Образуване на българската държава
THE FOUNDATION OF THE BULGARIAN STATE
The foundation of the Bulgarian state is one of the greatest events in the 13th centuries-old development of Bulgaria. It provides a possibility for an independent historical development, creates the preconditions for the formation of the Bulgarian nationality, contributes to the advancement of Bulgaria as a first Slavonic literary and cultural centre. As regards foreign policy, the importance of this event is also enormous—for the Bulgarian people as well as for the other Slav peoples. It is due to the fact that Bulgaria, during centuries has been the outpost both of the Balkan and the other Slav peoples against such a dangerous adversary as Byzantium. In certain periods of time, Bulgaria protected the Slavs living around the middle course of the Danube, against the attacks of the French empire, and later , against the German empire. In this respect the existence of Bulgaria of the Middle Ages reveals a general Slav and European importance.
The settlement of Slavs and Proto-Bulgarians on the Balkan peninsula in the VII c., as well as, the foundation of the Bulgarian state, are events that define the VIIth century in the life of South-East Europe as a Bulgarian century. This is quite natural that sources of different origine (Byzantine, Occidental and Local-Bulgarian), supply a rich information on all these events. Later historians showed a great interest for the formation of the Bulgarian state, which is a recognition for its significant role and international importance. At the same time, we should definitely say, that questions of different kind were studied, but the problem as a whole was not considered as a subbject of a special research. That is why the book we propose, aims at quoting all the available sources, to take up the different opinions in a critical spirit and to pose the question for the foundation of the Bulgarian state in its completeness.
The formation of the Bulgarian state is a result of the unification of two political unions — the Bulgarians of Asparuh, and the Slav military tribal alliance along the Danube. For that reason in
order to throw light upon the problems concerning the formatiort of this state, it is necessary to trace back the social-economic development of the two ethnic groups.
The Slavs are of Indo-European origine. In the IVth c. they are divided by the sources into three groups: Western — Wenedi, Eastern — Anti and Southern — Slavini. The Slavs, living in the Western Carpathians are divided into two groups: Dacian and Pannonian Slavini.
The Slav tribes begin their attacks on the Byzantium territories on the Balkan peninsula ever since the end of the Vth c., and during the first half of the VI th c., the attacks increase incessantly. These attacks are launched by the Anti and the Slavini, but very often the latter acted in common with the Proto-Bulgarians.
After 588, at the time when the Avars settle in the area along the middle course of the Danube, a radical turning point is coming on: a part of the proto-Bulgarians and the Pannonian Slavini come under the way of the Avars and cease the attacks against Byzantium. Only the Dacian Slavini keep their independence and launch attacks on the Balkan peninsula, at times allied with the Avars, and others acting on their own. All this intesified still more the distinctions between the Dacian and the Pannonian Slavini.
At the beginning of the VII th c., the Dacian Slavini surmount the resistance of Byzantium and settle on the Balkan Peninsula. They occupy the land east of the line Belgrade — the valley of Morava river — KosoVo pole — the Shkoder lake. As most of them sometime later enter in the Bulgarian state and compose the base of the Bulgarian nationality, they are known in the science as Bulgarian Slavs — as distinguished from the Serbo-Croatian Slavs that descend from the Pannonian Slavs, and take up their residence on the Balkan Peninsula.
The wars of the Bulgarian Slavs with Byzantium and their settlement on the Balkan peninsula, lead to great changes in their social-economic development: a rapid development of the productive forces and mainly of the instruments of production and armaments, intensification of the property inequality and the formation of classes; establishment of powerful military tribal alliances. During the second half of the VIIth c., at the tima when the Bulgarian state is already founded, the Bulgarian Slavs get ahead of the other Slavs by two-three centuries as regards the social-economic development. The merit for the liquidation of the slave system in South-Eastern Europe goes chiefly to the Bulgarian Slavs, because these are they who bear the brunt of the struggle against Byzantium.
