Emil Mihailov

The Russians and the Bulgarians in the early Middle Ages (until 964)

Kliment Ohridski University Press, Sofia. 1990





The book presents the first detailed and systematic study of Russo-Bulgarian relations from the antiquity to the middle of the tenth century (i. e. the beginningof the independent reign of the Russian Prince Svyatoslav in 964).


Special attention is given to the break-up of the Slav ethnic community and the differentiation of the Eastern and the Southern Slavs. On the basis of linguistic data, and above all, the most ancient written sources, it is ascertained that this process occurred for the most part at the beginning of the first millennium A. D., and can be referred more specifically to the second and the third centuries A. D. According to the Gothic historian Yordan [Jordanes], in the fourth century, the two Slav communities (Slavenae and Antae) were already completely differenciated in a political and organisational way. In this period also began a gradual ethnic and cultural differentiation, but it took much longer.


In the period between the sixth and the ninth centuries, there were already differences in ethnic and political consciousness, as well as in language, material culture, ideological views (religion) and in anthropology. The prerequisites for the division are connected with the resettlement of the Slavs on a vast territory, and with the establishment of independent political formations (tribal unions) which later on determined the ethnical differentiation.


The first noticeable contacts between the Eastern and the Bulgarian Slavs date back to the sixth century, when the Slavenae and the Antae jointly fought to conquer and settle in the Balkan Peninsula. According to written sources, and to Yordan [Jordanes] in particular, the Dnester river was the natural boundary between the two ethnic communities upto the end of the tenth century. In the first half of the sixth century the Antae and the Slavenae advanced to the South-west, and some of them settled temporarily along the lower course ox the Danube (in the region of the Prut river). In the middle of the sixth century the Antae withdrew from the region of the Lower Danube, stopped the raids in the Balkan Peninsula, and entered into a treaty with Byzantium. The reason was the advance of the Avars from the East and the defeats the Antae suffered in their main territory (to the North-east of the Dnester river).





The second stir-up pf the relations between the two peoples dates from the end of the ninth century and the tenth century, when the first Russian state — Kiev Russia — was established. This might also be the time of the first political and economic contacts related with the active Russian policy towards Byzantium and the lower Danubian lands. There are accounts of cultural contacts between the two peoples which can be viewed as a consequence of the active economic exchange. The best manifestation of these relations is the penetration of Christianity and the Slavonic-Bulgarian script in Kiev Russia. Active was Byzantium’s role as a go-between in these processes. [The] Byzantine government endeavoured to spread Christianity among the Eastern Slavs, but its success was conditioned by the penetration of Slavonic-Bulgarian script and liturgical books among the Eastern Slavs even before the official adoption of Christianity in Kiev Russia. The oldest Cyrillic inscription discovered in Russia (Gniosdovo village) and dating from the middle of the tenth century, in undoubtedly of Bulgarian origin.


Christianity was further spread in Russia under the reign of Princess Olga (945—964). There is a hypothesis in scholarly literature that her court priest, presbyter Grigorii, was a Bulgarian by birth. During Princess Olga’s reign the prerequisites emerged for the subsequent active Russo-Bulgarian political and cultural relations.



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