Georgi Sava Rakovski

Georgi Rakovski

Bulgarian revolutionary and writer
Born 1821 (1821)
Kotel, Bulgaria (at this time Ottoman empire)
Died 9 October 1867(1867-10-09) (aged 45–46)
Bucharest, Romania

Georgi Stoykov Rakovski (Bulgarian: Георги Стойков Раковски) (1821 – 9 October 1867), known also Georgi Sava Rakovski (Bulgarian: Георги Сава Раковски), born Sabi Stoykov Popovich (Bulgarian: Съби Стойков Попович), was a 19th-century Bulgarian revolutionary,freemason, writer and an important figure of the Bulgarian National Revival and resistance against Ottoman rule.


Early life

Born in Kotel to a wealthy and patriotic family, he attended monastery schools in his hometown and in Karlovo, and in 1837, went to study in the Greek Orthodox College in Istanbul.[1] In 1841, he was sentenced to death whilst involved in revolutionary plans against the Turks, but thanks to a Greek friend, managed to escape to France. A year-and-a-half later, he returned to Kotel, only to be arrested again in 1845. Sent to Istanbul for seven years of solitary confinement, he was released in May 1848.

He decided to remain in Istanbul, where he worked as a lawyer and tradesman, and took part in campaigns for a Bulgarian national church. Rakovski was soon arrested once more, this time due to his creation of a secret society of Bulgarians to assist the Russians in the Crimean War. While being deported to Istanbul, he escaped, and gathered together a group of rebels. In June 1854, he was transferred to Bulgaria.

Literary work

Between 1854 and 1860, Rakovski spent his time writing, publishing reviews, and avoiding arrest.

He penned his best-known work, Gorski Patnik (translated as A Traveller in the Woods or Forest Wanderer), while hiding from Turkish authorities near Kotel during the Crimean War (1853–56). Considered one of the first Bulgarian literary poems, it was not actually published until 1857.[2] The published version differed from the first version, in that it had a clearer plot and improved style.

The plot concerns a Bulgarian man who recruits a rebel group to mutiny against the Turks. Rakosvki's aim in writing this was to awaken the people's spirit to fight for freedom and to take revenge on the Turks for their cruelty. The novel opens with the main character admiring the beauty of nature on the Bosporus. A preoccupation with national problems and lack of freedom clouds his mind, and he encourages others to join him in a revolt. As the insurgents travel toward Bulgaria, the reader takes in their courage and trials of the journey. The work is said to “unite all the ideology, hopes and beliefs” of the Bulgarian people in their brave fight against the yoke.

Rakovski left Gorski Patnik incomplete. Written in archaic language, it was difficult to read, but still had a great influence in society.

Revolutionary work

Bulgarian Haiduts, CE 1867, by Rakovski

1861 saw him in Belgrade organising a Bulgarian legion, and travelling through Europe recruiting support for his country’s cause. While his radical views often met opposition from more moderate minds, his writings incited youth to go against the Turks. It was in this year that he wrote his Plan for the Liberation of Bulgaria.[3] Many young people rallied under his flag to fight the Ottomans alongside the Serbs. However the conflict between Serbia and the Ottoman empire was soon resolved and the legion was dissolved.[4]

Rakovski moved to Bucharest where he continued his journalistic and revolutionary activities. Led by the belief that Ottoman power could be brought down only with armed action, he began organizing small groups of revolutionary fighters, called cheti. Their aim was to instigate unrest in Bulgaria, thus motivating the population to fight the Ottomans.[5] For the purpose of coordinating the armed resistance Rakovski and his followers founded the Bulgarian Revolutionary Central Committee - an organization which was yet to feature in the Bulgarian Liberation movement.[6]

In 1867 the Committee equipped two bands (cheti) who penetrated Bulgaria led by Panaiot Hitov and Filip Totiu.[7] They fought battles with the Ottoman forces, but did not manage to fulfill their goals. Led by Hadzhi Dimitar and Stefan Karadzha, 120 chetnitsi entered Bulgaria in 1868 and fought their way to Stara Planina before being surrounded by the Ottomans.[8] Some of the fighters, including Stefan Karadzha, were wounded, captured and later executed. The remaining men under the leadership of Hadzhi Dimitar were crushed at Buzludzha Peak in Stara Planina.[9]

Georgi Rakovski died of tuberculosis in Bucharest on October 9, 1867.[10]


Rakovski Nunatak on Livingston Island in the South Shetland Islands, Antarctica is named after Georgi Sava Rakovski. Bolhrad High School is also named in his honor. An elementary school in Banja Luka, Republika Srpska, Bosnia and Herzegovina carries his name.

References and notes

  1. Crampton, R. J. (1997). A Concise History of Bulgaria. Cambridge University Press. p. 77. ISBN 0-521-56719-X.
  2. Margaret H. Beissinger; Jane Tylus; Susanne Lindgren Wofford (1999). Epic Traditions in the Contemporary World: The Poetics of Community. University of California Press. p. 79. ISBN 0-520-21038-7.
  3. Trotsky, Leon; Brian Pearce; George Weissman; Duncan Williams (1980). The War Correspondence of Leon Trotsky. The Balkan Wars, 1912-13. Resistance Books. p. 487. ISBN 0-909196-08-7.
  4. Trotsky, p.487
  5. Crampton, p.77 p.137
  6. Crampton, p.78 p.137
  7. Crampton, p.77 p.137
  8. Jelavich, Charles (1986). The Establishment of the Balkan National States, 1804-1920. University of Washington Press. p. 137. ISBN 0-295-96413-8.
  9. Jelavich p.137
  10. Trotsky, p.487

External links

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