In the VII c. the struggles of the Bulgarian Slavs against Byzantium continue and now they fight on the territory of the Balkan Peninsula. The culmination of these fights is the siege of Constantinople in 626, and the four big sieges of Thessaloniki. During these conflicts the two military tribal alliances are definitely form-
ed: the first, living along the Danube — from the Carpathians till the Stara planina; the other, around Thessaloniki and formed from seven Slav tribes, which fought violently against the Byzantines, not only to stand their independence but also to take such an important strategic town. And if Byzantium by the force of arms manages to rout the military tribal alliance round Thessaloniki, it can not do the same in the case of the Slavs living along the Danube banks. The alliance of this place resists the pressure of the Byzantines, waits till the coming of the Asparuch Bulgarians and together with them takes part in the formation of the common state. This way in the 670s, the Bulgarian Slavs are on the treshold of forming a state organisation.
The Proto-Bulgarians are of Turkic origin. In IVth c., together with the Huns and other Turkic tribes, they already occupy the region, north of the Caucasus, in Eastern Europe.
A certain part of the Proto-Bulgarians are carried too early away in the west and they go to Central Europe: in the middle of the Vth c., some of them go there with the Huns, and others, in the middle of the VIth c, together with the Avars. Theysettle in Pannonia and during the second half of the VI c, in common with the Avars and the Slavs they raid the Balkan peninsula and participate in the siege of Constantinople in 626. About 630, after an abortive attempt to get hold of the power among the Avars, they run away to the Franks. Here however they are.put to extermination and only few of them, approximately 700 families, led by Altziok, take refuge in the Slavs in Carinthia.
The eastern group of Proto-Bulgarians, among which the most well-known are the tribes Utiguri and Kutriguri, assail a long time Byzantium, while during the second half of the VIth c., they are vanquished by the Avars, and not till later they come under the sway of the Western Turks. As long as the second and the third decade of the VIIth c., the Proto-Bulgarian leader Organa is of a particular renown among these Turks. After his death in 631, his nephew Kubrat places himself at the head of the Proto-Bulgarian tribes. Under his leadership the Old-Bulgarians throw off the domination of the Western Turks and form a big military tribal alliance, known in the sources under the name ‘The Ancient Old Bulgaria’.
Khan Kubrat continues his uncles policy of good relations and alliance with Byzantium. While Irakliy was still alive the relations with the empire were very peaceful. After his death, the Proto-Bulgarians interfere with the Byzantine intestine war.
Kubrat deceases about 650. Ten years later, under the blow of the Hasars, The Ancient Great Bulgaria is divided into five parts: the oldest of the brothers Batbajan (Bajan) acknowledges the Hasars power; the second part, consisting of the tribe renowned as Kotragi (Kutriguri), crosses the Don river, and later draws off along the stream of the Volga river and founds the famous Bulgaria on Volga
and Kama; the third part, led by Asparuh fixes itself in ONGALA; the fourth group of Proto-Bulgarians goes to the Avars, with Kuber on the head, and the fifth group of Proto-Bulgarians whose leader was Altzeko goes to Italy, where first serves at the Byzantines, and later, at the Longbards.
The examination of the Asparuh Bulgarians provide the possibility to establish,that they were settling a vast territory from the downstream of the Dnepar till the Danube delta — it is in fact ONGALA, which is mentioned in the sources. The information of the written sources and the archaeological researches suggest that it was a numerous people — about 250—300 thousand people. The relations between the Asparuh Bulgarians and Byzantium were hostile and they often attack its territory. The scholars have good reason to be of the opinion that the beginning of the Slav-Bulgarian union must be dated at the time where the Poto-Bulgarians live the North of the Danube.
The foundation of the Bulgarian state takes place in a period, when Byzantium is in a death duel with the Arabs. In 674, the Arabian navy gets across the Sea of Marmora and during five years, from early spring till late autumn, the Byzantine capital suffers a hard siege. At the same time, the Slav tribes from the Balkan Peninsula rise and in 678 is the most serious siege to Thessaloniki. It was necessary that Constantinople detaches and sends in aid of Thessaloniki ten warships with army and food.
Still in 678, Byzantium succeeds to beat off the Arabian danger, and for the first time in its history makes use of a new and fearful weapon — the famous ‘sea fire’. It affords the opportunity for Byzantium to conclude an advantageous peace treaty with the Arabs and to direct its energies against the Slavs round Thessaloniki.
