Botev`s letters


Hristo Botev, the Kozloduy's riverbank and National Museum Steamship "Radetzky".

National Museum Steamship "RADETZKY" in town of Kozloduy was established by a Decision of Council of Ministers dated 16 May 1982.

The Museum has a national statute and includes the Steamship-museum "Radetzky" and the Art Gallery, established in 1989 - 1990.

The Museum is entirely relevant to the life and the life-work of Hristo Botev and the tragic doom of his group, the so called cheta. During the years the steamship herself turned into an institution, into a unique sacred place and a whole page of our Bulgarian history.

Our objective is to tell you about the genius and the revolutionary Hristo Botev, about his memorable heroism and self-sacrifice in the name of Bulgaria. We would like to draw also your attention to the first and all other celebrations in honor of Botev. We would like to tell you about the history of the steamship "Radetzky" and the dedicated work of the museum staff as well.

At the end of 1874 and the beginning of 1875 Hristo Botev started to gain bigger and bigger influence over the revolutionary emigration in the area of Vlashko, Romania. He was born on 6 January 1848 in the town of Kalofer, in the family of the famous teacher of the Bulgarian national revival Botio Petkov and his wife Ivanka Driankova. Hristo studied in his own town at the beginning and then continued his education in Russia, as a scholarship student in the Second High School of Odessa. He was suspended from the school in 1865. Next year he was appointed as a teacher in the village Zadunaevka, thanks to the assistance of the trustee of the Bulgarian communities Mr. Ivan S. Ivanov. Unfortunately, he was forced to go back to Kalofer and to replace his ill father in the local school.

In September 1866 Hristo Botev left Kalofer with the intention to continue his education in Russia. However, he decided to settle in Bucharest, Romania. Then he left to Braila and started to work in the printing house of Mr. Dimiter Panichkov. He went back to Bucharest in August 1868 and enrolled in the medical School, however he has got disappointed very soon and left the school. Soon after that, in November 1868, he met another Bulgarian revolutionary, Vassil Levski and they lived together in an abandoned mill near to Bucharest.

After several hard months of penury, in 1869 Botev became a teacher in Alexandria, and later on in Ismail. During that time he actively contributed to the newspaper "Tapan" (Drum). In July 1871 Botev started to issue his first independent newspaper "Duma na Balgarskite emigranti" (Word of the Bulgarian emigrants). He assisted also to L.Karavelov in the preparation of the newspapers "Svoboda" (Freedom) and "Nezavisimost" (Independency). He issued three numbers of his satiric newspaper "Budilnik" (Alarm-clock).

After the death of V. Levski, Hristo Botev became the most active follower of his ideas. The name of our great poet and revolutionary is connected, above all things, with the self-sacrifice of his cheta and their tragic doom. Speaking and writing about these undying people, remained unforgettable in the hearts of their relatives and close followers, we should briefly mention about the largest and most extensive uprising in the Bulgarian history - April uprising.

In the spring of 1876 most of the revolutionaries in Guyrgevo were convinced that a new uprising must be set up. The Revolutionary Committee divided the country into four revolutionary districts.

First - Tarnovski

Second - Slivenski

Third - Vrachanski

Fourth - Plovdivski


On 14 April 1876, in the place of Oborishte, near to the town of Panagyurishte, a general meeting of all four committees was held. The plan of uprising was clarified and the date was fixed: 1-st of May. However, due to unforeseen circumstances the uprising broke out still on 20 April 1876. The Vratza district heart about it four days later. They decided to wait for the Botev's cheta in order to boost the uprising in the Third district.

In the beginning of April 1876, under the leadership of Hristo Botev, Nikola Obretenov and Georgi Apostolov, the setting up of a big cheta has started, as the objective was to transfer the cheta in Bulgaria immediately after the brake out of the uprising. As a leader (voivode) of the cheta was elected Hristo Botev.

On 16 May 1876 Botev and part of the rebels embarked the Austrian passenger steamship "Radetzky". The rest of the volunteers joined the cheta on the ship from other ports, as do not attract the attention of the Romanian authorities.

On 17 May they seized "Radetzky" and the crew was forced to land on the Bulgarian bank of the Danube near to Kozloduy.

