1. What led to Liberation Day?
From the 17th century onward, a number of rebellions against Ottoman power took place in Bulgaria. The culmination of the Liberation Movement came in the 19th century. Under the influence of the ideas of the Enlightenment, humanism and nationalism, Bulgarians started consolidating and looking for cultural and political freedom. A number of prominent Bulgarians were convinced no liberation was possible without the consent and the help of the Great Powers. For this reason, they were constantly trying to approach them and try to draw attention to the Bulgarian problem. In April 1876, tensions boiled over once again and the authorities crushed a Bulgarian uprising.
2. How did Liberation Day happen?
The events that followed the 1876 April uprising caused an international popular backlash. There was a quick reaction, and so the 1877-78 Russo-Ottoman War commenced. Military action mostly concentrated in Bulgarian lands on the Balkans, with thousands of Bulgarians joining as volunteers. The war ended on March 3rd, 1878, with the signing of a treaty between Russia and the Ottoman Empire known as The Treaty of San Stefanov. This peace treaty proclaimed Bulgaria as an independent state, albeit a vassal state within the Ottoman Empire.
3. How is Bulgarian Liberation Day celebrated?
This day is a welcome holiday at the start of spring and is traditionally marked by ceremonies across Bulgaria, particularly in those towns and cities which saw the fiercest fighting in the war.
Shipka Pass in the Balkan Mountains is at the centre of celebrations marking the key battle that took place there. Capital Sofia hosts a memorial and thanksgiving service, wreath-laying and a military march to honour those who gave their lives in the war.
The first celebration of this holiday was on February 19th 1880 (old style calendar) as "The Conclusion of the San Stefano Peace Treaty". March 3rd became Bulgaria's Liberation Day in 1888, though it took until 1978 before it gained its National Day of Bulgaria status and was formally decreed as an official holiday by Decree 236 of the State Council, issued on February 27th 1990, and by the 9th National Assembly of March 5th 1990.