The Serbo-Bulgarian War or Serbian–Bulgarian War (Bulgarian: Сръбско-българска война, Serbian: Српско-бугарски рат, Srpsko-bugarski rat) was a war between the Kingdom of Serbia and Principality of Bulgaria that erupted on 14 November [O.S. 2 November] 1885 and lasted until 28 November [O.S. 16 November] 1885. Serbia took the initiative in starting the war but was decisively defeated. Austria demanded Bulgaria stop its invasion, and a truce resulted. Final peace was signed on 3 March [O.S. 19 February] 1886 in Bucharest. The old boundaries were not changed. As a result of the war, European powers acknowledged the act of Unification of Bulgaria which happened on 18 September [O.S. 6 September] 1885.
The Bulgarians cross the border, by Antoni Piotrowski
|Commanders and leaders|
Milan I of Serbia|
Alexander of Battenberg|
|Casualties and losses|
|770 killed and 4,570 wounded||550 killed and 4,232 wounded|
On 18 September [O.S. 6 September] 1885, Bulgaria and the semi-autonomous Ottoman province of Eastern Rumelia declared their unification in the city of Plovdiv. Eastern Rumelia, whose population was predominantly ethnic Bulgarian, had been an artificial creation of the Berlin Congress seven years earlier. The unification took place against the will of the Great Powers, including Russia. The Austro-Hungarian Empire had been expanding its influence in the Balkans and was particularly opposed. Bulgaria's western neighbor Serbia also feared this would diminish its position in the Balkans. In addition, Serbia's ruler Milan I (1868-1889) was annoyed that Serbian pro-Russian opposition leaders like Nikola Pašić, who had stirred up the Timok Rebellion, had found asylum in Bulgaria after the suppression of the rebellion by the Serbian Army.
After the declaration of unification massive protests broke out in Greece, in fear of the creation of a greater Bulgarian state in the Balkans, calling upon the Greek government to declare war on Bulgaria. Serbia proposed to Greece a joint military action against Bulgaria but Greece rejected the proposal.
Lured by Austria-Hungary's promises of support and territorial gains from Bulgaria (in return for concessions in the Western Balkans), Milan I declared war on Bulgaria on 14 November [O.S. 2 November] 1885. The military strategy relied largely on surprise, as Bulgaria expected an attack from the Ottoman Empire and had moved its troops near the Turkish border, to the southeast.
The pretext was a minor border dispute, known as the Bregovo Dispute. The river Timok, which formed part of the border between the two countries, had slightly changed its course over the years. As a result, a Serbian border guardhouse near the village of Bregovo had found itself on the Bulgarian bank of the river. After some denied requests from Bulgaria to evacuate the guardhouse, Bulgaria expelled the Serbian troops by force.
As it happened, the Ottomans did not intervene and the Serbian army's advance was stopped after the Battle of Slivnitsa. The main body of the Bulgarian army traveled from the Ottoman border in the southeast to the Serbian border in the northwest to defend the capital Sofia. After the defensive battles at Slivnitsa and Vidin (the latter's defence was organized by Atanas Uzunov), Bulgaria began an offensive which took the city of Pirot. At this point, the Austro-Hungarian Empire stepped in, threatening to join the war on Serbia's side if the Bulgarian troops did not pull back. No territorial changes were made to either country, but the Bulgarian unification was recognized by the Great Powers. However, the relationship of trust and friendship between Serbia and Bulgaria, built during their long common fight against Ottoman rule, suffered irreparable damage.
The Serbian army's infantry weaponry stood up to the most modern standards of the time (Mauser-Milovanović single fire rifles with excellent ballistic characteristics). However, the artillery was ill-equipped, still using muzzle-loading cannons of the La Hitte system. Breech-loading cannons of the De Bange system had been ordered and paid for, but did not arrive in Serbia until 1886. The total number of Serbian armed forces expected to take part in the military operation was about 60,000. King Milan I divided his force into two armies, the Nishava and Timok armies. The first took the main objective, i.e. to overcome the Bulgarian defences along the west border, to conquer Sofia and advance towards the Ihtiman heights. It was there that the army was supposed to encounter and crush the Bulgarian forces coming from the southeast. Serbia's main advantages on paper were the better small arms and the highly educated commanders and soldiers, who had gained a great deal of experience from the last two wars against the Ottoman Empire.
