The following is the history of Rhodope.
The Thracians lived in what is now known as Bulgaria from about 3500 B.C. They were incorporated into the Roman Empire by the first century A.D. At the decline of the empire, the Goths, Huns, Bulgars, and Avars invaded. The Bulgars, who crossed the Danube from the north in 679, took control of the region. Although the country bears the name of the Bulgars, the Bulgar language and culture died out, replaced by a Slavic language, writing, and religion. In 865, Boris I adopted Orthodox Christianity. The Bulgars twice conquered most of the Balkan peninsula between 893 and 1280. But in 1396 they were invaded by the Ottoman Empire, which made Bulgaria a Turkish province until 1878. Ottoman rule was harsh and inescapable, given Bulgaria's proximity to its oppressor. In 1878, Russia forced Turkey to give Bulgaria its independence after the Russo-Turkish War. But the European powers, fearing Russia's and Bulgaria's dominance in the Balkans, intervened at the Congress of Berlin, limiting Bulgaria's territory.
Alexander was succeeded in 1887 by Prince Ferdinand, who declared a kingdom independent of the Ottoman Empire on Oct. 5, 1908. In the First Balkan War, Bulgaria and the other members of the Balkan League fought against Turkey to regain Balkan territory. Angered by the small portion of Macedonia it received after the battle—it considered Macedonia an integral part of Bulgaria—the country instigated the Second Balkan War against Turkey as well as its former allies. Bulgaria lost the war and all the territory it had gained in the First Balkan War. Bulgaria joined Germany in World War I in the hope of again gaining Macedonia, but lost. After this second failure, Ferdinand abdicated in favor of his son in 1918. Bulgaria fought on the side of the Nazis in World War II, but after Russia declared war on Bulgaria on Sept. 5, 1944, Bulgaria switched sides. Three days later, on Sept. 9, 1944, a Communist-dominated coalition, the Fatherland Front, took control of the country.
The Communist party increased its membership from 15,000 to 250,000 during the following six months. However, Bulgaria did not become a people's republic until 1946. The country installed a Soviet-type planned economy, although some market-oriented policies emerged on an experimental level under Todor Zhivkov, the First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Bulgarian Communist Party from 1954 until Doomsday. By the mid 1950s standards of living rose significantly. Zhivkov dominated the politics of the country from 1956 to Doomsday, thus becoming one of the most established Warsaw Pact leaders. He also asserted Bulgaria's position as the most reliable Soviet ally, and increased its overall importance in the Comecon.
The nation of Bulgaria was crippled by nuclear strikes on the following cities:
- Burgas, a major city and the largest port in Bulgaria, along with a minor naval base.
- Plovdiv,the second largest city in Bulgaria and a center of heavy industry.
- Rousse, the location of the only Danube bridge along the Romania-Bulgaria border and the largest port along the river in this region.
- Sofia, the capital.
- Varna, the headquarters of the Bulgarian Navy, a major port and city, and a minor soviet naval base.
- Yambol, destroyed in a strike on the nearby large air base.
It was also effected by the strikes on Edirne in Turkey, Thessaloniki in Greece, and the cities of Bucharest and Constanta in Romania.
The mountainous regions of south-central Bulgaria, in the Rhodope Mountains, avoided destruction in the events of Doomsday, as the area was not hit and the radiation from the strikes in the region was carried northeasterly and easterly, keeping it away from the mountains. Communications throughout the region were also taken out in the process.
However, refugees from the strikes on Sofia, Plovdiv, Edirne and Thessaloniki soon began to arrive and to overwhelm the inhabitants. Several communities, in response, set up barricades and roadblocks in order to prevent the entry of the refugees. These were successful in most cases, and word spread that this was an effective method to keep them out; as fears of being overrun increased, so did the adoption of this method, which while cruel, meant that they would survive. In the end, this combined with the coming of winter meant that the refugees, except for the early refugees and those who had been let in afterwards, in the form of learned men such as doctors and a party of reform-minded government officials who had somehow escaped the destruction of Sofia and Plovdiv. These officials were sent in the direction of the city of Smolyan by the people who found them.
