April Uprising

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Image:April Uprising 1876small8ur.jpg
Development of the April Uprising

The April Uprising (Bulgarian: Априлско въстание) was an insurrection organised by the Bulgarians in the Ottoman Empire from April to May 1876, the indirect result of which was the establishment of Bulgaria as an independent nation in 1878.

The 1876 uprising was the latest in a string of Bulgarian revolts, but failed to elicit support among the peasantry or townspeople. The emergence of Bulgarian national sentiments among educated elites was primarily the result of the establishment of a separate Bulgarian church in 1870. Coupled with notions of romantic nationalism the resulting rise of national awareness became known as the Bulgarian National Revival.


[edit] Background

The Bulgarian population was suppressed socially and politically for the past few centuries under Ottoman rule and the resentment towards it was historically high.[citation needed] Additionally, more immediate causes for the greater mobilisation compared to earlier revolts were the severe internal and external problems which the Ottoman Empire experienced in the middle of the 1870s. In 1875, taxes levied on non-Muslims were raised for fear of a state bankruptcy, which, in its turn, caused additional tension between Muslims and Christians and facilitated the breakout of the Herzegovinian rebellion. The failure of the Ottomans to handle the uprising successfully showed the weakness of the Ottoman state while the brutalities which ensued, discredited additionally the empire to the outside world.

[edit] Preparation

In November 1875, activists of the Bulgarian Revolutionary Central Committee met in the Romanian town of Giurgiu and decided that the political situation was suitable for a general uprising. The uprising was scheduled for April or May 1876. The territory of the country was divided into five revolutionary districts with centres in Vratsa, Veliko Tarnovo, Sliven, Plovdiv and Sofia.

Image:Zname Aprilskoto vastanie.jpg
The flag of the April Uprising, sewn by Rayna Knyaginya. The text reads 'Freedom or Death'.

In the progress of the preparation of the uprising, the organisers gave up the idea of a fifth revolutionary district in Sofia due to the deplorable situation of the local revolutionary committees and moved the centre of the fourth revolutionary district from Plovdiv to Panagyurishte. On 14 April 1876, a general meeting of the committees from the fourth revolutionary district was held in the Oborishte locality near Panagyurishte to discuss the proclamation of the insurrection. One of the delegates, however, disclosed the plot to the Ottoman authorities. On 20 April 1876, Ottoman police made an attempt to arrest the leader of the local revolutionary committee in Koprivshtitsa, Todor Kableshkov.

[edit] Outbreak and reaction

In conformity with the decisions taken at Oborishte, the local committee attacked the headquarters of the Ottoman police in the town and proclaimed the insurrection two weeks in advance. Within several days, the rebellion spread to the whole Sredna Gora and to a number of towns and villages in the northwestern Rhodopes. The insurrection broke out in the other revolutionary districts, as well, though on a much smaller scale. The areas of Gabrovo, Tryavna, and Pavlikeni also revolted in force, as well as several villages north and south of Sliven and near Berovo (in the present-day Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia).

The reaction of the Ottoman authorities was quick and ruthless. Detachments of regular and irregular Ottoman troops (bashi-bazouks) were mobilised and attacked the first insurgent towns as early as 25 April. By the middle of May, the insurrection was completely suppressed. As no records were kept at the time, it is impossible to know exactly how many people were killed. The figure ranges from around 3,000 <ref> Richard Millman, "The Bulgarian Massacres Reconsidered," in The Slavonic and East European Review, Vol. 58, No. 2, (April, 1980), p230 </ref> to over 12,000,<ref> Robert Seton-Watson, Disraeli, Gladstone and the Eastern Question: a study in diplomacy and party politics, (London: Macmillan, 1935), p58 </ref> with the latter being the generally accepted figure. Some 80 villages and towns were burned and destroyed and 200 others were plundered.[citation needed] The atrocities which accompanied the suppression of the insurrection reached its peak in the northern Rhodopes. Nearly the whole population of the town of Batak was slaughtered or burned alive by Ottoman irregulars who left piles of dead bodies around the town square and church.There were foreign journalists who came and wrote articles for their newspapers about mothers who held the heads of their own babies.The rest of the world saw the true Ottoman empire,which tried to conceal the slaughter and to prove itself a developed,non-barbaric country. [citation needed]

[edit] Results

The organisers of the uprising did not realistically expect to overthrow the Ottoman oppression but had the goal of drawing attention to the plight of the Bulgarians and placing Bulgaria on the political agenda of the Great Powers. [citation needed]

According to Jelavich, "the April Uprising, which became the major event in later Bulgarian natiaonlist mythology, was a complete failure as a revolution". However, the swift and brutal suppression ordered by the Sultan - already engaged by a serious insurgency of Orthodox Christians in Bosnia - caused news of atrocities (the "Bulgarian Horrors" in the words of Gladstone) committed by Ottoman irregulars to spread and resulted in an enormous public outcry in Europe. The pictures of burned or slaughtered human bodies and the articles on the Ottoman atrocities went round all European newspapers and were condemned by a number of leading European political and cultural figures, including William Gladstone, Charles Darwin, Oscar Wilde, Victor Hugo and Giuseppe Garibaldi. Indeed, it has been argued that the massacre was the catalyst behind Gladstone's resurgence in British politics.[citation needed]

The tumult caused by the uprising led to the Conference of Constantinople in 1876 and the Russo-Turkish War, 1877-78, which was concluded by the Treaty of San Stefano in March 1878, followed in July that year by the Treaty of Berlin.

[edit] See also

[edit] Further Reading and other Links

  • "Balkan Crisis and the Treaty of Berlin: 1878" from The Balkans Since 1453 by L.S. Stavrianos; http://www.suc.org/culture/history/berlin78/
  • Charles Jelavich, Barbara Jelavich, The Establishment of the Balkan National States, 1804-1920 (History of East Central Europe), University of Washington Press (Seattle, 31 Dec 1977).
  • Mazower, Mark. The Balkans. Weidenfeld & Nicolson history (20 Jun 2002).

[edit] References

<references/>bg:Априлско въстание de:Bulgarischer Aprilaufstand 1876 sv:Aprilupproret

April Uprising

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