The Slavs, surprised by the unexpected attack, succumb to the pressure in the plain and draw off in the mountain regions. Here however, they are hard pressed by the Byzantines and decide to seek the aid of different barbaric princes. The sources analysis, points out that by this expressions we ought to understand two groups of Proto-Bulgarians — the Bulgarians of Kuber and of Asparuh.
In 679, the Bulgarians of Kuber, consisting of Proto-Bulgarians, Slavs and descendants of the Balkan population led into captivity by the Avars, uprise against the Avarian power and penetrate within the limits of Byzantium. They defeat completely the Byzantine army, near Belgrade, descend down the valleys of the rivers Morava and Vardar and reach the Keramisiysko pole (Bitolsko pole) where they settle. It was impossible for the emperor to push them out by force or to bring them under his way, so he agrees to allow them a permanent residence and even obliges the neighbourly Slav tribe — Dragovichi to supply them with food. Thus, regardless of the
concluded peace treaty, the menace of the Kuber Bulgarians and the Slavs still oppresses Thessaloniki.
Still in 679, the Asparuh Bulgarians penetrate in Northern Dobrudja. All over the Balkan Peninsula. Byzantium finds itself in a critical situation and starts a different tactics: while it concludes a peace treaty with the Kuber Bulgarians, it takes the decision to chase out by force the Asparuh ones.
The Byzantine campaign against the Asparuh Bulgarians is undertaken in the early spring of 680. It was a serious military expedition organized the way the empire launches an offensive against an especially dangerous adversary — at the same time by land and by sea, moreover with the personal participation of the emperor.
The cavalry of Asia Minor was sent against the Bulgarians, as well as the navy — serious military forces which saved the empire from the Arabian danger.
Khan Asparuh, realizing that he exposes his men to danger if the Byzantine ships make their way into the Danube delta and cut off his retreat as well as in the presence of such a mighty horse army, takes the decision to draw back across the Danube and to give there the decisive battle. The country-side there, moreover was propitious for the Proto-Bulgarians: marsh-lands and lakes spread in almost a continuous chain, from Galatz up to the sea, and behind this landscape, the bank of South Besarabia stretches away. Indeed the Byzantine cavalry was startled at the sight of this impenetrable country and tried in vain to engage the Bulgarians in battle. The emperor himself leaves the battle-field and departs with his suite and five ships for Mesembria. According to the annalists it causes a panic among the cavalry and it breakes into a run. The Bulgarians gained a victory in the engaged battle, and still in the lands beyond the Danube they defeat the biggest part of the emperor army. To all appearances, the navy did not take any part in this battle as the Bulgarians following the drawing back Byzantine detachments at their heels, cross the Danube and enter again in Dobrudja.
The battles of the Proto-Bulgarians on the Balkan Peninsula are described very generally. As a matter of fact, from the accounts of the annalists we can outline two stages: conquest of the Byzantine possessions north of Stara planina and foundation of the Bulgarian state.
After the annalists Teophan and Niciphor, the Proto-Bulgarians broaden their boundaries and become stabilized, reach up to Varna and begin to take settlements in Thrace. Here under Thrace, the annalists get the idea of the lands between the Danube, the Black sea, the Eastern Stara planina and the Schumen heights. Teophan explicitly maintains that the ter-
ritory up to this time was a Byzantine possession, but later, till the beginning of the IXth c., it becomes a possession of the Proto-Bulgarians. The archaeological researches provide the possibility to specify that the Bulgarians attack and take by storm so strong fortresses like Draster (Silistra), Varna, Dionisopol (Balchik), the stronghold near the village Voyvoda (not far from Pliska), etc.
Describing the relations between the Proto-Bulgarians and the Slavs as well as the protection of the frontier to the south and to the west, Teophan reports that the tribe Severi guarded the Stara planina passes from Veregava (the Rishki pass) to the east, and the other seven tribes — to the south and to the west as far as the territory of the Avars. It is mentioned that these seven tribes live in a territory out of the land, conquered by the Proto-Bulgarians. Nicephor, who notices nothing about the tribe Severi gives the same information: some of the tribes guarded the border in the south to Byzantium, and the others southward to the Avars.
