Declaration Of Independence

During the thirty years of its existence the principality had made rapid and striking progress. Its inhabitants, among whom a strong sense of nationality had grown up, were naturally anxious to escape from the restrictions imposed by the treaty of Berlin. That Servia should be an independent state, while Bulgaria, with its greater economic and military resources, remained tributary to the Sultan, was an anomaly which all classes resented; and although the Ottoman suzerainty was little more than a constitutional fiction, and the tribute imposed in 1878 was never paid, the Bulgarians were almost unanimous in their desire to end a system which made their country the vassal of a Moslem state notorious for its maladministration and corruption. This desire was strengthened by the favourable reception accorded to Prince Ferdinand when he visited Vienna in February 1908, and by the so-called "Geshoff incident," i.e. the exclusion of M. Geshoff, the Bulgarian agent, from a dinner given by Tewfik Pasha, the Ottoman minister for foreign affairs, to the ministers of all the sovereign states represented at Constantinople (12th of September 1908). This was interpreted as an insult to the Bulgarian nation, and as the explanation offered by the grand vizier was unsatisfactory, M. Geshoff was recalled to Sofia. At this time the bloodless revolution in Turkey seemed likely to bring about a fundamental change in the settled policy of Bulgaria. For many years past Bulgarians had hoped that their own orderly and progressive government, which had contrasted so strongly with the evils of Turkish rule, would entitle them to consideration, and perhaps to an accession of territory, when the time arrived for a definite settlement of the Macedonian Question. Now, however, the reforms introduced or foreshadowed by the Young Turkish party threatened to deprive Bulgaria of any pretext for future intervention; there was nothing to be gained by further acquiescence in the conditions laid down at Berlin. An opportunity for effective action occurred within a fortnight of M. Geshoff's recall, when a strike broke out on those sections of the Eastern Rumelian railways which were owned by Turkey and leased to the Oriental Railways Company. The Bulgarians alleged that during the strike Turkish troops were able to travel on the lines which were closed to all other traffic, and that this fact constituted a danger to their own autonomy.

The government therefore seized the railway, in defiance of European opinion, and in spite of the protests of the suzerain power and the Oriental Railways Company. The bulk of the Turkish army was then in Asia, and the new régime was not yet firmly established, while the Bulgarian government were probably aware that Russia would not intervene, and that Austria-Hungary intended to annex Bosnia and Herzegovina, and thus incidentally to divert attention from their own violation of the treaty of Berlin. On the 5th of October Prince Ferdinand publicly proclaimed Bulgaria, united since the 6th of September 1885 (i.e. including Eastern Rumelia), an independent kingdom. This declaration was read aloud by the king in the church of the Forty Martyrs at Trnovo, the ancient capital of the Bulgarian tsars. The Porte immediately protested to the powers, but agreed to accept an indemnity. In February 1909 the Russian government proposed to advance to Bulgaria the difference between the £4,800,000 claimed by Turkey and the £1,520,000 which Bulgaria undertook to pay. A preliminary Russo-Turkish protocol was signed on the 16th of March, and in April, after the final agreement had been concluded, the independence of Bulgaria was recognized by the powers.

Of the indemnity, £1,680,000 was paid on account of the Eastern Rumelian railways; the allocation of this sum between Turkey and the Oriental railways was submitted to arbitration. (See Turkey: History.)

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