134 The Russo-Turkish War, Part 1

It's 1877 and the Ottomans are victorious against the Serbs, however the Great Powers have gathered to decide what should become of Ottoman authority in the Balkans. To get ahead of this, the Ottomans have passed a new constitution and are ready to resist foreign interference. Meanwhile Russia and Austria-Hungary have concluded agreements necessary for Russia to finally go to war against the Ottomans. Now, it's time for Bulgarians to stand up and fight the Ottomans for the second time in as many years.



Major Characters in this Episode

Sultan Abdulhamid II

Tsar Alexander II

Exarch Antim I

Exarch Iosif I

Panaret Plovdivskii

Prince Carol of Romania

Knyaz Nikolai Nikolaivich

General Gurko

Osman Pasha

Suleiman Pasha

Nayden Gerov


Timeline for this Episode

  • January 3rd 1877: A convention between Russia and Austria-Hungary is signed in Budapest. It has 10 main points and 4 secret points. It’s signed in March. Austria-Hungary gives up its 1856 Treaty of Paris responsibilities towards France and Britain to maintain the territorial integrity of the Ottoman Empire. It declares their intention to maintain neutrality in the event of a Russian-Ottoman war. In exchange, Austria-Hungary is given the right to occupy Bosnia and Herzegovina. Russia also agrees not to form a large Slavic country in the Balkans and to retake southern Bessarabia, lost in 1856.

  • January 8th 1877, The Constantinople conference finishes.

  • 17th February 1877, Peace is signed between Serbia, Montenegro, and the Ottomans. It returns the situation to the status quo.

  • 25th February 1877, The political newspaper “Hush” (a term for Bulgarian exiles in Romania) begins publication in Brailla as a continuation of the Hitar Petar newspaper.

  • 24th March 1877, The sociopolitical newspaper Tsarigrad begins publication in its namesake

  • 7th April 1877, The Ottoman Minister of External Affairs states to an audience of Bulgarian Metropolitans that Antim I no longer has the trust of the Ottoman government.

  • 9th April 1877, An assembly of the Exarch synod at which Panaret Plovdivskii and others propose that Antim I step down from his post.

  • 12th April 1877, Emperor Alexander II signs a declaration of war against the Ottoman Empire in Chisinau.

  • 12th April 1877, the leadership of BCCO publishes a plea to the Bulgarian nation, asking all Bulgarians to support the Russian army. The call to arms is written in Bucharest and signed by many notable Bulgarians like Stefan Stambolov, Ivan Vazov, Kiriak Tsankov, and others.

  • 12th April 1877, Notable Bulgarians in Constantinople assemble and decide that according to the circumstances, Antim I should resign.

  • 14th April 1877, The Grand Vizier fires and exiles Antim I.

  • 14th April 1877, BCCO dissolves itself.

  • 17th April 1877, The head of the Danube army, Knyaz Nikolai Nikolaivich issues an order to create a Bulgarian volunteer corps. The assembly of the city of Samara on the Volga gives them a custom flag.

  • 24th April 1877, A synod organizes in Constantinople, it elects Metropolitan of Lovech, Iosif, as Exarch in a close vote.

  • 27th April 1877, Knyaz Nikolai Nikolaivich issues an order to help gather Bulgarians to fight in the war.

  • 1st May 1877, The Great Synod of the Bulgarian Exarchate issues a message to all Eparchates announcing the devotion of the Bulgarian people to the Ottoman government. Another message is sent by Exarch Iosif I personally late in the month.

  • 6th May 1877, The Samar flag is given to the Bulgarian volunteer corps at a ceremony in Ploiesti.

  • 15th May 1877, A delegation of the dissolved BCCO wishes Knyaz Nikolaevich victory

  • 28th May 1877, The new Exarch receives his official position from the Grand Vizier and soon after speaks with the Sultan.

  • 10th June 1877, Parts of the lower Danube squad of the Russian army cross the river at Galats and invade Northern Dobrudja.

  • 12th June 1877, The Ottoman army abandons Turce and Russian artillery fires on Ruse and Tutrakan.

  • 13th June 1877, Squadrons preparing to cross the Danube at Svishtov assemble in the region of Zimnitch in Wallachia and Russian artillery begins bombarding Nikopol.

