Lingering Dreams–Ferdinand of Bulgaria
Dreams have a way of lingering. The last remnants of the Second Bulgarian Empire were absorbed by the expanding Ottoman Empire in 1396, at which point Bulgaria became one of the (many) nations ruled by the Ottoman Turks. But the heart of Bulgarian culture remained intact and reemerged when Bulgaria won de facto independence from Turkey in 1878. The second ruler of the newly reemerged state (and the first to take the title Tsar, or King) was Ferdinand I (1861-1948), whose portrait is at left.
Ferdinand was elected prince-regent in 1887, a romantic time; rapidly, however, things became more pragmatic and bellicose. He steered Bulgaria through the Balkan Wars (Bulgaria was on the winning side in the first war, but lost the second). He abdicated in favor of his son, Boris, in 1918, to save the Bulgarian throne. His sexual adventures had caused a long-running scandal. But, more importantly, after losing the the Second Balkan War, Bulgaria, as one of the Central Powers, was on the losing side in the First World War. Lest present-day readers think him frivolous, Ferdinand helped expand Bulgarian territory during the First Balkan War and lived to see the execution of his younger son, Kiril, by the newly proclaimed People’s Republic of Bulgaria in 1945.
The communist regime in Bulgaria collapsed in 1989, just five years after the death of Ferdinand’s elder daughter, Eudoxia. In 2001, Simeon II, Ferdinand’s grandson, who had reigned during his minority as Tsar from 1943-1946, was elected Prime Minister of a newly democratic Bulgaria. Simeon remained in office until 2005, during which time his country joined NATO and political and economic conditions visibly improved.
Photo: Tsar Ferdinand I of Bulgaria in his younger days; royal photographer. WikiCmns; Public Domain