07.09.2014 § 2 Comments
Bulgaria’s national day is deservedly March 3, 1878. After almost 500 years under the rule of the Ottoman Empire and a two-year war of liberation championed by Russia, a treaty signed on that day in the Istanbul suburb of San Stefano restored Bulgaria as a powerful state on the Balkans encompassing all the lands populated by Bulgarians and ruled by the idealistic Alexander I Battenberg, grandson of Queen Victoria and nephew to the Russian emperor. However, San Stefano Bulgaria was hacked up by the delegate nations at the Congress of Berlin only three months later. Ethnically Bulgarian territories (in striped red on the map) were divided into three distinct regions: the Principality of Bulgaria encompassed only Moesia and the Sofia region, Thrace became semi-autonomous under the name Eastern Rumelia and the status of Macedonia and parts of Thrace remained unchanged: they returned to Ottoman rule and their populations were brutally punished for the short gasp of freedom.
In this manner the Great Powers of Europe sowed the seeds for countless conflicts on the Balkans. Because of the Congress of Berlin, Bulgaria would spend decades struggling to once again unify all the lands considered ethnically Bulgarian in its borders. This struggle would cost it two national catastrophes and sour its relationships with Serbia, Greece and Romania, who’d believe (not entirely without cause) Bulgaria to be motivated by hegemony.