09 May 2021

Holy New Martyrs of Novo Selo

Holy New Martyrs of Novo Selo

The ninth of May is justly commemorated in the countries of the former Soviet Union as Victory Day, the day when the united forces of Eurasia were able to force Germany to surrender and stopped a genocide against Europe’s Jews, Romani and others who were targeted for extermination by the Nazis. However flawed the Soviet Union may have been, and however messy the historical truth of that victory, speaking as a descendant of European Jews, I am thankful to the Soviet citizens who gave their lives in defence of their homelands and in defence of humanity.

In Bulgaria, however, the Orthodox Church commemorates – more sombrely – the victims of another campaign of systematic mass murder, one carried out seventy years prior by the Ottoman Empire. After the failed uprising of 1876, remembered in Ivan Vazov’s seminal novel Under the Yoke, the Ottoman Turks took out reprisals on the civilian populations of a number of villages in central Bulgaria, and burned them to the ground. Among these were the four villages in the vicinity of what is now the town of Apriltsi in Lovech Province: Novo Selo, Zla Reka, Vidima and Ostrets. About seven hundred Bulgarian innocents died in this suppression. In the aftermath of the uprising, Turkish troops and bashi-bazouk irregulars killed a total of somewhere between 15,000 and 30,000 Bulgarian civilians.

In particular, the Holy Trinity Monastery in Novo Selo was plundered and burnt by the Turkish troops, and its defenders – the nuns of Holy Trinity, and the priest Fr Georgi Hristov – were slaughtered. After the liberation of Bulgaria from the Ottoman yoke, the surrounding villages pooled together their resources and volunteers set out to reconstruct the monastery. The chapel behind the monastery was turned into a museum, which still shows the bones of the people who died at Novo Selo. Together with the five thousand who died at Batak, the seven hundred who died in Novo Selo were glorified by the Bulgarian Orthodox Church on the eleventh of March, 2011. Holy martyrs of Novo Selo, pray unto Christ our God that our souls may be saved!

Holy Trinity Monastery, Novo Selo, Bulgaria

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