The city of Smolyan, having avoided destruction on Doomsday, lost contact with the rest of its province shortly thereafter with the downing on communications. Slowly, they were able to re-establish them by use of messengers on horseback, in the same manner as word of the barricades spread. By the end of 1984, they were once again in control of the province.
About the same time as some semblance of control was re-established in the province, the party of officials arrived in Smolyan. Meeting with the governor and provincial officials, they decided that they should declare themselves a provisional Bulgarian government, under the governor of Smolyan province, until contact could be made with the government again.
In the meanwhile, it was agreed that they should send troops into the portions of the mountains inside neighboring provinces, in order to establish a more secure perimeter of defenses, for bandits and other armed bands had begun to raid the border areas and the other provinces were thus viewed as security risks in the current situation. Thankful for some protection and stability, these areas would gladly join the provisional government, though portions of the eastern and western mountains had been overwhelmed by refugees from Turkey and Sofia, respectively and were thus not included.
At the same time, after much heated debate, it was decided to send a small force south of the Greek border, into the section of the mountains there. This force, upon finding the border guards absent, crossed the border, and found a roadblock across the road. Approaching this barrier, the force was fired on, though the wildly inaccurate fire missed horribly. The soldiers put up a white flag, to parley with those manning the roadblock - they agreed to do so. After some discussion, it was learned that the men had thought the soldiers were part of an invading army, which they had expected since the disaster happened. After stating their intentions, the soldiers were accompanied to the nearby town of Kato Nevrokopi, where they met with the mayor, who, after listening to their promises of autonomy, the right to rejoin Greece after making contact with the Greek government, and security agreed to, for now, join them. Much the same event occurred at other points of contact in the region.
The provisional government would then largely seal off the region from the outside, in the hope it would keep them safe until outside help arrived. Over the course of the next few years, sporadic bandit raids and attacks by former soldiers would occur, gradually becoming worse and worse at the northern roadblocks as time went by. This gradually became apparent to the government in Smolyan, who could not fathom why this was the case.
Eventually, in mid-1989, a former university professor of history who had been let past the barricades came to the government, and explained his theory, in which the increased rate of attacks was due to some other armed group driving the bandits before them, much like the barbarians of old, and that this group was moving in their general direction. This professor would later be named the head of the University of Smolyan that was established in 1998.
This theory was considered by the government to be sound, with many cursing themselves for not having thought of it on their own. It was hoped that the cause was that forces from the official Bulgarian government were driving them forward. However, this was not to be the case.
In March of 1990, for the first time in many months, there was a lull in sightings of bandits and the like at the northeastern barricades. By the end of the month, the eastern and northern barricades were reporting the same occurrence. Upon reading these reports, officials in Smolyan knew that whatever had been pushing the bandits forward would be there soon.
On April 7th, a heavily-armed group in Soviet uniforms arrived at the main northeastern roadblock. Surprised at finding some semblance of authority remaining, their leader demanded to meet with government officials of the provisional government. After some indecision, the guards at the barricade let them pass and their commander accompanied the Soviet patrol to Smolyan.
They arrived there late on the 8th, the the commander of the patrol was rushed in to meet with the leaders of the government. Upon finding out that the government itself was not wholly communist, the commander of the patrol - which was learned to be the scouts for a well-armed infantry force that had looted and burned its way across Bulgaria, which had escaped doomsday by being out of their base on maneuvers at the time - announced that he was taking control, for the officials were, in his mind, "traitors" to the party. He then began to remove his sidearm in order to execute the heads of the government. Luckily for all involved, he was prevented from completely raising his arm by a quick-thinking guard who had peeked in the room after hearing the commotion, and seeing the Soviet reach for his sidearm, had shot him before he could do anything.
Before he died, the officer told them that they would be missed, and that the main body of soldiers would thus be there within two days - and would crush them, due to numbering at some two thousand men.
Upon hearing this, the government quickly issued orders for the barricades to be reinforced, and for the inhabitants of the most likely targeted areas to be rapidly evacuated southwest, to safety. The remainder of the patrol was also imprisoned.
