Bulgaria revolted against Ottoman Turkish rule in 1876. The Treaty of San Stefano, which ended the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78, established a large Bulgarian state. The Treaty of Berlin (1878), however, established a smaller Bulgarian principality north of the Balkan Mountains. Its boundaries were not finalized until after World War I. Bulgaria became independent of the Ottoman Empire on October 5, 1908, after which its reigning Prince, Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg, proclaimed himself Tsar.
U.S. Recognition of Bulgarian Independence, 1909.
Bulgaria declared its independence on October 5, 1908. The United States recognized Bulgaria on May 3, 1909, when Secretary of State Philander Knox instructed Chargé Norman Hutchinson to convey a message from President William H. Taft to Tsar Ferdinand, which offered the president’s congratulations “upon the admission of Bulgaria to the community of sovereign and independent States.”
A Consular Agency was established in Sofia on January 12, 1912. It reported to the Consulate General in Bucharest. It became a Consulate General on February 22, 1915.
Establishment of Diplomatic Relations, 1903.
The first U.S. diplomatic representative in Bulgaria was Charles M. Dickinson, who was appointed Agent on April 24, 1901. He held the position until June 30, 1903. Dickinson served concurrently as Consul General at Constantinople, and there is no record that he ever presented credentials in Sofia.
John B. Jackson, who was Minister to Greece, Romania, and Serbia, was the first Diplomatic Agent to Bulgaria, and the first U.S. representative to present his credentials there, which he did on September 19, 1903. This date marks the establishment of diplomatic relations between Bulgaria and the United States. He was re-appointed in 1911 as Minister to Romania, Serbia, and Bulgaria. Later Diplomatic Agents to Bulgaria (1907-10) were also Ministers to Romania and Serbia. Only one of them, Horace G. Knowles (1907-09) presented his credentials in Bulgaria. Only after World War I was a U.S. representative commissioned solely to Bulgaria.
Establishment of Bulgarian Legation in the United States, 1914.
On December 14, 1914, Stefan Panaretov presented his credentials as Bulgaria’s first Minister to the United States. He served until 1925.
Establishment of American Legation in Sofia, 1919.
The American Legation in Sofia was established on March 18, 1919, when Charles S. Wilson presented his credentials as Chargé d’Affaires ad interim at Sofia. Wilson later was appointed Minister to Bulgaria on October 8, 1921, and presented his credentials on December 5.
Diplomatic Relations Severed, 1941.
Bulgaria declared war on the United States on December 13, 1941. U.S. Minister George H. Earle III left Sofia and arrived in Istanbul on December 27, 1941. The United States did not declare war on Bulgaria until June 5, 1942. President Franklin D. Roosevelt believed that Bulgaria would not have declared war without pressure from Nazi Germany.
Diplomatic Relations Resumed and American Legation Reopened, 1947.
The Soviet Union declared war on Bulgaria on September 5, 1944, and occupied the country despite Bulgaria’s acceptance of an armistice on September 8, 1944. The Sovietization of the country proceeded apace, with the country being proclaimed a People’s Republic on September 15, 1946. However, the United States still recognized the pre-war Bulgarian government. The U.S. Legation in Sofia was reopened on September 27, 1947, and Donald R. Heath presented his credentials on November 8 as U.S. Minister to Bulgaria.
Bulgarian Legation in the United States Reopened, 1947.
The Bulgarian Legation in Washington reopened November 21, 1947, with Stoyan Athanassov as Chargé d’Affaires ad interim. Minister Nissim Mevorah presented his credentials on December 29, 1947.
Diplomatic Relations Severed by Bulgaria, 1950.
In 1950, the Bulgarian Government accused U.S. Minister Heath of espionage and declared him persona non grata on January 19. Bulgaria severed diplomatic relations with the United States on February 20, 1950. The United States announced the suspension of diplomatic relations with Bulgaria on February 21, and Heath left the country on February 24, 1950.
Diplomatic Relations Reestablished and American Legation Reopened, 1959-1960.
The United States and Bulgaria agreed to resume diplomatic relations on March 24, 1959. Edward Page, Jr. was appointed Minister to Bulgaria on November 23, 1959, and presented his credentials on March 14, 1960.
Bulgarian Legation in the United States Reopened, 1960.
Peter Voutov was appointed as Bulgaria’s Minister to the United States on December 2, 1959, and presented his credentials on January 15, 1960.
Elevation of America Legation to Embassy Status, 1966.
The Legation in Bulgaria was elevated to Embassy status on November 28, 1966. Minister John M. McSweeney, who had been originally appointed on May 16, 1966, was appointed Ambassador on April 7, 1967. He presented his new credentials on April 19, 1967.
Bulgarian Legation Raised to Embassy Status, 1966.
Bulgarian Minister Luben Guerassimov, who had served since September 1, 1965, was promoted to Ambassador and presented his new credentials on December 14, 1966.
Treaties and Agreements
Most-Favored-Nation Status, 1906.
The first agreement between the United States and Bulgaria dealt with reciprocal trade on a most-favored-nation basis. Diplomatic Agent John B. Jackson concluded the agreement in Sofia on June 6, 1906, and it was proclaimed to be in force on September 15, 1906.
The first treaty between the United States and Bulgaria dealt with naturalization, and was signed at Sofia on November 23, 1923, and entered into force on April 5, 1924.
Key Diplomatic Events
In 1876, Eugene Schuyler, U.S. Consul General in Constantinople, was sent to Bulgaria to investigate what would now be called a human rights issue: Turkish suppression of a Bulgarian revolt. He reported at length on “the Bulgarian Horrors,” and helped shift British policy away from unconditional support for the Ottoman Empire.