Khan Asparukh (1981)

Run Time - 360 min.  |   Countries - Bulgaria  |  
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Like Mera Spored Mera also released in 1981, Khan Asparukh is another long-running epic about Bulgarian history, celebrating 1300 years of the founding of the state by Khan Asparukh in 681. The epic is divided into three separate parts. Part I starts with the death of Khan Koubrat on the steppes of Azovia and the division of his nation among his sons. Khan Asparukh inherits the untamed western end of that nation, and is immediately faced with opposition from the tribe's elders as he begins to make his plans on how to head west and conquer that region. The head priest wants the Khan to marry his daughter and not the woman the Khan loves -- and so the priest sentences the favored woman (a healer) to death. The Khan does obey the wishes of the priest, but he is only biding his time before he seeks retribution. In Part II, two decades go by as the Bulgars under Asparukh suffer desert heat and winter cold to eventually cross the Dnieper and Danube, and reach the rich agricultural area already farmed by friendly Slav clans. During this 20-year period, the Khan's wife dies in childbirth, sending her priest-father into despondency, but not curing him of his seditious actions. In the end, the Khan kills the rebel priest and assumes full control of his tribe. In Part III, recorded history takes over from the fiction of the earlier two parts, as Khan Asparukh gains the friendship of the Slavs and prepares to fight the Byzantine armies who also have designs on this land. He wins one minor battle, and then builds a fortress and sets up his strategy for facing the full onslaught of the mighty armies of King Constantine IV -- who has concluded a peace on his Arab fronts to devote all his forces to this battle. The Slavs are finally convinced to join their forces with those of Asparukh, who is still outnumbered. In the final battle, thousands of soldiers in period costume slog through murky swamps and climb hilly terrain to engage Khan Asparukh's forces with spears, arrows, and knives. The 681 birth of Bulgaria from the tribes that came in with Khan Asparukh was indeed, a bloody and painful event.