The First Bulgarian Empire was a state that existed from 681 to 1018 CE, occupying the territory of present-day Bulgaria and parts of modern Romania, Serbia, North Macedonia, and other neighboring regions. It was founded by Asparuh, a Bulgar Khan, who successfully united the Bulgars and Slavs in the region to create a powerful empire that would last for centuries.
MIlitiary Expansion and Consolidation of Power
The First Bulgarian Empire was marked by the successful military campaigns of its rulers, which expanded its territories and solidified its position in the region. Notable rulers, such as Khan Krum (803-814 CE), developed the empire’s borders, engaging in battles with the Byzantine Empire and solidifying the Bulgarian presence in the Balkans.
886 AD Adoption of Christianity
During the reign of Boris I (852-889 CE), the empire adopted Christianity as its official religion, which played a crucial role in developing its cultural and political identity. This event facilitated the establishment of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, which became an essential part of the national identity and fostered close ties with the Byzantine Empire.
The First Bulgarian Empire saw significant cultural progress with the creation of the Glagolitic and Cyrillic scripts by Saints Cyril and Methodius and their disciples. These scripts enabled the translation of religious texts into Old Church Slavonic, which became the empire’s official language. The Preslav Literary School, established in the new capital of Preslav, produced prominent writers and scholars, such as John Exarch and Chernorizets Hrabar, and contributed to the development of medieval Bulgarian literature.
The empire’s architectural heritage combined Slavic, Bulgar, and Byzantine influences, creating a distinctive style. Key monuments from this period include the Great Basilica in Pliska, the Round Church in Preslav, and the Palace of Omurtag in Pliska. Fortifications, churches, and public buildings showcased the unique architectural features of the First Bulgarian Empire.
The First Bulgarian Empire’s societal development was marked by combining Slavic and Bulgar traditions, establishing a centralized administration, and adopting Christianity. The empire’s legal system was based on the Bulgar nomadic law, known as the “Khan’s Law” or “Kanun,” which evolved under the influence of Byzantine law. Urban centers like Pliska and Preslav became centers of administration, trade, and culture.
The First Bulgarian Empire left a lasting impact on the history of Bulgaria, shaping its cultural, religious, and political identity. Its influence can be traced in the surviving historical monuments, religious artifacts, and literary works that continue to inform and inspire contemporary Bulgarian culture. The empire’s legacy is also evident in the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, which has played a crucial role in preserving national identity throughout the centuries.