Saturday, 6 September 2014

Bulgarian Unification 6th September 1885

September 6th is an important date for Bulgarians, and not just because it is a National holiday. On this date 129 years ago the Unification of Bulgaria began. Many will point out that on March 3rd the Liberation Day was celebrated, and query why there is a different day for the Unification. It is true that the Liberation happened in 1878, but it only happened for part of the country. There was something called the San Stefano Treaty which effectively cut off chunks of the Ottoman Empire, reducing it in both size and influence. Various nations got together and decided what to do with these various areas in something known as the Berlin Congress. At the end of the Berlin Congress the Berlin Treaty was created. This gave rise to the Principality of Bulgaria in the lands between the Balkans and the Danube. The area to the South of the Balkans, but also bordered by the Rila and Rhodope mountains became known as Eastern Rumelia, which was an autonomous region within the Ottoman Empire. Macedonia and Thrace both still remained under Ottoman rule. This organised separation of the Bulgarian peoples hindered their development both economically and politically.

These individual Bulgarian states quite rightly wanted to be reunited under a single national Bulgarian state. The first attempt to try and make some headway came about in 1880. Britain, who were one of the nations behind the Berlin Treaty, had a new government. It was now headed by William Gladstone, and prior to becoming Britain's Prime Minister had seemed quite supportive of the idea behind unification. Unfortunately the change of British government didn't mean a change in the British policy. They were growing increasingly concerned about the spread of Russian influence, which could quite possibly reach down to the Aegean Sea. There was also the possibility of an outbreak of hostilities between Greece, along with Montenegro, and the Ottoman Empire. Although simmering and brooding, this potential powder keg never actually amounted to anything.

Various other attempts were made to call for unification, but they always seemed to fall on deaf ears. In time it was decided to concentrate on the unification between the Principality of Bulgaria and Eastern Rumelia. This plan was co-ordinated by the Bulgarian Secret Central Revolutionary Committee (BSCRC). Their efforts were aided by Prince Alexander Battenberg getting behind the cause. Many claim that his support was his only way that he could see to stay in power. His standing with the Russians and pro-Russian supporters within Bulgaria had reached such a low point that many were calling for his abdication.

Throughout August there were minor rumblings of discontent throughout various towns and villages in Eastern Rumelia. Various BSCRC cells had been established for just this purpose. The main thrust of the revolution was meant to coincide with the Eastern Rumelian militia being mobilised and on manoeuvres outside of Plovdiv. It came slightly earlier than planned when a riot broke out in Panagyurishte, It took a day for the police to restore order. The blue touch paper of revolution had been lit, the next area of unrest was Golyam Konare, where an armed squad of rebels, under the command of Prodan Tishkov (sometimes known as Chardafon), seized control of the village and declared unification.

Rebel fighters left their villages and joined up with the Eastern Rumelian militia outside of Plovdiv. The militia was commanded by Major Danail Nikolaev, he was fully aware of what the rebels were doing and fully supported them. Once there were sufficient numbers both the rebels and the militia swept into Plovdiv and seized the Governor's residence. The Governor was Gavril Krastevich, and being a patriot himself offered no resistance. Luckily the Berlin Treaty assisted in this as the Ottomans could not send troops into Eastern Rumelia unless asked for by the Governor.

A temporary government had already been set up with Georgi Stranski at its head. A telegram was sent to Prince Alexander asking him to accept the unification once the Governor's residence had been seized. On September 9th Alexander I entered Plovdiv, accompanied by the Prime Minister, Petko Karavelov, and the head of Parliament, Stefan Stambolov. This action signified that unification had taken place, but what about on the international stage?

You would have thought that Russia would be over the moon about this, however they were opposed to it. Possibly because of their lack of support towards Alexander I, they were now concerned that his influence in the region would grow, whereas their own would decrease.