At dawn on the 10th, the guards at the barricades began to report sighting soldiers approaching their positions - and requested both aid, and permission to retreat if they thought that they would be overwhelmed. Both requests were granted. By noon, they had been overrun, with the remnants retreating in the direction of Smolyan, under fire. Aid did not arrive fast enough.
The military head of the government, however, decided to lay a trap in an effort to stop the Soviet troops, who were rapidly advancing on Smolyan, having likely received some intelligence as to the location of the capital from somewhere. An ambush was laid upon the main route into the city, involving hidden pits of spikes and snipers, all near a hill which the army could hide behind, in a reverse-slope technique like used by Wellington, long before.
On the 12th, the main body of the Soviet force began to arrive. By the end of the day, they had encamped a short distance from the location of the trap. Luckily for the defenders, the Soviet forces considered them so incompetent, that they assumed there would be no further resistance, and did not bother to send out patrols.
When, just after sunrise the next morning, the soviets continued their advance, they were met with a very rude surprise: they ran head-on into the trap. Most of the force were slaughtered or trapped, though a couple of enemy platoons did manage a breakthrough, and made it to the city, where they fought their way to the government headquarters and were only barely kept out until help arrived and massacred them. None of the attacking force would get out of the mountains alive.
After interrogating the few prisoners taken, it was learned that the troops were currently basing themselves out of the city of Haskovo, only a days march away from their territory. at a large meeting of the politicians and military heads, it was decided that it was likely that with this attacking force defeated, Haskovo was probably lightly defended. Thus, it was decided that whatever military forces could be spared would attack Haskovo, hoping to achieve surprise. To aid in this objective, some of the soldiers, led by a few who spoke Russian, would attempt to infiltrate in advance of the main body.
Word quickly got out in Smolyan of the imminent attack. Luckily, no one was in any shape to bring news to Haskovo. However, the most fanatical members of the communist party, who had not gone along with the democratization like the majority of the membership, heard about it and decided to try and do something about it.
To this end, they decided to try and blow up the building that the armory and ammunition storehouse was located in. They reasoned that by blowing it up, they would halt the attack and cause the victory of the Soviet troops.However, due to the actions of some brave and alert guards, the plot was noticed, and they ended up blowing themselves up in the street, killing or injuring a hundred and twelve innocents.
Despite this, the attack itself, while slightly delayed, went off without a hitch. The colonel in command had not even bothered to fortify their camp, so convinced was he that there was no chance of attack. However, he was mistaken.
The ruse of the Bulgarians worked. Led by a Bulgarian who had somehow managed to learn Russian without a traceable accent, they managed to dupe their way past the guards after sundown, and to slaughter them after their backs had been turned. From there, the army got into the camp without notice, though as they were still outnumbered slightly, they had to watch themselves. The barracks where the enemy soldiers slept was surrounded, and then burned to the ground. And the colonel and his officers, largely captured unawares in their beds, were hung from a tree for their crimes.
Soon, the officers in charge of the attack got off word of their victory to Smolyan, where it brought celebration at victory and distraught at the deaths and destruction - and ensured that the changes, meant to be temporary in 1985, would stay - and that the Soviets would have nothing to do with Bulgaria - at least in this area, at any rate - ever again. The Communists started a new Socialist party, and the communist party itself was banned.
As a net gain, the city of Haskovo and its environs - along with the surprising amount of civilians that had been effectively enslaved there by the soldiers - was annexed by the government.
Rogue soldiers from this small Soviet army would be a nuisance to the government for the next decade, in one form or another, from the patrols that were outside the city at the time of the victory and the few that managed to flee Haskovo after or during the battle.
In October of 1994, an expedition arrived in Kato Nevrokopi from the south, claiming to be from a "Confederation of Greece" that had been established in June of the same year. They expressed great surprise at finding a state of any sort in power there, though they were displeased it was Bulgarian in nature, not Greek.
