THE REINSTATEMENT OF THE BULGARIAN KINGDOM (1186 -1207)
In the second half of the 12th c. the Byzantine Empire was in crisis which stimulated the liberation movement of the Bulgarians. In 1186, in the ,,St. Dimiter" church in Turnovo, in front of the crowd, the two boyar brothers of Bulgarian-Kuman origin Peter and Assen declared an uprising for the reinstatement of the Bulgarian kingdom. For several years the two brothers liberated the territories north of the Balkan Mountains in heavy battles with the Byzantines.
In 1190 the Emperor of Byzantium Isaac II Angel made an unsuccessful attempt at the siege of Turnovo. On the way back his army suffered defeat and a large number of soldiers were killed. The Emperor himself had a close escape. The Emperor's tent and the cross with a piece of Christ's cross were captured by the Bulgarians and decorated the Bulgarian royal treasure.
King Assen I continued military operations and retrieved many Bulgarian territories south of the Balkans. During one of his campaigns he conquered the relics of St. Ivan Rilski and turned their transfer to Turnovo into a national event, expressing the continuity of Bulgarian state tradition. Suffering losses on the battlefield, Byzantium organized a conspiracy for killing the Bulgarian ruler. King Assen I was killed by his relative, the boyar Ivanko. Not long after that King Peter became victim of a conspiracy too.
Their brother King Kaloyan (1197 - 1207) managed to strengthen the state despite the fierce intestine war among the Bulgarian aristocracy. He won on his side the fast cavalry of the Koumans and in 1201 conquered the fortress of Varna, which was very important for the Byzantines. He liberated the Black Sea region, northern and western Thrace, Macedonia, Kosovo Pole, Prizren and Prishtina. Byzantium was forced to conclude a peace treaty in 1202. In 1202 - 1203 King Kaloyan waged war with the Hungarian kingdom and retrieved Belgrade, Branichevo and Nish.
The major achievement of King Kaloyan is that he strengthened the Bulgarian kingdom and contributed to its international recognition.
The gem of his diplomatic activity was his correspondence with one of the strongest and most influential popes - Innocent III, which ended up in a union of the Bulgarian kingdom and the Roman curia.
On 7 November 1204 the papal legate, Cardinal Leo, anointed the Bulgarian archbishop Vassiliy as primas (notable) of Bulgaria, a title considered equal to that of a patriarch. On the next day he crowned Kaloyan as ,,king and sovereign of all Bulgarians and Walachians".
The union with the Roman Church was not an obstacle for King Kaloyan to oppose the new Latin Empire created on the ruins of Byzantium, becoming in this way a ,,protector of Orthodoxy". This paradox in his policy was a factor in consolidating the newly formed centres of Byzantine opposition against the western-catholic expansion.
Very soon the Bulgarian king had to engage in a duel with a new mighty empire, the one that appeared in the place of Byzantium - the Latin Empire of Constantinople.
The decisive battle took place on 14 April 1205 near Adrianopolis (today's Ederne). According to the Byzantine chronicler Nikita Honiat and the Western historian Geoffroi de Villehardouin, the Bulgarian army, led by King Kaloyan, dealt a deadly blow at the knights and their Emperor Baldwin I was captured and taken to Turnovo.
In the following two years the Bulgarian kingdom waged wars in the south and the southwest.
At the end of September 1207 Kaloyan besieged Thessalonica and found his death before the walls of the town.
Kaloyan's short term of rule left deep traces in the Bulgarian state and the entire European southeast, strengthening the kingly title of the Bulgarian rulers and predetermining the end of the Latin Empire.