Bulgaria, as most Bulgarians can tell you, suffered under the Ottoman yoke for some 500 years. It wasn't the worst of empires, and relatively passive compared to other European empires' intense assimilation efforts, but I assume it is never nice to be under the rule of a foreign power. In the late 19th century, however, foreign powers stepped in and the Treaty of San Stefano was signed on March 3rd, 1878. Although early drafts of the treaty re-created a Bulgaria that was similar in size to pre-Ottoman times, foreign powers eventually changed their mind, worrying about having another great power in southeastern Europe. On the map below, the dark black line corresponds with the original draft, and the black-striped white line represents the borders of modern-day Bulgaria. Thanks Wikipedia!
This treaty, however, did not grant Bulgarian independence. Instead, it became a semi-autonomous region of the Ottoman Empire.
Thirty years later, in Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria declared itself free of the Ottoman Empire and a sovereign state. Like March 3, 1878, today, September 22, is a significant date in Bulgarian history. Ah, the sweet smell of independence. Bulgaria was even given the freedom to be involved in the Balkan Wars, World War I and World War II (whoopee). During these wars, Bulgaria hoped to become the size of its former emperor, but its irredentist dreams were never fulfilled. This ideal of a greater Bulgaria has not died, however, as is apparent in any nationalistic youtube video. Watch out Macedonia!
The biggest celebrations for today are in Veliko Tarnovo, but there might be something going on tonight in Sofia. Nationalistic celebrations often leave a bad taste in my mouth, but I might peek in for a bit.