1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Bulgaria/History
II. Political History
The ancient Thraco-Illyrian race which inhabited the district between the Danube and the Aegean was expelled, or more probably absorbed, by the great Slavonic immigration which took place at various intervals between the end of the 3rd century after Christ and the beginning of the 6th. The numerous tumuli which are found in all parts of the country (see Herodotus v. 8) and some stone tablets with bas-reliefs remain as monuments of the aboriginal population; and certain structural peculiarities, which are common to the Bulgarian and Rumanian languages, may conceivably be traced to the influence of the primitive Illyrian speech, now probably represented by the Albanian. The Slavs, an agricultural people, were governed, even in those remote times, by the democratic local institutions to which they are still attached; they possessed no national leaders or central organization, and their only political unit was the pleme, or tribe. They were considerably influenced by contact with Roman civilization. It was reserved for a foreign race, altogether distinct in origin, religion and customs, to give unity and coherence to the scattered Slavonic groups, and to weld them into a compact and powerful state which for some centuries played an important part in the history of eastern Europe and threatened the existence of the Byzantine empire.
The Bulgars.—The Bulgars, a Turanian race akin to the Tatars, Huns, Avars, Petchenegs and Finns, made their appearance on the banks of the Pruth in the latter part of the 7th century. They were a horde of wild horsemen, fierce and barbarous, practising polygamy, and governed despotically by their khans (chiefs) and boyars or bolyars (nobles). Their original abode was the tract between the Ural mountains and the Volga, where the kingdom of Great (or Black) Bolgary existed down to the 13th century. In 679, under their khan Asparukh (or Isperikh), they crossed the Danube, and, after subjugating the Slavonic population of Moesia, advanced to the gates of Constantinople and Salonica. The East Roman emperors were compelled to cede to them the province of Moesia and to pay them an annual tribute. The invading horde was not numerous, and during the next two centuries it became gradually merged in the Slavonic population. Like the Franks in Gaul the Bulgars gave their name and a political organization to the more civilized race which they conquered, but adopted its language, customs and local institutions. Not a trace of the Ugrian or Finnish element is to be found in the Bulgarian speech. This complete assimilation of a conquering race may be illustrated by many parallels.
Early Dynasties.—The history of the early Bulgarian dynasties is little else than a record of continuous conflicts with the Byzantine emperors. The tribute first imposed on the Greeks by Asparukh was again exacted by Kardam (791-797) and Krum (802-815), a sovereign noted alike for his cruelty and his military and political capacity. Under his rule the Bulgarian realm extended from the Carpathians to the neighbourhood of Adrianople; Serdica (the present Sofia) was taken, and the valley of the Struma conquered. Prêslav, the Bulgarian capital, was attacked and burned by the emperor Nicephorus, but the Greek army on its return was annihilated in one of the Balkan passes; the emperor was slain, and his skull was converted by Krum into a goblet. The reign of Boris (852-884) is memorable for the introduction of Christianity into Bulgaria. Two monks of Salonica, SS. Cyril and Methodius, are generally reverenced as the national apostles; the scene of their labours, however, was among the Slavs of Moravia, and the Bulgars were evangelized by their disciples. Boris, finding himself surrounded by Christian states, decided from political motives to abandon paganism. He was baptized in 864, the emperor Michael III. acting as his sponsor. It was at this time that the controversies broke out which ended in the schism between the Churches of the East and West. Boris long wavered between Constantinople and Rome, but the refusal of the pope to recognize an autocephalous Bulgarian church determined him to offer his allegiance to the Greek patriarch. The decision was fraught with momentous consequences for the future of the race. The nation altered its religion in obedience to its sovereign, and some of the boyars who resisted the change paid with their lives for their fidelity to the ancient belief. The independence of the Bulgarian church was recognized by the patriarchate, a fact much dwelt upon in recent controversies. The Bulgarian primates subsequently received the title of patriarch; their see was transferred from Prêslav to Sofia, Voden and Prespa successively, and finally to Ochrida.
