Veliki Preslav (Great Preslav)



Location: 20 km South-west of Shumen, Shumen Province     Map

Capital of the First Bulgarian Empire: 893- 972 AD


Description of Preslav Archaeological Site

Preslav is a former medieval capital situated 20 km South- West of Shumen in the Shumen Province in Bulgaria. It served as the capital of the First Bulgarian Kingdom between 893 AD and 972 AD. Area of a current Preslav Archaeological Site was originally found in the late 8th or early 9th century as a small village. Its name is Slavic in origin hinting that it was a Slavic rather than Bulgarian village. During rule of khans (Bulgarian rulers) Krum and Omurtag it began to grow in size due to close proximity to a Bulgarian cpital of Pliska. Originally Preslav was predominantly a pagan city dominated by temples and shrines dedicated to numerous Slavic and Bulgarian gods. With the conversion of the Bulgarians to Eastern Orthodox Christianity in 864 under the influence of the nearby Byzantine Empire, first Chrisitian churches appeared.
Village Preslav grew in size and even became the seat of Chargobilya or Ichurgy- boil, a high ranking civil official. It was turned into a city of Veliki Preslav or Great Preslav was established in 893- 972 AD during the First Bulgarian Kingdom during reign of Prince Boris I. King Boris I met a great deal of resistance among the pagan nobility. They began an open rebellion under leadership of Prince Vladimir in 892 AD. Rebels quickly took the capital of the Bulgarian Kingdom of Pliska. King Boris had to flee to nearby Preslav that had an established Christian population and that didn't really support the rebellion.
Preslav became a center of military camp with a fortified palace and military barracks for the royal garrison. King Boris remained here and used the city as a base for military operations against the rebels. Just one year later in 893 AD Prince Vladimir was dethroned. In 893 after the Preslav Church People's Assembly the city that became known as the Council of Preslav, Preslav was declared officially as the capital. Additionally King Boris appointed Simeon the Great as his legitimate successor.
In 970 AD Kievan Prince Svetoslav I, prompted by the Byzantine Emperor John I Tzimiskes to proclaim a war against Bulgarian Kingdom. Russian- Ukrainian prince led his Slavic/ Viking army against Preslav and promptly took it. Just a year later Byzantine army turned against Svetoslav and re- captured Preslav again. Byzantines renamed it into Yoanopol. That name remained until the 12th century. After the resumption of the Bulgarian state after the rebellion of Ivan Asen I and Theodore, Peter (1185- 87), Preslav again became a Bulgarian Fortress. It subsequently returned its original historic name.
During the Ottoman period Preslav remain inhabited, but it was a small village and most of original city fell in desrepair. Preslav diocese became independent from the Patriarchate of Constantinople in 1871. A year later on August 20, 1872 Archimandrite Simeon was ordained as a bishop of the Diocese Preslav.
Preslav became an important cultural center of the Medieval Bulgaria. Preslav Literary School in particular became famous for its authors and literal gems. Some of the prominent medieval writers and scientist that worked here include Naum Ohridski, Konstantin of Preslav, John Exarch, Presbyter Kozma, Todor Doktsov and many others.


The town is located in Shoumen district, 20 km from Shoumen, it is the third largest in the district after Shoumen and Novi Pazar and is the administrative center of Veliki Preslav municipality. The area of ​​Preslav is 5 square kilometers.

A report on the study of prehistoric settlements in Northeastern Bulgaria from 1926 shows that since the beginning of the twentieth century there is a well-known settlement mound, which existed during the Neolithic, Chalcolithic and Bronze Ages. It is called "The Dead" and has a diameter of 150 m and a height of 5 m, located 0.5 km west of the city. Archaeological excavations have revealed a second settlement mound in the land of Veliki Preslav, which dates from the Neolithic and Chalcolithic. It is located in the Gebeklisse area 2 km south of the city, 150 m from the river Golyama Kamchia and has a diameter of 70 m and a height of 5.5 m.

