Speaking to this website, witnesses described as “almost brutal” and “unfair” the criticism by Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia against the Bulgarian President Rumen Radev for having downplayed Russia’s role in the liberation of Bulgaria.
On 3 March Bulgaria marked the 140th anniversary of the signing of the 1878 San Stefano Treaty that ended the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-78 and proclaimed Bulgaria’s independence, with Kirill and Bulgarian Orthodox Patriarch Neofit conducting a remembrance service at a monument built to mark the famous battle of Shipka Pass.
3 March is Bulgaria’s National day.
On 4 March Patriarch Kirill met with the President in Sofia. The Russian agency TASS published a report quoting Kirill after the meeting. Participants to the meeting said the report was a fair description of his statements.
“I want to frankly say that it was difficult for me to hear all these references to the participation of other countries in the liberation of Bulgaria. Neither the Polish Sejm nor the Lithuanian Sejm decided to start a war with Ottoman Turkey. I hope the media will hear us and will relate the disappointment of the patriarch in that he heard a wrong historical interpretation of events related to the liberation of Bulgaria”, Patriarch Kirill is quoted as saying.
During the solemn celebrations the previous day Radev expressed the highest respect for Kirill’s participation, saying Bulgarians honour the memory of “every warrior who fought in the Russian army under Tsar Alexander II’s flag and died for Bulgarian freedom, regardless of his nationality.”
However, Kirill stated on 4 March:
“We are for historical truth, Mr. President, we have won this historical truth with our own blood, and there can be no political and pragmatic reasons … today to ignore or falsely interpret,” the Russian Orthodox Church head said. “All the talk about friendship – they are checked by reality. If, speaking of friendship, we forget about the sacrifices that were made in connection with the liberation of Bulgaria, these words cease to matter”, Patriarch Kirill said.
ITAR-TASS also quotes the Bulgarian President who stressed that he respects “every drop of blood spilled on the Bulgarian land.”
“In no way do we underestimate the contribution of the Russian army to the liberation of Bulgaria, but the Russian army was multinational, and we honor the memory of every nation”, Radev said. “We respect our history, it says that it was a Russo-Turkish liberation war, not Polish-Turkish or any other,” he added.
TASS reminds that during the celebration the President of Bulgaria expressed the country’s gratitude not to the united Russian army, but to the different peoples that made it up – Poles, Russians, Romanians, Finns, Ukrainians, Belarussians, Poles, Latvians, Serbs, Montenegrins and many others.
Patriarch Kirill thanked the president for clarifying the situation, but stressed that the name of the Tsar Liberator Alexander II was never pronounced, although the ceremony was held “at his monument”. This however is not true, as Radev did mention Alexander II.
“The Bulgarian and Russian people cannot be deceived: what I experienced on Shipka is a very deep spiritual experience, and there I realized that regardless of the policy that the state power in Bulgaria carries out, the Bulgarian people have a deep appreciation for the Russian people”, said the patriarch.
“I would advise you to take into account the mood of the people, building relationships with the outside world, I would ask you to remember history in your political activities, and, as it were, the political conjuncture, do not forget about Shipka”, Patriarch Kirill said.
It looks like Kirill reproached Radev offenses accumulated over the term of his predecessor Rossen Plevneliev, who made speeches on 3 March in which he didn’t even mention Russia.
The Prime Minister Boyko Borissov could be a more legitimate target for criticism. Reportedly Borissov has written to his counterparts in Poland, Romania, Montenegro, Moldova and Ukraine, thanking them for the participation of people from those countries during the Russo-Turkish war. No mention is made to a similar letter to Russian PM Dmitry Medvedev.
Radev, in contrast, has made his best to restore historic fairness in Bulgaria-Russia relations. As one of the people who attended the meeting told this website, sometimes Russian representatives, which Russia’s foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova, his time was the Patriarch, do everything they can to poison the bilateral relation.
The latest such episode was an outburst of Russia’s foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova who said last November that Russian soldiers prevented the deportation of Jews from Bulgaria.
On this occasion, Radev said that the claim that it was the Soviet army that rescued Bulgarian Jews from deportation to the Holocaust “is either deep ignorance of history or an attempt at provocation”.