Samuel: Armenian Tsar of Bulgaria

The history of the Armenian community in Bulgaria dates back to the 5th century. During Byzantine rule, many Armenians moved to the territory of Bulgaria. In the 9th century, Christianity was proclaimed in Bulgaria as the state religion by the efforts of the Byzantine-Armenian Empress, Theodora Mamikonyan, Noah’s Ark writes.

In the years 997-1018, Bulgaria was ruled by the Armenian royal dynasty of Kamitopuli (Komsadzag), originating from Armenians Nikola and Hripsime. It was a dynasty of Orthodox Armenians, which left a notable mark in the history of Bulgaria.

The sons of the founder of the Armenian dynasty, David, Moses, Aaron, and Samuel, ruled in different parts of the state, which included the territories of present Albania, Greece, Macedonia, and Turkey.

Samuel was destined to become one of the most famous Bulgarian kings. He and his brother served in the Byzantine army, in the Armenian military unit. By the order of the Byzantine emperor they were transferred to Thrace to fight the Bulgarians. Seeing the cruelty towards the local residents, they rebelled against the emperor and went over to the side of the Bulgarians.

From 971 he actually began to rule Bulgaria as a commander and co-ruler of Tsar Roman, the second son of Tsar Peter I. After the death of Tsar Roman, who fled from Byzantine captivity in 977, Samuel became the king of Bulgaria. In an effort to preserve the independence of his kingdom, he waged continuous wars with the Byzantine Empire. In the first years of his reign, Samuel managed to several times defeat the Byzantines and stop their attacks on their lands.

At the end of the 10th century, Bulgarian troops conquered the Serbian lands (Dukla Principality) and conducted several expeditions against Croats and Hungarians. After Byzantium regained the northeastern lands of Bulgaria, Samuel moved the capital to the territory of modern Macedonia.

Originally, there was no specific capital, but eventually, the city of Ohrid was designated as the capital. Samuel died of a heart attack on October 6, 1014, two months after the catastrophic defeat at the Battle of Kleidion, and Bulgaria was completely conquered by the Byzantines four years later.

During the reign of Samuel, the Bulgarian kingdom occupied a large part of the Balkan Peninsula, except Thrace. Although the rule of Samuel marked the fall of the First Bulgarian Kingdom, he is considered a national hero in Bulgaria and Macedonia, Rutraveller writes.

Very little is known about the early years of Samuel. According to the historian Stepanos Asokhik, Samuel came from the Armenian province of Derzhan. The inscription of Samuel, found on a stone near the Prespa lake in Macedonia, as well as the data of John Skilitzi, indicate that Samuel’s father was Nicola (Nikogayos), and the mother was Hripsime. According to some sources, Nikola served as governor, and their mother was the daughter of Armenian king Ashot II from the Royal dynasty of Bagratunis.

During his reign, just like his father, Tsar Samuel moved thousands of Armenian families from different parts of Byzantium to Bulgaria. Among them were Armenian military commanders, Armenian-Chalcedonian spiritual leaders, many public figures.

During the reign of Samuel, many toponyms of Armenian names appeared in Bulgaria, some of which survived up to this day, for example, Armeno, Armenzi, Armenica, Armenio, Ermentzi, Armecio, etc.

According to the data of 2001, 10832 Armenians officially lived in Bulgaria, however, unofficial sources indicate a different figure, 28-32 thousand Armenians. According to the Armenian organizations of Bulgaria, today this number has grown and reached 30 thousand. The largest community is concentrated in the city of Plovdiv, it includes both Catholic Bulgarians and Protestants who consider themselves the ancestors of Armenians. 


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