In the autumn of 1877, Russian troops commanded by Major General Nikolay Stepanovich Leonov I approached Vratsa. On October 28, 1877, at 12:30 p.m., solemn sounds could be heard over the hushed city. Mounted on his white horse, the staff trumpeter Ivan Petlak announced from the Kaleto area, through the sounds of his melodious war trumpet, freedom for those freed from Turkish slavery. Thus, the city of Vratsa became the first liberated city in Northwestern Bulgaria.
On the fields of the October minei in the church "St. Twelve Apostles", the contemporary of the memorable event, Hadji Atanas Tsekovich, wrote: "...seven cannons were fired at them and the Turks took the mountain, Turkish corpses up to sixty or seventy, and a Russian named Simeon was killed by the Turks from Kemer Mahalesi and two Russians were wounded and healed, so the Lord delivered us from Ottoman slavery five hundred a year and above."
The head of the rescue right "flying" detachment, Major General Leonov, was greeted with indescribable delight by the leaders, the clergy and the population of the city. The Russian troops did not meet much resistance from the Turks.
"We met the generals in the field, the Turkish army was on the mountains and they were shooting with their martins, the bullets of which were screaming around us. The Russians greeted them with dull thunders and the Turks fell silent. After we presented the generals with bread and salt, we led them to church. The priests in church robes with crosses, icons and the gospel in their hands, the teachers with the students and church songs, such as "It is worthy to eat" and others, we reached the church of "St. Ascension", where a prayer was performed by the priests. There were celebrations, welcomes, ovations, holidays..." - writes the teacher Hristo Nikiforov Daskalov in his memories of the unforgettable first day of freedom. Everyone cries for joy and, not knowing how to greet each other, they say "Christ is risen".
A deputation of bread and salt was received by the commander of the Life Guard Grenadier Regiment, General Count Lamsdorff. At the same time, at the head of his staff, Major General Leonov walks proudly and majestically through the streets of Vratsa. The appreciative population of Vratsa handed their liberator the symbolic key to the city. The key is kept in the Leningrad Military Artillery Museum and was again returned to Vratsa in 1958 by Lieutenant General A.S. Gundorov, Chairman of the Slavic Committee in Moscow on the occasion of the 80th anniversary of the Liberation of Bulgaria, and was exhibited in the historical museum of the city. "I brought from the Soviet Union - declared General Gundarov - historical relics of the Soviet-Bulgarian friendship - the keys to the Bulgarian cities of Silistra, Sliven, Nikopol and Vratsa, which at the time were received by the Russian army and were carefully guarded by the Soviet people."
The museum also keeps the "Mother of God" icon, presented to the city by the mother of Gen. Leonov in his memory - on November 21, 1877, the general ended his earthly journey in haste.
In 1961, in the same place where freedom was announced, the appreciative citizens of Vratsa raised a wonderful monument - a bronze horseman "The Herald of Freedom".
The commander of the Russian army, Major General NIKOLAI STEPANOVICH LEONOV, is a Don Cossack by birth. After completing his education at the Guards Sub-Lieutenant School, he entered service in 1842 as a cornet, the lowest officer rank, in the Life Guards of the Grodno Regiment. In 1845 he was sent to the Caucasus. As a staff captain, Leonov was soon noticed on the battlefield. There he also received his first honors - Order of "St. Anna III degree with sword" and a belt with a sword with the inscription "For bravery". Returning to his regiment, Leonov served another 16 years. In 1864 he was appointed commander of the 18th Dragoon Perezlovsky Regiment, and in 1870 - commander of the Life Guards Dragoon Regiment and in the same year promoted to the rank of Major General. Shortly before the start of the war, Major General Leonov joined the active army and was assigned to the Ruse detachment. Under his command, the detachment on Aug. 18 1877 held off for 12 hours the attacks of 12 thousand Turkish detachment at Karahasanköy. On October 26, already as the commander of the 2nd Guards Cavalry Division, composed of three Guards Cavalry Regiments, he organized the advance to Vratsa, brilliantly completing the battle for the capture of the city. General Leonov was awarded the Order of St. George, 4th degree, for his excellent conduct in battle and for his bravery.6
The officers and soldiers of the lance and grenadier regiments were awarded a special badge for wearing the hat - distinction "For the capture of the city of Vratz on October 28, 1877"7
At that time, Colonel Alexander Egorovich Kethudov of the Life Guards Horse Grenadier Regiment was appointed commandant of Vratsa, who was entrusted with the organization of the Bulgarian police, the opening of a market, shops and sanitary care of the city.8
The inhabitants of Vratsa, now that the city is already free, help in every possible way to continue the war and in all cases testify their gratitude to their liberators. On December 25, 1877, the grateful population of Vratsa presented Colonel Kethudov with an ADDRESS on the occasion of the Christmas holidays, which reads:
Today, whom the entire Orthodox world so solemnly celebrates; a day of fear and trembling was against us, for on that day we were often compelled to listen to the threats of our tyrants for our extermination. For five centuries, our nation has not been able to perform the sacred rites as it should in a single year, on the day in which the Most High God brings forth His Only-begotten Dream, to free the human race from the devil's slavery. The least gaiety has been forbidden to us; If we had ever ventured into such a thing; it has again been too full of bitterness, because we have been forced at every step to meet obstacles from our tyrants. Today, however, when our enemies have disappeared, through the power of the Russian weapon, we cannot remain cool-headed and not express our joy. For all that our children and fathers expected and in which we were more fortunate than them, to see with our own eyes, that is, to develop the Russian flag instead of the Turkish one and for the cross to stand in place of the crescent moon.
