Top 13 Events in Bulgaria’s History on March 26: From Storming of Odrin (Edirne) Fortress to Still Elusive Schengen Area Accession

“Attack" (“By Bayonet"), a 1913 painting by Czech-Bulgarian artist Jaroslav Vesin illustrating the fearsome bayonet attacks of the Bulgarian army during the First Balkan War. Photo: Wikipedia

Our ranking of the thirteen most important events and developments (plus bonus events) in the history of Bulgaria which happened on the date of March 26 throughout the years:

 

#1. March 26, 1913 (March 13 according to the Julian Calendar, then still in use in Bulgaria) – Capture of Odrin (Adrianople, today’s Edirne in Turkey) by the Bulgarian army during the First Balkan War, in which Bulgaria (together with Serbia, Greece, and Montenegro) fought against its former master, the Ottoman Empire.

The heavily fortified Odrin (Edirne) Fortress of Ottoman Turkey was deemed impregnable by international military experts at the time. It was besieged for five months before it was stormed and captured in a vehement bayonet attack by the then Second Army of the Tsardom of Bulgaria, supported by Serbian units.

The Bulgarian forces took over 60,000 prisoners of war. The Attack against Odrin (Edirne) was led by Bulgarian commander Gen. Nikola Ivanov, while the breakthrough in the eastern section of the Odrin Fortress was led by Gen. Georgi Vazov (brother of Bulgaria’s most popular writer and poet Ivan Vazov and World War I hero Gen. Vladimir Vazov).

Bulgaria’s storming of the heavily fortified city of Edirne is also known as the first time in the world aerial bombardment was carried out when Bulgarian airplanes dropped hand grenades on the Turkish positions.

Bulgaria’s victory at Odrin was achieved during the second phase of the First Balkan War, after during the first phase of the war in the fall of 1912, Edirne had been blockaded and the Bulgarian army had nearly reached the Ottoman capital Istanbul (Constantinople).

 

#2. March 26, 2003 – At a special meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Brussels, the permanent representatives of the then 19 member states of NATO sign the protocols for NATO accession of Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia. Bulgaria and the other six countries formally joined NATO on March 29, 2004.

 

#3. March 26, 1943 – Deputy Speaker of the Bulgarian Parliament Dimitar Peshev, the man largely credited with the rescue of the more than 49,000 Bulgarian Jews from the death camps of the Nazi Holocaust, is removed from his post by the ruling majority, with the acquiescence of then Bulgarian monarch Tsar Boris III.

Peshev had organized a total of 42 MPs, including members of the ruling majority, to petition then Prime Minister Bogdan Filov against the planned deportation of Bulgaria’s Jews to the Nazi death camps. At the time, the Tsardom of Bulgaria had been allied with Nazi Germany.

The deportation was ultimately prevented thanks to Peshev, other members of the Bulgarian civil society, the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, and the passive resistance of Tsar Boris III to Hitler’s demands.

 

#4. March 26, 1949 – A plenum of Central Committee of the Bulgarian Communist Party (which had come to power after the Red Army occupied Bulgaria on September 9, 1944) begins in Sofia during which then communist Bulgaria’s Stalinist leader Valko Chervenkov reveals Soviet Union leader Stalin has attacked the central committee’s secretary Traicho Kostov.

The plenum decided to depose Kostov from the so called Politburo. Subsequently, Traicho Kostov, one of the most active participants in the purges of Bulgaria’s elite after the communist coup d’etat, was himself sentenced to death on made-up accusations of seeking to overthrow the government and hanged in December 1949 as “an enemy with a party membership card".

 

#5. March 26, 1841 – Neofit Bozveli (1785 – 1848), a Bulgarian cleric, enlightener, and leader of the struggle for independent Bulgarian Orthodox Church during the National Revival period when Bulgaria was still part of the Ottoman Empire, gets exiled to the semi-autonomous Mount Athos.

Neofit Bozveli together with his close supporter Ilarion Makariopolski (Hilarion of Makariopolis) was among the early leaders of the Bulgarian Church Struggle in which the Bulgarians in the Ottoman Empire sought to establish a church independent from the Greek-dominated Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople (and in essence to restore the church of the medieval Bulgarian Empire established in 870).