Apparently, they had set out from Mount Athos in the direction of the border, both to see if there was any surviving units of the Greek military there and to fight off any invaders. Up until arriving in Kato Nevrokopi, they had found little, having beat off some renegade units of the Bulgarian army and added some surviving Greek soldiers to their cause. They were taken over the Greek border to Smolyan, in order to meet with officials there.
They demanded to know what the Bulgarians were doing in possession of sovereign Greek territory, and were meekly told by the officials that it had been for purposes of security that it had been done, and that under the terms of the agreement that had been made, the Greeks were welcome to retake possession over their territory. The officer in charge of the expedition sighed, and apologized for his behavior. Unfortunately, however, they could not take possession at the time, due to the distance between the towns and the nearest territory, around Mount Athos, that was under firm Greek control.
The soldiers also told of the outside world - what they knew, at any rate. Stories were shared, and it was agreed that as soon as possible, the Greek towns would be returned to Greece. It was also established by the officer that Greece would have no claims to Bulgaria, though depending on how things around Thrace looked they might adjust the borders slightly.
Many things were told - of the collapse of Yugoslavia, the collapse of American authority in North America, and more. With word of the collapse of Yugoslavia, it was rapidly decided that troops would be sent in that direction after the Greeks left, maybe to gain some territory.
During the winter of 1994-1995, an expedition was organized to head west in the spring. On April 1st, they headed out, in the direction of the Macedonian area of the former Yugoslavia. Their objective was to gather intelligence on the situation there, and to hopefully take some measure of control there.
They would approach the former border between the Bulgaria and Yugoslavia, and arrived in its general vicinity in late May, having fought off a few bandit attacks by isolated Soviet troops along the way. Early one morning, they would accidentally stumble upon another group heading east, which turned out to have much the same objective, only with the goal of expanding the Macedonian state in existence in the former Yugoslavia into the Bulgarian portion of the Macedonian region. Following some rush negotiating between the two groups, it was decided that the border between the two would remain the same as previously was the case, in order to avoid any fighting over the matter. It was also established that future modification of the border may occur at sometime in the future, but would only be small scale matters.
The Rhodope expedition would arrive back in Smolyan in early July, where they would be chastised for accepting such a deal so easily, but in the end it was approved by the government.
Following the failure of the westbound expedition, it was decided that another would be sent the following year northwards, around the ruins of Plovdiv and Sofia towards Belgrade and Transylvania.
The next April, in 1996, a larger group was sent north. Their goal was, again, to asses the situation, but also to investigate the ruins of Sofia and Plovdiv as much as possible for historical artifacts and the like.
In Plovdiv, not much was found - a few cultural artifacts and technical manuals, along with a couple of pieces of machinery - but they were easily sent back to Smolyan under heavy guard, where they would be put to work, or in a museum.
However, in late August, while exploring the ruins of Sofia, a party of troops hunting for a museum on the edge of the contaminated zone ran into another armed group, who were also wearing uniforms. Shots were rapidly exchanged, with casualties on both sides, and both sides would retreat, each thinking that they were outnumbered by the other.
The commander of the Rhodope forces sent a large body of his troops, numbering about half of his force, to where the enemy had been spotted. Once there, they were fairly easily able to follow the path that the enemy had retreated down. In doing so,they stumbled into an ambush. Luckily, they outnumbered the ambushers by a fair margin, so they were able to turn back the ambush, though a fair number of them became casualties in the process. They were then able to occupy the enemy camp, though it was painfully obvious that those who had been there had already retreated from the area. Judging from the size of the camp, the Rhodope commanders knew that their forces had outnumbered the enemy overall, with even the forces sent out to investigate the earlier incident being estimated at having outnumbered the enemy by around 4 to 1. Yet, in the ambush a good half of the forces sent out had been killed or wounded, mostly by machine gun and sniper fire.
Interrogating the surviving enemies from the ambush, it was discovered that they were from a state based in the city of Vidin. While the more moderate leaders of the party had fled southwards, the more hard-line members had fled northwards, eventually arriving there. Soviet troops had been picked up along the way, and more arrived after their arrival there. They had imposed a communist state on the people there, and continued to become more authoritarian as time passed. Eventually, the Soviet forces - which had effectively ended in control of the military and parts of the government - overthrew the government, establishing a Soviet Republic. While the Soviets themselves had largely given up active control, only acting behind the scenes, the Bulgarian communists now in charge had not changed a thing about the name or governance of the nation, still being directed by the Soviet troops.
