... A philatelic journey through the history of Bulgaria ...

2. The Second Kingdom (1185-1393)

Proclamation of
the 2nd Kingdom in 1185
Mi 450

The two bojar brothers Petur and Asen used the strongly fortificated area around Tarnovo as basis for an uprising against the Byzantine rule in 1185. Soon most of Eastern Bulgaria had joined the uprising, and Petur was proclaimed Tsar in Tarnovo. This "Second Kingdom" was further stabilised and extended by Tsar Kaloyan, Petur and Asen's 3rd brother. Kaloyan drove the Hungarians out of North-West Bulgaria and signed a peace treaty with Byzantium in 1202. The crusaders took Constantinople in 1204, but were kept out of Bulgaria after a great battle near Adrianople the following year. In 1207 Kaloyan had recaptured most of Macedonia, but was killed during the siege of Salonika.

Tsar Kaloyan defeats
Emperor Baldwin I in 1205
Mi 1978
Ivan Asen II
Mi 451

Tsar Ivan Asen II brought the 2nd Kingdom to it's greatest strength and extension, more due to his skilful diplomacy that his warrior skills. He removed the threat from the Hungarians in the north by marrying the king's daughter, and married off his own daughters to the neighbouring rulers. Furthermore, he defeated the despot Theodor Angelus Comnenus in Epirus in 1230 and made an alliance with the Greek against the crusaders in Constantinople. In 1235 Asen also managed to make an agreement with Rome which ensured the independence of the Bulgarian church.

Tsar Ivan Asen defeats
Theodor Comnenus in 1230
Mi 1978

Trial of the
bogomil Vasilis
Mi 449

Bogomils (Friends of God), Greek-Orthodox sect which developed in Bulgaria in the 10th century with strong national and social background. The sect persisted to the 14th century and spread to Byzantium, Serbia, Bosnia, Sicily, North Italy and France. The Bogomil doctrine was dualistic: The material world and the humans within were created by Satan, as opposed to the original spiritual world. The doctrine demanded strong asceticism and rejected marriage, image worshipping and the Christian sacraments. The sect was exposed to hard persecution, and was in 1211 condemned as heretical by a council meeting in Tarnovo. The negative philosophy of the Bogomils contributed to the populationís reduced fighting spirit in the continuous struggles with Bulgariaís neighbour states.

After the death of Ivan Assen II, the 2nd Kingdom gradually declined due to inner strife and the lack of strong and skilled leaders. The country was regularly attacked by mongols, hungarians and byzantine forces. When the mongols left Europe in the early 1300's, Bulgaria experienced a short period of stability under Tsar Ivan Alexander. The country regained lands corresponding approximately to it's current borders. However, after the death of Ivan Alexander the country was split between his sons into several smaller territories. The split and weakened country became easy prey for the new threat in the Balkans; the Ottoman turks.

In 1362 the Ottomans conquered Philippopolis (Plovdiv), and in 1382 Sofia. They continued their advance by defeating the Serbs at Kosovo Pole in 1389, and in 1393 they conquered the capital Tarnovo after a three month siege. Finally, in 1395 they took Nikopol, the last free city in the country. One of Ivan Alexander's sons, Ivan Sratsimir, ruling the Kingdom of Vidin, made and alliance with anti-ottoman crusaders lead by Kong Sigismund of Hungary in 1396, but where defeated by the Ottomans at Nikopol. The following year Vidin was annexed by Sultan Bayezid I, and Bulgarias second period of independence came to an end.

Victory of Tsar Michail Schischman
over the Byzantines in 1328
Mi 2281

Victory of Tsar Ivan Alexander
over the Byzantines in 1332
Mi 2282

Tsar Ivan Sratsimir
meets the crusaders in 1396
Mi 2286

The patriarch Eftimij
is expelled from Tarnovo in 1393
Mi 452

Eftimi was the last Bulgarian Patriarch in Tarnovo at the end of the 14th century. He had made a copy of holy hagiographies which emphasized Bulgarian saints and martyrs. After Turnovo fell to the Turks in 1393 Eftimi was deported to a monastery.

The patriarch Eftimij
is expelled from Tarnovo in 1393
Mi 2283


  • Crampton, R.J: "A Concise History of Bulgaria", Cambridge University Press 1997
  • Aschehougs and Gyldendals Great Norwegian Encyclopedia
  • http://www.bulgaria.com:8080/history/bulgaria/index.html
  • http://www.bulgaria.com:8080/history/rulers/index.html