The misunderstood saints of freedom

The feat of the heroes of Perushtitsa from 1876 as the supreme sacrifice in the conscious martyrdom of the new Bulgarian saints


In 1785, the French diplomat Comte de Hoterive wrote: "There are now ten times fewer Christians in Bulgaria than there were 40 years ago (without emigration)." Thousands of Muslim men and women who did not want to seek salvation in Islam perished in ominous torture.

Paying tribute to voivodes and comites, researchers of our past miss the most amazing detachment from the dawn of our revival - the Bulgarian holy warriors from the second half of the eighteenth century to the first half of the nineteenth century. they were looking for pashas, qadis and imams. They were not ambushed by an ambush in the alleys. They were found in the most private mosques, or in Turkish courts. Moreover - when inside was full of their devoted people. Then they came face to face not surrounded by bombs. Not armed with a pistol, or even a knife. The battle in which they were involved was an idea - a dispute over morality in the defense of the faith.

Readers know that in the Qur'an, Muhammad forbids his followers to attack an unarmed person. The Ottomans certainly disregarded his covenant that "there should be no compulsion in religion," because "forced faith is not faith." If they zealously followed and followed the advice of their prophet, Muslims should only win for the "pagans" because Islam is dedicated to the Scriptures (as the Bible calls them), which its teachings acknowledge. But apparently, for centuries, ignorant and immoral people have been in power because evil has been dismantled into an enemy of Christ's teaching.

On November 28, 1748, Hristo Gradinar was killed in Constantinople in defense of his Christian faith.

On January 16, 1771, the battle for the faith was won on the gallows in Svishtov by the abbot of the Hilendar Monastery, hieromonk Damaskin (Gabrovski).

That is why the God-inspired Bulgarians shared a sacred battle to defeat morally with the power of Christianity the unworthy rulers who changed Mohammed's ideas. In the Ottoman Empire, the omnipotence of Kardzhali reigned and violence was reduced to a production operation in the mass livelihood of robbery, so in a moral battle with other oppressors stood up Christians who could prove their unwavering faith in the greatness of Christ's ideas only by asking Him. . Soon the adherents of Orthodoxy on Mount Athos began to consciously support forcibly circumcised young, proud in spirit and with a bright national feeling Bulgarians who could publicly renounce their imposed Islam. This, of course, inevitably condemned them to violent death, but the Church immediately canonized them as saints and increased the defenders of our people before God.

When 16-year-old John sought salvation for his soul on Mount Athos because he could not reconcile himself to being forcibly circumcised by the Turks, the mentors chosen by the church clergy surrounded the young man with special care for being called to perform a feat. Well prepared for the extraordinary ordeal, in the spring of 1784 he left Mount Athos and on March 5 appeared, dressed as a Muslim, in the former Constantinople Church of St. Sophia.

Although the Turks had long ago turned it into a mosque, as soon as he entered, he ostentatiously began to be baptized in front of the gathered Muslims for prayer and, telling them how he was humiliated by their rite, he professed his Christian faith ... They failed to dissuade him that he could not reject Islam, and they were forever ashamed of their weakness - they beheaded him.

On October 18, 1895, after a great moral victory, she rose to the gallows - alive skinned in torture, but she did not give up her faith! - the beautiful girl Zlata from the village of Slatina, Maglen diocese. Hieromonk Timothy, pro-abbot of the Stavronikita monastery on Mount Athos, who had been the spiritual mentor of her family as a priest, came to support her.

On April 23, 1802, Lazar Nedkov Enchov from the Gabrovo village of Debel Dyal also ascended to his tormentors in Anatolia. His support came from the sorcerer, who appeared between the tortures - to encourage him secretly.

