The end of the First Bulgarian Kingdom

After Samuil’s death, Bulgaria resisted for another four years and it was only at the end of 1018 that Byzan-tium conquered the whole of the country. This was the end of the First Bulgarian Kingdom, which had existed for three and a half centuries. The Bulgarian people fell under foreign domination which sharply deteriorated their political and economic situation. To make things worse, new nomad tribes started invading the Bulgarian lands during the 11th and 12th centuries -Usae, Pechenegs and Rumanians. They were powerless before the impregnable Byzantine strongholds, but they brought death and ruin to the defenceless Bulgarian peasants. The West-European crusaders who passed through Bulgaria on their way to Jerusalem also brought countless misfortunes to the Bulgarians, because after the split between the Roman Curia and the Constantinople Church in 1054 the crusaders started treating the Eastern Orthodox Christians almost as heretics.

The conquerors also had their problems with the con-quered Bulgarians. In 1040 Samuil’s grandson Peter Delyan raised a mass uprising which proved a tough job for the Byzantines to suppress. In 1072 another mass uprising broke out, this time near Skopje, under the leadership of Georgi Voiteh. The insurgents had the sup-port of the Serbian ruler, but after months of bloody battles they were defeated by the numerous troops of the Emperor. Then a series of armed mutinies broke out in 1074, 1079 and 1084 in the Danubian towns of Bulgaria and in Sofia, Mesembria, in the region of Plovdiv. The Bogomils, who had earlier waged a fierce struggle against the Bulgarian clerical and secular aristocracy, manifested themselves as ardent patriots and fighters against foreign oppression.

Internecine struggles broke out in the Byzantine Empire during the 1180s and the Empire’s enemies abroad took advantage of this. A wave of Seldjuk Turks attacked from the east, the Magyars – from the north. In 1183 the Magyars reached as far as Sofia and established their rule over the Empire’s northwestern most parts. Two years later the Normans, living in Italy, started their invasion and occupied the second largest city of the Empire – Salonika. Numerous Bulgarian detachments joined the Normans and fought courageously against the oppressors.

The boyars Assen and Peter

The boyars Assen and Peter made an adroit use of the Empire’s difficulties. Their domains were in the region of the town of Turnovo. In the autumn of 1185 they raised an uprising against Byzantine rule, which spread quickly all over Northern Bulgaria. After long preparations, in the autumn of 1186 Emperor Isaac Angel started with his numerous troops for Turnovo. Peter and Assen avoided the decisive battle with the adversary, whose numbers were many times greater and retreated with their elite troops to the other side of the Danube where their allies, the Rumanians lived. Soon after that the two brothers again crossed the Danube at the head of a numerous army composed of Bulgarians and Rumanians. They pushed the Byzantine army to the other side of the Balkan Range and the military actions were transferred to other Bulgarian regions. Isaac Angel again set out with his whole army against the Bulgarians, but suffered a serious defeat in 1187 at the Tryavna Pass and was forced to sign a peace treaty with Peter and Assen. This peace marked the rebirth of the Bulgarian state after nearly 170 years of foreign domination. This time Turnovo was proclaimed capital of Bulgaria.


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