What is Liberation Day (Bulgaria)?

Introduction

The Liberation Day, officially known as the Day of Liberation of Bulgaria from the Ottoman Dominion (Bulgarian: Ден на Освобождението на България от османско иго) in Bulgaria is celebrated on 03 March.

Bulgarian National Guards parading on Liberation Day, 03 March 2018 in Sofia.

Background

It commemorates the Liberation of Bulgaria during the events of the Russo-Turkish War (1877-1878) that led to the re-establishment of a Bulgarian statehood. The Treaty of San Stefano signed on 03 March 1878 envisaged the Ottoman Empire to accept the refoundation of the Bulgarian state that was conquered in 14th century during the Bulgarian-Ottoman wars. It was celebrated for the first time on 19 February 1880 as the Day of the Emperor Alexander II’s Assassination and the Conclusion of the San Stefano Peace Treaty. It was officially designated as Liberation Day on its 10th anniversary in 1888 by the Principality of Bulgaria. It was only in 1978 when it started to be celebrated on a national scale. It became an official holiday by decree 236 of the Chairman of the State Council on 27 February 1990, coming into effect on 05 March.

In Bulgaria, there are currently over 400 preserved monuments to Russians and Bulgarians. Every year on 03 March, wreaths are laid at the Shipka Monument and military honours in memory of all Russian soldiers who died fighting for the liberation of Bulgaria. Residents around the country commonly lay flowers and notes at monuments to the fallen foreign troops (Russian, Finnish and Romanian) alongside their Bulgarian counterparts. The Bulgarian Orthodox Church holds special liturgy and prayers on Liberation Day. In the evening, on the National Assembly Square near the monument to the Tsar Liberator, there is a solemn military service which includes the inspection of the National Guards Unit of Bulgaria by the President of Bulgaria and the awarding of military personnel with national decorations. An afternoon flag raising ceremony at the Monument to the Unknown Soldier is also held. In recent years, joint events have been carried out in the presence of the Bulgarian President and the President of Russia as well as by the Bulgarian Armed Forces and the Russian Armed Forces. To commemorate the centennial since liberation in 1978, the Bulgarian People’s Republic led by General Secretary Todor Zhivkov held many different events including the awarding of the “100 Years of the Liberation of Bulgaria from Ottoman Slavery” medal to many prominent figures in the Soviet Union.

03 March is an official non working day for Bulgarian employees.

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