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Bulgaria

History & Architecture

History

Bulgarian history begins with the migration of southern Slavs to the region of modern day Bulgaria in the 500s when they intermarried with the local people and later with the Bulgars. The first kingdom of Bulgaria was founded in 681. In the 800s Christianity was introduced as the kingdom gained more power through battlefield successes, but this success ended in the 1000s when the Byzantines conquered the region.

In the late 1100s the Bulgarian state was re-founded and over the next couple hundred years it grew in power as Constantinople declined. Near the end of the 1300s though Bulgarian power was so decimated by war that the empire collapsed into numerous smaller states and by the late 1300s the entire region was taken over by the invading Ottoman Turks.

Through the 1400s and 1500s the Bulgarians remained under Ottoman rule as conditions continuously deteriorated. In the late 1500s and 1600s a number of revolts took place, but none with any substantial success.

In the late 1800s the Bulgarians again revolted and with the help of the Russians, defeated the Ottoman Turks, giving Bulgaria independence once again. However this independence led to much debate regarding borders and encouraged other uprisings among other groups in the Balkans.

In the early 1900s Bulgaria got involved in a number of wars, including wars with Serbia, the Balkan Wars, and World War I (WWI). In 1912 and 1913 the Balkan Wars broke out to finally end Ottoman Turkish domination over the Balkan Peninsula. The first of these wars united Serbia, Montenegro, Bulgaria, and Greece against the Turks, which ended with a Turkish defeat. War however broke out the following year with the new Turkish government, and again the Balkan countries won this war to finally end Turkish dominance in the region. Then, during WWI, Bulgaria joined Austria-Hungary to fight neighboring Serbia, but soon found itself on the losing side of the battle as Bulgaria lost both territory and a great amount of its population to both deaths and border shifts.

During World War II (WWII) Bulgaria joined the Axis powers, but in the course of the war, their tsar died and the country was thrown into domestic chaos, while trying to still manage the war. A communist group rose to power and switched allegiances, joining the Soviets and the Allies.

After WWII Bulgaria remained closely tied to the Soviet Union as a communist country. Like much of communist Europe, communism collapsed in Bulgaria in 1990, but the country has struggled to gain traction on any consistently positive economic growth, although it has grown in spurts. More recently Bulgaria joined both NATO and the European Union (EU).

Architecture

Bulgarian Architecture - Nessebar
Nessebar

Bulgaria's architectural influence begins in about 600 BC with the Thracian city of Nessebar on the Black Sea. This settlement was later ruled by the Greeks, by whom most of today's ruins were built, and the Byzantines who also left a great deal of architecture that is still standing today. Nessebar is perhaps the beast place in Bulgaria to see all the architectural styles that made a lasting impact on the country.

Bulgarian Architecture - Bridge in the mountains
Byzantine Bridge

The Byzantium influence in Bulgaria led to much of the population prescribing to Orthodoxy and much of the country's early architecture was orthodox churches and monasteries. The most striking of these is the Boyana Church near Sofia. This church was built in the 900s then expanded in the 1200s and again in the 1800s. It is widely considered one of the best examples of medieval architecture in Eastern Europe.

For much of the next few hundred years there were no strong influences on the buildings in Bulgaria that remain today. Along the Black Sea many buildings were made of wood and no longer stand today. Meanwhile, in the mountains, wood was also popular, although there were also numerous stone buildings, particularly churches, although few are strikingly different from other Byzantium or Eastern Orthodox churches.

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This page was last updated: March, 2013