The First Empire.—The national power reached its zenith under Simeon (893-927), a monarch distinguished in the arts of war and peace. In his reign, says Gibbon, "Bulgaria assumed a rank among the civilized powers of the earth." His dominions extended from the Black Sea to the Adriatic, and from the borders of Thessaly to the Save and the Carpathians. Having become the most powerful monarch in eastern Europe, Simeon assumed the style of "Emperor and Autocrat of all the Bulgars and Greeks" (tsar i samodrzhetz vsêm Blgarom i Grkom), a title which was recognized by Pope Formosus. During the latter years of his reign, which were spent in peace, his people made great progress in civilization, literature nourished, and Prêslav, according to contemporary chroniclers, rivalled Constantinople in magnificence. After the death of Simeon the Bulgarian power declined owing to internal dissensions; the land was distracted by the Bogomil heresy (see BOGOMILS), and a separate or western empire, including Albania and Macedonia, was founded at Ochrida by Shishman, a boyar from Trnovo. A notable event took place in 967, when the Russians, under Sviatoslav, made their first appearance in Bulgaria. The Bulgarian tsar, Boris II., with the aid of the emperor John Zimisces, expelled the invaders, but the Greeks took advantage of their victory to dethrone Boris, and the first Bulgarian empire thus came to an end after an existence of three centuries. The empire at Ochrida, however, rose to considerable importance under Samuel, the son of Shishman (976-1014), who conquered the greater part of the Peninsula, and ruled from the Danube to the Morea. After a series of campaigns this redoubtable warrior was defeated at Bêlasitza by the emperor Basil II., surnamed Bulgaroktonos, who put out the eyes of 15,000 prisoners taken in the fight, and sent them into the camp of his adversary. The Bulgarian tsar was so overpowered by the spectacle that he died of grief. A few years later his dynasty finally disappeared, and for more than a century and a half (1018-1186) the Bulgarian race remained subject to the Byzantine emperors.
The Second Empire.—In 1186, after a general insurrection of Vlachs and Bulgars under the brothers Ivan and Peter Asên of Trnovo, who claimed descent from the dynasty of the Shishmanovtzi, the nation recovered its independence, and Ivan Asên assumed the title of "Tsar of the Bulgars and Greeks." The seat of the second, or "Bulgaro-Vlach" empire was at Trnovo, which the Bulgarians regard as the historic capital of their race. Kaloyan, the third of the Asên monarchs, extended his dominions to Belgrade, Nish and Skopïe (Uskub); he acknowledged the spiritual supremacy of the pope, and received the royal crown from a papal legate. The greatest of all Bulgarian rulers was Ivan Asên II. (1218-1241), a man of humane and enlightened character. After a series of victorious campaigns he established his sway over Albania, Epirus, Macedonia and Thrace, and governed his wide dominions with justice, wisdom and moderation. In his time the nation attained a prosperity hitherto unknown: commerce, the arts and literature flourished; Trnovo, the capital, was enlarged and embellished; and great numbers of churches and monasteries were founded or endowed. The dynasty of the Asêns became extinct in 1257, and a period of decadence began. Two other dynasties, both of Kuman origin, followed—the Terterovtzi, who ruled at Trnovo, and the Shishmanovtzi, who founded an independent state at Vidin, but afterwards reigned in the national capital. Eventually, on the 28th June 1330, a day commemorated with sorrow in Bulgaria, Tsar Michael Shishman was defeated and slain by the Servians, under Stephen Urosh III., at the battle of Velbûzhd (Kiustendil). Bulgaria, though still retaining its native rulers, now became subject to Servia, and formed part of the short-lived empire of Stephen Dushan (1331-1355). The Servian hegemony vanished after the death of Dushan, and the Christian races of the Peninsula, distracted by the quarrels of their petty princes, fell an easy prey to the advancing might of the Moslem invader.
The Turkish Conquest.—In 1340 the Turks had begun to ravage the valley of the Maritza; in 1362 they captured Philippopolis, and in 1382 Sofia. In 1366 Ivan Shishman III., the last Bulgarian tsar, was compelled to declare himself the vassal of the sultan Murad I., and to send his sister to the harem of the conqueror. In 1389 the rout of the Servians, Bosnians and Croats on the famous field of Kossovo decided the fate of the Peninsula. Shortly afterwards Ivan Shishman was attacked by the Turks; and Trnovo, after a siege of three months, was captured, sacked and burnt in 1393. The fate of the last Bulgarian sovereign is unknown: the national legend represents him as perishing in a battle near Samakov. Vidin, where Ivan's brother, Strazhimir, had established himself, was taken in 1396, and with its fall the last remnant of Bulgarian independence disappeared.
