On the 3rd of March 1878 in the village of San Stefano, close to Istanbul, a peace treaty that ended the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878 and restored the Bulgarian state was signed.

The date, our national holiday, has gathered together the dreams and hopes of all Bulgarians to live in a "Pure and Sacred Republic". And the freedom - it has been won at the cost of thousands of victims.

Jubilee celebrations on the occasion of the 140th anniversary of the Liberation of Bulgaria took place throughout the year and throughout the country. The events can neither be counted nor represented in their entirety. Many of them were organized by the National Initiative Committee for the celebration the 140th anniversary of the Russo-Turkish War of Liberation (1877-1878) and the restoration of the Bulgarian state, under the patronage of the Bulgarian President.

Traditionally, the culmination of the celebrations every year is on March 3 at the historic Shipka Peak, where thousands of Bulgarians from all over the country have come again to pay tribute to the heroes, who had given their lives for our freedom. The President and Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Bulgaria Rumen Radev was greeted there with an official ceremony during which he received the report of the commander of the guard of honor. The head of the state also attended the service in memory  of the Bulgarian and Russian warriors who died in the war.

A solemn ceremony of the raising the national flag in front of the Monument of the Unknown Soldier was held in Sofia in the morning. In the evening President Rumen Radev reviewed the honor formation of the representative units of the Bulgarian army at the National Assembly square. In his speech the Head of State said:

"This day some 140 years ago the Treaty of San Stefano was signed. On this day the dreams of our enlighteners to have all Bulgarians live in a free country were materialized. This was a vision that lasted only a couple of months. The Berlin congress buried it. Throughout Europe the romantic hopes of the 19th century died under the swath of the dramatic 20th century. However, the memory of the spring of 1878 will remain the intransient Bulgarian inspiration.

This is the memory of the valor of the young exiles, ordinary people and teachers, who after many-year fights, in April 1876, sacrificing their lives, brought back the issue of Bulgaria on Europe’s agenda. It is also the memory of Victor Hugo and MacGahan, who heard the moaning of Panagyurishte and Batak.

This is the memory of the fraternal impulse of the Russian society which proved that the Orthodox Bulgarians are not alone. We will never forget it. Neither will we forget the great words in the manifesto of Emperor Alexander II, the Tsar-liberator, who declared war to the Ottoman Empire because “this is what the feeling for justice and our own dignity requires.” The people alone started war, headed by the Tsar,” Dostoyevsky wrote in his diary, “and the people read the manifesto and crossed themselves.These scenes and feelings are deeply imprinted and are not subject to self-seeking political interpretations.

Soldiers from different nationalities left their bones in the battlefields of the Russian-Turkish liberation war for Bulgaria’s freedom - Russians, Romanians, Finns, Ukrainians, Belarusians, Poles, Lithuanians, Serbs and Montenegrins and many more.  that left their bones in. For all of them Bulgaria is their last home. We pay tribute to them as our heroes.

Some 140 years later we have to remember our history because the other people do not forget theirs. Our Bulgarian historical energy is not to be found in the nostalgia for a past grandeur and glory. Instead it is found in the awareness of the value of freedom and in the responsibility towards the martyrs that paid the price for it, and in the noble ideal of "a pure and sacred republic".

Bow to those who had fallen for the freedom of the motherland!

Long live Bulgaria!"

Among the guests that attended the solemn tattoo at the square were Vice-president Iliana Iotova, National Assembly Speaker Tsveta Karayancheva, Bulgarian Patriarch Neophyte, Patriarch of Moscow and the whole of Russia Cyril, Assembly deputies, ambassadors, hundreds of citizens. Precious guest among the many officials who arrived here for the anniversary was His Holiness Moscow and all Russia Patriarch Cyril.

On March 4th in the Patriarchal Cathedral "St. Alexander Nevsky" there was a solemn and historic service - the culmination of the church celebrations of the 140th anniversary of the liberation of Bulgaria. Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and all Russia and Patriarch Neofit co-chaired the Divine Liturgy. This was the highest expression of the brotherly unity between the Bulgarian and the Russian people and their common Orthodox faith - the unceasing foundation, thanks to which 140 years ago our national liberation became possible.

Photo: V. Nikolov