© Velko Angelov
The statue of the Russian tsar stands in front of the Bulgarian parliament, and the Bulgarian national holiday is the day of his ascension to the throne.
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Because of the dramatic battle surrounding our national holiday, garnished with dreams of a “people’s movement”, I decided to check what dates other countries – in Europe and beyond – have declared as national holidays. The study turned out to be interesting.
Most national holidays are associated with political events, for example – the date of the first constitution, therefore – the legitimization of statehood (Denmark, Norway, Poland, Slovakia, Japan). Other countries proclaimed their most important revolutions: France (1789), Greece (1821), Hungary (1848). Italy and Turkey celebrate the establishment of the Republic.
Although they are less there are countries that base their national identity on dates that are more spiritual than political: England celebrates St. George’s Day, the nation’s patron saint, and Ireland celebrates St. Patrick’s Day. Spain honors as the most important day the anniversary of the discovery of America in 1492, Portugal – the day in memory of its national poet Luis de Camoinch.
Many countries celebrate Independence Day. They are mostly among the former colonies (Angola, Afghanistan, Botswana, Burundi, Venezuela, Vietnam, Ghana, Guinea, Djibouti, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Cambodia, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Somalia, etc.). Independence Day is also celebrated by the former Soviet republics, as well as some of the former southern republics (Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Slovenia, Croatia). However, Serbia prefers its first constitution (the Sreten Statute of 1835) and Montenegro its international recognition as an independent state from the Congress of Berlin. (Part of Montenegro had relative independence with its own government before the Berlin Congress, another part was within the Ottoman Empire.) Albania also celebrated its independence in 1912. Greece’s national holiday is also associated with independence, but the date is the beginning of the 1821 uprising against the Empire.
However, Bulgaria did not declare as a national holiday its independence (1908) – like Montenegro or Albania, nor the day of the Unification (1885) – like the Romanian Unification (1918), nor the April Uprising (1876) – like Greece.
What do we actually celebrate on March 3rd (February 19th old style)?
A preliminary (preliminary) contract, the cancellation of which everyone (including the Russians) is certain.
Only the Bulgarians consider it real…
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For some time, Count Ignatiev – then ambassador to the High Gate – considered it to be real, its author, in whose “Notes” the negotiation procedure and the reason for choosing this particular date (sacred for the “people’s movement” to this day) are described in detail.
Wishing as soon as possible to return to Russia, His Highness (Commander-in-chief Prince Nikolay Nikolaevich – brother of the emperor – E.I.) insisted on only one thing of the plenipotentiaries: that some peace treaty be signed no later than February 19. So he wanted to celebrate in a dignified manner the day of the ascension to the throne of the Emperor Alexander Nikolayevich, by proclaiming at a military parade the end of the war and the result achieved, and to communicate this by telegram to the Master.
On February 17, Chancellor (Foreign Minister) Prince Gorchakov sent Ignatiev a telegram: “Call the peace treaty preliminary.” However, the Turks were against it because they feared further treaties that would take more away from them and wanted the treaty to be considered final. Ignatiev reported this to the chancellor, but on February 18 he received a dispatch – the word “preliminary” should remain. (Ignatiev disliked Gorchakov very much, who constantly hindered him and ignored both the treaty itself and the “merits of its drafter” in order to “shine before Europe at the congress”, prompted by his “petty vanity”.)
And Ignatiev was extremely satisfied with “his” contract, which brought Russia not only serious gains in the Caucasus, but also significant financial income – a “liberation loan”, for example, which would have covered Russia’s military expenses. The loan would be provided by European banks and paid by the Turks and Bulgarians. The author of the contract also talks about a “tax from Bulgaria”, through which … Russia would secure a pretext of an economic nature to establish its influence for a long time over the country liberated by us.
As for the election of a prince, it was to be “the person to be appointed by the lord emperor”. (Ignatiev himself thought that he was the most worthy prince of the Bulgarians, therefore he disliked the imperial commissioner, Prince Dondukov, who harbored the same intentions).
After rewriting the text several times – with and without the word “preliminary” – the contract was finally signed on February 19 – late in the evening. They celebrated it – according to the idea of the commander-in-chief – with a military parade and a telegram to the Lord on the occasion of his throne holiday.
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And at the Berlin Congress, whose treaty was the actual beginning of Bulgarian statehood, Russia renounced San Stefano. She declared the contract to be a personal initiative of Ignatiev (he himself says) that was not in accordance with “highly approved instructions”.
The “notes” end with great sadness, but also with hope in the fulfillment of Russia’s “historical task”:
… the conquest of the Straits, the establishment of a presence in Constantinople, the liberation and unification of the Slavs under the leadership of Russia on the ruins of Turkey and Austria.
Although Ignatiev and Dondukov did not succeed in becoming princes of the Bulgarians, they named after them beautiful streets. The central boulevard in the Bulgarian capital is called “Tsarya” (during communism – “Russian”). The statue of the Russian tsar stands in front of the Bulgarian parliament, and the Bulgarian national holiday is the day of his ascension to the throne.
The column “Analyses” presents different points of view, the opinions expressed do not necessarily coincide with the editorial position of “Dnevnik”.