When Did Bulgaria Gain Independence?

The capital of Bulgaria, Sofia. Editorial credit: Takashi Images / Shutterstock.com.
The capital of Bulgaria, Sofia. Editorial credit: Takashi Images / Shutterstock.com.

Located in southeastern Europe, the Republic of Bulgaria is the 16th largest country in Europe by land area. It occupies part of the Balkan Peninsula. Bulgaria gained independence from the Ottoman Empire on March 3, 1878. The nation underwent a series of formations to become the Republic of Bulgaria starting in the year 681 with the First Bulgarian Empire, followed by the Second Bulgarian Empire beginning in 1185.

Bulgaria Under Ottoman Rule

In late 14th century, the Second Bulgarian Empire split into the tsardoms of Tarnovo, Karvuna, and Vidin, and the Ottoman Turks began to conquer Bulgaria. The Ottomans captured Tarnovo in 1393 and Vidin in 1396 after the Battle of Nicopolis. The new rulers divided the country into vilayets that were governed by a Subasi. The Turkish Sultan gave essential parts of the land to his followers, although they only held it as benefices, and upon their death, the area returned to the Sultan. Heavy taxes befell the Bulgarians with some of the population converting to Islam, in turn, suppressing the Bulgarian culture.

Push for Bulgarian Independence

Throughout the Ottoman Rule that lasted close to five centuries, there were several revolts. Some of the notable uprisings were in Tarnovo in the years 1598 and 1686. The 18th century saw the initiation of the National Awakening of Bulgaria Movement which played a crucial role in the country’s liberation. The Ottomans killed around 30,000 Bulgarians to stop the April Uprising in 1876, a massacre that caught the attention of the Great Powers. The same year, the Great Powers assembled the Constantinople Conference and came up with decisions hat the Ottoman authorities rejected. The Russian Empire declared war in 1877 and defeated the forces of the Ottoman Empire. Some Bulgarians volunteered and joined in the battle against the Ottomans.

Independence from the Ottoman Empire

On March 3, 1878, the Russian and Ottoman Empires endorsed the Treaty of San Stefano, which influenced the setting up of the Principality of Bulgaria. The other Great Powers rejected the treaty leading to the signing of the Treaty of Berlin on July 13. The new accord scaled down the size of Bulgaria, leaving a significant population outside the new nation, in the regions of Eastern Rumelia and Macedonia. The Ottoman Empire took back some territories with others going to Serbia and Romania. Under the two treaties, Bulgaria was to come up with an assembly that would establish a constitution and elect a prince, who would be a vassal to the Ottoman Sultan. Bulgarians today celebrate their national independence day on the day the Treaty of San Stefano was signed.

Bulgaria’s Foreign Relations

In 1955, Bulgaria joined the United Nations and in 1975 formed the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe with other nations. In the 21st century, Bulgaria joined NATO in 2004 and became a member state of the European Union in 2007 after signing the European Union Treaty of Accession in 2005. The country maintains a good relationship with its neighbors and plays a crucial role in advocating for regional security.


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