Образуване на българската народност

Димитър Ангелов


The Formation of the Bulgarian Nation

D. Angelov





The question of the formation of the Bulgarian nation is the object of study in this book. The nation, as is known, is a historical category which emerges at a definite level of development in human societies and is the result of favourable ethnos-formation factors. Usually, several ethnical groups play a part each in the formation of a nation, and one of them gains supremacy and becomes the dominant. Such is the case also with the emergence of the Bulgarian people.


The leading part in the shaping of this nation was played by the Slavs and, along with them, the Thracians and the Proto-Bulgarians served as additional ethnical components. The Thracians are the oldest known population of Bulgarian territories.


It is established that from a viewpoint of ethnical development two main periods may be distinguished: the first one, embracing the span from the sixth century B. C. up to the middle of the first century A. D. (Roman conquest), and, the second one, covering the time from the Roman conquest up to the middle of the sixth century A. D.


It should be taken into account that for centuries the Thracian ethnicon was divided into numerous tribes and that until the time of their fall under Roman rule, only certain beginnings of a unifying ethno-genetical process may be established. This process developed chiefly within the scope of the Odrysae State. This process, however, did not reach its final stage, owing to the political disunity of the Thracian world and to the lack of Thracian writing and literature, which could have joined them together into a cultural unit. Moreover, the Thracians, particularly those to the south of the Balkan Range and along the Black Sea coast were exposed to a strong Greek influence. This had a particularly unfavourable impact from the point of view of their merger into a single nationality.


Still more unfavourable conditions were created for the Thracians after they were conquered by the Romans. Foreign rule posed the decisive obstacle to the political and cultural unity of the Thracians and





further consolidated their ages-long tribal disunity. What is more, along with the strong Greek influence, during the Roman domination the Thracians fell also under a marked Roman influence which was the natural outcome of the Empire's political and economic rule over the Balkan Peninsula. Romanization let out its roots mainly in the territories north of the Balkan Range, prevalently in the urban population. Under the impact of the Hellenization and Romanization processes, a major part of the Thracians lost their own language, and their ethnical awareness in part. This may be followed up in data both from epigra-phic monuments and from narrative sources.


Thracians living in the countryside, however, offered a relatively .stronger resistance because they preserved their language, religion and folklore customs and traditions until the middle of the sixth century. On the other hand, this rural population had markedly declined in number as a result from the continuous invasions (by Goths, Huns and Avars), and, therefore, no longer constituted a substrated, sufficient in number to be on an equal footing with the vast Slav masses, which had settled in the Balkan Peninsula in the sixth and the first half of the seventh centuries.


Slav colonization of Balkan territories is examined further on in the book. Emphasis is laid on the opinion of long standing that a group, homogeneous in its language, way of life and religion, of Slav tribes settled in Moesia, Thrace, Macedonia, a part of Albania, and Northern, Central and Southern Greece. It is conditionally called the “Bulgarian group”, which differed linguistically from the “Serbo-Croatian group”. A detailed analysis is made of the assimilation process which took place between Slavs and Thracians. It ended in the triumph of the Slav element and in the ultimate disappearance of the Thracian ethnos (with the exception of Romanized and Hellenized Thracians chiefly in the mountainous parts, the Vlakhs and Karakachans, who were able to subsist there for a longer period of time).


Attention is drawn to the fact that even though assimilated, the Thracian ethnicon left behind traces of its existence (in toponymy, the lexical wealth of the Bulgarian language, religious beliefs, material culture, etc.) which should be extensively studied in all their aspects in the future.


Next, the settlement of the Proto-Bulgarians in the Balkan Peninsula and the formation of the Slav-Bulgarian state in 681 are examined





in the book. It is pointed out that two groups of Proto-Bulgarians came to the Balkan Peninsula: one of them, headed by Asparouh, travelled from South Russia (after the desintegration of the so-called Greater Bulgaria) and occupied present-day North-Eastern Bulgaria, while the other, led by Kouber, came from the Province of Panonia (present-day Hungary) and settled in the Macedonia area, in the vicinity of the towns ofBitolyaand Prilep. Thus, the Proto-Bulgarian ethnicon established contacts with Slav tribes in two areas and this had its bearings on the creating of the Bulgarian nationality. As is known, in 681 A. D. a Slav-Bulgarian State with Pliska as its capital was set up in Moe-sia as the outcome of the struggle in common of Proto-Bulgarians and Slavs against Byzantium.


The establishment of a Slav-Bulgarian state is an event of great significance to the formation of the Bulgarian nationality. It is the state, namely, that is one of the main ethnical-forming factors which assists the merger of the tribes into an entity and which helps in uniting them in an economical, political and cultural respect. And the Slav-Bulgarian state, set up in 681, played this part namely. In nearly a century and a half almost all tribes of the “Bulgarian group” in Moesia, Thrace and Macedonia were included in its territory. This created favourable conditions for their fusion into a single monolithic mass and the formation of a stable ethnical community, as the nation is. In general lines, this process of unification was completed by the middle of the ninth century, during the reign of Khan Pressiyan (836-852) and of Prince Boris (852-889). Only the Slav tribes, which had settled in present-day Greece, were left outside of Bulgaria's boundaries, and owing to this they gradually disappeared as an independent ethnicon and were Hellenized.


