambitious but unsuccessful attack on Constantinople in 559 under Zabergan, chief of another Tartar tribe; but it is fairly certain that they did in the equally formidable but equally unsuccessful attacks by the Slavs and Avars against Salonika in 609 and Constantinople in 626.

During the last quarter of the sixth and the first of the seventh century the various branches of the Bulgar nation, stretching from the Volga to the Danube, were consolidated and kept in control by their prince Kubrat, who eventually fought on behalf of the Greeks against the Avars, and was actually baptized in Constantinople. The power of the Bulgars grew as that of the Avars declined, but at the death of Kubrat, in 638, his realm was divided amongst his sons. One of these established himself in Pannonia, where he joined forces with what was left of the Avars, and there the Bulgars maintained themselves till they were obliterated by the irruption of the Magyars in 893. Another son, Asparukh, or Isperikh, settled in Bessarabia, between the rivers Prut and Dniester, in 640, and some years later passed southwards. After desultory warfare with Constantinople, from 660 onwards, his successor finally overcame the Greeks, who were at that time at war with the Arabs, captured Varna, and definitely established himself between the Danube and the Balkan range in the year 679. From that year the Danube ceased to be the frontier of the eastern empire.

The numbers of the Bulgars who settled south of the Danube are not known, but what happened to them is notorious. The well-known process, by which the Franks in Gaul were absorbed by the far more numerous indigenous population which they had conquered, was repeated, and the Bulgars became fused with the Slavs. So complete was the fusion, and so preponderating the influence of the subject nationality, that beyond a few personal names no traces of the language of the Bulgars have survived. Modern Bulgarian, except for the Turkish words introduced into it later during the Ottoman rule, is purely Slavonic. Not so the Bulgarian nationality; as is so often the case with mongrel products, this race, compared with the Serbs, who are purely Slav, has shown considerably greater virility, cohesion, and driving-power, though it must be conceded that its problems have been infinitely simpler.


The Early Years of Bulgaria and the Introduction of Christianity, 700-893

From the time of their establishment in the country to which they have given their name the Bulgars became a thorn in the side of the Greeks, and ever since both peoples have looked on one another as natural and hereditary enemies. The Bulgars, like all the barbarians who had preceded them, were fascinated by the honey-pot of Constantinople, and, though they never succeeded in taking it, they never grew tired of making the attempt.

For two hundred years after the death of Asparukh, in 661, the Bulgars were perpetually fighting either against the Greeks or else amongst themselves. At times a diversion was caused by the Bulgars taking the part of the Greeks, as in 718, when they 'delivered' Constantinople, at the invocation of the Emperor Leo, from the Arabs, who were besieging it. From about this time the Bulgarian monarchy, which had been hereditary, became elective, and the anarchy of the many, which the Bulgars found when they arrived, and which their first few autocratic rulers had been able to control, was replaced by an anarchy of the few. Prince succeeded prince, war followed war, at the will of the feudal nobles. This internal strife was naturally profitable to the Greeks, who lavishly subsidized the rival factions.

At the end of the eighth century the Bulgars south of the Danube joined forces with those to the north in the efforts of the latter against the Avars, who, beaten by Charlemagne, were again pressing south-eastwards towards the Danube. In this the Bulgars were completely successful under the leadership of one Krum, whom, in the elation of victory, they promptly elected to the throne. Krum was a far more capable ruler than they had bargained for, and he not only united all the Bulgars north and south of the Danube into one dominion, but also forcibly repressed the whims of the nobles and re-established the autocracy and the hereditary monarchy. Having finished with his enemies in the north, he turned his attention to the Greeks, with no less success. In 809 he captured from them the important city of Sofia (the Roman Sardica, known to the Slavs as Sredets), which is to-day the capital of Bulgaria. The loss of this city was a blow to the Greeks, because it was a great centre of commerce and also the point at which the commercial and strategic highways of the peninsula met and crossed. The Emperor Nikiphoros, who wished to take his revenge and recover his lost property, was totally defeated by the Bulgars and lost his life in the Balkan passes in 811. After further victories, at Mesembria (the modern Misivria) in 812 and Adrianople in 813, Krum appeared before the capital, where he nearly lost his life in an ambush while negotiating for peace. During preparations for a final assault on Constantinople he died suddenly in 815. Though Krum cannot be said to have introduced civilisation into Bulgaria, he at any rate increased its power and gave it some of the more essential organs of government. He framed a code of laws remarkable for their rigour, which was undoubtedly necessary in such a community and beneficial in its effect. He repressed civil strife, and by this means made possible the reawakening of commerce and agriculture. His successor, of uncertain identity, founded in 822 the city of Preslav (known to the Russians as Pereyaslav), situated in eastern Bulgaria, between Varna and Silistria, which was the capital until 972.

The reign of Prince Boris (852-88) is remarkable because it witnessed the definitive conversion to Christianity of Bulgaria and her ruler. It is within this period also that fell the activities of the two great 'Slavonic' missionaries and apostles, the brothers Cyril and Methodius, who are looked upon by all Slavs of the orthodox faith as the founders of their civilisation. Christianity had of course penetrated into Bulgaria (or Moesia, as it was then) long before the arrival of the Slavs and Bulgars, but the influx of one horde of barbarians after another was naturally not propitious to its growth. The conversion of Boris in 865, which was brought about largely by the influence of his sister, who had spent many years in Constantinople as a captive, was a triumph for Greek influence and for Byzantium. Though the Church was at this time still nominally one, yet the rivalry between Rome and Constantinople had already become acute, and the struggle for spheres of spiritual influence had begun. It was in the year 863 that the Prince of Moravia, anxious to introduce Christianity into his country in a form intelligible to his subjects, addressed himself to the Emperor Michael III for help. Rome could not provide any suitable missionaries with knowledge of Slavonic languages, and the German, or more exactly the Bavarian, hierarchy with which Rome entrusted the spiritual welfare of the Slavs of Moravia and Pannonia used its greater local knowledge for political and not religious ends. The Germans exploited their ecclesiastical influence in order completely to dominate the Slavs politically, and as a result the latter were only allowed to see the Church through Teutonic glasses.

