The southwestern Bulgarian lands during the fourteenth century
Hr. Matanov (Sofia, 1986)


In the monograph the author investigates the historical development of Southwestern Bulgarian lands (the geographical region of Macedonia) in the 14th c. The author had used the notion 'Southwestern Bulgarian lands' in its ethnical and cultural meaning as an equivalent of the geographical notion 'Macedonia', the latter being formed in Antiquity and revived in the Balkans at the beginning of the 19th c, because in this region as well as in Thrace and Moesia the medieval Bulgarian nationality was consolidated. Moreover many important events in the political and cultural history of medieval Bulgaria were connected with it. A particular feature in the historical fortune of the Southwestern Bulgarian lands In the period under survey is that they were separated from their natural political and ethnical center — the Bulgarian state, because as early as the end of the 13th c. they came under Serbian domination and further on from the middle of the 14th c. to the Ottoman conquest independent or semi-independent feudal principalities appeared there.

In Chapter One — 'The Southwestern Bulgarian Lands in the Period of the Serbian Domination (end of the 13th — first half of the 14th c.)' — the historical events connected with the expansion of the Serbian state in Macedonia are investigated. The stages of the Serbian conquest are studied as well as the policy of Byzantium and Bulgaria with regard to the Serbian upsurge. Under consideration are also the administrative status of the Southwestern Bulgarian lands in the state structure of Dušan's Serbia and the administrative system in them together with the manifestations of separatism before 1355. The author is of the opinion thatathe reasons which made possible the incorporation of the Southwestern Bulgarian lands in the Serbian state must not be looked for only in the political situation at the end of the 13th and the beginning of the 14th c, but also in the economic and social development of Serbia, compared with that of Byzantium and Bulgaria at the same time. After 1346 the South-western Bulgarian lands were included in the administrative region


of 'Romania', which was formed on the basis not of ethnical but rather of territorial and administrative criteria. By means of the Dusan's chart in favour of the monastery of Chilandar (1348) the author had outlined the northern and northwestern limits of 'Romania'. Special attention is paid to the status of the Serbian governors in Macedonia and to their striving for political detachment. The conclusion is that the Southwestern Bulgarian lands were not firmly integrated with the state structure of Serbia and this is one of the reasons for their falling out of Serbian domination during the third quarter of the 14th c.

In Chapter Two — 'The Desintegration of the Serbian Kingdom and the Southwestern Bulgarian Lands (1355—1371)' — the author concentrates on the appearance and development of feudal principalities in the Southwestern Bulgarian lands in the period of the desintegration of the Serbian kingdom. The political development of Macedonia at that time is devided into three periods. The first starts at the beginning of 1356 and ends in 1359—1360. It is characterized by the appearance of the first independent states in Southwestern Macedonia and by the creation of prerequisites for political detachment in Southeastern and Southern Macedonia. The second period covers the first half of the 60-ies of the 14th c. At that time two independent principalities appeared and were consolidated: the principality of Serres and Radoslav Hlapen's principality around Ber, Voden and Kostur. The last period is the second half of the 60-ies in which the Southwestern Bulgarian lands got completely off the power of the Serbian tsar Uroš V as a result of the rise of two rulers: king Vukašin and despot John Uglješa (the Mrnjavchevich brothers). Attention is paid to the question of the ecclesiastical organization of their possessions, i. e. to the negotiations for church reconciliation with Constantinople, the stand of the Ohrid archbishopric, etc. which were connected with the new political reality on the eve of the Chernomen battle (1371).

In Chapter Three — 'Feudal Principalities and Rulers in the Last Decades of the 14th c.' — the political history of the Southwestern Bulgarian lands from the battle of Chernomen to the final conquest by the Ottoman invaders is under survey. The political changes in South and Southeastern Macedonia after 1371 are studied but special concideration is paid to the possessions of King Vukašin's heirs and to the principality of the Dragaš brothers. Amongst Vukašin's heirs the most popular was his son King Marko who after 1371 had theoretical sovereignity over 'the Mrnjavchevich inheritance'. The process of desintegration of his possessions and the political activity of his relatives (his mother Helen, his brothers Andriaš, Ivaniš and Dimitar) are traced out.

The principality of the Dragaš brothers came into being at the beginning of the 70-ies as a result of the union of the estates of the two brothers: that of despot John Dragaš in Northeastern Macedonia


and that of Constantin Dragaš to the west of the town of Strumica. In the years to come this principality turned into the most significant feudal state in Macedonia, particulary when Constantin Dragaš emerged as its only ruler.

Chapter Four — 'From Chernomen to Rovine. On the History of the Ottoman Conquest' — is dedicated to the stages of the Ottoman penetration in the Southwestern Bulgarian lands. For the period up to 1371 greatest attention is paid to the 'crusade' of despot Uglješa and King Vukašin against the invaders, to the efforts to organise a Christian coalition and to the defeat of the Christian forces at Chernomen. From 1371 to the end of the century all the rulers in the Southwestern Bulgarian lands became Ottoman vassals and some of them took part in the Ottoman campaigns in Asia Minor, Serbia, Wallachia. After the battle of Rovine in Wallachia in which King Marko and Constantin Dragaš perished as Ottoman vassals, a direct Ottoman administration was established in Macedonia. A separate paragraph is devoted to the problem of transmutation of some feudal estates into Ottoman administrative units.

In Chapter Five — 'Centralism and Decentralism. Problems of the State Structures' — the author had considered in theoretical pattern the state organization of the principalities in the Southwestern Bulgarian lands. The reason that caused the feudal decentralization from the middle of the 14th c. on is considered to be not only the grouth of feudal landownership, but also qualitative changes in the agrarian institutions caused by the establishment of Serbian domination as well as the appearance of areas with economic peculiarities. The ideology of the rulers together with the character of the principalities are also studied, as well as the new phenomena in the sphere of titles, etc. In the author's opinion the feudal principalities in the Southwestern Bulgarian lands during the second half of the 14th c. represent a new political reality and because of the complexity of their state structures, rulers' ideology, etc. and tnost of all because of their ethnical character, they couldn't be defined as 'Serbian'.

Chapter Six — 'Bulgaria and the Feudal Principalities in Macedonia in the Second Half of the 14th c.' — is devided into two paragraphs. In the first paragraph all sources giving information on possible political contacts between the Bulgarian state and the principalities in Macedonia after 1355 are examined. The author underlines, however, that the Bulgarian influence is not to be looked after only in the political sphere, but mostly in ethnical and cultural aspect. That is why in the second paragraph the sources about the Bulgarian ethnical characher of the lands in Macedonia in that particular period are specified and analyzed. It is stressed that their cultural development was more or less parallel to this in other Bulgarian regions. These source evidences as well as the way in which the history of the Southwestern Bulgarian lands in the 14th c. was reflect-


ed in later historical works, enable the author to draw the conclusion, that these lands despite the political situation in them during the 14th c, preserved their Bulgarian character in ethnical and cultural aspect and during the centuries to come developed as an integral part of the Bulgarian ethnical territory.

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