The book by the famous British historian Sir Steven Runciman History of the First Bulgarian Empire came out in London in 1930. Such a notion probably sounds unusual and provocative to many, because people are used to define with this term the powerful empires of the Romans, of the French under Napoleon Bonaparte, or of the Russians at the time of Peter I and Catherine the Great. Somehow the political destiny and the borders of today's Bulgaria do not correspond to such a notion. However, it is forgotten here that there are other states in Europe, which are small now, but which have succeeded great empires. Austria is even smaller than Bulgaria in terms of territory, but less than a century has elapsed since its imperial history. Even a look at the title of the Bulgarian rulers would reveal that it differs radically from that of the other European dynasts. Numerous kings, princes, dukes, vojvodas and bans can be seen on the motley political map of the Old Continent during the Middle Ages.Two empires had a prominent presence in the East and in the
West: the Eastern Roman Empire, or the Byzantine Empire, and the empire of the Franks that was to be transformed later into the Holy German Empire. One state dominated in the Balkans over most of the time until the 14th century, and that was the Bulgarian Tsardom. It was only in the mid-14th century and at the time of their greatest power in their entire history that the Serbian rulers acquired a royal title that was to be taken away from them ignominiously just several years later.