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News 31 Oct 17

Monuments to Bulgarian Hero Sprout Around Globe

A new statue of the 19th century Bulgarian freedom fighter Vasil Levski has just been unveiled in Canada, as the fashion for putting up statues to him shows no sign of abating.

Mariya Cheresheva
BIRN
Sofia
Bulgaria's former President Rosen Plevneliev inaugurates a statue of leski in Buenos Aires. Photo: president.bg

Bulgarians gathered in front of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church of Saint Dimiter in the city of Brampton, Ontario, on Sunday to celebrate the unveiling of a monument to Bulgaria’s most beloved national hero Vasil Levski, the first erected in Canada.

It took only six months for a group of enthusiastic Bulgarian emigrants, diplomats and religious figures, to realize the idea for the monument, initially launched by Bulgaria’s honorary consul to Toronto, Petar Kraychev.

“Levski is not just a symbol of what we can achieve when we are together, but of the virtues which make us Bulgarians,” Kraychev told the group attending the inauguration.

He said the statue of the iconic revolutionary had been created by Bulgarian authors relying on private donations.

On July 18, Bulgaria marked the 180th anniversary of the birth of Vasil Ivanov Kunchev, known as Vasil Levski, or "the Apostle of Freedom".

A former Orthodox monk and teacher, Levski was a key strategist of the revolutionary movement for the liberation of Bulgaria from Ottoman rule in the 19th century.

Having lived as an emigrant among Bulgarian revolutionaries in Serbia and Romania, he returned to Bulgaria in 1870 to establish the International Revolutionary Organization – an innovative illegal network of revolutionary committees throughout the country.

His activism was based on the idea of creation of a “pure and sacred” Bulgarian republic, based on ethnic and religious equality, in line with the liberal ideas of the French Revolution.

He was arrested by the Ottoman police in December 1872 and hanged in Sofia on February 18, 1873.

His dedication to the liberation movement and his tragic death established Levski as an iconic figure in Bulgaria’s history and as an all-time hero.

The revolutionary is the most widely commemorated Bulgarian figure, with around 135 monuments throughout the country.

The number of Levski monuments created by Bulgarians abroad is also remarkable.

In 2016, the Bulgarian website uspelite.bg counted a total of 24 monuments around the globe. But the Common Bulgarian Committee Vasil Levski – an NGO engaged in preserving and spreading the ideas of the Bulgarian Enlightenment – told BIRN that the figure is tentative as new statues of the revolutionary are constantly appearing in different lands.

One of the first monuments of Levski abroad stands in a factory named after him in the Cuban city of Cienfuegos.

During the communist era, over 40,000 Bulgarians worked in Cuba, mostly in engineering and agriculture.

In the early 1980s, the Bulgarian workers involved in the construction of the Vasil Levski factory contacted Cuban sculptors who then erected the statue in the courtyard of the plant in 1981.

Other unexpected spots where statues of Bulgaria’s national hero can be seen are Las Brenas and Buenos Aires in Argentina and in Japan’s capital, Tokyo.

Not surprisingly, Levski monuments are most numerous in countries where large Bulgarian diasporas or minorities live, including Serbia, Moldova, Ukraine, Romania and the US.

 

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