Simultaneously with the process of surmounting tribal disunity, also the assimilation process of the gradual merger of Slavs with Proto-Bulgarians took place in the eighth and ninth centuries. The main factor in this respect was the existence of a common state, having a united internal and external policy which brought together two different ethnical groups and created conditions for surmounting the folklore, religious and lingual barriers that separated them initially. Archaeological material from such settlements as the capital Pliska, the fortified camp near the village of Tsar Kroum, the settlement near the railway station of Razdelna, near the village of Yakimovo (District of Tolbouhin) and





others are quoted in support of the merger process that took place between Slavs and Proto-Bulgarians. It is pointed out that the assimilation process was facilitated, to a considerable extent, by the ever more frequent mixed marriages among Proto-Bulgarians and Slavs, which was common practice both among commoners and the ruling aristocracy, and even in the dynasty of the supreme rulers.


It is seen from archaeological and toponymic data collected that the process of assimilation, which was particularly strong in the ninth century, there followed a trend which was obviously in favour of the Slav component. The Slav type of dwellings, Slav funeral rituals, Slav ceramics and pottery, Slav jewelry and ornaments gained the upper hand, and mainly Slav names of localities and rivers were prevalent even in North-Eastern Bulgaria, where the Proto-Bulgarian component was the most numerous and compact. A wide variety of evidence and material are quoted in support of this.


The process of shaping a common nationality, which had already advanced far in the mid-ninth century, got a decisive momentum with the adoption of Christianity as the official state religion (865 A. D.). The new crede which went hand in hand with the introduction of a new legislative system, too, played a unifying, part of first-rate importance and helped to a very large measure in making the way of life and culture of Slavs and Proto-Bulgarians the same and to their further merger into a single people. This process also proceeded under the ever fuller supremacy of the numerous Slav constituent part. The final result from the victory of the Slav component was that the Slav language spread and was adopted as a language understood and used by all, while the Turkic language lost all its ground and step by step disappeared entirely.


Naturally, although it disappeared, the Proto-Bulgarian language left certain traces in the language of the Slavs (in a lexical, morphological and syntactic respect). Of interest is also the question of certain influences that passed from the Proto-Bulgarian ethnicon into the material and spiritual culture. Yet, irrespective of the fact how many and what these influences are, the fact is that the Bulgarian people were shaped and established as a Slav one, with its own language, culture and awareness towards the end of the ninth and early in the tenth century. This is particularly obvious if an analysis is made of Bulgarian mediaeval literature, written at that time, and especially of such





works as “About the Lettres” by Chernorizets Hrabur, “Alphabetical Prayer” by Bishop Konstantin, biographies and works of praise about Cyril and Methodius, Clement of Ochrida, etc. The Slav nature of the Bulgarian people is reasserted also in a number of works by Byzantine, Serbian and Russian authors of the Middle Ages, as for instance, the historical works by the Byzantine writers Nicephoros Vrienios and Laonicos Chalcocandyles, the Russian “Povyest vremennich lyet'' (Chronicle of the twelfth century), the Serbian history of the so-called presbyter of Dioclea, etc.


Finally, the names “Bulgarians”, “Bulgarian”, “Slavs” and “Slavonic”, which were used and established in the process of the shaping of the Bulgarian people, are the object of studies in the last part of the book. No terminological investigations of that kind have heen undertaken so far to throw light on the ethnogenetical questions, set forth. It is demonstrated, with the aid of analyses of sources and material, that in the early stages of the Slav-Bulgarian State, when the “Proto-Bulgarians” and the “Slavs” were still two ethnic groups which considerably differed from each other, the name “Bulgarians” was used to denote only the “Proto-Bulgarians”, while the general term “Slavs” (Σκλαβήνοι in Greek) or the names of the separate tribes (Dragovichi, Severl, Rinhini, Smolyani, Berziti, etc.) were used for the Slavs.


Towards the second half of the ninth century, however, when the process of fusion of the two ethnical groups advanced considerably, the name “Bulgarians” gained in popularity and began to be used already for the country's whole population in general, i. e. in essence for the Slavs also, who were much more preponderous in number than the Proto-Bulgarians and gradually assimilated the latter. As an illustration of this two local sources may be cited: two inscriptions from the reign of Khan Pressiyan (836-852). The following of the Byzantine sources should be quoted: the Chronicle of Georgios Monachos, the life of Peter Patricios, the writings of Patriarch Photios, and many olhers.


Among the Western sources mention should be made of the so-called “Universal Chronicle”, “The Works of the Naples Bishops”, “The Answers of Pope Nicolaus to the Questions of the Bulgarians”, etc.


