The lessons we should remember from the Unification 137 later – a guest on radio “Focus” is Stefan Shivachev, director of the Regional History Museum in Plovdiv.
Hello, happy holiday!
Hello. Happy holiday to you and all listeners of Radio “Focus”!
Mr. Shivachev, why is the Unification so special and we usually call it “the most Bulgarian act in our history”? How do we manage to achieve this? Is it the spirit of the Bulgarian people? What are the forces that unite us and give us the strength to unite the two torn Bulgaria?
The unification is a very special event in Bulgarian history and as I often call it – the brightest event in the new Bulgarian history. For the simple reason that in 1878 freedom or Liberation came only for a part of the Bulgarians. After the decision of the Berlin Congress, the Bulgarian lands were divided into two parts and a large part of the Bulgarians remained either under the direct authority of the Ottoman Empire, such as Macedonia and Odrinsko, or under the autonomy of Eastern Rumelia, or else handed over by the Great Powers to Romania – in in this case we are talking about Northern Dobrudja, or in Serbia – we are talking about Pirin and parts of the western Bulgarian land.
Thus, the national unification program becomes the basis for development, the most important focus in the development of the Bulgarian people. From 1878 to 1885, the word “unification” was most often found in the Bulgarian media at that time, in the newspapers, in the public life of Bulgaria. This is because the Bulgarians both in the north and in the south of the Balkans declared that they did not want to live apart. And this idea of unification covers all Bulgarians. Or as the national poet Ivan Vazov says, Unification was first carried out in the minds and hearts of all Bulgarians. This is especially important because the Unification was carried out by the entire Bulgarian society.
The unification is a purely Bulgarian event, which was prepared by the revolutionaries led by Zahariy Stoyanov, with Ivan Andonov, within the framework of this exceptional Bulgarian year 1885. It was announced on September 6. Here in Plovdiv it was greeted with great enthusiasm, with great joy from everyone, but in the next few months it was protected by the efforts, by the diplomacy, by the wisdom of all Bulgarians, starting with Prince Alexander, the Bulgarian ruler, who accepted the Unification under his scepter, knowing that this will most often cost him the crown, because in the past, and you know that even now, Russia never forgives such acts done without her consent.
Going through the Speaker of the National Assembly Stefan Stambolov, the Prime Minister Petko Karavelov, all the Bulgarian ministers, the Bulgarian captains of the new army and all the Bulgarian soldiers, of course, all these volunteers who literally abandon their studies in Central or Western Europe, upload get on ships, get on the train and go to Bulgaria to enlist as volunteers, all those Bulgarians from Macedonia who enlist as volunteers and take part in the subsequent Serbo-Bulgarian war. The union is extremely important and one more thing.
The unification showed for the first time that a small nation could prevail over the will of the Great Powers. The 19th century is known for the fact that the Great Powers gather at certain congresses – be it in Paris, in Vienna, adopt decisions that create the so-called status quo in Europe, and I can say in the world, and this status quo no one thought could be disturbed.
Suddenly, it turns out that on September 6 here, in Plovdiv, the Bulgarian spirit, the Bulgarian people announced this Unification, knowing that it was against the will of Russia, against the will of all the other Great Powers. And if at the beginning there was a completely justified skepticism, because no nation had ever allowed such a thing, then, only weeks later, especially after the epic of the Serbo-Bulgarian war and the magnificent Bulgarian victory, everyone understood that the Bulgarians stood as one and have declared: we will live united, free and ready to die in defense of our Union.
All this determines this complex of reasons in which we look at the Unification and its lessons, which are incredibly relevant in the following decades, even today, 137 years, to be exact, after the Unification of the Principality of Bulgaria and Eastern Rumelia.
In fact, if it has to talk about the military defense of the Union, Bulgaria expects that the blow will come from the southern border, from Turkey. In fact, however, we remain surprised because Serbia treacherously attacks Bulgaria. Why?
Look, we have to talk frankly about Bulgarian history. It is completely normal for our ancestors then to expect that the blow will come from the Ottoman Empire, because the Unification was announced in the capital of Eastern Rumelia – Plovdiv, and Eastern Rumelia is an autonomous province of the Ottoman Empire. I.e. a piece of the strength of this empire is torn away. Although it is in crisis, although everyone is talking about its future collapse, it is ultimately a blow against the Ottoman Empire.
However, thanks to the intervention of the Great Powers, who understand that the entry of Ottoman troops into Eastern Rumelia and the Principality will lead to an incredible crisis, then it turns out that thanks to the intervention of Great Britain, Russia too, despite these contradictions that have between Emperor Alexander III and the Bulgarian ruler Prince Alexander, the Ottoman Empire quietly accepted this situation. But all our neighbors have been used to it since before 1878, because Bulgaria was the last of the Balkan states to liberate itself – they are used to gradually taking away parts of the strength of the Bulgarian people.
Thus, Serbia has repeatedly moved the border. Niško, Pirotsko, Pomoravieto – these are areas inhabited by a predominantly Bulgarian population. Romania also has claims, although it took Northern Dobrudja, where there is not a single Romanian, as they say, in 1876. Greece also makes its claims. And that the Serbian king Milan turns out to be short-sighted enough and gluttonous enough to call him in the human sense of the word – you know, in Serbia after September 6 Arthur von Hoon, as a correspondent of the Kölnische Zeitung, passing through Belgrade, remains horrified by these crowds , who manifest and who declare that in just a few weeks the Serbian troops will be in Sofia and will divide a new border, which will be a few kilometers from Sofia.
And this is actually the Balkan story, these are actually completely unjustified claims. But there are always such moments in history, when starting something, it has radically opposite results. This is how it happened with the Serbo-Bulgarian war. No one believes that the general-led Serbian army, which has fought two wars against Turkey, which is being fought as one of – or at least the Serbs think it is one of the good armies in South-Eastern Europe, suddenly turns out to be the young Bulgarian army , commanded by captains who simply did not have time to reach the rank of major, suddenly it turns out that this young army of these Bulgarian soldiers – for five centuries the Bulgarians did not have their own country, they did not have an army, and suddenly they raised an army , which crushes the troops of Serbia.
Yes it is.
And this already shows the whole of Europe that there is no going back. And then, thanks to British diplomacy, this wording was invented, which with the Tophanen Act of the end of March 1886, recognizing the Ottoman Empire, entrusted the management of Eastern Rumelia to the Bulgarian prince for a period of two years, which would be renewed every five years , and so the wolf is full, and the lamb is whole. Bulgaria is united, united, the Bulgarian Principality becomes the largest in terms of territory and power on the Balkan Peninsula. Of course, to some extent the Ottoman Empire is also satisfied, because it will receive this tax, which it receives from the Principality and Eastern Rumelia until 1908.
Thank you! Let’s wish each other a nice holiday once again and still be united in the cause.