Perplexing Monument of British Cholera Casualties in Crimean War Pops Up in Bulgaria

Society | September 17, 2011, Saturday // 17:41|  views

A monument of the British cholera casualties in the Crimean War has been opened by the local authorities in Bulgaria's Devnya. Photo by BGNES

A monument of the British soldiers who died of cholera on their way to the Crimea in 1854 has been opened in Bulgaria's Devnya, near the Black Sea port of Varna.

"In memory of the British soldiers who died of cholera near Devnya in the summer of 1854 on their way to the Crimea," reads the inscription on the monument, which was opened by the Deputy Mayor of Devnya Rositsa Popova.

According to the Deputy Mayor of Devnya, the monument of the fallen British soldiers is "a testimony about the rich memory of the Bulgarian people that should not pale in the course of time." She has thanked donors who provided money for the monument as well as the Devnya Mayor Atanas Kuzev, as cited by the Cherno More daily.

The justification for the monument remains perplexing from a Bulgarian point of view because the Anglo-French forces fought on the side of the Ottoman Turkish Empire in the Crimean War, inflicting a defeat on the Russian Empire.

At the same time, many Bulgarians volunteered to serve in the Russian army with hopes that a Russian victory would bring Bulgaria's national liberation, a scenario that developed in the following Russo-Turkish War, known as Bulgaria's Liberation War in 1877-1878.

The intervention of Britain and France in favor of Ottoman Turkey in the Crimean War (1853-1856) after 1854 technically guaranteed the Russian defeat, which, according to some historians, delayed Bulgaria's liberation from the Ottoman Empire by two decades.

A total of 724 British soldiers died of cholera near Varna in the summer of 1854, as Varna was chosen as a logistic hub for the Anglo-French forces in the Black Sea before they sailed off to tackle the Russian forces in the Crimea, after in June 1854 the Russian land forces withdrew from the Danube city of Silistra in Northeastern Bulgaria.

The monument in Devnya seems perplexing from another point of view as well – it fails to mention the French casualties that shared the fate of the British soldiers in the Crimean War near Varna.

During their deployment first on the Gallipoli Peninsula, and then near Varna, together with the British, the French forces lost 8 372 men to cholera and dysentery. It is believed that the diseases were brought from the French troops deployed near Varna from Avignon and Marseilles.

The Anglo-French-Turkish allied troops – totaling 56 053 – 28 223 French, 20 830 British, and 7 000 Turkish troops - left the vicinity of Varna on September 5, 1854, sailing off northeast to the Crimea.

The monument in Devnya also fails to mention the local Bulgarians who died of the contagious diseases brought from the foreign troops – historical records indicated that in the summer of 1854, the population of the region had to flee to the nearby monasteries and villages to escape the contagion. Regardless of that, however, thousands of Bulgarian locals are believed to have perished from the cholera.

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Tags: Great Britain, Britain, Devnya, Varna, France, Ottoman Turkey, Ottoman Empire, Russia, Crimea, Crimean War, 1854, Russian-Turkish Liberation War, Russian-Turkish War, National Liberation Day, british, Brits, French, Silistra, cholera, dysentery, Gallipoli


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