Exploit of Botev’s

The epilogue of the April epopee was the exploit of Botev’s detachment. As soon as he heard about the up-rising, Botev recruited a detachment of 200 courageous revolutionaries and took Nikola Voinikovski, who has served in the Russian army, for his military adviser. On May 17, 1876, disguised as ordinary market-gardeners, the revolutionaries, divided in groups, boarded the Austrian packetboat Radetzki at different Romanian ports on the Danube. When the boat approached the village of Kozlodoui on the Bulgarian bank, the ‘market gardeners’ changed quickly into their uniforms of dapper revolutionaries and took possession of the boat, forcing the crew to enable them to disembark on the Bulgarian bank. As soon as Botev and his comrades descended on the bank, they kneeled down before the admiring eyes of the passengers and piously kissed the soil they had come to shed their blood for. From there the detachment set out for the Balkan Range, but the uprising had already been quelled, whereas the Vratsa district had not risen at all. After several fierce battles with the far superior Turkish forces, the detachment reached the Balkan Range near the town of Vratsa (Mounts Kamarata, Koupena and Okolchitsa near the Peak Vola) where it was surrounded on all sides by Turkish troops. Throughout the day on May 20, the revolutionaries kept repelling the attacks of the Turkish infantry and Circassian cavalry. When evening fell and the battle was already ending, a fatal bullet pierced Botev’s heart. In order to make their escape easier, the detachment broke into small groups and thus ended its existence as a military unit.

Liberation

The glorious April 1876 Uprising of the Bulgarian people ended in defeat, but it became a prelude to the people’s liberation. In the summer and early autumn of 1876 the Bulgarian question became the central issue in the long drawn-out Eastern Question — that about the destiny of the Balkan peoples enslaved by Turkey and about the fate of the Ottoman Empire itself. In spite of their close proximity to the Ottoman capital and the fact that they lived on the crossroads of the Empire’s vital arteries among compact masses of Turkish colonists, the Bulgarians had had the courage to rise in a desperate, resolute struggle to overthrow the unbearable foreign rule. This earned them the sympathy and admiration of the other European nations.

The Turkish authorities did their best to obliterate all traces of their inhuman atrocities in crushing the uprising, but the traces were so numerous and so horrible that even the little which was seen by foreign diplomats and jour-nalists was sufficient to arouse the profound indignation of world democratic public opinion. Knyaz Tseretelev, Russia’s vice-consul in Plovdiv, Eugene Schuyler, secretary of the United States embassy in Constantinople, and J. MacGahan, special correspondent of the British paper Daily News, undertook in early July, i. e. two months after the uprising, an investigation in the regions of Southern Bulgaria, which had risen.

 

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