This startling revelation meant that the survivors of the expedition had to quickly finish up investigating the ruins around the radiated centre of Sofia and return to Smolyan with the news. They would march back into Smolyan to report on Christmas Day, 1996 - missing a quarter of the original number that had left. Their startling news would bring change - they were now definitely not alone as a claimant to the territory of Bulgaria. Nut, it also meant the start of a long, yet brutal war between the two.
The year 1996 saw the first clashes between Rhodope and Vidin - but the war itself can be said to have definitely started in the summer of 1997.
A force, larger than the one that had been sent out the previous year, was sent from Smolyan with orders to attack this "Soviet Republic" and to defeat its military. This force did manage to enter territory that seemed to be under the control of the communists, but they were being cocky, not patrolling nearly enough, and were thus ambushed about 15 miles out from Vidin, being put to flight. When the survivors managed to return to Rhodope territory, they only numbered half of what had left - a tremendous loss of life. This debacle would result in the firing of the generals in charge of the army for gross incompetence. Only a single commander from the army was kept, due to his unit having actually not walked into the trap and even gloriously covered the haphazard retreat afterwards. He would be made the new commander of the army as a result, meaning a change in tactics and an acknowledgment that the war would not be a short and easy one like the earlier generals had repeatedly predicted before they were sacked.
The next few years would see repeated skirmishes between the armies of the two countries in the no-mans land between them, with each having little to show for it other than deaths. In one particular instance, a platoon sized patrol from each nation fought a small pitched battle southwest of the ruins of Sofia, some 20 miles east of the Macedonian border - both sides would get bloodied and eventually pull back from this skirmish, which was more or less the case in all of these occurrences. Rhodope needed to build up its forces for the kind of wide ranging offensive that would be needed to expel the communists, while Vidin seemed to be conserving its forces, for whatever reason. In October of 2000, however, it would become apparent that this was not the case.
On October 30th, 2000, a series of hit and run mortar attacks by the Vidin communists occurred along the border defenses of Rhodope. This led to the army sending reinforcements from the central areas of the nation to the borders, weakening patrols and defenses in those areas. In the late afternoon of the next day, with security weakened, communist agitators who had entered the nation by climbing over the high mountains around the defense lines committed several acts of terrorism, including such things as suicide bombings in the main square of Smolyan and opening fire with a sub-machine gun into the crowd in the state museum. While devastating in some regards, it could have been much worse - a number of would-be terrorists had been captured due to a combination of vigilance and faulty explosives. Upon interrogation, these terrorists gave up not only the essence of the plan - to basically get the Rhodopians to make peace through terror - but also the names of a few Rhodope citizens who had aided them. These people - a few hidden communists and a couple of members of the socialist party - were quickly rounded up and imprisoned as well. The majority of these terrorists and their allies would be executed.
While it did shock the populace, the attacks did not have the intended effect; rather, it steeled resolve for the end of the communist state and actually led to increased support for the endeavor. Due to a vigilant police officer having stopped a bombing of the Greek embassy, support also came from that corner in the form of arms shipments being sent in return for Rhodope support and natural resources.
With this new support, the Rhodope army finally had the ability to carry out its offensive plans. The next fall, on September 11th, troops began fanning out from Rhodope borders into the area between there and Vidin. To these troops fell the unpleasant task of rounding up any surviving civilians in the area at their villages, and fortifying themselves there, to keep any of their food out of the hands of the communists - much like the British tactics used in the Boer Wars. They continued this in a pattern until they returned to the area thought to be actively controlled by the Vidin communists. Here, they found a defensive line had been established by the Vidinites - one that they would need heavy artillery to break through. As they had none at the time, they began to establish their own line opposite the Vidin one.
