The war for liberation

Having its reputation at stake, Russia had no other choice but to declare war on the Ottomans in April 1877. The Romanian army and a contingent of Bulgarian exiles also fought alongside the advancing Russians. The Russians, Romanians and Bulgarians were able to inflict a decisive defeat on the Ottomans at the Battle of Shipka and at the Pleven, and, by January 1878 they had occupied much of Bulgaria. They were thus able to dictate terms to the Sultan, and in the Treaty of San Stefano they proposed creating a large Bulgarian state, embracing almost all of the lands populated by Bulgarians. The Sultan was in no position to resist, but the other powers were not willing to allow the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire or the creation of a large Pro-Russian state on the Balkans.

As a result, the Treaty of Berlin (1878), under the supervision of Otto von Bismarck of Germany and Benjamin Disraeli of Britain, revised the earlier treaty, and scaled back the proposed Bulgarian state. Much of the Bulgarian territories were returned to the Empire, while others were given to Serbia and Romania. A Principality of Bulgaria was created, between the Danube and the Stara Planina range, with its seat at the old Bulgarian capital of Veliko Turnovo, and including Sofia. This state was to be under nominal Ottoman sovereignty but was to be ruled by a prince elected by a congress of Bulgarian notables and approved by the Powers. They insisted that the Prince could not be a Russian, but in a compromise Prince Alexander of Battenberg, a nephew of Tsar Alexander II, was chosen.

Between the Stara Planina and the line of the Rhodope Range, which runs about 50km north of the modern border between Bulgaria and Greece, the autonomous province of Eastern Rumelia was created. With its capital at Plovdiv, it was to be under Ottoman sovereignty but governed by a Christian governor appointed by the Sultan with the approval of the Powers. This hybrid territory was governed by Alexander Bogoridi for most of its brief existence.

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