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  • Writer's pictureStefan Ivanov

Sarmashik – the living legend of Strandzha

Updated: Dec 15, 2022

"A clear moon is already rising"

(March of the Strandzha Thracians)

A clear moon is already rising

over the green forest.

The slaves in whole Strandzha sing

a new hero song.

Through streams, rivers, hills,

something crawls, stands

is it an Judas fairy,

or a crazy gidia?

It is not an Judas fairy,

nor a gidia,

most are heroes,

scarecrow for villagers.

They are in a hurry to arrive on time

before roosters song in Sarmashik,

let no one guess them

and betrayed them vilely.

A rifle exploded, an echo swelled

a sign was given for a fight.

Bombs explode, bullets screaming -

the whole Strandzha is already echoing.

But a dirty spy eye

where did it come from -

at the moment it leaves and goes

to the enemy the heroes betrays.

The day passed peacefully, quietly,

terrible night has come -

soldiers the village surrounded

and the heroes they enclosed...

It's getting dawn over the village,

east blazed at dawn,

the rifle exploded, the echo swelled

a sign was given for a fight.

There are only five heroes,

one against a hundred ...

Bombs explode, food bullets -

the whole Strandzha is already echoing,

the tyrant is scared

from the heroic struggle.

No more timid slaves,

there are proud heroes.

Thunder bullet, thunder again!

Sacred blood is flowing,

Pano fell and then Ravashola,

the people's sons are dying.

Oh, Sarmashik, glorious village,

from the heroic struggle!

Oh, Sarmashik, a new flag

of Thracian freedom!

The village of Brashlyan in Stradzha mountain

"Clear Moon is already rising", also known as "Clear Moon", was written as an insurgent march by Yani Popov - a hero and activist of the Internal Macedonian-Edirne Revolutionary Organization.

Yani Popov was born on September 27, 1876 in the village of Karahadar, Lozengrad region. He is a fighting person with creative talents and a gift of a folk singer.

The text quickly gained popularity and the song became the anthem of the Thracian revolutionary struggle and Strandzha.

The text is from the collection of poems "Strandzha Gusla", published in 1905, re-published in 1909 under the name "Strandzha Complaints".

The collection of poems is a collection of haidouk and revolutionary songs, recorded in a local dialect from Lozengrad, Malko Tarnovo and Bunarhisar.

The third edition of "Strandzha Complaints" contains the full text of "Clear Moon is already Rising", dedicated to Pano Angelov and Nikola Ravashola and entitled "For Pano and Ravashola", with an explanation that it is sung to the voice of the famous Armenian song "Ai, Sasun, Sasun".

The original text of the rebellion march consists of seventeen stanzas, and it is noted that it was written in Strandzha in 1904.

In the song Yani Popov sings the feat of a small detachment that fought a fierce battle with the Turkish army on April 2, 1903 in the village of Sarmashik (today Brashlyan). The voivode Pano Angelov from the village of Brod, Haskovo region, and Nikola Atanasov Nikolakov - Ravashola from Perushtitsa (in some sources Batak) died there.

This events remain in history as the "Sarmashik affair".

According to the memories of old people of the village of Brashlyan, the song was sung openly in the village in 1908.

For the first time the melody of "Clear moon is already rising" was performed on radio "Sofia" in 1953 by the folk Strandzha singer Sava Popsavov, natively from Brashlyan.

The legend immortalized on the only grocery store in the village of Kondolovo

About the Balyuva house and the Sarmashik affair

The village of Brashlyan in Stradzha mountain

Balyuva House is a historical and architectural monument, which is considered a model of the Strandzha house from the XIX century.

The village of Brashlyan in Stradzha mountain

During this era, houses were made two-storey with an external staircase. The first floor is built of stone blocks and wooden beams, and the second entirely of wood. The Balyuva house, like many others in Brashlyan, is built of stone with a bright orange hue, as can be seen from the photos. This is due to the geological features of the area around where the stone was supplied. On the road Malko Tarnovo - Bourgas, you can also see rocks of this color around the village of Zvezdets.

