Liberation Day in Bulgaria is celebrated across the country on 3 March each year to remember the day in 1878 when the nation achieved freedom from Ottoman rule.
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Bulgaria became a unified state, now known as the First Bulgarian Empire, around 681 AD. The Second Bulgarian Empire existed from 1185 until 1396 when it finally succumbed to the Ottoman Empire. Bulgaria was then under Ottoman rule for nearly 500 years.
Two uprising attempts against the Ottomans in 1875 and 1876 failed and left around 15,000 Bulgarians massacred. In 1877, Russia under the leadership of Tzar Alexander II stood against the Ottomans and, after violent battles and great loss of life, Russia and the Ottoman Empire signed the Treaty of San Stefano on 3 March 1878. The treaty created the Principality of Bulgaria, also known as the Third Bulgarian State (or Empire).
This was the first of many steps in liberating Bulgaria. There was opposition from the Great Powers about the impact of the San Stefano treaty and it was superseded, initially, by the Treaty of Berlin on 13 July.
Even so, on 3 March 1878, Bulgaria was finally free from the rule of the Ottoman Empire and was able to build its own leadership, government and culture. On 3 March 1880, Tzar Alexander II’s nephew, Prince Alexander of Battenberg, was elected as the first ruler of Bulgaria.
Liberation Day is celebrated at ceremonies across the country and especially in the smaller towns. Many of these towns were virtually destroyed during the fight for independence and it is a solemn time of remembering the oppression, fighting and freedom. Flowers and notes are often left on the Liberation monuments around Bulgaria and many also celebrate with fireworks.