Location: Pliskov, Shumen Province  Map

Capital of the First Bulgarian Empire: 681- 893 AD


Description of Pliska

Historical city of Pliska was a first capital of Danubian Bulgrian also known as The First Bulgarian Kingdom between years 681 and 893 AD. It was found by first Bulgarian ruler Khan Asparukh who first defeated the Byzantine forces under leadership of king Constantine IV and settled the region. Bulgar tribes that the khan led from the steppes of South Russia were not exactly skilled engineers so lots of planning and construction was carried out by the Greek and Slavic professionals. Covering an are of about 23 km² Pliska was protected by a moat as well as earthwork ramparts. Pliska was captured the invading Byzantine army in 811 during reign of Khan Krum. However the Byzantines did not last very long driven by the same leader out of the country after Battle of Pliska. The beginning of decline for the city started with baptism of Bulgarian duke Boris I- Michael (852- 889) and subsequent reactionary pagan revolt of King Vladimir in 892 who was seeking to re- establish old pantheon of gods. It was defeated, but the old city with its polytheistic past did not fit political, religious and military needs of the new Christian state. Bulgarian capital was moved to Preslav and Pliska started to decline in importance. It was eventually burned down by the invading duke Svyatoslav of the Kievan Rus' (Russian state) and Byzantine Army in the years between 969 and 972. The Russian forces eventually left the region, but the city of Pliska were eventually abandoned. It was not rebuilt subsequently although it was inhabited for few more years. Much of the city was destroyed.
Bulgarian historians tried to rebuild old city of Pliska with white stone. This controversial move to attract more tourists is somewhat of a stretch from historic truth, since there is little evidence on what medieval Pliska and its structures actually looked like.


Destinations in Pliska

Pliska National Historical and Archaeological Reserve is located 28 km northeast of the town of Shumen and 3 km from the modern town of Pliska. It is part of the Hundred National Tourist Sites.

Pliska is the first capital of Bulgaria and the cradle of today's Bulgarian state. From the founding of the Bulgarian state in 681 by Khan Asparuh to 893. Pliska is not only the capital but also one of the largest and richest cities in Europe and the world. It is remarkable for its architecture, which Bulgarians carry from their previous populations.

Typically for a people coming from the steppes, the Bulgarians built their capital in the middle of the field, which is surrounded by heights, which are a natural barrier to the enemy. Three defensive belts have been built. The first is a deep ditch with a high embankment that surrounds the Outer City. The second is made of huge stone blocks, forming about 12 m high fortress wall, which on each wall has 2 pentagonal towers and a gate, and the main entrance is on the eastern fortress wall. The third belt is a brick fortification protecting the citadel. The entire walled complex is located on an area of ​​0.5 sq. Km. The city was gigantic for its medieval scale - 23.3 square kilometers. Khan Krum's palace is built on 500 square meters and is among the most remarkable monuments. Historians have also discovered secret exits through which the aristocracy and the population could escape the city during the siege. The palace had a reservoir and spacious bathrooms. The second expansion of the city is connected with the reign of Khan Omurtag (814 - 831). He completed the fortress walls, built pagan temples and built the so-called Throne Hall. In the Inner City, the best preserved building is the Grand Palace. Remains of homes, workshops, neighborhood churches and outbuildings have been found in the Outer City.

1.3 km from the eastern gate of the Inner City is the Great Basilica - the largest Christian church in Southeast Europe since the conversion of the Bulgarian people.

The discovered remains are preserved and have been established as an open-air museum, which can be visited during non-working hours. Finds from the reserve are exhibited in the museum exposition and are mostly related to the way of life, material and spiritual culture of the inhabitants of the old capital.

Traditionally, the Pliska National Historical and Archaeological Reserve hosts the Summer Archaeological Seminar, in which high school students in Bulgaria excavate together with archaeologists and listen to lectures by famous Bulgarian historians. The summer archeological seminar in 2007 is under the patronage of the President of Bulgaria.

Large basilica in Pliska
The Great Basilica in Pliska is a religious-palace complex, including a basilica, an archbishop's palace and a monastery, located near the Pliska National Historical and Archaeological Reserve.

It was completed around 875 and is one of the largest basilicas in medieval Southeastern Europe. The complex is an important monument of the early medieval Bulgarian culture from its Christian period - from the second half of the IX to the middle of the XI century. For about 250 years it performed the functions of a cathedral and a princely, episcopal and monastery church, it was the center of the spiritual and religious life of the capital Pliska and early medieval Bulgaria. It is fenced and protected by a stone wall over 4 m high with ridges.

