Bulgaria Mourns over National Hero's Death
Bulgaria is marking 144 years since Vasil Levski, the most respected national hero and freedom fighter, was hanged.
Levski was a historic figure of tremendous importance for the freedom movement in Bulgaria in the late 19th century, while the country was still a part of the Ottoman Empire.
Celebrations began on Saturday, February 18, across the country, and notably in his hometown Karlovo, while official commemorations in Sofia are due on Sunday.
In Sofia, the commemoration begins at 18:00 local time (EET), at the site of the monument.
There will also be a rally to Kakrinsko Hanche, the site where Levski was captured, in Lovech in northern Bulgaria.
Born on 18 July 1837, Levski became known as the Apostle of Freedom for his efforts on organizing and developing a strategy for the liberation of Bulgaria from Ottoman rule.
He fought for equal rights between Bulgarians and other subjects of the empire in a new republic he aspired to, but was sentenced to death and hanged during the preparations for the April Uprising of 1876.
He was the founder of the internal revolutionary organization which run a network of secret regional committees and sought the liberation of Bulgaria through a nationwide revolution.
Levski was also among the founders of the the Bulgarian revolutionary central committee run by Bulgarian emigrants in Bucharest.
He was captured by the Ottoman authorities in the Kakrina inn near Lovech on 27 December 1872. He was first taken for interrogation to Veliko Tarnovo and then sent to Sofia where he was tried and sentenced to death.
He was hanged close to Sofia in 1873 but his bravery inspired the people and eventually Bulgaria managed to secure its freedom during the Russo-Turkish War of 1878.
A monument was later built in his honor at the site of his death, which was back then on the outskirts but is now near the center of Sofia.
After the revolt, Russian forces joined the Bulgarian efforts and the Third Bulgarian Kingdom was established on March 3, 1878.
Far-right groups and other organizations have repeatedly been trying to use Levski's name as a symbol in the name of which a call for more nationalistic policies has to be made.
However, far more than being just a hero, Levski was a visionary who fought for replacing, through a revolution, "the current despotic and tyrannical system... with a democratic republic" where "Bulgarians, Turks, Jews, etc. will be equal in all aspects, be it in faith, be it in ethnicity, be it with regard to civil [rights]... all will be subjected to a common law which will be elaborated upon the agreement of all ethnicities."
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