The British initially held true to their foreign policy, until they realised that the Russians had spoken out against the rebels actions and unification. So sensing that there wouldn't be an expansion of Russian influence in the region eventually gave its support to the new Bulgarian nation. France and Germany both sided with Russia and wanted an international conference to be held in Constantinople, where the violation of the Berlin Treaty should be discussed. Serbia and Greece realised that Bulgaria was now the largest nation in the Balkan area, and both wanted territories ceded to themselves. At one point Greece even declared war on the new state of Bulgaria, fortunately Britain was able to diplomatically quieten things down. The main problem arose with Serbia. They had a secret treaty with the Austro-Hungarian Empire dating back to 1881, giving them the 'right' to expand their borders in to Macedonia. Feeling that they had support, Milan I declared war on Bulgaria on November 2nd, Serbia was defeated. So slowly but surely the new Bulgarian nation was gaining recognition, both politically and internationally. Just as an aside Plovdiv, the former principal city of Eastern Rumelia, has now been judged to be the European city of Culture for 2019, so even being a one time hot bed of rebellion might have stood it in good stead.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Mindya Rock Fest VI

I always look forward to this time of year ever since we moved here. Just in case you are wondering why, it is because I enjoy the Rock Fest held at the village of Mindya. This year was the 6th time that this event has been held, so we missed the 1st one as we weren't even here then, but we have made it to 3 out of the other 4. This year was slightly different, as rather than being held over the two days it became a three day event. Also some of the more familiar groups were absent, but they made way for some different bands.

Thursday saw the untested groups vying for the chance to have time in a recording studio, so that they could get the chance to have their own disc made and the possibility of being signed up. You will notice that a lot of these unheard of groups were not local to the area, so it is easy to see just how far the word about Mindya has spread. Friday brought out the rock in people, and the people who rock. We toyed with the idea of attending on the Friday, but as we went to Bojur Fest earlier in the year at Gorna Oriahovitsa, we decided that Saturday, and the rock and blues night, would suit us.

 So just before 6 yesterday evening a group of us left our village and headed towards Mindya. Some of the younger ones had decided that they were going to camp overnight. This is another wonderful thing about Mindya, if you choose to camp there over night you are quite at liberty to do so, and it is free too. I dare say that there have been a few hardly souls who have been there since before the first act took to the stage on Thursday. The downside with it becoming more popular is that it becomes more difficult to find somewhere to park. This is another good reason why we left our village so early, and every year we seem to be able to grab the same parking spot. The food and drink vendors were all doing a good trade by the time that we wandered up into the village square. So we found a suitable vantage point from where we could view the stage, and it also meant that we could keep an eye open for the happy campers and friends who were due to arrive.

As if by magic everyone seemed to find each other, and once the drinks were sorted out it wasn't long to wait until the first group took to the stage. Fortunately the sun had just dipped down behind some trees, and the village Kmetsvo otherwise we would have spent the first quarter of an hour squinting into bright sunlight. One thing that soon became apparent to us was that the sound engineers were not as good as previous years. The beat from the bass drum could be felt thudding into your chest. I did a quick check and there was no-one there trying to shock me with defibrillators. It might be OK for Heavy Rock where volume equates good, but maybe not so much for rock and blues.

With the Rock Fest now being spread out over three days, it means that the bands get longer sets to perform more of their repertoire. I am guessing that if you only have a short slot on stage then actually selecting which numbers you are going to perform can be quite a daunting task. Also with a longer set they get to demonstrate more of their versatility. One thing that I did notice happening was there seemed to be an over enthusiasm to use the smoke generator. At times it was almost as though the band performing had disappeared into a thick Victorian London fog. Anyone who has see any of the Sherlock Holmes or Jack the Ripper films will get the idea. Fortunately, it didn't seem to affect any of the groups, or at least they weren't coughing and spluttering on stage. Maybe with the breeze blowing it helped to dissipate the smoke, or at least mingle it with the smoke from the sausage and chips areas which seemed to often waft across us. Perhaps that was a sales ploy, but some fat person had polished off more than half a pizza before we had left our village. That would be me then, so it wasn't too surprising that I wasn't actually hungry.

With the lack of the familiar favourite bands, it did give the chance to hear other groups. Some of these were from abroad. I was quite impressed with Atlas, who came from Turkey, and not forgetting The Cotton Pickers who were from Serbia. The roadie with Atlas looked like a much thinned down version of Freddie Mercury. Even in his heyday I don't think that Freddie ever wore such bizarre trousers though, they looked like a black elasticated nappy, a full one!!! At least his scampering about the stage didn't seem to put any of the band off, but once you notice something like that you can't drag your eyes away. He didn't even sing, so maybe his resemblance to Freddie didn't go much further than his moustache.