Early in the tenth century, the name “Bulgarians”, in its wider meaning, was widespread and used throughout the country, while the names of the separate Slav tribes were abandoned. An interesting instance of the use of the name “Bulgarians” is found in the so-called “Ex-





panded Biography of Clement of Ochrida”. As is known, this biography has been preserved only in Greek, and judged by its Greek text, it probably originated towards the turn of the eleventh century. An Old Slav “Life”, written by an unknown disciple of Clement of Ochrida. soon after his death (916), is incorporated in this Expanded Biography (which has not survived to our time), and has served as the basis for the Expanded Biography. It, therefore, mirrors developments and the situation in the south-western Bulgarian territories (Macedonia) in the beginning of the tenth century. It is this disciple of Clement, namely, who wrote in the tenth century, that called himself and his compatriots by the name “Bulgarians”. This is obvious from a text in the biography, which glorifies Clement that he gave everything, related to the church “to us, the Bulgarians” (τοῖς Βουλγάροις ἡμῖν παρέδωκε). This means that the name “Bulgarians” was already firmly established among the population in the south-western Bulgarian territories early in the tenth century.


By calling himself “Bulgarian'', the biographer of Clement also denotes the language, spoken in the country at that time, as “Bulgarian”. He calls the state “the country of the Bulgarians”, while the rulers Boris and Simeon, “Bulgarian tsars”.


Another example of the use of the name “Bulgarians” is found in a mass in memory of Saint Ivan of Rila, written soon after his death (i. e. after 946). He is called in it by the name of “compatriot of the Bulgarians” (blugarem sugrazhdanine).


The names “Bulgarians”, “Bulgaria”, “Bulgarian rulers”, etc., were used by a number of authors, referring to the reign of Tsar Samouil and his successors, who waged a prolonged and difficult struggle against Byzantium. The inscription of Ivan Vladislav, the last Bulgarian ruler and Samouil's nephew, found in Bitolja a few years ago, merits mention among local sources. In it he calls himself “absolute ruler of the Bulgarians” and “born Bulgarian”. The biographies of Achilles of Larissa (Thessalia) and of Saint John of Thrace, the charter of Emperor Basillios II, the works by Michael Psellos, Joan Zonaras, Michael Attaliates, the Strategioon of Kekaumenos, etc., should be mentioned among the Byzantine sources.


Irrespective of the fact that the name of Bulgarians was established in the tenth and eleventh centuries as a generally accepted and widespread name in all parts of Bulgaria (namely, in the areas of Moe-





sia, Thrace and Macedonia), in certain sources, along with the names “Bulgarians” and “Bulgarian”, one may find also occasionally the names “Slavs” and “Slavonic”, which in this case have the same meaning. The use of these names is explained by the fact that the Bulgarian people were a Slav nation, and owing to this it is possible that certain confusion of the terms could be possible.


The trend to consider as equal the Old Bulgarian literature from the turn of the ninth century and the first half of the tenth century is observed also in certain sources of a later date, which are not only of local but also of a foreign origin. For instance, in a monastery charter, issued by the Byzantine Emperor Romanos II in 960 to the Joan Kolovos monastery in Southern Macedonia, and reaffirmed in the eleventh century, the local peasants, dependent on the monastery, have the double name of Σκλάβων — Βουλγάρων. In the biography of Georgios of Iveron, written in Latin (of the eleventh century), the inhabitants of a village in South Macedonia are named as “Bulgarians who call themselves Slavs” (bulgari, qui sclavi appellantur). In the Expanded Biography of Clement of Ochrida, done towards the end of the eleventh century by the Byzantine archbishop Theophylactos, we find the expression “the stock of the Slavs, i. e. of the Bulgarians” (τὸ τῶν Σϑλαβένων γένος εἶτ᾿ οὖν Βουλγάρων). In the so-called “Salonika Legend” (an anonymous local work, probably from the middle of the eleventh century) Cyril is sent the Slav tribes, called Bulgarians In the dictionary of the Byzantine chronicler Joan Zonaras the name “Sclavinia” is the equivalent of “Bulgaria” (Σκλαβινία ἥ Βουλγαραί).


As is seen from the examples cited, the mixed usage of the names ''Bulgarians” and “Bulgarian” and “Slavs” and “Slavonic” continued for a long time. In time, however, this terminological feature disappeared. Since the eleventh century, as is evident in both Bulgarian and foreign sources, the names “Bulgarians” and “Bulgarian” got prevalence and became the permanent aud only designations both in the literature and in the spoken language. The specificity of the Bulgarian people was best determined by the names “Bulgarians” and “Bulgarian” and emphasis was laid on tne fact that they, though Slav in nature, were distinct from the other South Slav peoples on the Balkan Peninsula: the Serbs, Croatians and Slovenians. At the same time, the names “Bulgarian”, “Bulgarians” and “Bulgaria” outlined the ethnical boundaries of the Bulgarian people and stated in which areas they lived and worked.



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