On the ship, Botev wrote his undying letter to his wife and children, which has remained in our hearts up to the present. He also handed a letter in French with his demands to the captain of the ship - Dagobert Englender, and said the notorious phrase "It is my will to be followed here…". Captain Englender landed on the bank near Kozloduy and wished a good luck to the Bulgarian rebels in their reckless mission. A very important information about the seizing of "Radetzky" was kept thanks to the report of Capt. Englender. He described in details the event and he wrote also about his impressions from the young Bulgarian voivode Botev: "I was highly impressed by Botev himself, by his correctness, power and temperament. Before reaching the Bulgarian bank, he called me to assure me that both the ship safe and the cargo were untouched. After we landed, I observed a very solemn and touching scene. The powerful voice of Botev was heard and all felt on their knees, kissing the native land. They cried for good-buy "Long live Franz Josef! Long live the Captain!" and I answered to them "Good luck", waiving my cap."

In the next few days, fighting with the Turkish posses, the cheta reached up the Vratza Balkan (Vratza Mountain), but did not get any support from the local Revolutionary Committee, which failed to break out the uprising in the area. The Botev's cheta was forced to conduct heavy battles against the outnumbering forces. On 20 May, when the battle faded away, Hristo Botev was killed. The unexpected death of the voivode provoked a confusion among the rebels. Exhausted, hungry and discouraged, they split into small groups and thus became easy spoils for the Turks. Most of them were killed and only few succeeded to run away and get to Serbia and Romania.

There are many versions about the death of Hristo Botev, but the most widely spread is that he died of an accidental Turkish bullet. The rout of the Botev's cheta was in fact the end of the April uprising.

Hristo Botev is probably one of the few bright persons, who was celebrated still with the liberation of Bulgaria. The first celebration was organized by the local citizens of Kozloduy as early as May 1878. The celebrations were called "obrotzi" at that time. At the first obrok 200 lambs as votive offering were slaughtered (one per each rebel). The place was named after the celebration - Obrok.

The first celebrations in the country were organized in Plovdiv and Vratza in 1884. The date for the celebrations is 2 June, although Botev was not killed on this date.

Part of the celebrations is the march from the river bank in Kozloduy to the Okolchitza peak. The two revolutionaries Z.Stoyanov and P.Hitov were the first Bulgarians to march from Kozloduy to Okolchitza in 1888.

The 25-th jubilee, organized by the municipalities of Kozloduy and Oriahovo was very solemn, and a lot of people from the near towns and villages came to celebrate.

In the next years the Botev celebrations became greater and large scaled, and especially with the participation of the Oriahovo regiment, under the command by Major Dipchev.

After 1944 the communist governments also celebrated officially Botev and made the celebrations part of their state policy. They marked the Botev's way from Kozloduy by 54 stone marks and 6 remembrance memorials. Later on the number of the marks was increased to 68. In 1954 the citizens of Vratza decided on the idea to outline the Botev's way by a broad alley, with trees on both sides. The final decision for the alley was taken in 1971, thus giving a green light for this unique memorial - 120 km of alley from Kozloduy to Okolchitza peak. Every year numerous tourists march on this alley, following the steps of Botev's cheta.

The first volunteer cross of acacia, almost 4 m high, was laid still on 30 May 1878 by Mladen Pavlov - the local teacher, and the people from Kozloduy. In 1882, again by the initiative of the local people, was laid the stone Obrochen Cross, which is located near to the big memorial we describe below. For the building of a merited memorial, a society "Hristo Botev - Kozloduyski briag" was established, and a wide campaign was made in 1905, layind down the base stone for the future memorial. However, the state did not grant funds. The Kozloduy citizens collected funds and materials from donations and then using their own labor, they built the local cultural club, but the dream for memorial remained.

In 1932 by the initiative of the bearer of culture in Kozloduy - Nikola Palashev, and thanks to the decisive intervention of the public figure Stan Angelov, a live memorial was made - the initials of the name of Botev, made by acacia trees.

In April 1937, the Committee managing the society "Hristo Botev - Kozloduyski briag" was entirely replaced. The new Committee contacted the Directorate for Water Services, Rousse and thanks to this body a reliable and prompt design, tenders and engineering was provided - the amount of 600,000 leva was granted. The citizens of Kozloduy gave 10 days of volunteer work each.