This new stalemate in the war, while meaning the Rhodope lands would be safe, still prevented any actual gain of the lands between Rhodope and Vidin - while the defense line was covered, it was still possible for communist infiltrators to circumvent the line, and cause mayhem for the supply lines of the Rhodope army. Several attempts at gaining the artillery needed to take the line occurred, but a combination of factors - avalanches in the mountains, attacks by the communists or bandits on the convoys holding them, and even on one occasion the ship bringing the weapons being attacked and sunk by Sicilians.
The Rhodope military came into possession of a pair of older planes in 2005, in the ruins of the Plovdiv airport. Using these planes to scout, they determined the area possessed by the communists, as well as what seemed to be fortification walls being erected around the city of Vidin as well as what is believed to be the former city of Belogradchik.
On August 2, 2010, after a slight delay caused by rains, the newly-acquired tanks and howitzers arrived at the defense line. The commander of the army expected breakthroughs at several points shortly thereafter, and got them. By the 14th of August, Vidin itself was under siege, and broken into, and Belogradchik had been besieged too. Vidinite troops managed to bring down one of the scout planes, and attempted to start a war between Macedonia and Rhodope, though unsuccessfully. The Major and Paunov were killed in the fighting, and Pirinski was captured, and will stand trial with other members of the Vidin Soviet in the New Year. Belogradchik, following a revolt by hungry members of its garrison that killed Paunov, surrendered on the 3rd of September, and Vidin itself was secured on the 20th, when the last holdouts had their buildings fall on top of them, killing the major in the process. With that, major combat ended - some Vidinites based in Serbia remain active in the area - and most of the soldiers, along with prisoners, after dropping some of their number off at various outposts, arrived back in Smolyan for reassignment by October 9th.
Pirinski's trial was scheduled by the Rhodopian government in January of 2011 to start on July 19th, allowing ample time for the government to collect evidence and for a lawyer from Siberia to arrive and get briefed on the case - no one in the region will defend the man. It opened to little fanfare, though events in Serbia and threats made on those involved in the trial put a cloud over it.
Following a trial lasting almost two months, the jury went into deliberation early in the morning on September 17th. After reviewing all of the mountain of evidence and testimonies, they came back on the 19th, after taking the day off on Sunday, at almost three o'clock in the afternoon to render their verdict. After a single vote, they found him guilty on all counts, and recommended the death penalty. The judge granted this, and after his appeals are exhausted, an execution will be scheduled.
With maps in Smolyan, and information received from both Greek explorers south and east of Burgas and Greek naval voyages along the coast, the Rhodopian government had long decided that Burgas and Varna were not useful to rebuild, and a new site for a Black Sea port would be needed. It was decided that somewhere between the ruins of the two ports would be best, given the devastation - and now uninhabited - areas south and east of Burgas, and the uninhabitable terrain seen by Transylvania north of Varna. Tentatively, they set the site as being at Pomorie, Nesebar, Cherno More, or Byala.
In the first major foray east since Doomsday, and the first to the coast, Rhodopian soldiers - now with prisoners added to the army, for both combat and labor - left Haskovo on October 20th, after some much-deserved leave. Finding the east to be much as expected - pretty devoid of life, all told - and they were able to make pretty rapid progress to the coast, arriving at Pomorie on the 31st. They found the remains of the town to have been devastated from refugees fleeing the strike on Burgas, and only a few people remained in the area for them to find after the radiation hit, though it looked a good site for a port. The soldiers took the few survivors with them to the next stop, Nesebar, which they discovered to be in better shape, having avoided the refugees to a better degree, but suffered more from the radiation. The port was thought to be in similar condition to Pomorie. Cherno and Byala, while containing more survivors than the other two, and being in better shape, but still doing poorly with their boats largely inoperable, were determined to be poor sites for a port, as there would be little natural protection from storms. The surviving people in the area were joined with the soldiers.
Following consultation by radio with Smolyan, it was decided that the port, and the Rhodopian outpost, would be built around the remains of Nesebar, given the better position for a port, and it being more intact as well. The group returned to the town on the 10th, and by a pre-arranged meeting with the Greek government, a supply ship was waiting with supplies for them. These were offloaded by boat, and construction began on the new port planned for the site.
