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Bulgaria Celebrates Anniversary of Liberation from Ottoman Rule

On Tuesday Bulgaria celebrated its national day: the anniversary of its liberation from Ottoman rule 142 years ago as a result of the 1877-1878 Russo-Turkish War.

Observances took place across the country. Despite recommendations by the national coronavirus task force to call off public functions, a traditional celebration on Mt Shipka in the Central Balkan Range was held, with President Rumen Radev, National Assembly Chair Tsveta Karayancheva, politicians and diplomats attending.

Thousands of Bulgarians braved a strong wind and dense fog to climb the 894 steps leading to the Monument to Liberty on Mt Shipka, built near the site of a decisive battle in the Russo-Turkish War, in which 7,500 Bulgarian volunteers and Russian soldiers held the pass against a 30,000-strong Turkish army on August 11, 1877.

"What would have been Bulgaria's destiny if those great Bulgarians had yielded to the virus of manipulation, to the virus of fear, to the virus of resignation, to the virus of weakness, but they stood their ground and did not yield like all of you, who hold sacred and irrevocable the duty to memory," Radev said in his speech, apparently referring to the recommendation to cancel the observance because of the risk to public health. "Over the years, quite a few politicians have ignored and contested the Third of March, and they still do," the head of State noted, adding that they have suffered defeat.

"Let us be united and true patriots, let each of us place a flower in memory of the heroes," Karayancheva told journalists. She stressed that she observes and respects the recommendation of the coronavirus task force and that she went to Mt Shipka in a private capacity rather than for an official celebration.

Earlier in the day, the national flag was raised at a solemn ceremony in front of the Monument to the Unknown Soldier while the national anthem was played and a 20-gun salute was fired. Vice President Iliana Iotova, Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Krassimir Karakachanov, senior Defence Ministry officials and Bulgarian Patriarch Neophyte attended.

The Preliminary Treaty of Peace between Russia and Turkey was signed at the Village of San Stefano (west of Istanbul) on March 3, 1878, constituting Bulgaria as an autonomous and tributary principality under the suzerainty of the Sultan on an area of 177,031 sq km, comprising the geographical regions of Moesia, Thrace and Macedonia.

The San Stefano Treaty was revised by the July 13, 1878 Treaty of Berlin, which limited the Bulgarian Principality to 35.5 per cent of the San Stefano area (the territory north of the Balkan Range plus Sofia), created an autonomous province of Eastern Rumelia in Northern Thrace, awarded Northern Dobroudja to Romania and left Macedonia and Southern Thrace under Turkish rule.

In Bulgaria, March 3 was celebrated for the first time in 1880 as the day on which Russian Emperor Alexander II ascended the throne. In 1882, the date was designated for celebration of the conclusion of the Treaty of San Stefano.

Under communism, the anniversary was not formally observed between 1950 and 1987, with the exception of the 1978 celebration of the Liberation's centenary. In 1987, March 3 was reinstated as a public holiday by a decision of Bulgarian Communist Party Central Committee. On February 27, 1990, the National Assembly designated March 3 national day of Bulgaria.


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