The creator of the memorial was Stefan Peichev, born in Sliven, and the stone facing was made by the citizen from Kozloduy Asen Iliev.

The memorial was built in 1939. The dedication ceremony was announced for 1 September 1939, but at this date Germany declared war on Poland, thus starting the WWII. The ceremony was ruined, and only the photographer Asen Iliev went there to make a photo of the long dream of the people.

In 1947 the bust of Hristo Botev, donated in 1936 by the cadets from the military school, was laid on a pedestal in the center of the town.

Let us tell you now about the history of the unique floating museum - steamship "Radetzky".

There is no Bulgarian, which heart does not wince only hearing this name. The Austrian ship became a symbol of the thirst for freedom of millions of Bulgarians.

The Austrian steamship "Radetzky" was built in 1851 in the plant "Obuda", Budapest. She was named after field-marshal Josef Ventzeslav Radetzky, a slav, Slovak by origin, born in 1766 and died in 1858. There is a monument of Radetzky in the center of Vienna, and his bust is still on the bow of the ship. The history of this ship is long and marked by many vicissitudes. In 1906, by the initiative of Stoyan Zaimov and with the support of the Prime Minister at that time, Dimitar Petkov, it was decided to build up a historical memorial museum. The idea was to turn the river Tekir Dere into a Danube sleeve and to land the ship there forever. When the Parliament was to vote the amount, proposed by the Prime Minister, he was killed and everything failed. The idea was forgotten.

In 1926 a Committee "Tzar Osvoboditel Alexander II" (Tzar Liberator) was established, with Stoyan Zaimov as honorary chairman. This Committee decided to implement the project for Tekir Dere. All Bulgarian were called to help in order to get "Radetzky" in Bulgarian waters, buying the ship from Austria. For this purpose they asked the Ministry of Education to provide 6 cinematographs and by the help of experienced lectors to collect entrance fees thus raising funds for buying off the ship. It was envisaged to raise 50 million leva in two years, which was to serve for financial support for all memorials and museums, built up by the Committee "Tzar Osvoboditel".

It was rumored in 1927 that the ship was to be repaired. In a letter addressed to Tzar Boris III, an information about the situation of the ship was asked. The Committee wanted to restore the authentic appearance of the ship. However, the ship was declared waste in 1918 and destroyed by the Austrian Ship Society in 1924. That is the result of the inactivity of several Bulgarian governments.


Despite all impediments, it is wide known that the ship was rebuilt in honor of the 90-th anniversary of Botev's death. The first person to start again the campaign for rebuilding of "Radetzky" was the journalist Mrs. Lilyana Lozanova. Her initiative was supported by the newspaper "Septemvriiche" where she was editor.

On 6 November 1964 Mrs. Lozanova opened a current account with the amount of 2.50 leva! In the next years each school in the country deposited its contributions. It was a large-scale campaign with an unprecedented enthusiasm. Thus, thanks to this campaign, 1,200,000 Bulgarian children rebuilt the steamship "Radetzky" in honor of the 90-th anniversary of Botev's death.

For management of the project, a national staff of shipbuilders, engineers and architects was established. It was decided to build the ship like the Austrian "Radetzky", with a steam machine, side paddle wheels and a chimney. The furniture was to be made on Austrian models of 19-th century.

However, when the idea for "Radetzky" was born, there were no data, pictures and/or descriptions of the appearance and the interior of the ship. The National Staff send three persons to Vienna to collect as much data as possible. The Head-constructor of the ship Mr. Todor Todorov, Mrs. Lozanova and Col. Ass. Prof. Mihov visited also the plant "Obuda" where they managed to find the inventory book with all the technical data of the ship: length 57.40 m, width 17.50 m, height of the deck in the middle part 2.40 m, depth 1.15 m.

They also found out that an album of the ship was made by the dyer, Mr. Kirali Josef, 84 years old at that time, who happened to dye the ship from 1906 to 1918 год. His information proved to be extremely valuable. He also described in full details the kitchen utensils, the carpet, etc.

When in 1966 the newly built "Radetzky" arrived officially in Budapest, Mr. Josef proudly stand on the board. He was also a guest on the celebrations on the occasion of launching the ship. The date was 30 May 1966. You can see the picture of Mr. Josef in the exposition of the ship.

