The First Prince of modern Bulgaria
In 1364, the Turks invaded Bulgaria and took Central Thrace with the important towns of Borouy (today's Stara Zagora) and Plovdiv.
In 1393, Turnovo - the capital of Bulgaria, fell and in 1395 the last medieval Bulgarian ruler - tsar Ivan Shishman was killed defending the fortress of Nicopol on the Danube. In 1396 the country was completely occupied which put an end to the medieval Bulgarian state and Bulgaria entered five centuries of "darkness" under the Turkish yoke.
Bulgaria's national history is a serious business in this country which nearly lost its identity for five centuries - during that time when Bulgaria was overrun by the Ottoman Empire in 1396, beginning its "dark era". Historians believe that as much as half of the population was either massacred or enslaved and transported to another part of the Ottoman Empire within a few years of the Turkish conquest.
In 1877пїЅ78, this dark epoch of Bulgaria's history ended and in 1879 a Constituent Assembly met in Bulgaria's ancient capital of Turnovo and selected Sofia as the country's new capital, because of its location, central within a greater Bulgaria, but rather decentral in the borders given to Bulgaria by the Berlin Congress of 1878. Bulgaria adopted a constitution which provided for a unicameral parliament.
Bulgaria was made an autonomous principality under the suzerainty of the Ottoman Empire. In Turnovo, the Constituent Assembly was faced with many tasks, not the least of which included the selection of a leader.
Prince Alexander of Battenberg, the second son of Prince Alexander of Hesse by the Rhine and nephew of Russian tsar Alexander II was recommended to the Bulgarians as a candidate for the newly created throne, and Prince Alexander was elected prince of Bulgaria by the unanimous vote of the Grand Sobranye (April 29, 1879). At that time, he was serving as a lieutenant in the Prussian guards at Potsdam.
In his boyhood and early youth, Alexander was frequently at St Petersburg, and he accompanied his uncle, who was much attached to him, during the Bulgarian campaign of 1877.
Before proceeding to Bulgaria, Prince Alexander paid visits to the tsar at Livadia, to the courts of the great powers and to the sultan; he was then conveyed on a Russian warship to Varna, and after taking the oath to the new constitution at Tirnova (July 8, 1879) he went to Sofia, and was greeted with immense enthusiasm by the Bulgarian people.
Without any previous training in the art of government, from the outset, the young prince found himself confronted with difficulties which would have tried even the sagacity of an experienced ruler. On one hand he was exposed to numerous humiliations on the part of the representatives of official Russia, who made it clear to him that he was expected to play the part of a roi faineant; on the other he was compelled to make terms with the Bulgarian politicians, who, intoxicated with their newly won liberty, prosecuted their quarrels with a crude violence which threatened to subvert his authority and to plunge the nation in anarchy.
After attempting to govern under these conditions for nearly two years, the prince, with the consent of Russian tsar Alexander III., assumed absolute power (May 9, 1881), and a suspension of the ultra-democratic constitution for a period of seven years was voted by a specially convened assembly (July 13). The experiment, however, proved unsuccessful; the Bulgarian Liberal and Radical politicians were infuriated, and the real power fell into the hands of two Russian generals, Sobolev and Kaulbars, who had been specially dispatched from St Petersburg. The prince, after vainly endeavoring to obtain the recall of the generals, restored the constitution with the concurrence of all the Bulgarian political parties (September 18, 1883). A serious breach with Russia followed, which was widened by the part which the prince subsequently played in encouraging the national aspirations of the Bulgarians.
The revolution of Philippopolis (September 18, 1885), which brought about the union of Eastern Rumelia with Bulgaria, was carried out with his consent, and he at once assumed the government of the revolted province. Eastern Rumelia was a province of the Ottoman Empire which achieved semi-autonomous status in 1878, and revolted against Turkish rule in 1885, adopting the name South Bulgaria and then re-uniting with Bulgaria on September 6, 1886. Its capital was Philipoppolis (now Plovdiv).
During the anxious year which followed, the prince gave evidence of considerable military and diplomatic ability. He rallied the Bulgarian army, now deprived of its Russian officers, to resist the Serbian invasion, and after a brilliant victory at Slivnitza (November 19) pursued King Milan into Serbian territory as far as Pirot, which he captured (November 27). Although Serbia was protected from the consequences of defeat by the intervention of Austria, Prince Alexander's success sealed the union with Eastern Rumelia, and after long negotiations he was nominated governor-general of that province for five years by the sultan (April 5, 1886).
This arrangement, however, cost him much of his popularity in Bulgaria, while discontent prevailed among a certain number of his officers, who considered themselves slighted in the distribution of rewards at the close of the campaign. A military conspiracy was formed, and on the night of August 20 the prince was seized in the palace at Sofia, and compelled to sign his abdication; he was then hurried to the Danube at Rakhovo, transported on his yacht to Reni, and handed over to Russian authorities, by whom he was allowed to proceed to Lemberg.
However he soon returned to Bulgaria, owing to the success of the counter-revolution led by Stamboloff, which overthrew the provisional government set up by the Russian party at Sofia.
But his position had become untenable, partly owing to an ill-considered telegram which he addressed to the tsar on his return; partly in consequence of the attitude of Prince Bismarck, who, in conjunction with the Russian and Austrian governments, forbade him to punish the leaders of the military conspiracy. He therefore issued a manifesto resigning the throne, and left Bulgaria on September 8, 1886, to retire into private life.
The last years of his life were spent principally at Gratz, where he held a local command in the Austrian army. There, after a short illness, he died on October 23, 1893. His remains were brought to Sofia, where they received a public funeral, and were eventually deposited in a mausoleum erected in his memory.
Special Thanks to: All Bulgaria Virtual Guide - www.abvg.net