The five centuries of Turkish rule (1396-1878) form a dark epoch in Bulgarian history. The invaders carried fire and sword through the land; towns, villages and monasteries were sacked and destroyed, and whole districts were converted into desolate wastes. The inhabitants of the plains fled to the mountains, where they founded new settlements. Many of the nobles embraced the creed of Islam, and were liberally rewarded for their apostasy; others, together with numbers of the priests and people, took refuge across the Danube. All the regions formerly ruled by the Bulgarian tsars, including Macedonia and Thrace, were placed under the administration of a governor-general, styled the beylerbey of Rum-ili, residing at Sofia; Bulgaria proper was divided into the sanjaks of Sofia, Nikopolis, Vidin, Silistria and Kiustendil. Only a small proportion of the people followed the example of the boyars in abandoning Christianity; the conversion of the isolated communities now represented by the Pomaks took place at various intervals during the next three centuries. A new kind of feudal system replaced that of the boyars, and fiefs or spahiliks were conferred on the Ottoman chiefs and the renegade Bulgarian nobles. The Christian population was subjected to heavy imposts, the principal being the haratch, or capitation-tax, paid to the imperial treasury, and the tithe on agricultural produce, which was collected by the feudal lord. Among the most cruel forms of oppression was the requisitioning of young boys between the ages of ten and twelve, who were sent to Constantinople as recruits for the corps of janissaries. Notwithstanding the horrors which attended the Ottoman conquest, the condition of the peasantry during the first three centuries of Turkish government was scarcely worse than it had been under the tyrannical rule of the boyars. The contemptuous indifference with which the Turks regarded the Christian rayas was not altogether to the disadvantage of the subject race. Military service was not exacted from the Christians, no systematic effort was made to extinguish either their religion or their language, and within certain limits they were allowed to retain their ancient local administration and the jurisdiction of their clergy in regard to inheritances and family affairs. At the time of the conquest certain towns and villages, known as the voïnitchki sela, obtained important privileges which were not infringed till the 18th century; on condition of furnishing contingents to the Turkish army or grooms for the sultan's horses they obtained exemption from most of the taxes and complete self-government under their voïvodi or chiefs. Some of them, such as Koprivshtitza in the Sredna Gora, attained great prosperity, which has somewhat declined since the establishment of the principality. While the Ottoman power was at its height the lot of the subject-races was far less intolerable than during the period of decadence, which began with the unsuccessful siege of Vienna in 1683. Their rights and privileges were respected, the law was enforced, commerce prospered, good roads were constructed, and the great caravans of the Ragusan merchants traversed the country. Down to the end of the 18th century there appears to have been only one serious attempt at revolt—that occasioned by the advance of Prince Sigismund Báthory into Walachia in 1595. A kind of guerilla warfare was, however, maintained in the mountains by the kaiduti, or outlaws, whose exploits, like those of the Greek klepkts, have been highly idealized in the popular folk-lore. As the power of the sultans declined anarchy spread through the Peninsula. In the earlier decades of the 18th century the Bulgarians suffered terribly from the ravages of the Turkish armies passing through the land during the wars with Austria. Towards its close their condition became even worse owing to the horrors perpetrated by the Krjalis, or troops of disbanded soldiers and desperadoes, who, in defiance of the Turkish authorities, roamed through the country, supporting themselves by plunder and committing every conceivable atrocity. After the peace of Belgrade (1737), by which Austria lost her conquests in the Peninsula, the Servians and Bulgarians began to look to Russia for deliverance, their hopes being encouraged by the treaty of Kuchuk Kaïnarji (1774), which foreshadowed the claim of Russia to protect the Orthodox Christians in the Turkish empire. In 1794 Pasvanoglu, one of the chiefs of the Krjalis, established himself as an independent sovereign at Vidin, putting to flight three large Turkish armies which were despatched against him. This adventurer possessed many remarkable qualities. He adorned Vidin with handsome buildings, maintained order, levied taxes and issued a separate coinage. He died in 1807. The memoirs of Sofronii, bishop of Vratza, present a vivid picture of the condition of Bulgaria at this time. "My diocese," he writes, "was laid desolate; the villages disappeared—they had been burnt by the Krjalis and Pasvan's brigands; the inhabitants were scattered far and wide over Walachia and other lands."
The National Revival.—At the beginning of the 19th century the existence of the Bulgarian race was almost unknown in Europe, even to students of Slavonic literature. Disheartened by ages of oppression, isolated from Christendom by their geographical position, and cowed by the proximity of Constantinople, the Bulgarians took no collective part in the insurrectionary movement which resulted in the liberation of Servia and Greece. The Russian invasions of 1810 and 1828 only added to their sufferings, and great numbers of fugitives took refuge in Bessarabia, annexed by Russia under the treaty of Bucharest. But the long-dormant national spirit now began to awake under the influence of a literary revival. The precursors of the movement were Paisii, a monk of Mount Athos, who wrote a history of the Bulgarian tsars and saints (1762), and Bishop Sofronii, whose memoirs have been already mentioned. After 1824 several works written in modern Bulgarian began to appear, but the most important step was the foundation, in 1835, of the first Bulgarian school at Gabrovo. Within ten years at