1848-1879 1896-1914

Bulgaria 1879-1896

The Constitution . In 1879 a Constituent Assembly met in Bulgaria's ancient capital of Trnovo. Sofia was selected as the country's new capital, because of its location, central within a Greater Bulgaria, but rather decentral in the borders given to Bulgaria by the Berlin Congress of 1878. Bulgaria adopted a constitution which provided for a unicameral parliament, the Subranie, according to the Serbian model. Yet there were two different assemblies, the Ordinary Assembly, which was to meet every year in October (after the harvest was in) and to meet for two months. The Grand National Assembly was to meet only when major issues were to be decided. The GNA included both elected deputies as well as high-standing personalities such as church leaders, high-ranking judges etc. The constitution provided for universal adult manhood suffrage, the voting age limit being 21. German Alexander Battenberg was elected Prince of Bulgaria; The Berlin Congress had not given full independence, only political autonomy to Bulgaria; therefore the country had been given the status of a principality, not that of a kingdom.
Bulgaria introduced mandatory schooling and mandatory military service. The Bulgarian exarch (head of the Bulgarian church) continued to reside in Constantinopolis (his exarchate included many Bulgarian christians living outside the Bulgarian principality created by the Berlin Congress); the Bulgarian Holy Synod established her seat in Sofia.

Domestic Policy . The Liberal Party won the elections of 1879 and 1880. Under Liberal prime minister Dragan Tsankov the Lev currency was introduced and the justice system organized. Prince Alexander was dissatisfied and in 1881 succeeded in the GNA apprived a constitution which limited the Subranie in size and restricted civil liberties.
Emotions were running high in Sofia; pro-Russian Bulgarians staged a coup and deposed King Alexander; Stambolov, using loyal forces, overpowered the rebels and brought Alexander back to Sofia; however Alexander abdicated in 1886. Prince Ferdinand of Sachsen-Coburg-Gotha was elected his successor. He appointed Stefan Stambulov prime minister (1887-1894).
With the marriage of Prince Ferdinand to Marie-Louise of Bourbon-Parma (1893) the new dynasty seemed secured. Emotions in Bulgarian politics continued to run high; in 1891 two politicians - the minister of finance and the ambassador to Constantinople - were assassinated. In 1894 Stambulov was brough in connection with an engineered scandal; he resigned; in 1895 he was assassinated.
In 1894 legislation introduced Bulgarian as the language of primary education for christian children - a policy which enraged Bulgaria's Greek minority. In 1896 Prince Boris, son of Prince Ferdinand and heir-apparent, was baptized in Bulgarian Orthodox Faith.

At the time of the establishment of the Bulgarian state, about a third of the population was of Muslim faith - ethnic Turks and Pomaks (Bulgarians of Muslim faith). Bulgaria's constitution guaranteed freedom of worship and forbade religious discrimination; still, cultural pressure was exerted in violation of the constution, and there was a steady flow of emigrants leaving for the Ottoman Empire; the Turkish population of Bulgaria dropped from 33 % in 1875 to 14 % in 1900. The (christian orthodox) Greek minority, however, increased. The total population numbered 2.88 million in 1881, 3.23 million in 1890, 3.49 million in 1896.
Bulgaria's cities, most of all Sofia, underwent a quick transformation from Ottoman provincial (backward) towns to modern cities with fresh water supply and public transportation.
Bulgaria placed high emphasis on the development of her armed forces.
When Sofia was chosen as Bulgaria's new capital in 1879, the city had merely 20,000 inhabitants. It was to experience very fast growth.

The Economy . In 1883 the Bulgarian Subranie decided to build the Bulgarian section (connection with Vienna) of the Orient Express. The connection with Istanbul was completed in 1889.
A Bulgarian National Bank was established and placed under state ownership; the railways in the country were nationalized (1884). Bulgaria obtained foreign loans (1888 and following) which permitted her to go through with the nationalization of the railways. Trade agreements with Britain (1889) and other countries secured favourable tariffs for Bulgarian exports and provided wider access to the Bulgarian market to imports (trade volume, however, was low).
Bulgaria was still dominated by agriculture. The opening of the market resulted in the decline of the country's textile industry, used to traditional methods of production and a market secured by guild privileges.
A unique Bulgarian export product was Rose Oil. Production had begun in 1664; between 2,700 and 3,400 kg were exported annually.

