THE LEVSKI ENIGMA

Prof. D.Sc. Ivaylo Hristov

For nearly a century and a half, the interest in the personality and work of Vasil Levski has not decreased. With the power of his ideas, with the scale of his broad scope as an organizer and politician, he is respected by everyone: from the left, the right, the intellectual areas and among the unenlightened strata of society. In the Bulgarian national consciousness Levski is the "saint of Bulgaria", the beginning and communion for every Bulgarian. The national poet Ivan Vazov placed him next to the Savior, and one of his companions, unknown by name, after he exclaimed, "We have no second Levski in the world."  In the personality of the Apostle of Freedom the most attractive traits of the Renaissance worker come together: revolutionary firmness and mental fortitude; bravery and nobility; democratism and rigor; moral strength and devotion to the cause.
By founding the Internal Revolutionary Organization (IRO) Levski was the first to realize the idea that the Bulgarian people should not wait for their liberation from outside, but should win it themselves by rising up in a revolution. And he himself proceeded to the realization of this goal. For him, only a well-organized and prepared revolution had the meaning and the chance to succeed. And only such a liberation movement would preserve Bulgaria from foreign encroachments and make us masters of our destiny.

Levski is undoubtedly the most famous person among the Bulgarians, but at the same time he is also a revolutionary and political figure, whose life path and work hide a number of mysteries. For example: was he an ideologist of the secret Internal Revolutionary Organization or was he just a practitioner who laid its organizational foundations? When and how did his activities become known to the Turkish police? Why did such an experienced revolutionary return to Lovech on December 24, 1872, (on his way to Bucharest), when he knew that he was in danger there? Was he betrayed in Kakrina or did he fall into the trap of the gendarme himself?  Is he buried in a Christian way, and if so, where is his grave? After all, such is the dying wish of the Apostle, expressed to Nikola Tsvyatkov on their way from Tarnovo to Sofia: "If I am hanged, at least I will have my grave in Bulgaria and everyone will know it, and if they send me into exile, I will rot my bones far away." And the most important question: did Levski really believe that Bulgaria would free itself primarily with the forces of its people, given that he had many reasons to be reserved for such a prospect: the presence of the huge and strong army of the Ottoman Empire, the lack of funds and weapons in the committees, the lack of international support, Russia's passivity to the Bulgarian national liberation movement in this period, etc.  In short, there is hardly a more famous and at the same time more unknown personality in our history than Levski. Every Bulgarian carries him in his heart, but who he really was, what kind of man was he whom "the peasants called a saint" - no one knows.

Without a doubt, the most interesting aspect in all these mysteries is the person himself – the man Vasil Levski! His character and spirit. Because Levski is also interesting with the history he creates, but also with his inner drama and suffering of a great person who has outgrown his contemporaries, because he has realized all their pros and cons. The Apostle's self-possession is striking. In this respect, he is unique. Not because he was brave, there are many like him. Not for being a great patriot, even Rakovsky or Botev were lesser patriots compared to him.  But because of his ability to perfectly control his feelings and conscience. This is something exceptional and not found in our other revolutionaries. Levski enters the memory of his people with the example of self-sacrifice, humanity and selflessness. For the sake of Bulgaria's freedom, the Apostle gave up all earthly joys except one - to fight for the political independence of his homeland. Most of his daily life was spent in touring towns, villages, neighborhoods and monasteries, in secret meetings and assemblies, in fiery sermons, in letter-writing, and in incessant outwitting of traitors and rogues. On horseback or on foot, he was never for a moment safe, seldom had a free moment, and yet no one heard him complain. Most of his contemporaries remembered him for his beaming smile, his great speech skills and the rebellious songs he sang even in the cold and frost - as Hristo Botev wrote about him in a letter and called him "an extraordinary man". No one saw him smoking, drinking rakia or wine, heard him swearing and falling into mental breakdowns. Levski's fearlessness was combined with a clear, agile and sober mind, with a capacity for deep insights.


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