least 53 Bulgarian schools came into existence, and five Bulgarian printing-presses were at work. The literary movement led the way to a reaction against the influence and authority of the Greek clergy. The spiritual domination of the Greek patriarchate had tended more effectually than the temporal power of the Turks to the effacement of Bulgarian nationality. After the conquest of the Peninsula the Greek patriarch became the representative at the Sublime Porte of the Rûm-millet, the Roman nation, in which all the Christian nationalities were comprised. The independent patriarchate of Trnovo was suppressed; that of Ochrida was subsequently Hellenized. The Phanariot clergy—unscrupulous, rapacious and corrupt— succeeded in monopolizing the higher ecclesiastical appointments and filled the parishes with Greek priests, whose schools, in which Greek was exclusively taught, were the only means of instruction open to the population. By degrees Greek became the language of the upper classes in all the Bulgarian towns, the Bulgarian language was written in Greek characters, and the illiterate peasants, though speaking the vernacular, called themselves Greeks. The Slavonic liturgy was suppressed in favour of the Greek, and in many places the old Bulgarian manuscripts, images, testaments and missals were committed to the flames. The patriots of the literary movement, recognizing in the patriarchate the most determined foe to a national revival, directed all their efforts to the abolition of Greek ecclesiastical ascendancy and the restoration of the Bulgarian autonomous church. Some of the leaders went so far as to open negotiations with Rome, and an archbishop of the Uniate Bulgarian church was nominated by the pope. The struggle was prosecuted with the utmost tenacity for forty years. Incessant protests and memorials were addressed to the Porte, and every effort was made to undermine the position of the Greek bishops, some of whom were compelled to abandon their sees. At the same time no pains were spared to diffuse education and to stimulate the national sentiment. Various insurrectionary movements were attempted by the patriots Rakovski, Panayot Khitoff, Haji Dimitr, Stephen Karaja and others, but received little support from the mass of the people. The recognition of Bulgarian nationality was won by the pen, not the sword. The patriarchate at length found it necessary to offer some concessions, but these appeared illusory to the Bulgarians, and long and acrimonious discussions followed. Eventually the Turkish government intervened, and on the 28th of February 1870 a firman was issued establishing the Bulgarian exarchate, with jurisdiction over fifteen dioceses, including Nish, Pirot and Veles; the other dioceses in dispute were to be added to these in case two-thirds of the Christian population so desired. The election of the first exarch was delayed till February 1872, owing to the opposition of the patriarch, who immediately afterwards excommunicated the new head of the Bulgarian church and all his followers. The official recognition now acquired tended to consolidate the Bulgarian nation and to prepare it for the political developments which were soon to follow. A great educational activity at once displayed itself in all the districts subjected to the new ecclesiastical power.
The Revolt of 1876.—Under the enlightened administration of Midhat Pasha (1864-1868) Bulgaria enjoyed comparative prosperity, but that remarkable man is not remembered with gratitude by the people owing to the severity with which he repressed insurrectionary movements. In 1861, 12,000 Crimean Tatars, and in 1864 a still larger number of Circassians from the Caucasus, were settled by the Turkish government on lands taken without compensation from the Bulgarian peasants. The Circassians, a lawless race of mountaineers, proved a veritable scourge to the population in their neighbourhood. In 1875 the insurrection in Bosnia and Herzegovina produced immense excitement throughout the Peninsula. The fanaticism of the Moslems was aroused, and the Bulgarians, fearing a general massacre of Christians, endeavoured to anticipate the blow by organizing a general revolt. The rising, which broke out prematurely at Koprìvshtitza and Panagurishté in May 1876, was mainly confined to the sanjak of Philippopolis. Bands of bashi-bazouks were let loose throughout the district by the Turkish authorities, the Pomaks, or Moslem Bulgarians, and the Circassian colonists were called to arms, and a succession of horrors followed to which a parallel can scarcely be found in the history of the middle ages. The principal scenes of massacre were Panagurishté, Perushtitza, Bratzigovo and Batak; at the last-named town, according to an official British report, 5000 men, women and children were put to the sword by the Pomaks under Achmet Aga, who was decorated by the sultan for this exploit. Altogether some 15,000 persons were massacred in the district of Philippopolis, and fifty-eight villages and five monasteries were destroyed. Isolated risings which took place on the northern side of the Balkans were crushed with similar barbarity. These atrocities, which were first made known by an English journalist and an American consular official, were denounced by Gladstone in a celebrated pamphlet which aroused the indignation of Europe. The great powers remained inactive, but Servia declared war in the following month, and her army was joined by 2000 Bulgarian volunteers. A conference of the representatives of the powers, held at Constantinople towards the end of the year, proposed, among other reforms, the organization of the Bulgarian provinces, including the greater part of Macedonia, in two vilayets under Christian governors, with popular representation. These recommendations were practically set aside by the Porte, and in April 1877 Russia declared war (see RUSSO-TURKISH WARS, and PLEVNA). In the campaign which followed the Bulgarian volunteer contingent in the Russian army played an honourable part; it accompanied Gourko's advance over the Balkans, behaved with great bravery at Stara Zagora, where it lost heavily, and rendered valuable services in the defence of Shipka.