However, internal Serbian problems supplemented by king Milan's conduct of the war, nullified most of these advantages:
In order to claim all the glory for the victory he considered imminent, King Milan did not call the most famous commanders of the previous wars (Gen. Jovan Belimarković, Gen. Đura Horvatović and Gen. Milojko Lešjanin) to command the army. Instead, he took the position of army commander himself and gave most of the divisional commands to officers chosen primarily for their loyalty and not war records like Petar Topalović of the Morava division who had previously commanded the troops suppressing the militarily poorly organized Timok Rebellion.
Furthermore, underestimating the Bulgarian military strength and fearing mutinies for conducting such an unpopular war (and having indeed experienced the Timok Rebellion two years before), he ordered the mobilisation of only the first class of infantry (recruits younger than 30 years), which meant mobilising only about half of the available Serbian manpower. In doing so, he deprived the Serbian army of its veterans of the previous wars against the Ottoman Empire.
The modern rifles, despite being among the best in Europe at the time, still had issues of their own: they were introduced only two years before the outbreak of the war, and as such many of the soldiers were not well-trained in their use. More importantly, the theoretical capabilities of the rifle often misled the Serbian officers, who still lacked experience with it, into ordering volleys from distances of half a mile or more, wasting precious ammunition for negligible results. Furthermore, the quantity of ammunition purchased was based on the consumption of bullets by the previous, much older and slower-firing rifles. The situation was made worse still by the contemporary Serbian tactics, which emphasized firepower and downplayed hand-to-hand fighting, which contributed to heavy casualties in the fight for Neškov Vis in defense of Pirot.
Bulgaria was forced to meet the Serbian threat with two serious disadvantages. First, when the Unification had been declared, Russia had withdrawn its military officers, who had until that moment commanded all larger units of Bulgaria's young army. The remaining Bulgarian officers had lower ranks and no experience in commanding units larger than platoons (causing the conflict to be dubbed "The War of the Captains"). Second, since the Bulgarian government had expected an attack from the Ottoman Empire, the main forces of the Bulgarian Army were situated along the southeastern border. In the conditions of 1885 Bulgaria, their redeployment across the country would take at least 5–6 days.
The main Bulgarian advantage was their strong patriotic spirit and high morale, as well as the feeling among the men that they were fighting for a just cause. The same could not be said about the Serbs. Their king had misled them in his manifesto to the army, telling the Serbian soldiers that they were being sent to help the Bulgarians in their war against Turkey, and the Serbian soldiers were initially surprised to find that they were fighting Bulgarians instead. Presumably, lying to his army was King Milan's only means to mobilise and command his troops without experiencing disobedience and unrest.
Furthermore, while Bulgarian small arms were inferior to the Serbian, its artillery was greatly superior, featuring modern steel, Krupp-designed breech-loading cannons.
There were two views on the Bulgarian strategy: the first, supported by Knyaz Alexander I, saw the general battle on the Ihtiman heights. The drawback of this plan was that in that case, the capital Sofia had to be surrendered without battle. This could very well cause Serbia to stop the war and call in the arbitrage of the Great Powers. For this reason, the strategic plan that was finally selected by the Bulgarian command expected the main clash to be in the area of Slivnitsa. Captain Olimpi Panov had an important role in this final decision.
Knyaz Alexander I arrived on the evening of 16 November to find a well prepared defensive position manned by 9 battalions, plus some 2000 volunteers and 32 guns, commanded by Major Guchev. The position consisted of nearly 4 km of trenches and artillery redoubts on either side of the main road on a ridge in front of Slivnitsa city. To the right was steep mountainous terrain whilst the left wing had the easier Visker Hills towards Breznik.
The three Serbian centre divisions also arrived on 16 November and halted to recover after the fierce Bulgarian delaying action in the Dragoman Pass. The Morava division was at some distance from its objective Breznik which lay to the south. The northern advance was bogged down along the Danube.
The morning of 17 November came with rain and mist but not the expected Serbian attack. By 10 in the morning, Alexander ordered three battalions to advance on the right. They surprised the Danube division, who eventually rallied and pushed them back. The main Serbian attack began on the centre largely unsupported by artillery which had insufficient range. The weight of Bulgarian fire forced them back with some 1,200 casualties. A relief column led by Captain Benderev recaptured the heights on the right and forced the Danube division back to the road.
At daybreak on 18 November the Serbians attacked the weaker left flank of the Bulgarian line. Just in time two battalions of the Preslav Regiment arrived to shore up the position. Further attacks in the centre were repulsed with heavy Serbian casualties and Benderev captured two further positions in the mountains.