In answer to this appeal the emperor sent the two brothers Cyril and Methodius, who were Greeks of Salonika and had considerable knowledge of Slavonic languages. They composed the Slavonic alphabet which is to-day used throughout Russia, Bulgaria, Serbia, and Montenegro, and in many parts of Austria-Hungary and translated the gospels into Slavonic; it is for this reason that they are regarded with such veneration by all members of the Eastern Church. Their mission proved the greatest success (it must be remembered that at this time the various Slavonic tongues were probably less dissimilar than they are now), and the two brothers were warmly welcomed in Rome by Pope Adrian II, who formally consented to the use, for the benefit of the Slavs, of the Slavonic liturgy (a remarkable concession, confirmed by Pope John VIII). This triumph, however, was short-lived; St. Cyril died in 869 and St. Methodius in 885; subsequent Popes, notably Stephen V, were not so benevolent to the Slavonic cause; the machinations of the German hierarchy (which included, even in those days, the falsification of documents) were irresistible, and finally the invasion of the Magyars, in 893, destroyed what was left of the Slavonic Church in Moravia. The missionary brothers had probably passed through Bulgaria on their way north in 863, but without halting. Many of their disciples, driven from the Moravian kingdom by the Germans, came south and took refuge in Bulgaria in 886, and there carried on in more favourable circumstances the teachings of their masters. Prince Boris had found it easier to adopt Christianity himself than to induce all his subjects to do the same. Even when he had enforced his will on them at the price of numerous executions of recalcitrant nobles, he found himself only at the beginning of his difficulties. The Greeks had been glad enough to welcome Bulgaria into the fold, but they had no wish to set up an independent Church and hierarchy to rival their own. Boris, on the other hand, though no doubt full of genuine spiritual ardour, was above all impressed with the authority and prestige which the basileus derived from the Church of Constantinople; he also admired the pomp of ecclesiastical ceremony, and wished to have a patriarch of his own to crown him and a hierarchy of his own to serve him. Finding the Greeks unresponsive, he turned to Rome, and Pope Nicholas I sent him two bishops to superintend the ecclesiastical affairs of Bulgaria till the investiture of Boris at the hands of the Holy See could be arranged. These bishops set to work with a will, substituted the Latin for the Greek rite, and brought Bulgaria completely under Roman influence. But when it was discovered that Boris was aiming at the erection of an independent Church their enthusiasm abated and they were recalled to Rome in 867.

Adrian II proved no more sympathetic, and in 870, during the reign of the Emperor Basil I, it was decided without more ado that the Bulgarian Church should be directly under the Bishop of Constantinople, on the ground that the kingdom of Boris was a vassal-state of the basileus, and that from the Byzantine point of view, as opposed to that of Rome, the State came first and the Church next. The Moravian Gorazd, a disciple of Methodius, was appointed Metropolitan, and at his death he was succeeded by his fellow countryman and co-disciple Clement, who by means of the construction of numerous churches and monasteries did a great deal for the propagation of light and learning in Bulgaria. The definite subjection of the Bulgarian Church to that of Byzantium was an important and far-reaching event. Boris has been reproached with submitting himself and his country to Greek influence, but in those days it was either Constantinople or Rome (there was no third way); and in view of the proximity of Constantinople and the glamour which its civilization cast all over the Balkans, it is not surprising that the Greeks carried the day.


The Rise and Fall of the First Bulgarian Empire, 893-972

During the reign of Simeon, second son of Boris, which lasted from 893 to 927, Bulgaria reached a very high level of power and prosperity. Simeon, called the Great, is looked on by Bulgarians as their most capable monarch and his reign as the most brilliant period of their history. He had spent his childhood at Constantinople and been educated there, and he became such an admirer of Greek civilization that he was nicknamed Hemiargos. His instructors had done their work so well that Simeon remained spellbound by the glamour of Constantinople throughout his life, and, although he might have laid the foundations of a solid empire in the Balkans, his one ambition was to conquer Byzantium and to be recognized as basileus—an ambition which was not to be fulfilled. His first campaign against the Greeks was not very fruitful, because the latter summoned the Magyars, already settled in Hungary, to their aid and they attacked Simeon from the north. Simeon in return called the Pechenegs, another fierce Tartar tribe, to his aid, but this merely resulted in their definite establishment in Rumania. During the twenty years of peace, which strange to say filled the middle of his reign (894-913), the internal development of Bulgaria made great strides. The administration was properly organized, commerce was encouraged, and agriculture flourished. In the wars against the Greeks which occupied his last years he was more successful, and inflicted a severe defeat on them at Anchialo (the modern Ahiolu) in 917; but he was still unable to get from them what he wanted, and at last, in 921, he was obliged to proclaim himself basileus and autocratōr of all Bulgars and Greeks, a title which nobody else recognized. He reappeared before Constantinople the same year, but effected nothing more than the customary devastation of the suburbs. The year 923 witnessed a solemn reconciliation between Rome and Constantinople; the Greeks were clever enough to prevent the Roman legates visiting Bulgaria on their return journey, and thereby administered a rebuff to Simeon, who was anxious to see them and enter into direct relations with Rome. In the same year Simeon tried to make an alliance with the Arabs, but the ambassadors of the latter were intercepted by the Greeks, who made it worth their while not to continue the journey to Bulgaria.

In 924 Simeon determined on a supreme effort against Constantinople and as a preliminary he ravaged Macedonia and Thrace. When, however, he arrived before the city the walls and the catapults made him hesitate, and he entered into negotiations, which, as usual, petered out and brought him no adequate reward for all his hopes and preparations. In the west his arms were more successful, and he subjected most of the eastern part of Serbia to his rule. From all this it can be seen that he was no diplomat, though not lacking in enterprise and ambition. The fact was that while he made his kingdom too powerful for the Greeks to subdue (indeed they were compelled to pay him tribute), yet Constantinople with its impregnable walls, well-organized army, powerful fleet, and cunning and experienced statesmen, was too hard a nut for him to crack.

Simeon extended the boundaries of his country considerably, and his dominion included most of the interior of the Balkan peninsula south of the Danube and east of the rivers Morava and Ibar in Serbia and of the Drin in Albania. The Byzantine Church greatly increased its influence in Bulgaria during his reign, and works of theology grew like mushrooms. This was the only kind of literature that was ever popular in Bulgaria, and although it is usual to throw contempt on the literary achievements of Constantinople, we should know but little of Bulgaria were it not for the Greek historians.

Simeon died in 927, and his son Peter, who succeeded him, was a lover of peace and comfort; he married a Byzantine princess, and during his reign (927-69) Greek influence grew ever stronger, in spite of several revolts on the part of the Bulgar nobles, while the capital Preslav became a miniature Constantinople. In 927 Rome recognized the kingdom and patriarchate of Bulgaria, and Peter was duly crowned by the Papal legate. This was viewed with disfavour by the Greeks, and they still called Peter only archōn or prince (knyaz in Bulgarian), which was the utmost title allowed to any foreign sovereign. It was not until 945 that they recognized Peter as basileus, the unique title possessed by their own emperors and till then never granted to any one else. Peter's reign was one of misfortune for his country both at home and abroad. In 931 the Serbs broke loose under their leader Caslav, whom Simeon had captured but who effected his escape, and asserted their independence. In 963 a formidable revolt under one Shishman undermined the whole state fabric. He managed to subtract Macedonia and all western Bulgaria, including Sofia and Vidin, from Peter's rule, and proclaimed himself independent tsar (tsar or caesar was a title often accorded by Byzantium to relatives of the emperor or to distinguished men of Greek or other nationality, and though it was originally the equivalent of the highest title, it had long since ceased to be so: the emperor's designations were basileus and autocratōr). From this time there were two Bulgarias—eastern and western. The eastern half was now little more than a Byzantine province, and the western became the centre of national life and the focus of national aspirations.

