The military contribution of the Bulgarians in the Russo-Turkish War (1877-1878) was not limited to the participation of the Bulgarian militia. During the war, volunteer squads were active, tasked with protecting the population from attacks by Bashibozushki and Circassian troops

The Voluntary Company of Zhelyu Voivode (1877-1878)

The military contribution of the Bulgarians in the Russo-Turkish War (1877-1878) was not limited to the participation of the Bulgarian militia. During the war, volunteer detachments were active, tasked with protecting the population from attacks by Bashibozushki and Circassian units, guarding the flanks of the Russian army, and scouting for enemy movements. The leaders of the detachments are battle-hardened voivodes such as Ilio Markov, Panayot Hitov, Hristo Ivanov – the Great and Zhelyu voivoda.

Zhelyu Hristov Chernev was born in Yambol in 1828 and has solid experience in national liberation struggles. In August 1877, the Russian High Command granted his request to gather a company of Bulgarian heroes, which would support the actions of the Russian troops in the Elensky Balkan region. The number of the detachment reached 300 people, and at the end of 1877 it was united with the other detachments operating in the area in a collective detachment numbering about 1000 people under the command of Panayot Hitov and Zhelyu voivoda.

The troop flag, like the Braille flag, consists of three strips of cloth - white, green and red. A cross is applied to its trace, and below it are embroidered the words "For Slavic freedom" and the date of the company's founding - August 20, 1877. After the war, the battle shrine remained with the voivode until his death in 1893, and soon after his a widow handed it over to the National Museum in Sofia. Today it is the only preserved flag of a Bulgarian volunteer company from the Russo-Turkish War of Liberation.

Illustration: the only preserved photograph of Zhelyu voivode

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