Bulgaria’s 2016 Presidential Election and Referendum Go to Runoff Ballot

November 5, 2016 by  
Filed under Events, Featured, News

Some 6.8 million Bulgarians are eligible to choose their new president who will replace incumbent Rosen Plevneliev after his five-year term ends in January. The election campaign focused mainly on the future of the European Union, relations with Russia and the threats from a possible rise in migrant inflows from neighboring Turkey

For the first time, voting in the presidential elections will be compulsory.

A tight race as expected between the two frontrunners, Parliament Speaker Tsetska Tsacheva, nominated by main ruling party GERB, and former Air Force Commander Maj Gen Rumen Radev, endorsed by the main opposition force, the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP). Tsacheva, pointed by Prime Minister Boyko Borisov in October, is expected to win the first round by a narrow margin.

  • Gallup International has projected a 26.7% support for Radev, while the candidate of the main ruling GERB party, Tsetska Tsacheva, has ranked second, having mastered 22.5%
  • Alpha Research, another pollster offering exit poll results, suggests Radev has garnered 24.8%, with Tsacheva’s support at 23.5%.
  • According to Alpha Research, third, lagging far behind, is nationalist candidate Krasimir Karakachanov, at 13.6%.
  • Fourth, surprisingly, comes businessman Veselin Mareshki (9.3%) who runs as an independent candidate, followed by Reformist Bloc’s Traycho Traykov at 7.1%.

elections 2013Government Elections in Bulgaria (2005-2015)

2005 Parliamentary Elections
2006 Presidential Elections
2007 Municipal Elections
2009 Parliamentary Elections
2009 European Parliament elections
2011 Presidential Elections
2011 Local Elections
2013 Early parliamentary elections
2014 Early Parliamentary Elections
2015 Municipal Elections

25 Years after Communism…

25 years in 60 seconds at the red-light…

I’m driving slowly in the dark and raining streets of my home town passing through clouds of car smoke. The gypsy ghetto in the outskirts of town is covered with the fog of fires made out of old tires burning in the yards. And the loud music adds that grotesque and gothic nuance to the whole picture with poorly clothed children dancing around the burnings.

The first red light stops me at the entrance to the “more civilized” part of the city. The bright counter right next to it slowly moves through the long 60 seconds while tiredly walking people pass through the intersection to go home and escape the cold rain. The street ahead of me is already covered with dirt and thickening layer of sleet.

This is how I remember Bulgaria of my youth and it seems like nothing has changed in the past 25 years.

The newly elected government just announced its coalition cabinet – next to a dozen like it that had failed in the past two decades. The gas price is holding firmly at $6/gal. and the price of electricity just increased by 10%, while the harsh winter is already knocking at the doors of poor Bulgarian households. A major bank is in collapse threatening to take down the national banking system and create a new crisis much like in Greece. These are the same factors that caused Bulgaria’s major inflation in 1993 and then hyperinflation in 1996-97.

What’s next? Another winter and again a hard one!

Ex-secret police agents are in all three of the coalition parties forming the current government. The ultra nationalistic party called “ATTACK” and the Muslim ethnic minorities party DPS are out for now, but awaiting their move as opposition in the future parliament. At the same time, the new-old prime minister (now in his second term) is already calling for yet another early parliamentarian election in the summer. This is only months after the previous elections in October, 2014 and two years after the ones before them on May 2013.

Every Bulgarian government in the past 25 years has focused on two rather mechanical goals: cardinal socio-economical reforms and battle against communism. The latter is simply unachievable without deep reformative change within the Bulgarian post-communist mentality. The purpose of any reform should be to do exactly that. Instead, what is always changing is the outwardness of the country. The change is only mechanical, but never organic within the country’s heart.

Bulgaria’s mechanical reforms in the past quarter of a century have proven to be only conditional, but never improving the conditions of living. The wellbeing of the individual and the pursuit of happiness, thou much spoken about, are never reached for they never start with the desire to change within the person. For this reason, millions of Bulgarians and their children today work abroad, pursuing another life for another generation.