Another factor which militated against the internal progress of Bulgaria was the spread of the Bogomil heresy in the tenth century. This remarkable doctrine, founded on the dualism of the Paulicians, who had become an important political force in the eastern empire, was preached in the Balkan peninsula by one Jeremiah Bogomil, for the rest a man of uncertain identity, who made Philippopolis the centre of his activity. Its principal features were of a negative character, and consequently it was very difficult successfully to apply force against them. The Bogomils recognized the authority neither of Church nor of State; the validity neither of oaths nor of human laws. They refused to pay taxes, to fight, or to obey; they sanctioned theft, but looked upon any kind of punishment as unjustifiable; they discountenanced marriage and were strict vegetarians. Naturally a heresy so alarming in its individualism shook to its foundations the not very firmly established Bulgarian society. Nevertheless it spread with rapidity in spite of all persecutions, and its popularity amongst the Bulgarians, and indeed amongst all the Slavs of the peninsula, is without doubt partly explained by political reasons. The hierarchy of the Greek Church, which supported the ruling classes of the country and lent them authority at the same time that it increased its own, was antipathetic to the Slavs, and the Bogomil heresy drew much strength from its nationalistic colouring and from the appeal which it made to the character of the Balkan Slavs, who have always been intolerant of government by the Church. But neither the civil nor the ecclesiastical authorities were able to cope with the problem; indeed they were apt to minimize its importance, and the heresy was never eradicated till the arrival on the scene of Islam, which proved as attractive to the schismatics as the well-regulated Orthodox Church had been the reverse.

The third quarter of the tenth century witnessed a great recrudescence of the power of Constantinople under the Emperor Nikiphoros Phokas, who wrested Cyprus and Crete from the Arabs and inaugurated an era of prosperity for the eastern empire, giving it a new lease of vigorous and combative life. Wishing to reassert the Greek supremacy in the Balkan peninsula his first act was to refuse any further payment of tribute to the Bulgarians as from 966; his next was to initiate a campaign against them, but in order to make his own success in this enterprise less costly and more assured he secured the co-operation of the Russians under Svyatoslav, Prince of Kiev; this potentate's mother Olga had visited Constantinople in 957 and been baptized (though her son and the bulk of the population were still ardent heathens), and commercial intercourse between Russia and Constantinople by means of the Dnieper and the Black Sea was at that time lively. Svyatoslav did not want pressing, and arriving with an army of 10,000 men in boats, overcame northern Bulgaria in a few days (967); they were helped by Shishman and the western Bulgars, who did not mind at what price Peter and the eastern Bulgars were crushed. Svyatoslav was recalled to Russia in 968 to defend his home from attacks by the Tartar Pechenegs, but that done, he made up his mind to return to Bulgaria, lured by its riches and by the hope of the eventual possession of Constantinople.

The Emperor Nikiphoros was by now aware of the danger he had imprudently conjured up, and made a futile alliance with eastern Bulgaria; but in January 969 Peter of Bulgaria died, and in December of the same year Nikiphoros was murdered by the ambitious Armenian John Tzimisces,[1] who thereupon became emperor. Svyatoslav, seeing the field clear of his enemies, returned in 970, and in March of that year sacked and occupied Philippopolis. The Emperor John Tzimisces, who was even abler both as general and as diplomat than his predecessor, quietly pushed forward his warlike preparations, and did not meet the Russians till the autumn, when he completely defeated them at Arcadiopolis (the modern Lule-Burgas). The Russians retired north of the Balkan range, but the Greeks followed them. John Tzimisces besieged them in the capital Preslav, which he stormed, massacring many of the garrison, in April 972. Svyatoslav and his remaining troops escaped to Silistria (the Durostorum of Trajan) on the Danube, where again, however, they were besieged and defeated by the indefatigable emperor. At last peace was made in July 972, the Russians being allowed to go free on condition of the complete evacuation of Bulgaria and a gift of corn; the adventurous Svyatoslav lost his life at the hands of the Pechenegs while making his way back to Kiev. The triumph of the Greeks was complete, and it can be imagined that there was not much left of the earthenware Bulgaria after the violent collision of these two mighty iron vessels on the top of it. Eastern Bulgaria (i.e. Moesia and Thrace) ceased to exist, becoming a purely Greek province; John Tzimisces made his triumphal entry into Constantinople, followed by the two sons of Peter of Bulgaria on foot; the elder was deprived of his regal attributes and created magistros, the younger was made a eunuch.

[Footnote 1: John the Little.]


The Rise and Fall of 'Western Bulgaria' and the Greek Supremacy, 963-1186

Meanwhile western Bulgaria had not been touched, and it was thither that the Bulgarian patriarch Damian removed from Silistria after the victory of the Greeks, settling first in Sofia and then in Okhrida in Macedonia, where the apostate Shishman had eventually made his capital. Western Bulgaria included Macedonia and parts of Thessaly, Albania, southern and eastern Serbia, and the westernmost parts of modern Bulgaria. It was from this district that numerous anti-Hellenic revolts were directed after the death of the Emperor John Tzimisces in 976. These culminated during the reign of Samuel (977-1014), one of the sons of Shishman. He was as capable and energetic, as unscrupulous and inhuman, as the situation he was called upon to fill demanded. He began by assassinating all his relations and nobles who resented his desire to re-establish the absolute monarchy, was recognized as tsar by the Holy See of Rome in 981, and then began to fight the Greeks, the only possible occupation for any self-respecting Bulgarian ruler. The emperor at that time was Basil II (976-1025), who was brave and patriotic but young and inexperienced. In his early campaigns Samuel carried all before him; he reconquered northern Bulgaria in 985, Thessaly in 986, and defeated Basil II near Sofia the same year. Later he conquered Albania and the southern parts of Serbia and what is now Montenegro and Hercegovina. In 996 he threatened Salonika, but first of all embarked on an expedition against the Peloponnese; here he was followed by the Greek general, who managed to surprise and completely overwhelm him, he and his son barely escaping with their lives.

From that year (996) his fortune changed; the Greeks reoccupied northern Bulgaria, in 999, and also recovered Thessaly and parts of Macedonia. The Bulgars were subjected to almost annual attacks on the part of Basil II; the country was ruined and could not long hold out. The final disaster occurred in 1014, when Basil II utterly defeated his inveterate foe in a pass near Seres in Macedonia. Samuel escaped to Prilip, but when he beheld the return of 15,000 of his troops who had been captured and blinded by the Greeks he died of syncope. Basil II, known as Bulgaroctonus, or Bulgar-killer, went from victory to victory, and finally occupied the Bulgarian capital of Okhrida in 1016. Western Bulgaria came to an end, as had eastern Bulgaria in 972, the remaining members of the royal family followed the emperor to the Bosphorus to enjoy comfortable captivity, and the triumph of Constantinople was complete.

