Today, on the third of March, the Bulgarians celebrate the Liberation Day. This is one of the biggest and most celebrated National Holidays in Bulgaria.
Why does the Bulgarian celebrate Liberation Day? A brief history
Bulgaria established as a sovereign nation already in the 7th century A.D. with a own government, education, art, economy, language and culture. The First Bulgarian Empire started in 632 A.D and lasted until 1018 A.D. The Second Bulgarian Empire took place between 1185-1396 and was covering the geographical region of almost the whole Balkan. The Second Bulgarian Empire ended at the time 14th century when the Ottoman Empire conquered Bulgaria. The occupation lasted util the end of the Russo-Turkish War in 1877-1878.
During the Ottoman occupation Bulgarians was under the Ottoman authorities and had to follow the Millet system. The Christians had to pay higher taxes and also Devşirme – blood tax, which meant that Bulgarian parents had go give away their sons between age 8-18 to serve as military in the Ottoman Empire. Some Bulgarians converted to Islam in order to seek better life.
Around the 19th century many nation was fighting for independence, and so did the Bulgarians. An uprising against the Ottoman Empire had started, and Vasil Levski was one of the big revolutionary leaders that fought for the liberation of Bulgaria (see earlier article about Levski). The revolution led to the Russo-Turkish War in 1877-1878. The war came to an end in 1878 when the treaty of of San Stefano took place on the 3 of March. The treaty of San Stefano came to found a constitutional monarchy of Bulgaria. Now Bulgaria came to function as independent but was still nominally a vassal of the Ottoman Empire, and it wasn’t until 1908 the declaration was signed that Bulgaria was a free nation from the Ottoman rule. The 3 of March marks the first and most vital step in Bulgaria´s way to freedom after 500 years of occupation.
The Battle of Shipka- A symbol for 3 of March
When you researching the 3 of March, many pictures, except from Bulgarian flags, that will show up is the battle of Shipka. This battle took place at the peak of Shipka in Stara Planina (the Balkan Mountains) in August 1877, between 5000 Bulgarians and 2500 Russians against a big army of Ottomans with 40 000 soldiers. No one taught that the Bulgarians would win this battle but they did and ever since, it has been remembered and their are many story´s and legends about this battle. There is a big monument, 1 km away from where the real battle took place, on the highest peek that marks the historical battle. On the monument they placed a big lion. First it pointed to the North, but the Romanians was questioning this and asked if the Bulgarians wanted to fight them. So they turned the lion to the West instead and the Serbs and Macedonians asked the same. And so did the Greeks and Turks when it turned to the South. Now the lion on the monument is turned to the East and the Black Sea. Shipka is a place that many Bulgarians visit and pay tribute to their ancestors. At National days like the 3 of March many people go there to give speeches.
It wasn’t until 1978 that the 3 of March actually turned into a National Holiday. And on this day you will see the Bulgarian flags everywhere. There are Government-sponsored events, speeches are being held during the whole day but also street parades and cultural events. Public companies are closed on this day, and many private companies chose to take the day off as well. This is a big day of celebration for all Bulgarians.
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