Another group of soldiers headed south from Kato Nevrokopi on the 25th, towards Mount Athos, where they arrived on the 1st after a hard trip through the mountains. From there, they caught a Greek transport to the Thrace Reclamation Zone, offloading at New Byzantium, and from there marched to the city of Vize, where Bulgarian refugees from southeastern Bulgaria form the majority. Here they relieved, as per the agreements governing the zone, the Greek troops stationed in that area.
Exploration and Colonization
With the Vidinite menace largely removed from the picture, the Rhodopian military finally started to let those citizens that had been rounded up under guard to their villages, while still able to tend their fields, have full freedom again, though in truth they largely had no desire to leave anyways, given that they were still on their land and in their homes.
Of course, some of these citizens did not stay, and were allowed to start anew elsewhere. Between this and ex-soldiers, Rhodope has been able to start to colonize areas of western Bulgaria long abandoned, though at this time control has not been extended much, with most of these people moving to areas around military scavenging camps near the ruins of former cities. An invitation, with free land, has also been given, through the Greek government, to any Greeks that want to immigrate. The same offer has been given to Transylvanians through their government as well, and this is likely to be expanded somewhat in the near future. Most of the people taking up these offers are settling in the area around Nesebar, unsurprisingly.
Exploration parties have begun to explore outwards from investigated regions too, currently with the primary goal of checking out what had once been major cities in Bulgaria, and investigating old reports from refugees of some sort of organized survivors in northeastern Bulgaria. Given that the refugees quit coming - and the Soviet raiders followed mere weeks later from the same direction - it can be safely assumed that whatever it was is gone now, especially since nothing has been heard from that direction since then, nor has any explorers found anything as of yet. Efforts are also underway to close the gaps between Rhodopian-patrolled territory and Greek Thrace, in order to ensure that no bandits are operating there and establish more secure overland access to Greece.
What has been discovered, however, disturbs them. Northwest of the town of Nesebar, slated to be a future port and currently under construction, soldiers have found numerous villages that have been burned to the ground, and piles of skeletons, matching scenes found much closer to Rhodope itself, and in territory near the Danube that Transylvania has looked at in the past. It is known in these locations that it is from the Soviet Raiders, and thus logically assumed that the new finds were more of the same.
On June 17th, 2011, the explorers wandered into an intact settlement, the town of Smyadovo. Initially, the reaction of the town was hostile, but after finding out that the soldiers spoke Bulgarian, not Russian or Ukrainian, they were allowed inside the town. From this, they began to interview the residents, and to explain their story, comparing notes. A detachment began, after hearing some of their stories, to head back out in the the destroyed region, to hunt both for leftover Soviets, and things to add details to the interviews.
It was discovered that they were the remnants of the rumored state, now known to have been called the "Islamic Republic of Gerlovo," destroyed by the Soviet Raiders in late 1987, that things had been heard about long before. Much of the information that these interviews gave was full of holes, with the locals not knowing of a fair number of details, having been cut off from the rest of the nation-state before it was destroyed. These details and interviews, along with a summary for the WCRB, were sent to the LoN and Smolyan.
The mayor of the town, Sevi Sevev, agreed readily, in return for aid, to join the Republic, within days.
On July 15th, 2011, the long-rumored alliance with Greece was announced, with the signing of the Treaty of Skyros, formalizing what had already been an informal arrangement.
On July 29th, the new Serbian government, following meetings on the 18th, recognized the Vidinites that aided them in coming to power as the government of Bulgaria - a title which virtually all others recognize as belonging to Rhodope. Relations were promptly broken off.
The signing of the Black Sea Accords by Rhodope, Transylvania, Crimea, the Don and Kuban Republics, Partium, and the Greek Federation, following weeks of discussion, believed to have its source in worries about the Siberians or the Turks, occurred on August 31st, 2011, and took effect the next day. Greek aid to Rhodope will increase as a result.
