Shipka Pass (Шипченски проход)


Location: Map

Elevation: 1,190 m (3,904 ft)

Russian Generals


Iosif Gourko

Nikolai Stoletov


Ottoman General

Suleiman Pasha


Description of Shipka Pass


Shipka Pass of the Stara Planina (Old Mountain) has always been a strategic location since the ancient times. It provides and easy access between North and Central Bulgaria.  The first historical record date back to the time of Alexander the Great who crossed Shipka Pass in 335 BC during his campaigns against tribes of Tribals. In 279- 278 BC Celtic tribe of Galatians crossed into central Bulgaria. During Roman times army engineers constructed two roads to connect two important regions.


However Shipka Pass is particularly famous as a battle site of the Russo- Turkish war of 1877- 78. Russians did take Shipka Pass twice during Russo- Turkish wars of 1806- 12 and 1828- 29. Both times surveyors took measurements and drew detailed maps. So then Russian empire set on yet another war to liberate the Christian Bulgarians from the Muslim Ottoman rule they knew the mountains quiet well. On April 24 1877 emperor Alexander II proclaimed war on Turkish Sultan and on June Russian troops crossed the Danube river. By mid July the army took the pass and kept this important strategic location until early January then Turkish army was finally defeated. In total four major attacks by the enemy were repelled by the Russian troops and Bulgarian volunteers who defended Shipka Pass. Occasionally the defenders had to use boulders to repel the advancing Turkish troops once they ran out of bullets. Several Russian officers reported unhealthy enthusiasm that the Turkish troops showed while trying to storm several locations including the Eagle's Nest. It was probably due to psychedelic drugs that were easily attainable at the time. If you visit the site you will understand that some of the paths that attacking forces undertook was nothing more than a suicide. Even without rifles and munitions scaling some of the cliffs of the Shipka Pass is incredibly dangerous and irresponsible. With the enemy shooting at you from the top and throwing huge boulders it made the attacks futile and unsuccessful.


Nativity Memorial Church (Shipka Pass)

Location: Shipka
Open: 8:30am- 7pm
Entrance Fee: 2 lv, camera permit 5lv

Church of Christ's Birth or Nativity Memorial Church was erected between 1886 and 1902. Constructed in a classic Russian style it was designed to commemorate Russian and Bulgarian troops who died on a Shipka pass and its vicinity. The idea of its construction belong to Olga Nikolaevna Skobeleva, mother of general Skobelev who became famous for his role in a war. Bells for the church were made in Russian from 30 tons of empty bullet cartridges. Additionally 34 marble plates on its walls list names and units that took part in the battles.


Battle of Shipka (August 1877)

The Battle of Shipka (August 1877) on August 9-14 / 21-26, 1877 was decisive in the struggle for the Shipka Pass during the Russo-Turkish War (1877-1878). After the battles near Stara Zagora, Nova Zagora and the village of Juranli, the Central Ottoman Army under Commander Suleiman Pasha headed for the Stara Planina. The goal is probably to join the units of the Western Army and the Eastern Danube Army in the quadrangle Ruse - Shumen - Varna - Silistra. The army consists of 48 camps, 16 squadrons and 48 cannons, a total of 27,000 officers and soldiers. On August 8, after concentrating, he headed for the Shipka Pass. It is divided into three columns:

the first with Commander Redjeb Pasha advanced along the line Shipka village - Malak Bedek peak - Sveti Nikola peak and struck the main blow;
second with Commander Shakir Pasha advancing along the line of the village of Shipka - Mount St. Nicholas and inflicting an auxiliary blow;
the third is a general reserve.
The action plan envisions a frontal strike against the Russian defense.

For the defense of the Shipka Pass a Shipka detachment was formed - a military formation with the commander in chief of the Bulgarian militia, Major General Nikolay Stoletov. A total of 7,500 officers and soldiers and 27 cannons. Includes:

part of the Gabrovo detachment with Commander Major General Valerian Derozhinsky of the Thirty-sixth Eagle Infantry Regiment and 4 batteries;
The Bulgarian militia of the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th militia companies;
Thirty-fifth Bryansk Infantry Regiment - from 9/21 August.

