The rallies were called the "Bulgaria – Zone of Peace." The main protest was held in front of the National Palace of Culture in the capital city of Sofia and drew in some 12,000 participants, although Bulgarian police said only 5,000 people joined the rally there.
Smaller protests occurred in 36 other cities all over the country. (Related: Global military spending hits record-high $2.24 trillion amid ongoing conflict in Ukraine, heightened tension in Taiwan.)
The protest, also known as the fifth "March for Peace," was organized by the Bulgarian National Council for Peace as well as other organizations like Free and Peaceful Bulgaria and Bulgaria United for Children. All of these groups came together to form the committee known as the All-Bulgarian March for Peace and Neutrality, which is even supported by some anti-war politicians.
Protest participants want Bulgaria to remain a zone of peace and refrain from taking part in the conflict.
In Sofia, some of the protest signs read: "No Bulgarian boys in the slaughterhouse" and "Eastern Front again – They will pass without us."
Many of the protesters were waving Bulgarian flags, but there were also many Russian flags being flown as a sign of peace and friendship, as well as the Samara flag, a symbol of the Bulgarian military.
One of the demonstrators interviewed by local media outlets, Ivan Radichev, expressed his desire for Bulgaria to stay out of any conflicts, stating that the country has enough resources to remain free and independent. One other protester, Miglena Yoncheva, said she joined the protest because she is a mother and she wants to bring up her children in a peaceful future.
"I still believe that there are enough people in Bulgaria who can unite and wish for peace, not war," said Yoncheva. "I want a future for my children, who I don't want to [leave the country], as the people of my generation ran away."
Another "Bulgaria – Zone of Peace" action is scheduled for May 2, and protests are expected to continue until the government concedes to the main demand, which is for the government to hold a referendum that would clearly state the position of the Bulgarian citizenry regarding the conflict in Ukraine. The referendum would also prevent the country's participation in any other future conflicts.
The protest groups plan to raise around 600,000 signatures by July 10 to call for a referendum, which would have six questions all concerning Bulgarian neutrality and participation in armed conflicts.
"Bulgaria should be a zone of peace, as we have doubts that our rulers, for what reason is not clear to me, are most likely serving someone else's interests, trying to bring the country into war," said Georgi Velikov, one of the organizers of a rally in the Bulgarian maritime capital of Varna.
"I do not approve of any war and do not consider, that by sending weapons, sending troops, the war will be resolved. This can be done through diplomacy, through negotiations, through talks. I think that is the way."
Media outlets that covered the protests described them as a powerful expression of the Bulgarian desire for peace and neutrality, and they hoped the massive number of people joining the marches would send a message to the government that they should faithfully represent the people by not participating in the conflict in Ukraine.
Other protesters insisted that providing military aid through Bulgaria would only lengthen the conflict and that Bulgarian sovereignty is being threatened by the presence of North Atlantic Treaty Organization bases in the country.
Watch this clip discussing how farmers in Bulgaria are protesting the flooding of their domestic markets with cheap Ukrainian grain.