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Bulgaria marks 110th anniversary of Ilinden-Preobrazhenie Uprising

Photo: vmro-varna.com
On August 2 Bulgaria marks 110th anniversary of the Ilinden-Preobrazhenie Uprising-the peak of the national liberation movement of the Bulgarians living in Macedonia and Edirne Thrace. After the liberation of Bulgaria from the 5 century long Ottoman Yoke, these two districts remained in the confines of the Ottoman Empire, following the Berlin Peace Treaty initiated by the European Great Powers in 1878. This caused a sharp response by the Bulgarians who refused to put up with this decision and opposed it immediately. The opposition was organized after the establishment of the Internal Macedonian Edirne Revolutionary Committee in 1893 in the city of Thessaloniki. Soon after that, a dense network of revolutionary committees was established in Macedonia and Edirne Thrace. Several years later, the start of the rebel’s movement was given. It was in the bottom of the preparations for the uprising.

In January 1903, during a congress in Thessaloniki, the Internal Macedonian Edirne Revolutionary Committee took a decision to organize an uprising. It erupted on the church feast of Saint Elijah on August 2 and was named after the feast. Its start was given in the Bitolja Revolutionary District in Macedonia. Soon after that it covered Lerin, Kostur, Ohrdid and Kichevo districts. The culmination point of the uprising was the conquering of the town of Krushevo. On August 19, on the church feast of Transfiguration of Christ, the uprising erupted in the Edirne District. The insurgents managed to liberate many settlements in the region of Strandzha Mountain and the coastal towns of Tsarevo and Ahtopol. The culmination of the uprising in this area was reached with the pronouncing of the Strandzha Republic which lasted for 26 days only. In the area of the Rhodope Mountain, the revolutionary detachments became more active and managed to push back the enemy for some time. They established a revolutionary-democratic authority in the liberated settlements just like the one in the Krushevo Republic. Battles between the insurgents and the Turkish army were held in other revolutionary districts as well.

The Ottoman government sent some 350,000 soldiers equipped with modern weapons and artillery against the insurgents. The headquarters of the uprising asked the Bulgarian government for immediate help as it was facing a defeat. However, the Bulgarian government was warned by the European Great Powers about possible bad consequences and refused to provide military assistance to the insurgents. The population which took part in the uprising had to rely on its own powers and managed to defend from the enemy which outnumbered the insurgents for some time. Eventually, it was defeated by the Turkish troops. The balance sheet of the uprising reads the following: 239 battles were held in Macedonia and Edirne Thrace where 26,400 insurgents fought against the numerous army of the enemy. 201 villages were set in fire, 12,400 houses were completely destroyed, 4,700 people were killed and 70,800 people were left without shelter. 30,000 people were forced to leave their homes and look for salvation in Bulgaria. Despite the failure of the Ilinden-Preobrazhenie Uprising, it turned out very important, because it showed the European community that the enslaved population in Macedonia and Edirne Thrace refused to put up with the Ottoman Yoke and that it would continue to fight for its national independence.

Editor: Veneta Pavlova
English version: Kostadin Atanasov

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