From 1018 to 1186 Bulgaria had no existence as an independent state; Basil II, although cruel, was far from tyrannical in his general treatment of the Bulgars, and treated the conquered territory more as a protectorate than as a possession. But after his death Greek rule became much more oppressive. The Bulgarian patriarchate (since 972 established at Okhrida) was reduced to an archbishopric, and in 1025 the see was given to a Greek, who lost no time in eliminating the Bulgarian element from positions of importance throughout his diocese. Many of the nobles were transplanted to Constantinople, where their opposition was numbed by the bestowal of honours. During the eleventh century the peninsula was invaded frequently by the Tartar Pechenegs and Kumans, whose aid was invoked both by Greeks and Bulgars; the result of these incursions was not always favourable to those who had promoted them; the barbarians invariably stayed longer and did more damage than had been bargained for, and usually left some of their number behind as unwelcome settlers.

In this way the ethnological map of the Balkan peninsula became ever more variegated. To the Tartar settlers were added colonies of Armenians and Vlakhs by various emperors. The last touch was given by the arrival of the Normans in 1081 and the passage of the crusaders in 1096. The wholesale depredations of the latter naturally made the inhabitants of the Balkan peninsula anything but sympathetically disposed towards their cause. One of the results of all this turmoil and of the heavy hand of the Greeks was a great increase in the vitality of the Bogomil heresy already referred to; it became a refuge for patriotism and an outlet for its expression. The Emperor Alexis Comnenus instituted a bitter persecution of it, which only led to its growth and rapid propagation westwards into Serbia from its centre Philippopolis.

The reason of the complete overthrow of the Bulgarian monarchy by the Greeks was of course that the nation itself was totally lacking in cohesion and organization, and could only achieve any lasting success when an exceptionally gifted ruler managed to discount the centrifugal tendencies of the feudal nobles, as Simeon and Samuel had done. Other discouraging factors wore the permeation of the Church and State by Byzantine influence, the lack of a large standing army, the spread of the anarchic Bogomil heresy, and the fact that the bulk of the Slav population had no desire for foreign adventure or national aggrandizement.


The Rise and Fall of the Second Bulgarian Empire, 1186-1258

From 1186 to 1258 Bulgaria experienced temporary resuscitation, the brevity of which was more than compensated for by the stirring nature of the events that crowded it. The exactions and oppressions of the Greeks culminated in a revolt on the part of the Bulgars, which had its centre in Tirnovo on the river Yantra in northern Bulgaria—a position of great natural strength and strategic importance, commanding the outlets of several of the most important passes over the Balkan range. This revolt coincided with the growing weakness of the eastern empire, which, surrounded on all sides by aggressive enemies—Kumans, Saracens, Turks, and Normans—was sickening for one of the severe illnesses which preceded its dissolution. The revolt was headed by two brothers who were Vlakh or Rumanian shepherds, and was blessed by the archbishop Basil, who crowned one of them, called John Asen, as tsar in Tirnovo in 1186. Their first efforts against the Greeks were not successful, but securing the support of the Serbs under Stephen Nemanja in 1188 and of the Crusaders in 1189 they became more so; but there was life in the Greeks yet, and victory alternated with defeat. John Asen I was assassinated in 1196 and was succeeded after many internal discords and murders by his relative Kaloian or Pretty John. This cruel and unscrupulous though determined ruler soon made an end of all his enemies at home, and in eight years achieved such success abroad that Bulgaria almost regained its former proportions. Moreover, he re-established relations with Rome, to the great discomfiture of the Greeks, and after some negotiations Pope Innocent III recognized Kaloian as tsar of the Bulgars and Vlakhs (roi de Blaquie et de Bougrie, in the words of Villehardouin), with Basil as primate, and they were both duly consecrated and crowned by the papal legate at Tirnovo in 1204. The French, who had just established themselves in Constantinople during the fourth crusade, imprudently made an enemy of Kaloian instead of a friend, and with the aid of the Tartar Kumans he defeated them several times, capturing and brutally murdering Baldwin I. But in 1207 his career was cut short; he was murdered while besieging Salonika by one of his generals who was a friend of his wife. After eleven years of further anarchy he was succeeded by John Asen II. During the reign of this monarch, which lasted from 1218 till 1241, Bulgaria reached the zenith of its power. He was the most enlightened ruler the country had had, and he not only waged war successfully abroad but also put an end to the internal confusion, restored the possibility of carrying on agriculture and commerce, and encouraged the foundation of numerous schools and monasteries. He maintained the tradition of his family by making his capital at Tirnovo, which city he considerably embellished and enlarged.

Constantinople at this time boasted three Greek emperors and one French. The first act of John Asen II was to get rid of one of them, named Theodore, who had proclaimed himself basileus at Okhrida in 1223. Thereupon he annexed the whole of Thrace, Macedonia, Thessaly, and Epirus to his dominions, and made Theodore's brother Manuel, who had married one of his daughters, viceroy, established at Salonika. Another of his daughters had married Stephen Vladislav, who was King of Serbia from 1233-43, and a third married Theodore, son of the Emperor John III, who reigned at Nicaea, in 1235. This daughter, after being sought in marriage by the French barons at Constantinople as a wife for the Emperor Baldwin II, a minor, was then summarily rejected in favour of the daughter of the King of Jerusalem; this affront rankled in the mind of John Asen II and threw him into the arms of the Greeks, with whom he concluded an alliance in 1234. John Asen II and his ally, the Emperor John III, were, however, utterly defeated by the French under the walls of Constantinople in 1236, and the Bulgarian ruler, who had no wish to see the Greeks re-established there, began to doubt the wisdom of his alliance. Other Bulgarian tsars had been unscrupulous, but the whole foreign policy of this one pivoted on treachery. He deserted the Greeks and made an alliance with the French in 1237, the Pope Gregory IX, a great Hellenophobe, having threatened him with excommunication; he went so far as to force his daughter to relinquish her Greek husband. The following year, however, he again changed over to the Greeks; then again fear of the Pope and of his brother-in-law the King of Hungary brought him back to the side of Baldwin II, to whose help against the Greeks he went with a large army into Thrace in 1239. While besieging the Greeks with indifferent success, he learned of the death of his wife and his eldest son from plague, and incontinently returned to Tirnovo, giving up the war and restoring his daughter to her lonely husband. This adaptable monarch died a natural death in 1241, and the three rulers of his family who succeeded him, whose reigns filled the period 1241-58, managed to undo all the constructive work of their immediate predecessors. Province after province was lost and internal anarchy increased. This remarkable dynasty came to an inglorious end in 1258, when its last representative was murdered by his own nobles, and from this time onwards Bulgaria was only a shadow of its former self.


