BULGARIA IN FOUR MONUMENTS
-text and photos Andrei Dorian Gheorghe
design Florin Alexandru Stancu-
In the 1950s
between Bulgaria and Romania, over the Danube River,
a spectacular bridge was built and named the Friendship Bridge.
I would say more about the roots of this symbol.
Between Bulgaria and Romania not only friendship should be.
It should be fraternity
just because Bulgarians and Romanians should be brothers.
But the communist regimes in these two countries
perverted so much the consciousnesses that today
Bulgarians and Romanians are rather suspicious.
when they should be united because the European Union perceives them
as citizens of tier-2 countries.
In May 2013 I had the chance to visit Bulgaria.
After that I fixed 4 historical monuments as pillars
in trying to make a cultural-historical synthesis,
in my cosmic way,
of this remarkable country.
In old times the territory of current Bulgaria was inhabited by Thracians,
and particularly its northern part by Thracians and Dacians,
who founded the Serdica settlement in the 1st millennium BC.
Then this antique city was conquered in the 1st millennium BC by Romans,
who built here in the 3rd century AC a church,
named after a martyr-woman,
Saint Sophia (2nd century),
mother of 3 martyr-girls,
Faith, Hope and Love,
right in the times when Serdica was the Capital
of the Dacia Aureliana province.
(That because Emperor Aurelian decided in 276,
harnessed by the attacks of the Free Dacians,
to move his zonal administration to the south of the Danube River
abandoning Dacia Traiana,
created by Emperor Trajan in 106 in the north of the Danube River,
in a part of the territory of current Romania,
after he had defeated the great Dacian King Decebal).
Saint Sophia remained forever the symbol of this city.
That church was rebuilt in the 6th century
during the time of the last unifier of the Roman Empire,
(the same emperor - of Thracian-Roman origin - who re-built in Constantinople,
in the current form,
the famous Hagia Sophia edifice,
the human symbol of the Holly Wisdom of God -
Sophia=Wisdom in Greek).
So today the Saint Sophia Church appears as a representative building
of the Roman times.
More, it inspired the new name of the city in the 14th century
(after a period in which it was named Sredet):
In the 6th century
tribes of Southern Slavs began to come to the territory of Bulgaria,
assimilating step by step
the local (Thraco-Dacian-Roman-Byzantine) population
and being assimilated by their Christian belief.
In the 7th century Asparukh, the king of Bulgarians
(Turkic tribes from the Volga River and the Azov Sea),
and his army also came to Bulgaria,
defeated the Byzantines
and created the first Bulgarian Empire
on a much larger territory than current Bulgaria.
His follower, Boris I, officialized the Christian Orthodox religion,
and Simeon the Great, followed by Samuil
kept this empire
till it was destroyed by Byzantines (1014).
In the meantime the Bulgarian invaders were slowly assimilated
by the Slavic population, while the Romanic minority
became known as Vlachs,
while the name of that territory became
A significant monument dating from those times is the Rila Monastery (on Mount Rila),
founded in the 10th century by Saint Ivan and rebuilt more times till today.
It certainly is the most beautiful Bulgarian monastery,
a national symbol of culture, resistance and renascence,
amazing through its cosmic richness
which appears in its artistic representations.
(And for me it is also admirable the fact that Mount Rila
also hosts the Bulgarian national astronomical observatory (created in the 1960s),
one of the most impressive in the Balkan Peninsula,
with a main telescope of 2 m in diameter.)
So, the Rila Monastery…
In the end of the 11th century
after a rebellion of the Vlachs against the Byzantine Empire,
Ivan Asen and Petru
(named relatives of Rome by the Pope of their time)
created the Second Bulgarian Empire,
a large territory from the Adriatic Sea to the Black Sea.
They were followed by the glorious reigns of
Emperors Kaloyan and Ivan Asen II,
a time when their territory was named
the Bulgarian-Vlach (Wallachian or Romanian) Empire.
