The Bulgarians turned into a meek herd with a stern Ottoman shepherd, but sometimes they strayed
Issue 14, November 2007
by Professor Hristo Matanov
On your way from Europe to Istanbul along the well-trodden road through Nis, Belgrade, Sofia and Plovdiv, you can easily tell when you have entered the territory of the former Ottoman Empire - toilets begin to stink in western Hungary! The Bulgarians have now been independent for nearly 130 years, but they still bear the scars of 500 years of Ottoman rule and sadness at their long enslavement. While they adjusted to foreign rule, Europe experienced the Renaissance, discovered the Americas and Australia, enlightened its monarchs and developed an industrial society.
Hope is the greatest evil on Earth. The Bulgarians learned this in the first years of Ottoman rule at the end of the 14th Century. At the beginning, it seemed that it would only take a little effort to break free. The sons and grandsons of the last Bulgarian kings were still alive and doing their utmost to attract independent European countries to their cause. The crusading enthusiasm of earlier times began to revive in Central Europe and the victories of Hungarian military commander John Hunyadi and Albanian lord George Kastrioti Skenderbeg proved that the Ottomans were not so insuperable. The religious leaders of the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches also signed a union to join forces against the common enemy.
The two crusades of Vladislaus III, king of Poland and Hungary, and John Hunyadi in 1443-1444, represented the height of their liberation hopes. However, the first campaign failed because of the severe winter and the second because of the imprudence of young Vladislaus, who died in the Battle of Varna. This defeat was the last ground crusade in the Middle Ages and ended Bulgarian hopes for a quick overthrow of Ottoman rule.
King Ladislaus is remembered fondly in Bulgarian history and popular culture for his unsuccessful, but enthusiastic crusade to overthrow the Ottomans and liberate the conquered Christian nations of the Balkans. His impetuous invasion into subdued Bulgarian territories led him and his army as far as Varna on the Black Sea coast. There he was finally defeated by Ottoman forces and killed in action
70 years ago, on 10 March 1943, Bulgaria's pro-Nazi government decided to defy Berlin and halt the deportation of Bulgaria's 50.000 Jews. This was down to the actions of one man - Dimitar Peshev. Just two years later he faced Communist justice and found himself on trial for his life. His niece Kaluda Kiradjieva remembers