The stop light in front of me turns green bidding the question where to go next. Every Bulgarian today must make a choice! Or we’ll be still here at the red light in another 25 years from now…

25 Year Revival Cycles in Bulgaria’s Protestant History

February 1, 2015 by  
Filed under Featured, News

Slide16

2014    Pastor Johny Noer visits Bulgaria with a prophecy for a new spiritual revival in the land

1989    First visit of Pastor Johny Noer in Bulgaria. The Berlin Wall fell seven months later

1964    Pastor Stoyan Tinchev of the Bulgarian Church of God passed away. This was a breakthrough moment for the ministry of the denomination, which will occupy a historical place in the Bulgarian Pentecostal movement in the next half of century

1939    In the years before WWII, Dr. Nikolas Nikoloff returned to Bulgaria in a renewed attempt to unite all Pentecostal churches in the country. Future Pentecostal Union’s president Ivan Zarev is ordained to the ministry, which determined the pro-government course the denomination would take under the Communist Regime

1914 The beginning of the Great War stopped access of American missionaries to Bulgaria and opened the doors for liberal theology to enter traditional protestant churches. This factor alone allowed the success of the first Pentecostal missionaries sent to Bulgaria by the Assemblies of God in 1920.

1889 After the bylaws of the Congregational church are accepted in the city of Pazardjik in 1888, the Congregational denomination is registered in the capital Sofia on October 27, 1889. Interestingly, exactly a century later again in the capital Sofia on October 27, 1989, the communist militia uses force to stop Green Party protestors which marks the beginning of the fall of communism in Bulgaria.

1864 The monthly protestant periodical “Zornitsa” (Morning Star) is first published to become not only the most successful protestant publication in Bulgaria, but also a symbol of Bulgaria’s Enlightenment. At the same time, ABFMC agent Charles Mors began a Bible Study in Sofia from which the first evangelical church in the capital will emerged in 1879.

1839 In Smyrna (modern day Turkey) began the printing of the first modern day Bulgarian New Testament

1814 The agent of the British and Foreign Bible Society, Robert Pinkerton “discovered” the Bulgarians within the border of the Ottoman Empire and immediately calls for translators who can translate the Bible in the local vernacular. The year marks the beginning of Protestantism in Bulgaria.

Read Also:

Bulgaria’s Cabinet to Resign

July 20, 2014 by  
Filed under Featured, News

The Oresharski cabinet will resign on July 23, Wednesday, Bulgaria’s Minister of Economy Dragomir Stoynev told Darik yesterday.

The minister emphasized that the faster the early elections, the better, because “the political crisis could affect the economy.” He also said, however, that before its resignation, the current government has to choose Bulgaria’s next EU Comissioner, who will not be withdrawn by the caretaker government.

Stoynev expressed that current Bulgarian Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva unfortunately has no chance of being nominated as High Commissioner for Foreign Affairs despite the strong support from Prime Minister Oresharski. “I’m pretty sure that her candidacy will not succeed” he noted by refusing details. As a report on the work done last year in office, Stoynev stated that Bulgaria had growth of above 1% – which has not happened since the crisis from 2009. “The Cabinet created 40,000 jobs, which has been unprecedented in the last five years,” he commented.

Minister Stoynev is against the current state budget update attempts, as he deems that unneccessary. In his opinion, the budget of NHIF also does not need to be updated. “Pouring money into an unreformed system of mismanagement will not solve the problem,” he said and recommended to look for internal reserves by restructuring the health budget.

Financial Times: Bulgaria needs stability before uncertainty

March 25, 2013 by  
Filed under Featured, News

A caretaker government in Sofia will do its utmost to steady the tiller before May’s snap elections, following several weeks of street protests that toppled the previous administration and plunged Bulgaria into political uncertainty. But what happens after the poll is anybody’s guess. Many in Sofia’s political elite seem reluctant to grasp the poisoned chalice of leadership and their capacity to satisfy the demands of a restive and inchoate popular movement is limited.

On Wednesday, President Rosen Plevneliev ended weeks of speculation by naming Marin Raykov, Bulgaria’s ambassador to France, as caretaker prime minister until the May 12 elections. Raykov is a career diplomat and was deputy foreign minister under a right-of-centre government between 1998 and 2001 and again in 2009-2010 under Boyko Borisov, whose resignation as prime minister last month led to the political void which Raykov must temporarily fill. Raykov also served as an ambassador and a foreign policy chief under the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), the main opposition force. The new premier will be backed by a cabinet including three deputy prime ministers – all women – Bulgaria’s first female interior minister and a selection of other “experts” drawn from various parts of national life, particularly academia. There are also some promotions from within Borisov’s GERB party.

