August 01, 1997

The Battle for Shipka

History is told not only by books, but also by geographical places — cities and towns, whole regions and places so tiny you won’t find them on any map. Certain places are invisible to the eye, but nonetheless have secured a place in world history because of the great events that took place there. Shipka, a pass in Bulgaria’s Stara-Planina mountains, is such a place.

Located at 185 meters above sea level, Shipka is now little more than a dot on the highway between the cities of Kazanlyk and Gabrovo. But near Shipka, like a smaller mountain peak, stands the so-called Monument to Freedom, built in honor of the military cooperation between the Russians and Bulgarians in 1877-1878, when Russia helped free Bulgaria from Turkish occupation.

These days, the Russian army has something of a bad reputation and those people — especially foreigners — who rush to praise Russian military leadership are few and far between. The Bulgarians, however, still remember the Russian army — if not the Soviet army — with gratitude. For both Russians and Bulgarians, Shipka serves as a symbol of the bravery and friendship of their troops 120 years ago.

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