The Serbian Supremacy and the Final Collapse, 1258-1393
From 1258 onwards Bulgaria may be said to have continued flickering until its final extinction as a state in 1393, but during this period it never had any voice in controlling the destinies of the Balkan peninsula. Owing to the fact that no ruler emerged capable of keeping the distracted country in order, there was a regular _chasse-croise_ of rival princelets, an unceasing tale of political marriages and murders, conspiracies and revolts of feudal nobles all over the country, and perpetual ebb and flow of the boundaries of the warring principalities which tore the fabric of Bulgaria to pieces amongst them. From the point of view of foreign politics this period is characterized generally by the virtual disappearance of Bulgarian independence to the profit of the surrounding states, who enjoyed a sort of rotativist supremacy. It is especially remarkable for the complete ascendancy which Serbia gained in the Balkan peninsula. A Serb, Constantine, grandson of Stephen Nemanja, occupied the Bulgarian throne from 1258 to 1277, and married the granddaughter of John Asen II. After the fall of the Latin Empire of Constantinople in 1261, the Hungarians, already masters of Transylvania, combined with the Greeks against Constantine; the latter called the Tartars of southern Russia, at this time at the height of their power, to his help and was victorious, but as a result of his diplomacy the Tartars henceforward played an important part in the Bulgarian welter. Then Constantine married, as his second wife, the daughter of the Greek emperor, and thus again gave Constantinople a voice in his country's affairs. Constantine was followed by a series of upstart rulers, whose activities were cut short by the victories of King Uro[)s] II of Serbia (1282-1321), who conquered all Macedonia and wrested it from the Bulgars. In 1285 the Tartars of the Golden Horde swept over Hungary and Bulgaria, but it was from the south that the clouds were rolling up which not much later were to burst over the peninsula. In 1308 the Turks appeared on the Sea of Marmora, and in 1326 established themselves at Brussa. From 1295 to 1322 Bulgaria was presided over by a nobleman of Vidin, Svetoslav, who, unmolested by the Greeks, grown thoughtful in view of the approach of the Turks, was able to maintain rather more order than his subjects were accustomed to. After his death in 1322 chaos again supervened. One of his successors had married the daughter of Uro[)s] II of Serbia, but suddenly made an alliance with the Greeks against his brother-in-law Stephen Uro[)s] III and dispatched his wife to her home. During the war which ensued the unwonted allies were utterly routed by the Serbs at Kustendil in Macedonia in 1330. From 1331 to 1365 Bulgaria was under one John Alexander, a noble of Tartar origin, whose sister became the wife of Serbia's greatest ruler, Stephen Du[)s]an; John Alexander, moreover, recognized Stephen as his suzerain, and from thenceforward Bulgaria was a vassal-state of Serbia. Meanwhile the Turkish storm was gathering fast; Suleiman crossed the Hellespont in 1356, and Murad I made Adrianople his capital in 1366. After the death of John Alexander in 1365 the Hungarians invaded northern Bulgaria, and his successor invoked the help of the Turks against them and also against the Greeks. This was the beginning of the end. The Serbs, during an absence of the Sultan in Asia, undertook an offensive, but were defeated by the Turks near Adrianople in 1371, who captured Sofia in 1382. After this the Serbs formed a huge southern Slav alliance, in which the Bulgarians refused to join, but, after a temporary success against the Turks in 1387, they were vanquished by them as the result of treachery at the famous battle of Kosovo in 1389. Meanwhile the Turks occupied Nikopolis on the Danube in 1388 and destroyed the Bulgarian capital Tirnovo in 1393, exiling the Patriarch Euthymus to Macedonia. Thus the state of Bulgaria passed into the hands of the Turks, and its church into those of the Greeks. Many Bulgars adopted Islam, and their descendants are the Pomaks or Bulgarian Mohammedans of the present day. With the subjection of Rumania in 1394 and the defeat of an improvised anti-Turkish crusade from western Europe under Sigismund, King of Hungary, at Nikopolis in 1396 the Turkish conquest was complete, though the battle of Varna was not fought till 1444, nor Constantinople entered till 1453.