Bulgarian journalists have been quick to pick up on Raykov’s family background. His father, Rayko Nikolov, was a senior ambassador in the Communist era, including to the UN, Yugoslavia and France. Nikolov’s reported close links to the intelligence services come as a surprise to no-one. But of more interest is the allegation, made by the French press some years ago, that he was responsible for recruiting French politicians to work for the Soviet Union, including Charles Hernu, who went on to be defence minister in the 1980s.

Raykov’s political career on the “reformist” right but with roots among the Communist nomenklatura have led to suspicions that he is what Bulgarians gnomically call a “hidden lemon” – someone who is not what they appear to be. But Raykov’s diplomatic record suggests that he is robustly on the pro-European, rather than pro-Kremlin, side of Bulgarian politics, according Ivo Indzhev, a well-regarded Bulgarian blogger. And after all, one can’t choose one’s parents.

Dimitar Bechev, head of the Sofia office of the European Council on Foreign Relations, a think-tank, says Raykov is a sound choice. “This government won’t do much beyond organise the elections,” he says. “Raykov is solid – linked to the 1990s right, but with enough credibility with all parties. He brings predictability and reassurance, as well as credibility for outsiders. He is aware of European policy issues and shows that Bulgaria will play by the rules.”

With the temporary administration in place, attention shifts to the election and what is likely to be a confused aftermath. Polls suggest GERB and the BSP are level pegging, with the largely Muslim-backed DPS and Bulgaria for the Citizens, led by former European Commissioner Meglena Kuneva, also likely to make it to the next parliament. Confusingly, BSP leader and ex-prime minister Sergey Stanishev has said he will not be premier again, while Kuneva has indicated that her party will not join a coalition.
Anthony Georgieff, a Bulgarian journalist and a vocal critic of Borisov, says the most likely scenarios as the mainstream opposition backs away from government are a discredited GERB being returned to power, considerably weakened, or the strengthening of hardline left- and right-wing forces unpalatable to Bulgaria’s EU partners. The far-right party Ataka, until recently seen as on the wane, seems to be recovering, and ultranationalists have been a significant presence at many demonstrations, along with well as anti-capitalist malcontents.

“Bulgaria’s moral crisis is reflected in the mainstream politicians refusing to take part in any coalition government of the future, and in the general public voting with their feet,” he says. Bechev is more upbeat, saying that Stanishev and Kuneva’s statements should be “taken with a pinch of salt”. He outlines a number of more moderate outcomes, including a grand coalition with GERB but without Borisov, and a BSP-DPS partnership, possibly bringing in Bulgaria for the Citizens, not dissimilar to the government from 2005 to 2009.

Whether any of these permutations will have the political will, economic resources and administrative capacity to address the demands of the street protesters – and the many Bulgarians at home who have lost faith in the political elite’s ability to deliver real change – is questionable. Demonstrations that started over power prices now encompass grievances such as corruption, authoritarianism, government links to organised crime, and privatisation. Most fundamentally, they may be about low incomes and lack of prospects in the EU’s poorest country – something that Raykov has said that he will look to address, within his capabilities. But with the eurozone, Bulgaria’s main trading and investment partner, still in crisis, and the legacy of years of maladministration at home, immediate change for the better seems unlikely.

“Unlike other crises Bulgaria has had since it shook off Communism in 1989, the current one has no easy answers because there is little if anything to look forward to, Bulgaria now being a full member of the EU and NATO,” says Georgieff. The death by self-immolation of three demonstrators since protests began certainly indicates the desperation that many Bulgarians feel. But some are hopeful that the street movement can put pressure on the next government to deliver the transparency and accountability that has been lacking from its predecessors.

NY Times: Bulgaria’s Unholy Alliances

March 20, 2013 by  
Filed under Featured, News

By MATTHEW BRUNWASSER

SOFIA — His enthronement as patriarch of Bulgaria, spiritual leader of millions of Orthodox believers here, was supposed to stir pride and moral togetherness in an impoverished country confronting a vacuum in political leadership and widespread economic pain. Instead, the installation of His Holiness Neofit last month, in a ceremony replete with byzantine splendor, served as one more reminder that Bulgaria had never really thrown off the inheritance of 40 years of rigid Communist rule and all the duplicitous dealings that went with it.

Bulgaria has suffered fresh turmoil since mid-February, when nationwide protests erupted over a rise in power prices. The national government resigned in what it said was a bid to avert more bloodshed. But this week, the country went into nationwide mourning over the death of one protester, Plamen Goranov, 36, who set himself on fire in front of a public building in his hometown, Varna.

