The Bulgarian Declaration of Independence, 1908.


The treaties of San Stefano and Berlin (1878), to which the principality of Bulgaria owed its legal existence, though providing for practically complete autonomy for the principality, recognized in favor of Turkey certain ill-defined rights, of suzerainty over Bulgaria. Ordinarily these rights were of little value to Turkey and limited very slightly the independent action of Bulgaria. There was, however, in Bulgaria a strong desire for complete independence. Prince Ferdinand on several occasions sounded the courts of Russia and Austria in regard to the matter, but was advised to wait. The Turkish Revolution of July, 1908, furnished an opportunity.


On October 5, 1908, Prince Ferdinand formally proclaimed the independence of Bulgaria at Tornova. All the circumstances of the occasion indicate that the declaration was issued in consequence of an understanding previously arranged between the Bulgarian and Austro-Hungarian Governments. The decision not to defer the declaration until a later time was probably due to a fear lest the powers, coming into dispute over the, action of the Dual Monarchy, would forbid Bulgaria to take any action as to independence. The decision was to confront Europe with a fait accompli.


The course taken by Bulgaria was an act of defiance toward Turkey, owing to its suzerain rights, and an infraction of the Treaty of Berlin (1878), to which all of the powers were parties. It therefore led to a period of acute tension, marked at times by considerable military preparation, between Bulgaria and Turkey and to a complicated negotiation. In the first phase of this negotiation Russia supported Turkey in a decided manner; Germany pursued a rather equivocal course; France and England used their influence at Constantinople to prevent war. In the second and final phase, Russia, changing its attitude, contributed in large measure to facilitate a financial transaction which paved the way for a settlement. The attitude of the powers throughout was that they would consent to modify the Treaty of Berlin as to this matter whenever Bulgaria and Turkey should compose their differences, but that the independence of Bulgaria could not be recognized until that had been done.


The main obstacles to a pacific adjustment between Bulgaria and Turkey were sentimental and financial. Turkey at an early date indicated willingness to recognize the independence of Bulgaria upon the payment of a sum of money of an amount to be determined. Turkey demanded that the sum to be paid include the arrears of tribute and a share of the Ottoman debt. The amount demanded was also placed at a high figure. Bulgaria replied that it would notbuy its independence, but would conquer it. At a moment when the situation had become very threatening with Turkey demanding a rectification of the frontier and both States again making extensive military preparations, Russia, came forward with a plan which quickly paved the way to a solution. The plan allowed Turkey, as compensation for claims of all sorts, a sum amounting to 125,000,000 francs, which was substantially the final amount claimed by the Turks, while Bulgaria was willing to pay only 82,000,000 francs. Payment was to be made by way of reduction in the installments on the sums due to Russia from Turkey by the Treaty of Berlin (1878). Russia, in turn, agreed to accept from Bulgaria the sum of only 82,000,000 francs. Turkey, therefore, signed a convention at Constantinople, April 9, 1909, recognizing the independence of Bulgaria. Recognition promptly followed.

Source: Anderson, Frank Maloy and Amos Shartle Hershey, Handbook for the Diplomatic History of Europe, Asia, and Africa 1870-1914. Prepared for the National Board for Historical Service. Government Printing Office, Washington, 1918.

Return to Vinnie's Home Page

Return to Bosnia Page