Bulgaria History – The Turkish Dominion from the 15th to 19th Century

On Bulgaria, administratively submitted to the Beglerbey of Rumelia (which then included the whole Balkan peninsula, except Bosnia), residing in Sofia, and divided into the 5 sangiaccati of Sofia, Nicopoli, Vidin, Silistria and Kjustendil, thus began the Turkish dominion, destined to last for about five centuries. And it was certainly the most unfortunate age for the Bulgarian people: above all because it was, in this way, almost completely detached from the civilization of central-western Europe, whose beneficial influence it could not feel, just when that civilization was becoming more rich, more complex, higher. Not that, properly speaking, relations with European nations were totally lacking. If nothing else, some echo of Western civilization came through the Ragusei, great monopolizers of the Balkan trade in the 16th-18th centuries; and through the relations between the Catholics of Bulgaria and Rome, which became much more intense in the second half of the century. XVII. Nor were attempts to make the ideas of the Reformation penetrate Bulgaria, with the introduction of books printed in the Cyrillic alphabet: as Hans von Ungnad tried to do, between 1561 and 1564. But these were always sporadic relationships, while the the overall life of the country was increasingly affected by the Turkish-Eastern influence. The rulers’ yoke was heavy; and if for a certain period, from the end of the century. XV, the relations between conquered and conquerors improved, then, from the end of the century. XVI, worsened rapidly and severely, with the worsening of the internal government of the Ottoman state.

The first effect of the conquest was the difficult situation of the Christian Bulgarians. A notable part of the population converted to Islam: which is understood, when one thinks that, even if Christians maintained the right to their worship, to their churches, etc., in reality the privileged stratum of the population was formed by Muslims. But apart from this, it happened that the Bulgarian church quickly lost its national character, to become a fief of the very invasive Greek element. Subjected the church of Tărnovo to the patriarchate of Constantinople since 1394, the ecclesiastical dignities passed into the hands of the Greeks; and since the episcopal chairs were bought with money, the morality of the high clergy was certainly not edifying. Furthermore, the Greeks carried out relentless work against the national church, defended in its spirit only by the lower clergy; and their action became very dangerous especially in the second half of the eighteenth century, following the nationalistic revival movement promoted by the phanariotes (v.) of Constantinople. In 1767 the archbishopric of Ochrida, the last remnant of the national church, was suppressed; then followed the suppression of the Slavic language in the liturgy and the introduction of the Greek one. Many then, in order not to succumb to the Greek influence, switched to Catholicism, whose activity had been reviving as early as 1650 and manifested itself with the foundation of churches and schools from which many left who later went to complete their education in Italy (in Loreto). The center of the Catholics was the town of Čiprovec.

By the rulers, Christians were generally subjected to particular and heavy financial burdens. In fact, there was khara ǵ, a tax that annually struck, for the sum of one duchy, every Christian over 14 years of age. In addition, various other taxes, donations for the pashas and the sangiacchi; and finally – a tax of a particular nature – the five-year withdrawal of children between 10 and 12 years of age for the corps of Janissaries, a withdrawal which only the cities could escape, by paying sums of money. All this without counting the oppression, the abuses of which Christians were victims; especially when Turkish troops passed or stayed in their villages. The abduction of Christian girls, for example, was an almost customary occurrence. In short, the Christian Bulgarians were a herd without rights, they were the raya, tied to the land, subjected to the Turkish lords. No wonder, therefore, that those hajdutin or hajduki, patriot brigands, who fought the Muslims trying to help the Christian population came out of such an oppressed population. The center of their raids were the mountainous regions, such as Stara-Planina and Rodope.

However, some Bulgarian Christians enjoyed a much better condition: those who in times of war had provided supply services, prepared trenches, built roads, etc., or, in times of peace, worked the land or led the horses to pasture. of the sultan, and who in exchange received land from the sultan and exemption from taxes, except for the bastina for the inherited paternal land. They formed entire military villages in the region under the Balkans. Other privileged ones were the derbengi, who guarded the mountain passes, the martolosi, who defended the borders. Better still, of course, was the condition of those among the Bulgarians who had embraced the religion of the rulers. In fact, the ways were open to them to reach high offices in the state administration: typical was the case of the Bulgarian Mehmed, of very humble origin, led a slave to Constantinople, who became the sultan’s barber and then gradually increased up to office of grand vizier.

Economically, the traffic was monopolized by the Ragusei. There were large groups of them in Adrianople, in Philippopolis, in Sofia, in the cities on the coast of the Black Sea, in Macedonia. Their relations with the sultan were friendly since 1365: in exchange for the annual payment of 12,500 Venetian ducats, they enjoyed ample freedom in the cities themselves and in the trade between the various cities, so much so that many of the Orthodox, converted to Catholicism, entered in the ranks of the Ragusei to enjoy their privileges. The great communication route went from Constantinople to Belgrade, with a branch in Sofia for Kjustendil, Skoplje and Prizren up to Alessio, with another branch in Niš for Ragusa; and in the main cities there were special warehouses.

