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Medals for the War with Serbia

First type

Date established: 19th February/3rd March 1886

Number of classes: Silver and bronze medals

Being awarded for: participation in the war of 1885

Shape and dimensions: Circular, 33mm in diameter

Ribbon: four purple and three white equally-sized alternating stripes

Obverse: The effigy of Prince Alexander I in a semi-profile, dressed in full parade uniform, circumscribed with the following two variations of text: 1) in Russian: “АЛЕКСАНДРЪ I ПОБѢДОНОСНЫЙ КНЯЗЬ БЪЛГАРIИ“ / translation: Alexander I Victorious Knyaz (Prince) of Bulgaria /, or Bulgarian 2) “АЛЕКСАНДРЪ I. ПОБѢДОНОСНИЙ КНЯЗЪ БЪЛГАРСКИЙ“ / translation: Alexander I Victorious Bulgarian Knyaz (Prince) /.

Reverse: The Greek goddess of victory Nike mounted upon a flying eagle, holding in her left hand a palm leaf, and her right hand elevated and holding a laurel wreath with ribbons. Along the edge of the medal is inscribed either of the following: 1) in Russian: “ВЪ ПАМЯТЬ СЛАВНОЙ 1885 КАМПАНIИ“ and a five-pointed star, or 2) in Bulgarian: “ВЪ ПАМЯТЪ НАСЛАВНАТА ВОЙНА ВЪ 1885 ГОД“ and a decorative beaded flower of six foils. Both texts mean “In memory of the glorious campaign (or war) of 1885”.

The medal has been founded as a symbol of commemoration for the military campaign against the Serbian armed forces in late 1885. It has been minted in two classes – silver, designated for the soldiers and officers who took part in the battles with the Serbian military, and bronze medal – for all military men who did not participate in the battles directly or to civilians who helped the army during this conflict.

Due to the Prince's forced abdication and His subsequent departure from Bulgaria, decorations with the medal have been suspended in September 1886.

Unfortunately, this initial type of medal is yet to be fully researched. That is why, there's no conclusive information as to 1) why there have been two issues of the medal in a matter of only six months; 2) why one of these variations was in Russian language, 3) was there an additional, gilded class of this medal and 4) whether the striped ribbon, used for the second type, is the ribbon used for the current medal, or was it instead red, bordered with a green stripe.

None of the archive photographs of soldiers or officers during 1886-1887 reveals this particular medal being worn. It’s quite possible that after the introduction of the new version in 1887, the people previously decorated have been supplied with the newly designed medal, as a substitute of the former.

Sources on Bulgarian medals assume that the medal has been discontinued due to the abdication of the Prince and according to the decision of the Regency. However, the name and title of the already former Bulgarian Prince appear both on the new type of the medal and on the awarding documents of the later.

Second type

Date established: 14th November 1886

Number of classes: Silver and bronze medals

Being awarded for: participation in the war of 1885

Shape and dimensions: Circular, 32mm in diameter

Ribbon: four purple and three white equally-sized alternating stripes

Obverse: Upon a decorative element, the coats of arms of Bulgaria and Eastern Rumelia, conjoined together with the Hessen royal crown on top. In a circle along the edge is inscribed, in a Slavonic script, the following text: “АЛЕКСАНДРЪ I КНЯЗЬ БЪЛГАРСКИЙ“ / translation: Alexander I Bulgarian Knyaz (Prince) / and a six-pointed star at the bottom.

Reverse: The following text in Bulgarian language “БЛАГОДАРНОТО ОТЕЧЕСТВО НА СВОИТѢ ХРАБРИ СИНОВЕ 1885“ / translation: The grateful fatherland to its brave sons 1885 /, written on four lines, using old Slavonic script. The text is positioned within a circular laurel wreath entwined with a ribbon, whose visible sections bear the names of the towns or locations, where the battles of the Serbo-Bulgarian war took place (ДРАГОМАНЪ, ЦАРИБРОДЪ, ПИРОТЪ, ВИДИНЪ, СЛИВНИЦА, ГОРГУЛЯТА, БРѢЗНИКЪ).

At the end of 1886, after the abdication of Prince Alexander I, the three members of the regency decide to suspend the previously used medal and design a new one in its place. Their motives remain unclear, and we can only assume that it was down to a personal preference or opinion.

The new image of the obverse of the medal symbolises the Unification of the two Bulgarian states – the Principality of Bulgaria and the so called Eastern Rumelia, under the authority of the Bulgarian monarch in September 1885.

The reverse of the medal expresses the gratitude of the government and the whole nation to those, who defended the fusion of the two countries and gained the first victory of the Bulgarian state.

The official sources indicate that some 90 000 pieces of this second type have been minted (of which 30 000 bronze and 60 000 silver medals). These have been decorated as intended to all men who contributed to the successful military campaign of the autumn of 1885.

Alongside men, all the regimental or company standards of the units which participated in the war of 1885, have also been decorated with the commemorative medal.