Foreign Policy . In 1885 a coup was staged in Eastern Rumelia, an area given a special status within the Ottoman Empire by the Berlin Congress; the junta suggested to Prince Alexander to take over the government of Rumelia as well; Alexander agreed and the Bulgarian army was swiftly moved to Eastern Rumelia's southern border.
That year, the Serbia declared war on Bulgaria, the Serbian forces attacking Bulgaria's ill-defended western frontier; yet the Serbian forces were stopped at Slivnitza.
The Treaty of Bucharest (1886) established that from then on the Governor of Eastern Rumelia should be the Prince of Bulgaria; however the union of the two territories was still postponed, Ottoman sovereignty over Rumelia unquestioned.
Russia had opposed Prince Alexander; yet it did not recognize Prince Ferdinand; a Russian adventurer, Nabokov, in the hope of raising a rebellion against the new dynast, made two incursions into Bulgaria in 1887; in the second he was killed.
In 1890 the Porte placed the Macedonian bishoprics of Bitolya, Ohrid and Skopje (Üsküb) under the Bulgarian Exarchate, a major success for prime minister Stambulov. Upon the baptism of Prince Boris according to the Orthodox rite (1896), Russia recognized Bulgaria's new dynasty.

Cultural History . The Serbo-Bulgarian War of 1885 inspired George Bernard Shaw to write Arms and the Man (1894).
In 1886 the Cathedral of the Assumption was built in Varna. The Alexander Nevsky Memorial Church was built in Sofia in 1882-1912, in order to honour the c. 200,000 Russians who fell in the war of 1877-1878.
In 1888 the St. Kliment University of Sofia - Bulgaria's first university - began operation, as an annex to the men's high school in that city; it was officially granted the status of university only in 1904.

Articles Orient Express, from Wikipedia
Library of Congress, Country Studies : Bulgaria
Die Neuzeit Bulgariens, from Bulgarien Web, in German
Bulgarian History Timeline, from timelines.ws
Sofia University Museum Website
History of the city of Sofia, from sofia.com and from Hotels Bulgaria
Marushiakova & Popov, Patrin - A History of the Roma in Bulgaria (Roma = Gypsies)
The Battle of Slivnitza 1885, from Balkan Dave
Bulgarian History, from bgtv
Storia della Bulgaria, from Bulgaria-Italia, illustrated
Ivan Ilchev, Stereotypes and Bulgarian Foreign Policy Decision Making 1885-1912, from AEES
Bulgaria : The Decades of National Consolidation, from Lehman Websites
330 Years Bulgarian Rose Oil, from Bulgarska Rosa
DOCUMENTS World Statesmen : Bulgaria, from Ben Cahoon
Historical Population Statistics : Bulgaria, from Population Statistics, Univ. Utrecht
Photo of Alexander Battenberg, from Balcanica
Arms and the Man, by George Bernard Shaw, from 4literature.net
Map : Balkans Region, 1878-1912, from Balcanica
Bulgarian Flag, from FOTW
Lists of Kings, Prime Ministers etc. from World Statesmen by Ben Cahoon
The Three Emperors' League of 1881 pertaining to Bulgaria and Eastern Rumelia, posted by Avalon Project at Yale Law School
Letter of the Greek community of Megarovo, Tirnovo and Nizopolis (Macedonia) to the Patriarch, c.1885, posted by Macedonian FAQ on ethnic issue in Macedonia (use with care)
Storia della Bulgaria, from Bulgaria-Italia, illustrated, with documents
Treaty of Berlin between Great Britain, Austria-Hungary, France, Germany, Italy, Russia and Turkey, July 13, 1878, from ANN
REFERENCE R.J. Crampton, A Concise History of Bulgaria, Cambridge Concise Histories 1997; KMLA Lib.Sign. 949.7 C889a
Article : Bulgaria, pp.623-636, in : Encyclopaedia Britannica, 15th edition, Macropaedia vol.14, KMLA Lib.Sign. R 032 B862n v.14
Raymond Detrez, Historical Dictionary of Bulgaria, Lanham Md. : Scarecrow 2006, KMLA Lib.Sign. R 949.9003 D 483h
Article : Bulgaria, in : Statesman's Year Book 1895 pp.1032-1036 (on events of 1894) [G]
Article : Bulgaria, in : Appleton's Annual Cyclopedia and Register of Important Events 1886 pp.99-110, 1894 pp.75-78 [G]

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on March 11th 2002, lst revised on September 6th 2007

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