Commerce thus escaped the nationals; the Turks didn’t even care. Instead they were concerned with colonizing northern and southern Bulgaria (in the western part they limited themselves above all to occupying the cities): but the conditions of the Bulgarians became all the more serious, forced several times to abandon the cities and fertile places, to hide in the mountains. The Bulgarian nobility, annihilated, was replaced by Turkish lords: the spahii, who received parts of the territory from the sultan in temporary possession, the so-called spahileci (divided into major or siy ā met, and minor or tim ā r). In the spahileci the Bulgarian population was tied to the land; and when they later changed into inherited ciflik, there was real serfdom. Therefore systems that certainly could not contribute to a revival of economic life.

Against such a dominion, which for a long period was very full and solid, there was no lack – as already mentioned – protests and revolts. Already in 1598, by Ragusei allied with Sigismondo Báthory, a rebellion broke out, immediately repressed, which centered on Tărnovo. Then, between the end of the century. XVII and the first half of the XVIII, the hopes of the Christians of Bulgaria – as of the whole Balkan peninsula – are pinned on Austria, launched on the counter-offensive against the Turks. The hopes did not really correspond to the actual outcome of the wars: but in the meantime nuclei of Bulgarian settlers emigrated to Austrian regions, whether they were Austrian Wallachia or Banat or Transylvania. With the second half of the century. XVIII gathers upon itself the aspirations and hopes of the Christian Bulgarians, the Russia of Catherine the Great. But the peace of Sistova (Svištov, 1791) and Iaşi (1792) put an end to the Austro-Russian wars against Turkey, without liberation coming either. Instead came miseries, devastation, massacres. And as if these were not enough, the era of the gods began immediately afterwards for the Bulgarian populations krd ž alij. These were brigands of various nationalities, Turks, Tatars, Albanians, Bosnians, Bulgars, militarily organized in numerous and aggressive bands, led by skilled leaders and experts in warfare. From 1792 to 1804, they desolated the Bulgarian lands, especially on the Rodope, devastating villages, leading women into slaves, even attacking the cities: thus Koprivčica, which was destroyed. Those were years of desolation and terror; and the krdžalij only disappeared after several years of fighting the Gate.

Amidst massacres and devastation, the century had thus opened. XIX. And even if the aims of the European states on the Balkans reappeared (in Tilsit, Napoleon and Alexander I had agreed on the partition of the Ottoman Empire, reserving the Russian emperor, in addition to other lands, also Bulgaria), truly the condition of the Bulgarians had become miserable, after four centuries of Turkish rule. The fact of the progressive Hellenization of the upper classes of the population is also impressive. Promoted, favored by the church which came into the hands of the Phanariotes, Greek culture dominated; the Greek language had become usual in correspondence, in churches, in studies. With the revival of studies in Greece, in the second half of the century. XVIII, the influence on Bulgaria increased. For Bulgaria 2007, please check extrareference.com.

But here are the signs of the revival of the Bulgarian soul. Already in 1762, the monk Paisij wrote a small Slavonic Istorijab ă lgarskaja, in which an enthusiastic national conscience vibrated: the work (continued by father Stojko Vladislavov) had a very wide resonance in the Bulgarian countries, so as to mark the beginning of the moral resurgence of the nation. To reinforce which the general events in which the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria were involved effectively contributed. The Russo-Turkish war of 1806-1812, by awarding Bessarabia to the Russians, brings them even closer to the Orthodox of the Balkans. and during the war riots break out in order to hasten the liberation with the help of Russian weapons. George Stoikov Mamarčov, in 1810, promotes the revolt. Added to this is the work of the Bulgarian emigrants, mostly merchants, who from abroad resume contact between the Bulgarians and European civilization, just then all pervaded by the ideas of nationality and liberty, and revive the national consciousness of their compatriots. There are also the studies of foreigners: of the Russian Venelin, for example, commissioned by the Academy of Petersburg to visit Moldavia, Wallachia, Bulgaria, to collect documents and to publish a Bulgarian grammar. Which never saw the light; but Bulgarian folk songs were published. Venelin’s work exerts a profound influence: for example, on Vasil Eustatiev Aprilov, founder of the new schools for the European people and, with this, one of the most effective architects of the Bulgarian Risorgimento. The first school was that of Gabrovo (1835): ten years later, in 1845, there were already 53. The first Bulgarian magazine also appeared. the resurgence of the Bulgarian national consciousness began, limited, of course, to small circles; it came after the political and moral resurgence of Serbs and Greeks and still maintained an almost exclusively literary character. But it was nevertheless a resurgence of national consciousness.

Bulgaria History - The Turkish Dominion from the 15th to 19th Century