Boris I of Bulgaria

Boris I of Bulgaria

Infobox Monarch | name =Boris I
title ="Knyaz of Bulgaria"

caption =St Knyaz Boris I
reign =852–889
coronation =
predecessor =Presian
successor =Vladimir
consort =Maria
issue =Vladimir
Simeon I
royal house = "Krum's dynasty", possibly Dulo
royal anthem =
father =Presian
mother =
date of birth =
place of birth =
date of death =2 May 907
place of death =A monastery near Preslav
buried =|

Boris I or sometimes Boris-Mihail (Michael) ( _bg. Борис I (Михаил)), also known as "Bogoris" (died 2 May 907) was the ruler of Bulgaria 852–889. At the time of his baptism in 864, Boris was named Michael after his godfather, Emperor Michael III.

Name and titles

After the official act of conversion to Christianity Boris adopted the Christian name Michael. He is sometimes called Boris-Michael in historical research.

The only direct evidence of Boris's title are his seals and the inscription found near the town of Ballsh, modern Albania, and at Varna. There he is called with the Byzantine title "Archon of Bulgaria", which is usually translated as "ruler", and in 10-11th centuries - also as "Knyaz". [Бакалов, Георги. Средновековният български владетел. (Титулатура и инсигнии), София 1995, с. 144, 146, Бобчев, С. С. Княз или цар Борис? (към историята на старобългарското право). Титлите на българските владетели, Българска сбирка, ХІV, 5, 1907, с. 311] In the Bulgarian sources from that period Boris I is called "Knyaz" and during the Second Bulgarian Empire - "Tsar". [Бакалов, Георги. Средновековният български владетел..., с. 144-146]

In the modern historiography Boris is called with different titles. Most historians accept that he changed his title after the conversion to Christianity. According to them before the baptism he had the title Han [Златарски, Васил [1927] (1994). „История на Българската държава през Средните векове, т.1, ч.2“, Второ фототипно издание, София: Академично издателство „Марин Дринов“, стр. 29. ISBN 954-430-299-9.] or Khan [ 12 мита в българската история] ] [ Страница за прабългарите] ] , and after that Knyaz [Златарски, Васил [1927] (1994). „История на Българската държава през Средните векове, т.1, ч.2“, Второ фототипно издание, София: Академично издателство „Марин Дринов“. ISBN 954-430-299-9.] or Tsar. [ Българската християнска цивилизация е обединила 40% от Европа] According to other theory the title Knyaz was used by the Bulgarian rulers since the reign of Asparukh. [ [ Гербов, К. Канасубиги е "княз", а не "хан" или "кан" - Омуртаг и Маламир са били князе преди Борис] ]

Situation in Central Europe in the middle of the 9th century

From the beginning of the 9th century commenced a fierce rivalry between the Eastern Orthodox Church in Constantinople and the Catholic Church in Rome. When Charlemagne was proclaimed Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire the Pope broke its political relation with Byzantines and was naturally supported by the Franks. After the Treaty of Verdun in 843 the strong and aggressive Eastern Francia united most of the German people and began to expand towards Slavic populated lands to the east. That expansion was fully supported by Rome which sought ways to extend its influence to the east. As a response Mojmír I managed to unite some Slavic princes and formed Great Moravia in 833. His successor Rastislav fought against the Germans. [К. Грот, Моравия и Мадяры, Петроград, 1881, стр. 108 и сл.] Both states tried to maintain good relations with Bulgaria on account of its considerable military power.

Military campaigns

Boris I was the son and successor of Presian I of Bulgaria. In 852 he sent emissaries to the Eastern Francia to confirm the peace treaty from 845. [Rudolfi Fulden. annales, an. 852] , [Pertz, Mon. Germ. SS, I, p. 367: legationes Bulgarorum Sclavorumque et absolvit] At the time of his accession he threatened the Byzantine with and invasion but his armies did not attack [Genesios, ed. Bon., p. 85—86] and received a small area in Strandzha to the south-east. [В. Н. Златарски, Известия за българите, стр. 65—68] . Peace treaty, however, was not signed although both states changed temporary delegation. [В. Розен, Император Василий Болгаробойца, Петроград, 1883, стр. 14] In 854 the Moravian Prince Rastislav persuaded Boris I to help him against East Francia. According to some sources, some Franks bribed the Bulgarian monarch to attack Louis. [Dümmler, каз. съч., I, стр. 38] The Bulgarian-Slav campaign was a disaster and Louis the German scored a great victory and invaded Bulgaria. [Migne, Patrol. gr., t. 126, cap. 34, col. 197] In the same time the Croats waged a war against the Bulgarians. Both peoples had coexisted peacefully to that moment which suggests that the Croats were paid by Louis to attack Bulgaria and distract Boris' attention from his alliance with Great Moravia. [К. Грот, Известия о сербах и хорватах, стр. 125—127] Kanasubigi Boris could not achieve any success and in the both sides changed gifts and settled peace. [Const. Porphyr., De admin, imp., ed. Bon, cap. 31, p. 150—151] As a result of the military actions in 855 the peace between Bulgaria and Eastern Francia was restored and Rastislav was forced to fight against Louis alone.

After the death of Vlastimir of Rascia c.850 the state was divided between his sons. Boris desired to take the opportunity and restore his positions after the unsuccessful actions against the Croats and invaded Rascia. The main aim was to replace the Byzantine influence over the small Slavic state with Bulgarian one but he was defeated once more: the Serbs captured his son Vladimir-Hrasate and twelve great boyars. [ F. Raçki, Documenta historiae Chroatie etc., Zagreb, 1877, p. 359.] , [П. Шафарик, Славян. древн., II, 1, стр. 289. ] Boris who was concerned for his son signed peace and gifted the Serbs. [Const. Porphyr., ibid., cap. 32, p. 154-155]

In spite of various reverses, Boris succeeded in maintaining the territorial integrity of his realm.


