The April uprising


In April 1876 the Bulgarians revolted in the so-called April uprising. The uprising was organised by the Bulgarian Revolutionary Central Committee and was inspired by the insurrection in Bosnia and Herzegovina the previous year. The revolt was largely confined to the region of Plovdiv, though certain districts in northern Bulgaria, in Macedonia and in the area of Sliven also took part in it. The uprising was crushed with cruelty by the Ottomans who brought irregular Ottoman troops (bashi-bazouks) from outside the area. Altogether some 30,000 people were massacred, the majority of them in the insurgents towns of Batak, Perushtitza and Bratzigovo in the area of Plovdiv. The massacres aroused a broad public reaction led by liberal Europeans such as William Gladstone, who launched a campaign against the "Bulgarian Horrors". The campaign was supported by a number of European intellectuals and public figures, such as Charles Darwin, Oscar Wilde, Victor Hugo and Giuseppe Garibaldi.

The strongest reaction, however, came from Russia. The enormous public outcry which the April Uprising had caused in Europe gave the Russians a long-waited chance to realise their long-term objectives with regard to the Ottoman Empire. The Russian efforts, which were concentrated on ironing out the differences and contradictions between the Great Powers, eventually led to the Conference of Constantinople held in December 1876 in the Ottoman capital. The conference was attended by delegates from Russia, Britain, France, Austria-Hungary, Germany and Italy and was supposed to bring a peaceful and lasting settlement of the Bulgarian Question.

Russia insisted to the last minute on the inclusion of all Bulgarian-inhabited lands in Macedonia, Moesia, Thrace and Dobrudja in the future Bulgarian state, whereas Britain, afraid that a greater Bulgaria would be a threat to British interests on the Balkans, favoured a smaller Bulgarian principality north of the Balkan Mountains. The delegates eventually gave their consent to a compromise variant, which excluded southern Macedonia and Thrace, and denied Bulgaria access to the Aegean sea, but otherwise incorporated all other regions in the Ottoman Empire inhabited by Bulgarians (illustration, left). At the last minute, however, the Ottomans rejected the plan with the secret support of Britain.






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