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Bulgaria Marks 146th Death Anniversary of National Hero and Revolutionary Hristo Botev

Bulgarian national hero, revolutionary, poet and journalist Hristo Botev (1848-1876) followed in the footsteps of Georgi Rakovski and Vassil Levski (the Apostle of Freedom) as ideologists and strategists of the revolutionary movement for Bulgaria’s liberation from Ottoman rule in the 1860s and 1870s. 
An internationalist, democrat and socialist by conviction, Botev stood up for the rights of the Bulgarian people to self-awareness and self-government and saw revolution as the only means of resolving the Bulgarian national question. As a self-proclaimed radical revolutionary, he took a stand against the exploitation of the socially disadvantaged. Botev did not leave a large body of literary and journalist works, but its artistic merit qualifies it as a peak achievement of Bulgarian literature at large and of the Revival Period in particular. 
Botev was born in Kalofer (Central Bulgaria) on December 25, 1847 (New Style January 6, 1848) to the family of teacher, writer and public figure Botyo Petkov and Ivanka Boteva. Hristo studied in Karlovo, Kalofer and Odessa, where he developed an interest in Russian literature and journalism and first tried his hand at poetry. In 1865 he was expelled from an Odessa secondary school for “negligence”, as he refused to comply with strict discipline, routinely skipped classes, fought with schoolmates and treated teachers arrogantly. 
Botev returned to Kalofer in 1867 to take over teaching from his ill father. On April 15,1867, his first poem “To My Mother” appeared in the Gaida newspaper, published in Constantinople by Petko Rachov Slaveykov.
On May 11, 1867, when Sts Cyril and Methodius are celebrated as enlighteners of the Slavs, Botev gave a fiery revolutionary speech and was forced to leave Kalofer and emigrate to Romania, where he entered the community of Bulgarian revolutionary emigres.
In the summer of 1868 Botev joined a detachment led by Zhelyo Voyvoda, in which he was appointed clerk. That is when he wrote the poem “On Parting”. The detachment fell apart and, contrary to plans, did not cross into Bulgaria.
Botev was in close contact with fellow Bulgarian revolutionaries in Romania and moved from town to town, working as a teacher. At his lowest point, in November-December 1868, he lived together with Levski in an abandoned mill near Bucharest.
After 1871, Botev focused on journalism and poetry and edited several Bulgarian newspapers in Romania. His articles and poems appeared in his and other such periodicals. Botev’s only book that was published during his lifetime, in September 1875, was Songs and Poems, a collection of pieces written by him and his close associate Stefan Stambolov, who would be Bulgaria’s prime minister in 1887-1894. Botev’s most famous poetic works include “My Prayer” ,”Hajduks”, “In the Tavern”, “Struggle”, and “Hadji Dimitar”. “The Hanging of Vasil Levski” is his most praised poem. The author’s most iconic line, “He does not die who falls in battle, fighting for freedom”, comes from “Hadji Dimitar”.
In all his works Botev unmasks socio-political oppression, discusses the fate of Bulgarians and other subjugated peoples, and calls for national and global revolution. His poetry intertwines elegy and satire with ode and pathos, whereas scathing criticism predominates in his prose.
In July 1875 Botev contracted a civil marriage with divorcee Veneta Vezireva. Their only child, a daughter named Ivanka, was born on April 13, 1876. 
After Levski’s execution in 1873 dealt a blow to the Bulgarian revolutionary movement, Hristo Botev headed the Bulgarian Revolutionary Central Committee (BRCC). 
At that time, the movement was in a severe crisis, torn between more moderate and more radical tendencies, with Botev spearheading the latter. A revolt in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1875 inspired Botev and Stambolov to expect a rebellion to follow soon in Bulgaria. They assumed that the turmoil in the Balkans should be spurred on to make sure that the Great Powers would take notice. An uprising broke out in Stara Zagora (Southeastern Bulgaria) in September 1875, but it was poorly organized and was quickly suppressed.
The precipitate outbreak of the uprising and its failure led to serious divisions in the BRCC. As a result, Botev resigned at the end of 1875, and the Committee ultimately dissolved itself. Nevertheless, the poet was adamant that he would not give up his revolutionary activities.
On April 20, 1876, Bulgarians, then part of the Ottoman Empire since 1396, embarked on their most massive attempt to regain their independence, known in history as the April Uprising. 
Resolved to join the revolt, Botev formed a detachment which boarded the Austro-Hungarian steamer Radetzky in Giurgiu, Romania, on May 16 and on the following day commandeered the ship and forced it to land them on the Bulgarian bank of the Danube near Kozloduy. On board the Radetzky, Botev wrote a farewell letter to his wife, newborn daughter and stepson Dimitar, which is now considered as a part of his literary works. The letter concludes: ”My dear Veneta, […] you mist know, that after my homeland, I have loved you best of all”.
From Kozloduy, Botev’s detachment headed for the Balkan Range, passing through a dozen villages. However, very few Bulgarians joined the insurgents, contrary to expectations. The detachment fought several battles with Ottoman troops. The uprising in the region never broke out, and on May 20 (New Style June 2), Hristo Botev was killed in circumstances that have never been cleared up. After his death, the detachment split into several groups which were crushed one by one.
Despite its tragic end, the April Uprising and the ensuing events evoked a strong reaction in the civilized world, just as Botev had predicted. Ultimately, Russia declared war on Turkey, as a result of which Bulgaria was liberated. 
Since 1901, Bulgaria has been officially marking the anniversary of Botev’s heroic death on June 2. Every year on this day, at 12 noon, two minutes of silence, signalled by sirens across the country, are observed in remembrance of Botev and the fallen for the country’s freedom and independence.