Bulgaria Celebrates Independence Day
September 22 (BTA) - On Saturday, Bulgaria celebrates the 110th anniversary of the declaration of its independence on September 22.
On September 22, 1908, Bulgaria joined the family of independent states. After a prayer service at Turnovo's historic Church of the Forty Holy Martyrs, in the presence of the Cabinet members, MPs and other officials, Prince Ferdinand I read a Manifesto which proclaimed the vassal Principality of Bulgaria a kingdom independent of the Ottoman Empire.
At the end of the 1877-1878 Russo-Turkish War, the March 3, 1878 preliminary Treaty of San Stefano ended 482 years of Ottoman rule over Bulgaria but did not make it an independent state. Article VI of that Treaty constituted Bulgaria "an autonomous tributary Principality". Article I of the July 1, 1878 Treaty of Berlin confirmed this status, defining Bulgaria as "an autonomous and tributary Principality under the suzerainty of His Imperial Majesty the Sultan".
In the course of 30 years, Bulgaria gradually repudiated its vassal dependence on Turkey, stopping to pay its annual tax, ignoring the capitulations regime, concluding international treaties and waging a war with Serbia without the Sultan's sanction and, most important of all, declaring a union with the Ottoman autonomous province of Eastern Rumelia on September 6, 1886.
The right international circumstances to match the de facto independence by a de jure act emerged in the summer of 1908, after the July 11 coup d'etat staged by the Young Turks.
On September 10, Prince Ferdinand was received by Austrian Emperor Francis Joseph in Budapest. The two secretly coordinated the proclamation of Bulgaria's independence, as a pretext for Austria-Hungary itself to repudiate the Treaty of Berlin. Vienna was planning to annex the provinces of Bosnia and Herzegovina which, although nominally Ottoman territories, had been under Austrian protection and administration since 1878 under the same Treaty. The 30-year time limit for that occupation was to expire in September 1908.
The Bulgarian Government adopted a decision on immediate proclamation of independence on September 16, but the act was postponed on Ferdinand's orders. He arrived from Austria in Rousse on September 20, where the final arrangements were made with the Cabinet. The Prince and the ministers then traveled by train to the medieval Bulgarian capital of Turnovo. On board the train, at the railway station of Dve Mogili, Prime Minister Alexander Malinov wrote the Manifesto on the proclamation of independence on the evening of September 21. On the next morning, Ferdinand arrived at the station of Trapezitsa, and from there went on foot alone, accompanied just by an aide-de-camp, to the historic church of Forty Holy Martyrs. After a solemn prayer service in the presence of the Cabinet members, MPs and other officials, at 12:00 noon on September 22 (New Style October 5), 2008, the Prince read the Manifesto to the Bulgarian People:
Thereafter, National Assembly Chairman Hristo Slaveikov addressed the following words to the Prince: "Your Majesty, on behalf of the national representatives, I beg you to assume the title of first Bulgarian Tsar." Ferdinand accepted "with pride and thanksgiving".
The original draft of the Manifesto is not preserved, but in 1909 noted Art Noveau painter and decorator Haralambi Tachev produced an official version, engrossed on parchment, decorated with an elaborate vignette surmounted by the royal crown and consisting of intertwined laurel and lime trees, lions and three landmark dates in Bulgarian history: 679 (the foundation of the First Bulgarian Kingdom), 1187 (the establishment of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom), and 1908, around the royal coat of arms. The manifesto was caligraphed in the style of illuminated medieval manuscripts, with embellished initial capitals. The document was signed by the King and by all eight Government Ministers, whose seals, impressed in wax and encased in silver, were attached to the lower end by separate strings. The scroll was placed in an ornate silver cylinder, which was inserted in a velvet-lined carved box of Brazilian rosewood with metal binding featuring the Bulgarian coat of arms, the arms of the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, and a dedication.
This precious artefact is now in the holdings of the Central State Historical Archives. It is kept in a safe under controlled temperature conditions and is brought out on very rare occasions.
On the occasion of the National Day, it is put on display at the Natiоnal Museum of History along with other artefacts connected with the Bulgarian independence.
Turkey reacted strongly to the proclamation of Bulgaria's independence, but was not prepared to go to war and ultimate recognized it, on April 6, 1909. Bulgaria's independence was also recognized by Russia, Serbia and Montenegro, Britain, France, Italy, Germany and Austria-Hungary, and the United States.
The proclamation of independence upgraded Bulgaria's international standing and created prerequisites for the ensuing irredentist wars.
The Bulgarian Constitution was brought into conformity with the proclaimed independence by the Fifth Grand National Assembly (June 9 - July 9, 1911).