Thursday, February 10, 2011

#566 Bulgaria...Thanks Lilia!

The 0.55 Lev stamp on the left was issued in 2007 commemorating 1100 years of death of Boris I of Bulgaria,who was the ruler of First Bulgarian Empire in 852–889.

The early 9th century marked the beginning of a fierce rivalry between the Eastern Orthodox Church in Constantinople and the Catholic Church in Rome. When Charlemagne was proclaimed Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire the Pope broke its political relation with Byzantines and was naturally supported by the Franks. After the Treaty of Verdun in 843 the strong and aggressive Eastern Francia united most of the German people and began to expand towards Slavic populated lands to the east. That expansion was fully supported by Rome which sought ways to extend its influence to the east. As a response Mojmír I managed to unite some Slavic princes and formed Great Moravia in 833. His successor Rastislav fought against the Germans.Both states tried to maintain good relations with Bulgaria on account of its considerable military power.

Boris I was the son and successor of Presian I of Bulgaria. In 852 he sent emissaries to the Eastern Francia to confirm the peace treaty from 845. At the time of his accession he threatened the Byzantine with an invasion but his armies did not attack and received a small area in Strandzha to the south-east. The peace treaty, however, was not signed although both states changed temporary delegation.In 854 the Moravian Prince Rastislav persuaded Boris I to help him against East Francia. According to some sources, some Franks bribed the Bulgarian monarch to attack Louis. The Bulgarian-Slav campaign was a disaster and Louis the German scored a great victory and invaded Bulgaria.In the same time the Croats waged a war against the Bulgarians. Both peoples had coexisted peacefully to that moment which suggests that the Croats were paid by Louis to attack Bulgaria and distract Boris' attention from his alliance with Great Moravia.Kanasubigi Boris could not achieve any success and in the both sides changed gifts and settled peace. As a result of the military actions in 855 the peace between Bulgaria and Eastern Francia was restored and Rastislav was forced to fight against Louis alone. A conflict between the Byzantines and Bulgarians started in 855-856, when Boris was distracted by his conflict with Louis. Philippopolis (Plovdiv), the region of Zagora and the ports around the Gulf of Burgas on the Black Sea were recaptured by the Byzantine army led by Michael III and the caesar Bardas.
After the death of Vlastimir of Serbia c.850 the state was divided between his sons. Boris desired to take the opportunity and restore his positions after the unsuccessful actions against the Croats and invaded Serbia. The main aim was to replace the Byzantine influence over the small Slavic state with Bulgarian one but he was defeated once more: the Serbs captured his son Vladimir-Rasate and twelve great boyars.Boris who was concerned for his son signed peace and gifted the Serbs.

In spite of various reverses, Boris succeeded in maintaining the territorial integrity of his realm.

For a variety of reasons, Boris became interested in converting to Christianity and undertook to do that at the hands of western clergymen to be supplied by Louis the German in 863. However, late in the same year, the Byzantine Empire invaded Bulgaria during a period of famine and natural disasters. Taken by surprise, Boris was forced to sue for peace and agreed to convert to Christianity according to the eastern rites in exchange for peace and territorial concessions in Thrace (he regained the region of Zagora recently recovered by the Byzantines). At the beginning of 864 Boris was secretly baptized at Pliska by an embassy of Byzantine clergymen, together with his family and select members of the Bulgarian nobility.With Emperor Michael III as his godfather, Boris also adopted the Christian name Michael.However, a document was discovered in Albania by the Austrian archaeologist Camillo Praschniker during WWI, in Byllis, (or Ballsh in modern Albania) that says: (evaftiste o arhon Bulgarias Boris o metonomastheis Mihail sin to ek Theu dhedhomeno av to ethnei tous s t o d) "...was baptized the archon of Bulgaria, Boris, called Mihal together with his people given to him by God, Year 6374" (=866 AD). Boris' conversion inspired a reaction by his pagan subjects, including many important notables. There are a few versions as to why Boris converted to Christianity. Some historians attribute it to the intervention of his sister who had already converted while being at Constantinople. Another story mention a Greek slave in the ruler's court. A more mythological version is the one in which Boris is astonished and frightened by an icon of Judgement day and thus decides to adopt Christianity.