The defense is divided as follows:

front position - south of the line St. Nicholas Peak - Eagle's Nest, commanded by Colonel Mikhail Tolstoy;
main position, divided into three sectors - eastern, western and northern, with commanders Colonel Leonid Vyazemsky and Colonel Fyodor De Preradovich;
general reserve in the saddle between Sveti Nikola peak and Shipka peak.
the artillery support is of four batteries: from east to west are the Central, the Small (nine-pound) and the Steel Battery (captured in July during the conquest of Shipka Peak); from the north is the Round Battery.
On August 7, the concentration of the Central Ottoman Army near Kazanlak and the actions around Elena were opened. The forces of the Southern Russian Detachment are mainly the 8th Army Corps under the command of Lieutenant General Fyodor Radetsky and are aimed at protecting the Tvardishki and Heinkoy Passages, assessed as probable for the passage of the Ottoman forces. On August 8, Major General Nikolai Stoletov discovered the real Turkish plan and sent an alarming telegram to Lieutenant General Fyodor Radetsky:

"I report unmistakably that the entire corps of Suleiman Pasha, which we see as the palm of our hand, is turning against us eight versts from Shipka. The forces of the enemy are enormous. I say this without exaggeration, we will defend ourselves to the extreme, but reinforcements are urgently needed. “

Reinforcements from the 8th Army Corps were sent to the Shipka Pass with an accelerated march. It takes them three days to arrive. The next day, August 9, the heroic struggle for the Shipka Pass began.

Fight on August 9/21
During the night, parts of Rejeb Pasha's column moved to Malak Bedek peak and at about 7 o'clock they rejected the Russian posts, built a position and deployed a battery. At 8 o'clock they attacked the Russian positions on Mount St. Nicholas. The attack was repulsed by infantry and the Steel Battery.

Major General Nikolai Stoletov considered the actions as the beginning of the main strike and supported the forces of Colonel Mikhail Tolstoy with the entire infantry reserve of the Shipka detachment (three companies of infantry companies and eight volunteer companies). At around 9 o'clock, Shakir Pasha's column attacked the Eagle's Nest. He violated the order to conduct only demonstrative fire and launched a frontal attack on the first Russian position (main) in the area of ​​the Small Battery. The attack was repulsed, but Ottoman units dug in 150-200 meters from the position and fired intensively. The created situation gives grounds for the Field Headquarters of the Russian Army to send a message to all units:
"Shipka was heavily attacked by Suleiman Pasha's army. The attack began in the morning. The fight is in full swing. The attack was conducted along the front, bypassing both flanks. The situation is critical. “


It is demanded that the units of the 8th Army Corps sent as reinforcements move as fast as possible. At around 1 pm, Recep Pasha's column launched its fourth attack on the Steel Battery, and from the flank it attacked Shakir Pasha's column for the fifth time. In the midst of the battle, the 35th Bryansk Infantry Regiment, commanded by Colonel Alexander Lipinski, arrived with an accelerated march and took over the defense of the western and northern positions. Three more Turkish attacks were repulsed, with the defenders using stones and trees against the enemy.

On this first occasion, Lieutenant General Fyodor Radetsky told the military correspondent of the French newspaper L'Estafette, AM Mlochowski de Belina:

"You write mainly about my brave regiments and the valiant Bulgarian militia, which, having no ammunition, repulsed the Turkish attacks with stones. “

At around 6 pm, the defenders of the pass resisted and the attacks were stopped. The Ottoman forces took advantageous positions for an attack the next day - Malak Bedek peak, Demirtepe peak and Demievets peak.

The lull on August 10/22
On August 10, Suleiman Pasha revoked the order for a new attack. Organizes detailed intelligence and develops an action plan for the next day. The Ottoman forces engineered the occupied starting positions. They are installing new artillery batteries on the first site under the Eagle's Nest. The battery of Malak Bedek peak has been expanded to 8 cannons.

The units of the defenders of the Shipka detachment are regrouped and dug up. Artillery fire broke out intermittently throughout the day. The lull made it possible to gain time for the march of Russian reinforcements to the Shipka Pass.

The decisive battle on August 11/23
The Turkish attacks began at about 4 o'clock, and the directions of the strikes were changed. Rasim Pasha attacked Uzunkush Peak and Kyuchyuk Yesiltepe Peak in two columns. Salih Pasha's column attacked Mount St. Nicholas, and the general reserve attacked Mount Akri Jebel. Wessel Pasha surprisingly attacked the eastern position at about 9 o'clock. By noon, all attacks had been repulsed. The situation became critical at 4 pm, when the Ottoman forces captured Kyuchuk Yesiltepe Peak and Uzunkush Peak was heavily attacked. Two companies of Bulgarian volunteers repulsed the attack. The retreat of Kyuchuk Yesiltepe was perceived by individual commanders as a permitted retreat. The catastrophe was prevented by the decisive intervention of the middle command staff: Colonel Alexander Lipinski with 20 soldiers stopped the retreat in the area of ​​the Round Battery, Colonel Fyodor De-Preradovich detained the composition of the Round Battery, Major Chilyaev returned the militiamen to the eastern positions. battery, and Dr. Konstantin Vezenkov (senior doctor of the Bulgarian militia) organized a counterattack with the forces of the wounded who could move. At 17:30 the first reinforcement arrived at Shipka Peak, the company of Lieutenant Buffalo, two soldiers on artillery horses from the 16th Rifle Battalion of the 4th Rifle Brigade, commanded by Major General Adam Tsvetsinski. By 6 p.m., the battalion was concentrating, attacking, capturing units of the 36th Orel and 35th Bryansk Infantry Regiments and capturing Kyuchuk Yesiltepe Peak. The 2nd Brigade of the 14th Infantry Division, commanded by Major General Mikhail Dragomirov, also arrived. The positions were stabilized at 10 pm and the decisive battle subsided along the entire line. Suleiman Pasha in a report to the Headquarters concluded:
"Never before has such a fierce and bloody battle been seen. “
Assessing the fighting qualities shown on August 11 by the Bulgarian militia, its commander, Major General Nikolay Stoletov, in a telegram to the Chief of the Field Staff, Lieutenant General Artur Nepokoychitsky, stated:
"As for the Bulgarians, they will not be afraid even if we spend them to the last person. “

