Wirten by Viktor Stoilov exclusively for SouthFront
On March 3rd, Bulgaria celebrated 140 years since its liberation from Ottoman yoke by the Russian Empire. For the first time in years, official guests from Russia came to the celebrations. On this special anniversary, the main guest was the Russian Patriarch Kirill. During his visit to Bulgaria, he visited Shipka and Sofia and upon leaving he told the reporters at the airport that he felt both surprised and aggrieved when he heard the Bulgarian politicians saying in their speeches that they thank just as much as the Russian soldiers, the soldiers from Poland, Finland, Lithuania and others for fighting for the Bulgarian liberation. He added that these were Russian garrisons who were just stationed in Finland along with Poland and Lithuania didn’t even exist back then and were part of the Russian Empire. These statements sparked the traditional russophobic reactions in a major part of the Bulgarian media. But is the Patriarch right?
Let’s start with a history check. In April 1876, a small part of the Bulgarian population rebelled against the Ottomans and were brutally slaughtered by the Sultan’s troops. The news of the rebellion made the headlines all over Europe and even the United States. This event gave the Russian Empire a motive to start another war against the Ottomans. At that time, Russia was still recovering from the devastating loss in the Crimean war and its consequences and had to be very careful and precise. On the following year, in 1877, the Russian Empire declared war on the Ottoman Empire. The two key battles during the war were in Pleven where about 30 000 Russian troops died during the unsuccessful first attacks and later successful siege, and on the Shipka pass where the Bulgarian militia along with a handful of Russian soldiers were holding a five-time larger Ottoman army from passing through the mountains and reaching the besieged Pleven. After the two heroic victories, the Russian army quickly reached the suburbs of Istanbul where they were “welcomed” by the British fleet which had been helping the Ottoman army during the whole war. The Great European powers led by the UK stopped the Russian army from entering Istanbul and on the March 3rd 1878, in the small village of San Stefano, the Russian and Ottoman empires signed a preliminary peace agreement according to which, after 500 years under Ottoman rule, Bulgaria finally got liberated. A few months later, the Great Powers pushed Russia to sign the Berlin treaty which drastically limited the Bulgarian territories.
Map of Bulgaria according to the San Stefano treaty:
Map of Bulgaria according to the Berlin treaty:
140 years later, Bulgaria is a part of NATO and the EU. The official rhetoric for years has been to literally blame Russia for its imperial interests during the war which granted the country’s long-awaited liberation. While the President of Bulgaria was Rosen Plevneliev (2012-2017), no official guests from Russia were invited on the March 3rd. Every year, the Bulgarian politicians were giving an equal role to the Russian and the so-called Finnish, Ukrainian, Polish, Lithuanian, Estonian, Romania, Serbian, Montenegrin troops. This year, the current President Rumen Radev, during his speech at Shipka, had the nerve to only mention the Russian and Bulgarian troops. He even went as far as saying the truth that on this top, the bones of the Russian and Bulgarian soldiers laid the foundation of the Bulgarian state.
The Bulgarian liberal media quickly started blaming Radev for not mentioning their NATO partners from Poland, Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia. How dare him not say about their role… even though they didn’t even exist at that time. At the same time, the Bulgarian main TV channels did everything possible to have as many Russophobic analysts as possible during the celebrations. They even broadcasted special interviews with the ambassador of Finland in Sofia.
However, later that day, in his speech in Sofia, in front of the monument of Tsar Alexander II – the liberator, Radev did what the Bulgarian politicians have been doing for years – thanking for the liberation, along with the Russian soldiers, the so-called Polish, Lithuanian, Finish etc ones.
Yes, the Patriarch has all the right to feel aggrieved. The Russian troops are the ones who fought and died for freedom of the Bulgarian people. Today’s NATO partners were on the side of the Ottomans and had no interests in having a free Bulgarian state. That’s why they sided with the Ottomans and then pushed Russia into signing the Berlin treaty which left more than 2/3 of the Bulgarian population under Ottoman rule again.
The Bulgarian political elites, paid analysts, media and ordinary Russophobes will do everything they can to rewrite the history of the war and belittle and even blame Russia, yet the truth is and will always be that it wasn’t the British, French, German, Lithuanian, Polish, Finnish, Ukrainian or any other troops but the Russians who fought and died for the Bulgarian liberation.
Yet, this is not the only case of literally rewriting history. The concept and theory that for example Ukraine liberated Poland, Belarus and other European countries from the Nazi occupation is also being pushed for year, pointing arguments that in the Soviet army, there were Ukrainian fronts. This war on the historical facts just got aggravated after the collapse of the Soviet Union when Russia faced one of its biggest historical catastrophes. Studies from France, Germany, and even Central European and Eastern European countries suggest that the majority of the young population believes that the major push against Nazi Germany was made by the US and British forces not the Soviet ones. In the history textbooks in Japan, the situation is even worse. You can read there: “The Soviet Union declared war on Japan” and then in the next sentence, without mentioning who did it, “Hiroshima and Nagasaki were bombed with atomic bombs.”
The war on the minds of the people is in full action and the case with the Bulgarian politicians will not be the last one where the historic truth is being replaced by a politically-correct statements.