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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a heretical movement in the Balkans which arose at the beginning of the tenth century, apparently in the territory of Macedonia under the influence of Paulicianism. In the opinion of the majority of historians, it was named after the priest Bogomil, the presumed founder of the heresy. The social program of the Bogomils included the condemnation of wealth and the rejection of feudal exploitation and state authority. The Bogomils rejected the dominant Eastern Christian church and its hierarchy, temples, and the sacraments and ceremonies performed by the priests. They replaced these with simpler prayers accompanied by ritual meals. The Bogomils did not recognize the Old Testament or the veneration of the cross, the saints, or relics. At the basis of the religious and philosophical doctrine of Bogomilism stood the concept of the duality of the world and of the eternal struggle between good and evil principles. They held that the earthly world and the flesh were creations of the devil, whereas the celestial world and the spirit were the manifestation of good. Within the Bogomil communities there was a distinction between the “perfect,” who lived ascetic lives and renounced marriage, and the ordinary people. The Bogomil communities were headed by “elders,” the equivalent of bishops. Having established a solid base in Bulgaria in the tenth century, Bogomilism spread in the Byzantine Empire in the 11th and 12th centuries and in Serbia and Bosnia in the 12th and 13th centuries. In Bosnia it became the ruling ideology and was transformed into a church in its own right. Bogomilism exerted an influence on the development of the Western European heresies of the Patarenes, Cathari, and Albigenses. The church and the feudal state fought against Bogomilism. An extensive literature critical of Bogomilism is known—for example, writings by the Bulgarian priest Cosmas and by Euthymius Zigabenus. The Byzantine emperor Alexius I Comnenus forcibly restored Bogomils to the “true faith” and burned their leader Vasilii at the stake. His policy was continued by Manuel I, and in Serbia by Stephen Nemanya, and in Bulgaria by Boril. (The condemnation of Bogomilism was diligently carried out in the Obituary of Boril in 1211.) During the period of Bulgarian dependence on Byzantium in the 11th and 12th centuries, the Bogomils participated in the Bulgarian peoples’ revolts against the Byzantine yoke (1040 and 1072) and supported the struggle of the Bulgarian state against Byzantium during the reign of Tsar Kaloyan (1197–1207). Gradually the elements of social criticism in Bogomilism grew weaker, and by the 14th century it had become a religious sect found chiefly among the clergy and urban population. The Bogomils survived until the 17th century. An extensive apocryphal literature created by the Bogomils has survived.


Angelov, D. Bogomilstvoto v Bulgariia, 2nd ed. Sofia, 1961.
Obolensky, D. The Bogomils: A Study in Balkan Neomanichaeism. Cambridge, 1948.
Primov, B. “Bogomilskiiat dualizum, proizkhod, sushchnost i obshchestvenno-politichesko znachenie.” lzvestiia na Instituta za istoriia, 1960, no. 8.
Angelov, D., B. Primov, and G. Batakliev. Bogomilstvoto v Bulgariia, Vizantiia i Zapadna Evropa v izvori. Sofia, 1967.
Sidak, J. “O nekim posljednjim prilozima B. Primova Problemu Bogumilstva.” Slovo, 1964, no. 14.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.