The Bulgarian Atrocity that Shocked The World
In April 2007 what was described as the British commissioner, Evelyn Baring, "as perhaps the most heinous crime that has stained the history of the present (19th) century" was bought back into the spotlight.
Art critic Martina Baleva and the German professor Ulf Brunnbauer, two historical researchers spurred public outrage in Bulgaria by claiming one of the most horrendous acts in its history, the Batak Slaughter, was a myth and the number of victims was exaggerated. This led to the EC warning the Bulgarian authorities to take action against people who subsequently sent the report authors death threats. The EC failed to criticize Baleva and Brunnbauer but their report that was set to be included in textbooks to teach German and French school children was eventually withdrawn.
The Batak massacre has not been well publicized and is more or less unknown by the people of most EU countries, unlike the Turkish atrocities in Armenia which receive constant media coverage. At one time however the eyes of the world's most powerful nations were focused on Bulgaria after some of the UK and US ‘s most famous journalists in the 19th century wrote about the shock they had felt when they visited the "horrific scene" at Batak and in the surrounding villages.
Batak was an important staging point for the Bulgarian April Uprising in 1876, in which Bulgarian rebels attempted to end the Ottoman Empire's domination over their country. The rebel city declared independence from the Turks and this announcement was reported to the Turkish authorities. What followed can only be described as mass murder on an unimaginable scale.
On April 30, 1876, 8 000 Turkish soldiers led by Ahmet Aga Barun surrounded the city. After a first battle, the men from Batak decided to negotiate with Ahmet Aga. He promised them the withdrawal of his troops under the condition that Batak disarms. After the rebels had laid down their weapons, the soldiers attacked the defenseless population. 5 000 people were massacred in Batak alone. The number of victims in the district of Philippopolis (Plovdiv) reached 15 000. The majority of the victims were beheaded.
American journalist A.J. MacGahan (grave above) was one of the first Westerners to arrive in Batak after the atrocities, his following report was printed in the London Daily News on August 22, 1876;
"...let me tell you what we saw at Batak.. .As we approached Batak our attention was drawn to some dogs on a slope overlooking the town...I observed nothing peculiar as we mounted until my horse stumbled, when looking down I perceived he had stepped on a human skull partly hid among the grass. It was quite hard and dry, and might, to all appearances, have been there two or three years, so well had the dogs done their work...As seen from our standpoint, it reminded one somewhat of the ruins of Herculaneum and Pompeii."
"The skulls were nearly all separated from the rest of the bones - the skeletons were nearly all headless. These women had all been beheaded....A little further on we came to an object that filled us with pity and horror. It was the skeleton of a young girl not more than fifteen lying by the roadside, and partly covered with the debris of a fallen wall. At the next house a man stopped us to show where a blind little brother had been burned alive, child. The number of children killed in these massacres is something enormous." MacGahan added.
Sveta Nedelya Church, Batak. (artofwar.homeip.net)
The Sveta Nedelya Church, in the town of Batak, is today a museum that contains the skulls and bones of several thousand Bulgarian women, children and old men who were butchered.
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