Bulgaria Destinations Monasteries & Churches Travel

The Russian church in the town of Shipka: absolutely incredible!

Although I studied a lot about the Russo-Turkish war in high school, I felt that I don’t know enough when I was preparing for this article. It has been about 3-4 weeks now that I am actively reading Europe’s history. Why Europe, you’d ask, if this was a war between Russia and Turkey (both non-European countries)? Because it turns out that the entire liberation of Eastern Europe from the cruel rule of Ottoman empire was a well-directed spectacle, dressed in fake patriotism and hypocritical support.

My personal conclusion is that it was all based on financial interests. In other words: the minute when the Ottoman Empire became less financially stable, the so called “Great powers of Europe” decided it may threaten their own financial state and thus decided it’s time to let the cleaners (i.e. Russia) fix things up. Since this is not a political website, plus Ellie and I despise politics, I won’t continue in this line of thought. Instead, I will tell you about the people.

Because, my dear friends, even when politicians direct some ridiculous events, in the end of the day it’s the wholehearted people, ready to lose their lives for a cause that are out there, making things happen. And whatever the reason, I am personally happy that Bulgaria (although not perfect) is a free country. Well, as much as anything is free these days…

As you are driving on the old way to the seaside (the picturesque road on the south of the mighty Balkan mountain) you may see the golden domes of a church in the distance. This is the church “Nativity” – part of the Shipka monastery.

About the Shipka Church

The Russian church in the town of Shipka is often referred to as an architectural masterpiece. When you go see it, you’ll quickly understand why. It is absolutely spectacular: a well-deserved tribute to the Ukrainins, Russians, and Bulgarians who fought to free my country.

The initiative for the building of the church came by Count Nikolay Ignatyev and the mother of the Russian war hero Mikhail Skobelev. It was financed entirely by donations which came mostly from Russia. The construction began in 1885 and ended in 1902, lead entirely by Russian architects.

What we found particularly interesting are the wall murals inside. Contrary to the striking exterior of the church and the bright colors used on its facade, the murals are mild and create an incredible soothing feeling.

In the crypt underneath the church is located one of the biggest ossuaries in Bulgaria: the eternal home of close to 9000 people who lost their lives in the battles for freeing Bulgaria.

9000 people

And these are only a few of the ones who passed away in the battles of Shipka. What about the hundreds of thousands brutally murdered by the Ottomans, during the time of slavery (and don’t you dare call it anything else!). If we have to go back to politics and if the European authorities had to be honest and open (for a change) they would admit that the Balkans suffered a genocide. Unfortunately, this is the one word left that politicians still use cautiously. Instead of words like promise, dignity, honor.

Anyways – back to our church. It is beautiful. We visited it with a smile and so should you. Because this is not a place of sadness. This is not where we should go to grieve about the anti-humanitarian decisions of European politicians. We should go there and celebrate the bravery and selflessness of those people who now lay in the crypt. As long as there are such people in this world – hope will live and thrive!

By Nina Alexander

Nina is the big sister. She's a marketing professional by day, traveler by heart, tech geek, bookworm, beer lover and an amateur photographer. Her motto is Friedrich Nietzsche's famous quote "And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music."

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