On 19 November the Serbians concentrated two divisions for an attack on the Bulgarian left near Karnul (today Delyan, Sofia Province) in an attempt to join up with the Morava division. However, three battalions of Bulgarian troops led by Captain Popov from Sofia had held the Morava division in the Visker Hills and the flanking move failed. Alexander now ordered a counterattack which pushed the Serbians back on both flanks although nightfall prevented a complete collapse.
Slivnitsa was the decisive battle of the war. The Serbians fought only limited rearguard actions as they retreated and by 24 November they were back in Serbia. The Timok Division in the north continued the siege of Vidin until 29 November.
The main Bulgarian army crossed the border in two strong divisions (Guchev and Nikolaev), supported by flanking columns, and converged on Pirot. The Serbian army dug in on the heights west of the town. On 27 November the Bulgarian Army flanked the right of the Serbian position with Knyaz Alexander personally leading the final attack. The Serbians abandoned Pirot, retreated towards Niš and called a general mobilization of their military reservists, but they did not arrive at the front before the cease-fire.
The Serbian defeat made Austria-Hungary take action. On 28 November, the Viennese ambassador in Belgrade, Count Khevenhüller-Metsch, visited the headquarters of the Bulgarian Army and demanded the cessation of military actions, threatening that otherwise the Bulgarian forces would face Austro-Hungarian troops. The ceasefire was signed on 28 November,, but that did not stop the Serbians from continuing unsuccessful attempts to conquer Vidin with the idea to use it in negotiations later, even after military activities had stopped on demand of their ally. On 3 March 1886 the peace treaty was signed in Bucharest. According to its terms, no changes were to be made along the Bulgarian-Serbian border.
The war was an important step in the strengthening of Bulgaria's international position. To a large extent, the victory preserved the Bulgarian unification. The defeat left a lasting scar on the Serbian military, previously considered by the Serbian people to be undefeated. Ambitious reforms of the army were carried out (which later, in part, contributed to the end of the Obrenović dynasty).
Alexandar Protogerov (Bulgarian: Александър Протогеров) (28 February 1867 Ohrid, Ottoman Empire, today Republic of Macedonia – 7 July 1928, Sofia) was a Bulgarian general, politician and revolutionary, as well as a member of the revolutionary movement in Macedonia and Thrace. He was among the leaders of the Supreme Macedonian-Adrianople Committee and later joined the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization. He was a volunteer in the Serbo-Bulgarian War in 1885. Protogerov took part in the Gorna Djumaya uprising in 1902 and in the Ilinden-Preobrazhenie Uprising.
In the Balkan Wars, Protogerov was one of the organizers of the Macedonian-Adrianopolitan Volunteer Corps and Assistant Commander of this military unit. During the First World War, he commanded the Third Infantry Brigade of 11th Macedonian division and then became commander of the Bulgarian troops in the Pomoravlje region of Serbia. There he suppressed the Toplica Uprising, commanding an army that committed a large number of war crimes, including cruel murders of thousands of women, children and the elderly. Later, as commandant of Sofia, Protogerov suppressed the Bulgarian soldier's uprising.
After World War I, Protogerov was elected as one of the leaders of IMRO. In 1924, IMRO entered negotiations with the Comintern about collaboration between the communists and the Macedonian movement and the creation of a united Macedonian movement. Protogerov and Petar Chaulev probably signed the so-called May Manifesto about forming a Balkan Communist Federation and cooperation with the Soviet Union in Vienna. Later, Protogerov denied through the Bulgarian press that they had ever signed any agreements, claiming that the May Manifesto was a communist forgery. Shortly after, Todor Alexandrov was assassinated in unclear circumstances and IMRO came under the leadership of Ivan Mihailov, who became a powerful figure in Bulgarian politics. The result of the murder was further strife within the organisation and several high-profile murders, including that of Protogetov himself.Battle of Pirot
The Battle of Pirot (Bulgarian: Битка при Пирот or Пиротско сражение) was a battle between the Bulgarian Western Corps and the Serbian Nišava Army during the Serbo-Bulgarian War. The battle was fought between the 26th and 27 November, 1885 and ended with a Bulgarian victory.Battle of Slivnitsa
Called the "Battle of the captains vs the generals" by historians, referring to the young Bulgarian army, whose highest rank went up to a captain, the Battle of Slivnitsa (Bulgarian: Битка при Сливница, Serbian: Битка на Сливници) was a decisive factor in the victory of the Bulgarian army over the Serbians on November 17–19, 1885 in the Serbo-Bulgarian War. It solidified the unification between the kingdom of Bulgaria and Eastern Rumelia.Battle of Velbazhd
The Battle of Velbazhd (Bulgarian: битка при Велбъжд, bitka pri Velbazhd; Serbian: Битка код Велбужда, bitka kod Velbužda) is a battle which took place between Bulgarian and Serbian armies on 28 July 1330, near the town of Velbazhd (present day Kyustendil).The growing power of the Serbian Kingdom from the late 13th century raised serious concerns in the traditional Balkan powers Bulgaria and Byzantine Empire which agreed for joint military actions against Serbia in 1327. Three years later the bulk of the Bulgarian and Serbian armies clashed at Velbazhd and the Bulgarians were caught by surprise. Serbian victory shaped the balance of power in Balkans in the next two decades. The Bulgarians did not lose territory after the battle but were unable to stop the Serbian advance towards Macedonia. Serbia managed to conquer Macedonia and parts of Thessaly and Epirus reaching its greatest territorial extent ever. Their new King Stefan Dušan was crowned Emperor with Bulgarian help in 1346.