The building is built on the so-called cruciform mausoleum, which provokes much debate among scientists. It was discovered by Totyu Totev and one of the most mysterious buildings in the first Bulgarian capital. Its sacred significance for the ancient Bulgarians is obvious, because then the altar of the Great Basilica is located on the same place. The hypothesis of Prof. Stancho Vaklinov is that these are the remains of an unknown type of Bulgarian pagan temple.

According to the historical museum in Shumen, before the construction of the basilica on this place there was an early Christian complex martyrium, consisting of a cruciform temple and a spring-spring. Pavel Georgiev, who participated in her research, suggests that the building discovered under the foundations of the basilica is a martyrium (tomb of a saint who died a martyr for the faith) of the first Bulgarian martyr St. Boyan Enravota, executed for betrayal of national traditions by his brother. Khan Malamir around 832. During the failed revolt of the pagans in 865, the martyrdom was destroyed. As a sign of the celebration of Christianity in Bulgaria, Tsar Boris I (nephew of Enravota) became the founder of the new church built on the site of the martyrium and thus linked the new religion with an aristocratic historical monument such as the martyrium.


Another theory, however, which is by arch. Boyadzhiev, sounds even more convincing. According to her, the building was originally built for the mausoleum of the Bulgarian khans. After the christening, an attempt was made to turn it into a cathedral, but the construction did not withstand these reconstructions, which necessitated the complete demolition of the building. This hypothesis is supported by the fact that until then no mausoleum of a Bulgarian khan was discovered and there is no evidence of a funeral ritual of the rulers, which is difficult to explain in the presence of so many preserved monuments from this period.

According to Assen Chilingirov, historical sources point to the dating of the Great Basilica to the 4th century during the reign of Emperor Constantine the Great. After the demolition and at the end of the 4th or the beginning of the 5th century, the stones above the foundations were used for the construction of other monumental buildings near the basilica. In the IX-X century it was rebuilt with bricks and again destroyed at the end of the X century, which coincided with the accession of all of eastern Bulgaria to Byzantium.

Chilingirov criticized the reconstruction, which gave the basilica a look it had never had, in order to turn it into a "proto-Bulgarian monument".

From the studied parts of the Great Basilica it can be seen that the archbishop's residence is located in the courtyards north and south of the temple, as in the northern courtyard a residential palace has been studied, and to the west - a bathroom with a hypocaust. To the south of the basilica, a three-part building was studied, which housed a didascaleion (school) and a scriptorium. The didascaleion is proof that in addition to the liturgical books in the complex, law, architecture and construction were studied. The students of Cyril and Methodius, accepted in 886 by Tsar Boris I, who founded the Pliskovo-Preslav Literary School in Old Bulgarian, probably also worked here.

A necropolis with the graves of members of the monastic fraternity was excavated in the courtyard southwest of the basilica, and a secular necropolis with the graves of aristocrats was found in front of the asps of the basilica. The monastery premises cover the yard north of the residence. The central place is occupied by the kitchen and the dining room. In the east wing of the courtyard was found a two-storey building with 10 identical rooms-cells in which the monks lived. In the middle of the yard is the large monastery well, and next to it - the second bathroom, which was with a hypocaust and a cross-domed structure.



Under the later medieval Great Basilica were found the remains of a late antique church with a cruciform plan, most likely a martyr.

First Bulgarian state
The town grew on the site of an older Slavic settlement, as its purely Slavic name Pliska suggests. The old name of the village is Ağa Baba. Near it, archaeologists from the Russian Archaeological Institute in Constantinople discovered in 1899-1900 the medieval town of Pliska or Plaskov (Old Bulgarian: Plskov), the capital of Bulgaria (the First Bulgarian Kingdom) from the end of the 7th century until about 893, when the capital moved to Preslav. Here are preserved some of the most important monuments of the Pliskov-Preslav culture.

