History of Sofia


History of Bulgaria

Like many of today's Balkan counties, Bulgaria is rich in history dating back to ancient times starting in 400 BC. A race known as the Thracians resided in what is now known as Bulgaria at this time. They were a tribal society and known for making beautiful jewelry made of gold and silver. In 100 AD the Romans conquered Bulgaria and then founded the city of Trmontium, which is known today as Plodiv. They also built the city of Serdica. The Roman Empire split in 395 AD and Bulgaria became a part of the Eastern Roman Empire and soon after the Slavs settled in Bulgaria in 500 AD when the Byzantine Empire became weak. In 680, the Bulgars, who were descended from the Huns, invaded Bulgaria with their ruler Khan Asparuk and in 716 the Byzantine Empire finally recognized the state of Bulgaria.

In the 8th century the Emperor Constantine V tried to destroy Bulgaria, but failed. In 846 Bulgaria made a big step in their religious history by accepting Christianity after being influenced by Boris I of Bulgaria. Soon after, the whole country accepted the Eastern Orthodox Church. When Bulgaria was under the ruling of Smeon the Great, who called himself ‘Emperor of the Bulgars and Greeks', he was recognized by the pope but not the Byzantine Empire. In the 10th century the Byzantines took the capital of Preslac and a large portion of eastern Bulgaria. In 1014, an incredible battle of Belastita the Byzantines captured over 15,000 Bulgars and left 99 out of every 100 men blind and left with only one man to lead them home. In 1018 Bulgaria officially became a part of the Byzantine Empire.

In 1202 the Byzantines accepted peace after their ruling ended in 1185 due to a rebellion on taxation. Soon a new Bulgarian Kingdom was formed in the new capital of Turnovo. The second Bulgarian kingdom became very prosperous and powerful under Ivan Asen 1218-1241, but the kingdom also had powerful enemies. The Bulgarians were defeated by the Serbians at the battle of Velbuzhd, which led to them being temporarily under Serbian rule.

In the 14th century the Turks conquered the area of Bulgaria. Before this, a religious sect called Bogomils flourished throughout the country. The Bogomils were dualists and believed in two gods, an evil and a good. They were not accepted amongst the Orthodox Church and soon died out after the Turks took over the country.

In 1939 all resistance to the Ottoman Turks ended and Bulgaria was under Turkish rule for nearly 500 years. Bulgarians paid their dues to the Turks by surrendering their sons. The Turks would take Bulgarian boys aged from 7 to 14 years old and take them from their families and raise them up as Muslims and trained them to become soldiers.

The Turkish Empire began to decline in the 17th century. In the 19th century resentment rose towards the Turks throughout Europe and influence from the ideas of the French Revolution spread. In 1876, some Bulgarians rose to revolt against the Turks, however, Bulgarians were easily defeated and the rebellion was crushed.  In 1877 Russia declared war on Turkey and in January 1878 the Russians captured Sofia. On March 3, 1878 the Treaty of Stefano ended the war which created an independent Bulgaria.  In July of 1878, Bulgaria was split in two making the northern half of the country not completely independent. Bulgaria was to be a principality of Turkey and to be ruled by a prince with a parliament called the subranie. The southern half of the country was made to be only semi-autonomous within the Turkish Empire and was named Eastern Rumelia. The Bulgarians did not like the solution and the southern half of the country untied with the northern, but other countries did not approve of this. Soon after the Serbians declared war in 1885 and were crushed at the battle of Slivnitsa.

These new powers drew up a new government stating that the two parts of Bulgaria were not allowed to unite and remain separate. In 1908 the Bulgarians overturned this rule and on October 5th Prince Ferdinand announced the complete independence of Bulgaria and became the king of Bulgaria.

In the 20th century, Bulgaria formed an alliance with Serbia and Greece in fears that the Turkish powers might intervene with their independence even though the power of the Turkish Empire was crumbling throughout Europe. In October 1912 the alliance invaded Turkish territories throughout Europe without much success. It was insisted that an independent Albania was to be created and the three allies could do as they wish with the rest of the Turkish territory.

The allies did not last and soon battled against each other when Bulgaria attacked Serbia and Greece on June 29, 1913, but Romania intervened and Bulgaria was forced to make peace and surrender some of its territory. In 1914 during WWI, the Germans persuaded Bulgaria to join its side, however, an allied blockade caused severe shortages in Bulgaria which even led to starvation. The French and British troops entered the country in September 1918 and Bulgaria signed an armistice. Soon after, in 1919 Bulgaria was forced to sign the treaty of Neuillu-sur-Seine and the country lost a significant amount of their territory and was not allowed to have more than 20,000 men within their army.

