THE EARLIER SLAV EMPIRES
There is historic justice in the circumstance that the Turkish Empire in Europe met its doom at the hands of the Balkan nations themselves. For these nationalities had been completely submerged and even their national consciousness annihilated under centuries of Moslem intolerance, misgovernment, oppression, and cruelty.
None suffered worse than Bulgaria, which lay nearest to the capital of the Mohammedan conqueror. Yet Bulgaria had had a glorious, if checkered, history long before there existed any Ottoman Empire either in Europe or in Asia. From the day their sovereign Boris accepted Christianity in 864 the Bulgarians had made rapid and conspicuous progress in their ceaseless conflicts with the Byzantine Empire. The Bulgarian church was recognized as independent by the Greek patriarch at Constantinople; its primates subsequently received the title of patriarch, and their see was established at Preslav, and then successively westward at Sofia, Vodena, Presba, and finally Ochrida, which looks out on the mountains of Albania. Under Czar Simeon, the son of Boris, “Bulgaria,” says Gibbon, “assumed a rank among the civilized powers of the earth.” His dominions extended from the Black Sea to the Adriatic and comprised the greater part of Macedonia, Greece, Albania, Servia, and Dalmatia; leaving only to the Byzantine Empire—whose civilization he introduced and sedulously promoted among the Bulgarians—the cities of Constantinople, Saloniki, and Adrianople with the territory immediately surrounding them. But this first Bulgarian Empire was shortlived, though the western part remained independent under Samuel, who reigned, with Ochrida as his capital, from 976 to 1014. Four years later the Byzantine Emperor, Basil II, annihilated the power of Samuel, and for a hundred and fifty years the Bulgarian people remained subject to the rule of Constantinople. In 1186 under the leadership of the brothers Asen they regained their independence. And the reign of Czar Asen II (1218-1240) was the most prosperous period of all Bulgarian history. He restored the Empire of Simeon, his boast being that he had left to the Byzantines nothing but Constantinople and the cities round it, and he encouraged commerce, cultivated arts and letters, founded and endowed churches and