The church has played no part in calming its troubled nation. Like 11 of the 14 metropolitan bishops who make up the ruling synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, Neofit was revealed to have a file documenting or implying cooperation with the powerful secret police under Communism. Proof of collaboration — for which the church has never apologized — was expected, but the number of bishops implicated when a state commission opened the files on church leaders in January 2012 “was beyond all expectations,” noted Momchil Metodiev, a historian who has researched the church in the Communist era.

By comparison with the 30-volume record involving Simeon, the Bulgarian Church’s current metropolitan for Western Europe, Neofit’s 16-page file was slender. While the file contained only a proposal by the authorities to recruit him as an agent and a negative assessment of his suitability for State Security work, the revelations raised tantalizing questions about whether more incriminating documents had been removed. That such questions linger, more than 20 years after Communism, illustrates Bulgarians’ messy relationship to that past.

One day after the Berlin Wall fell in November 1989, the Communist dictator Todor Zhivkov, who had been in power since 1954, was deposed, not by popular uprising but in a palace coup. The politics behind the act remained murky, meaning that his removal is still a matter of dispute. Few Bulgarians can say the word “democracy” without irony or bitterness, because while they gained freedom and their country has now joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union, it has remained poor and underdeveloped, with the riches most dreamed of under capitalism reserved for the lucky, often criminally connected, few. And although State Security officially disbanded, its officials have retained a hold, contributing to the lack of clarity or debate about the past.

Many former agents went into private business and recruited wrestlers for muscle. Their networks, often criminal, gradually took over much of Bulgaria’s legitimate economy, helping to make Bulgaria notoriously corrupt, said Philip Gounev, a corruption expert at the Center for the Study of Democracy in Sofia. Similarly, the church has not faced up to its past. “Just as people say that our country is in ‘state capture’ by criminals and oligarchs who have taken control of the state, the church is in a state of ‘state capture’ by metropolitans associated with the state security police,” Mr. Gounev said.

The church counters that it is, for instance, planning to canonize martyrs from the Communist era over the next two years, making saints of those found to have died or been imprisoned for the faith among the thousands of believers who were persecuted. “We can expect to close the page of our Communist heritage by this very symbolic act,” said Desislava Panayotova, from the cultural department of the Holy Synod.

But it seems that it will take more than canonizations to restore the church’s position as a moral beacon in an increasingly secular society. After the state, the church is the second-largest landowner in the country, making it an attractive target for criminal groups. With its weak management and opaque institutions — the church does not, for instance, have a designated media spokesperson — observers say the church has remained aloof from any state efforts to clean up corruption. While many historic churches and monasteries crumble from neglect, the Bulgarian news media relay a stream of shocking stories about church officials’ luxury cars, expensive watches, shady land deals and ties to questionable businessmen.

The Stara Zagora metropolitan, Galaktion, a close rival to Neofit in the recent patriarchal election, bestowed an honorific church title on a wealthy sponsor, Slavi Binev, a former taekwando champion and owner of a security firm who is now also a member of the European Parliament. Mr. Binev was described in a 2005 WikiLeaks cable from the U.S. Embassy in Sofia as heading a group whose “criminal activities include prostitution, narcotics, and trafficking stolen automobiles.” In response, Mr. Binev told a Bulgarian newspaper that he was not perturbed to be on a list of people who were “the blossom” of Bulgarian business in the transition from Communism.

The metropolitan of Plovdiv, Nikolai, bestowed the same church title on Petar Mandzhukov, an international arms dealer, and later announced that he planned to sell his Rolex watch to pay the unpaid electricity bill for a church in his diocese, apparently hoping to quell public anger both at church riches and at the rising price of electricity that helped spark the recent protests. The church has also been accused of paying priests in cash to avoid social welfare payments and taxes.

One huge challenge is healing the post-Communist schism of 1992, when priests who said they had opposed Communism formed their own synod. Ugly disputes over church properties resulted, including physical fights. The police were called in during one particularly fierce battle over the church candle factory, a major source of income. Mr. Metodiev, the historian, who describes himself as “anti-Communist,” made a surprising discovery during research in the secret police files. “The leaders of the schismatic synod were in fact the closest allies of the Communist Party in the synod during the Communist period,” he said.

