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Bulgarian Lands under Ottoman Rule and Struggles for National Liberation

After half a century of struggle against the Ottomans, in 1396 the Bulgarian lands finally fell to the conqueror. Bulgarians refused to tolerate the deprivation of their rights, as indicated by the constant unrest and uprisings. After the failed 1408 uprising of Konstantin and Fruzhin – the heirs apparent to the throne, Bulgarians offered support to the army of the Polish-Hungarian King Vladislav III Yagiellon and the Transylvanian Voivode Janos Hunyadi during their campaigns in Bulgaria of 1443 and 1444, and took part in the decisive Battle of Varna, on November 10, 1444.

Within a century, three uprisings erupted: the First Tarnovo (1598), the Second Tarnovo (1686), and the Chiprovtsi Uprising (1688). Already in the first decades of the Ottoman rule, the indigenous form of unyielding resistance against infringements on the personal, family, religious, and national honour and dignity – the hajduk movement was securely established. In the 1860s, the combat expertise from the centuries of armed struggles was re-articulated in terms of ideology, military tactics, and politics. The transition from a spontaneous political fights to an organized national liberation movement became associated with the name and work of Georgi Sava Rakovski. The First Bulgarian Legion (1862), founded by him, took part in the siege and in the fights for the capture of the Belgrade Fortress.

By their weapons, accoutrements, outfit, and tactical skills, the cheta [local term for band] of Panayot Hitov and Filip Totyu, of Hadzhi Dimitar and Stefan Karadzha, and many more came close to the requisites of regular armies. At the end of 1869, in Bucharest were laid the foundations of a new governing body of the Bulgarian national liberation movement – the Bulgarian Revolutionary Central Committee (BRCC), headed by Lyuben Karavelov. Vasil Levski was its most prolific member, who in less than three years set up a vast network of revolutionary committees, known as Internal Revolutionary Organization (IRO), which primed the populace for fight. While the preparation for the impending uprising were still in progress, Vasil Levski, a.k.a. the ‘Apostle of Freedom’, was seized, tried, and on February 19, 1873, near Sofia, executed by hanging. His Internal Revolutionary Organization was a new stage in the evolution of the movement for Bulgarian national liberation.

The aggravation of the Eastern Crisis in the summer of 1875, galvanized the members of the BRCC and the revolutionary committees in the Bulgarian lands. At the end of 1875, the Bulgarian revolutionaries Stefan Stambolov, Panayot Volov, Stoyan Zaimov, Nicola Obretenov, Georgi Benkovski, and many more, decided to organize an uprising for the spring of 1876. The lands were divided into four revolutionary regions. The uprising erupted in April of 1876. In the violent suppression by the Ottoman authorities were massacred more than 30 000 Bulgarian men, women and children; 80 settlements were set on fire; further 200 – ransacked. The international community was outraged. More than 3000 articles in close to 200 newspapers called for support to the Bulgarian cause. Their authors were notable politicians, writers, and academics from all over the world: Giuseppe Garibaldi, Otto von Bismarck, William Gladstone, Charles Darwin, Konstantin Jirecek, Lev Tolstoy, Ivan Turgenev, Dmitri Mendeleev, etc.

By their armament, accoutrements, clothing and tactical skills, the cheta armed detachments of Panayot Hitov, Filip Totyu, Hadzhi Dimitar, Stefan Karadzha, etc. (created with regard of realizing Rakovski’s views), are close to the requirements for a regular army. At the end of 1869 in Bucharest is laid the beginning of a new governing body of the Bulgarian national liberation movement – the Bulgarian Revolutionary Central Committee (BRCC), headed by Lyuben Karavelov. The most energetic in the activity of the committee is Vasil Levski. For less than three years he managed to develop a large network of revolutionary committees, known as the Internal Revolutionary Organization (IRO), which prepares people for waging struggle. In the heat of the preparation for the forthcoming uprising Vasil Levski, called by people “The Apostle of Freedom”, is captured, sentenced to death and hanged on February 19th, 1873 near Sofia. The revolutionary organization, founded by Levski, is a new stage in the development of the national liberation movement in Bulgaria.

The straining of the Eastern crisis in the summer of 1875 activates the members of BRCC and the revolutionary committees in Bulgarian lands. Bulgarian revolutionaries, among them – Stefan Stambolov, Panayot Volov, Stoyan Zaimov, Nicola Obretenov, Georgi Benkovski, etc., decide to rise an uprising in the spring of the coming 1876. The country is divided into four revolutionary regions. The uprising burst out in April 1876. At the time of the violent crushing of the uprising by the Ottoman authorities are massacred more than 30 000 innocent men, women and children; 80 towns and villages are burnt, other 200 ones- totally plundered. The international community is shocked.Written were more than 3000 articles in about 200 newspapers in support of the Bulgarian cause. Their authors are outstanding politicians, writers and scientists and scholars from all over the world, such as Victor Hugo, Giuseppe Garibaldi, Otto von Bismarck, William Gladstone, Charles Darwin, Konstantin Jrecek, Lev Tolstoy, Ivan Turgenev, Dmitri Mendeleev, etc.