Entering Turnovo

The peasant leader entered Turnovo triumphantly, welcomed enthusiastically by the people and with servile homage paid him by the boyars, who were scared to death. A. Crown Council, hastily convened, proclaimed Ivailo Tsar and the widowed Tsarina changed her mourning for a wedding dress. The ‘idyll’ in Turnovo, howevei, did not last long. The Tartar hordes of Nogai again invaded the country from the north and Ivailo had very soon to exchange his royal mantle and the splendour of his court for the hardships of army life.

In a great number of bloody battles which lasted for over two years, the ‘peasant Tsar’ succeeded in chasing the Tartars away; but while his courageous soldiers were defending their country’s independence, a boyar revolt was coming to a head in the capital. With the help of the cunning Tsarina the boyars had come into contact with the Byzantine government, and asked for help against Ivailo. The Byzantine troops passed the Balkan Range without encountering any resistance, and the boyars themselves opened to them the gates of Turnovo. Ivailo’s army defeated the Byzantines, but mercenaries hired by the boyars attacked him from behind. Ivailo escaped to his previous adversaries – the Tartars – and found his death there. An end was thus put in 1280 to the peasant uprising in Bulgaria.

In spite of its tragic end, Ivailo’s uprising is a fact of great importance not only for Bulgarian, but also for Euro-pean history. It is the earliest known organized peasant anti-feudal uprising of such a scale and scope in Europe, and Ivailo was the first peasant leader in those days who succeeded in seizing state power and in holding it for more than three years. Credit is also due to the Bulgarian peasants who had risen in revolt against feudal exploita-tion, for having barred with their blood the way of the Tartar hordes to Bulgaria and for having weakened their pressure against the Balkans and Central Europe.

Decline

After the defeat of the peasant uprising, the boyars placed Georgi Terter on the throne. His twelve-year-long reign has gone down in history marked by the fact that the Tartars resumed their incursions and made him their vassal. During the reign of the next Bulgarian Tsar, Smilets, the Tartars established their complete rule over Bulgaria. In 1298 Smilets was dethroned and Nogai’s son Chaka ascended the Bulgarian throne. In less than two years, however, Chaka fell victim to a plot and the throne was occupied by Terter’s son Todor Svetoslav, who ruled for 21 years. During his reign Bulgaria waged successful wars against Byzantium and succeeded in taking back the region enclosed between the Balkan Range, the Strandja Mountains and the Black Sea.

 

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