|Hristo Botyov Petkov
6 January 1848
Kalofer, Ottoman Bulgaria
|1 June 1876 (aged 28)
near Vola Peak, Vratsa Mountains (part of the western Balkan mountain range), Ottoman Bulgaria
|poet, journalist, revolutionary
Hristo Botev (Bulgarian: Христо Ботев, pronounced [ˈhristo ˈbɔtɛf]), born Hristo Botyov Petkov (Христо Ботьов Петков; 6 January 1848 [O.S. 25 December 1847] – 1 June [O.S. 20 May] 1876), was a Bulgarian revolutionary and poet. Botev is considered by Bulgarians to be a symbolic historical figure and national hero. His poetry is a prime example of the literature of the Bulgarian National Revival, though he is considered to be ahead of his contemporaries in his political, philosophical, and aesthetic views.
Botev was born in Kalofer, Bulgaria, to Botyo Petkov and Ivanka Boteva. His father was a teacher in Odessa and a significant figure of the late period of the Bulgarian National Revival. Botev attended the local three-class school and later attended a high school in Odessa. He left high school in 1865 and spent two years teaching in Odessa and Bessarabia. Botev tried to send his son to study in the Russian Empire with the help of Nayden Gerov, but was only allowed to attend the Second Grammar School as a volunteer. He found it difficult to fit in and was often absent from lessons and treated teachers with arrogance. In 1864, he left the boarding school and began living independently in various lodgings. Botev spent time in libraries, particularly the Bulgarian library Yuriy Venelin, where he read mainly Russian authors and became acquainted with philologist Victor Grigorovich. He worked on his poem "To My Mother" in the summer of 1864 and sent it to Petko Slaveykov in Constantinople. When it became apparent that Botev was failing the gymnasium's third grade and was expelled for "carelessness," his scholarship was cancelled and he was given a lump sum to travel back to Bulgaria. Botev was sent by his father to Odessa to resume his education. He decided to go to Romania instead, arriving in Giurgiu in September 1867. He met with Bulgarian émigrés and met Vasil Levski, the leader of the Bulgarian Revolutionary Central Committee. Botev worked as a teacher in Bessarabia and became editor of the revolutionary emigrant newspaper "Word of the Bulgarian Emigrants". He was imprisoned for months due to his collaboration with Russian revolutionaries.
The Bulgarian revolutionary movement faced danger after the capture of Vasil Levski by Ottoman authorities in 1872. The BCRC split into two factions: Botev and his supporters supported immediate uprising preparations, while moderate revolutionaries, led by Lyuben Karavelov, believed it was too early. In 1876, Bulgarian revolutionary émigrés in Romania believed a general armed uprising against Ottoman occupation was imminent and decided to organize an armed company to cross the Danube. Botev took overall command of the company, which later became the main reason for the Russian-Turkish war and Bulgaria's Liberation from the Ottoman Empire. Military expertise was provided by Nikola Voinovski, a graduate of the Nicholas General Staff Academy. Botev devised a plan to cross into Ottoman territory without immediately alerting Romanian or Ottoman authorities. The rebels boarded the Austro-Hungarian passenger steamship Radetzky and seized control. The Ottoman military machine, including regular army garrisons and irregular bashi-bazouks, was mobilized and patrolled the area. On 20 May 1876, a single bullet hit Botev in the chest, killing him instantly. The cheta suffered a drop in morale and began to disperse, with most members captured, imprisoned, or executed. In total, 130 cheta members were killed, with most evading capture or death. The incident is traditionally commemorated on 2 June.
Botev was born on 6 January 1848 [O.S. 25 December 1847] in Kalofer. The birthplace is disputed by several historians, stating that he was born in Karlovo (according to the letter of Nayden Gerov) or the small village of Osen. His father was Botyo Petkov and his mother was Ivanka Boteva.
His father's backstory is that he was a teacher in Odessa and one of the most significant figures of the late period of the Bulgarian National Revival towards the end of the Ottoman occupation. His mother was born in a modest Kalofer family. Botev was not the only child in the family, he was together with his eight siblings, which were Ana, Petko, Stefan, Kiril, Tota, Genko, Genko and Boyan.
