Russian Orthodox Patriarch visits Bulgaria to mark anniversary of liberation from Ottoman rule

The heads of the Russian and Bulgarian Orthodox churches and the Bulgarian president marked the 140th anniversary of the end of the country’s occupation by the Ottoman Empire at the site of a famous joint victory over the Turks.

“Thousands of Russian soldiers sacrificed their lives to save their brothers in the Orthodox faith, paying with their blood to free this ancient Christian country from the centuries-long yoke of an alien faith,” said Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill.

Kirill and Neophyte of Bulgaria conducted a remembrance service while Bulgarian soldiers laid wreaths at the monument built to mark the Battle of Shipka Pass, in which over 13,000 Russian and Bulgarian soldiers perished in 1877 and 1878.

“This is not nostalgia for past glories, but a sober reflection of the price of freedom, paid by those who laid down their lives for the ideals of the republic,” said Bulgarian President Rumen Radev, a career military man, prior to his election last year.

Bulgaria had been ruled by Turkey since the 14th century, and the Russian-led victory in the war against the Ottomans led to the re-establishment of Bulgaria as a state in 1878, though Istanbul still retained some influence.

Now, March 3, the date the Russians and Turks signed the peace treaty, is celebrated as a national holiday, which has acquired added significance due to a surge of nationalism in Eastern Europe and the return of religious tensions on the continent.

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