In the summer of 1913, during the Balkan War, five Bulgarian garrison officers were suddenly captured in the Bulgarian town of Bosilegrad by invading Serb troops. Colonel Hilarion Tanev, Lieutenant Stefan Kontev, Lieutenant Stanislav Stefanov, Lieutenant Hristo Vladev and Lieutenant Assen Minkov of the town garrison were arrested by the occupiers. Instead of being treated according to the established rules as prisoners of war, the Bulgarian soldiers were taken to a deserted area and brutally shot without any fault. The execution happened on June 28, 1913.
In memory of the officers killed 102 years ago, the Democratic Union of Bulgarians in Serbia organized a memorial service and wreath-laying at the place of their death.
Their burial monuments existed until the 1970s, when they were broken and discarded to an unknown location by the Serbian authorities and locals were buried in their graves.
In 2013, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Balkan War, the Cultural and Information Center of the Bulgarian Minority “Bosilegrad” launched an initiative to place a memorial plaque at the place where the officers were buried. The works were suspended after the Mayor of the Municipality of Bosilegrad, Vladimir Zahariev, did not authorize them and forwarded the file to the Serbian Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor, Department “Monuments”. Both the Department and the Service for Protection of Monuments in Nis opposed the restoration of the memorial signs. Repressive investigative actions were initiated against the Cultural and Information Center in Bosilegrad. Because of all this, the memorial plaque could not be installed for two years.
The Cultural and Information Center “Bosilegrad” considers it unacceptable to continue during the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Balkan War the enemy stance towards the Bulgarian soldiers and officers, who were brutally killed in their homeland. Bosilegrad and the Western Periphery were then part of the Kingdom of Bulgaria and have been handed forcefully by the Great Powers to Yugoslavia only after 1919 These are areas of about 1600 square kilometers and a population of more than 120,000 that was over 95% Bulgarian.
After the accession of the Western Periphery to the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, later renamed the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, the Yugoslav government subjected the Bulgarian population to denationalization, forced assimilation and Serbinization. In 1920, the Parliament passed the Act on the Protection of the State which did not recognize national minorities in the country and forced the Bulgarians to accept Serbian first and last names. Many Bulgarians were killed at the new Bulgarian-Serbian border while “trying to escape”. By 1930, more than 300 people were killed at this border. More than half of the population was forced to emigrate to Bulgaria. All Bulgarian schools and churches were closed. Serb primary schools that taught Serbian language, Serbian history and culture were opened. Religion classes were held in Serbian language. The intellectuals were pressured to declare themselves Serbs. Instead of the established Bulgarian endings “ov” and “ova”, the Serbian ending “ic” was placed to the last names. Speaking Bulgarian language in public was prohibited.
The official position of the Cultural and Information Center of the Bulgarian Minority is that the rethinking of the historical lessons and the respect to the memory of those who died is a path to lasting reconciliation between the Bulgarian and the Serbian people and a civilizational step of the Republic of Serbia towards a membership in the European Union. It is also unacceptable that Bulgarian statesmen constantly emphasize “good relations” with the Republic of Serbia while it still maintains such a barbaric attitude to the memory of the killed Bulgarian officers, moreover killed in a criminal manner, contrary to all international military conventions.
This post is also available in: Bulgarian