The independent Bulgarian Exarchate (later regaining its rank as a Patriarchate) was eventually created by the Ottoman Empire in 1870, shortly before Bulgaria’s national (though partial) for Liberation from the Ottoman Empire in 1878.

In the decades before that, however, the Greek-dominated Ecumenical Patriarchate resisted the Bulgarians’ movement for an independent church. Neofit Bozveli himself was exiled to the Orthodox Monasteries on Mount Athos twice for refusing to obey the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s bishops, and he passed away during his second exile.

 

#6. March 26, 1885 – Bulgaria’s first Technical Society gets established in the Danube city of Ruse (Bulgaria had just been liberated from the Ottoman Empire in 1878) in order to promote the development of technologies in Bulgaria. Its first chairman was engineer Simeon Vankov.

 

#7. March 26, 1995 – The Schengen Agreement establishing the Schengen Area in which border checks are abolished among certain members of the European Union and the European Economic Area enters into force.

At the time, certain European countries, including Bulgaria, were blacklisted and faced harsher visa requirements. Bulgaria was taken off the Schengen blacklist on December 1, 2000. It was later granted visa-free travel to the Schengen states, and Bulgaria joined the EU on January 1, 2007.

However, as of 2018, Bulgaria still hasn’t been granted accession to the Schengen Agreement because of concerns among leading Western European states over its problems with high-level corruption and organized crime.

 

#8. March 26, 1913 – During the second phase of the First Balkan War, Bulgarian commander Gen. Vasil Kutinchev develops a new plan to attack the last defensive line of Ottoman Turkey before the then capital Istanbul (Constantinople) at Catalca. The attempts of the exhausted, overextended, and outnumbered Bulgarian army (ordered by the then monarch, the overambitious Tsar Ferdinand I) to storm the Catalca positions ultimately proved unsuccessful.

 

#9. March 26, 1904 – The then Principality of Bulgaria, technically still a vassal of the Ottoman Empire, and the Ottoman Empire sign an agreement to ease the bilateral tensions following the Ilinden – Preobrazhenie Uprising of 1903 in which the Bulgarians from the still remaining Ottoman provinces in the geographic regions of Thrace and Macedonia rebelled against the Ottoman Empire with the goal of seeking autonomy and/or ultimately joining the already liberated parts of Bulgaria.

As per the Bulgarian – Turkish agreement of 1904, Ottoman Turkey agrees to amnesty for the rebels and to allow the refugees to return to their homes, among other concessions. Bulgaria agrees to measures refraining from aiding future rebels. The agreement fails to prevent a war which eventually erupted in 1912, the First Bulgarian War.

 

#10. March 26, 2000 – Bulgaria and Romania sign a joint declaration for the construction of a second bridge on the Danube connecting the two countries at Vidin – Calafat.

After a number of delays, the New Europe bridge was formally inaugurated only in June 2013.

 

#11. March 26, 1975 – One of Bulgaria’s largest thermal power plants, the Bobov Dol TPP, with a capacity of 630 MW, is formally inaugurated in the southwestern town of Bobov Dol.

Its construction started in 1969, and its first unit became operation in 1973. Its 200-meter-tall chimney is alleged to have been the tallest structure in the Balkans at the time.

 

#12. March 26, 1948 – Bulgaria adopts its first Prosecutor’s Office Act which provides for prosecution oversight on arrests, and gives prosecutors the power to free illegally arrested persons. Ironically, the law was adopted by the regime in communist Bulgaria (the People’s Republic of Bulgaria) notorious for its abuses of human and civil rights.

 

#13. March 26, 1947 – Bulgaria restores its diplomatic relations with Egypt which were first established in 1926. Bulgarian – Egyptian relations were terminated twice – during World War II (up until 1947) and again from December 1978 until December 1984.

 

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Relevant Books on Amazon.com:

Bulgaria’s Accession to the EU: Essential Insights into the Country’s Failure for the 2004 Round of Enlargement

A Guide to Communist Bulgaria, Vo. 1, 2, 3

DK Eyewitness Travel Guide Bulgaria

Sofia in 3 Days (Travel Guide 2018): Best Things to Do in Sofia, Bulgaria: What to See and Do, Where to Stay, Shop, Go out. Local Tips to Save Money and Time. Includes Google Maps to all Spots.

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*The selection of events is based on the “Bulgaria" Encyclopedia of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, Wikipedia articles, and the daily digest of the Focus news agency.

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