According to some sources, Hristo Botev was born in a room of the Kalofer school where his parents lived. A little later, a new school was built in Kalofer and the family rented a house from Genko Filov, where Botev spent the first years of his life. This house was destroyed during the 1877-1878 Russo-Turkish War, but in the 1940s it was rebuilt and turned into the Hristo Botev National Museum.
In 1854, Botyo Petkov failed to reach an agreement with the Kalofer municipality about his salary and moved to Karlovo. There the family lived in his mother's house in Tabashka Mahala, and Hristo Botev went to school with his father as his teacher. In 1858, Botyo Petkov accused the administration of the Karlovo municipality of embezzling money that had been bequeathed to the school and then returned to Kalofer. The municipality tried unsuccessfully to accommodate him in a house belonging to the merchant Hristo Tupchilestov, who lived in Constantinople, whereupon the family moved into the house of Hadzhi Nestor. After returning to Kalofer, Hristo Botev attended the local three-class school, where his father was a teacher. In 1863, after completing his primary school education in Kalofer, Botev was sent by his father to a high school in Odessa. There he was deeply impressed by the works of the liberal Russian poets of his time. He left high school in 1865 and spent the next two years teaching in Odessa and Bessarabia. In the meantime, he began creating his first poetic works and also established strong connections with the Russian and Polish revolutionary movement. His political views soon started to take shape.
As early as 1857, Botyo Petkov tried to send his son to study in the Russian Empire with the help of Nayden Gerov, an acquaintance from Odessa who had become a well-known pedagogue and Russian vice-consul in Plovdiv. This was only possible in Autumn 1863, when Hristo Botev received a scholarship from the Russian government and travelled via Plovdiv and Constantinople to Odessa, where he arrived on 14 November. In Odessa, Hristo Botev turned to the Bulgarian Board of Trustees of Odessa, to whom he was able to present a letter of recommendation from Naiden Gerov, and to its member Nikola Toshkovich, a wealthy merchant born in Kalofer, who was an acquaintance of his father. He entered the Second Grammar School as a "volunteer", as he was not well enough prepared to be a regular student, and was placed in the boarding school, where there were ten other Bulgarian students at the time.
From the moment he entered high school, Botev found it difficult to fit in - he constantly complained about the strict discipline, which included corporal punishment, but at the same time he was often absent from lessons, got into fights with classmates and treated most of his teachers with arrogance. In 1864, he left the boarding school and began to live independently in various lodgings. Despite his father's insistent letters and Nikola Toshkov's attempts to influence him, he neglected school and alienated the Bulgarians in Odessa with his eccentric behaviour, many of whose representatives restricted their contacts with him.
Although he did not attend school often, Botev spent a lot of time in various libraries, especially in the Bulgarian library Yuriy Venelin, which was located in Toshkov's house. He read mainly Russian authors and was particularly impressed by Nikolay Chernyshevsky and Ivan Turgenev. He became acquainted with the philologist Victor Grigorovich, whom he assisted in translating Bulgarian folk tunes into Russian. According to his classmate Kiro Tuleshkov, Botev was already working on his poem "Mother" in the summer of 1864, consulting Grigorovich, and sent it to Petko Slaveykov in Constantinople even then. The reliability of this information is not clear, as the poem was not published by Slaveykov until several years later.
When it became apparent in September 1865 that Botev was failing the gymnasium's third grade and was expelled for "carelessness," his scholarship was cancelled, and he was given a lump sum to travel back to Bulgaria. Still, he stayed in Odessa, earning a living through private instruction and keeping in touch with the city's Polish population. Botev even registered as a "volunteer" at the Historical and Philological Faculty of the Imperial Novorossiya University with the help of Grigorovich.
Following his arrival in Kalofer, Botev took over for his ill dad by attending some of his lessons. At that time, on April 15, Hristo Botev's poem "To My Mother" was published for the first time in the journal "Gaida" which was published in Constantinople and was edited by Petko Slaveykov. The poem was published without a recognised author. During the May 11 observance of the Day of the Holy Brothers Cyril and Methodius, Botev delivered an impromptu speech criticising the national movement's moderation, which at the time was primarily focused on the creation of an independent church. Police threats were raised by the speech, but none materialised. Botev frequently visited Parashkeva Shushulova, a teacher at the nearby girls' school, during his time in Kalofer. She is said to be the most likely prototype for the beloved in some of his poetry.
