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135 The Russo-Turkish War, Part 2

After crossing the Danube to invade Ottoman Bulgaria, the Russian army makes rapid gains before being bogged down in intense fighting at Pleven and the Shipka Pass. There, the outcome of the war is decided. Meanwhile, political forces are just as important as the Great Powers jockey to determine what the Balkans and Europe will look like after this great conflict. In the middle of it all, Bulgarian soldiers and civilians fight for victory and survival.

Major Characters in this Episode

Sultan Abdulhamid II

Tsar Alexander II

Prince Carol of Romania

Knyaz Nikolai Nikolaivich

General Gurko

Osman Pasha

Suleiman Pasha

General Stoletov

Count Ignateiv

Totleben Pasha

Knyaz Vladimir Cherkassky

Timeline for this Episode

  • 9th August 1877, The battle for Shipka pass begins. By night, the Ottomans have made 8 consecutive attacks on the pass and been fought back by Bulgarian volunteers each time.

  • 10th August 1877, Suleiman Pasha decides to regroup and go around the Shipka defenders to cut off their route to Gabrovo. Russian command organizes the sending of reinforcements to Shipka.

  • 11th August 1877, A decisive battle for the Shipka pass occurs and the first Russian reinforcements led by Radetski begin to arrive.

  • 12th August 1877, Suleiman Pasha’s squad attempts new attacks on Shipka but are fought back.

  • 13th August 1877, Russian forces begin attacking around Shipka, the Bulgarian volunteers are taken begins the lines to recover. Only the 4th squad remains in position on their own insistence.

  • 14th August 1877, Dramatic fighting for Shipka where the Bulgarians and Russians again succeed, forcing Suleiman Pasha to stop attempting to cross.

  • 21st August 1877, A military assembly called by the main HQ of the Russian army accepts the plan for a third major assault on Pleven. Prince Carol arrives at Russian HQ.

  • 22nd August 1877, Prince Carol is appointed commander of a joint force at Pleven. A Russian squad led by General Imeretinski liberates Lovech again.

  • 26th August 1877, With reinforced artillery, the third attack on Pleven begins.

  • 27th August 1877, artillery firing on Pleven continues, the forward units of General Skobolev’s take a forward position, but due to a delay in the second portion of the attack, he has to retreat somewhat. Authorities in Pazardzhik arrest Stanislav Dospevski on suspicion of being a Russian spy. He isn’t and during the investigation he is proven innocent but is jailed in Constantinople and later dies of typhus.

  • 29th August 1877, Skobolev again retakes a key position at Pleven. Romanian forces have partial success elsewhere

  • 30th August 1877, On Emperor Alexander’s name day, a third attack on Pleven begins and the town is stormed.

  • 31st August 1877, After stubborn resistance, the forces of Skobolev take further Ottoman positions but are then forced to retreat. With this the third attack on Pleven fails and the Russians lose 12,000 men and the Romanians another 3,000.

  • 1st September 1877, To repair his defenses, Osman Pasha attacks Romanian forces.

  • 5th September 1877, Suleiman Pasha undertakes a final attempt to cross the Shipka pass. Early in the morning his forces managed to take a place called Eagle’s Nest and surround nearby Russian positions. A few hours later after several counterattacks and hand to hand combat, the Ottomans were pushed out of the Eagle’s Nest.

  • 6th September 1877, Romanian forces attempt to take a critical Ottoman position in the Siege of Pleven.

  • 9th September 1877, The eastern Danubian army led by Mehmed Ali Pasha makes an attempt to take the village of Chair (modern Kamen) but are forced to retreat to the Cherni Lom river. Ali Pasha is then recalled.

  • 11th September 1877, 10,000 Ottoman reinforcements arrive in Pleven with food and other military supplies.

  • 12th September 1877, Under the leadership of Alexander II, an assembly is held which denies the proposition to pull the Russian army back north of the Danube.

  • 15th September 1877, General Edward Totleben arrives at the Russian army HQ, he is appointed to take over leadership of forces attacking Pleven.

  • 27th September 1877, A further 16,000 Ottoman reinforcements arrive in Pleven.

