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VASSIL LEVSKI - THE APOSTLE OF FREEDOM

The transition from a tactics of volunteer detachments to the creation of an internal revolutionary organization was connected with the activity of the legendary apostle of Bulgarian freedom Vassil Ivanov Kunchev - Levski. He was born on 6 July 1837 in Karlovo. 14 years old, he lost his father and took care of the family together with his mother Gina. He became servant with his uncle, the monk of the Hilendar monastery Vassiliy. With his help Vassil continued his education in the secondary school in Stara Zagora and in the seminary. He became a deacon under the name of Ignatiy. Under the influence of Rakovski, he cast off the cassock in 1 861 and, as he himself wrote, dedicated his life to his fatherland - "to serve it till I die and work by the will of the people". In 1862 he took part in the First Bulgarian Legion of Rakovski in Belgrade where he received the name Levski (lev - lion). In 1867 he was standard-bearer in the detachment of Panayot Hitov and together with other members of the detachment enrolled in the Second Bulgarian Legion (1867 - 1868).

With the help of the "Bulgarian society" in Bucharest Vassil Levski undertook his first tour of Bulgarian territories (11 December 1868 - 24 February 1869), which confirmed his conviction that the success of a future uprising depended on careful preparations in Bulgaria. After his return to Wallachia, with the help of "Young Bulgaria", he prepared a new tour (1 May - 26 August 1869) during which he probably organized the first revolutionary committees in Lovech, Pleven, Karlovo, Sopot and other places, hi the autumn of 1869 Levski took part in the formation of the Bulgarian Revolutionary Central Committee (BRCC) in Bucharest and in May 1870 went to Bulgaria again and built the Internal Revolutionary Organization. Levski set the beginning of a complete turn in the Bulgarian liberation movement. In his opinion, a Bulgarian national revolution should be prepared by building an internal network of committees. Till the spring of 1872 he realized his plan. About the middle of 1871 the committee network was built in Moesia and Thrace, it had supporters in Macedonia and Dobrudzha. A command centre was set up - the Central Committee in Lovech (Provisional Bulgarian Government), hi the summer of 1871 Levski prepared a draft of the Statute of the BRCC ("Nareda") which defined the major goal of the struggle: "a national revolution must transform entirely the existing system of despotism and tyranny and replace it with a democratic republic (rule of the people)..." At the first general meeting of the BRCC, held on 29 April - 5 May 1872, Levski was appointed "main apostle of Bulgaria, Thrace and Macedonia". In the name of organizational unity he made compromises with Lyuben Karavelov, left Bucharest and continued his activity as apostle in Bulgarian territories. The upsurge in the liberation movement was stopped by the robbery of the Turkish mail in Arabakonak on 22 September 1872, organized by D. Obshti. Facing failure, Karavelov appealed to Levski in the beginning of November 1872 to declare an uprising immediately. The apostle disagreed energetically considering such a premature uprising a useless adventure. "We are not prepared at all", he claimed, i.e. the political success of the uprising was not guaranteed. In this critical situation Levski headed for Bucharest. On his way to the Romanian capital he was captured by the Turkish police in Kukrina tavern near Lovech. He was brought before a special court and sentenced to death. On 8/18 February 1873 the ominous gallows, on which he was executed, become part of the pantheon of Bulgarian freedom for ever.

The execution of Vassil Levski brought about a serious crisis in the BRCC. The whole period between 1873 and 1875 was connected with the attempts to overcome this crisis. Karavelov discontinued the publication of the newspaper independence" and after 26 December 1874 he retired from active revolutionary activity. In December 1875 he started publishing the newspaper "Banner", which becomes the printed organ of the BRCC.

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