Battle of Slivnitsa

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Battle of Slivnitsa
Alexander von Battenberg at Dragoman
Alexander von Battenberg at Dragoman
date November 17 to November 19, 1885
place near Slivnitsa and Aldomirovtsi ( Western Bulgaria )
Casus Belli "War of invasion"
output Victory of the Bulgarians
consequences Status quo ante
Parties to the conflict

Serbia Kingdom 1882Kingdom of Serbia Serbia

Bulgaria 1878Bulgaria Bulgaria


Milan Obrenović

Alexander von Battenberg

Troop strength
25,000 at the beginning
40,000 at the end
12,000 at the beginning
32,000 at the end



The Battle of Slivnitsa (also Battle of Slivnitza , Bulgarian Битката при Сливница , Serbian Битка код Сливнице) was the decisive battle in the Serbian-Bulgarian War of 1885 near the Bulgarian city of Slivnitsa . The battle lasted from November 5th July. / November 17, 1885 greg. until November 7th jul. / November 19, 1885 greg. .


After the bloody suppression of the April uprising of 1876, which was an attempt to liberate Bulgaria from Ottoman rule, and the failure of the Conference of Constantinople , the Russo-Ottoman War of 1877/78 broke out. The war with many losses was won by Russia and with the Peace of San Stefano a Bulgarian state was established that comprised large areas that were separated from the Ottoman Empire. This was partially revised by the Berlin Congress in 1878. Bulgaria became an autonomous principality , which, however, remained tributary to the Ottoman Empire. Eastern Rumelia initially remained an Ottoman province, but the Ottoman Empire renounced a military presence and Macedonia remained entirely under Ottoman-Turkish rule.

In order to complete the national unification , the " Edinstvo " ( Единство / unit) committees were founded which initially initiated the Kresna-Raslog uprising (1878) in Macedonia . In eastern Rumelia itself, the Bulgarian Secret Central Revolutionary Committee ( BGZRK , Bulgarian Български таен централен революционен комитет ) was formed in 1885 under the leadership of Sachari Stojanow . The committee succeeded on September 5th July. / September 17, 1885 greg. to depose governor Gavril Krastewitsch by means of a bloodless coup and to proclaim the unification of Bulgaria the next day . Bulgaria's Prince Alexander von Battenberg immediately traveled to Eastern Rumelia after receiving a telegram and acknowledged what had happened.

Austria-Hungary wanted to prevent the events from spilling over to Macedonia . It signaled the support of Serbia , allied with it , which openly opposed the Bulgarian approach. In contrast to Great Britain , Russia was also hostile to the Bulgarian territorial expansion and its rulers. In response to the merger of Eastern Rumelia with the Principality of Bulgaria, the Russian Empire discontinued military cooperation and withdrew both military personnel and military equipment from Bulgaria. The Serbian King Milan Obrenović declared July 1 with this backing . / November 13, 1885 greg. Bulgaria the war. His military assumed a light armed conflict because most of the Bulgarian troops were on the Turkish border. However, the announcement of the Serbian declaration of war led to great national outrage in Bulgaria. Because of the better equipped and trained Serbian army , which competed against the still “young” Bulgarian army , one speaks of the “war of the (Serbian) generals against the (Bulgarian) non-commissioned officers” .

The Ottoman Empire, to which the Bulgarian principality and Eastern Rumelia were nominally subordinate, did not intervene in the war because it feared interference from the Russian Empire. At the same time, an ambassadors conference took place in Constantinople, which tried to negotiate a vote between the great powers after the unification of Bulgaria.

initial situation

Unification of Bulgaria and the Serbian-Bulgarian War
Relief of the battle area

The Serbian declaration of war hit the Bulgarians unexpectedly. The Bulgarian prince , Prime Minister Petko Karavelov and the 24-year-old Chief of the Army General Staff Ratscho Petrov were in the east Romanian capital, Plovdiv . The Serbian plan was to break through the Bulgarian defenses and to win the war by concentrating four divisions on Sofia . The main Serbian army moved in the direction of Sofia, which consisted of the three divisions: Šumadija, Danube and Drina divisions, along the Via Militaris and took Zaribrod (today Dimitrovgrad in Serbia), Kalotina and Dragoman .

The Morava Division operated in the south and was supposed to advance into the Sofia plain via Tran , Bresnik and the Wladaja Pass . In the north operated the Timok Division, which had the goal of taking Vidin and Belogradchik and occupying the area in later peace talks as war compensation. When it comes to the population of this area, Serbian politics spoke of a Serb minority living in Bulgaria (→ panserbism ). One even dreamed of the annexation of the Bulgarian capital Sofia, where two Serbian kings were buried, in order to cut off the direct connection between the principality and Macedonia.