For a variety of reasons, Boris became interested in converting to Christianity and undertook to do that at the hands of western clergymen to be supplied by Louis the German in 863. However, late in the same year, the Byzantine Empire invaded Bulgaria during a period of famine and natural disasters. Taken by surprise, Boris was forced to sue for peace and agreed to convert to Christianity according to the eastern rites in exchange for peace and territorial concessions in Thrace. At the beginning of 864 Boris was secretly baptized at Pliska by an embassy of Byzantine clergymen, together with his family and select members of the Bulgarian nobility. [cite book
last =Anderson
first =Gerald H.
title =Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions
publisher =Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing
date =1999
pages =p. 80
isbn =0802846807
] With Emperor Michael III as his godfather, Boris also adopted the Christian name Michael. [Anderson, 1999, p.80] Boris' conversion inspired a reaction by his pagan subjects, including many important notables. There are a few versions as to why Boris converted to Christianity. Some historians attribute it to the intervention of his sister who had already converted while being at Constantinople. [Anderson, 1999, p.80] Another story mention a Greek slave in the ruler's court. [Anderson, 1999, p.80] A more mythological version is the one in which Boris is astonished and frightened by an icon of Judgement day and thus decides to adopt Christianity. [Anderson, 1999, p.80] Conversion to Christianity met great opposition in Bulgaria. In the summer of 855 a group of aristocrats (boyars) started an open revolt. [Anderson, 1999, p.80] Boris ruthlessly suppressed it and executed 52 boyars together with their entire families. [] Thus the Christianization continued.

Bulgarian Church

At the same time Boris sought further instruction on how to lead a Christian lifestyle and society and how to set up an autocephalous church from the Byzantine Patriarch Photios. Photios' answer proved less than satisfactory, and Boris sought to gain a more favorable settlement from the Papacy. [cite book
last =Duffy
first =Eamon
title =Saints and Sinners: A History of the Popes
publisher =Yale University Press
date =2006
pages =p. 103
isbn =0300115970
] Boris dispatched emissaires with a long list of questions to Pope Nicholas I at Rome in August 866, and obtained 106 detailed answers, detailing the essence of religion, law, politics, customs and personal faith. The pope temporarily glossed over the controversial question of the autocephalous status desired by Boris for his church and sent a large group of missionaries to continue the conversion of Bulgaria in accordance with the western rite. [Duffy, 2006, p. 103] Bulgaria's shift towards the Papacy infuriated Patriarch Photios who wrote an encyclical to the eastern clergy in 867, in which he denounced the practices associated with the western rite and Rome's ecclesiastical intervention in Bulgaria. [Duffy, 2006, p. 103] This occasioned the Photian Schism, which was a major step in the rift between the eastern and western churches.

In Bulgaria the activities of the papal legate Bishop Formosus (later Pope Formosus) met with success, until the pope rejected Boris' request to nominate Formosus archbishop of Bulgaria. The new Pope Adrian II refused Boris' request for a similar nomination of either Formosus or Deacon Marinus (later Pope Marinus I), after which Bulgaria began to shift towards Constantinople once again. At the Fourth Council of Constantinople in 870 the position of the Bulgarian church was reopened by Bulgarian envoys, and the eastern patriarchs adjudicated in favor of Constantinople. This determined the future of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, which was granted the status of an autocephalous archbishopric by the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Later in the 870s the Patriarch of Constantinople surrendered Bulgaria to the Papacy, but this concession was purely nominal, as it did not affect the actual position of Bulgaria's autocephalous church.

Cyrillic alphabet in Bulgaria

In 886 Boris' governor of Belgrade welcomed the disciples of Saint Cyril and Saint Methodius, who were exiled from Great Moravia into Bulgaria and sent them on to Boris in Pliska. Two of these disciples, Clement of Ohrid and Naum of Preslav who were of noble Bulgarian origin, set up educational centers in Pliska and in Ohrid to further the development of Slavonic letters and liturgy. The alphabet that was originally developed by Cyril and Methodius is known as the Glagolitic alphabet. In Bulgaria Clement of Ohrid and Naum of Preslav however created (or rahter compiled) a new alphabet which was called Cyrillic and was declared the official alphabet of the Bulgarian language during an assembly in 893. In the following centuries this alphabet was adopted by other Slavic peoples. The introduction of Slavic liturgy paralleled Boris' continued development of churches and monasteries throughout his realm.

In 889 Boris abdicated the throne and became a monk. His son and successor Vladimir attempted a pagan reaction, which brought Boris out of retirement in 893. Vladimir was defeated and blinded, and Boris placed his third son, Simeon I of Bulgaria on the throne, threatening him with the same fate if he too apostatized. Boris returned to his monastery, emerging once again in c. 895 to help Simeon fight the Magyars, who had invaded Bulgaria in alliance with the Byzantines. After the passing of this crisis, Boris resumed monastic life and died in 907. The location of his retreat, where perhaps he was enterred, is not certain; it may be near Preslav but also in Pliska or in a monastery near Varna or Ravna.

St. Boris Peak on Livingston Island in the South Shetland Islands, Antarctica is named for Boris I of Bulgaria.

ee also

*Christianization of Bulgaria
*Cyril and Methodius
*Glagolitic alphabet



* Yordan Andreev, Ivan Lazarov, Plamen Pavlov, "Koy koy e v srednovekovna Balgariya", Sofia 1999.
* John V.A. Fine Jr., "The Early Medieval Balkans", Ann Arbor, 1983.


* [ Bulgarian history — Boris I]
* [ The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople]

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