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135 years of Union

September 6, 2020 The Republic of Bulgaria commemorates  135 years since the Unification of Eastern Rumelia and Bulgaria in 1885. On this occasion, the National Museum of History is pleased to put on a virtual exhibition titled  "135 years since the Union". The exhibition displays some very important  photos from the Museum’ archives as well as objects that are related to the Bulgarian Unification.

In 1878,  the Independent State of Bulgaria surfaced again on the map of Europe and it is on the same year, the Bulgarian territories   were divided into few different parts based on the decisions of the Berlin Congress. This occurrence marks the beginning of the struggle for National Unified Bulgaria. Thus, It was the major task for all patriotic public figures and politicians on both sides of the Balkan Mountains. As early as autumn of 1878, few attempts were made to change the unjust decisions of the Great Superpowers of the time, but these attempts were unsuccessful. In the next few years, due to political instability in the Principality and foreign policy obstacles, the union movement did not achieve any progress. However, in the beginning of 1885 the situation changed when Zachari Stoyanov was appointed as the leader of Bulgarian Secret Central Revolutionary Committee (BTCRK) in Plovdiv. Stoyanov successfully developed a sense of national awareness of a United Bulgaria through energetic activities and with the help of Kosta Panitza, Dimitar Rizov, Petar Zografski, Ivan Stoyanovich, Georgi Stranski, Prodan Tishkov-Chardafon among many other supporters of the cause, they managed to create the appropriate socio-political attitude outreaching the population. The agreement with the forthcoming act of the Bulgarian ruler - Knyaz Alexander Battenberg also played a key role.

Alexander I Battenberg was a Bulgarian prince from June 1879 to August 1886. He was born in 1857 and was the second son of German Prince Alexander von Hessen-Darmstadt, whose sister was the wife of Russian Tsar Alexander II. He received a military education and participated in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878. After the war he was elected as the Bulgarian Prince by the First Grand National Assembly. In 1885 he accepted with a proclamation the Union of the Principality of Bulgaria and Eastern Rumelia. Overthrown in a coup in August 1886, he abdicated and left the country. He died in November 1893 in Austria-Hungary, and later his remains were buried in the Mausoleum in the center of Sofia.

BTCRK initially decided to announce the unification action on September 15, but due to the riots that broke out earlier this month and the tense situation, the date was changed to September 5th and 6th. On the same night, units of the Plovdiv militia, led by Major Danail Nikolaev and other loyal officers, backed by armed guerrillas who entered the city, overthrew the government of Governor-General Gavril Krastevich. Two days later the prince accepted the Union.

The end of the great act is the victory of the young Bulgarian army in the outbreak of the Serbian-Bulgarian war shortly afterwards. In just a few weeks, our troops, commanded mainly by captains, made an almost unthinkable crossing from the border with the Ottoman Empire to the positions at Slivnitsa, where they stopped Serbian divisions, turned them into flight and pursued them outside the Principality. The success of the war crowned the whole act of the Union and was the first step towards the national unification of all Bulgarians in the lands mentioned in the treaty for the establishment of San Stefano Bulgaria.

Most of the photographs of this virtual exhibition are provided by the archives of  NMH and are displayed for the first time to the public.

Author: Hristo Hristov
Photo: Todor Dimitrov

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