Treaties of San Stefano and Berlin.—The victorious advance of the Russian army to Constantinople was followed by the treaty of San Stefano (3rd March 1878), which realized almost to the full the national aspirations of the Bulgarian race. All the provinces of European Turkey in which the Bulgarian element predominated were now included in an autonomous principality, which extended from the Black Sea to the Albanian mountains, and from the Danube to the Aegean, enclosing Ochrida, the ancient capital of the Shishmans, Dibra and Kastoria, as well as the districts of Vranya and Pirot, and possessing a Mediterranean port at Kavala. The Dobrudja, notwithstanding its Bulgarian population, was not included in the new state, being reserved as compensation to Rumania for the Russian annexation of Bessarabia; Adrianople, Salonica and the Chalcidian peninsula were left to Turkey. The area thus delimited constituted three-fifths of the Balkan Peninsula, with a population of 4,000,000 inhabitants. The great powers, however, anticipating that this extensive territory would become a Russian dependency, intervened; and on the 13th of July of the same year was signed the treaty of Berlin, which in effect divided the "Big Bulgaria" of the treaty of San Stefano into three portions. The limits of the principality of Bulgaria, as then defined, and the autonomous province of Eastern Rumelia, have been already described; the remaining portion, including almost the whole of Macedonia and part of the vilayet of Adrianople, was left under Turkish administration. No special organization was provided for the districts thus abandoned; it was stipulated that laws similar to the organic law of Crete should be introduced into the various parts of Turkey in Europe, but this engagement was never carried out by the Porte. Vranya, Pirot and Nish were given to Servia, and the transference of the Dobrudja to Rumania was sanctioned. This artificial division of the Bulgarian nation could scarcely be regarded as possessing elements of permanence. It was provided that the prince of Bulgaria should be freely elected by the population, and confirmed by the Sublime Porte with the assent of the powers, and that, before his election, an assembly of Bulgarian notables, convoked at Trnovo, should draw up the organic law of the principality. The drafting of a constitution for Eastern Rumelia was assigned to a European commission.
The Constitution of Trnovo.—Pending the completion of their political organization, Bulgaria and Eastern Rumelia were occupied by Russian troops and administered by Russian officials. The assembly of notables, which met at Trnovo in 1879, was mainly composed of half-educated peasants, who from the first displayed an extremely democratic spirit, in which they proceeded to manipulate the very liberal constitution submitted to them by Prince Dondukov-Korsakov, the Russian governor-general. The long period of Turkish domination had effectually obliterated all social distinctions, and the radical element, which now formed into a party under Tzankoff and Karaveloff, soon gave evidence of its predominance. Manhood suffrage, a single chamber, payment of deputies, the absence of property qualification for candidates, and the prohibition of all titles and distinctions, formed salient features in the constitution now elaborated. The organic statute of Eastern Rumelia was largely modelled on the Belgian constitution. The governor-general, nominated for five years by the sultan with the approbation of the powers, was assisted by an assembly, partly representative, partly composed of ex-officio members; a permanent committee was entrusted with the preparation of legislative measures and the general supervision of the administration, while a council of six "directors" fulfilled the duties of a ministry.
Prince Alexander.—On the 29th of April 1879 the assembly at Trnovo, on the proposal of Russia, elected as first sovereign of Bulgaria Prince Alexander of Battenberg, a member of the grand ducal house of Hesse and a nephew of the tsar Alexander II. Arriving in Bulgaria on the 7th of July, Prince Alexander, then in his twenty-third year, found all the authority, military and civil, in Russian hands. The history of the earlier portion of his reign is marked by two principal features—a strong Bulgarian reaction against Russian tutelage and a vehement struggle against the autocratic institutions which the young ruler, under Russian guidance, endeavoured to inaugurate. Both movements were symptomatic of the determination of a strong-willed and egoistic race, suddenly liberated from secular oppression, to enjoy to the full the moral and material privileges of liberty. In the assembly at Trnovo the popular party had adopted the watchword "Bulgaria for the Bulgarians," and a considerable anti-Russian contingent was included in its ranks. Young and inexperienced, Prince Alexander, at the suggestion of the Russian consul-general, selected his first ministry from a small group of "Conservative" politicians whose views were in conflict with those of the parliamentary majority, but he was soon compelled to form a "Liberal" administration under Tzankoff and Karaveloff. The Liberals, once in power, initiated a violent campaign against foreigners in general and the Russians in particular; they passed an alien law, and ejected foreigners from every lucrative position. The Russians made a vigorous resistance, and a state of chaos ensued. Eventually the prince, finding good government impossible, obtained the consent of the tsar to a change of the constitution, and assumed absolute authority on the 9th of May 1881. The Russian general Ernroth was appointed sole minister, and charged with the duty of holding elections for the Grand Sobranye, to which the right of revising the constitution appertained. So successfully did he discharge his mission that the national representatives, almost without debate, suspended the constitution and invested the prince with absolute powers for a term of seven years (July 1881). A period of Russian government followed under Generals Skobelev and Kaulbars, who were specially despatched from St Petersburg to enhance the authority of the prince. Their administration, however, tended to a contrary result, and the prince, finding himself reduced to impotence, opened negotiations with the Bulgarian leaders and effected a coalition of all parties on the basis of a restoration of the constitution. The generals, who had made an unsuccessful attempt to remove the prince, withdrew; the constitution of Trnovo was restored by proclamation (19th September 1883), and a coalition ministry was formed under Tzankoff. Prince Alexander, whose relations with the court of St Petersburg had become less cordial since the death of his uncle, the tsar Alexander II., in 1881, now incurred the serious displeasure of Russia, and the breach was soon widened by the part which he played in encouraging the national aspirations of the Bulgarians.
