The nearly 400 Ottoman Turkish cannonballs found in Bulgaria’s Ruse were likely meant to be fired during the Russian-Turkish War of 1877 – 1878. Photo: Ruse Regional Museum of History
A total of 359 cannonballs from the late period of the Ottoman Empire (Ottoman Turkey), i.e. the 18th – 19th century, have been discovered by chance during construction works in the Danube city of Ruse in Northeast Bulgaria.
The cannonballs were part of a major Ottoman Turkish fortification which existed up until the liberation of Bulgaria from the Ottoman Empire in 1878.
In 1864 – 1878, Bulgaria’s Ruse was the capital of the Danube Vilayet (District) in the Ottoman Empire, a top-level administrative district.
The medieval Bulgarian Empire, which was feudally fragmented in spite of boasting high culture and Pre-Renaissance or Early Renaissance art, was conquered by the Ottoman Turkish invaders at the end of the 14th century, ushering into five centuries of what is known in Bulgaria’s history as the period of Ottoman Yoke (1396-1878/1912).
Bulgaria was partially liberated as a nation state as a result of the Russian – Turkish War of 1877 – 1878, after the Bulgarians’ April Uprising of 1876, the most famous of the more than 60 rebellions organized against the Ottoman occupation over the centuries.
The 359 Ottoman Turkish cannonballs have been exposed by construction machines, and have been noticed by passers-by which have they alerted the Ruse Regional Museum of History, the institution has announced.
Subsequently, the construction firm cooperated with the museum to hand it all of the cannonballs, which are now to be restored and conserved, before being exhibited in some of the facilities of Ruse Museum of History.
The discovery site of the Ottoman Turkish cannonballs in the western expansion of the Pasha Bastion that could fit six cannons, part of the Ottoman fortress in Ruse. Photo: Ruse Regional Museum of History
Such cannonballs were used by the Ottoman forces to shell the Romanian city of Giurgiu on the opposite side of the Danube River. Photo: Ruse Regional Museum of History
The museum experts believe the newly discovered cannonballs were probably part of the armaments of the Pasha Bastion, a five-pointed redoubt located at the starting point of the northeast outer fortification of the Ottoman fortress in Ruse, then called Ruscuk.
The Pasha Bastion could fit four cannons. In the 1870s, it was expanded to fit six cannons, in the western direction which is precisely where the Ottoman cannonballs have been found.
The bastion protected the northeastern flank of the Ottoman fortress, controlled the Danube River waterway, and could also shell the city of Giurgiu on the Romanian side of the Danube River.
Photos of the Pasha Bastion taken in the 1870s by a Russian military officer show that one of its six cannons was a 15-centimeter steel German-made Krupp cannon pointed towards the Romanian city of Giurgiu.
The Ottoman Turkish batteries in Ruse also had Turkish cannons called “unicorns" by the Russian Empire’s military at the time, and “bombing cannons", which were of large caliber, had smooth barrels, and could fire precisely the type of cannonballs that have now been discovered by accident.
The Ottoman Turkish cannonballs are going to be exhibited by the Ruse Regional Museum of History. Photos: Ruse Regional Museum of History
These cannonballs were used by the Ottoman forces on the Danube for a wide range of purposes – from targeting enemy forces, to destroying enemy fortifications, and busting through Danube River vessels.
The Ruse Museum of History points out that the Pasha Bastion was one of the three fortifications from which in June 1877, the Ottoman forces shelled the Romanian city of Giurgiu on the opposite bank of the Danube.
That was at the start of the Russian – Turkish War of 1877 – 1878, in which Romania, back then still a vassal of the Ottoman Empire, took part on the Russian side with a sizable force.
Because of the shelling of Giurgiu by the Ottoman forces, after the war, the Romanian government insisted on the destruction of all Ottoman fortresses on the right bank of the Danube, although it had already become part of the newly liberated Bulgaria.
A map showing the Ottoman Empire’s Danube Vilayet (District) of which Ruse was the capital in the late 19th century. Map: Wikipedia
An old Russian military map showing the Ottoman fortress in the Danube city of Ruse. Photo: Wikimapia
The location of Ruse. Map: Google Maps
As per the decisions of the Berlin Congress of July 1878, which settled the peace between the Russian Empire and the Ottoman Empire, the Ottoman fortress in Ruse was destroyed, and just one of its gates known as Kyunt Kapu was preserved.
Earlier this year, culverine cannonballs from the 1461 – 1462 siege of the fortress of Zishtova by Wallacian ruler Vlad III Dracula against the Ottoman Turkish forces were discovered in Bulgaria’s Danube town of Ruse.
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