Hristo Botev

Portrait of Hristo Botev

Hristo Botev was a Bulgarian poet, newspaper editor and revolutionary leader and fighter. He was born on 6th January 1848 in Kalofer, Bulgaria and died on 1st June 1876 in the Vratsa Balkan Mountain.

Major Works

“Maytse Si” (To my Mother). (1867)
“Kam Brata Si” (To your brother) (1868)
“Hayduti” (Hajduks) (1871)
“Zadade se Oblak Temen” (A Dark Cloud Is Coming) (1873)
“Obesvaneto na Vasil Levski” (The Hanging of Vasil Levski) (1876)

Biography Timeline

Hristo Botev (originally Hristo Botyov Petkov) was born on 6th January 1848 in Kalofer, Bulgaria. His father was Botyo Petkov a teacher and a writer of the Bulgarian National Revival. His mother was Ivanka Boteva and he was brought up in an enlightened and patriotic household. He was one of eight siblings and attended a local school.

1854: His father moves to Karlovo to teach and gain a better salary and the family live in his grandmother’s house. He attends his father’s school.

1858: His father accuses the Karlovo municipality of financial irregularities and returns to Kalofer and the family move into Hadzhi Nestor’s house. 

1863: He moves to study in Odessa, Russia at the high school. He finds it difficult to fit in and misses many lessons due to the strict discipline and gets into fights with other pupils. He moves out of the boarding rooms and lives in his own lodgings. He spends much of his time in libraries reading mainly Russian authors on revolutionary democracy and western European revolutionary thought. He meets the philologist Victor Grigorovich. Eventually his scholarship is cancelled and he is expelled. He is given money to go back to Bulgaria. 

1864: During the summer he works on his poem “To My Mother”.

1865: He finally leaves school and spends two years teaching private students in Odessa and Bessarabia (modern Moldova). He makes connections with the Russian and Polish revolutionary movements and volunteers at the Historical and Philological Faculty of the Imperial Novorossiya University in Odessa. 

1867: He returns to Kalofer to be a teacher there as his father is ill. On 15th April “To My Mother” is published in the journal “Gaida” in Constantinople. His father insists he then goes back to Odessa to complete his education but instead in September he travels to Giugiu in Romania. He meets up with the leader of the Bulgarian Revolutionary Central Committee, Vasil Levski and other emigres such as Hadzhi Dimitar. He travels to Bucharest to attend the funeral of the revolutionary Georgi Rakovski on 12th October. 

1868: He publishes his next poem “Kam Brata Si” (To your Brother).

1869: He moves back to Bessarabia to teach but keeps in touch with the Bulgarian revolutionary movement and its leaders. 

1870: He writes Elegiya” (Elegy) and “Delba” (Division).

1871: In June he is made editor of the revolutionary newspaper “Duma na Bulgarskite Emigranti” (Word of the Bulgarian Emigrants) where he publishes some of his poetry including “Do moeto Parvo Libe” (To My First Love), “Na Proshtavane v 1868 g” (At Farewell in 1868), “Hayduti”  (Hajduks), “Pristanala” (Eloped) and “Borba” (Struggle). He also works for “Svoboda” (Liberty) a newspaper edited by the Bulgarian writer and revolutionary Lyuben Karavelov.

1872 Vasil Levski, the leader of the Bulgarian Rebels, is sent to prison by the Ottoman Empire authorities and Botev himself is imprisoned for his activities but soon released. The Bulgarian revolutionary committee splits into two factions. He and his supporters want an immediate uprising whilst moderate revolutionaries, led by Karavelov think it too early.

1873: He edits the satirical newspaper “Budilnik” (Alarm Clock) which takes aims at wealthy Bulgarians who are not part of the revolutionary movement and he writes “Gergyovden” (St. George’s Day), “Patriot”“Zashto ne Sam…?” (Why am I not…), “Poslanie (na sv. Tarnovski) (Epistle to the Bishop of Tarnovo), “V Mehanata” (In the Tavern), “Moyata Molitva” (My Prayer) and “Zadade se Oblak Temen” (A Dark Cloud Is Coming). Levski is executed by hanging on 19th February.

1875: He is elected as the leader of the Bulgarian Revolutionary Central Committee when Karavelov steps down due to illness and calls for an immediate revolution inspired by the revolt in Bosnia and Herzegovina. On 12th August the decision for national rebellion is taken. The result is an unsuccessful uprising in the city of Stara Zagora during September. He writes “Ney” (to Her).

1876: He writes “Obesvaneto na Vasil Levski” (The Hanging of Vasil Levski). He organises the April Uprising against the Ottoman occupation. He takes an armed group disguised as gardeners across the River Danube and they board the Austro-Hungarian steamship “Radetzky” and seize control. They disembark in the Bulgarian port of Kozloduy and proceed inland. He hears that other groups of rebels have not been prepared to fight and so decides to head for the safety of the Vratsa Mountains while trying to rouse the Bulgarians to join him on the way. However the Ottoman forces are overwhelming and the people are not willing to join. The Ottomans catch up with them on the Milin Kamak Hill about 50 kilometres from the river but are held off. Hostilities cease at nightfall and the rebels split into two groups and manage to slip through enemy lines to continue towards the mountains. The next day Ottoman reinforcements approach them near Mount Okoltchitza. The rebels hold off several attacks and inflict heavy losses on the Turks and mount a counter attack during which Botev is shot in the chest by a sniper. The rebels disperse and those who are not captured or killed manage to flee the scene.

Hristo Botev was shot and killed instantly by an Ottoman sniper on 1st June 1876 in the Vratsa Balkan Mountain. He was buried where he lay.