In response, Alexander had Jul. / November 16, 1885 greg. ordered his army from the Turkish border in south-eastern Rumelia to Sofia by whatever means available, including through the Istanbul-Belove railway line , which was not in Bulgarian hands. An infantry regiment marched 95 km in 32 hours. At the same time, volunteers who were quickly called together did damage to the invading forces as partisans in this mountainous area. Nevertheless, the Serbs moved within almost twenty kilometers of the Bulgarian capital Sofia.

The slow advance of the fighting Serbian army favored the Bulgarian defenders, who built their line of defense at the Slivitsa rising . So the gradually arriving reinforcements were able to immediately take the previously prepared defensive positions at Slivnitsa.

The Bulgarian Prince Alexander I reached the well-prepared defensive positions at Slivitsa on the evening of November 16 and had them occupied by 9 battalions, 2,000 volunteers and 32 guns under the leadership of Major Guchev. The position was on a ridge in front of Slivnitsa, on both sides of the main road, and consisted of 4 km long trenches and entrenchments for the artillery. On the right side was steep terrain, while the left wing included the low Wisker elevations towards Breznik.

Course of the battle

The front line at Slivnitsa was divided into three parts (north, or right wing; middle, or center; and south, or left wing) in which around 12,000 Bulgarian and 25,000 Serbian soldiers faced each other. The Bulgarian defense strategy was to attack the northern wing of the enemy at Malo Malowo and throw them back against Dragoman. The Bulgarians initially had the following forces: eleven companies of infantry , four field and mountain batteries and three squadrons of cavalry , a total of 12,000 men.

November 17th

On the morning of November 5th, Jul. / November 17, 1885 greg. the decisive battle began in rain and fog. At 9 o'clock the Danube Division carried out its first attack near Slivnitsa. However, the advance guard was repulsed quickly and without losses by the unit of Captain Georgi Siljanow . The effective Bulgarian artillery even forced them to withdraw.

At 10 o'clock, Prince Alexander ordered three companies to counterattack the village of Malo Malowo, which surprised the Danube Division. The fighting was concentrated on this flank, where the constant Serbian attacks were unsuccessful. After stubborn fighting across the board, the Serbian cavalry brigade and the 19th Guard Battalion withdrew. The Bulgarian infantry was effectively supported by the artillery. In the afternoon, Captain Bakhchevanov succeeded in bypassing the cavalry brigade and, together with the units of Benderew, who came to the rescue from the center under Serb artillery fire, forced them to retreat. The Bulgarian units took the village of Golemo Malowo and the Petrowski krast summit of the Chepan Mountains . Despite this partial success, Alexander saw that the enemy's forces were superior, and the Bulgarian troops had to retreat to the fortifications again and again due to a lack of supplies.

On the evening of November 5th, Jul. / November 17, 1885 greg. the Šumadija Division arrived at Slivnitsa and took up position in the center of the battle to support the Drina Division. The Morava division, coming from Tran , also took Bresnik , advanced from the south and south-west to the Sofia plain and stayed at the village of Filipovtsi . Thus for the Serbs the fulfillment of their plan to march on Sofia without much resistance and with four divisions seemed to be within reach. Given this situation, the Bulgarian prince ordered the evacuation of the Bulgarian capital Sofia. In this situation, the first units led by Captain Petar Tantilov arrived there from the Turkish border: the 4th Trakija Company, the 2nd Sofia Company, a volunteer company and an artillery company with guns. They met the two volunteer companies from Dupnitsa (in Macedonia under the direction of Kosta Panica ) and Chaskowo , as well as the 4th Plovdiv Company. That night, the united train continued its march and thus covered the distance from Saranbej station in Eastern Rumelia (today Septemwri ) to Slivnitsa, a total of 135 km, in two (cavalry) or three days (infantry). On the morning of the second day of the fight, the Bulgarians had 20,000 soldiers and the Serbs 31,000 soldiers.

November 18

The following day the weather was rainy and cold as well. On the second day there was fighting along the entire front line. In the center and north, the Vidin regiment, led by Captain Atanas Benderew, was able to repel the attacks and the Pleven regiment to reach the Serbian trenches.

In the south, the Morava division, whose staff was in Bresnik, advanced in the direction of Gurguljat and threatened to break through the Bulgarian south wing. The regiment of about 1,800 men, which had already been formed on November 16, under the leadership of Captain Stefan Kisow, was sent behind them . The unit consisted of two companies from the Struma regiment, five companies from the Vidin regiment and 400 volunteers from Radomir . In the early morning of November 18, the unit was also joined by a Cheta of 120 volunteers from Macedonia (coming from the south) led by Ilyo Wojwoda . The task of the regiment was to prevent the advance of the Morava division (approx. 12,120 men) or at least to slow it down. On the morning of November 6th, Jul. / November 18, 1885 greg. Attacked the Bresnik unit, but was wiped out by the Serbian superior force (99 dead, over 100 injured, 116 missing.) The attack was nevertheless useful, as the advancing Morava division was stopped and under these circumstances two battalions were posted at Bresnik as security had to be. She did not continue her march on Slivnitsa until the next day.

