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Hall 3 The Bulgarian State in the Middle Ages (the 7th – 14th Century)

The Pagan Bulgaria is shown at the beginning of the exposition. The Bulgarians participated in different state formations during nearly three centuries – of the Huns, the Turks and the Avars – the period of formation and development of the state–creative processes among them. Their first independent state was Great Bulgaria, founded by Khan Kubrat (632 – 665) in the basins of the rivers Dnieper and Kuban. Proof of its military and political power is the treasure from Malaya Pereshchepina. Replicas of a part of the Malaya Pereshchepina treasure, which was identified as a stock from the grave of Khan Kubrat are shown in the exhibition. Under the pressure of the Khazars at the end of the 4th century the Bulgarians took away by force from Byzantium the area between the Carpathian Mountains and the Balkan Range and founded the Bulgarian Khanate on the Danube (681 – 864). The Slav tribes settled in those lands in the 6th century. They played a relatively independent part in the Bulgarian Khanate. The stone columns with inscriptions shown in the exposition are a proof of the strong feelings of the Bulgarians about state organization and historical memory. The insignia of power shown in the exhibition – a medallion of Khan Omurtag, belt appliqués and replicas of metal vessels (the treasure of Nagi Szent Miklos, the tumbler of Zhupan Sivin) – illustrate the cult figure of the Khan and the role of the tribal aristocracy among the Bulgarians. The monuments showing the way of life of the ordinary population do not bear ethnical and cultural determinations. Those are mainly adornments, amulets, bone needle – cases, ceramic vessels, and others.
 
The acceptance of Christianity in 864 strengthened the position of the supreme autocratic power and speeded the process of consolidating of the Bulgarian nation and of building of uniform culture. In the 9th and the 10th century the Bulgarian state was a mighty political power and a factor of first significance in Europe. Significant evidences of its political advance are the ruler’s seals – molybdobullae – of Kniaz (Prince) Boris – Michael (852 – 889), Tsar (King) Simeon the Great (893 – 927) and his successor Tsar (King) Peter (927 – 970). The Chronicle of Ioannes Skylitzes provided information on important political events and was the main source on the Bulgarian history in this period. The Old-Bulgarian culture registered its Golden Age. The stone plastic art and decorative painted ceramics from the capital Veliki Preslav, (one of the main cultural centres in Southeastern Europe) rich collections of vessels, pectoral crosses, and adornments illustrate the high achievements in the field of the applied arts. At the end of the 10th century under the pressure of Byzantium the State centre was transferred to the Western Bulgarian areas. Tsar (King) Samuil (991 – 1014) took the lead of the struggle for defending the political independence. Of great historical value is the only surviving gravestone epitaph, the well – known Samuil’s inscription commemorating his parents and oldest brother.
 
During the period of the Byzantine rule (1018 – 1185), marked by a number of uprisings against the alien rule, Byzantine cultural and state traditions were established on the Bulgarian lands, but the Bulgarian nationality preserved its historical memory.
 
The western part of the Room No. 3 shows evidences of the political and church history, the power and riches of the rulers and aristocracy, the boom of the mediaeval town and crafts during the 12th – 14th century – a period known as the Second Bulgarian Empire.   
 
Here the museum exposition starts with some of the preserved up to now portraits of Bulgarian rulers from that time as well as with their personnel belongings. The biggest Bulgarian gold mediaeval ring (61.15g) which belonged to Tsar (King) Kaloyan (1197 – 1207) is shown at the very beginning of the western part of the Room. Eleven treasures in total – rich and expensive adornments made of gold and silver as well as coins – give an idea of the ruler’s and aristocratic costumes and way of life as well as of the numerous goldsmith’s techniques and master’s skills. 
Imperial gifts, patriarchal seals, expensive objects made of gold, silver and jade as well as bronze and lead objects providing evidence of the fate of the Mediaeval Bulgarian attest to the history of the Ohrid archbishopric which succeeded the glory of the first Bulgarian patriarchs.
 

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