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Bulgaria's territory was inhabited by the Thracians (famed for their gold-making, fierce

warriors, and the gladiator Spartacus) for thousands of years before being conquered by the Macedonian Empire. Thrace was subsequently incorporated into the Roman Empire and later the Byzantine (East Roman) Empire. The first official data of Bulgaria is in the late 7th century (681 A.D.), when Slavic and Bulgar tribes entered the Byzantine provinces of Thrace, Moesia, and Macedonia and together formed the Bulgarian Empire. In succeeding centuries, the Bulgarian and Byzantine Empires dominated South-East Europe, but by the end of the 14th century, the region was overrun by the Ottoman Turks. Bulgaria was subjugated by the Ottoman Empire for five centuries. Bulgaria regained its independence in 1878 largely due to the intervention of the Russian Empire, who clipped the wings of the declining Ottoman Empire in Bulgaria and elsewhere. It installed a minor German prince (the nephew of the Russian tsar) as a ruler of the newly independent country. The country's iconic heroes are all freedom fighters against the Ottomans: whether Rakovsky (Раковски), who mixed revolution and literature, Vassil Levski (Васил Левски) - the Apostle of Freedom, or Hristo Botev (Христо Ботев), poet and fighter.
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