  • 7th October 1877, An unsuccessful Romanian attack occurs on Grivitsa

  • 8th October 1877, The political newspaper Bulgarin begins publication in Bucharest.

  • 12th October 1877, The Russian guards unit under Gurko takes over Gorni Dubnik. The communication of the Ottoman forces in Pleven with the Ottoman rear is broken. Russian and Ottoman squads engage in intense fighting at the village of Telish near the Iskar river behind Pleven.

  • 14th October 1877, The Russian HQ is moved to a village near Lovech.

  • 16th October 1877, After continuous fire from artillery, the Ottoman garrison at Telish is forced to surrender. With this conquest, the Pleven garrison is completely surrounded.

  • 18th October 1877, Osman Pasha receives order to hold Pleven until his ammunition and other supplies are expended at which point he is to retreat.

  • 19th October 1877, Ottomans retreat from Dolni Dubnik and General Gurko is appointed commander of the Western force.

  • 24th October 1877, The village of Yablanitsa is liberated.

  • 26th October 1877, Alexander II approves of a plan to invade Orhanie (Botevgrad) and Sofia.

  • 28th October 1877, Russian forces free Vratsa and take some critical hills near Pleven.

  • 30th October 1877, The Ottomans attack Mt. St. Nikola. The attack is rebuffed by Russian defenders. Osman Pasha is offered terms in Pleven but refuses.

  • 2nd November 1877, General Totleben takes command of the siege of Pleven.

  • 3rd November 1877, The Ottomans make an attempt at a counterattack at Pleven. Russian forces led by Skobolev rebuff the attack.

  • 9th November 1877, Oryahovo is liberated.

  • 10th November 1877, the Western front begins military actions around Pravets.

  • 11th November 1877, The western front defeats the Ottomans at Pravets, forcing them to retreat towards Orhanie (Botevgrad)

  • 12th November 1877, Etropole is liberated.

  • 13th November 1877, Ottoman units begin advancing against the Ruse squad.

  • 15th November 1877, Ottomans units retreat from Orhanie

  • 17th November 1877, Russian units enter Orhanie and begin fighting at the Arabakonashki mountain pass.

  • 18th November 1877, Russian units led by General Arnovi liberate Kutlovitsa (Montana). Under the leadership of Osman Pasha, the senior Ottoman command of the Pleven garrison decide to attempt a breakout.

  • 21st November 1877, Ottomans units under Mehmed Ali Pasha undertake an unsuccessful attack on Russian positions at Arabakonak.

  • 22nd November 1877, Russian units fight back the final attempt by the Ottomans to get past Arabakonak. Mehmed Ali Pasha is forced to step down from his command, which is given to Shakir Pasha. Ottomans units under Suleiman Pasha attack the region around Elena.

  • 23rd November 1877, Ottoman units take Zlataritsa.

  • 24th November 1877, The Russians retakes Zlataritsa.

  • 26th November 1877, General Totleben receives information regarding where Osman Pasha will attempt his breakout.

  • 27th November 1877, Alexander II approves a proposal to sign a peace treaty with the Ottomans.

  • 28th November 1877, Early in the morning, units from the Pleven garrison make an attempt to cross the river Vit between Dolni Dubni and Dolna Metropoliya. With the help of reinforcements, the Russians hold them back. Around 2pm, Osman Pasha decides to accept the previously offered surrender. The fall of Pleven is a turning point in the war.

  • 29th November 1877, A service for the dead is held in Pleven and Alexander II meets with Osman Pasha. In a sign of respect, the Emperor returns Osman Pasha’s sword.

  • 30th November 1877, The Ottoman garrison of Ruse attacks Russians around the village of Mechka. In the evening, the Ottomans are pushed back to Ruse.

  • 1st December 1877, With Russian financial backing, Serbia declares war against the Ottoman Empire again. The British Minister of External Affairs also issues Russia a memorandum in which the British government announces its opposition to any changes in the status of Constantinople or the Bosphorus. The Ottoman Parliament also begins work.

  • 2nd December 1877, A parade is organized in Pleven to honor the troops who helped take the city. The Ottomans set fire to and abandon Elena.

