Boris I of Bulgaria (Dictionary of World Biography: Middle Ages)
Article abstract: Under Boris’ rule, Bulgaria was brought into the framework of Christian Europe while preserving its political independence and cultural identity. His efforts established Bulgaria as a center of Slavonic Christian culture and laid the foundation for the first Bulgarian Empire.
Boris’ father was Svinitse, the second of three sons of Khan Omortag, who ruled between 814 and 831. The pagan Bulgars were polygamous, and the identity of his mother is unknown. She was probably the daughter of a prominent noble, or boyar, family. Few reliable reports about the details of Boris’ physical appearance are available. In numerous frescoes and mosaics, almost all of them posthumous, he is portrayed as a bearded, dark-haired warrior-saint dressed in Byzantine-style robes.
The pre-Christian Bulgarian society which Boris came to rule was a rather complex affair, and understanding something of its nature is essential to appreciating Boris’ subsequent policies. The original Bulgars were an Asiatic, nomadic people closely related to the Huns. In 679, a large body of them crossed the Danube River and established themselves in what is now northern Bulgaria. This region was already inhabited by numerous Slavic tribes, whom the Bulgars proceeded to subjugate. The Slavs subsequently provided most of the manpower of the Bulgarian state, while the Asiatic Bulgars constituted the military...
(The entire section is 1900 words.)
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