  • 15th June 1877, The 14th Infantry division successfully crosses the Danube at Svishtov.

  • 16th June 1877, Part of the lower Danube squad liberate Babadag in Dobrudja

  • 16th June 1877, Around Svishtov the 8th corps led by Radetski successfully crosses the river.

  • 21st June 1877, The Bulgarian volunteer corps crosses the Danube

  • 23rd June 1877, Russian forces enter Byala, near Ruse.

  • 25th June 1877, The cavalry of the lead forces of the Russian army enter Tarnovo, causing a panicked retreat by the Ottomans. Taking advantage of this, General Gurko orders an attack and around 5pm Tarnovo is liberated.

  • 30th June 1877, Forward Russian units liberate Elena

  • 1st July 1877, Forward units reach a key mountain pass of the Stara Planina, General Gurko proposes they send reinforcements to allow the squad to march onward to Plovdiv. That same day, Osman Pasha leaves Vidin and headed to Lovech with the bulk of the Ottoman army.

  • 2nd July 1877, Knyaz Nikolaivich denies Gurko’s proposal. Segments of the lower Danube squad free Cherna Voda.

  • 3rd July 1877, The western Russian force begins fighting for Nikopol.

  • 4th July 1877, Nikopol is liberated by the Russian army. The force is then ordered to proceed to Pleven. Russian Naiden Gerov is appointed as a temporary governor in Svishtov.

  • 5th July 1877, The Russian forces take Kazanluk, Lovech, and another attempts to take the Shipka pass but has to retreat to Gabrovo after heavy fighting.

  • 6th July 1877, Another attempt to take Shipka pass fails. A division is sent towards Pleven and another begins building a bridge over the Danube at Svishtov.

  • 7th July 1877, The Ottomans abandon the Shipka pass, Osman Pasha secretly enters Pleven.

  • 8th July 1877, The first attack on Pleven begins. The lower Danube squad advances further.

  • 10th July 1877, The 9th Caucasus Dragoons enters Stara Zagora. Suleiman Pasha arrives in Adrianople.

  • 11th July 1877. Kalofer is liberated.

  • 12th July 1877, A force of 5 Kazakhs squads enter Karlovo where they are welcomed. Also in a report to Knyaz Nikolaivich, Gurko proposes attacking Suleiman Pasha’s army before it can concentrate its forces.

  • 14th July 1877, Heavy fighting at the Exerche village forces the Ottomans to retreat to Razgrad.

  • 15th July 1877, Parts of Osman Pasha’s squad retake Lovech.

  • 17th July 1877, General Gurko takes forces from Stara Zagora and Kazanluk and heads for Nova Zagora. At the same time, the forces of Suleiman Pasha head to Stara Zagora. The goal of the Ottomans is to get Suleiman Pasha north of the mountains to coordinate with Osman Pasha’s Pleven force to counterattack.

  • 18th July 1877, A Russian squad attacks Pleven but is pushed back. The Russians lose 7,032 men.

  • 19th July 1877, Suleiman Pasha attacks Stara Zagora. After a difficult battle which included Bulgarian volunteer forces the town was retaken by the Ottomans and set on fire. Russian command forms a southern squad headed by Radetski to guard the Balkan mountain passes.

  • 23rd July 1877, Ottoman forces enter Nova Zagora.

  • 26th July 1877, The transfer of the main HQ of the Russian army from Trastenik to Gorna Studena begins.

  • 28th July 1877, The building of a second bridge near Svishtov is completed. The Russian government sends a proposal to Prince Carol for the Romanian army to participate in the war.

  • 30th July 1877, forward forces of General Gurko is dissolved. Suleiman Pasha pushes his main forces towards the Shipka pass.


A British political cartoon showing Russia about to release the Balkan "dogs of war"
A British political cartoon showing Russia about to release the Balkan "dogs of war"

Exarch Iosif I
Exarch Iosif I

A map of the Balkan theater of the Russo-Turkish War
A map of the Balkan theater of the Russo-Turkish War

Russian forces crossing the Danube
Russian forces crossing the Danube

A painting of the brutal fighting at the Shipka pass
A painting of the brutal fighting at the Shipka pass

A painting of the Siege of Pleven
A painting of the Siege of Pleven

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