119 Mutually Assured Excommunication

As the battle between supporters of an independent Bulgarian church and the Patriarchate heats up, the Uniate church becomes an even bigger concern for everyone involved. Meanwhile, revolutionary planning continues as Russia tries to convince Bulgarians to emigrate to Crimea and Rakovski tells them to stay. All the while there's a change in leadership in Constantinople and the beginning of another war in the Balkans.



Timeline for this Episode

  • Jan 1st 1861, Makiropolski and Valeshki sent a paternal message to the Bulgarian people appealing to the pillars of Orthodoxy to be preserved and to cast away the uniate church movement.

  • Jan 3rd 1861, General-Major Kovalevski sent instructions to the Russian embassy in Constantinople and to all Russian diplomats in Bulgarian territory commanding them to work to preserve Orthodoxy

  • Jan 11st 1861, Knyaz Gorchakov as Ministry of External Affairs in Russia commands Kynaz Alexei Lyobanov-Rostovski, the Russian ambassador in Constantinople, to negotiate with the Porte so Bulgarians can easily move to Crimea and “New Russia” pointing out that Russia does not hinder Tatars moving from Crimea to the Balkans

  • 16th Feb 1861, The Bulgarian Enlightener Dimitar Miladinov is arrested in Struga and imprisoned in Bitola, accused of inciting the population against the government and encouraging Russiophilia.

  • 22nd February 1861, The Russian ambassador in Constantinople received an answer from the Porte about Bulgarian immigration to Crimea, confirming that they will allow it and promising to provide them with an opportunity to sell their property

  • 24th Feb 1861, The Patriarchate called an assembly in Constantinople with 9 former and current patriarchs attending. It proclaims that the actions of Makiriopolsky, Plovdivski, and Veleshki are anti-canonical, banishing them from the church. Christians are forbidden from speaking to them and anyone they swore into the church organization will be removed from their positions.

  • 5th Mar 1861, During the celebratory Sunday mass, the Metropolitan of Plovdiv, Paisii, blamed the Patriarchate for going against church laws and said that Bulgarians should shun them.

  • 12th Mar 1861, During Sunday mass in a different Plovdiv church, the Buglarians in attendance declare that the city will not recognize the Patriarchate in Constantinople and pledge loyalty to Makiriopolsky

  • Mar 1861, Yosif Sokolski was sworn in by the Pope in Rome as Archbishop of the Bulgarian Uniate church. He arrives in Constantinople on April 14th

  • Mar 1861, In response to the punishment of Makariopolski, Plovdivski, and Veleshki, many Bulgarian churches in places like Turnovo, Lovech, Silistra, Samokov, Sofia, Kyhustendil, Plodviv, etc. during Sunday Mass publicly excommunicate the Patriarchate

  • Mar 1861, by recommendation of the Porte, to avoid complications, Makariopolski leaves Constantinople, first going to the Prince’s Islands in the sea of Marmara and then to a village on the bosphorus.

  • Mar 1861, the Bulgarians of Constantinople send a plea to the minister of external affairs arguing that the unjustly placed punishments on Makariopolski, Plovdivski, and Veleshki and want the Porte to approve the separations of the Bulgarians into a new independent Bulgarian church

  • 15th April 1861, the Plovdiv governor Efendi calls Paisii and in the presence of two notable Bulgarians proclaims that by order of the Porte he has to go into exile.

  • 19th April 1861, a delegation of Bulgarians from Constantinople appears in front of Ali Pasha, the Ottoman Minister of External Affairs, asking for permission for Bulgarian church officials to hold mass on Easter

  • 20th April 1861, Makariopolski arrives at the independent Bulgarian church in Constantinople where Veleshki also is, the plan is for them to leave for exile in 2 days, but the Bulgarians of the city protest the order. Many write pleas to the Sultan and the Great Powers. Ultimately the Sultan allows their exile to be postponed until after Easter.

  • 30th April 1861, The Plovdiv municipality calls an assembly in which 200 parishioners and 60 priests confirm their separation from the Patriarchate and selects 7 leaders, with the priest Zlatan at the head, who take over the managing of the church’s affairs.

