Amid ongoing debates over whether March 3 is the most appropriate date for a national holiday, today Bulgaria will mark the 145th anniversary of the Liberation with solemn ceremonies across the country. For the second year in a row, they will take place amid strained relations with Russia and civil calls for a boycott of the celebrations in solidarity with the victims of Moscow's ongoing war against Ukraine.
The historical roots
March 3rd was designated as a national holiday by Decree 236 of the State Council of February 27, 1990, and by a Decision of the 9th National Assembly of March 5, 1990. On this day (February 19, old style) in 1878, was signed the San Stefano Peace Treaty between Russia and Turkey, which provides for the restoration of the Principality of Bulgaria.
For the first time as an official holiday, the day was celebrated on February 19, 1880 as "The Day of the Ascension to the Throne of Emperor Alexander II and the Conclusion of the Peace Treaty of San Stefano". From 1888 to 1946, it was celebrated as Bulgaria's Liberation Day. Since last year, there has been a debate as to whether another date is suitable for Bulgaria's national holiday.
Traditionally, the culmination of the celebrations will be on "Shipka" peak, where a number of officials will be present, but not President Rumen Radev. He was last there in 2020.
Acting Prime Minister Galab Donev will be at the historic peak, where the day is traditionally celebrated. At 11:30 a.m. he will receive the guard of honor, after which he will attend the funeral prayer in memory of the fallen soldiers, which will be celebrated by Metropolitan Gregory of Veliko Tarnovo. Prime Minister Donev will deliver a greeting on the occasion of the National Day. The Prime Minister will also participate in the ritual of laying wreaths and flowers in front of the Freedom Monument.
Fireworks and cannon salutes in Sofia
At the same time in Sofia, President Rumen Radev and Vice President Iliana Yotova will participate in the ceremony of raising the national flag of Bulgaria in front of the Monument to the Unknown Soldier in Sofia. It will begin at 11 a.m. with the singing of the national anthem and a twenty-gun salute.
At 6:30 p.m., the traditional ceremonial dawn inspection is scheduled to begin on the "Narodno Sabranie" square. The Guard's representative brass band and representative units from the National Guard unit will take part in it. Commander of the solemn inspection will be Brigadier General Plamen Yordanov - Chief of Staff of the Ground Forces.
The head of state Rumen Radev will also give a speech at the ceremony, who will later host the traditional official reception on the occasion of the National Day at the Central Military Club in Sofia. Among the invitees are the members of the diplomatic corps, and it is curious whether the Russian ambassador Eleonora Mitrofanova will attend.
Enhanced security measures
The celebrations in Sofia will be accompanied by enhanced security measures. The National Security Service (NSS) announced that those wishing to observe the ceremony in front of the Monument to the Unknown Soldier will have access to the event through checkpoints organized on "Rakovski" and "Oborishte" streets, "Paris" and "Shipka" street and at the southern side of the temple-monument "St. Alexander Nevsky".
At dawn, access to "Narodno Sabranie" Square will be provided through three checkpoints - two on both sides of the pedestrian alleys on "Tsar Osvoboditel" Blvd. "Tsar Osvoboditel" Blvd. and "V. Levski" Blvd.) and through a checkpoint on "Tsar Osvoboditel" Blvd. (from the Sens Hotel).
NSS officers will carry out checks for objects and substances. Attendees will be screened with metal detectors and scanners for firearms and cold weapons, sharp objects, explosives and flammable substances, sources of ionizing radiation, fireworks and other pyrotechnics. Citizens with bulky luggage and in a visibly inadequate condition will not be admitted to the events, specified the service.
Free parking in the center
On the third and fourth of March, it will be possible to park in the center of Sofia without paying, announced the Center for Urban Mobility. Paid parking zones will not work in other cities of the country.
Fireworks in Plovdiv, Varna, Sliven, Sandanski and Chepelare
Today, the Army, Navy, Air Force, Joint Special Operations Command, Logistics Support Command, as well as from the higher military schools will participate in the solemn rituals of raising the national flag and laying wreaths and flowers in front of the monuments of those who died for the Liberation in a number of cities in the country. There will be dawn checks in Plovdiv (6:30 p.m.), Varna (7:30 p.m.), in Sliven (7:00 p.m.), Sandanski (5:30 p.m.) and Chepelare (7:00 p.m.).
Mitrofanova was early this year
For the second year in a row, the Russian ambassador in Sofia, Eleonora Mitrofanova, decided to lay wreaths in front of the monument on "Shipka" peak the day before the third of March. Thus, she does not risk confrontation with the opponents of Russia's actions towards Ukraine.
Today, Mitrofanova published on the Russian embassy's Facebook profile a video address in which she says that there are no good wars, but there are just wars, and the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-1878 was exactly that.
She adds that although Bulgaria and Russia are currently not going through the best stage in their relations and "in a certain sense we are on different sides of the barricades", for every citizen of Bulgaria March 3 remains a special day, and the memory of Russian- the Turkish war is still sacred.
"I wish that historical justice and wisdom always prevail over short-term political interests. Heroes are not forgotten. The war against monuments has no place - it lacks meaning, nobility and valor. I believe that, as has happened more than once, we will overcome the current difficulties and return to constructive and mutually beneficial cooperation," concluded Mitrofanova.