As a result of the so-called "Sarmashik affair" (events preceding the Ilindensko-Preobrazhensko uprising) - on April 2, 1903, the house was surrounded by Ottoman soldiers. A voivode and a guerrilla died here. This event greatly raised the insurrectionary spirit for the Ilindensko-Preobrazhensko uprising that started later (August 2).

Who are Pano and Ravashola?

The village of Brashlyan in Stradzha mountain

About Pano

Pano Angelov Apostolov, also known as Karabadzhakov, under the pseudonym Pierre, is a Bulgarian revolutionary, activist of the Internal Macedonian-Edirne Revolutionary Organization.

Pano Angelov was born on February 2, 1879 in the Sofia area village of Bashklis, then in the Ottoman Empire. He comes from the Karite family, emigrants from the Chirpan region and founders of Bashköy (Bashklis). His great-grandfather Angel was a famous wrestler, and his son Apostol was a rebel in the detachment of Angel Voyvoda and died near Soflu.

After the Liberation of Bulgaria, Pano Angelov and his family moved to the Haskovo village of Brod. After completing his primary education in Brod, he studied and graduated from the Kazanlak Pedagogical School.

In 1902 Pano Angelov stopped teaching and in Burgas he connected with Mihail Gerdjikov, Lazar Madjarov, Georgi Kondolov, Levter Mechev, Nikola Ravashola, Kiro Uzunov and other activists of the IMRO. In 1902 he was sent to the Malko Tarnovo revolutionary region with a detachment that visited the villages of Kladara, Gramatikovo and Kamilite.

At the beginning of 1903 he was elected district voivode of Sarmashik, Goktepe, Stoilovo, Kalovo, Zabernovo, Moryane, Cheglaik and Konak. He toured the villages of Strandzha, formed death squads, conspired, raised funds, and acquired weapons. He showed remarkable organizational qualities, courage, composure, honesty, as a result of which the detachment won the trust of the population and in all villages of the area entrusted to him were built death squads, a network of couriers and procured weapons and ammunition. Insurgents from the villages are also being recruited.

About Ravashola

Nikola Atanasov, known as Ravashola, is a Bulgarian revolutionary, an activist of the Internal Macedonian-Edirne Revolutionary Organization.

Atanasov was born in 1863 in Batak or Perushtitsa, then in the Ottoman Empire. Lives in Anhialo and Bourgas. He works as a supervisor of the Pomorie salt pans, a postman and a porter at the port of Bourgas. He joined the IMRO and at the end of 1902 left for Strandzha with the detachment of Mikhail Gerdjikov. He took the nickname of the French anarchist Ravaschol. He became close to the leader Pano Angelov and joined his detachment.

On March 20, the detachment of Pano Angelov and his guerrillas Nikola Ravashola, Georgi Mutafov, Atanas Valkanov and Petko Puhov was in Sarmashik, where it was surrendered and the leader and Nikola Ravashola died in the battle. Their death was sung by Yani Popov in the Strandzha revolutionary anthem "Clear Moon".

In 1997, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Thracian organization and 94 years since the feat of the heroes of the Sarmashik affair, a memorial plaque was erected in the Dimanova Polyana area (Brashlyansko land), where the leader Pano Angelov was fatally shot.

The village of Brashlyan in Stradzha mountain

My dear friends, following the shared photo moments from my walk through Brashlyan, from Balyuvata house we will go to the St. Marina chapel, which is very close.

St. Marina chapel

The village of Brashlyan in Stradzha mountain

I will tell you about St. Marina chapel (aka St. Leftera), known to this day among the people of Brashlyan as the "Little Church" and I will tell you a legend about the founding of Brashlyan.

Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, when the ancient Thracians roamed these lands, right here - in this place where today we find the village of Brashlyan, there was still no settlement.

An ancient & sacred tradition required a holy Thracian ritual to be performed in order to establish a new settlement.

The village of Brashlyan in Stradzha mountain

The tradition dictated that during the full moon, from sunset to the first roosters song, two twin brothers harness two young twin oxen and plow a circle.

The land described in this covenant circle became sacred and holy land, and there the people had to create a new settlement, build their homes, create families, and raise their children.

The village of Brashlyan in Stradzha mountain

It so happened that the first roosters sung, and the brothers failed to close the circle delineating the boundaries of the future settlement.