The heart of His Imperial Majesty, our Lord Alexander Nikolaevich II, pitied our sufferings, and he decided with all the sacrifices to rid her of the clutches of the Asian beasts, and thus the Bulgarians owe His Imperial Majesty life and everything we have from His mercy. i have
With feelings of gratitude, today we go to convey our congratulations and to thank V. V Blagorodie for all the kindnesses that we have received and are receiving from His Imperial Majesty and all the people. While congratulating you on the occasion of the Nativity of Christ, I also wish to congratulate you on the liberation of the Orthodox Church and Russia from the invasion of the Gauls under the leadership of Napoleon I; May the All-Merciful God help His Imperial Majesty Our Master Alexander Nikolayevich to free her completely from Turkish slavery, just as he helped the Blessed Emperor Alexander Pavlovich to free the Orthodox Church of Russia, and with it the entire Slavic race from Napoleon I.
Long live! To many years the cause of our Prosperity His Imperial Majesty Our Lord Alexander Nikolaevich II Hooray!……..
Long live! Every nation that did not spare their blood for our deliverance. Hooray! Hooray! Hooray!
Long live! And his Highness Alexander Yegorovich Colonel Kyathudov, commandant of our City of Vrattsa, hurray!
1877 December 25th, Vrattsi, His Highness, Alexander Yegorovich, Colonel Kyathudovu, Commandant of the City of Vrattsi".
At the same time, the first people of the guild and merchants took on the difficult task of dedicating themselves as the first builders of the free civil and political life of Vratsa, with the full belief that in a free Bulgaria unanimity, single-mindedness, integrity and respect for others would be the main ideals for the progress of the city.
The main principles of creation of the local authorities are reduced to the following: preservation of the Turkish territorial-administrative division, but with changed names of its units and positions, appointment of Russian officials and officers only to the most important positions, introduction of self-government through elections organs. The local authorities in the city of Vratsa are also built on these principles.
Already on October 28 / November 9, 1877, Generals Leonov and Claude gathered the local leaders of Vratsa and demanded from them to form a Provisional Civil Government in the city. (In the Military History Museum - Sofia, the first seal of the government is kept, which is round and with the inscription "Provisional Civil Administration of Vratsa".)
The first task of the commandant of the city, Colonel Kethudov, commander of the horse-grenadier regiment, was to create a twelve-member council, which included the alert and educated Vratchans Nikolcho Khadjiantonov, Kostadin Khadzhinikolchov, Zahari N. Pechenyakov, Angel D. Yotsov, Ivancho Nikolakev, Krastyo Hadjivasilov, Nikolcho Vasilov, Kostaki Iv. Ankov, Todoraki Dimitrov, Georgi Penchov, Simeon Podbalkanski and Nikolcho Parvanov.
At the end of January 1878, Colonel Mikhail Ivanovich Lukashov was appointed by the Russian Civil Administration of Bulgaria as the Vrachan District Governor. He has special management training. Colonel Lukashov found complete anarchy in the economic and social life of the city.
He undertook to quickly put order in the administration and normalized the prices of food products. In a few months, he manages to restore normal life and calm the poor population, which begins to rebel against the food speculators.
In Turkish times, the Vratsa prison was teeming with arrested co-conspirators, and under Lukashov, it was filled with speculators. Colonel Lukashov convenes a meeting of citizens at the Ascension School and presents his plans for the settlement of the city. Despite his harsh military nature and his unlimited power to impose the death penalty, he chooses another tactic. He resorted to public control, and gave every one the right to point out, with evidence in hand, the speculators, whom he immediately arrested, and confiscated their goods and deprived them of the right to trade.
At the first meeting, Lukashov informed the citizens that they had to elect a city boss - a city mayor and councilors. The mayor of the city is elected by the male population over the age of 20, and instead of ballots, for the convenience of the illiterate, white and black beans are used. The first citizens indicate two people as candidates for mayor - Nikolcho Khadjiantonov and Zahari Pechenyakov. A box is placed for each candidate and the voter must drop a white or black bean into it. White beads mean that the selection of that person is desired, black means that his selection is not desired. If the white grains exceed the black ones, then the person is declared chosen. The majority expressed their preferences in favor of the older of the two, Nikolcho Khadjiantonov, who became the first mayor of the city after the Liberation.
On January 4, 1878, in the presence of the district chief and the members of the Provisional Civil Administration, a city council was established with chairman Nikolcho Hadjiantonov and members Angel D. Yotsov, Zahari N. Pechenyakov and Kostadin Hadjinikolov.
Exactly two months later, elections were held under the same system as the provisional civil administration of Vratsa was reorganized. The Council of Twelve is divided into three councils: city, county, and judicial, each of which has its own president and secretary and certain functions. Thus began the legal civil administration of Vratsa.