The information of the annalists puts the question for the character of the Bulgarian state. As Teophan expressly uses the expression ὑπὸ πάκτον ὄντας, despite certain divergences among the scholars, we assume that this expression signifies the building of an alliance between the Slavs and the Proto-Bulgarians in the common state.
The great number of reports from the sources speak undoubtedly about allied relations. First of all it impresses that till the first quarter of the IXth c., almost all sources distinguish the Slavs and the Bulgarians in the state not only as two separate ethnic groups, but also their place of residence and administrative system. The territory occupied by the Proto-Bulgarians is known as Bulgaria. After the inscription of Hambarly in the language of the Proto-Bulgarians this territory was called ‘sarakt’. It was governed in the classical Turkic manner: it divided into a centre and two flanks. The khan, his brother or the heir to the crown governed the centre, and the very close assistants to the khan — the kavkhan and itchirgu boila, governed the right and the left flank. The Slavs preserve the division into tribes, and every tribe forms a separate military administrative district — Slavinia, which has its own hereditary prince. The seven Slav tribes enter in the territory of the Bulgarian state, where they form seven Slavinia. The tribe Severi, which in all probability distinguished itself in the war against Byzantium also gets a statute of an independent Slavinia. Not until the 820s, the khan Omurtag suppresses this character of alliance of the state and initiates a new administrative division: the country is divided into dis-
tricts (Komitati), ruled by governors (komiti), appointed by the khan.
The written sources contain much information for these Slavinia, pointing out that these are districts within the limits of the Bulgarian state. A report of Theophan is especially characteristic in this regard. It relates to the war between Bulgaria and Byzantium in 688, Justinian II breaks the peace treaty that his father Constantin IV Pogonat concludes with Bulgaria and each Slavinia. This information not only provides a possibility to elucidate the administrative arrangement of the Bulgarian state, but also shows that Constantin IV Pogonat, by the peace treaty, recognizes the Bulgarian state as an union between Bulgaria and each Slavinia.
As regards to the conditions of the peace treaty, the sources point out first of all the obligation of the empire to pay an annual taxation to the Bulgarian state. This report makes clear the essential thing at that moment: Bulgaria was a victor, and Byzantium — defeated. Undoubtedly the peace treaty aids the Proto-Bulgarians to gain a firm foothold over the Byzantine possessions north from the Stara Planina and fixes a common frontier. The conclusion of the peace treaty so far as it goes denotes a high and authorative recognition of the recently formed Bulgarian state.
The annalists describe the war between the Proto-Bulgarians and Byzantium as well as the conclusion of the peace-treaty with Byzantium always in the same year — 680. Teophan is specially categorical in this regard. The west annalist Zigerebt, relating about the year 680 notices too: From now on, we should mark the Bulgarian kingdom. And in August, 681, the presbyter Constantin from Apameya, in a speech at the ecclesiastical council in Constantinople speaks about Bulgaria, as an existing state. All this poses the question for the beginning of the Bulgarian state and more exactly for the criterion that the scholars must take to determine this beginning.
There are two concepts on this problem in the historical literature. According to the first one, the end of the war with Byzantium and particularly the conclusion of the peace treaty, mark the beginning of the new state. After the second view, the state is a system of institutions, which are formed as a result of the internal social-economic development: army, administration, public power, prisons, courts of justice, etc., including ruler and capital. All these things are not set up by an international contract. Moreover, in this instance, the Bulgarian state is formed as an alliance of two independant military political unions — the Slav and the Proto-Bulgarian union.
That is why, we should accept as a beginning of the Bulgarian state the conclusion of the alliance, leading to the formation of a political union of new quality, with a common capital — Pliska and the same ruler — khan Asparuh. All this comes to be in the summer of 680, before the end of the war and the conclusion of the peace treaty.
