Sofia to Let Macedonia Enjoy Monument of Great Bulgarian Tsar Samuil

Politics » DIPLOMACY | July 5, 2011, Tuesday // 13:40
Bulgaria: Sofia to Let Macedonia Enjoy Monument of Great Bulgarian Tsar Samuil The marble statue of medieval Bulgarian Tsar Samuil that was erected Tuesday at the Skopje central square. Photo by BGNES

Bulgaria's Foreign Ministry will not take any diplomatic action towards the government of Macedonia which recently built a monument of medieval Bulgarian Tsar Samuil, presenting him as the head of an imagined medieval "Macedonian" state.

"We are not going to undertake anything," the Spokesperson of the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry Vesela Cherneva stated at a briefing in Sofia on Tuesday.

The imposing monument of famed Bulgarian medieval Tsar Samuil, the greatest defender of the first Bulgarian Empire against Byzantium, was erected in the Macedonian capital Skopje a week ago. The 5-meter marble statue was placed at the central Skopje square nearby the recently ereted statue of Alexander the Great.

In the recent months, the government of Nikola Gruevski and the ruling party VMRO-DPMNE built several monuments in Skopje and other towns in Macedonia, including a statue of Alexander the Great, also imagined to have somehow been a forefather of the contemporary Macedonians. This led Greece to react harshly, with the Greek authorities declaring that Macedonia is trying to hijack parts of Greece's historical memory.

Greek President Kkarolos Papoulias has warned that the Macedonian authorities cannot create a national identity by building monuments.

Unlike Greece, the Bulgarian state leadership has kept quiet, and the Foreign Ministry has now formally said it will continue this policy.

The monument of Tsar Samuil in Skopje is viewed as amusing by the majority of Bulgarians, with even Bozhidar Dimitrov, former Diaspora Minister, a prominent nationalist historian, and current head of the Bulgarian National History Museum, declaring that it is great to see neighboring states erect monuments of Bulgarian tsars.

Tsar Samuil (Samuel) ruled the First Bulgarian Empire as the Tsar of the Bulgarians in 997 AD-1014 AD from his capital in Ohrid, in today's Macedonia.

The center of Bulgarian power shifted from the old capital of Veliki Preslav to Skopje and Ohrid following the Byzantine takeover of Veliki Preslav and parts of Eastern Bulgaria in 971.

Samuil fought a heavy battle to ward off an incipient Byzantine appetite to run over the First Bulgarian Empire (681 AD-1018 AD).

As a general for preceding Bulgarian Tsar Roman (Tsar of the Bulgarians in 977 AD-997 AD, dying withouth any heirs), he dealt a devastating blow to the Byzantine army at Gates of Trajan Pass in 986 AD. In addition to being an outstanding defender of the Bulgarian state, Samuil is known for the fact that he was unwilling to proclaim himself Tsar of the First Bulgarian Empire as long as there was a living descendant of the original dynasty, even when Tsar Boris II (r. 970-977) and his brother Roman were in captivity in Constantinople. Samuil took over as Tsar only after the death of both brothers who had no male descendants.

The tides of the war between the First Bulgarian Empire and the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantium) turned in 1014 though, when Byzantine Emperor Basil II extracted revenge by defeating the Bulgarian army at the Battle of Kleidon, capturing 15,000 Bulgarian soldiers, having them blinded, and sending them off home, a sight which caused the death of Tsar Samuil.

Bulgaria fell under Byzantine rule soon after, and Basil II gained the nickname Boulgarokhtonos, i.e. the Bulgar-Slayer.

After Samuil's leadership collapsed, the last two Bulgarian Tsars of the First Bulgarian Empire, Samuil's son Gavril Radomir (1014-1015) and nephew Ivan Vladislav (1015-1018) continued the fight against Byzantium.

The official doctrine of modern-day Macedonia (Macedonia) inspired by the propaganda of Tito's communist Yugoslavia holds Samuil to have been the Tsar of a great medieval "Macedonian" empire, an allegation based solely on the geographic scope of the First Bulgarian State in the Balkans (681 AD-1018 AD), which included lands from the Black Sea to the Adriatic, where southwestern cities such as Ohrid were of crucial importance.

One of the heaviest blow to the doctrine of so called "macedonianism" proclaiming a separate historical identity of the modern-day Macedonian nation is the Bitola Inscription of Tsar Ivan Vladislav, Samuil's nephew, in which he says that the Bitola fortress near Ohrid was rebuilt in 1015-1016 "by Ivan, Tsar of Bulgaria", who was "Bulgarian by birth" "as a haven and for the salvation of the lives of the Bulgarians."

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Tags: Tsar Samuil, macedonia, First Bulgarian Empire, Byzantine, Byzantine Empire, Basil II, Roman, Skopje, Ohrid, Alexander the Great, Veliki Preslav, Preslav, Byzantium, Foreign Ministry, Vesela Cherneva

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