Union with Eastern Rumelia.—In Eastern Rumelia, where the Bulgarian population never ceased to protest against the division of the race, political life had developed on the same lines as in the principality. Among the politicians two parties had come into existence—the Conservatives or self-styled "Unionists," and the Radicals, derisively called by their opponents "Kazioni" or treasury-seekers; both were equally desirous of bringing about the union with the principality. Neither party, however, while in power would risk the sweets of office by embarking in a hazardous adventure. It was reserved for the Kazioni, under their famous leader Zakharia Stoyánoff, who in early life had been a shepherd, to realize the national programme. In 1885 the Unionists were in office, and their opponents lost no time in organizing a conspiracy for the overthrow of the governor-general, Krstovitch Pasha. Their designs were facilitated by the circumstance that Turkey had abstained from sending troops into the province. Having previously assured themselves of Prince Alexander's acquiescence, they seized the governor-general and proclaimed the union with Bulgaria (18th September). The revolution took place without bloodshed, and a few days later Prince Alexander entered Philippopolis amid immense enthusiasm. His position now became precarious. The powers were scandalized at the infraction of the Berlin Treaty; Great Britain alone showed sympathy, while Russia denounced the union and urged the Porte to reconquer the revolted province—both powers thus reversing their respective attitudes at the congress of Berlin.
War with Servia.—The Turkish troops were massed at the frontier, and Servia, hoping to profit by the difficulties of her neighbour, suddenly declared war (14th November). At the moment of danger the Russian officers, who filled all the higher posts in the Bulgarian army, were withdrawn by order of the tsar. In these critical circumstances Prince Alexander displayed considerable ability and resource, and the nation gave evidence of hitherto unsuspected qualities. Contrary to general expectation, the Bulgarian army, imperfectly equipped and led by subaltern officers, successfully resisted the Servian invasion. After brilliant victories at Slivnitza (19th November) and Tsaribrod, Prince Alexander crossed the frontier and captured Pirot (27th November), but his farther progress was arrested by the intervention of Austria (see SERVO-BULGARIAN WAR). The treaty of Bucharest followed (3rd of March 1886), declaring, in a single clause, the restoration of peace. Servia, notwithstanding her aggression, escaped a war indemnity, but the union with Eastern Rumelia was practically secured. By the convention of Top-Khané (5th April) Prince Alexander was recognized by the sultan as governor-general of eastern Rumelia; a personal union only was sanctioned, but in effect the organic statute disappeared and the countries were administratively united. These military and diplomatic successes, which invested the prince with the attributes of a national hero, quickened the decision of Russia to effect his removal. An instrument was found in the discontent of several of his officers, who considered themselves slighted in the distribution of rewards, and a conspiracy was formed in which Tzankoff, Karaveloff (the prime minister), Archbishop Clement, and other prominent persons were implicated. On the night of the 21st of August the prince was seized in his palace by several officers and compelled, under menace of death, to sign his abdication; he was then hurried to the Danube at Rakhovo and transported to Russian soil at Reni. This violent act met with instant disapproval on the part of the great majority of the nation. Stamboloff, the president of the assembly, and Colonel Mutkuroff, commandant of the troops at Philippopolis, initiated a counter-revolution; the provisional government set up by the conspirators immediately fell, and a few days later the prince, who had been liberated by the Russian authorities, returned to the country amid every demonstration of popular sympathy and affection. His arrival forestalled that of a Russian imperial commissioner, who had been appointed to proceed to Bulgaria. He now committed the error of addressing a telegram to the tsar in which he offered to resign his crown into the hands of Russia. This unfortunate step, by which he ignored the suzerainty of Turkey, and represented Bulgaria as a Russian dependency, exposed him to a stern rebuff, and fatally compromised his position. The national leaders, after obtaining a promise from the Russian representative at Sofia that Russia would abstain from interference in the internal affairs of the country, consented to his departure; on the 8th of September he announced his abdication, and on the following day he left Bulgaria.
The Regency.—A regency was now formed, in which the prominent figure was Stamboloff, the most remarkable man whom modern Bulgaria has produced. A series of attempts to throw the country into anarchy were firmly dealt with, and the Grand Sobranye was summoned to elect a new prince. The candidature of the prince of Mingrelia was now set up by Russia, and General Kaulbars was despatched to Bulgaria to make known to the people the wishes of the tsar. He vainly endeavoured to postpone the convocation of the Grand Sobranye in order to gain time for the restoration of Russian influence, and proceeded on an electoral tour through the country. The failure of his mission was followed by the withdrawal of the Russian representatives from Bulgaria. The Grand Sobranye, which assembled at Trnovo, offered the crown to Prince Valdemar of Denmark, brother-in-law of the tsar, but the honour was declined, and an anxious period ensued, during which a deputation visited the principal capitals of Europe with the twofold object of winning sympathy for the cause of Bulgarian independence and discovering a suitable candidate for the throne.
