“UPPER” AND “LOWER” LAND
Prof. Dr. Petur Koledarov
The division by the Bulgarians of their motherland into an “Upper” and “Lower” Land is typological and a combination, or rather an accretion, of various ancient traditions. The already existing local tradition there had as a criterion the proximity of the sea or of a big river and brought from the East the four cardinal points and the movement of the Sun. Notwithstanding the hypsometric relationships (the South-western part is, generally speaking, higher than the North-eastern of the Bulgarian ethnic territory), the present geographic region of Macedonia was called “Lower Land”, “Lower Bulgaria” or “Lower Moesia”.
The two parts acquired the name of the Proto-Bulgarians already about the end of the 7th c. with the settlement of their two groups, led by the brother Khans Asparuh and Kuber, in Moesia and Dobroudja and in Macedonia. It was consolidated a second time in the last region, when it became part of the Bulgarian State in the 9th ñ. and especially after the fall of the capital city of Ohrid and the Kingdom under Byzantine rule in 1018 and the establishment by the enslaver of the Catepanship “Bulgaria” from the Lower Land with Skopie as center. It was then that two, instead of three parts were differentiated in the Bulgarian lands, since the Trans-Danubian (in its greater portion, between the Middle Danube and the Carpathian Mountains) fell under Hungarian rule, and the Upper Land became better known also as “Zagore”.
The earliest mention of the popular division into “Upper” and “Lower” Land that has reached us, is in the so-called Virginian Charter of Tsar Constantine Tih-Assen (1257-1278), in a monastery near Skopie, which was the centre of his feudal domain as a boyar prior to his ascending the throne in Turnovo. This practice, however, preceded and was retained after the fall of the Kingdom under Ottoman Turkish rule. It was more frequently attested in Bulgarian and foreign documents after the 15th century.
The regional geographic name “Macedonia” became widespread among the Bulgarian people in the 19th Ñ and began to gradually displace the macrotoponym “Lower Land”, but in the current century it continued to be used, although more seldom, in both the scientific and imaginative literature and in the spoken language.
In the centuries old custom of specifying the part of the land he inhabits
and the territory of his State, the Bulgarian shows his concept of the
integrity of his motherland and its extent, but along with that also the
awareness of his belonging to the national community of his compatriots
no matter whether he comes from the Upper or the Lower Land.