The Serbian Supremacy and the Final Collapse, 1258-1393

From 1258 onwards Bulgaria may be said to have continued flickering until its final extinction as a state in 1393, but during this period it never had any voice in controlling the destinies of the Balkan peninsula. Owing to the fact that no ruler emerged capable of keeping the distracted country in order, there was a regular chasse-croise of rival princelets, an unceasing tale of political marriages and murders, conspiracies and revolts of feudal nobles all over the country, and perpetual ebb and flow of the boundaries of the warring principalities which tore the fabric of Bulgaria to pieces amongst them. From the point of view of foreign politics this period is characterized generally by the virtual disappearance of Bulgarian independence to the profit of the surrounding states, who enjoyed a sort of rotativist supremacy. It is especially remarkable for the complete ascendancy which Serbia gained in the Balkan peninsula.

A Serb, Constantine, grandson of Stephen Nemanja, occupied the Bulgarian throne from 1258 to 1277, and married the granddaughter of John Asen II. After the fall of the Latin Empire of Constantinople in 1261, the Hungarians, already masters of Transylvania, combined with the Greeks against Constantine; the latter called the Tartars of southern Russia, at this time at the height of their power, to his help and was victorious, but as a result of his diplomacy the Tartars henceforward played an important part in the Bulgarian welter. Then Constantine married, as his second wife, the daughter of the Greek emperor, and thus again gave Constantinople a voice in his country's affairs. Constantine was followed by a series of upstart rulers, whose activities were cut short by the victories of King Uros II of Serbia (1282-1321), who conquered all Macedonia and wrested it from the Bulgars. In 1285 the Tartars of the Golden Horde swept over Hungary and Bulgaria, but it was from the south that the clouds were rolling up which not much later were to burst over the peninsula. In 1308 the Turks appeared on the Sea of Marmora, and in 1326 established themselves at Brussa. From 1295 to 1322 Bulgaria was presided over by a nobleman of Vidin, Svetoslav, who, unmolested by the Greeks, grown thoughtful in view of the approach of the Turks, was able to maintain rather more order than his subjects were accustomed to. After his death in 1322 chaos again supervened. One of his successors had married the daughter of Uros II of Serbia, but suddenly made an alliance with the Greeks against his brother-in-law Stephen Uros III and dispatched his wife to her home. During the war which ensued the unwonted allies were utterly routed by the Serbs at Kustendil in Macedonia in 1330.

From 1331 to 1365 Bulgaria was under one John Alexander, a noble of Tartar origin, whose sister became the wife of Serbia's greatest ruler, Stephen Dusan; John Alexander, moreover, recognized Stephen as his suzerain, and from thenceforward Bulgaria was a vassal-state of Serbia. Meanwhile the Turkish storm was gathering fast; Suleiman crossed the Hellespont in 1356, and Murad I made Adrianople his capital in 1366. After the death of John Alexander in 1365 the Hungarians invaded northern Bulgaria, and his successor invoked the help of the Turks against them and also against the Greeks. This was the beginning of the end. The Serbs, during an absence of the Sultan in Asia, undertook an offensive, but were defeated by the Turks near Adrianople in 1371, who captured Sofia in 1382. After this the Serbs formed a huge southern Slav alliance, in which the Bulgarians refused to join, but, after a temporary success against the Turks in 1387, they were vanquished by them as the result of treachery at the famous battle of Kosovo in 1389. Meanwhile the Turks occupied Nikopolis on the Danube in 1388 and destroyed the Bulgarian capital Tirnovo in 1393, exiling the Patriarch Euthymus to Macedonia. Thus the state of Bulgaria passed into the hands of the Turks, and its church into those of the Greeks. Many Bulgars adopted Islam, and their descendants are the Pomaks or Bulgarian Mohammedans of the present day. With the subjection of Rumania in 1394 and the defeat of an improvised anti-Turkish crusade from western Europe under Sigismund, King of Hungary, at Nikopolis in 1396 the Turkish conquest was complete, though the battle of Varna was not fought till 1444, nor Constantinople entered till 1453.


The Turkish Dominion and the Emancipation, 1393-1878

From 1393 until 1877 Bulgaria may truthfully be said to have had no history, but nevertheless it could scarcely have been called happy. National life was completely paralysed, and what stood in those days for national consciousness was obliterated. It is common knowledge, and most people are now reasonable enough to admit, that the Turks have many excellent qualities, religious fervour and military ardour amongst others; it is also undeniable that from an aesthetic point of view too much cannot be said in praise of Mohammedan civilization. Who does not prefer the minarets of Stambul and Edirne[1] to the architecture of Budapest, notoriously the ideal of Christian south-eastern Europe? On the other hand, it cannot be contended that the Pax Ottomana brought prosperity or happiness to those on whom it was imposed (unless indeed they submerged their identity in the religion of their conquerors), or that its Influence was either vivifying or generally popular.

[Footnote 1: The Turkish names for Constantinople and Adrianople.]

To the races they conquered the Turks offered two alternatives—serfdom or Turkdom; those who could not bring themselves to accept either of these had either to emigrate or take to brigandage and outlawry in the mountains. The Turks literally overlaid the European nationalities of the Balkan peninsula for five hundred years, and from their own point of view and from that of military history this was undoubtedly a very splendid achievement; it was more than the Greeks or Romans had ever done. From the point of view of humanitarianism also it is beyond a doubt that much less human blood was spilt in the Balkan peninsula during the five hundred years of Turkish rule than during the five hundred years of Christian rule which preceded them; indeed it would have been difficult to spill more. It is also a pure illusion to think of the Turks as exceptionally brutal or cruel; they are just as good-natured and good-humoured as anybody else; it is only when their military or religious passions are aroused that they become more reckless and ferocious than other people. It was not the Turks who taught cruelty to the Christians of the Balkan peninsula; the latter had nothing to learn in this respect.

In spite of all this, however, from the point of view of the Slavs of Bulgaria and Serbia, Turkish rule was synonymous with suffocation. If the Turks were all that their greatest admirers think them the history of the Balkan peninsula in the nineteenth century would have been very different from what it has been, namely, one perpetual series of anti-Turkish revolts.

Of all the Balkan peoples the Bulgarians were the most completely crushed and effaced. The Greeks by their ubiquity, their brains, and their money were soon able to make the Turkish storm drive their own windmill; the Rumanians were somewhat sheltered by the Danube and also by their distance from Constantinople; the Serbs also were not so exposed to the full blast of the Turkish wrath, and the inaccessibility of much of their country afforded them some protection. Bulgaria was simply annihilated, and its population, already far from homogeneous, was still further varied by numerous Turkish and other Tartar colonies.

