Bulgaria a country of European Turkey, named from the Bulgarians, who, in the fifth century, quitting Asiatic Sarmatia, crossed the Danube and settled here, subjugating the Slavic (q.v.) inhabitants, and in process of time adopting their language. Later Slavic writers claim that the Bulgarians originally belonged to the Slavic family, and the modern Bulgarians claim to be Slavonians. Through the missionary labors of Methodius, brother of Cyril (q.v.), a prince of the country named Bogoris, or Boris, was baptized about A.D. 861, and took the name of Michael; upon this many of the Bulgarians received the faith. This Michael sent to pope Nicholas I legates, who propounded to the Holy See certain interesting questions (see Responsa ad Consulta Bulgarorum, ed. Hardouin, Acta Conciliorum, v. 353-386), and asked to be supplied with bishops and priests. The pope sent Paul, bishop of Populonia, and Formosus, bishop of Porto, about 866. Upon the ground that the Bulgarians had received the episcopal succession from Rome, the popes claimed jurisdiction over the country, but were resisted by the patriarchs of Constantinople. King Michael sent ambassadors to Constantinople in 869 to lay the case before the council then sitting for the restoration of Ignatius. The council decided that Bulgaria by right belonged to the patriarchal see of Constantinople. Modern Bulgarian writers claim that the Bulgarian dioceses were only nominally subject to Constantinople, and the author of the book called "Tsarstvennik" gives a complete list of a succession of independent Bulgarian patriarchs.
When the schism between East and West was confirmed, the Bulgarians remained in communion with Constantinople. They were finally subjugated by the Turks in 1491. In 1767 the sultan, Bajazet II, instigated, it is said, by the Greek patriarch, put to death many Bulgarian nobles, and placed the Bulgarian churches under the exclusive control of the Greek patriarch. The persistent policy of the Greek clergy in attempting to denationalize the Bulgarian people, suppressing their language and literature, etc., finally brought about a concerted action for the restoration of the Bulgarian hierarchy. The contest has not yet been settled. The Bulgarians have repeatedly complained of the extortions of the Greek clergy, and prayed for the appointment of a national patriarch independent of Constantinople. The Ottoman government, refusing to admit national distinctions among its subject races, refused to grant the request; and when, in 1860, the Greek patriarch excommunicated Harion (Hilary), the Bulgarian bishop of Balat, Constantinople, for insubordination, the Turkish government sent the bishop into exile. Strenuous exertions have been made by the Church of Rome to induce the Bulgarians to unite with them, and in 1861 an organization was effected, styled "The United Bulgarian Church," acknowledging the supremacy of the pope, but retaining the Slavic liturgy, and Bulgarian usages as to divine service, married priests, etc. A Bulgarian monk, named Joseph Sokolsky, was consecrated by the pope as the patriarch of the new organization. After a few months he deserted them, followed by several priests, and the movement was thereby retarded.
Protestant missions to the Bulgarians were commenced in 1857 by the Methodist Episcopal Church and by the American Board. In 1888 the former had four missionaries at Constantinople and Tultcha; the latter had five, at Constantinople, Sophia, Eski Zagra, and Philippopolis, in the last two places having schools. Several editions of the New Testament in Bulgarian have been published by the British and Foreign Bible Society, and at least fifteen thousand copies have been sold within a few years. A new version, prepared by the missionaries of both Boards at the expense of the British and Foreign Bible Society, was published at Constantinople in 1866, and was electrotyped in parallel pages with the Slavic version at the Bible House in New York by the American Bible Society in 1867.
Danubian Bulgaria in 1865 was formed into one province called Tuna Eyaleti, under the jurisdiction of a governor general, who resides at Rustchuk. The Bulgarians are estimated to number about 6,000,000, of whom about 4,500,000 live in European Turkey. Schem's Year-book, 1868; — Reports of A. B. C. F. M.; Reports of the Miss. Soc. of the Meth.
Epis. Church; Hilferding, Geschichte der Serben und Bulgaren; Schafarik, Slavische Alterthumer.