  • 3rd December 1877, Tsar Alexander II leaves the Balkan front for St. Petersburg. Berkovitsa is liberated.

  • 6th December 1877, The Battle of Nis begins. Knyaz Vladimir Cherkaski sends Alexander II an official letter listing the principles for establishing a civilian government in Bulgaria.

  • 10th December 1877, The Serbian army liberates Kula.

  • 11th December 1877, Reconnaissance begins of the Troyan Balkan in preparation to move troops there. The Ottomans begin heavy artillery bombardment of the troops on Mt. St. Nikola.

  • 13th December 1877, The western squad begins crossing the Balkan mountains.

  • 14th December 1877, A snowstorm catches the Russian soldiers at Mt. Shipka.

  • 15th December 1877, Parts of the western squad cross the crest of the Balkans and take several villages. The right column climbs Mt. Murgash. Suleiman Pasha establishes his HQ in Sofia. Serbian soldiers begin advancing towards Pirot.

  • 16th December 1877, A storm in the Etropole Balkan forces Russian forces there to retreat to Etropolene. The storms also affect the troops of General Gurko. Serbian forces liberate Pirot.

  • 17th December 1877, A snowstorm returns to the soldiers at Shipka. Artillery bombardment of Ruse from Geurgie begins. The Caucasus Kazakh brigade gets within 15km of Sofia.

  • 18th December 1877, The western squad completes transiting the Balkan mountains. Suleiman Pasha arrives in Sofia to prepare Ottoman defenses along the Maritsa river. The Trun uprising is announced in Vrabcha involving western Bulgarian border territories.

  • 19th December 1877, The Lovech-Sevlievo squad receives orders to cross the Balkans around Troyan.

  • 20th December 1877, Fighting begins around Sofia. Rusian troops take the Arabakonak positions which had been abandoned by the Ottomans.

  • 21st December 1877, Russian troops reach Gorni Bogrov around 11am, after a break they cross the Iskar and lead a fierce battle for the bridge near Vrazhdebna. At nightfall, the Ottomans set fire to the bridge and retreat to Sofia.

  • 22nd December 1877, Osman Pasha begins retreating from Sofia. The attempt to set fire to the city is interrupted with the help of the foreign consuls there.

  • 23rd December 1877, Around 2pm, the first Russian troops enter Sofia. A celebratory mass is held in the presence of General Gurko. Stanislav Dospevski dies in a prison in Constantinople. Officially he dies of Typhus, although there is strong evidence that he was murdered.

  • 24th December 1877, The western squad begins moving towards Plovdiv. Vakarel is liberated.

  • 26th December 1877, Parts of the southern squad liberate the village of Maglezhe and march down the Tundzha river valley. The western squad frees Ihtiman and fights around Trajan’s Gates.

  • 27th December 1877, The left column of the southern squad led by General Nikolai Sviatopolk-Mirski begins fighting around Sheinovo. Kazanluk is liberated and Ottomans retreat from Sopot and Karlovo. The Ottoman Minister of War send a telegram to the commander in chief of the Russian army indicating that Mehmet Ali Pasha has authorization to begin peace talks. In a letter to Alexander II, the Austo-Hungarian Emperor announces his opposition to the creation of a greater Bulgaria.

  • 28th December 1877, Fighting at Sheinovo continues as Vesel Pasha regroups his troops and attempts to strike at the left column of the southern squad. He then decides to surrender. Russians enter Sopot and Karlovo.

  • 29th December 1877, Koprivshtitsa and Klisura are liberated. The battle for Nis ends. Romanian forces begin offensive actions. Sultan Abdulhamid II sends a personal plea to Queen Victoria for mediation with the Russians.

  • 30th December 1877, Russian troops reach the surroundings of Pazadzhik. Samokov is liberated and the lower Danube squad begins offensive actions again.

  • 31st December 1877, Russian troops liberate Panagurishte. The British government asks Russian to guarantee it will not take Constantinople or the Bosphorus.

The capture of the Grivitsa redoubt during the Siege of Pleven
The capture of the Grivitsa redoubt during the Siege of Pleven

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