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Източна Румелия
روم الى شرقى
Ανατολική Ρωμυλία
Eastern Rumelia
Autonomous province of the Ottoman Empire
(Under Bulgarian control from 1885)

1878 – 1908
Location of Eastern Rumelia
Eastern Rumelia (yellow) between the Principality of Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire.
Capital Plovdiv
 - Treaty of Berlin 13 July 1878
 - Annexation to Bulgaria 18 September 1885
 - Nominal restoration of Ottoman sovereignty 17 April 1886
 - Incorporated into Bulgaria 5 October 1908

Eastern Rumelia or Eastern Roumelia (Bulgarian: Източна Румелия, Iztochna Rumelia; Ottoman Turkish: روم الى شرقى, Rumeli-i Şarkî; Greek: Ανατολική Ρωμυλία , Anatoliki Romylia) was an administratively autonomous province (vilayet) in the Ottoman Empire from 1878 to 1908. It was under full Bulgarian control from 1885 on, when it willingly united with the widely autonomous Principality of Bulgaria after a bloodless revolution. Ethnic Bulgarians composed the absolute demographic majority within Eastern Rumelia. Its capital was Plovdiv (Ottoman Filibe, known back then in the West by its Greek name Philippopolis). Today, Eastern Rumelia (the largest part of Northern Thrace) is part of Bulgaria.



Eastern Rumelia was created as an autonomous province within the Ottoman Empire by the Treaty of Berlin in 1878. It encompassed the territory between the Balkan Mountains, the Rhodope Mountains and Strandzha, a region known to all its inhabitants — Bulgarians, Ottoman Turks, Roma, Greeks, Armenians and Jews — as Northern Thrace. The name, Eastern Rumelia, was given to the province on the insistence of the British delegates to the Congress of Berlin: the Ottoman notion of Rumelia refers to all European regions of the empire, i.e. those that were in Antiquity under the Roman Empire. Some twenty Pomak (Bulgarian Muslim) villages in the Rhodope Mountains refused to recognize Eastern Rumelian authority and formed the so-called Republic of Tamrash.

The province is remembered today by philatelists for having issued postage stamps from 1880 on. See the main article, Postage stamps and postal history of Eastern Rumelia.


Unification with Bulgaria

After a bloodless revolution on 6 September 1885, the province was annexed by the tributary Principality of Bulgaria. After the Bulgarian victory in the subsequent Serbo-Bulgarian War, the status quo was recognized by the Porte with the Tophane Act of 24 March 1886. With the Tophane Act, Sultan Abdülhamid II appointed the Prince of Bulgaria (without mentioning the name of the incumbent prince Alexander of Bulgaria) as Governor-General of Eastern Rumelia, thus retaining the formal distinction between the Principality of Bulgaria and Eastern Rumelia[1] and preserving the letter of the Berlin Treaty.[2] However, it was clear to the Great Powers that the union between the Principality of Bulgaria and Eastern Rumelia was permanent, and not to be dissolved.[3] The Republic of Tamrash and the region of Kardzhali were reincorporated in the Ottoman Empire. The province was nominally under Ottoman suzerainty until Bulgaria became de jure independent in 1908. 6 September, Unification Day, is a national holiday in Bulgaria.


Eastern Rumelia compared to the Bulgarian borders per the preliminary, unimplemented Treaty of San Stefano
Ethnic composition map of the Balkans by the German-English cartographer E. G. Ravenstein in 1870.

According to the Treaty of Berlin, Eastern Rumelia was to remain under the political and military jurisdiction of the Ottoman Empire with significant administrative autonomy (Article 13). The law frame of Eastern Rumelia was defined with the Organic Statute which was adopted on 14 April 1879 and was in force until the Unification with Bulgaria in 1885. According to the Organic Statute the head of the province was a Christian Governor-General appointed by the Sublime Porte with the approval of the Great Powers. The legislative organ was a Provincial Counsel which consisted of 56 persons, of which 10 were appointed by the Governor-General, 10 were permanent and 36 were directly elected by the people.