  • 4th May 1861, the Bulgarians of Constantinople file pleas to the ambassadors of the Great Powers asking for help in establishing an independent church

  • Early May 1861, Rakovski wrote a bulletin “Moving to Russia, IE the Deadly Russian Political Stance Towards Bulgarians.” (my translation), in which he exposes the hypocritical treatment of Bulgarian immigrants by Russian authorities.

  • 20th May 1861, Rakovksi sent his trusted colleague Stefan Ryapov to North-Western Bulgaria to go through larger villages to advocate against mass migration to Russia.

  • Late May 1861, Hristo Georgiev got 3,000 copies of Rakovski’s bulletin from the Bucharest printing press and destroyed them.

  • 5th June 1861, Under the influence of Petko Slaveikov, Yosif Sokolski accepted an offer to hide in the Russian embassy in Constantinople before leaving on a Russian ship for Odessa. Once the leaders of the church movement commit a blow against Uniate church, which quickly loses influence without its leader. The disappearance of Sokolski caused many rumors, like that he was kidnapped by Russian agents.

  • 15-25 June 1861, Abdulmejid I died and his brother Abdulaziz rises to power

  • 9-18th July 1861, Rakovski was in Odessa to study the mindset of Bulgarian immigrants there.

  • 20th July, Rakovski prepares a plea to the Bulgarians of Bucharest to form a Bulgarian Cultural Center there

  • Summer 1861, Bulgarian youth in Constantinople formed “the Posse of the True Friends” which shared Rakovski’s revolutionary ideas.

  • Sep 1861, The representatives of the population of Tarnovo give the Grand Vizier a plea demanding the removal of a Greek church official there

  • 23rd Oct 1861, the Bulgarians in Ruse chose their own municipal council, which will govern the city, collect taxes, and take care of churches and schools. It was headed by the priest Nil Izvorov, who has a very silly name which kind of sounds like “the source of the Nile”

  • Oct 1861, the Russian church chooses 15 people who are legal guardians tasked with advocating for the interests of the Bulgarians of Ruse.

  • 11th Nov 1861, Mihail Obrenovic decides to grant Rakovski serbian citizenship

  • 21st-25th November 1861, Rakovski was in Belgrade and wrote a new version of his plan for freeing Bulgaria. He foresaw a well-armed military unit of 1,000 hand-selected and experienced soldiers with 2 wood cannons, 2 surgeons, and 100 cavalry to secretly move to Tarnovo before giving an order for all Bulgarians to rise up and then to intercept telegraphs and cut postal links

  • Fall 1861, Lyuben Karavelov was in Moscow and prepared a project for the creation of a central revolutionary organization; this was his first revolutionary work.

  • 6th December, the Metropolitan of Sofia, Dorotei, commanded that the beard and hair of a Bulglarian man be cut before he refused to bow to Dorotei. The local Bulgarian population was furious and gathered in front of the church in response, wishing to banish Dorotei. The Ottoman authorities intervened and gave armed guards to Dorotei.

  • 7th December 1861, the Ottoman governor of Sofia was handed a plea from the Bulgarian population demanding Dorotei leave his position.

  • During the year of 1861, the Porte signed new treaties with England, the US, France, Spain, and Russia.

  • The first Greek-Serbian negotiations for the splitting of Macedonia occurred.

  • The first Bulgarian cultural center in Karlovo was founded, but because of fights between young and old people, it only lasts a few months.

  • 67 Bulgarian books and 4 periodicals were published/

  • 1861, Serfdom ended in Russia

  • 1861, Midhat Pasha appointed governor of Nis

  • 1861-2 Montengrin-Ottoman War

Major Characters in this Episode

Sultan Abdulmejid I

Sultan Abdulaziz

Tsar Alexander II

Georgi Rakovski

Ilarion Makiriopolsky

Knyaz Gorchakov

Kynaz Alexei Lyobanov-Rostovski

Dimitar Miladinov

Yosif Sokolski

Stefan Ryapov

Petko Slaveikov

Lyuben Karavelov



A Russian Serf Leaving His Landlord on Yuriev Day, painting by Sergei V. Ivanov

The young Sultan Abdulaziz

The Ottoman Empire in 1862