You say you want a revolution? Will an uprising do? Back in 2002 the Monkey traveled to Koprivshtitsa, in Bulgaria’s Stara Planina Mountains, to learn about the village’s role in an uprising against the Ottoman Empire.
Koprivshtitsa is a medium-sized village in the Stara Planina (Old Mountains, or Balkan Range), the spine of mountains that bisects northern and southern Bulgaria. In April 1876, a group of local traders and intellectuals launched an uprising against Ottoman rule from the village. Here, the Monkey sits by the Bridge of the First Shot, the scene of the opening salvos of the uprising. Though unsuccessful militarily, the brutal repression unleashed on Bulgarian peasants by the Ottomans in response to the April Rising led to widespread outrage in the great cities of Europe and an outpouring of sympathy for the plight of Bulgaria’s oppressed masses.
The Russian Tsar Alexander II was riled enough that he raised an army to confront the Ottomans in Bulgaria; by 1878 the Russian forces had liberated their Slavic cousins in Bulgaria. The subsequent peace settlement between the Russian Tsar and the Ottoman Sultan granted Bulgaria significant autonomy, and the much-prized territory of Macedonia, something Bulgarian nationalists had long agitated for based on their cultural and linguistic commonalities with the Slavic population there. To the dismay of the Bulgarian proto-state and arguably to the detriment of the Balkans, at the Congress of Berlin later that year the Great Powers undid the Russo-Ottoman Treaty of San Stefano, removing Bulgaria’s rights to Macedonia and igniting the irredentist streak that continues to plague not just Bulgaria but the entire Balkan region.
Among the leaders of the revolutionary cells that led to the April 1876 Rising was Lyuben Karavelov, a writer and activist who argued for a pan-Slavic Balkan republic brought about by open revolt against the Ottomans. In this photo, the Monkey visits Karavelov’s house in Koprivshtitsa, one of six historic homes in the town that have been opened as museums.
The Monkey hangs out on one of Koprivshtitsa’s narrow streets. Visitors to Koprivshtitsa are often enchanted by the whimsical designs of the houses there. Many of Koprivshtitsa’s homes date from the 1860s and 1870s, a period referred to as Bulgaria’s National Revival due to the diminishing Ottoman influence and increasing nationalist agitation prevalent during the period. Plovdiv is another city renowned for its National Revival architecture.
Maimunka pauses for a photo on a corner in Koprivshtitsa. Behind him is one of the many beautiful National Revival houses, with their exterior painted adornments and rustic appearance, for which Koprivshtitsa is famous.
The Monkey inspects a marker on the Bridge of the First Shot, in Koprivshtitsa.
The Monkey relaxes on the porch of one of Koprivshtitsa’s historic homes. Where’s that rakia when you need it?
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