Remarks by the Speaker of the National Assembly Georgi Pirinski at the solemn meeting - tattoo on the occasion of the 133rd anniversary of the heroic deed of Hristo Botev and his detachment
1 June 2009, Vratsa
Esteemed Mayor of Vratsa Municipality,
Esteemed Regional Governor,
Members of Parliament,
Officers and Soldiers,
This year we mark the 130th anniversary of the Constituent Assembly and our first constitution; the 131st anniversary of the Liberation and the establishment of the Third Bulgarian State. All these developments, however, are preceded by the tragic glory of the events whose 133rd anniversary we do homage today – the April epopee and the martyr’s self sacrifice of Hristo Botev and his detachment.
There is hardly anything substantial that could be added to what has already been said about Botev throughout the years. Like this for example: Botev’s personality, his life and valor, his poetry all reflect genuinely Bulgarian traits, the Bulgarian nation’s best features – their perseverance and strength, the flexibility of the slave who has survived 5-centuries long oppression, the adherence to nature, home and family, the modesty and work-lovingness, the purposefulness and endless strive for freedom and social justice.
Or this: Hristo Botev is a poet, fighter, builder, messenger and man of wisdom. Through him we have come to understand our people, to love freedom, to like the past and foresee the future. Botev is not only a herald of our time, he is also our contemporary:
“Don’t you see?
Botev does shine in our eyes,
Botev is here, with the people” –
Nikola Vaptsarov exclaimed in May 1941.
And also: Botev has been and will be our spiritual daily bread, our war trumpet and our brightest individual, national and human dream…And since he has achieved a profound self-implementation, Botev like no one else has managed to cast a bridge to the vast community of mankind.
Nevertheless, both surprisingly and naturally, during his lifetime as well as decades following his death, Botev’s volcanic personality and stormy activities, his inimitable poetry and captivating political journalism keep evoking diametrically opposite opinions and most bitter criticism. His contemporaries – all acknowledged intellectuals, refer quite skeptically to his poems, many are shocked and scandalized by his bold behavior of no compromise.
In the early 20th century, during the 1920s, a work comes into being, trying to describe the “moral image of this sinister person”; the same person becomes subject to “dissection” by the then trendy psychoanalysis. A similar attempt was made during the last decade of the past century. To come to the year 2005 when Botev’s journalistic works drop out of the university candidate-students’ synopsis for being incomprehensible to modern children…and for not speaking the modern language of tolerance!
However, we can see one question popping behind this cross-purpose talking: whose is Botev in fact, who are they who actually have both the grounds for and the willingness to recognize him as theirs? Here we encounter another paradox: on the one hand, during that same early 20th century there was an overwhelming aspiration towards appropriating Botev’s personality – as a founder of the Bulgarian army, as the first Bulgarian soldier, as all but the first Bulgarian tourist…On the other hand, a considerable part of the so called intellectual and nouveau-democratic elite distanced themselves from his figure and messages.
All was in vain, for the people had long ago and forever entwined the great poet and revolutionary into their spiritual essence and into their self-conscience as a community. But today it is worth trying anew to discover the magic key to this sublime testimony of Botev’s immortality.
In this context and namely today it is worth recalling an indicative episode of his life, i.e. his spontaneous outburst at the celebration of the two brothers, Cyril and Methodius, held on 11 May 1867 in his native Kalofer. His contemporaries describe him as a 20-year old youth, tall and lean, with hair down to the shoulders, with dark slim moustache, black beard and eyes dark and bright, with amiable but piercing look.
On the festive occasion teachers deliver speeches on knowledge, education and progress – all under the shadow of the sultan who has allegedly granted his subjects rights so that they could develop and prosper. Then young Botev comes to the floor and goes: “I did not mean to speak before being challenged to do so by those who put the people to sleep and deceive them by saying that the sultan has granted and will grant them spiritual rights as well as political. All this is eyewash and new chains for new yoke and tyranny. What we do need is freedom and true rights that are not achieved by prayer and blessings…”
How deeply he was influenced by the work of the first teachers is apparent from the mature Botev’s article on the two brothers, published in May 1875, exactly a year before his death:
„There are pages, on which the Bulgarian genius has kept a record of eminent events endowing us with the right to be proud of the fact that we have also once contributed to the history of human progress… But as Bulgarians and preachers of freedom, brotherhood and rapprochement among Slavs, it is our duty to see the significance of the day on which we commemorate our two brothers, equal to the Apostles…
11 May has become a national holiday, reminding us of our past and our present day, a holiday that has to inspire us with the idea of total spiritual and political liberation… This very day has to be a celebration of our revolution and our freedom; not an ecclesiastic memorial service and empty speeches, but a way to winning Liberty!”
Here it is - the synthesis of Hristo Botev’s credo; here we see a vivid amalgamation of national consciousness and pride in the Bulgarian historic contribution to the world civilization, inseparably linked and intertwined with the irreconcilable striving for freedom. This is why today, and in the days to come, Botev’s greatness remains intangible to stupidity, meanness and indifference.
But this is not enough. He calls on us to be faithful to moral imperatives such as learning, philanthropy and equality; true to constant and uncompromised defying of injustice and demagogy surrounding us. The response we owe him rests entirely with us.