Luka Atanasov from Edirne was also circumcised by force - not in wild fields or palanquins, but in Constantinople - at the age of 13. In Mount Athos he was received in the hermitage "St. John the Forerunner", built just below the peak of Little Mount Athos by the Bulgarian saint Dionysius of Mount Athos in 1380 and in this secluded holy place he was prepared for the ordeal. When he was ready for a feat and boarded a ship for the city of Mytilene, his mentor Visarion went with him. When he confessed in the local court that Islam had been imposed on him by force, the Turks apparently did not remember Muhammad's covenant. After trying everything from the range of Asian atrocities to defeat Luke, on March 23, 1802, they led him to the gallows.

"May Christ come and set you free!" - the ordinary Muslims from the crowd rejoiced.

To which Luke replied with a smile:

"I will not set me free because I want to die of love for Him!"

On May 14, 1802, Rayko Zlatarya also morally defeated the Turks of Shumen, who forced him to convert to Islam, and chose immortality by being alive and then beheaded. But the monstrous tortures he endured made him legendary ...

However, hieromonk Nikita was chosen to perform a feat in a famous mosque. It was also prepared at Mount Athos. But his task was much more complicated - he was obliged to defeat in a dispute over the strength of faith the then famous ulema (theologian and jurist) in the Muslim school at the Ahmed Pasha Mosque in Siar, where there was a glorious Islamic in those years school. For the debate, which began on April 1, 1808 (then the day of Holy Wednesday!), A large audience was convened - the Turks relied on the fact that this time the Christian would find his master. But Nikita won. Then he was tortured in prison - to give up. Day after day. He was not broken and he hung on the gallows. On April 4!

In the mysterious Mount Athos hermitage "St. John the Forerunner" Procopius of Varna also received his temper, winning a battle with the kadi in the court of Smyrna. a shameful attempt to break his faith.

The next saint trained in the hermitage was Ivan Georgiev from Stara Zagora. With the dedication he took the name Ignatius, and for a feat he was sent to the Turkish capital and there shone on October 8, 1814 - he was hanged at the historic entrance to the town of Parmak Kapu.

Soon Atanas from Novo Selo, Thessaloniki, followed him on the same path. With their dedication to the great scheme, their common mentors gave him the name Akaki. He was so zealous to earn the right to martyrdom that "his eyes became two constantly flowing springs of abundant tears." But when the moment came for his slaughter in Constantinople on May 1, 1819, he shouted "with special joy" and without trembling to his executioner:

"Let go of your sword!" But - boldly and accurately!

Just as the "old men" Nicephorus and Acacius were extremely good mentors in the preparation of those called to the hermitage, Gregory the Peloponnese proved to be irreplaceable as a companion to the place of death of the chosen one. This "experienced, reasonable and revered" monk accompanied, documented and established the heroic death of the next called - Matei Dechov from Gabrovo. Passed the same path of preparation in "St. John the Forerunner ”, the young man accepted with a great scheme his name for eternity - Onuphrius - and defended it on January 4, 1818. But as the Turkish authorities became more vigilant and it became more and more difficult for each subsequent envoy to achieve inevitable death, the island of Chios was chosen as the site of his martyrdom - he was beheaded there.

To the majority of the uninitiated, it will now sound strange that the escort's task was to bring the body of the deceased martyr back to Mount Athos, because these were already relics of a saint! And what a powerful weapon this was in those years we can judge by the reaction of the Turkish authorities in Chios - so that no Christian can get any relic from the body, robe and even the blood of St. Onifriy Gabrovski, they ordered several Turks to load in one boat not only the body of the slain sufferer, but also the scraped soil from his place of death, so they threw everything into the sea.

(Their effort not to leave a lump, a drop of blood from the martyr, was in vain. The holy miracle happened again: the Christians of the island rose in revolt, in which 23,000 slaughtered and 47,000 sold into slavery Orthodox forced the Turks to show the benevolent to Constantinople Europe how weak they are in humanity!)

Supported by skilled spiritual mentors, Joan Dimov from the present-day town of Omurtag (hanged in Tarnovo on July 16, 1822) and Dimitar Ivanov from Sliven, who were beheaded in front of their fellow citizens on January 28, 1841, also defended their original Christian faith. ) 

This handwriting of self-sacrifice is evident in the fate of many of the activists of the subsequent national liberation movement. There are countless examples of the great martyrdom of revolutionaries, but no one has prepared them for saints.

