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SHIPKA, Bulgaria, August 25 (Itar-Tass) - Bulgarian and Russian businessmen and representatives of non-governmental organizations have launched a project to restore a Russian military cemetery in a park outside the Russian Memorial Church of Nativity at Shipka in Bulgaria initiated by the Shipka Initiative Committee.
“Our committee restores the cemeteries of Russian soldiers and officers who died in Bulgaria during the 1877-1878 Russian-Turkish war as well as the veterans of that war who fled to Bulgaria after the 1918-1921 Civil War in Russia,” Gina Khadzhiyeva, the head of the Shipka Initiative Committee, said in an interview with Itar-Tass.
She noted that the work was in the initial stage. “We have started clearing the cemetery from the underbush. New tombstones will have to be installed because the old ones have fallen into disrepair. Some graves need to be identified,” Khadzhiyeva went on to say.
It is noteworthy that the idea to bring the Russian military cemetery in order comes from the people of Shipka. “We remember what the Russian soldiers and officers, who remained lying here forever, did for us. We did not ask official Russia for help. At first, we turned to Bulgarian businessmen and non-governmental organisations. We were later joined by my friends from Moscow who got in touch with Sergei Kudrin, the president of the “VMESTE” (Together) International Foundation for Cultural and Business Ties. With joint efforts, we are gradually implementing our plan to restore the war monuments,” Khadzhiyeva emphasized.
Commemorations of the 136th anniversary of the defense of the Shipka Pass during the 1877-1878 Russian-Turkish war began at the legendary Shipka Peak on August 23. About 200 schoolchildren from local Bulgarian schools took part in a race up and down a staircase, consisting of 890 steps, leading to the Monument of Freedom on top of peak.
Over 3,000 Russian soldiers and officers as well as over 500 Bulgarian volunteers died in battles against the Turks on the Shipka Pass on August 21-26 (August 9-14 old style), 1877.