Hristo Botev was sent by his father after getting better from the illness to Odessa once again to resume his education. Using his father's money to get to Constantinople and then Odessa, he doesn't follow that and without informing his parents, decides to go to Romania. Hristo Botev arrived in Giurgiu, at the end of September 1867. There, he quickly made contact with Bulgarian émigrés, including Hadzhi Dimitar and several members of the cheta that Filip Totyu and Panayot Hitov had formed that previous year. Following the announcement of the death of famed revolutionary Georgi Rakovski, they travelled to Bucharest to attend his burial on 12 October 1867. Lacking any money, Botev went to Georgi Atanasovich, who gave him the money he needed to continue on his way to Odessa. He resumed his trip to Odessa, which was then unfinished and stopped in Brăila. There, he began working as a word-editor and published his second elegy "To your brother".
For some time he lived in an abandoned mill near Bucharest with Vasil Levski, the eventual leader of the Bulgarian Secret Resistance Committees, and the two of them initially became close friends.
From 1869 to 1871 Botev worked again as a teacher in Bessarabia, keeping close relations with the Bulgarian revolutionary movement and its leaders. In June 1871 he became editor of the revolutionary emigrant newspaper "Word of the Bulgarian Emigrants" (Duma na bulgarskite emigranti), where he began publishing his early poetic works. Imprisoned for some months, due to his close collaboration with the Russian revolutionaries, Botev started working for the "Liberty" (Svoboda) newspaper, edited by the eminent Bulgarian writer and revolutionary Lyuben Karavelov. In 1873 he also edited the satiric newspaper "Alarm clock" (Budilnik), where he published a number of feuilletons, aimed at those wealthy Bulgarians who did not take part in the revolutionary movement.
The Bulgarian revolutionary movement was put in danger with the capture of Vasil Levski by Ottoman authorities at the end of 1872. At the time Levski was the indisputable leader of the Bulgarian insurgency. He had established a network of revolutionary committees, supervised by the Bulgarian Revolutionary Central Committee (BCRC; In Bulgarian: БРЦК) located in Romania, which was tasked with preparing the Bulgarian revolutionaries for a future general uprising against Ottoman rule. Levski was brought to trial, sentenced to death by hanging and executed on 19 February 1873. His death was a serious blow to the morale of the revolutionary movement.
With Levski's death the BCRC split into two factions: Botev and his supporters, including Stefan Stambolov and Panayot Hitov backed the idea that preparations should be started for an immediate uprising, while the moderate revolutionaries, led by Lyuben Karavelov, thought that it was too early for such actions. Botev intended to start an uprising at the first possible moment, to take advantage of the international situation (the mounting tension between the Ottoman Empire on one side, and Serbia and Russia on the other), and because the revolutionary network, established by Levski, was still relatively intact and could take an active part in the preparations. The revolt in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1875 inspired Botev and Stambolov to think that a rebellion should start soon in Bulgaria as well. They thought that the greater the turmoil in the Balkans, the more attention this would attract among the Great Powers. In the beginning of August 1875 Karavelov, already quite ill, stepped down as president of BCRC, and Botev was elected the new president. Thinking that the Bulgarian people were ever ready for a rebellion, he believed no careful preparations were needed. This resulted in the unsuccessful Stara Zagora Uprising of September 1875.
Main article: April Uprising of 1876
In the beginning of 1876 the Bulgarian revolutionary émigrés in Romania were convinced that a general armed uprising of Bulgarians against Ottoman occupation was imminent. In April 1876 the émigré community in Bechet decided to organise an armed company to cross the Danube and take part in the expected uprising. The organisers (known within the movement as "apostles") of the planned insurgency in the 3rd Revolutionary District centred in Vratsa, had crossed into Romania to try to solicit additional support from the Bulgarian expat community. They met with Botev and convinced him that the planned Liberation army would be best employed in their area. While fighters were being recruited and armed the news arrived that the 1876 April Rebellion has started.