However, decades after Dušan's death in 1355 his Empire disintegrated as did Bulgaria after the death of Ivan Alexander in 1371 and both states were subsequently destroyed by the Ottoman Turks.Božidar Janković
Božidar Janković (Serbian: Божидар Јанковић; 7 December 1849 – 7 July 1920) was a Serbian army general commander of the Serbian Third Army during the First Balkan War between the Balkan League and the Ottoman Empire.
He graduated from the Military Academy of the General Staff School. He became State Secretary of Military Matters of Serbia in 1902. As President of the National Defence, he participated in the Chetnik fighting for Macedonia.
In World War I he was the Chief of Staff of the Montenegrin Supreme Command until June 1915 and a delegate of the Serbian Supreme Command at the Montenegrin Supreme Command.
Janković died on 7 July 1920 in the town of Herceg Novi. The town of Elez Han in Kosovo was named 'Đeneral Janković' after him.
His son Milojko B. Jankovic (1884 - 1973) was the army general in the army of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.Branislav Nušić
Branislav Nušić (Serbian Cyrillic: Бранислав Нушић, pronounced [brǎnislav̞ nûʃit͡ɕ]; 20 October [O.S. 8 October] 1864 – 19 January 1938) was a Serbian playwright, satirist, essayist, novelist and founder of modern rhetoric in Serbia. He also worked as a journalist and a civil servant. He was often referred to as the Serbian and Balkan Gogol.Bulgarian-Serbian War
The term Bulgarian-Serbian War or Serbian-Bulgarian War may refer to:
Bulgarian-Serbian War (839-842)
Bulgarian-Serbian War (853)
Bulgarian-Serbian wars (917-924)
Bulgarian-Serbian War (1330)
Bulgarian-Serbian War (1885)
Bulgarian-Serbian War (1913), during the Second Balkan War
Bulgarian-Serbian War (1915-1918), during the First World War
Bulgarian-Serbian War (1941-1944), during the Second World WarGeorgi Todorov (general)
Georgi Stoyanov Todorov (Bulgarian: Георги Тодоров) (born on 10 August 1858 in Bolgrad (contemporary Ukraine); died on 16 November 1934 in Sofia) was a Bulgarian general who fought in the Russo-Turkish War (1877–1878), Serbo-Bulgarian War (1885), Balkan Wars (1912–1913) and First World War (1914–1918).Ivan Fichev
Ivan Fichev (Bulgarian: Иван Фичев) (born on 15 April 1860 in Tarnovo, died on 13 November 1931 in Sofia) was a Bulgarian general, Minister of Defense, military historian and academician.Kliment Boyadzhiev
Kliment Boyadzhiev (Bulgarian: Климент Бояджиев; 15 April 1861 – 15 July 1933) was a Bulgarian general during the Balkan Wars and First World War.
Born in Ohrid, he studied in an elementary school there. After the liberation of Bulgaria in 1878, he emigrated to Sofia. In 1883, he graduated from the Military School in Sofia and in 1895 graduated from the Military Academy in Torino, Italy with excellent marks.
During the successful Serbo-Bulgarian War in 1885, he was an aide-de-camp in the Western Corps quarters. He distinguished himself in the Battle of Lule Burgas during the First Balkan War as a commander of the Fourth Preslav Infantry Division. Between 22 August 1913 and 1 September 1913, Kliment Boyadzhiev was the Minister of War.
