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18 Jan, 2008 05:07

Russian Tsar – Liberator of Bulgaria

Russia and Bulgaria have a long history together which goes far beyond economic and cultural ties. Russian Tsar Alexander II liberated Bulgaria and he is still seen by many as one of the country’s founding fathers.

Back in the 19th century Bulgaria was part of the aggressive Ottoman Empire, led by Turkey.

Alexander II saw himself as the champion of oppressed Orthodox Christians.

After a Bulgarian revolt was violently crushed by the Turks, Russia got the troops ready. The war broke out in 1877 and took Alexander a year to win – 200,000 Russian soldiers were killed. Bulgaria was back on the map.

It had to wait for another 30 years to fully shake off the Turkish control. Still, March 3 – the day Russia signed a peace treaty with the Turks – is now Bulgaria’s National Holiday.

However Alexander’s campaigns went beyond battlefields.

He masterminded the most challenging reforms the tsarist Russia ever saw, freeing its 20 million serfs.

But his battle to push his country forward was too much for some and not enough for others. The tsar became a target of numerous murder plots.

After several narrow escapes, in 1881 aged 62 Alexander II was fatally wounded with a bomb in St. Petersburg.

A warrior, a diplomat, a controversial character and a man of tragic fate, in Russia he will always be remembered for his extraordinary reforms. And for Bulgaria Alexander II will forever remain the Liberator Tsar.