The recruiters tried to secure an experienced Leader for the Liberation of Bulgaria (known as voivoda) as a commander, but the two who were approached refused for political reasons. Thus, Botev himself, took overall command of the company, which later on became main reason for the Russian - Turkish war and the Bulgaria's Liberation from the Ottoman empire. Military expertise was provided by Nikola Voinovski (1849–1876), a graduate of the Emperor Nicholas Military Academy, who had previously held the rank of lieutenant in the Russian army. Due to time restraints and the need for secrecy the company did not undergo any formal combat training as a unit and had to rely on the individual fighting skills and experience of its members. The news of the uprising brought new urgency to the preparations and on 16 May 1876 (according to the Julian calendar) the 205-strong company was finally equipped and ready to deploy.
Botev devised an ingenious plan for crossing into Ottoman territory without immediately alerting either the Romanian or the Ottoman authorities. The rebels, disguised as gardeners, boarded in groups at the Romanian ports of Zimnicea, Turnu Măgurele, Corabia, Bechet the Austro-Hungarian passenger steamship Radetzky. When the last group boarded at Bechet the rebels retrieved their concealed weapons and seized control of the ship (this incident was later commemorated in a popular poem and song). Botev confronted the captain Dagobert Engländer, stated his intent to reach the Ottoman side of the Danube, and explained the political motivation behind his actions. Engländer was so moved by Botev's impassioned speech that he rendered full support and even later refused to cooperate with the Ottoman authorities when they requested the use of his ship to pursue the rebel company.
Botev disembarked near Kozloduy on 17 May and, together with every member of the company, ritualistically kissed the soil of the Homeland. As the rebels proceeded inland, they gradually realised, that, despite previous enthusiastic messages from the local "apostles", the 3rd Revolutionary District had not risen. Furthermore, due to the violent suppression of the uprisings proceeding elsewhere in the Bulgarian-populated territories, the entire Ottoman military machine, including regular army garrisons and irregular bashi-bazouks, was mobilised and thickly patrolling the area. Botev and his staff officers decided to press on to the comparative safety of the Vratsa Mountains while trying to rouse the Bulgarian population on their way. The population, intimidated by the overwhelming Ottoman military presence, refused to be incited into any overt sign of rebellion.
The company almost immediately became the focus of incessant bashi-bazouk attacks. Voinovski displayed some excellent defensive tactics helped by the still high morale and discipline of the company. On 18 May the massing bashi-bazouks caught up with the company in force, and Botev had to go to ground on the Milin Kamak Hill some 50 km from the Danube. Under Voinovski's skilful command the rebels managed to hold off the numerically superior Ottoman irregulars without taking serious casualties until the arrival of two Ottoman companies of regular troops. The regulars, using two light artillery pieces and their superior rifles, managed to inflict heavy casualties among the rebels from a safe distance, but their three attempts to follow up with frontal charges were repulsed by disciplined rebel fire. The Ottoman company lost about 30 killed or wounded. According to their custom the Ottomans ceased hostilities at nightfall, and the rebels split into two groups and managed to slip through the enemy lines to continue their forced march towards the mountains.
The next day passed without sighting the enemy, but at this point it was obvious that no local reinforcements could be expected. On the morning of 20 May Julian, sentries detected advancing bashi-bazouks and 5 companies of regular Ottoman troops. The men immediately took strong positions near Mount Okoltchitza. The defense was divided into two sectors, one commanded by Voinovski and the other by Botev. Soon two battalions of Ottoman regulars, led by Hassan Hairi Bey, assaulted Voinovski's fighters, while the bashi-bazouks concentrated on Botev's position. Voinovski's men, with concentrated fire, inflicted heavy losses on the advancing enemy and countered their attempts at encirclement. In their turn Botev's men repelled several bashi-bazouk attacks and drove the enemy back with a counterattack.
