11. The Assassination of Aleko Konstantinov

Summary

Aleko Konstantinov is one of the most renown Bulgarian writers. His literary character Bay Ganyo has come to symbolize the epitome of the Bulgarian just as Uncle Sam is for Americans or John Bull for the English. A great lover of natural beauty, Aleko is the founder of the tourist movement in Bulgaria. He was killed by mistake instead of his friend, the politician Mikhail Takev, on the holiday of the authors of the Cyrrilic alphabet St. Cyril and St. Methodius, May 24th, in 1897.

Aleko Konstantinov makes his living off his legal practice, where his extraordinary sense of humour also finds its manifestations. Once, after learning that as a judge in Berkovitza the writer Ivan Vazov has sentenced a dog to death, he makes a humorous analysis of the verdict and proves that according to the law the dog should have been sentenced to community service.

Two days prior to his unfortunate demise, in Plovdiv he meets his friend Mikhail Takev, also a lawyer and a representative of the Democratic party in the Parliament. Takev invites Konstantinov to celebrate the day of the Slavic alphabet in the deputee’s home town of Peshtera. On their way back they are ambushed by peasants from the nearby village of Radilovo who had a dispute over some land with the people f Peshtera and wanted to kill their advocate. Unfortunately, in the dark Aleko Konstantinov is lethally wounded.

His death raises nationwide commotion. Konstantinov is a favorite with the students who spontaneously suspend classes for three days. The extremely petty motive of the killers causes an artist to remark that Bay Ganyo has killed his creator. Aleko’s character is street-smart, insolent and very mercantile. On November 7 1897 the mayor of Radilovo Petar Minkov is sentenced to death together with the two hitmen hired by him.

In the area of Bryasta near Peshtera, on the spot of Aleko’s assassination there is a small monument which says:

Traveller, please take it to the generation to be that here fell murdered by hitmen the poet and writer Aleko Konstantinov on May 24, 1897.

The epotaphy was written by the miraculously saved Mikhail Takev. Still, 23 years later he himself will also fall victim to a political murder.