Conversion to Christianity met great opposition in Bulgaria. In the summer of 865 a group of aristocrats (boyars) started an open revolt.Boris ruthlessly suppressed it and executed 52 boyars together with their entire families. Thus the Christianization continued.

At the same time Boris sought further instruction on how to lead a Christian lifestyle and society and how to set up an autocephalous church from the Byzantine Patriarch Photios. Photios' answer proved less than satisfactory, and Boris sought to gain a more favorable settlement from the Papacy.Boris dispatched emissaires with a long list of questions to Pope Nicholas I at Rome in August 866, and obtained 106 detailed answers, detailing the essence of religion, law, politics, customs and personal faith. The pope temporarily glossed over the controversial question of the autocephalous status desired by Boris for his church and sent a large group of missionaries to continue the conversion of Bulgaria in accordance with the western rite. Bulgaria's shift towards the Papacy infuriated Patriarch Photios who wrote an encyclical to the eastern clergy in 867, in which he denounced the practices associated with the western rite and Rome's ecclesiastical intervention in Bulgaria. This occasioned the Photian Schism, which was a major step in the rift between the eastern and western churches.

In Bulgaria the activities of the papal legate Bishop Formosus (later Pope Formosus) met with success, until the pope rejected Boris' request to nominate Formosus archbishop of Bulgaria. The new Pope Adrian II refused Boris' request for a similar nomination of either Formosus or Deacon Marinus (later Pope Marinus I), after which Bulgaria began to shift towards Constantinople once again. At the Fourth Council of Constantinople in 870 the position of the Bulgarian church was reopened by Bulgarian envoys, and the eastern patriarchs adjudicated in favor of Constantinople. This determined the future of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, which was granted the status of an autocephalous archbishopric by the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Later in the 870s the Patriarch of Constantinople surrendered Bulgaria to the Papacy, but this concession was purely nominal, as it did not affect the actual position of Bulgaria's autocephalous church.

In 886 Boris' governor of Belgrade welcomed the disciples of Saint Cyril and Saint Methodius, who were exiled from Great Moravia into Bulgaria and sent them on to Boris in Pliska. Two of these disciples, Clement of Ohrid and Naum of Preslav who were of noble Bulgarian origin, set up educational centers in Pliska and in Ohrid to further the development of Slavonic letters and liturgy. The alphabet that was originally developed by Cyril and Methodius is known as the Glagolitic alphabet. In Bulgaria Clement of Ohrid and Naum of Preslav however created (or rather compiled) a new alphabet which was called Cyrillic and was declared the official alphabet. The Slavic language also was declared as official in 893. In the following centuries this alphabet was adopted by other Slavic peoples. The introduction of Slavic liturgy paralleled Boris' continued development of churches and monasteries throughout his realm.

In 889 Boris abdicated the throne and became a monk. His son and successor Vladimir attempted a pagan reaction, which brought Boris out of retirement in 893. Vladimir was defeated and blinded, and Boris placed his third son, Simeon I of Bulgaria on the throne, threatening him with the same fate if he too apostatized. Boris returned to his monastery, emerging once again in c. 895 to help Simeon fight the Magyars, who had invaded Bulgaria in alliance with the Byzantines. After the passing of this crisis, Boris resumed monastic life and died in 907. The location of his retreat, where perhaps he was enterred, is not certain; it may be near Preslav but also in Pliska or in a monastery near Varna or Ravda.

St. Boris Peak on Livingston Island in the South Shetland Islands, Antarctica is named for Boris I of Bulgaria.

The 0.55 Lev stamp on the right is 2007 Christmas issue of Bulgaria.

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