Although the whole conflict was fought over questions of ecclesiastical jurisdiction and order, it was much more a conflict motivated by secular ambitions and concerns over power, which left very little space for the Christian values of solidarity, charity and peace to influence the attitudes of the parties.
In contrast to Greece, Serbia and Romania, the Bulgarian struggle for ecclesiastical independence preceded the emergence of a modern state. While in the three other cases of Balkan Orthodoxy ecclesiastical emancipation was felt to be a completion of national independence, for the Bulgarian nationalists the struggle for their own church was seen as the prelude to national recognition and emancipation. It was precisely for this reason that their claims did not possess a canonical basis and were difficult to satisfy within the framework of the holy canons. The Bulgarian struggle for ecclesiastical emancipation was a substitute for a political liberation movement, which explains its intensity and the extremes to which it went. All along the way it was a struggle guided by a political, not by an ecclesiastical logic, with the inevitable result that the two main parties to it, the Bulgarian nationalist hierarchy and the ecumenical patriarchate, were unable to communicate, let alone understand each other's position.
Bulgarian nationalists first voiced claims to some form of ecclesiastical autonomy after the Crimean War (1854-56). To these demands the ecumenical patriarchate remained neither indifferent nor unresponsive. In 1861 and again in 1867 the ecumenical patriarchs Joachim II and Gregory VI respectively put forward plans for the resolution of the problem. The second plan was essentially a blueprint for the creation of an autonomous Bulgarian Church, with jurisdiction over predominantly Bulgarian regions.21 These proposals were judged unsatisfactory by the Bulgarians, who, with the active encouragement of the Russian ambassador to the Sublime Porte Count Ignatiev,22 managed in February 1870 to obtain a firman from the Ottoman government, which set up the Bulgarian exarchate, an autonomous church administration comprising thirteen Bulgarian dioceses, with nominal dependence on Constantinople.23
The Bulgarians hailed the Ottoman decision as a harbinger of their future independence but the ecumenical patriarchate rejected it and proceeded to
22 See T. A. Meininger, Ignatiev and the establishment of the Bulgarian Exarchate (1864-1872 ): a study in personal diplomacy (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1970).
23 For general surveys see V Stephanidis, 'EkkAtioiootikt) laTopia, fourth edition (Athens: Astir, 1978), 720-41; Z. Markova, Le mouvement eccUsiastique national jusqu'a la guerre de Crimee (Sofia: Académie bulgare des sciences, 1976) and Markova, The Bulgarian Exarchate (Sofia: Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, 1989).
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