At dusk the fighting died down as the Ottomans again withdrew for the night. The rebels lost about 10 killed, and many more were wounded in the day's fighting. It was at this point, at dusk on 20 May 1876 (in the Julian calendar, equivalent to 1 June 1876 in the Gregorian calendar, but traditionally commemorated on 2 June, see below), that a single bullet, most probably fired by a concealed Ottoman sharpshooter, hit Botev in the chest, killing him instantly. After the death of their leader and chief inspiration, the company suffered a serious drop in morale and began to disperse. Very few managed to evade capture or death. In all, 130 company members were killed and most of the others captured and imprisoned or executed.
Botev was survived by his wife, Veneta, daughter, Ivanka, and stepson, Dimitar.
Botev's image was methodically built up as a revolutionary icon by 19th-century Post-Liberation intellectuals and authors, most notably by Zahari Stoyanov and Ivan Vazov. The more controversial aspects of his past, including his anarchist and early socialist views, were deliberately toned down in order not to offend Bourgeois sensibilities. Ironically, his past association with Russian anarchists helped the Communist propaganda of the second half of the 20th century to paint him as the pioneer of Bulgarian socialism and thus perpetuate his cult. Consequently, as with any super-exposed public figure with controversy in their past, over the years Botev has on numerous occasions become the target of sensationalist 'discoveries' predominantly in the tabloid press.
In 1875 Botev published his poetic works in a book called "Songs and Poems", together with his close associate Bulgarian revolutionary poet and future politician and statesman, Stefan Stambolov. Botev's poetry reflected the sentiments of the poor people, filled with revolutionary ideas, struggling for their freedom against both foreign and domestic tyrants. His poetry was influenced by the Russian revolutionary democrats and the figures of the Paris Commune. Under this influence, Botev rose both as a poet and a revolutionary democrat. Many of his poems are imbued with revolutionary zeal and determination, such as My Prayer ("Moyata molitva"), At Farewell ("Na proshtavane"), Hajduks ("Haiduti"), In the Tavern ("V mehanata"), and Struggle ("Borba"). Others are romantic, balladic (Hadzhi Dimitar), even elegiac. Perhaps the greatest of his poems is The Hanging of Vasil Levski ("Obesvaneto na Vasil Levski").
|To My Mother
|Към брата си
|Kam brata si
|To My Brother
|До моето първо либе
|Do moeto parvo libe
|To My First Love
|На прощаване в 1868 г.
|Na proshtavane v 1868 g.
|At Farewell in 1868
|St. George's Day
|Защо не съм...?
|Zashto ne sam...?
|Why am I not...?
|Послание (на св. Търновски)
|Poslanie (na sv. Tarnovski)
|Epistle (to the Bishop of Tarnovo)
|In the Tavern
|Зададе се облак темен
|Zadade se oblak temen
|A Dark Cloud Is Coming
|Обесването на Васил Левски
|Obesvaneto na Vasil Levski
|The Hanging of Vasil Levski
In 1885 a commemoration committee was founded on the anniversary of Botev's death, 20 May/1 June. A monument was erected on the main square of Vratsa in 1890 in the presence of King Ferdinand. Some of the most prominent Bulgarians in the history of the newly independent country, such as Stefan Stambolov and Zahari Stoyanov, devoted much attention to Botev and his deeds for Bulgaria. Soon, Botev became a mythical figure in the Bulgarian National Revival, and is even today commemorated as one of the two greatest Bulgarian revolutionaries, alongside Vasil Levski. A replica of the Danube steamship Radetzky which he commandeered that brought him to Bulgaria was rebuilt using money raised by over 1 million students in 1966 and is now preserved as a museum ship.
Every year at exactly 12:00 on 2 June, air raid sirens throughout Bulgaria sound for a minute to honour Hristo Botev and those who died for the freedom of Bulgaria. People stand still for 2 to 3 minutes until the sirens stop.
(Although according to the Gregorian calendar Hristo Botev died on 1 June 1876, his death is commemorated on 2 June. This tradition has arisen since Bulgarian adoption of the Gregorian calendar in 1916: the 20th-century gap of 13 days was added instead of the 19th-century gap of 12 days.)
The following are named after Hristo Botev:
... Christo Boteff (1847–1876), lyric poet, whose ode on the death of his friend Haji Dimitr, an insurgent leader, is one of the best in the language,
((cite web)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)