One bishop notorious for implementing State Security orders — Kalinik, the metropolitan of Vratsa — remains on the church synod today. Mr. Metodiev asserts that those with ties to State Security, particularly those recruited as young informers in the 1970s and 1980s, are now powerful, making the synod in fact more staffed by secret police than any other, including during Communism itself. “The very idea of meritocracy failed,” Mr. Metodiev said. “People are now accustomed to developing their careers due to connections. This is one of the most damaging long-term results of the power of the State Security.”

Bulgaria’s Orthodox Church Elects New Patriarch

February 25, 2013 by  
Filed under Featured, News

Bulgaria Church LeaderMetropolitan Neofit of Ruse was elected Sunday as the new spiritual leader of Bulgaria’s Orthodox Christians amid social unrest threatening to throw the Balkan country in a serious political crisis. The 67-year-old Neofit was picked among three candidates shortlisted in a secret ballot by the 14 bishops that make up the Holy Synod of the church.

The enthronement ceremony for Patriarch Neofit was held at Sofia with ongoing nationwide protests against high energy bills, poverty and corruption, and demands for radical political reforms, which forced the government to resign. Speaking at the ceremony, President Rosen Plevneliev voiced hope the new patriarch will contribute to Orthodox unity and the strengthening of the faith, and will preserve the integrity of the church.

The main challenges Neofit will face at home are addressing church unity, the church’s isolation from current public concerns, financial troubles and the dwindling number of priests and monks. Last year, a panel investigating communist-era secret services announced that 11 of the 15 metropolitans had ties to those services. Among those named was also Neofit. Over 20 Pentecostal and charismatic denominational leaders were also revealed to have been a part of a nationwide network of secret agents and handlers organized by the communist secret police. Yet, only two have resigned form their leadership positions. Alike many evangelical leaders in Bulgaria, the patriarch of the Orthodox church is elected for life.

Bulgaria’s ethnic party leader attacked by armed assailant

January 20, 2013 by  
Filed under Featured, News

Ahmed-Dogan-6BBC World News, Sofia – BULGARIA

A man put a gun to the head of the leader of Bulgaria’s ethnic Turkish party during a televised conference.

Ahmed Dogan, leader of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) was unharmed and the unidentified man was wrestled to the ground by security guards. The incident happened on Saturday at a party congress in the capital Sofia.

Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov said the attacker tried to fire two shots but “most likely the gun misfired”. He also said the assailant had a criminal record for drugs possession, robberies and hooliganism. Police arrested the attacker, a 25-year-old from the Black Sea town of Burgas, who was also carrying two knives.

The liberal MRF party represents ethnic Turks and other Muslims, who make up about 12% of Bulgaria’s population of about seven million. Mr Dogan, 58, has lead the party for almost 25 years. He returned to the party conference a few hours after the attack and was given a standing ovation.

President Rosen Plevneliev said in a statement: “Bulgarian society is traditionally known for its tolerance, mutual acceptance and respect between different ethnic groups and religions. “Such an act is unacceptable in a democratic state.” Attacks on politicians are rare in Bulgaria, but in 1996, former Prime Minister Andrei Lukanov was found shot dead near his home in Sofia

Bulgaria’s National Holiday: The Liberation of Bulgaria (1877-1878)

March 1, 2004 by  
Filed under News

After being under Turkish yoke for over 500 years, Bulgaria was liberated in 1878. For the first time, March 3rd was celebrated in 1880 as the Day of the Ascension of Emperor Alexander II. Since 1888 it has been commemorated as the Day of Bulgaria’s Liberation from Ottoman rule.

During the 500 years of the Ottoman occupation, armed uprisings occurred recurrently in Bulgarian lands. Most of them were badly organized and brutally suppressed by superior Ottoman forces. It is from here that the great significance of the Bulgarian national liberation movement of the ’70s and its peak – the April Uprising – derives. The Bulgarian nation daringly appeared on the European political scene with the motto “Freedom or a heroic death,” challenging the rest of the world and putting to the test all adherents. The April Uprising of 1876 was quickly surprised by the Ottoman regular army through the killing of thousands of Bulgarian men, women and children and burning villages and towns to the ground. In this situation the governments of the Great Powers were in no position to overtly maintain the status quo as regards the Ottoman Empire. This created a congenial political situation and made it possible a more decisive intervention on the part of Russia. The Turkish atrocities that accompanied the April uprising illustrated to the whole world the true face of the Ottoman state and its barbarity. World public opinion raised its voice in defense of the Bulgarian people. British, American, Italian, French, German and Russian journalists and consuls made known to their governments and their peoples the truth about these monstrous crimes.