As the night wore on the temperature was dropping, but the mosquitoes were out in force. Possibly they had gone into a bit of a feeding frenzy with such a target rich environment. Having faced this problem before we had taken lightweight jackets with us, and looking around many others had also done the same. Over the years the crowd numbers have increased, and for the first time instead of the token Police presence I actually noticed proper security. Even when we left the Police hadn't set up their usual on the spot breathalyzer checkpoint going out of the village.

As previously mentioned the crowd size has been steadily increasing with each passing Rock Fest. So hopefully that means that the word is spreading further and further afield, and that the Mindya Rock Fest will continue to go from strength to strength. It must be the envy of many villages having something as worthwhile as this happening so successfully each year, and with the influx of people into the village the shops and bars ought to be doing quite well too.

One important thing to take note of, is that in all of the times we have been there we have never seen any trouble. It must take an awful lot of organising and dedication from all concerned to put something like this on, and everything has to be thought of beforehand. Happily people have gone there for one purpose, and one purpose only, and that is to enjoy themselves. A quick look at the crowd last night and I saw every age group represented, from toddlers right up to the elderly. I have to admit that there were even people older than myself who were there. So if ever you find yourself in this area, at this time of year, you could do a lot worse than check out the Rock Fest at Mindya. I'm already looking forward to next year.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Picture Postcards From Gorna Oryahovitsa

In Bulgaria there are 28 regional Administrative Districts, up here in the centre of Northern Bulgaria, we are under the umbrella of Veliko Tarnovo. Residents of this district are easy to spot as their vehicle registration plates all begin BT. It is a district which covers approximately 4650 square kilometres. In total it has administrative control over 14 towns and cities, and 322 villages. Quite a fair bit for it to cope with, so the district is further broken down into 10 municipalities. We fall under the remit of Gorna Oryahovitsa.

Now over the years of posting these blogs I have mentioned Gorna several different times, but unless you actually know the area I might as well be talking about Timbuktu. This morning I took one of our neighbours into the hospital at Gorna for her appointment. Whilst waiting out in the car park I started pondering what subject to cover in my next blog. Then I remembered that I had done a photo blog from the village, so perhaps I could do something similar for Gorna Oryahovitsa itself, after all they do say that a picture paints a thousand words. So without further ado here is a small photo guide to Gorna.

Sitting above the town, like a silent 
sentinel, is a stone cliff.
Called, quite simply, The Stone.
From the top of The Stone, 
you can see out over the town.
Including looking out over the airport
Being a transport hub, there are many ways to get here.
Maybe you'd prefer to let the train take the strain.
Can you guess which is the village bus?

Then again there is always the bus
The Bus Station looks different
from outside
Sometimes the road system can be a bit confusing,
just wait until there's a roundabout here

The Municipality building
Put your Hands up for 
Gorna Oryahovitsa

Churches are a common sight
Some have different roofs or cupolas

Some mix in well with their newer surroundings

Home to GO Lokomotive, maybe not the Theatre
of Dreams but they give plenty of teams nightmares
The local museum well worth a look, once you
work out how to get in
You can see the stone from almost everywhere

Open air concerts? Step this way 
Perhaps you are hungry and fancy trying some
local fruit and vegetables
Maybe you prefer meats, there is a sausage named
after Gorna Oryahovitsa

You would be surprised at how many places
you can buy fruit
Sometimes its nice to have a stroll in the
afternoon sunshine

Or maybe go for a coffee

Plenty of trees for shade as you head 
for something to eat, or another coffee
Another claim to fame. 
The largest handmade
Bulgarian flag

The Central square is a great place to 
watch the world go by

Listening to the splash of the fountains in the
summer months 
Or trying to decipher exactly what is shown
on the mosaic above CBA
The best bit is at least three Ice Cream
stalls to choose from

Remember to stop for people using
pedestrian crossings

Especially when the crossing is next to the court house
A small church 
Watch out for Sleeping Beauty behind Lidl