In the afternoon, the Bulgarian leadership decided to attack the far right wing of the Serbs. The villages of Tuden , Komschtiza and Slomtscha were recaptured. In the center, too, the Šumadija and Drina divisions failed to break through the Bulgarian positions. On the contrary, with the help of Benderew, they even had to vacate positions at Triuschi. The results of the second day of the Battle of Slivnitsa were even more unfavorable for the Serbs than those of the first, because they had lost Malo Malowo and their most important strategic point, the first hill of the Triuschi.

November 19th

War memorial on European route 80 , near Slivnitsa

On November 7th, July / November 19, 1885 greg. Fresh forces arrived on both sides, so that the Serbs had 40,000 troops and the Bulgarians 32,000 troops. These included the main armed forces of the Bulgarian army, led by Major Danail Nikolaew , commander of the armed forces of Eastern Rumelia and a regiment (approx. 2000 men) made up of Turkish and Pomak citizens of Bulgaria.

In order to ease the situation of the Danube Division in the north, the Serbian leadership decided to attack the center and the south wing of the Bulgarians. The attacks carried out by the Šumadija division began at Gurguljat , between Aldomirowzi and Golubowzi and Bratuschkowo . After the march of the Morava Division from Bresnik, they advanced to Gurguljat in the night and tried to bypass the Bulgarian left wing.

At Gurguljat, Captain Christo Popov with three companies, a battery and two incomplete squadrons succeeded in the morning to stop the advance of the Morava division, to capture the village, to force the Serbs to retreat around noon and to counterattack in the afternoon. Here the Serbs lost two companies and two more were taken prisoner. Near Gurguljat the people of the village also took part in the fighting.

At that time, the Serbs managed to regain some of the lost positions on the north wing in the morning. The Bulgarians under Captain Marin Marinov , commander of the Vidin regiment, went over to the counterattack. The captain, who led the attack himself, died. However, he was supported by the companies of the Pleven Regiment and a battery. After devastating fighting, the Serbs fled and the Bulgarians were able to pursue them around noon.

At Ropot and Komschtiza , Major Kosta Panica defeated the Serbian units, forced them to retreat and went on the counter-offensive. That ended the battle of Slivnitsa. On November 8th, July / November 20, 1885 greg. the Bulgarian counterattack began on the whole front line, which could only be stopped at Pirot by the intervention of Austria-Hungary.


United Bulgaria , allegorical lithograph by Nikolaj Pavlovich

When the Bulgarians counterattacked Serbia and defeated the Serbian army again at the Battle of Pirot and advanced further towards Niš , Austria-Hungary intervened with a war threat if the army did not withdraw into Bulgarian territory. The armistice after the Serbian-Bulgarian War later ended with the Peace of Bucharest on March 3, 1886. Mutual territorial claims were excluded and the Ottoman Empire accepted the unification of Bulgaria and Eastern Rumelia in the Tophane Treaty on the condition that Prince Alexander over Eastern Rumelia should continue to rule as a formally appointed governor by the Sultan.


  • RJ Crampton: The War with Serbia an the Deposition of Alexander Battenberg, 1885–1886 in A Concise History of Bulgaria. 2nd Edition. , Cambridge University Press, 2005, ISBN 978-0-521-61637-9 .
  • A. von Huhn, The Struggle of the Bulgarians for National Unity, 1886
  • A. Koch: Prince Alexander of Battenberg , London 1887.
  • GC Wynne: Servo-Bulgarian War Collection (1885) , British War Office.
  • WH Cromie: The Military forces of the Balkan Peninsula , Pallas Armata reprint.
  • AF Golovin: Prince Alexander I of Bulgaria (1879–1886) , C. Fromme publishing house, 1896

Individual evidence

  1. Grigor Doytchinov, Christo Ganchev: Austrian Architects in Bulgaria 1878-1918. Böhlau, Vienna 2001, ISBN 3-205-99343-8 , p. 21.
  2. a b c Simeon Radev : The moving up of Serbs in The builders of modern Bulgaria Volume 1 : Сръбският план ... Четири дивизии: моравската, дунавската, шумадийската и дринската, трябваше да навлязат по два пътища - по царибродското шосе и чрез Трън - Брезник - Владая - в София, гдето Милан се надяваше да диктува условията за мир; а на тимочката дивизия бе възложено да окупира Видин и Белоградчик, които трябваше които трябваше които трябваше коитор. Сел. Online version
  3. Живановиħ, Ж .: Политичка историjа Србиjе у другоj половини деветнаестог века , Belgrade, 1924, pp. 275-277.
  4. ^ Leon Trotsky: The Balkan Wars 1912-1913. Mehring, 1996, p. 536.
  5. Ivan Fitschew : Военно-исторически очерк на Сръбско-българската война през 1885 г. , Sofia, 1888.
  6. Военноисторически сборник, бр. 1-2, 2006, p. 27.