|Asparukh of Bulgaria|
Asparukh was born around the year AD 640 in what is now Ukraine. He was the second son of Kubrat, who had set up the state of Great Bulgaria on the steppes of modern Ukraine. Asparukh learned leadership and politics from his father, and his father appointed him the leader of the Onogur tribe. When Kubrat died in 665, Asparukh's brother, Bat Bayan, took the throne, but by 668, Great Bulgaria had dissolved due to attacks from Khazars, semi-nomadic Turks. Bat Bayan and Asparukh each led their people to safer lands, each going a different way.
Finding a Homeland
Asparukh, with 30,000 to 50,000 Bulgars with him, traveled south and east along the coast of the Black Sea. Eventually, the group reached the Danube, settling down along the Danube delta. This land was claimed by the Byzantine Empire, but the Bulgars were not attacked because Constantinople was currently under siege by Muawiyah I of the Umayyad dynasty. When the siege ended in 678, Emperor Constantine IV attacked the Bulgars and Slavs, forcing most of those attacked into fortified encampments. During his campaign, Constantine IV had to leave his troops to get medicine for an ailment of his. A rumor spread that Constantine had run away, and Constantine's soldiers began to desert. As they did, Asparukh led his followers against the weakened Byzantine army, breaking through the blockade and moving past the Danube at the battle of Ongala in 680. Asparukh quickly took the Balkan area with the Slavic tribes as his allies.
In 681, Constantine IV made peace with Asparukh and agreed to send money to the Bulgars each year in return for protection from the Khazars. Asparukh settled his people down in the Balkans, creating what many wold call the first true Bulgarian state.
Asparukh died in 701 while fighting Khazars. Asparukh is on our list of people because he was the first person to create a Balkan state. Not only was he the first, he got his state to be formally recognized by the Byzantine Empire and had the Byzantine Empire relying on him for protection. Because of Asparukh's leadership, the Bulgars as well as the Slavic tribes were able to set up their own nations in the Balkans, creating the many states that we see in that region to this day.