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 April 12, 1877 – Russia declares war to Turkey

April 12, 1877 – Russia declares war to Turkey

4/12/2006 4:30:55 PM

In the 1870s the fight of the Balkan Christians against the Ottoman reign reached its crucial phase. The Herzegovina rebellion (1875) and the furious suppression of the Bulgarian April Uprising (1876) met a mighty response in Europe. In the same time, as result of the Crimean War, Russia was deprived of its possibility to take active participation in the Balkan problems. Despite the efforts for peaceful arrangement of the argument Russia actively prepared for war with Turkey.

On April 12 (24), 1877 Emperor Alexander the Second declared war to Turkey in a manifesto. As early as the next day the Russian army crossed the Prut river and advanced to the Danube river. On June 10 (22) the Russian army crossed Danube and on June 17 (29) Svishtov was liberated. Three battalions were formed. The Eastern detachment, headed by Alexander Alexandrovich, advanced to Rousse, the Western one – lead by general Kridener – towards Nikopol. The Front detachment was commanded by general Gurko, and Bulgarian volunteers were included here. Despite being the smallest, the Front detachment was the most active one on its way to Tarnovo.

On July 7 the former Bulgarian capital was liberated and the detachment marched south. At the same time the Ottoman headquarters transferred the army of Suleiman pasha from Northern Albania, as it should pass the Balkan Mountain passes and help the Pleven fortress. The Front detachment happened to the only one to stop the Ottoman’s attack. After liberating Kazanlak, Stara Zagora and Nova Zagora the Front detachment fortified the Shipka pass and prepared the defense. Shipka’s defense was confided to 36th Eagles’ infantry regiment and 5 Bulgarian detachments.

Another 200 Bulgarian volunteers joined the fierce battle, and the parts sent by general Radetski entirely broke the Turkish chance and so the Ottomans way to Pleven was cut off. In the same time Pleven faced dramatic turns of the war – after three unsuccessful attacks and thousands of victims the command post was assigned to general Totleben and after putting the town under siege Osman pasha was forced to surrender. Pleven’s liberation had a great strategic and political role.

The Russian army advanced fast – passing Etropole, Orhanie (Botevgrad), Sofia (January 4), Plovdiv (January 16) and at the end of January 1878 an advanced guard of the gen. Gurko’s detachment entered Odrin. Worried by the Russians' impetuous invasion and the proximity to Constantinople, the Great Powers forced Russia to join a conference for solving the Balkan matters. On February 19 (March 3) 1878 the San Stefano Preliminary Peace Treaty was signed, which restored Bulgaria as autonomous principality.

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