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By 1018, the whole of Bulgaria had fallen once more under the sway of Byzantine rule.

The Second Bulgarian Empire began in 1185, when the brothers Asen and Peter forced the weakening Byzantine Empire to recognize an independent Bulgarian state. With the ascension of Asen II (1218-41), medieval Bulgaria reached its zenith in cultural development and in territorial growth.

A handful of monasteries still bear frescoes dating from this period. It was plagued by constant warfare against the Byzantines, the Magyars, and the Kievan Russians and by internal disarray.

In 1014, the Bulgarian czar Samuel lost a decisive battle to the Byzantine Emperor Basil II, who ordered the mass blinding of 14,000 Bulgarian prisoners.

Since the country cast off Soviet-sponsored Communism in late 1989, Bulgarians have increasingly turned to public worship, and religious observance has been on the upswing. Turkish has survived several waves of repression during Communist rule and is the primary language of about eight percent of citizens.Bulgaria shares its western border with Serbia and Macedonia and its southern border with Greece and Turkey.The Black Sea coastline bounds the country to the east.The close identification of the Bulgarian Orthodox religion with the nation was a thread that wove through much of the country's history, as the Church repeatedly found itself shouldering the burden of nation-building and acting as sanctuary to Bulgarian culture.Under the reign of Boris I's son, Czar Simeon (893-927), the First Bulgarian Empire reached its maximum size and its golden age of art, literature, and commerce.

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    That year, only seven women occupied parliamentary positions.