A source: wikipedia.org
This text is a response to the article. “Bulgarian gratitude to Russia: we remember here, we do not remember here”published in the journal "Military Review" on February 7, 2020, and specifically on the opinion expressed in the article about "ungrateful little brothers."
Briefly, the opinion can be summarized as follows: Oh, thankless little brothers! We (Russians), freed you from the Turkish yoke, we always supported you and helped you, and you fought against us twice (in the First and Second World Wars), and now you have joined NATO (i.e., you are back in the camp of enemies )
I want to emphasize that this position is found in many materials of the Military Review, as well as in a number of readers' comments on articles related in one way or another to Bulgaria. In other words, it can be argued that this thesis is quite widespread in Russia.
In the text below I spend historical analysis of this thesis for the period from 1878 to 1944. We will consider modern Russian-Bulgarian relations another time.
So, on March 3, 1878, after almost eleven months of hostilities, at the cost of the lives of more than 15000 soldiers, the Russian Empire triumphs in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878 and forces the Ottoman Empire to sign a peace treaty in the outskirts of Istanbul's San Stefano. This agreement provides for the establishment of the Principality of Bulgaria within the borders indicated on the map in black (see illustration above).
So the so-called San Stefan Bulgaria was born. Please remember this name. It is extremely important for understanding the policies of Bulgaria in the next 50-60 years.
How were the borders of San Stefan Bulgaria determined? In many ways, these are the borders of the Bulgarian exarchate created in 1870 - subordinate to the Patriarch of Greece (Constantinople) of the Bulgarian Church Organization within the framework of the Ottoman Empire. According to the firman (law) of the Sultan, the creation of the Bulgarian exarchate was made dependent on the voluntary consent of at least two-thirds of the Orthodox population of the empire. In other words, the Orthodox population within the boundaries of the exarchate was more than 60% Bulgarian. (Source.)
San Stefan Bulgaria remained only on paper, since the treaty of March 3, 1878 was revised after less than three months at the Berlin Congress in June-July 1878. At this congress, Great Britain, Austria-Hungary, Germany, Italy, France and Russia decide to “cut back” the borders of the newly created Bulgarian state. The territory of the Principality of Bulgaria has almost halved - from about 170 square meters. km to 000 square meters km (marked in green on the map above). On the territory of 95 223 square meters. km was created autonomous region of East Rumelia (marked in red) with its own local government as part of the Ottoman Empire. The rest of the land completely passed under Ottoman rule.
According to the official point of view (at least that was what was written in my school history textbook), Russia accepted the conditions of the Berlin Congress in order to prevent the repetition of the Crimean War. However, it is not a secret that the main decisions of the Berlin Congress (including the “trimmed” borders of Bulgaria) were previously agreed between Russia and Great Britain in the so-called London Agreement in May 1878.
It is completely logical that the main objective of the Principality of Bulgaria was the return of the territories selected by the decision of the Berlin Congress, and the restoration of San Stefan Bulgaria, that is, the unification of the Principality of Bulgaria, Eastern Rumelia and the regions of Thrace and Macedonia. The first (and almost the only) success in this endeavor was achieved on September 6, 1885, when the unification of the Principality of Bulgaria and Eastern Rumelia, known in the history of Bulgaria as the Union. Probably, we should expect that Russia would welcome the Union, since Russian soldiers nevertheless freed the territory of Eastern Rumelia from the control of the Sultan? Probably, we should expect that Russia will provide assistance to the united Bulgarian state, because we always helped little brothers? Probably should, but this did not happen. Russia opposed the Union, Emperor Alexander III recalled Russian military advisers from Bulgaria, with the result that almost no officers were left in the Bulgarian army with a rank higher than the captain.
Meanwhile, Serbia declares war on Bulgaria, and on November 14, 1885, the Serbian army crossed the Bulgarian border. Yes, yes, Serbia, fraternal Slavic Serbia. The same Serbia, which helped the Russian army liberate Bulgaria in 1877-1878. Should we expect that Russia, as an “elder brother”, will reconcile the “younger brothers” - Serbia and Bulgaria? But no, at the beginning of the war Russia takes a rather neutral position and intervenes in it after November 20, when the Serbian army is already defeated and the Bulgarians occupy the city of Pirot located on Serbian territory. The efforts of Austria-Hungary, Germany, Russia, Britain and France reached a ceasefire, and troops are withdrawn to pre-war borders.
In 1912, Bulgaria, Serbia, Montenegro and Greece created the so-called Balkan Union in order to oust the Turks from the Balkan Peninsula. The agreement between Serbia and Bulgaria provides for the partition of Macedonia (at that time it was still part of the Ottoman Empire), while the territory of Macedonia was divided into “disputed” and “indisputable” zones (see map below). Both states recognized that the indisputable zone after the war should join Bulgaria, since the population there is predominantly Bulgarian, while the Russian emperor will act as arbiter in relation to the disputed zone. The agreement was concluded with the mediation of Russia.
A source: gpedia.com
On October 8, 1912, the Balkan War began between the Ottoman Empire and the Balkan Union. We will not dwell on the course of hostilities, since it is quite natural that each of the allies was convinced that it was his army that won the largest and most important battles. I’ll just give a few figures: the total army of the Balkan Union was 632, of which the Bulgarian army totaled 000. The total losses of those killed and wounded during the hostilities from the Balkan Union amounted to 300, of which 000 were lost. As they say , you can draw conclusions yourself. (Source.)
