Life in the newly independent Bulgaria was far from easy.
The period was marked by peasant poverty, slow technological advancement, and political instability. Governments changed frequently and several prime ministers were assassinated.
The first monarch, Alexander Battenberg, abdicated from the throne and was replaced by Ferdinand I, an offshoot of the Saxe-Coburg clan, and later by his son Boris III.
Communist and anarchist ideas were gaining popularity, fueled by poverty and to a big extent by repressive right-wing governments.
A big Communist uprising was brutally suppressed by the government in 1923. In response, a bomb exploded in a church killing close to 200 people in 1925. The government responded with even more terror. In the midst of all the violence, Bulgaria lost some of its brightest poets, writers, intellectuals, military commanders, and politicians. In addition, the country lost two wars and many territories.
THE DREAM OF NATIONAL UNIFICATION
Immediately after the liberation and well into the 20th century, the foreign policy of the young state was governed by the desire to reunite the idyllic San Stefano Bulgaria and to push the Ottoman Empire out of the Balkans.
The endeavor got off to a good start when the two biggest parts of the fractured Bulgarian lands, the Principality of Bulgaria and Eastern Rumelia, united in 1885.
Next, all eyes turned to Macedonia. Some in the Balkans saw its future as an independent state while many in Bulgaria considered it an integral part of the country. For the policymakers in Western Europe and Russia, however, it had to remain a part of the Ottoman Empire.
In an attempt to put the Macedonian question back into the international public spotlight, the Macedonian liberation movement started employing terrorist tactics ranging from planting bombs in the local market squares to sinking a ship and blasting a bank in Thessaloniki. The attacks were supposed to draw the attention of the great powers, but instead provoked reprisals from the Ottoman authorities and bad press in Europe. The Balkans came to represent a place with perpetual and unsolvable problems.
THE BALKAN WARS (1912-1913)
In the first Balkan war, a league of four Balkan countries – Bulgaria, Serbia, Greece, and Montenegro – taking matters into their own hands, declared war on the frail Ottoman Empire in 1912, and within several months conquered almost all of the empire’s European lands. The victorious allies, however, could not agree on how to divide the newly conquered Macedonia.
Outraged by its former allies, Bulgaria foolishly declared a war on all of them in 1913 and suffered a crushing defeat and significant territorial loses.
The conflict came to be known as the Second Balkan War.
WORLD WAR I
When the Great War engulfed Europe, Bulgaria sided with the Germans, lured by the promise of Macedonia and other lands lost in the Second Balkan War, believed to have been inhabited by ethnic Bulgarians.
Instead of territorial gains, however, the country suffered further loses.