However, the arena for the supreme manifestation of this readiness for self-sacrifice became the stone church "St. Archangel Michael ”in the center of Perushtitsa. At the end of April 1876, after seven days of stubborn defense against the bloodthirsty and looting bashibozuk hordes of neighboring Muslim villages, Circassian cavalry and five herds regular army with two squadrons under the general command of Rashid Pasha, 600 people, mostly women and children, took refuge. in the temple. Along with the methodical shooting of the army, the Turks also opened cannon fire on the sacred building. When on May 1 the sanctuary, destroyed by various countries, could no longer contain the thugs, the most active leaders of the uprising, such as Spas Ginev, Ivan Dinev, Gocho Mishev and Kocho Chistemenski, survived upstairs - in the women's section of the church. where their favorite were hidden. Above, above the tumult of the intruders, in the face of the shameless atrocities seen by the oppressors, though without the spiritual mentors sent for the occasion, the devoted men, women, and children of Christ chose to free the angelic spirit from their bodies in order to be saved from defilement if non-believers subjected them to perversions.

Spas Ginov with his revolver shot five of his six young children (the biggest one he managed to hide between the sacks of flour and rusks) and his pregnant 32-year-old beautiful woman Giurgiu. Before turning the barrel towards him, his married sisters Lyuliana and Nikolina and his niece Yagoda asked him for the same deliverance.

Ivan Tilev, married for only a year, killed his wife of God and his great-grandmother, who desperately asked him "for this mercy." When he turned to his three-month-old girl, Mariyka, his weapon was snatched away and he ran outside and was shot in the yard.

Gocho Michev, also recently adopted, shot his wife Velika, his child Atanas and himself ...

In addition to his wife Teohana and daughter Raina, Kocho Chistemenski also shot dead his cousin, whom he had brought from Plovdiv when the uprising began.

Mitra Pavlyova, whose husband had already died, went from person to person to shoot her, while one took pity on her…

Teacher Bota and her mother also begged insistently for this last mercy, until Stoyko Manastirski could not refuse them… Kosta R. Arachiev, a student at the Plovdiv High School, whose father was viciously killed by the Turks, shot himself so as not to fall alive into their hands…Brides and maidens begged Spas Ikimcheto to give them poison, or to kill them. Giurgiu, the wife of the heroic Dimitar Malinchov, who recently died, tried to strangle herself with the strings of her apron. Women who could not find a Bulgarian to kill them smashed their heads in the monastery walls…

Thus, as holy martyrs in Christ, 23 victims (according to the chronicler of the events Ivan Kepov) or 32 (according to the report of the commander of the combined forces of the army and bashibozuka Rashid Pasha) escaped new suffering.

Apostol Raichev, who had just driven his 23rd birthday, even shot himself just as Rashid Pasha appeared through the burnt monastery door, even though the Turk shouted at him: "Don't be afraid, son, there is nothing left!"

Two girls themselves chose to burn in the church, instead of coming out of the flames and leaving themselves in the hands of the other believers ...

I regret that the Holy Synod of the BOC did not conceive of the feat of these daring martyrs from Perushtitsa as the culmination of the great crusade with which the new Bulgarian martyrs in Christ paved the way through the Bulgarian Revival to the resurrection of the Bulgarian state. I understand their shock at the unusual display of devotion to the paternal faith. But I am convinced that God has long sheltered in his most holy environment the souls of these patriots, who could bring victory over the invaders-non-believers only by the power of their spirit, supported by the Holy Spirit!

It would be worthy for them to enter our Orthodox churches canonically along with the holy martyrs from Batak and Novo Selo, because - as long as they read McGahan's letters - they will be convinced that they mostly performed the miracle of the Liberation!


Author Hristo Bukovski


Kocho Chestimenski,

St. Damascene, from Gabrovo, 

Abbot of Hilendar - hanged in Svishtov on January 16, 1771. 

Spas Ginov,

St. Onufri