During the First World War, he commanded the 1st Army which achieved major successes against the Serbs in the Battles of Morava and the Kosovo. Boyadzhiev remained in that position until 25 September 1916, when he was replaced by Dimitar Geshov and went to the reserve. The general was awarded four Bulgarian medals for courage and bravery, as well as one Russian. After the war, between 1918 and 1923 he emigrated to Germany.
He was also an author of a relief map of Bulgaria in 1902.
Kliment Boyadzhiev died in Sofia in 1933.Mihail Savov
Mihail Savov (Bulgarian: Михаил Савов) (born on 14 November 1857 in Stara Zagora, died on 21 July 1928 in Saint-Vallier-de-Thiey, France) was a Bulgarian general, twice Minister of Defence (1891–1894 and 1903–1907), second in command of the Bulgarian army during the Balkan Wars.
He was twice dismissed from the army and twice reassigned with the help of Tsar Ferdinand. Mihail Savov and Ferdinand are considered the main characters responsible for the Second Balkan War.Miloš Vasić (general)
Miloš Vasić (Serbian Cyrillic: Милош Васић) (February 27, 1859 – October 20, 1935) was a Serbian general who commanded the Serbian 3rd Army in World War I.Nikola Ivanov
Nikola Ivanov (Bulgarian: Никола Иванов) (2 March 1861, Kalofer – 10 September 1940, Sofia) was a Bulgarian general, Chief of the Headquarters of the Bulgarian Army between 10 May 1894 and 29 November 1896, Minister of war between 29 November 1896 - 30 January 1899. He is prominent for capturing Adrianople in the First Balkan War and the surrounding of the Greeks army in the Battle of Kresna Gorge which brought the end of the disastrous Second Balkan War.Panteley Kiselov
Panteley Kiselov (Bulgarian: Пантелей Киселов) (23 October 1863 – 14 October 1927) was a Bulgarian soldier and general who fought in the Serbo-Bulgarian War of 1885, the Balkan Wars of 1912–1913 and World War I. He is best known as commander of the Fourth Preslav Infantry Division during the Romanian Campaign of 1916 and victor of the Battle of Tutrakan.Sava Mutkurov
Sava Atanasov Mutkurov (Bulgarian: Сава Атанасов Муткуров) (16 December [O.S. 4 December] 1852 – 15 March [O.S. 3 March] 1891) was a Bulgarian officer (Major General) and politician. One of only three recipients of the Order of Bravery 1st grade, he was among the chief architects of the Bulgarian unification (1885) and, as an officer in the young Bulgarian Army, one of its defendants in the Serbo–Bulgarian War (1885). He also served as one of the regents of the Principality of Bulgaria after Prince Alexander of Battenberg's abdication (1886–1887) and was Minister of War in Stefan Stambolov's government (1887–1891).Stefan Toshev
Stefan Toshev (Bulgarian: Стефан Тошев) (18 December 1859 – 27 November 1924) was a Bulgarian general, from World War I. His mother was a teacher from the period of the National Revival. He volunteered in the Bulgarian Opalchentsi Corps during the Russo-Turkish War (1877–1878) and later served as a translator. On 10 May 1879, he graduated from the Military School in Sofia in its first year. Then he served in the Police force of Eastern Rumelia.Stiliyan Kovachev
Stiliyan Kovachev (Bulgarian: Стилиян Ковачев) (born on 26 February 1860 in Yanbolu (Yambol), died on 11 July 1939 in Sofia) was a Bulgarian general. During the First Balkan War he commanded the Rodopi Detachment and later 4th Army. He was a Minister of Defense for short time in the beginning of the Second Balkan War in the government of Stoyan Danev (1913).Treaty of Bucharest (1886)
The Treaty of Bucharest was signed by Serbia and Bulgaria on 3 March [O.S. 19 February] 1886 in Bucharest (capital of Romania), marking the end of the Serbo-Bulgarian War. The treaty contained a single article, stating that peace between the two countries was restored. The treaty paved the way for the political imperative whereby only the Bulgarian prince could be a governor of Eastern Rumelia.Vasil Kanchov
Vasil Kanchov (Bulgarian: Васил Кънчов Vasil Kǎnčov) (26 July 1862 – 6 February 1902) was a Bulgarian geographer, ethnographer and politician.