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Independent Bulgaria Print E-mail
This period commenced with one significant act – the convening of the Great National Assembly in February 1879 in medieval Bulgarian capital Veliko Tarnovo which proclaimed Bulgaria Constitutional Monarchy and adopted a liberal Constitution. After 1878, the first cultural and educational institutions in the Principality began to emerge. The St. St. Cyril and Methodius National Library was built in 1878, the St. Kliment Ohridski University of Sofia opened its doors in 1888, the Accademy of Arts - in 1895 and the “Ivan Vazov” National Theatre - in 1904. The first film was shown in Rousse in 1897.

The late 19th and the early 20th century were characterised by remarkable achievements in all fine arts. This period was marked by the works of the Bulgarian poets and writers Ivan Vazov, Aleko Konstantinov, Dimcho Debelyanov, Pencho Slaveykov - the only Bulgarian nominated for Nobel Prize, Peyo Yavorov and many others. The artists Anton Mitov, Ivan Angelov, Ivan Mrkvicka, Yaroslav Veshin, B. Schatz and others created some of the most remarkable works of art during that time. The late 19th century also marked the beginning of Bulgarian professional musical culture. The first Bulgarian composers were Emanouil Manolov, Dimiter Christov and Georgi Atanassov-Maestro.

Ferdinand Saxe Coburg Gotha, Bulgarian Prince since 1887, proclaimed Bulgaria's independence from Turkey in 1908 and became King of Bulgaria. In alliance with Serbia, Greece and Montenegro Bulgaria took part in the Balkan War (1912) against the Ottoman Empire for the liberation of Thrace and Macedonia in which  Turkey was vanquished. In May 1913 the London Peace Treaty formalized the liberation of the lands westward of the line Midia-Enos from Ottoman domination. The victorious march of the allied armies was admired in Europe and in United States, especially the taking over by the Bulgarian army of Odrin (March 1913) considered to be an unseizable military stronghold of the Ottoman Empire. The president of the United States sent a letter of congratulations to the Bulgarian Government on the occasion of this victory.

Discords among the allies as to the allocation of the newly liberated territories escalated into an armed conflict between them. Shortly after the signing of the London Peace Treaty Serbia and Greece violated their previous arrangements with Bulgaria and concluded a military agreement against it. On its side, Bulgaria overestimated its chances to win a war against Serbia, Montenegro and Greece and opted for the military solution. The so called “Inter-Allies War” begun. Roumania and Turkey took advantage of the difficult situation of the Bulgarian army and occupied vast territories in Northern and Southern part of the country respectively. The Bucharest and the Istanbul peace treaties imposed harsh conditions on Bulgaria. Under the Bucharest peace treaty provisions Serbia, Montenegro and Greece acquired large territories of the former Ottoman Empire, inhabited by ethnic Bulgarians.The three countries partitioned among themselves Macedonia, Southern Dobrudja was ceded to Roumania. Eastern Thrace was returned to Turkey. Charles Vopica, the American representative to the Bucharest peace conference, objected the unnecessary dictate on Bulgaria and refused to sign the Peace Treaty.

In 1913 the International Foundation for Peace, financed by the American philanthropist Andrew Carnegi, sponsored the International Commission to Inquire into the Causes and Conduct of Balkan Wars (1912 - 1913) – the famous Carnegie Commission. The Commission, which included well-known politicians, diplomats, journalist and researchers from United Kingdom, France, Russia, United States determined on site the behavior of the belligerants. In the spring of 1914 the 420-pages report of the Commission was published in New York. It contained plenty of fotographic materials, facsimiles of original documents, statistics and eyewitness testimonies. The report described the practices of ethnic cleansing, assimilation and brutal repression of the Bulgarian population on the territory of Macedonia and Thrace. As a result, tens of thousands of reffugees were expelled from their homes and were forced to escape in Bulgaria or to imigrate in other countries.The issue of Bulgarian refugees’ land and property arised.

Although aimed at national re-unification, the intervention of Bulgaria in World War I on the side of the Central Powers (Germany and Austria-Hungary) ended with a national catastrophe. In 1918, King Ferdinand abdicated in favour of his son Boris III. The Neuilly Peace Treaty of 1919 imposed severe provisions on Bulgaria: it lost its outlet on the Aegean Sea, Western Thrace became a part of Greece, Southern Dobroudja was annexed to Romania, and the territories around Strumica, Bosilegrad, Zaribrod and villages around Kula were given to the Serbian-Croatian-Slovenian Kingdom. (Southern Dobroudja was restored to Bulgaria in 1940 by the Bulgarian-Romanian Treaty of Kraiova). In 1919 King Ferdinant abdicated in favor of his son Boris. The Government of the Bulgarian Agrarian Union’s leader Alexander Stamboliiski came to power until June 1923 when it was overthrowned and killed in a right-wing military coup. Stamboliiski passed some reforms and stabilized the national economy and army. Twice – in 1923 and in 1934 - the democratically elected governments were remouved and authoritarian regimes were established. The military and political failiures and the economic crisis after the war triggered the appearance of leftist and communist mouvements. The period until the end of World War II was marked by increasing political and armed opposition led by the Bulgarian Communist Party (BCP) against the internal and foreign policy of the official regimes.

The 1920s and 1930s were characterised with a growing economic stabilization and further development of Bulgarian culture. During that period Vladimir Dimitrov-Maistora, Zlatyu Boyadjiev, Dechko Uzunov and many other artists created remarkable works. The State Musical Academy was founded in 1921. The first steps of the art of Bulgarian ballet were made in 1928. Among the most prominent composers of that period were Pancho Vladigerov, Lyubomir Pipkov and Philip Koutev. Under the Old Sky, The Cairn and Graves without Crosses were among the best Bulgarian films in the 1920s and 1930s. The literary works of Elin Pelin, Yordan Yovkov, Geo Milev, Hristo Smirnenski, Elisaveta Bagryana, Assen Raztsvetnikov, Nikola Fournadjiev, Nikola Vaptsarov, and others, are brilliant examples of Bulgarian poetry and prose during that period.
In the early 1940s, Bulgaria led a policy in the interest of Germany and the Axis powers. However, during the World War II Bulgarian army remained stationary and no troops were sent to fight to the East front in support of the German army. Bulgaria was rather used as a rest and recuperation base. The large public opposition, involving the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, members of Parliament and other activists was supported by King Boris III who did not allow the deportation of 50,000 Bulgarian Jews to the concentration camps. A large scale partisan movement emerged against the pro-German orientation of the government. In the final stages of WW II (1944 - 1945) however Bulgaria joined the anti-nazi coalition forces and contributed for the liberation of Europe.

In August 1943 King Boris III died and the regency of the young King Simeon II took over the governing of the country.