Early Middle Ages
Remains of a three-nave church from the first half of the 5th century have been found in the Deli Dushka area, outside the walls of the later medieval town.

The town emerged in the second half of the ninth century during the reign of Prince Boris I (852 - 889) as a military camp with a fortified palace and garrison, located 30 km from the capital of the First Bulgarian State Pliska. In 893, after the Preslav Church-People's Assembly, the city was declared the capital of Bulgaria, becoming the seat of the first Bulgarian literary school. The Preslav Literary School developed as an important literary and cultural center in Bulgaria and in the Slavic world, where prominent medieval writers and scholars Naum Ohridski, Konstantin Preslavski, John the Exarch, Presbyter Kozma, Chernorizets Hrabar, Tudor Doksov and others served.

The apogee of culture in the town of Preslav was attested in the period 893–972. The town became one of the most beautiful and majestic towns in Southeast Europe, from which significant monuments of the Pliskov-Preslav culture have been preserved. The outer city was surrounded by white stone walls. The constructions of the gates, towers and walls are similar to those in Pliska. The inner city was also surrounded by a wall where the royal palace complex is located: majestic stone palaces such as the Grand Palace and the Throne Palace with columns, and the Round Church and others richly decorated with mosaics, marble and ceramic icons.

Capture of the city in 971
At the end of the 60s of the X century the Kiev prince Svetoslav I, instigated by the Byzantine emperor John I Tsimiski, set out on a campaign to Bulgaria and managed to conquer the northeastern part of the country, including the large cities of Drustar (now Silistra) and Preslav (971 ). He continued his march to the south and attacked the Byzantines, who in the ensuing war entered Eastern Bulgaria initially as liberators and drove out the Russians. However, Emperor John Tsimiski decided to take advantage of the situation and occupied the eastern Bulgarian lands, including Drustar and Preslav, capturing the Bulgarian Tsar Boris II and seizing the Preslav treasury. In honor of his victory, Emperor John named the city after himself, giving it the Byzantine name Ioanopolis. The city was liberated by King Samuel in 976 and remained in Bulgarian hands until 1001, when it again came under Byzantine rule. In 1053 Preslav was conquered and plundered by the Pechenegs.

After the restoration of the Bulgarian state after the uprising of Ivan Assen I and Theodore-Peter (1185 - 1187) Preslav again became a Bulgarian fortress. In the extensive history of the contemporary of the uprising, Nikita Honiat reports about Preslav that it is an old town and the whole is made of baked bricks. Among the archeological finds from this period are the ceramic icon of St. Theodore Stratilat, the Preslav Golden Treasure and the ceramic iconostasis from the Palace Monastery, a unique collection of lead seals, a valuable collection of epigraphic monuments, a chess piece (pawn).

Ottoman ruling
Preslav, under the name Eski Istanbuloluk, is mentioned in the work of the Turkish chronicler Mehmed Neshri A book about the description of the world as one of the fortresses of the Bulgarian king Ivan Shishman. The town was registered in the Ottoman Tahrir from 1516, in the register of Djelepkeshans in the Shumen kaza from 1573, in a report from 1595 of the Dubrovnik merchant Pavel Djordjic, and also in a list of jizya inns from 1620/1621. later tax status of the settlement is indicated by the tax reliefs in two documents from 1622 and 1624, and in his report from 1640 the Catholic bishop Petar Bogdan called the town Prislavan and indicated that about 6000 people lived in it. By 1665 the Christian population of the town decreased significantly - the number of registered households was only 53.

In a diocesan list (notice) from the second half of the 15th century, Tarnovo is listed as a metropolitan center with three dioceses (Cherven, Lovech and Preslav) - former metropolitan departments from the 13th-14th centuries. The Preslav diocese became independent from the Constantinople Patriarchate. later, on August 20, 1872, Archimandrite Simeon was ordained Metropolitan of the Preslav Diocese.