July 18 marks the 183rd anniversary of the birth of Bulgaria’s national hero Vassil Levski, a man who belongs to everyone – though in some cases it is unfortunate that there are groups who believe that he belongs to them.
We live at a time when figures of the past honoured with statues, monuments and portraits are being contested in debate and argument as seldom before. Colonialists, capitalists, emperors and kings are being daubed, decapitated and hauled down, their esteem besmirched and their villainy proclaimed.
Fortunately, this is not the issue with Levski; I defy anyone to contest his place as a hero of the campaign for liberation, a heroism that cost him his life. Unfortunately, what he does have in common with other historical figures is the traducing of his legacy by those who would claim him for their own – from the communist regime of Bulgaria’s past to the forces of ultra-nationalism, xenophobia and intolerance of the present.
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