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{E2 GUIDE TO BULGARIA}

POLITICAL CRISIS (1246-13OO)

The span between 1185 and 1241 marked the notable rise of the Bulgarian state. At the end of this period it seemed the only formation in Eastern Europe capable of uniting its population both against the expansion of the Asian barbarians and the advance of the Catholic West. However, the best days were over and a period of decline of no smaller proportion set in. After the death of Ivan Assen II the throne went twice to his juvenile sons - Kaloyan (1241-1246) and Mikhail Assen (1246-1256). Court intrigues, plots, coups and counter-coups took hold of the country in the absence of a strong hand on the throne to rule it. The inept foreign policy of the regents led to serious territorial waste. The Bulgarian state was losing territories all over. After 1253 Mikhail Assen, no longer a child, made an attempt to restore the status quo. The young Bulgarian tsar was successful in the beginning, but in 1256 he was murdered in a court plot. The new Bulgarian tsar Constantine Tikh (1256-1277) did not manage to veer round. In 1263 his army was defeated by the army of the Byzantine empire which was back on its feet since 1261 and Bulgaria lost the southern Black Sea littoral. Now weaker, Bulgaria fell an easier prey to the Tatars who immediately resumed their vigorous raids against its surviving territories. Constantine Tikh was mentally broken by the defeats. He retired into himself behind the walls of Turnovo, leaving the country to the mercy of fate.

In that extremely critical situation the best features of the Bulgarian people became apparent. The commanders of the provincial regiments applied relentless tactics and showed no mercy in organizing their own resistance against the barbarians who had, until that time, broken the backs of China, India, Russia, Hungary and Poland. All inhabitants of the country and the supplies of food and accoutrements were put up safe in the fortresses. The ravenous Tatars were not good at taking fortresses, so they lost many lives in attempting to get in there. In the dark of the night, the Bulgarians used to get out of the forts and slaughter hundreds of them prowling after food.

In 1277 a man, Ivailo by name, took the masterminding of the resistance against the Tatars in his hands. According to some sources he was a simple farmer, and according to others he was a boyar and keeper of the fortress of Ovech (present-day Provadia). Having gradually exhausted the Tatar armies, Ivailo had all regional military divisions join forces, and then carried out the decisive battle against the trespassers. Soon they were defeated and driven out of the Bulgarian lands. Ivailo was crowned tsar but, only three years later, he was murdered in fresh internecine battle for the throne. George Terter was proclaimed tsar. Seven years later he was forced to submit to becoming a vassal of the Tatar khan. The latter did not venture to invade Bulgaria. The reign of the next tsar Smilets (1292-1298) was even more impersonal and humiliating. Upon his death, the Bulgarian throne went straight to Chaka, the son of Nogai - khan of the Mongol Golden horde. Yet, no Tatar troops dared step on Bulgarian land. Bulgaria was, all the same, at the nadir of its political decline.


- Translated from the book "Bulgaria Illustrated History" by Maria Nikolotva
- Bulgarian text by Bojidar Dimitrov, PhD.
- Published by BORIANA Publishing House, Sofia, Bulgaria

text used here with permission from translator, save modifications for noding

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