A ten-year break in diplomatic relations with Russia began on this day, November 6, in 1886. Dissatisfied with the Union, Battenberg’s policy and the failed coup against the prince, the Russian Empire, through its diplomatic agent General Nikolai Kaulbars, terminated its relations with Bulgaria. None of these events have been recounted in history textbooks for several generations.
On September 13, 1886, General Nikolay Kaulbars arrived in Sofia as a Russian diplomatic agent with the mission to restore public order and tranquility in Bulgaria, as well as to return Russian control over the administration of the principality. In his letters of credence from the Foreign Minister of Russia, Girs, we read:
“His Majesty the Emperor was pleased to entrust Major-General Baron Nicolai de Caulbars with the temporary exercise of the functions of Russian diplomatic agent in Bulgaria. In informing you of this decision of your Lordship, I am inclined to hope that the reception and assistance which the Baron de Caulbars will find in the Regency will facilitate the task set before him by the benevolent intentions of the Emperor.“
The beginning of the so-called “Bulgarian crisis” by Russia was set with the accession of Eastern Rumelia to the Bulgarian principality and the removal of Alexander Battenberg from the throne, which was requested by the Russian emperor for this reason. However, the prince appointed a regency headed by Stefan Stambolov and a government headed by Radoslavov. They take a path of rapprochement with Germany and Austria-Hungary.
Encouraged by conservative circles in Russia such as the synodal procurator Pobedonostsev and the journalist publisher of Moskovskie Vedomosti Mikhail Katkov, Alexander III began to consider a military occupation of Bulgaria. It is for this purpose that he sends General Kaulbars, who is to prepare the occupation from within. This causes a reaction in Europe as well – Austria-Hungary, England and Italy categorically state that they will not allow Russia to interfere unilaterally in Bulgaria’s internal affairs. Germany officially took a conciliatory position, but Bismarck made it clear that he supported Austria in this matter. Only the categorical statement of the Western European countries and the consistent policy of Stambolov do not allow Russia to occupy Bulgaria, as conservative imperialist circles want, and turn it into its “Transdanubia province”.
Caulbars mission failed. On November 6, he left Bulgaria after Russia sent a diplomatic note saying it was severing relations with the young country.
In the meantime, the Russian emperor tried to impose his own prince – the Russian government proposed that Battenberg should be replaced by Prince Mingrelsky, but in October 1886 the Grand National Assembly elected Prince Voldemar, son of the Danish king Christian IX, a relative of Alexander III, as prince. with the hope that this candidacy will be accepted by both Russia and Western countries. However, the Russian emperor expressed his disapproval and the king of Denmark refused the Bulgarian throne on behalf of his son. Therefore, on November 13, 1886, the sessions of the Great National Assembly were postponed until a suitable candidate was found. The regency sends a delegation to European capitals. In Vienna they stopped at Prince Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg. Russia rejects him too, but Austria-Hungary and Germany support the idea and Ferdinand becomes prince of Bulgaria.
Russia’s diplomatic failure led to the loss of the positions it had gained in Bulgaria after the war of 1877-1878. The Bulgarian radical newspaper Nezavisimost wrote in early 1886:
“We feel deep gratitude towards our liberators and we are in awe of the Russian heroes who fell for our freedom. But we distinguish the hundred million great Russia from the official Russia.“
For 10 years, Bulgaria and Russia have not had official diplomatic relations. In 1894, however, political changes took place in both countries, which favored their re-convergence. In October of that year, Tsar Alexander III died in Russia. His successor, Nicholas II, was far more responsive to Bulgaria, where Russia’s opponents were removed from power – Stambolov in May, and Radoslavov in December. During the visit of a Bulgarian delegation headed by the Speaker of the National Assembly Teodor Teodorov to Russia, the main condition for reconciliation was agreed upon. On February 2, 1896, Crown Prince Boris was baptized into Orthodoxy. In response, Russia recognized Ferdinand as the rightful Bulgarian ruler, followed by the other Great Powers and the Ottoman Empire. In November 1896, the amnesty negotiations for the rebellious Bulgarian Russophile officers, 60 of whom had emigrated to Russia during the rule of Stefan Stambolov, were successfully concluded.