Prince Ferdinand.—On the 7th of July 1887, the Grand Sobranye unanimously elected Prince Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, a grandson, maternally, of King Louis Philippe. The new prince, who was twenty-six years of age, was at this time a lieutenant in the Austrian army. Undeterred by the difficulties of the international situation and the distracted condition of the country, he accepted the crown, and took over the government on the 14th of August at Trnovo. His arrival, which was welcomed with enthusiasm, put an end to a long and critical interregnum, but the dangers which menaced Bulgarian independence were far from disappearing. Russia declared the newly-elected sovereign a usurper; the other powers, in deference to her susceptibilities, declined to recognize him, and the grand vizier informed him that his presence in Bulgaria was illegal. Numerous efforts were made by the partisans of Russia to disturb internal tranquillity, and Stamboloff, who became prime minister on the 1st of September, found it necessary to govern with a strong hand. A raid led by the Russian captain Nabokov was repulsed; brigandage, maintained for political purposes, was exterminated; the bishops of the Holy Synod, who, at the instigation of Clement, refused to pay homage to the prince, were forcibly removed from Sofia; a military conspiracy organized by Major Panitza was crushed, and its leader executed. An attempt to murder the energetic prime minister resulted in the death of his colleague, Beltcheff, and shortly afterwards Dr Vlkovitch, the Bulgarian representative at Constantinople, was assassinated. While contending with unscrupulous enemies at home, Stamboloff pursued a successful policy abroad. Excellent relations were established with Turkey and Rumania, valuable concessions were twice extracted from the Porte in regard to the Bulgarian episcopate in Macedonia, and loans were concluded with foreign financiers on comparatively favourable terms. His overbearing character, however, increased the number of his opponents, and alienated the goodwill of the prince.
In the spring of 1893 Prince Ferdinand married Princess Marie-Louise of Bourbon-Parma, whose family insisted on the condition that the issue of the marriage should be brought up in the Roman Catholic faith. In view of the importance of establishing a dynasty, Stamboloff resolved on the unpopular course of altering the clause of the constitution which required that the heir to the throne should belong to the Orthodox Church, and the Grand Sobranye, which was convoked at Trnovo in the summer, gave effect to this decision. The death of Prince Alexander, which took place in the autumn, and the birth of an heir, tended to strengthen the position of Prince Ferdinand, who now assumed a less compliant attitude towards the prime minister. In 1894 Stamboloff resigned office; a ministry was formed under Dr Stoïloff, and Prince Ferdinand inaugurated a policy of conciliation towards Russia with a view to obtaining his recognition by the powers. A Russophil reaction followed, large numbers of political refugees returned to Bulgaria, and Stamboloff, exposed to the vengeance of his enemies, was assassinated in the streets of Sofia (15th July 1895).
The prince's plans were favoured by the death of the tsar Alexander III. in November 1894, and the reconciliation was practically effected by the conversion of his eldest son, Prince Boris, to the Orthodox faith (14th February 1896). The powers having signified their assent, he was nominated by the sultan prince of Bulgaria and governor-general of Eastern Rumelia (14th March). Russian influence now became predominant in Bulgaria, but the cabinet of St Petersburg wisely abstained from interfering in the internal affairs of the principality. In February 1896 Russia proposed the reconciliation of the Greek and Bulgarian churches and the removal of the exarch to Sofia. The project, which involved a renunciation of the exarch's jurisdiction in Macedonia, excited strong opposition in Bulgaria, and was eventually dropped. The death of Princess Marie-Louise (30th January 1899), caused universal regret in the country. In the same month the Stoïloff government, which had weakly tampered with the Macedonian movement (see MACEDONIA) and had thrown the finances into disorder, resigned, and a ministry under Grekoff succeeded, which endeavoured to mend the economic situation by means of a foreign loan. The loan, however, fell through, and in October a new government was formed under Ivanchoff and Radoslavoff. This, in its turn, Was replaced by a cabinet d'affaires under General Petroff (January 1901).
In the following March Karaveloff for the third time became prime minister. His efforts to improve the financial situation, which now became alarming, proved abortive, and in January 1902 a Tzankovist cabinet was formed under Daneff, who succeeded in obtaining a foreign loan. Russian influence now became predominant, and in the autumn the grand-duke Nicholas, General Ignatiev, and a great number of Russian officers were present at the consecration of a Russian church and monastery in the Shipka pass. But the appointment of Mgr. Firmilian, a Servian prelate, to the important see of Uskub at the instance of Russia, the suspected designs of that power on the ports of Varna and Burgas, and her unsympathetic attitude in regard to the Macedonian Question, tended to diminish her popularity and that of the government. A cabinet crisis was brought about in May 1903, by the efforts of the Russian party to obtain control of the army, and the Stambolovists returned to power under General Petroff. A violent recrudescence of the Macedonian agitation took place in the autumn of 1902; at the suggestion of Russia the leaders were imprisoned, but the movement nevertheless gained force, and in August 1903 a revolt broke out in the vilayet of Monastir, subsequently spreading to the districts of northern Macedonia and Adrianople (see MACEDONIA). The barbarities committed by the Turks in repressing the insurrection caused great exasperation in the principality; the reserves were partially mobilized, and the country was brought to the brink of war. In pursuance of the policy of Stamboloff, the Petroff government endeavoured to inaugurate friendly relations with Turkey, and a Turco-Bulgarian convention was signed (8th April 1904) which, however, proved of little practical value.