In December 1919 the Communists and Social Democrats joined together and caused a strike in Bulgaria. Prime Minister Stamboliski arrested the strike leaders and called off the strike. In 1920 Bulgaria was allowed to join League of Nations. In 1922 some army officers formed an organization called the Military League and in 1923 a group of these members seized power and murdered Prime Minister Stamboliski. A new government was then formed by Aleksandur Tsankov.  Sadly, in 1925 the Communists bombed the Sofia Cathedral and soon after thousands of Communists were arrested and many were executed.

In 1926, trade unions were allowed to form and the Communist Party was allowed to reform in 1927. In the 1930's, Bulgaria suffered greatly from the depression and unemployment was at an all-time high. During the Second World War, Germans were allowed to pass through Bulgaria to get to Greece and Bulgaria was rewarded territory in Thrace and Macedonia. In the summer of 1944, Germany was losing the war and Russia made way into Bulgaria. On September 5, 1944 Russia declared war on Bulgaria and troops entered the country. The communist takeover was gradual, but supporters of the old regime were executed or imprisoned in labor camps and unreliable officers in the army were removed. The communists nationalized industry in Bulgaria and persecuted the Orthodox Church.

In 1946 the Bulgarian army was purged again and 2,000 of the officers were removed. In September of that year the referendum of the monarch resulted in Bulgaria becoming a republic. The Communist party started to turn on its own members and then after anti-Communist uprising in Hungary, there was a purge in Bulgaria where many communists were expelled from the party. Bulgaria was unfortunately burdened to the Soviet Union.

In 1985, ruler Tidir Zhikov forced all Turks to change their names to Bulgarian names. Troops were sent to enforce this law. However in 1989, Turks were given the choice to go back to Turkey if they wish and many did.

In the 1980s the Communist party began to crumble and in April 1989 the Communists renamed themselves as the Bulgarian Socialist Party and the totalitarian regime was dismantled. Soon after strikes were considered legal. In 1991 the control on prices were removed and the industry was privatized and collected farms dissolved. A new constitution was written in July 1991 and in October 1991 the Socialist Party lost its power.

Today Bulgaria is relatively poor as they suffered from the recession of 2009. However, Bulgaria recovered and their economy is growing at a steady rate. Tourism is growing rapidly, especially In Sofia and their many beaches. Bulgaria joined NATO in 2004 and the EU in 2007.

History of Sofia

The city of Sofia first started out as a small settlement in the 6th century, named after the Church of St. Sofia. The city was occupied by tribes, Alexander the Great and his army, and soon was under Roman rule which expanded the city. The expansion of the city increased the number of buildings being built, the population, and it became a trade center for the Balkans. In 447 the Huns invaded and caused destruction on Sofia, but was then rebuilt by the Byzantine Empire. In 809, Sofia was known under the name of Sredets and was the center of the First Bulgarian Empire. The Bulgarians and the Byzantines fought over the city for centuries and the city fell under Byzantine rule in 1018, but was reclaimed by the Bulgarians in 1128. In 1376, Sredets was renamed Sofia and was a thriving trade center known for its gold goods. In 1382, Sofia began to become a city of violence and persecution due to invasions of Ottoman Turks who began to fully settle there in the 15th century. This time was also a period of growth with many Ottoman building being built (although Banya Bashi is the only current mosque) and trade persisted in the city which help it expand.

In 1878, the Russians liberated Sofia from the Ottoman Empire. In 1879, Sofia became a free city and a principality of Bulgaria and soon the Kingdom of Bulgaria in 1908. The Balkan Wars took place between the years of 1912-1913, but WWI has greater effects on the city during the Russian Revolution in February 1917 which led too anti-monarchist and anti-war sentiments.  On April 26, 1925, 150 people were killed and over 500 injured when the communists blew up St. Nedelya Church in order to weaken Bulgarian authorities so that a Communist revolution could take place. The year of 1918 was the end of WWI and Bulgaria lost a lot of its territory, but the revolution was quelled in Sofia. In March 1920, elections were held and it was the beginning of Bulgaria's first genuinely democratic government. When WWII broke out, the Kingdom of Bulgaria declared neutrality at first but was forced to join the Axis powers when Germany troops padded through Bulgaria. Joining these Axis forced affected Sofia the most. Sofia became the capital of a community ruled People's Republic of Bulgaria for 45 years.

In 1989, some protests were made in the city in hopes of government reform. In the early 1990's the Bulgarian Communist Party gave up absolute power and allowed for its first free elections since 1931, which were held in June 1990.

With a turbulent history, Sofia has had a major facelift and its economy and tourism is gradually increasing. It however remains one of the poorest countries in the EU, but offers a charm and history to locals and tourists.

Update 6/06/2018

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