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THE RUSSIAN-TURKISH WAR (1877 - 1878)

The uprisings in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the April uprising and the Serbian-Turkish War that broke out after it indicated that the so-called Eastern Question had grown into an Eastern Crisis. In December 1876 in Istanbul was organized a political conference which was to resolve this problem by granting autonomy to Bulgaria. According to the preliminary text, Bulgaria received administrative autonomy within its natural ethnic boundaries, which included Moesia, Thrace, Macedonia and Dobrudzha and coincided with the territory of the Bulgarian Exarchy following the Sultan's firman of 1870. The Conference advised Turkey to create two autonomous Bulgarian regions - Eastern, with centre Turnovo, and Western, with centre Sofia, governed by Christians appointed by the Sultan. But the curt denial and the coup in Turkey left the recommendations of the Conference without effect. All diplomatic instruments to prevent a war were exhausted.


On 12/24 April 1877 the war was declared by the Russian Emperor Alexander II by signing a manifesto in Kishinev. Two armies were formed: the Danube Army of 554 500 soldiers (it included the Bulgarian volunteer detachments, which formed an independent regiment) and the Caucasian Army of 112 600 people. In December 1977 Romania joined on the side of Russia with 42 795 soldiers, Montenegro with 26 000 and Serbia with 40 000 soldiers.


The Danube army consisted of three detachments: Eastern, commanded by the Russian crown Prince Alexander Alexandrovich; Western, commanded by General N. P. Kridener; and Advance detachment, commanded by General-Adjutant J. V. Gurko. On 15/27 June the major forces of the Russian army, headed by General M. I. Dragomirov, forced a crossing of the Danube at Svishtov. On 25 June the Advance detachment liberated Turnovo, crossed the Balkan Mountains, and had severe battles at Stara Zagora and Nova Zagora (18 and 19 July) with parts of Suleiman Pasha's corps. On 20 July the Advance detachment was disbanded and included in the newly formed Southern detachment of General F. F. Radetzki. Between 9 and 11 August the Orlov and the Bryansk regiments and five volunteer detachments engaged in heavy battle in the Shipka Pass. The victory in this battle was particularly important for the outcome of the war and was glorified by the Patriarch of Bulgarian literature Ivan Vazov.


On 4 July the Western detachment, joined by the Romanian army, entered Nikopol, undertook attacks to capture Pleven (8 and 18 July, 30-31 August) and reached the Lorn - Berkovitsa line. Pleven was besieged (1 September). On 28 November Osman Pasha, who managed to protect Pleven for several months, capitulated. On 23 December the Russian armies entered Sofia and after the defeat of Veisal Pasha in the battle of Shipka - Sheinovo (1 January 1878), the Danube Army started a general offensive. In the three days of military action at Plovdiv (3-5 January) the army of Suleiman Pasha was pushed back from the Plovdiv - Ederne line towards the Rhodope Mountain. On 8 January 1878 Ederne fell without resistance. Turkish armies suffered defeat in the Caucasus too.


The Ottoman government asked for peace. On 19 February/3 March 1878 was signed the San Stefano Peace Treaty, which recognized the liberation of all Bulgarian territories. But at the Berlin Congress in 1878 it was replaced by the Berlin Treaty. This treaty restored the Bulgarian state but did not contribute to the national unification since not all territories populated by Bulgarians were included.

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