After preliminary talks with the European Great Powers on the possible outcome of hostilities, Russia declared war on Turkey on April 12, 1877. On the Balkans the Russian army had to overcome the Danube – a major water barrier, before coming anywhere near the Turkish troops. The Russians crossed the Danube in June, 1877. The war plan was based on the miscalculated presumption that Turkey was a colossus on clay stilts which should collapse at the first blow and envisaged the engagement of only a small Russian contingent 15,000-strong. Linder General Gurko’s command it was to rush through a narrow corridor to Constantinople and to prompt the terms of peace to the Turkish government. According to this same plan the 300,000-strong Ottoman troops in Bulgaria had to be counteracted by the Russian officers and soldiers about 250,000-strong in attacks outflanking the narrow passage.
The Bulgarian people met the news of the Russo-Turkish war with great enthusiasm and it too, rose against its centuries-long oppressor. A Bulgarian military detachment called ‘Bulgarian volunteers’, consisting of 12 battalions 12,500-strong, joined the Russian army. Hundreds of concomitant guerrilla detachments having from several dozens to several hundreds of soldiers were organized, too. These were particularly efficient in dealing with the communications and the small military groups of the enemy. Thousands of other Bulgarians directly joined the Russian army to help as reconnaissance officers, engineers of fortification facilities, medical orderlies, suppliers of fodder and food.

About the middle of July, the Russian leading detachment with Bulgarian volunteer forces reached the town of Stara Zagora in Southern Bulgarian, almost half-way through to Constantinople. The troops meant to protect the western flank of the Russian army in Bulgaria suffered a defeat in two assaults against the strategic fortress of Pleven, located only forty five miles from the Danube. At that time, the Turkish military forces concentrated on the eastern flanks of the corridor occupied by the Russians, also grew unimpeded. Soon their number was three times larger than the Russian troops withholding them. Turkish crack regiments four times as big as the Russian advance detachment were coming on from its opposite direction. Having no alternative but to succumb to the superior force, the Russians and the Bulgarians withdrew to position along the Balkan Mountain ridge in the region of the Shipka pass. Aware of its blunder, the Russian command immediately resorted to the translocation of major military formations from Russia to Bulgaria. Given traveling speed in those days the troops were expected to arrive at the front line not before the beginning of September. Everyone was clear that the war would be decided by the battle outcome at Shipka. If the Turkish army from southern Bulgaria succeeded in crossing over the Balkan Range and then joining one of the Turkish armies in northern Bulgaria, the Turkish command could be sure to obtain petrifying numerical superiority over the siege-imperiled Russians who should then leave Bulgaria. As fate has strangely willed it, the liberation of Bulgaria was entirely dependent upon the efficiency of the several thousand Bulgarian volunteers in keeping their positions on Shipka. Due to misjudgment of the direction of the Turkish main efforts, the command of the forces on Shipka had sent Russian operational reserve contingents to help in the defense of Hainboaz, another throat in the mountain. The Bulgarian volunteer detachment and only one Russian regiment remained on Shipka.

During the hot days of August 1877 epic battles took place on that mountain peak of Shipka, at the geographical intersection point of the Bulgarian lands. There the Bulgarians proved that they thoroughly deserved their freedom. Supported by few Russians, the Bulgarian volunteer detachment drove off dozens of frontal and flanking attacks by the stronger enemy with its manifold superior numbers of men and equipment, expected to easily vanquish volunteers, fighting with old rifle-trophies from the Franco-Prussian War. When the arms and ammunitions finished, the volunteers resorted to blank weapons to repulse the attacks. In fierce man-to-man fighting they showered boulders and other mass of rock, even their dead comrades’ bodies. Pertinacious and murderous was the Bulgarians’ effort that crushed the Turkish army and caused it to lose nearly half of its strength. The Bulgarian volunteers withstood their positions and thus, coped with a situation that spelled more and even greater danger. A quick change of scene and reversal of the war occurred after the arrival of fresh Russian reinforcements. They took Pleven and crossed the Balkan Mountain at the end of 1877. Following victorious battles at Sofia, Plovdiv and Sheinovo, the Ottoman military machinery was shattered, dilapidated and ruined. A preliminary peace treaty was signed in the small town of San Stefano near Constantinople on March 3, 1878. It made provision for an autonomous Bulgarian state extending to almost all Bulgarian lands in the geographical areas of Macedonia, Thrace and Moesia. The treaty of San Stefano obtained justice for the Bulgarian people. Its terms of peace included the restoration of Bulgaria’s state independence and the Bulgarians’ reunification within the boundaries of one state. It, provided the solution to the paramount historic task which had confronted the Bulgarian people over the last five centuries.
to the Turkish government. According to this same plan the 300,000-strong Ottoman troops in Bulgaria had to be counteracted by the Russian officers and soldiers about 250,000-strong in attacks outflanking the narrow passage.
The Bulgarian people met the news of the Russo-Turkish war with great enthusiasm and it too, rose against its centuries-long oppressor. A Bulgarian military detachment called ‘Bulgarian volunteers’, consisting of 12 battalions 12,500-strong, joined the Russian army. Hundreds of concomitant guerrilla detachments having from several dozens to several hundreds of soldiers were organized, too. These were particularly efficient in dealing with the communications and the small military groups of the enemy. Thousands of other Bulgarians directly joined the Russian army to help as reconnaissance officers, engineers of fortification facilities, medical orderlies, suppliers of fodder and food.

