Russo Turkish War 1877 1878

Battle of Shipka Pass
The defeat of Shipka Peak, Bulgarian War of Independence. ©Alexey Popov
1877 Jul 17 - 1878 Jan 9

Battle of Shipka Pass

Shipka, Bulgaria

The Battle of Shipka Pass consisted of four battles that were fought between the Russian Empire, aided by Bulgarian volunteers known as opalchentsi, and the Ottoman Empire for control over the vital Shipka Pass during the Russo-Turkish War (1877–1878). The deciding moment of the Shipka campaign, and by extent the war, came in August 1877, when a group of 5,000 Bulgarian volunteers and 2,500 Russian troops repulsed an attack against the peak by a nearly 40,000-strong Ottoman army.

The defensive victory at the Shipka Pass had strategic importance for the progress of the war. Had the Ottomans been able to take the pass, they would have been in a position to threaten the supply lines of the Russian and Romanian forces in Northern Bulgaria, and organize an operation to relieve the major fortress at Pleven which was under siege at that time. The war would have then been fought effectively only in northern Bulgaria from that point on, which would have led to a stalemate, which would have created a major advantage for the Ottoman Empire in peace negotiations.

The victory at Shipka Pass ensured the fall of the Pleven fortress on December 10 1877, and set the stage for the invasion of Thrace. It allowed Russian forces under Gourko to crush Suleiman Pasha's army at the Battle of Philippopolis several days later and threaten Constantinople.

With this victory and the conquest of Pleven at the end of 1877, the path towards Sofia was opened, and with it the path to victory in the war and a chance for Russia to gain an upper hand in the "Great Game" by establishing a sphere of influence in the Eastern Balkans.