Stefan Stambolov

Stefan Stambolov
Стефан Стамболов
9th Prime Minister of Bulgaria
In office
1 September 1887  31 May 1894
Monarch Ferdinand
Preceded by Konstantin Stoilov
Succeeded by Konstantin Stoilov
Personal details
Born 12 February 1854
Veliko Tarnovo, present-day Bulgaria
Died 18 July 1895(1895-07-18) (aged 41)
Sofia, Bulgaria
Nationality Bulgarian
Political party People's Liberal Party
Occupation Statesman, Poet

Stefan Nikolov Stambolov (Bulgarian: Стефан Николов Стамболов) (12 February 1854 – 18 July 1895) was a Bulgarian politician, journalist, revolutionist, and poet who served as Prime Minister and regent. He is considered one of the most important and popular "Founders of Modern Bulgaria", and is sometimes referred to as "the Bulgarian Bismarck". In 1875 and 1876 he took part in the preparation for the Stara Zagora uprising, as well as the April's Uprising. Stambolov is the longest prime minister to have been in reign, after Stanko Todorov and Todor Zhivkov. Criticised for his dictatorial methods, he is among the initiators of the economical and cultural progress in Bulgaria during the time of the Balkan Wars.

Early years

A statue of Stefan N. Stambolov in his birthplace Veliko Turnovo

Stambolov was born on February 12, 1854 in Veliko Tarnovo. His father took part in the "Velchova Zavera" plot against Turkish rule in 1835. Stambolov grew up around prominent revolutioners like Hristo Ivanov, the priest Matey Preobrazhenski, Hristo Karaminkov. His education started in his home town, but he later studied in the Seminary of Odessa in 1870-1872. In 1878 he was a teacher in his hometown for a short period of time, and later he went to Romania. He joined the Bulgarian Revolutionary Central Committee (BRCC). After the death of BRCC founder Vassil Levski, Stambolov was chosen as his successor. He was the leader of the unsuccessful uprising in Stara Zagora (1875) and the Turnovo revolutionary committee in the great uprising of April 1876.

Political career

Stambolov was involved in the political discussions as early as the time of the first Bulgarian parliament - the "Founding Assembly" of 1879. After 1880 he became the vice-chairman and later the chairman of the Narodno Subranie (the Bulgarian parliament). In 1885, he helped bring about the union of Bulgaria and Eastern Rumelia. On 20 August [O.S. 9 August] 1886, officers aligned with Russia overthrew Prince Alexander in a coup d'état. Stambolov led a counter-coup on 28 August which removed the Russian-controlled provisional government, and assumed the position of regent.

However, Russian hostility barred the restoration of Alexander, who abdicated on 8 September.


At the age of 32, Stambolov found himself in the highly-unusual position of being a minister of government, president, and regent for a missing monarch (a situation matched in its unusualness only, perhaps, by the election of former King Simeon II as prime minister of Bulgaria in 2001). Stambolov's style of governing during his regency was observed as being increasingly authoritarian. But this was, to some extent, a reaction to the grave difficulties of his peculiar position. Indeed, the regency has been described as marking the beginning of the tragic years of Stambolov's life.

According to a close friend, Stambolov was "almost inclined to resign the honors [of serving as regent], together with the dangers of his position, and retire to his beloved Turnovo." But he stayed on, recognizing that there was no other suitable candidate, and that if he did not lead, then Bulgaria's sovereignty would likely be lost.

Through Stambolov's efforts, a successor to Alexander was found in Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, who was proclaimed Knyaz ("Ruling Prince") of autonomous Bulgaria on 7 July 1887, and crowned on 14 August 1887.

Prime minister

With Ferdinand's accession to the throne, Stambolov retired as regent, and became Prime Minister. He served for seven years (1887 - 1894).

Stambolov was a nationalist; as a politician, he strengthened the diplomacy of the country, its economy, and the general political power of the state.

He confronted Knyaz Ferdinand, and blocked his schemes to usurp additional authority. This caused him a lot of stress, and he became distant from his friends, and suspicious of his surroundings. The public came to dislike him, as he took increasingly drastic measures against his enemies. He survived an assassination attempt unharmed, but responded by having many people he suspected of taking part imprisoned and treated brutally.

Lavov most was built while Stambolov was prime minister.

By 1894 the prolonged stress from all sides had taken its toll, and Stambolov resigned, which was happily accepted by Ferdinand.


On 15 July 1895, Stambolov took a carriage to his home, along with his bodyguard and a friend. Midway, the carriage was stopped by an assassin who fired his revolver, thus startling the horses. Stambolov quickly exited, but was met by three more assassins, armed with knives. Stambolov, who carried a revolver, shot one of the attackers. The others wrestled him to the ground. They knew that Stambolov wore an armoured vest, so they stabbed at his head, which he tried to protect with his hands. His bodyguard finally chased away the assailants.

Stambolov was hurried to his home with a fractured skull and mutilated hands. He is supposed to have said on his deathbed, "Bulgaria's people will forgive me everything. But they will not forgive that it was I who brought Ferdinand here." It is believed that Stambolov was well-aware that his days after his resignation were numbered, and that Ferdinand was likely the one who would orchestrate an assassination.

He died at about 2 AM on 18 July.


Stambolov believed that the liberation of Bulgaria was an attempt by Czarist Russia to turn Bulgaria into its protectorate. His policy was characterized by the goal to preserve Bulgarian independence at all costs. During his leadership Bulgaria was transformed from an Ottoman province into a modern European state.

Stambolov launched a new course in Bulgarian foreign policy, independent of the interests of any great power. His main foreign policy objective was the unification of the Bulgarian nation into a nation-state consisting of all the territories of the Bulgarian Exarchate granted by the Sultan in 1870. Stambolov established close connections with the Sultan in order to enliven Bulgarian national spirit in Macedonia and to oppose Russian-backed Greek and Serbian propaganda. Due to Stambolov’s tactics, the Sultan recognised Bulgarians as the predominant peoples in Macedonia and gave a green light to the creation of strong church and cultural institutions.

Stambolov negotiated loans with western European countries to develop the economic and military strength of Bulgaria. In part, this was motivated by his desire to create a modern army which could secure all of the national territory.

His approach toward western Europe was one of diplomatic maneuvering. He understood the interests of the Austrian Empire in Macedonia and warned his diplomats accordingly. His domestic policy was distinguished by the defeat of terrorist groups sponsored by Russia, the strengthening of the rule of law, and rapid economic and educational growth, leading to progressive social and cultural change, and development of a modern army capable of protecting Bulgaria's independence.

Stambolov was aware that Bulgaria had to be politically, militarily, and economically strong to achieve national unification. He mapped out the political course which turned Bulgaria into a strong regional power, respected by the great powers of the day. However, Bulgaria’s regional leadership was short-lived. After Stambolov's death the independent course of his policy was abandoned.


Stambolov Crag on Livingston Island in the South Shetland Islands, Antarctica is named for him.

Stambolov is portrayed on the obverse of the Bulgarian 20 levs banknote, issued in 1999 and 2007.[1]

Stefan Stambolov's grave in Sofia Central Cemetery


  1. Bulgarian National Bank. Notes and Coins in Circulation: 20 levs (1999 issue) & 20 levs (2007 issue). – Retrieved on 26 March 2009.


Political offices
Preceded by
Konstantin Stoilov
Prime Minister of Bulgaria
Succeeded by
Konstantin Stoilov
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Prince Alexander of Battenberg
Rulers of Bulgaria
Succeeded by
Ferdinand I of Bulgaria
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