The question of the Bulgarian boundary to the west and to the north gave rise to discussions due to the opinion that the three trenches on the territory of the Vratza district of today and the two ones in the Wallachian plain were not considered as border trenches. Now it is established indisputably that these were inside fortifications. Furthermore the archaeological materials compared with the written sources provide the possibility to determine with certainty the state borders on the north-west by the Carpathians and on the east by the Dnepar river. Now the Bulgarian borders may be fixed as follows: Byzantium was the southern neighbour, and the frontier begins from the cape Emine on the Black sea, following the ridge of the Stara planina (the Balkan mountains), embracing the valleys of the rivers Timok and Morava and reaches Jelesni vrata on the Danube, to the north-west the boundary with the Avars follows the ridge of the Carpathians, from where it takes the line of forests and steppes and gets to the shoots of the Dnepar; to the east, along the big elbow of the Dnepar river, the Bulgarian state frontier begins from the outfall of the Dnepar and reaches the cape Emine.
In spite of the peace treaty, the relations between Bulgaria and Byzantium continue to be strained. The empire can not reconcile itself with the loss of its lands north of the Stara planina and wants to do everything in its power to regain them. One of the first manifestations of this hostility is the formation of the new army and administrative unit — Thrace. It is the first byzantine territory on the Balkan Peninsula and it spreads to the north along the whole border with Bulgaria, from the cape Emine to the Field of Sofia (Sofiysko pole). In Thrace the military and the civil power is concentrated in the hands of one person — strategus, and all this suggests the intention of the empire to use the new administrative system for its military purposes.
To that provocation the Bulgarians answer in intense fortifications. The remains of earth strongholds, ramparts and earth barriers are preserved even to this day. They are raised on many places in the country: in the capital Pliska and round it, on the Black sea littoral and in the inside of the country. All this proves that the Bulgarians prepare themselves for the forthcoming armed conflicts.
One of the greatest events at that time, connected with the Byzantine-Bulgarian relations is the attempt of the Bulgarians of Kuber to take Thessaloniki. This attempt is the result of a deep-laid plan: Mavar, one of the very close collaborators of Kuber must go as an escapee in Thessaloniki in order to gain the confidence of the emperor and together with his band to conquer the town from the inside.
Mavar, after his abortive attempt to take Thessaloniki, is taken with his subordinate people away in Constantinople.Later he settles in Thrace, where he retains the status of a high-placed Byzantine dignitary. Three seals, belonging to Mavar are preserved from this period. On one of them he is called governor of Sermisiani and Bulgarians. By this expression, the annalist undoubtedly bears in mind the two groups of Bulgarians of Kuber: Sermisiani comes from Sirmium, then known as Sermiy, and is related to the Byzantine prisoners and their descendents, who settled in Sirmium. Here is kept the Byzantine tradition to note the population by a geographical or an administrative indication; under Bulgarians we ought to understand the Proto-Bulgarians of Kuber and Mavar, and probably the small number of Slavs and Avars, mixed with them.
The Mavars seals date back from the end of the VIIth c. and the beginning of the VIIIth c. As at this time Mavar maintains contacts with Kuber, it gives further infirmation on the Proto-Bulgarians in the Keramisiysko pole. One of the Madara inscriptions is also relative to this information. It tells about the contacs between Asparuh and Tervel, on one hand, and the Proto-Bulgarians round Thessaloniki, on the other, where the latter are noted as uncles. In this way the problem of the reciprocal action between Asparuh and the Bulgarians of Kuber emerges in a new light, and this enevitabiy will elucidate a number of events from the first decade of the existence of the Bulgarian state.
Mainly, as a result of archaeological discoveries, the science disposes of new reports: in the mountain Pangea, in the region of the Aegean sea, were found lead drawings, completely similar to those from North-Eastern Bulgaria and relevant to the Proto-Bulgarians; Proto-Bulgarian civilization and necropolises were discovered in the Rhodopes — near the village Borino, in the district of Smolyan, and near the villages Slashten, Tuhovishte and Ablanitza, in the district of Blagoevgrad; A pot, with one of the most characteristic Proto-Bulganan signs — with two vertical parallel hasti was found in the stronghold of Pernik; along the Struma river valley — in the region of Pernik and in the Kresnensko defile, the archaeologists found a culture,which is connected with Proto-Bulgarians and
Slavs from Pannonia. All this has a bearing on the Bulgarians of Kuber.
