Preslav (Преслав) was the capital of the First Bulgarian Empire from 893 to 972 and one of the most important cities of medieval Southeastern Europe. The ruins of the city are situated in modern northeastern Bulgaria, some 20 kilometres southwest of the regional capital of Shumen, and are currently a national archaeological reserve.
The modern Veliki Preslav (Велики Преслав, "Great Preslav") is a town and municipality seat part of Shumen Province. A former village, it assumed the name of the medieval capital in 1878 and became a town in 1883. As of September 2005 it has a population of 10,064 and the mayor is Racho Kozhuharov. It lies at , 92 m above sea level.
The name of Preslav is clearly of Slavic
origin; apparently it was initially founded and functioned as a Slavic settlement until its fortification at the beginning of the 9th century. The proximity to the then Bulgarian capital of Pliska
led to the fast development and expansion of Preslav during the reign of the Khans Krum
. By the time of the coronation of Khan Boris I
in 852, Preslav had turned into an important strategic military centre and was the seat of the Ichirguboil
. A number of churches were built in the city after the conversion of the Bulgarians
The pagan revolt of the Pliska
nobility led by King Vladimir
in 892 was decisive for the future destiny of the city. In 893 Vladimir was dethroned and the new ruler, Simeon the Great
, decided to move the capital of the state from the still somewhat pagan Pliska to Preslav. In the following 80 years the city developed rapidly, turning into a centre not only of Bulgarian politics and diplomacy, but also of culture, literature and the fine arts. A chronicler mentioned that it took Simeon 28 years to establish and build up his new capital. Archeological excavations have, however, proved that the city continued to develop also during the 930s and 940s and reached the peak in its growth and magnificence in the middle of the rule of Tsar Peter I of Bulgaria
In view of the impressive town planning, the vital economy and the grandeur of buildings like the Round Church and the Royal Palace, Preslav was a true rival of the largest and most important city centres in the western hemisphere. Culturally, it was the centre of the Preslav Literary School which was founded in Pliska in 886 and was moved to Preslav along with the rest of the court in 893. The greatest Bulgarian writers from the Old Bulgarian period worked in Preslav, among them John Exarch, Constantine of Preslav, Chernorizets Hrabar. It was probably around the Preslav Literary School that the Cyrillic alphabet developed in middle of the 10th century. The city had also large ceramic workshops which produced art ceramics, glazed tiles, as well as ceramic icons and iconostases.
The city's fortune underwent a dramatic downturn at the end of the 960s, when it was occupied by Kievan Prince Sviatoslav
. The ensuing war between Ruthenians and Byzantines left the city burnt and ravaged by the army of Byzantine Emperor John I Tzimisces
. The conquerors took away the treasury, the Bulgarian Tsar
's regalia and a large part of the library of Simeon. Although the city did not lose its importance in the next three hundred years, the neighbouring outskirts and the big monasteries became desolate, the economy lost its vitality and significance.
Recovery and later history
Preslav regained some of its importance in Bulgarian politics during the first years of the joint rule of the founders of the Second Bulgarian Empire
, Peter IV of Bulgaria
and Ivan Asen I
. Apparently, Ivan Asen ruled from the centre of the uprising, Tarnovgrad
, whereas his brother and co-ruler Theodore Peter resided in Preslav as a symbol of the renewed statehood of Bulgaria. The strategic advantages of Tarnovgrad were, however, decisive in the long run and the significance of Preslav waned in the course of the 13th century. The Tatar
raids during the 1270s drove away the last citizens of Preslav, along with the protothroned bishop of the city. Some of the surviving refugees built up a village of the same name only two kilometres north from the fortress where the contemporary town of Veliki Preslav is now situated.
on Livingston Island
in the South Shetland Islands
is named after Preslav.