After a few days he insisted:
"To be rewarded, as established for the units of the troops of our army. “

1,000 civilians from the town of Gabrovo, sent to the positions by Lieutenant General Viktor Krenke, also took part in the fighting. Their contribution was testified by the military correspondent of the English newspaper "Daily News" Archibald Forbes to the Russian diplomat Count Nikolai Ignatiev:
"He is delighted with our soldiers, and he also praises the Bulgarian volunteers. At the same time, 1000 inhabitants and children from Gabrovo carried water from bullets to our troops and even to the shooters from the front line, and also took out the wounded with full self-sacrifice. “

Fight on August 12/24

On the morning of August 12, the command of the Shipka detachment, reinforced with new reinforcements of up to 14,820 officers and soldiers, was taken over by Lieutenant General Fyodor Radetsky, commander of the Southern Detachment. The Bulgarian militia, with the exception of the 5th company, was withdrawn for restoration and rearmament in Gabrovo. The commander intends to improve positions with actions against the command heights occupied by the Ottoman forces. Suleiman Pasha was unaware of the change in Russian forces and resumed the attacks, the main purpose of which was their rear. The offensive began with the column of Veysel Pasha in the area of ​​the road to the town of Gabrovo. The Twelfth Rifle Battalion, commanded by Major Klimovic, repulsed three Turkish attacks. Shakir Pasha's column subjected the positions of Mount St. Nicholas to fierce but unsuccessful shelling from the east, and Salih Pasha attacked the peak from the south. The 36th Orel Infantry Regiment rejected him. The battle from the west against the second group of fortifications, attacked by Rasim Pasha's column, was the fiercest. The Sixteenth Rifle Battalion, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Khodyakov, defended Kyuchyuk Yesiltepe Peak (Volinska Vyshina Peak, Bukova Glava). The commander of the 14th Infantry Division, Major General Mikhail Dragomirov, was wounded at Uzunkush Peak. Its command was taken over by Major General Mikhail Petrushevsky. At around 2 pm, Lieutenant Colonel Khodyakov unsuccessfully attacked Yesiltepe Peak (Markovski Rat Peak). At 22:00 the fight ends and the opponents return to the starting positions.

The battles on 13 - 14/25 - 26 August
On August 13, the composition of the Shipka detachment was regrouped. With the newly arrived 53rd Volyn Infantry Regiment, the Russian forces reached 14,217 officers and soldiers and 44 cannons. The struggle was to push the Ottoman forces from Mount Akri Jebel and Mount Yesiltepe to their starting positions. At about 7 o'clock the column of Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Lipinski from the 35th Bryansk, 56th Zhytomyr and 54th Podolsk Infantry Regiment captured Yesiltepe Peak. It attacked the Akri Jebel peak from the movement, but was repulsed by the column of Wessel Pasha. Shakir Pasha's column unsuccessfully counterattacked Mount Yesiltepe. The commander of the Russian Gabrovo detachment, Major General Valerian Derozhinsky, was killed in a shootout on Uzunkush Peak.

On August 14, Shakir Pasha's column resumed the offensive against Yesiltepe Peak. After its flank coverage, the Russian forces withdrew to the peak of Kyuchyuk Yesiltepe. At the end of the day, both sides had exhausted their offensive forces and were moving to defense. The six-day struggle for the Shipka Pass ends.

On September 5/17, Suleiman Pasha made another unsuccessful attempt to take the pass - see Battle of Shipka (September 1877).

On September 21, 1922, the Gabrovo City Municipal Council decided to declare as honorary citizens all the volunteers who participated in the battles of Shipka and are alive at that time.