The discovery of these materials provides the possibility to reconsider some of the written sources, that relate about the Scythians. It turn out that under name the Byzantine authors until the middle of the Xth c., understand the Bulgarians of Kuber. That is why a number of questions now spring up in a new light: the territorial extension of Bulgaria towards Thessaloniki in 904; The rising of Mihail, brother if the tzar Petar and the migration of his rebels in Byzantium in 930: the march against these rebels, aiming their suppression, in the middle of the Xth c., etc. All this demands the reconsideration of a series of other problems too.
The first war between Byzantium and Bulgaria in 688-689, is put in quite a new light. The sources explicitly prove, that the war was an infringement of the treaty with Bulgaria and the different Slavinia, and that during the military operations, the Byzantines defeat and take into captivity the population from Bulgaria and Slavinia, that is to say that they penetrate in the east part of the country and in the territory of the tribe Severi. This offensive took place at the latest in August of 688, as from the 1st of September begins the new 689, and then the emperor armies were on a march to suppress the Slavs living in Thrace and in the region of the Aegean sea. In the summer of the next year (689), the Proto-Bulgarians were in wait for the emperor, coming back to Constantinople. In this battle, the emperor suffers a heavy defeat somewhere, in the east flanks of the Rhodopes. The coherence of the Byzantium operations against the Bulgarian state and the Slav tribes is indicative of a common antibyzantine front on the Balkan Peninsula, in which Bulgaria is the rallying point for the Bulgarian Slavs. As regards the concrete result, in consequence of the war, Bulgaria strengthens its position of a Balkan force and constrains the empire to keep the clauses of the peace treaty.
The written and the archaeological reports afford also an opportunity to assert that at the end of the Vllth c, Bulgaria defends with succes its eastern border, although khan Asparuh meets his death in action with the Hasars.
The formation of a state is an important event in the history of every people. It is important in the history of the Bulgarians too, as it presents an opening for an independent historical development and existence. Especially for the Bulgarian people, the formation of the state reveals another great and fateful significance — the formation of the Bulgarian natio-
nality. As it has been established, the Bulgarian state comprises three different ethnic groups — Slavs, Proto-Bulgarians and the local Balkan population, and all of them speak in three different languages and belong to three different civilizations and religions. Their mergence in one nationality is inimaginable without their political union in a common state, in the name of a common policy and a common political destiny. The formation of the Bulgarian nationality has far-reaching effects. On one hand, it rallies the population in the state, makes it stronger and the most important — in decades and centuries of severe trials it prevents it to break up and die out. On the other hand, the united Bulgarian nationality creates a high material civilization and art and letters and thus becomes a leading force among the Slav peoples. The creation of the Slavonic writing and literature, the advancement of Bulgaria as a first literary Slavonic centre — all this is inconceivable without the formation of the state and the Bulgarian nationality.
In relation to the foreign policy, Bulgaria shows itself mainly as a Balkan force. The Bulgarian state, spreading out with a vast part of its territory on the Balkan Peninsula, blocks the way of Byzantium towards the Balkans, the East and the West Slavs. As a Slav country it becomes a centre of attraction for those Bulgarian Slavs, who live under the Byzantine rule. This way, Bulgaria presents a serious barrier for Byzantium in its aspiration for showing itself as a world force, as well as for restoration of the Roman empire of former times. That way a big conflict grows and fills the history of the mutual relations between the two countries. The consequence of this struggle is the liberation and the incorporation of large areas with Slav population in the Bulgarian state. All this weakens Byzantium and spoils its assimilatory purposes. The merit for the preservation of the bigger part of the Balkan Slav population goes mainly to the Bulgarian state.
The role of Bulgaria of the Middle Ages may be traced out in many other fields too. Bulgaria is well-known as a big cultural centre — it is the lively bridge, that together with Byzantium, spread abroad the ancient civilization to the other Slav and European peoples. It is known the role of the Bulgarian Church later as one of the guiding churches among the Eastern Orthodoxy. Bulgaria is widely famous for its large heretical centre. Bulgaria plays an important part in the economic development of Europe of the Middle Ages. These facts determine the foundation of the Bulgarian state as an event of general European inportance.
[Back to Index]