The Balkan War ended in the complete defeat of the Ottoman Empire. Under the terms of the London Peace Treaty of May 30, 1913, the empire abandoned all of its territories west of the Midia Enos line (see first map below).
A source: wikipedia.org
But here, between the participants in the Balkan Union, a dispute began over the division of territories taken from the Ottoman Empire. Bulgaria insists on compliance with the terms of the pre-war treaties, while Serbia and Greece prefer the principle of actual ownership: the territory occupied by the Serbian army goes to Serbia, the territory occupied by the Greek army - to Greece, etc. As you can see on the second map above, under this section, almost all of Macedonia goes to Serbia, including the “indisputable” part. On the other hand, there is a pre-war treaty and the Russian emperor is recognized as an arbiter. Perhaps we should expect the intervention of the emperor, who will help the "little brothers" and make the Serbs retreat? But no, Russia is not interfering. And then Bulgaria decides to seize Macedonia from Serbia (as well as from Greece, since the Serbs and Greeks have already concluded a new treaty, this time directed against Bulgaria). This led to the beginning of the Inter-Allied War, known in Russia as the Second Balkan War. It is easy to understand all the madness of this act. Bulgaria lost the war, having lost almost all the territories recaptured from the Ottoman Empire, as well as part of the Dobrudja region on the Danube, as Romania entered the war - also against Bulgaria.
In 1914, the First World War began. Bulgaria declares neutrality. Both the Entente countries and the Central Powers seek to convince the Bulgarian government to join the war on their side. Bulgaria's claims are clear: Macedonia. The central powers easily promise to transfer Macedonia to Bulgaria. Entente countries are not ready to make such a decision, although Winston Churchill, who at that time was a member of the Supreme Military Council of Great Britain, insisted on meeting the requirements of Bulgaria. In the end, on October 14, 1915, Bulgaria declared war on Serbia (note - Serbia, not Russia) and thus enters the war on the side of the Central Powers. Two weeks later, on October 27, 1915, the Bulgarian port of Varna was shelled by a Russian military squadron. As a result of the attack, 9 people were killed and 24 injured. Among the dead was Maria Filova, the wife of the former mayor of Varna, Dobri Filova, of Russian origin. Mostly the civilian population was affected. There were no good military reasons for the shelling: neither the navy nor any significant military installations were located in Varna.
Until August 1916, major battles between the Bulgarian and Russian troops did not take place. Military operations in the Dobrogea region began after August 17, 1916 as a result of Romania entering the war on the side of the Entente. The Bulgarian army, together with the 1st German Brigade and the 1st Ottoman Corps, defeated the Romanian-Russian units south of the Danube. It is important to note that even according to Russian sources, the main military operations were conducted in territories with the Bulgarian population. On December 6, 1916, German, Austrian, and Bulgarian units took over Bucharest, united in an army group under the general command of General Mackensen. In September 1917, the so-called Romanian Front stabilized on the Siret River line, and no major battles took place in Romania until the end of the war. On the other fronts of this war, Bulgarian and Russian units did not enter into combat contact. (Sources: first, second.)
After the end of World War I, diplomatic relations between the Kingdom of Bulgaria and the USSR were renewed only in 1934. From the beginning of World War II in September 1939 until March 1941, Bulgaria remained neutral. March 1, 1941 Bulgaria officially joined the Tripartite Pact. Hitler's main promises were the return of Bulgaria to the territories torn away as a result of the Inter-Allied War of 1913 (Macedonia, White Sea Thrace, Dobrudja). It is important to note that at that moment the USSR and Germany were not enemies. An official statement by Prime Minister Bogdan Filov regarding Bulgaria’s entry into the Tripartite Pact emphasized: “We believe that the pact we signed does not violate the agreements that we have with our neighbors, and that we will continue the policy of traditional friendship with the Soviet Union.” Moreover, the pro-Soviet Bulgarian Communist Party (BKP) did not take active action against the alliance with Germany until June 22, 1941, only then began the unfolding of a guerrilla war against the government. However, in the period from March to May 1941, the BKP was limited to general declarations that Bulgaria should enter into an alliance with the USSR, and not with Hitler. For comparison, it can be noted that the pro-British Bulgarian Agricultural People's Union (BZNS "United") in April 1941 planned to organize a coup in order to prevent the union of Bulgaria with Germany. In other words, Bulgaria’s entry into the Tripartite Pact in March 1941 was not perceived by contemporaries of this event as a hostile act against the USSR.
Between 1941 and 1944, Bulgaria did not declare war on the USSR; Bulgarian soldiers on the Eastern Front did not fight. For comparison: in the materials of the Military Review, one can find many examples of how many European states that were not officially allied with Hitler sent their troops against the USSR. So the statement that the brothers fought against us twice It has no foundation: during the Second World War, Bulgaria did not participate in hostilities against the USSR. For its part, on September 5, 1944, the USSR declared war on Bulgaria, but this did not lead to the outbreak of hostilities, since on the same day the General Staff of the Bulgarian Army issued an order to refrain from resisting the Red Army. On September 9, 1944, a new government came to power in Sofia, and Bulgaria joined the ranks of the anti-Hitler coalition.
In conclusion, I want to note that this article does not constitute a criticism of Russia's actions in relation to Bulgaria in the period under review (1878-1944), nor does it contain any complaints about the insufficient assistance provided to the "little brothers." Russia and the USSR have always acted in accordance with their interests and capabilities — this is completely normal and natural. Nevertheless, the assertion that Russia has always helped the "brother-Bulgarians", and they, for their part, have always responded with ingratitude and hostility, contradicts historical facts.