SOFIA, March 3. /TASS/. Bulgaria is celebrating a major public holiday, National Liberation Day that falls this year on the 140th anniversary since the country’s liberation from the 500-years-long Ottoman oppression and the end of the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-1878.
The main official functions will take place on Mount Shipka. President Rumen Radev and the Chairperson of the National Assembly, Tsveta Karayancheva will attend them together with Patriarch Neophyte of all Bulgaria and the visiting Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia, Kirill I. On March 3, 1878, the Russian and Ottoman Empires signed a peace treaty in the town of San Stefano near Constantinople. It stated the victory of the Russian Army and brought freedom to the Bulgarian people.
President Radev said in an earlier interview with the national radio March 3 was one of the most venerated dates in the history of the republic. He stressed the role of liberation of the country in the cementing of centuries-old ties between the Bulgarians and Russians
His Holiness Kirill I told the Bulgarian mass media on the eve of his visit to Sofia that the Russian Church, which held prayers for the oppressed Bulgarian people at almost all the parishes, had molded a public opinion that influenced the political decisions on Russia’s engagement in a major military operation on the Balkans.
"Without support from the grassroots, support from the ordinary Russians it would be difficult to say whether the Russian government of the time could be ready for really huge sacrifices," Kirill I said. "Recall that dozens of thousands of people died and dozens of thousands people were wounded."
"Still, there was a mighty argument standing behind this sacrifice, namely, that were giving our lives for the brethren in [the Orthodox Christian] faith," he said.
Patriarch Neophyte told TASS that his nation was living "in its own homeland and with its own faith" thanks to Russia.
"Thanks God for the years that have passed, for life in free homeland with our faith over 140 years already," he said. "Freedom is the Lord’s biggest gift [to humankind] and that’s why we never forget to thank Him for His grace. Also, we thank all the heroes who gave their lives for their kindred people."
The Russian Empire decided to rise to the defense of Bulgaria and to begin a war with the Ottomans after the harsh suppression of the Uprising of April 1876 and the Constantinople Conference of the Great Powers, which offered a draft solution to the Eastern Question [held frtom December 26, 1876, through January 20, 1877], failed to produce any results.
Russia declared the war on Turkey in April 1877. It capitalized on the enemy forces’ inactivity, forded the Danube, seized control over the Shipka Pass and coerced the armies of Osman Pasha to capitulate in Plevna after a five months-long siege.
Next came the defeat of the Turkish troops defending the approaches to Constantinople.
The Russian Army lost from 20,000 to 36,000 men and officers in that campaign.
The signatories to the Treaty of San Stefano were the Russian Ambassador in Constantinople, Count Nikolay Ignatiev, his colleague Alexander Nelidov, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mehmed Esad Saffet Pasha, and the Turkish Ambassador to Germany, Sadullah Bey.
The treaty took the maximum possible account of Bulgaria’s interests. The latter would turn into the biggest country in the Balkans embracing southern Thrace, all Macedonia in the southwest and Dobruja in the northeast. In the west, the Bulgarian territory would include the eastern areas of Serbia.
Bulgaria’s overall territory would exceed 170,000 sq.km.
The treaty was to get approval from Britain, France, Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy but their representatives came to the conclusion Bulgaria has received more than what it could be entitled to. They downsized its territory.
As a result, Bulgaria, a country with a 4.8 million-strong population, received independence and March 3 became National Liberation Day.