Eastern Rumelia consisted of the departments (департаменти, departamenti; in Ottoman terminology sanjaks) of Plovdiv (Filibe), Pazardzhik (Tatarpazarcığı), Haskovo (Hasköy), Stara Zagora (Eski Zağra), Sliven (İslimye) and Burgas (Burgaz), in turn divided into cantons (equivalent to Ottoman kazas).[4]


The first Governor-General was the Bulgarian prince Alexander Bogoridi (1879–1884) who was acceptable to both Bulgarians and Greeks in the province. The second Governor-General was Gavril Krastevich (1884–1885), a famous Bulgarian historian. Before the first Governor-General, Arkady Stolypin was the Russian Civil Administrator from 9 October 1878 to 18 May 1879.

During the period of Bulgarian annexation Georgi Stranski was appointed as a Commissioner for South Bugaria (9 September 1885 - 5 April 1886), and when the province was restored to nominal Ottoman sovereignty, but still under Bulgarian control, the Prince of Bulgaria was recognized by the Sublime Porte as the Governor-General.

  • The Prince of Bulgaria (17 April 1886 - 5 October 1908)


Ethnic composition map of the Balkans by A. Synvet in 1877, a French professor of the Ottoman Lyceum of Constantinople.
Ethnic composition map of the Balkans[5] English cartographer E. Stanford in 1878.

The predominantly Bulgarian character of Eastern Rumelia is evidenced by the outcome of the first Regional Assembly elections of 17 October 1879. Of the 36 elected deputies, 31 were Bulgarians (86.1%), 3 were Greeks (8.3%) and 2 were Turks (5.6%).[6] The ethnic group statistics from the censuses of 1880 and 1884 also attest to the Bulgarian majority of the province. In the unsuccessful census of 1880, some 590,000 people (72.3%) self-identified as Bulgarians, 158,000 (19.4%) as Turks, 19,500 (2.4%) as Roma, and 48,000 (5.9%) belonged to other ethnicities, notably Greeks, Armenians and Jews. The repetition of the census in 1884 returned similar data: 69.9% Bulgarians, 20.6% Turks and 2.8% Roma.[7]

The ethnic composition of the population of Eastern Rumelia as of 1884, according to the provincial census:[8][9]

TOTAL Bulgarians Turks and Bulgarian Muslims Greeks Gypsies Jews Armenians
815,946 573,560 174,700 42,654 19,549 4,177 1,306

Eastern Rumelia was also inhabited by foreign nationals, most notably Austrians, Czechs, Hungarians, French people and Italians.[8]

Property abandoned by Muslims fleeing the Russian army during the 1877-1878 war was appropriated by the local population. The former owners were threatened with reprisals for actions during the war, so that they would not return, for those who did return a 10% property tax was issued, forcing many to sell off their property in order to pay the tax.[10]

The Greek population of the region was largely exchanged in the aftermath of the Balkan Wars and World War I. Several thousand Greeks still inhabit the region (766 in Plovdiv during the last census, roughly 4,000 Sarakatsani transhumant shepherds), as well as individuals of Greek descent who identify as Bulgarians.


  1. ^ Emerson M. S. Niou, Peter C. Ordeshook, Gregory F. Rose. The balance of power: stability in international systems, 1989, p. 279.
  2. ^ Stanley Leathes, G. W. (George Walter) Prothero, Sir Adolphus William Ward. The Cambridge Modern History, Volume 2, 1908, p. 408.
  3. ^ Charles Jelavich, Barbara Jelavich. The establishment of the Balkan national states, 1804-1920, 2000, p. 167.
  4. ^ "Historical data about administrative-territorial structure of Bulgaria after 1878". National Statistical Institute of the Republic of Bulgaria. Retrieved 4 January 2010. 
  5. ^ Castellan, Georges, 1999, Histoire des Balkans, XIVe–XXe siècle. transl. Lilyana Tsaneva (Bulgarian translation ed.). Paris: Fayard. p. 358. ISBN 2213605262
  6. ^ Делев, "Княжество България и Източна Румелия", История и цивилизация за 11. клас.
  7. ^ "Eтнически състав на населението в България. Методологически постановки при установяване на етническия състав" (in Bulgarian). MIRIS - Minority Rights Information System. Retrieved 2 January 2010. 
  8. ^ a b Regional Museum of History, Plovdiv
  9. ^ Ethnic composition of the population of Bulgaria
  10. ^ Jelavich, p. 164.
  • Делев, Петър; Валери Кацунов, Пламен Митев, Евгения Калинова, Искра Баева, Боян Добрев (2006) (in Bulgarian). История и цивилизация за 11. клас. Труд, Сирма. 

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