For the same reasons already mentioned Bulgaria was the last Balkan state to emancipate itself; for these reasons also it is the least trammelled by prejudices and by what are considered national predilections and racial affinities, while its heterogeneous composition makes it vigorous and enterprising. The treatment of the Christians by the Turks was by no means always the same; generally speaking, it grew worse as the power of the Sultan grew less. During the fifteenth century they were allowed to practise their religion and all their vocations in comparative liberty and peace. But from the sixteenth century onwards the control of the Sultan declined, power became decentralized, the Ottoman Empire grew ever more anarchic and the rule of the provincial governors more despotic.

But the Mohammedan conquerors were not the only enemies and oppressors of the Bulgars. The role played by the Greeks in Bulgaria during the Turkish dominion was almost as important as that of the Turks themselves. The contempt of the Turks for the Christians, and especially for their religion, was so great that they prudently left the management of it to them, knowing that it would keep them occupied in mutual altercation. From 1393 till 1767 the Bulgarians were under the Greco-Bulgarian Patriarchate of Okhrida, an organization in which all posts, from the highest to the lowest, had to be bought from the Turkish administration at exorbitant and ever-rising prices; the Phanariote Greeks (so called because they originated in the Phanar quarter at Constantinople) were the only ones who could afford those of the higher posts, with the result that the Church was controlled from Constantinople. In 1767 the independent patriarchates were abolished, and from that date the religious control of the Greeks was as complete as the political control of the Turks. The Greeks did all they could to obliterate the last traces of Bulgarian nationality which had survived in the Church, and this explains a fact which must never be forgotten, which had its origin in the remote past, but grew more pronounced at this period, that the individual hatred of Greeks and Bulgars of each other has always been far more intense than their collective hatred of the Turks.

Ever since the marriage of the Tsar Ivan III with the niece of the last Greek Emperor, in 1472, Russia had considered itself the trustee of the eastern Christians, the defender of the Orthodox Church, and the direct heir of the glory and prestige of Constantinople; it was not until the eighteenth century, however, after the consolidation of the Russian state, that the Balkan Christians were championed and the eventual possession of Constantinople was seriously considered. Russian influence was first asserted in Rumania after the Treaty of Kuchuk-Kainardji, in 1774. It was only the Napoleonic war in 1812 that prevented the Russians from extending their territory south of the Danube, whither it already stretched. Serbia was partially free by 1826, and Greece achieved complete independence in 1830, when the Russian troops, in order to coerce the Turks, occupied part of Bulgaria and advanced as far as Adrianople. Bulgaria, being nearer to and more easily repressed by Constantinople, had to wait, and tentative revolts made about this time were put down with much bloodshed and were followed by wholesale emigrations of Bulgars into Bessarabia and importations of Tartars and Kurds into the vacated districts. The Crimean War and the short-sighted championship of Turkey by the western European powers checked considerably the development at which Russia aimed. Moldavia and Wallachia were in 1856 withdrawn from the semi-protectorate which Russia had long exercised over them, and in 1861 formed themselves into the united state of Rumania. In 1866 a German prince, Charles of Hohenzollern, came to rule over the country, the first sign of German influence in the Near East; at this time Rumania still acknowledged the supremacy of the Sultan.

During the first half of the nineteenth century there took place a considerable intellectual renascence in Bulgaria, a movement fostered by wealthy Bulgarian merchants of Bucarest and Odessa. In 1829 a history of Bulgaria was published by a native of that country in Moscow; in 1835 the first school was established in Bulgaria, and many others soon followed. It must be remembered that not only was nothing known at that time about Bulgaria and its inhabitants in other countries, but the Bulgars had themselves to be taught who they were. The Bulgarian people in Bulgaria consisted entirely of peasants; there was no Bulgarian upper or middle or 'intelligent' or professional class; those enlightened Bulgars who existed were domiciled in other countries; the Church was in the hands of the Greeks, who vied with the Turks in suppressing Bulgarian nationality.

The two committees of Odessa and Bucarest which promoted the enlightenment and emancipation of Bulgaria were dissimilar in composition and in aim; the members of the former were more intent on educational and religious reform, and aimed at the gradual and peaceful regeneration of their country by these means; the latter wished to effect the immediate political emancipation of Bulgaria by violent and, if necessary, warlike means.

It was the ecclesiastical question which was solved first. In 1856 the Porte had promised religious reforms tending to the appointment of Bulgarian bishops and the recognition of the Bulgarian language in Church and school. But these not being carried through, the Bulgarians took the matter into their own hands, and in 1860 refused any longer to recognize the Patriarch of Constantinople. The same year an attempt was made to bring the Church of Bulgaria under that of Rome, but, owing to Russian opposition, proved abortive. In 1870, the growing agitation having at last alarmed the Turks, the Bulgarian Exarchate was established. The Bulgarian Church was made free and national and was to be under an Exarch who should reside at Constantinople (Bulgaria being still a Turkish province). The Greeks, conscious what a blow this would be to their supremacy, managed for a short while to stave off the evil day, but in 1872 the Exarch was triumphantly installed in Constantinople, where he resided till 1908.

Meanwhile revolutionary outbreaks began to increase, but were always put down with great rigour. The most notable was that of 1875, instigated by Stambulov, the future dictator, in sympathy with the outbreak in Montenegro, Hercegovina, and Bosnia of that year; the result of this and of similar movements in 1876 was the series of notorious Bulgarian massacres in that year. The indignation of Europe was aroused and concerted representations were urgently made at Constantinople. Midhat Pasha disarmed his opponents by summarily introducing the British constitution into Turkey, but, needless to say, Bulgaria's lot was not improved by this specious device. Russia had, however, steadily been making her preparations, and, Turkey having refused to discontinue hostilities against Montenegro, on April 24, 1877, war was declared by the Emperor Alexander II, whose patience had become exhausted; he was joined by Prince Charles of Rumania, who saw that by doing so he would be rewarded by the complete emancipation of his country, then still a vassal-state of Turkey, and its erection into a kingdom. At the beginning of the war all went well for the Russians and Rumanians, who were soon joined by large numbers of Bulgarian insurgents; the Turkish forces were scattered all over the peninsula. The committee of Bucarest transformed itself into a provisional government, but the Russians, who had undertaken to liberate the country, naturally had to keep its administration temporarily in their own hands, and refused their recognition. The Turks, alarmed at the early victories of the Russians, brought up better generals and troops, and defeated the Russians at Plevna in July. They failed, however, to dislodge them from the important and famous Shipka Pass in August, and after this they became demoralized and their resistance rapidly weakened. The Russians, helped by the Bulgarians and Rumanians, fought throughout the summer with the greatest gallantry; they took Plevna, after a three months' siege, in December, occupied Sofia and Philippopolis in January 1878, and pushed forward to the walls of Constantinople.

The Turks were at their last gasp, and at Adrianople, in March 1878, Ignatiyev dictated the terms of the Treaty of San Stefano, by which a principality of Bulgaria, under the nominal suzerainty of the Sultan, was created, stretching from the Danube to the Aegean, and from the Black Sea to Albania, including all Macedonia and leaving to the Turks only the district between Constantinople and Adrianople, Chalcidice, and the town of Salonika; Bulgaria would thus have regained the dimensions it possessed under Tsar Simeon nine hundred and fifty years previously.