In mid-September, exploration parties in central Bulgaria were ordered to proceed to the area where Stara Zagora Air Base had once been, in the hopes that something could be recovered - no nuclear plumes had been observed from the area on Doomsday. On September 17th, the first teams arrived in the region, and began to scout it, finding no survivors, and evidence of fires and skeletons - it seemed that the Soviet forces had gone through the area on their way southwards from Gerlovo. It is hoped that something can be recovered in the area, though it is unlikely.
Second Yugoslav War
The invasion of Macedonia and Bosnia by the Serbian regime on November 10th came as a bit of surprise to the Rhodopian government - while the Macedonians were not the best of their friends, they did not wish such a thing on them, and the attack itself was unwarranted.
As a result, they increased their border defenses with both states - though slightly more, the one with Serbia.
When the Macedonians and their Allies dealt the Serbs a big loss in the Battle of Skopje, and subsequently threw them back, combined with actions in former Hungary by the Transylvanians and Partians, led to the Serbs further strengthening their frontiers. Because of this, Rhodope doubled their own border guards.
The Serbian government then, being worried, began to fund the Vidinites, rather than merely supporting them.
With this funding, the Vidinites began to shuttle its strength into Rhodopian territory. Rhodopian forces caught some of them, enough to know that something was up - and took actions accordingly. Primarily, this meant reinforcing positions - but they also moved their Vidinite prisoners, in the dead of night, to an undisclosed location in the Greek Federation.
This all proved to be worth it on April 6th, 2012, when a series of bombs, and gunfire, occurred in and around Freedom Square, in central Smolyan. A fair number of people, both civilian and military, died, though the losses could have been worse, as an attempt to break into the National Assembly was stopped, and a bomb failed to go off as well. Primarily, however, the Vidinites attacked a jail near the city, intending to free Vidinite prisoners being held there - but they had been moved weeks before, and it failed.
The few surviving attackers were throughly interrogated, almost right away. Combined with evidence found on the attackers, it was obvious who the attackers were, where they had come from, and who had supplied them - Serbia. The Transylvanian and Partian governments were immediately informed, closely followed by the Greek government.
Within an hour, the Assembly issued a declaration of war upon Serbia, echoed within minutes by Transylvania and Partium. A crackdown - a big one - was also begun inside of former Vidinite territory.
The three states, following preparation, soon moved into Serbian territory. Rhodopian soldiers secured portions of southeastern Serbia, and aided the Macedonians and Transylvanians in their offensives, leading to their presence at the fall of the Serbian capital on May 22nd.
Representatives from all of the states fighting Serbia would meet in the Rhodopian city of Haskovo through this period of the war, making strategy and planning for the future. An agreement would be made to dissolve the Serbian state among themselves, with the lion's share going to the Macedonians. Rhodope, however, would gain several areas with a majority Bulgarian population, along with many old territorial claims.
Following the conclusion of the war, Rhodope found itself in control of a substantial amount of new territory - with a large Serbian population in some areas. Within days, however, of the turnover, a fair number of these Serbians wold start to leave the area, not wanting to live under Bulgarian rule. Most still remain in the area, however.
The Rhodopian government soon offered the residents of these areas the opportunity to help establish new settlements in the east. Some of them have taken the government up on the offer, feeling it lets them have more freedom. Most, however, have not done so.
During the fighting, and shortly thereafter, the government took care of some administrative matters that they had been putting off. The full provinces all had their boundaries extended, and the shell of a new one, a new Stara Zagora Province, was established at Chirpan. Recovery bases were set up near Yambol and Varna, to begin a more through investigation of the outer edges of the radiated ruins. A new base was set up near Belene Island, on the Danube, following the attacks in Smolyan, with the goal of both establishing a true river port, and restoring the old prison on the island to a usable condition, in a bit of a more secure location. A small village of survivors was located at Kravenik, as well.
The newly annexed territories in the west were divided into two okrugs, named Bor and Pirot, with the capitals at Negotin amd Caribrod, respectively, at a line running east from the new border town of Kalna. Reconstruction is ongoing in these areas, as they, especially the city of Pirot, have suffered extensive damage.