Information about the establishment of the capital under Khan Asparuh (681 - 701) is contained in the so-called Bulgarian Apocryphal Chronicle: However, the evidence is of late date (as early as the 11th century), has an apocryphal-legendary character and may not be reliable. The earliest document about the capital is the Greek inscription (821 -822), carved on the famous Chatalar column, found at a medieval crossroads northwest of the present-day village of Khan Krum (Tur. Chatalar) in 1905. In its text it is called Plskas ton kanpon, i.e. "The camp of Pliska" and is explicitly mentioned as the permanent ruling residence of Khan Omurtag (814 - 830). The name is a Greek translation of the authentic proto-Bulgarian name from the VIII-IX century, recorded in the Byzantine works of the X-XI century as Pliskouba and Pliskoba. The suffix ouba, oba there is a word with an independent meaning: "a large settlement of degree, camp type". Therefore, the name is related to steppe cities, capitals of nomadic peoples in Central and Central Asia, the Caucasus and the steppes of Eastern Europe, and can be translated similarly as "sunny city" or "shining, white city".

The first mention of sources in Pliska is from 763 - 764, and the last mentioned events are from 1087 - 1088.

The main restored buildings from the first Bulgarian capital are located about 3 km north of the present town of Pliska. The remains of the medieval city cover an area of ​​about 23 km². It was surrounded by a shaft and an earthen ditch, full of water, up to 10 m wide, up to 7 m deep and over 20 km long. Behind this moat began the outer city, which was inhabited by artisans and peasants. At its heart was the inner city, and in the center - the khan's settlement, which had a small palace with strong defensive walls, called the Citadel, a large palace and basilica built of stone blocks. The inner city has the shape of an irregular trapezoid with sides in the directions of the world from 612 to 788 m. The thickness of the walls is up to 2.60 m. Each wall had a gate, three of which were uncovered. A secret exit was found next to one of the gates, which led away from the wall and was almost invisible.

The first palace in Pliska was wooden. This is evident from the holes found during the excavations by stakes driven into the ground. The first stone palace was built during the reign of Khan Krum. This is evidenced by Byzantine chroniclers, who describe the conquest and destruction of Pliska by Emperor Nicephorus Genicus in 811. The Krum Palace was more than 70 by 60 m in size, on 2 floors, with a height of about 10 m along with the towers. A reconstruction of the palace is on display in the museum. Khan Omurtag built a new palace, smaller in size, but with preserved foundations and a large part of the ground floor. The building had apartments for the inn and its guests. On the second floor was the throne room. The palace had its own aqueduct, preserved to this day.

The third part of Pliska is the Citadel. It was the main residence of the inn and his family. It is surrounded by an additional fortress wall. Near the palace of Omurtag was the cult center of the proto-Bulgarian capital.

In Pliska, the Bulgarian ruler Prince Boris baptized the Bulgarian people in 864. Another extremely important event related to the Bulgarians was the reception of the creators of the Slavic alphabet, the Holy Brothers Cyril and Methodius, in the first Bulgarian capital.

The Middle Ages
The town is in ruins from the 17th century. Most of the stones from the fortress walls and the palace complex were stolen to build houses in the modern village of Pliska and the surrounding villages. (This is a common practice of the population living around archeological sites and reserves, such as Cherven and Perperek.)


Numerous remains of the early Slavic and Old Bulgarian culture have been found in Pliska. Among the bone remains from the 9th - 10th century by the paleoornitologist Prof. Zlatozar Boev 7 species of birds have been identified, of which the most interesting are the bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbatus) and the wild Colchicus pheasant (Phasianus colchicus), which disappeared in the middle of the 20th century. colchicus). In addition, finds of a raven (Corvus corax), a large white-fronted goose (Anser albifrons), as well as numerous remains of a domestic hen were found. [8] Later, the remains of a domestic hen (Gallus gallus domestica) and a domestic goose (Anser) were also found there. anser), bustard (Otis tarda), falcon (Falco peregrinus), rock / domestic pigeon (Columba livia), as well as domestic donkey (Equus africanus asinus), domestic pig (Sus scrofa domestica), domestic goat (Capra aegagrus hircus ), etc. These findings prove the practice of hunting, animal husbandry and falconry in our ancient capital.

Adjacent to Pliska is the old Bulgarian mound in Novi Pazar.

Principality of Bulgaria
In 1914, the Nadezhda credit cooperative was founded in the city.

During the Ottoman rule, the city was called Ağa Baba. It regained its old name in 1925.

Republic of Bulgaria
Since the autumn of 2006 the reserve has a new museum building and a new exposition. The museum is very well arranged with interesting reconstructions and detailed boards. Near the museum is the tomb of Karel Shkorpil, whom the ancient Bulgarian capital conquered to such an extent that he wanted to be buried there.