This treaty, which on ethnological grounds was tolerably just, alarmed the other powers, especially Great Britain and Germany, who thought they perceived in it the foundations of Russian hegemony in the Balkans, while it would, if put into execution, have blighted the aspirations of Greece and Serbia. The Treaty of Berlin, inspired by Bismarck and Lord Salisbury, anxious to defend, the former, the interests of (ostensibly) Austria-Hungary, the latter (shortsightedly) those of Turkey, replaced it in July 1878. By its terms Bulgaria was cut into three parts; northern Bulgaria, between the Danube and the Balkans, was made an autonomous province, tributary to Turkey; southern Bulgaria, fancifully termed Eastern Rumelia (Rumili was the name always given by the Turks to the whole Balkan peninsula), was to have autonomous administration under a Christian governor appointed by the Porte; Macedonia was left to Turkey; and the Dobrudja, between the Danube and the Black Sea, was adjudged to Rumania.


The Aftermath, and Prince Alexander of Battenberg, 1878-86

The relations between the Russians and the Bulgarians were better before the liberation of the latter by the former than after; this may seem unjust, because Bulgaria could never have freed herself so decisively and rapidly alone, and Russia was the only power in whose interest it was to free her from the Turks, and who could translate that interest so promptly into action; nevertheless, the laws controlling the relationships of states and nationalities being much the same as those which control the relationships of individuals, it was only to be expected.

What so often happens in the relationships of individuals happened in those between Russia and Bulgaria. Russia naturally enough expected Bulgaria to be grateful for the really large amount of blood and treasure which its liberation had cost Russia, and, moreover, expected its gratitude to take the form of docility and a general acquiescence in all the suggestions and wishes expressed by its liberator. Bulgaria was no doubt deeply grateful, but never had the slightest intention of expressing its gratitude in the desired way; on the contrary, like most people who have regained a long-lost and unaccustomed freedom of action or been put under an obligation, it appeared touchy and jealous of its right to an independent judgement. It is often assumed by Russophobe writers that Russia wished and intended to make a Russian province of Bulgaria, but this is very unlikely; the geographical configuration of the Balkan peninsula would not lend itself to its incorporation in the Russian Empire, the existence between the two of the compact and vigorous national block of Rumania, a Latin race and then already an independent state, was an insurmountable obstacle, and, finally, it is quite possible for Russia to obtain possession or control of Constantinople without owning all the intervening littoral.

That Russia should wish to have a controlling voice in the destinies of Bulgaria and in those of the whole peninsula was natural, and it was just as natural that Bulgaria should resent its pretensions. The eventual result of this, however, was that Bulgaria inevitably entered the sphere of Austrian and ultimately of German influence or rather calculation, a contingency probably not foreseen by its statesmen at the time, and whose full meaning, even if it had, would not have been grasped by them.

The Bulgarians, whatever the origin and the ingredients of their nationality, are by language a purely Slavonic people; their ancestors were the pioneers of Slavonic civilization as expressed in its monuments of theological literature. Nevertheless, they have never been enthusiastic Pan-Slavists, any more than the Dutch have ever been ardent Pan-Germans; it is as unreasonable to expect such a thing of the one people as it is of the other. The Bulgarians indeed think themselves superior to the Slavs by reason of the warlike and glorious traditions of the Tartar tribe that gave them their name and infused the Asiatic element into their race, thus endowing them with greater stability, energy, and consistency than is possessed by purely Slav peoples. These latter, on the other hand, and notably the Serbians, for the same reason affect contempt for the mixture of blood and for what they consider the Mongol characteristics of the Bulgarians. What is certain is that between Bulgarians and Germans (including German Austrians and Magyars) there has never existed that elemental, ineradicable, and insurmountable antipathy which exists between German (and Magyar) and Slav wherever the two races are contiguous, from the Baltic to the Adriatic; nothing is more remarkable than the way in which the Bulgarian people has been flattered, studied, and courted in Austria-Hungary and Germany, during the last decade, to the detriment of the purely Slav Serb race with whom it is always compared. The reason is that with the growth of the Serb national movement, from 1903 onwards, Austria-Hungary and Germany felt an instinctive and perfectly well-justified fear of the Serb race, and sought to neutralize the possible effect of its growing power by any possible means.

It is not too much to say, in summing up, that Russian influence, which had been growing stronger in Bulgaria up till 1877-8, has since been steadily on the decline; Germany and Austria-Hungary, who reduced Bulgaria to half the size that Count Ignatiyev had made it by the Treaty of San Stefano, reaped the benefit, especially the commercial benefit, of the war which Russia had waged. Intellectually, and especially as regards the replenishment and renovation of the Bulgarian language, which, in spite of numerous Turkish words introduced during the Ottoman rule, is essentially Slavonic both in substance and form, Russian influence was especially powerful, and has to a certain extent maintained itself. Economically, owing partly to geographical conditions, both the Danube and the main oriental railway linking Bulgaria directly with Budapest and Vienna, partly to the fact that Bulgaria's best customers for its cereals are in central and western Europe, the connexion between Bulgaria and Russia is infinitesimal. Politically, both Russia and Bulgaria aiming at the same thing, the possession of Constantinople and the hegemony of the Balkan peninsula, their relations were bound to be difficult.

The first Bulgarian Parliament met in 1879 under trying conditions. Both Russian and Bulgarian hopes had been dashed by the Treaty of Berlin. Russian influence was still paramount, however, and the viceroy controlled the organization of the administration. An ultra-democratic constitution was arranged for, a fact obviously not conducive to the successful government of their country by the quite inexperienced Bulgarians. For a ruler recourse had inevitably to be had to the rabbit-warren of Germanic princes, who were still ingenuously considered neutral both in religion and in politics. The choice fell on Prince Alexander of Battenberg, nephew of the Empress of Russia, who had taken part in the campaign of the Russian army. Prince Alexander was conscientious, energetic, and enthusiastic, but he was no diplomat, and from the outset his honesty precluded his success. From the very first he failed to keep on good terms with Russia or its representatives, who at that time were still numerous in Bulgaria, while he was helpless to stem the ravages of parliamentary government. The Emperor Alexander III, who succeeded his father Alexander II in 1881, recommended him to insist on being made dictator, which he successfully did. But when he found that this only meant an increase of Russian influence he reverted to parliamentary government (in September 1883); this procedure discomfited the representatives of Russia, discredited him with the Emperor, and threw him back into the vortex of party warfare, from which he never extricated himself.