The outrages committed by numerous Greek bands in Macedonia led to reprisals on the Greek population in Bulgaria in the summer of 1906, and the town of Anchialo was partially destroyed. On the 6th of November in that year Petroff resigned, and Petkoff, the leader of the Stambolovist party, formed a ministry. The prime minister, a statesman of undoubted patriotism but of overbearing character, was assassinated on the 11th of March 1907 by a youth who had been dismissed from a post in one of the agricultural banks, and the cabinet was reconstituted under Gudeff, a member of the same party.
Declaration of Independence.—During the thirty years of its existence the principality had made rapid and striking progress. Its inhabitants, among whom a strong sense of nationality had grown up, were naturally anxious to escape from the restrictions imposed by the treaty of Berlin. That Servia should be an independent state, while Bulgaria, with its greater economic and military resources, remained tributary to the Sultan, was an anomaly which all classes resented; and although the Ottoman suzerainty was little more than a constitutional fiction, and the tribute imposed in 1878 was never paid, the Bulgarians were almost unanimous in their desire to end a system which made their country the vassal of a Moslem state notorious for its maladministration and corruption. This desire was strengthened by the favourable reception accorded to Prince Ferdinand when he visited Vienna in February 1908, and by the so-called "Geshoff incident," i.e. the exclusion of M. Geshoff, the Bulgarian agent, from a dinner given by Tewfik Pasha, the Ottoman minister for foreign affairs, to the ministers of all the sovereign states represented at Constantinople (12th of September 1908). This was interpreted as an insult to the Bulgarian nation, and as the explanation offered by the grand vizier was unsatisfactory, M. Geshoff was recalled to Sofia. At this time the bloodless revolution in Turkey seemed likely to bring about a fundamental change in the settled policy of Bulgaria. For many years past Bulgarians had hoped that their own orderly and progressive government, which had contrasted so strongly with the evils of Turkish rule, would entitle them to consideration, and perhaps to an accession of territory, when the time arrived for a definite settlement of the Macedonian Question. Now, however, the reforms introduced or foreshadowed by the Young Turkish party threatened to deprive Bulgaria of any pretext for future intervention; there was nothing to be gained by further acquiescence in the conditions laid down at Berlin. An opportunity for effective action occurred within a fortnight of M. Geshoff's recall, when a strike broke out on those sections of the Eastern Rumelian railways which were owned by Turkey and leased to the Oriental Railways Company. The Bulgarians alleged that during the strike Turkish troops were able to travel on the lines which were closed to all other traffic, and that this fact constituted a danger to their own autonomy. The government therefore seized the railway, in defiance of European opinion, and in spite of the protests of the suzerain power and the Oriental Railways Company. The bulk of the Turkish army was then in Asia, and the new régime was not yet firmly established, while the Bulgarian government were probably aware that Russia would not intervene, and that Austria-Hungary intended to annex Bosnia and Herzegovina, and thus incidentally to divert attention from their own violation of the treaty of Berlin. On the 5th of October Prince Ferdinand publicly proclaimed Bulgaria, united since the 6th of September 1885 (i.e. including Eastern Rumelia), an independent kingdom. This declaration was read aloud by the king in the church of the Forty Martyrs at Trnovo, the ancient capital of the Bulgarian tsars. The Porte immediately protested to the powers, but agreed to accept an indemnity. In February 1909 the Russian government proposed to advance to Bulgaria the difference between the £4,800,000 claimed by Turkey and the £1,520,000 which Bulgaria undertook to pay. A preliminary Russo-Turkish protocol was signed on the 16th of March, and in April, after the final agreement had been concluded, the independence of Bulgaria was recognized by the powers. Of the indemnity, £1,680,000 was paid on account of the Eastern Rumelian railways; the allocation of this sum between Turkey and the Oriental railways was submitted to arbitration. (See TURKEY: History.)
- C.J. Jireček, Geschichte der Bulgaren (Prague, 1876); (a summary in The Balkans, by William Miller, London, 1896).
- Sokolov, Iz drevneì istorii Bolgar (Petersburg, 1879).
- Uspenski, Obrazovanïe vtorago Bolgarskago tsarstva (Odessa, 1879).
- Acta Bulgariae ecclesiastica, published by the South Slavonic Academy (Agram, 1887).