June 2 - Botev Day in Bulgaria

Posted on June 2, 2020

Today Bulgarians will hear air raid sirens exactly at noon, and they will stand silently for the full minute the sirens blare. This is to remember and honor a revolutionary hero named Hristo Botev.

Botev was born on January 6, 1848, in Kalofer, Bulgaria, which was then ruled by the Ottoman Empire. At age 20, he was exiled for speaking against the Ottoman authorities and wealthy Bulgarians who enabled them to ruthlessly rule their nation. 

In exile, Botev became a teacher and a poet, and he befriended pro-independence Bulgarians who were also exiled. He edited and wrote for several revolutionary newspapers - and he was even imprisoned in Romania for hanging with Russian revolutionaries! 

The map above shows the location of Bulgaria.
The map below shows the size of the Ottoman Empire
before Botev was born.

When Botev and other Bulgarian patriots heard that there would be an uprising in their homeland, in 1876, they found ways to sneak back into Bulgaria. Botev led a group of freedom fighters disguised as gardeners onto a steamship (boarding in varying sizes of groups from several different ports). Botev convinced the captain of the steamship that their cause was worthy, and before they landed all the "gardeners" armed themselves with their hidden weapons.

When they reached the shores of Bulgaria, Botev led them to ritualistically kiss the ground. 

But the rebels soon discovered that the region of Bulgaria where they landed had not risen up against the Ottoman Empire. Other regions were experiencing uprisings, and so the Ottoman army was very active and alert - and everywhere! So Botev's unit really never had a chance.

Botev and another rebel, who had actual soldiering experience, did a great job of holding out against a much stronger Ottoman force, but unfortunately no townspeople joined the fight, and no reinforcements from other regions reached them. When a sharpshooter shot and instantly killed Botev, his unit lost heart and tried to escape. But very few were able to get away to live and fight another day.

It's a sad tale, and Botev died when he was just 28 years old. A couple of years later Bulgaria did manage to achieve independence from the Ottoman Empire. And Botev's reputation has been building ever since then.

The monument above is located near the place
where Botev and his unit fought and died.

The inset Is a painting of Botev
and other Bulgarian revolutionaries.

Below is a memorial complex located in
Botev's hometown of Kalofer.

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