Meanwhile the question of eastern Rumelia, or rather southern Bulgaria, still a Turkish province, began to loom. A vigorous agitation for the reunion of the two parts of the country had been going on for some time, and on September 18, 1885, the inhabitants of Philippopolis suddenly proclaimed the union under Prince Alexander, who solemnly announced his approval at Tirnovo and triumphantly entered their city on September 21. Russia frowned on this independence of spirit. Serbia, under King Milan, and instigated by Austria, inaugurated the policy which has so often been followed since, and claimed territorial compensation for Bulgaria's aggrandisement; it must be remembered that it was Bismarck who, by the Treaty of Berlin, had arbitrarily confined Serbia to its inadequate limits of those day.

On November 13 King Milan declared war, and began to march on Sofia, which is not far from the Serbo-Bulgarian frontier. Prince Alexander, the bulk of whose army was on the Turkish frontier, boldly took up the challenge. On November 18 took place the battle of Slivnitsa, a small town about twenty miles north-west of Sofia, in which the Bulgarians were completely victorious. Prince Alexander, after hard fighting, took Pirot in Serbia on November 27, having refused King Milan's request for an armistice, and was marching on Nish, when Austria intervened, and threatened to send troops into Serbia unless fighting ceased. Bulgaria had to obey, and on March 3, 1886, a barren treaty of peace was imposed on the belligerents at Bucarest. Prince Alexander's position did not improve after this, indeed it would have needed a much more skilful navigator to steer through the many currents which eddied round him. A strong Russophile party formed itself in the army; on the night of August 21, 1886, some officers of this party, who were the most capable in the Bulgarian army, appeared at Sofia, forced Alexander to resign, and abducted him; they put him on board his yacht on the Danube and escorted him to the Russian town of Reni, in Bessarabia; telegraphic orders came from St. Petersburg, in answer to inquiries, that he could proceed with haste to western Europe, and on August 26 he found himself at Lemberg. But those who had carried out this coup d'etat found that it was not at all popular in the country. A counter-revolution, headed by the statesman Stambulov, was immediately initiated, and on September 3 Prince Alexander reappeared in Sofia amidst tumultuous applause. Nevertheless his position was hopeless; the Emperor Alexander III forced him to abdicate, and on September 7, 1886, he left Bulgaria for good, to the regret of the majority of the people. He died in Austria, in 1893, in his thirty-seventh year. At his departure a regency was constituted, at the head of which was Stambulov.


The Regeneration under Prince Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg, 1886-1908

Stambulov was born at Tirnovo in 1854 and was of humble origin. He took part in the insurrection of 1876 and in the war of liberation, and in 1884 became president of the Sobraniye (Parliament). From 1886 till 1894 he was virtually dictator of Bulgaria. He was intensely patriotic and also personally ambitious, determined, energetic, ruthlessly cruel and unscrupulous, but incapable of deceit; these qualities were apparent in his powerful and grim expression of face, while his manner inspired the weak with terror and the strongest with respect. His policy in general was directed against Russia. At the general election held in October 1886 he had all his important opponents imprisoned beforehand, while armed sentries discouraged ill-disposed voters from approaching the ballot-boxes. Out of 522 elected deputies, there were 470 supporters of Stambulov. This implied the complete suppression of the Russophile party and led to a rupture with St. Petersburg.

Whatever were Stambulov's methods, and few would deny that they were harsh, there is no doubt that something of the sort was necessary to restore order in the country. But once having started on this path he found it difficult to stop, and his tyrannical bearing, combined with the delay in finding a prince, soon made him unpopular. There were several revolutionary outbreaks directed against him, but these were all crushed. At length the, at that time not particularly alluring, throne of Bulgaria was filled by Prince Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg, who was born in 1861 and was the son of the gifted Princess Clementine of Bourbon-Orleans, daughter of Louis-Philippe. This young man combined great ambition and tenacity of purpose with extreme prudence, astuteness, and patience; he was a consummate diplomat. The election of this prince was viewed with great disfavour by Russia, and for fear of offending the Emperor Alexander III none of the European powers recognized him.

Ferdinand, unabashed, cheerfully installed himself in Sofia with his mother in July 1886, and took care to make the peace with his suzerain, the Sultan Abdul Hamid. He wisely left all power in the hands of the unattractive and to him, unsympathetic prime minister, Stambulov, till he himself felt secure in his position, and till the dictator should have made himself thoroughly hated. Ferdinand's clever and wealthy mother cast a beneficent and civilizing glow around him, smoothing away many difficulties by her womanly tact and philanthropic activity, and, thanks to his influential connexions in the courts of Europe and his attitude of calm expectancy, his prestige in his own country rapidly increased. In 1893 he married Princess Marie-Louise of Bourbon-Parma. In May 1894, as a result of a social misadventure in which he became involved, Stambulov sent in his resignation, confidently expecting a refusal. To his mortification it was accepted; thereupon he initiated a violent press campaign, but his halo had faded, and on July 15 he was savagely attacked in the street by unknown men, who afterwards escaped, and he died three days later. So intense were the emotions of the people that his grave had to be guarded by the military for two months. In November 1894 followed the death of the Emperor Alexander III, and as a result of this double event the road to a reconciliation with Russia was opened. Meanwhile the German Emperor, who was on good terms with Princess Clementine, had paved the way for Ferdinand at Vienna, and when, in March 1896, the Sultan recognized him as Prince of Bulgaria and Governor-General of eastern Rumelia, his international position was assured. Relations with Russia were still further improved by the rebaptism of the infant Crown Prince Boris according to the rites of the eastern Church, in February 1896, and a couple of years later Ferdinand and his wife and child paid a highly successful state visit to Peterhof. In September 1902 a memorial church was erected by the Emperor Nicholas II at the Shipka Pass, and later an equestrian statue of the Tsar-Liberator Alexander II was placed opposite the House of Parliament in Sofia.

Bulgaria meanwhile had been making rapid and astonishing material progress. Railways were built, exports increased, and the general condition of the country greatly improved. It is the fashion to compare the wonderful advance made by Bulgaria during the thirty-five years of its new existence with the very much slower progress made by Serbia during a much longer period. This is insisted on especially by publicists in Austria-Hungary and Germany, but it is forgotten that even before the last Balkan war the geographical position of Bulgaria with its seaboard was much more favourable to its economic development than that of Serbia, which the Treaty of Berlin had hemmed in by Turkish and Austro-Hungarian territory; moreover, Bulgaria being double the size of the Serbia of those days, had far greater resources upon which to draw.

From 1894 onwards Ferdinand's power in his own country and his influence abroad had been steadily growing. He always appreciated the value of railways, and became almost as great a traveller as the German Emperor. His estates in the south of Hungary constantly required his attention, and he was a frequent visitor in Vienna. The German Emperor, though he could not help admiring Ferdinand's success, was always a little afraid of him; he felt that Ferdinand's gifts were so similar to his own that he would be unable to count on him in an emergency. Moreover, it was difficult to reconcile Ferdinand's ambitions in extreme south-eastern Europe with his own. Ferdinand's relations with Vienna, on the other hand, and especially with the late Archduke Francis Ferdinand, were both cordial and intimate.

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