About the middle of July, the Russian leading detachment with Bulgarian volunteer forces reached the town of Stara Zagora in Southern Bulgarian, almost half-way through to Constantinople. The troops meant to protect the western flank of the Russian army in Bulgaria suffered a defeat in two assaults against the strategic fortress of Pleven, located only forty five miles from the Danube. At that time, the Turkish military forces concentrated on the eastern flanks of the corridor occupied by the Russians, also grew unimpeded. Soon their number was three times larger than the Russian troops withholding them. Turkish crack regiments four times as big as the Russian advance detachment were coming on from its opposite direction. Having no alternative but to succumb to the superior force, the Russians and the Bulgarians withdrew to position along the Balkan Mountain ridge in the region of the Shipka pass. Aware of its blunder, the Russian command immediately resorted to the translocation of major military formations from Russia to Bulgaria. Given traveling speed in those days the troops were expected to arrive at the front line not before the beginning of September. Everyone was clear that the war would be decided by the battle outcome at Shipka. If the Turkish army from southern Bulgaria succeeded in crossing over the Balkan Range and then joining one of the Turkish armies in northern Bulgaria, the Turkish command could be sure to obtain petrifying numerical superiority over the siege-imperiled Russians who should then leave Bulgaria. As fate has strangely willed it, the liberation of Bulgaria was entirely dependent upon the efficiency of the several thousand Bulgarian volunteers in keeping their positions on Shipka. Due to misjudgment of the direction of the Turkish main efforts, the command of the forces on Shipka had sent Russian operational reserve contingents to help in the defense of Hainboaz, another throat in the mountain. The Bulgarian volunteer detachment and only one Russian regiment remained on Shipka.

During the hot days of August 1877 epic battles took place on that mountain peak of Shipka, at the geographical intersection point of the Bulgarian lands. There the Bulgarians proved that they thoroughly deserved their freedom. Supported by few Russians, the Bulgarian volunteer detachment drove off dozens of frontal and flanking attacks by the stronger enemy with its manifold superior numbers of men and equipment, expected to easily vanquish volunteers, fighting with old rifle-trophies from the Franco-Prussian War. When the arms and ammunitions finished, the volunteers resorted to blank weapons to repulse the attacks. In fierce man-to-man fighting they showered boulders and other mass of rock, even their dead comrades’ bodies. Pertinacious and murderous was the Bulgarians’ effort that crushed the Turkish army and caused it to lose nearly half of its strength. The Bulgarian volunteers withstood their positions and thus, coped with a situation that spelled more and even greater danger. A quick change of scene and reversal of the war occurred after the arrival of fresh Russian reinforcements. They took Pleven and crossed the Balkan Mountain at the end of 1877. Following victorious battles at Sofia, Plovdiv and Sheinovo, the Ottoman military machinery was shattered, dilapidated and ruined. A preliminary peace treaty was signed in the small town of San Stefano near Constantinople on March 3, 1878. It made provision for an autonomous Bulgarian state extending to almost all Bulgarian lands in the geographical areas of Macedonia, Thrace and Moesia. The treaty of San Stefano obtained justice for the Bulgarian people. Its terms of peace included the restoration of Bulgaria’s state independence and the Bulgarians’ reunification within the boundaries of one state. It, provided the solution to the paramount historic task which had confronted the Bulgarian people over the last five centuries.