But in the 13th-14th centuries,
the former Daco-Roman (now Romanian) population
from the north of the Danube River
decided to leave the mountains and the forests in which
they had stayed hidden for one millennium
because of the numerous foreign invasions,
and created the first Romanian statal entities,
culminating later with Wallachia (the Romanian Land) and Moldavia,
so that the Second Bulgarian Empire lost from its largeness.
Thus, in the 14th century Emperor Ivan Alexander from the Shishman dynasty
proclaimed himself as the Emperor of Bulgarians and Greeks.
In the end of the 14th century,
keeping the strong Bulgarian-Romanian connection,
more members of the Bulgarian monarchical family
related to members of the Romanian monarchical family,
while the Bulgarian leader Ivan Stratsimir
and the Romanian leader Mircea cel Batran (the Eldest)
tried together to stop the Ottoman invasion.
If the first was killed by Ottomans
and soon after that Bulgaria became a pashalik for five centuries,
Mircea saved Europe defeating the Ottoman army at Rovine in Wallachia
(he took the nickname of IO from Ioan Asen,
considering himself as the continuer of the Bulgarian-Vlach Empire),
an event decisive later in transforming Wallachia just in a state
tributary to the Ottoman Empire also for a few centuries,
a fact that stopped its forwardness to the north of the continent.
A monumental testimony of the glory of the Second Bulgarian Empire is
the historical centre of its Capital,
nicknamed the 3rd Rome after the temporary conquest of Constantinople
by the Western crusaders in the 13th century.
In 1877-78 the Russian and Romanian armies,
in alliance with Balkan volunteers (from Bulgaria, Serbia and Montenegro),
defeated the Ottoman Empire in a war on the Bulgarian territory,
which brought the independence of Bulgaria (from a pashalik)
and Romania (from a tributary state).
But here I have to add that much of the Bulgarian independence
had been morally prepared before in Romania,
where the Ottoman control was rather inexistent.
Even the Bulgarian Revolutionary Committee
was instituted by Vasil Levski in Romania.
In this respect,
another human symbol of the Bulgarian Revolution was the poet Hristo Botev,
who created in 1869, also in Romania, in the town of Braila,
the Bulgarian Literary Society,
the ancestor of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.
Returning to the war,
in the memory of that victory decisive for their destiny,
the Bulgarians built in 1904-1912 the largest cathedral in the Balkan Peninsula
and named it after a Russian national hero from the 13th century,
This cathedral is placed in the same square with the Bulgarian Academy
and the Saint Sophia Church.
(the shortest Romanian poetic form)
FOR THE MAGNIFICENT BULGARIAN REVOLUTIONARY POET
Hristo Botev, my solar friend,
A bright beginning was your end!
Today many Romanian intellectuals think that the Bulgarians
should feel indebted to Romania,
the adoptive mother of the Bulgarian renascence in the 19th century.
But the spiritual friendship bridge between Bulgaria and Romania
has always existed in both directions.
I would give a sample
In 2005 a Bulgarian student in the Capital of Romania, Ivo Denev,
made the first analemma in this country,
weekly photographing the Sun at the same hour from the terrace of the
Admiral Vasile Urseanu Bucharest Municipal Observatory.
So an admirable act made by a Bulgarian man
for Romanian astronomical culture!
(With thanks to the observatory coordinator,
Adrian Bruno Sonka,
who gave me the possibility to use Ivo Dinev’s picture)
It was the day of the summer solstice when I left Bulgaria.
I stopped near a village named just… Vlachs!
I had a strange feeling thinking that they
and I (a Wallach from the north of the Danube River)
are kindred as followers of the Oriental Romanity.
Then I heard, one after the other,
two charming voices,
as if they would have escaped from the walls of the Rila Monastery:
“Dovijdane, Romanian traveller!”
said to me the Bulgarian Sun,
short before setting.
“Dovijdane, Romanian traveller!”
said also to me the Bulgarian Moon,
short before becoming full.
© 2014 SARM
(Romanian Society for Meteors and Astronomy)