The place that remained unploughed was lit, and the circle "closed" in another way - the people built a chapel there and called it "St. Leftera" (today St. Marina), but even today the locals call it "The Little Church".

The village of Sarmashik (today's Brashlyan) originated in the 17th century, when the inhabitants of the three neighborhoods Yurtet, Selishte and Zhivak (its Thracian name is Kikon (Kikos), from the Thracian language kik - mercury, there is a legend that the singer Orpheus was born here) in the Lower Quarter, the oldest part of the village. It is mentioned in Ottoman tax registers from the second half of the 17th century, and in the 19th century it was a large livestock center. Residents of the village have been participating in the Heteria since 1821. Vasil Levski also passed through the village, and the house where he spent the night is still preserved today.

Since 1982, the village of Brashlyan is an architectural and historical reserve, and it has preserved authentic houses typical of Strandzha architecture from the 18th and 19th centuries.

76 houses are architectural monuments of culture, 9 of them - of national importance.

It is believed that the oldest house in the village was built in the 17th century.

The surroundings of today's village Brashlyan have been inhabited since ancient times by Thracians. Thracian dolmens, necropolises and remains of an ancient settlement have been found near the village. It is assumed that on the site of today's St. Dimitar church in antiquity there was a sanctuary dedicated to Zeus - Dionysus.

Today the village of Brashlyan is located within the Strandzha Nature Park, and the land of the village borders the Vitanovo Reserve, the valley of the Veleka River and the trout fishpond on the Katun River.

Every year in early August, usually around 8th, the village fair is held, which lasts two days. Guests come from all over the country, people play, fights are organized.

My dear friends, I will try to recreate the feelings and thrills that overwhelmed me as I walked through the small green streets of the village.

Yes, almost all the houses were visibly old, but well-kept - the diligence with which the owners had arranged the yards, arranged the flowerbeds, from where sunny flowers smiled, was evident. There was a zeal for beauty everywhere. Pretty and tidy!

Flower pots were arranged under the windows, and a horseshoe hung on each front door.

St. Dimitar church and the class school

There I parked at the entrance to the village - opposite St. Dimitar church. It is located on the square in the center and is surrounded by a large courtyard, at the entrance, which is the old bell tower.

The village of Brashlyan in Stradzha mountain

The bell was made in the XIX century in the city of Yaroslav - Russia.

The village of Brashlyan in Stradzha mountain

St. Dimitar church has been declared as a cultural monument.

The village of Brashlyan in Stradzha mountain

It was built in the 17th century and was dug into the ground - something typical for this period of Ottoman rule. According to the laws in force at the time, Christian churches had to be no taller than a Turk on horseback.

Similar to it, as the most ordinary houses are the churches "Holy Assumption" in Sozopol and "Holy Ascension" in Ahtopol.

The village of Brashlyan in Stradzha mountain

You will find a class school in the same yard on the village square and it is literally next to the church.

The village of Brashlyan in Stradzha mountain

It was founded in 1871, when the Bulgarians within the Ottoman Empire gained church independence. In this way, liturgies could now be held in churches in Bulgarian instead of Greek, as was the case before.

The village of Brashlyan in Stradzha mountain

In the first years of its existence, 12-13 year old boys were trained in Bulgarian reading and writing on wax boards.

The village of Brashlyan in Stradzha mountain

Today, the class school has been restored to its original appearance, open to visitors, and anyone who wishes can enter and to experience those old and long-lost times.

Open-air ethnographic museum

In a wide yard of one of the houses near the center of the village were arranged various agricultural implements, typical for that time from this region, and everyone can visit this interesting open-air museum.

My dear friends, in one of the streets of the village I was greeted by a friendly kitten who asked to make friends with me. I didn't refuse 😉 You will find it in a photo - he poses nicely, showing off in front of the camera.

The village of Brashlyan in Stradzha mountain

My dear friends, it is colorful in the spring in Brashlyan. Shrubs bloom near each house.

The village of Brashlyan in Stradzha mountain

Flower beds flicker from the yards and the flowers bring an indescribable mood during the walk.

The village of Brashlyan in Stradzha mountain

The people here are kind and friendly, tell stories and show the right way.

I will be happy to come back here again!

A pleasant walk and new meetings from the magical and mystical Strandzha!

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