The National Staff prepared an assignment for the shipyard. The ship had to be a copy of the original ship, both exterior and interior. The ship was intended to float mainly on the Bulgarian coast, and also all the length of the Danube river. Upstream speed - 8 km/h, downstream speed - 12 km/h, for 300 passengers. Originally, according to the data from Budapest, the ship was for 350 passengers.
The new ship was long 57.40 m and wide 17.50 m. The Captain's cabin and the crew cabins were made like the original ones.

The sculptor Petar Doichinov made the portrait of Gen. Radetzky on the bow of the ship, using old pictures of the General.

In 1966 the museum exposition was renovated by a team, including Prof. Ivan Undjiev, the artist Ivan Kiosev, the historian Radka Stoyanova, Prof. Nikolai Zhechev, the architect Stoiko Donchev, the sculptor Petar Doichinov.

The exposition is entirely focused to the life and the life-work of Hristo Botev and the doom of his cheta. The exposition is still located in the first class saloon of the ship "Radetzky", and it includes very priceless relics, as for example those Capt. Engleter sent to Bulgaria in 1925, i.e. the flag of the ship, the original License, the seal of the ship, copy of the report the Captain submitted to the consuls of Austria-Hungary in Rousse and Vidin, copy of the Botev's letter in French, two boards from "Radetzky". You can see also the table where Botev wrote his famous letter, and the ink-pot and the penholder of the Captain.

On 1 May 1966 the ship was sent for testing. After the test the ship was welcomed very officially on the bank of Kozloduy on 30 May 1966. Thousands of people came to Kozloduy to meet a revive page of our history. Every person had to make a fur cap like the one the Botev's rebels had. When the steamship reached Kozloduy, the landing of Botev and his cheta was played. Furthermore, 600 designs for a postal mark were prepared.

The ship went to an official visit to Vienna and Budapest, with 124 children on board. A scientific conference was organized by the Bulgarian ambassador Dr. Luben Stoyanov in Vienna. The Austrian press and the media sent its representatives and the press coverage was incredible. Every person was filled with admiration for the act of 1,200,000 Bugarian children.

All these events in 1964 - 1966, the rebuilding of the ship by the Bulgarian children, the visit to Austria, the enthusiastic celebrations in Kozloduy, were incredible events. We do not have another example in our history, which united so many children for a common goal and a common cause, with this sense of duty and responsibility, with this great enthusiasm.

The exposition on the ship was initially prepared by the head curator of the local historical museum in Vratza at that time, Mr. Nikolai Doinov. The exposition is located in the I-st class saloon on the ship and its look remained unchanged up to now.

The first director of the ship-museum is Mr. Evgeni Sachev, who used to be a very energetic man, with power and firmness. He was the first to issue advertisement materials for the museum, which are used even now - badges "Radetzky" with the symbol "R", leaflets with a brief history about Botev and his cheta, the complete works of Botev in Bulgarian and translated into 5 languages. Two circles were established at that time - Young Sailor and Young Guide, where a lot of young people were trained.

The art collection of Museum "Radetzky" is a priceless wealth. It was established in 1986 and it includes hundreds of works of art - sculptures, engravings, paintings. Joint exhibitions were organized in Kozloduy, in The National Palace of Culture in Sofia and abroad. In September 1991 an art gallery with 359 paintings was open. The art gallery is located in a house, property of the municipality. The management of the museum is situated in the same house.

The ship herself, which is a part of the museum, had to be reconstructed in 1988, as the steam machine was to be replaced by diesel motors. The overall repair of the ship took 5 years. Two diesel motors were mounted for driving the wheels. In 1993 the repair was finished.

Today the steamship "Radetzky" lies at anchor at the devoted wharf on the Kozloduy bank. In this way the idea of the Committee "Tzar Osvoboditel Alexander II" was finally realized.

Without the support of the Ministry of Culture, Municipality Kozloduy and the NPP Kozloduy, the Museum is doomed to destruction.

The activity of the museum since its establishment up to now can be described by one word only - struggle. A struggle to keep and preserve this sacred place for the Bulgarians, and to keep and preserve the memory about the Botev's heroism for the future generations.

"Radetzky" is the live memorial of the Botev's life-work and the fight for freedom of a whole nation.

Ludmila Damianova,
Director of National Museum Steamship "RADETZKY"



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