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Bulgaria, which was once an important empire, was overrun first by the Byzantines and then by the Ottoman Turks. In the 1870s the Bulgarians began to agitate for independence. The Turks suppressed the independence movement with great cruelty, which angered European powers, especially Russia. In 1877 Russia went to war with the Ottoman empire. When the British supported the Ottoman Turks the Russians made peace at the Treaty of San Stefano in 1878. Part of the peace agreement was a much enlarged Bulgaria, but soon afterwards the south was returned to the Ottoman empire. In 1887, led by Stefan Stambuloff (1854-95), the Bulgarians re-united north and south Bulgaria and elected Prince Ferdinand of Coburg, a relation of Queen Victoria, as their ruler. But for seven years Stambuloff was the real ruler of Bulgaria, now the leading Balkan state, and generally regarded as the main bulwark against Russian expansionist ambitions. Stambuloff worked hard for reconciliation with Turkey, Russia's old enemy. This angered Ferdinand, who dismissed Stambuloff in 1894. Ferdinand and his Russian friends probably conspired in Stambuloff's assassination in 1895.

In 1908 Ferdinand proclaimed Bulgaria independent from the Ottoman empire and became king. In 1912 he joined the Balkan League against Turkey. He abdicated in 1918, and died in 1948.

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