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History of Momchilovtsi

Momchilovtsi sign
The history of Momchilovtsi is built up on the base of archeological finds, Ottoman and National Revival documents and it is full of legends, sagas and ancient mythology.
Numerous archeological finds, occasionally found during the agricultural cultivation of the land, show that the life of the village has not been interrupted since the Bronze Age.

The Christian medieval name of the village is not known. During XIVth century this region and the Bulgarian Empire were occupied by the Turks or by the Ottoman Empire and the Turks called the village Gorno Derekjoi (a village around a gully).

The village has been having its current name since 1934 when it was called after the name of Momchil Yunak – the last Christian medieval ruler of the Central Rhodopes.

The most developed crafts in Momchilovtsi were the building trade, the manufacturing of homespun tailoring, the professional fishing and the goldsmiths and silversmith trades.

The period of the Turkish domination XV –XIXth c. is divided into two sub-periods: the Ottoman Middle Ages and the Bulgarian National Revival (Bulgarian Renaissance). During the period of the Ottoman Middle Ages the inhabitants of the Rhodopes were forced to adopt Islam. Momcholovtsi is one of those villages in this region that managed to preserve the Christian religion. This happened due to the unbending spirit of the village inhabitants and according to the legends - due to good fortune and invisible protection.

XVIII – XIXth c. is the National Revival Period when the Christian villages in Central Rhodopes, including Momchilovtsi, took part in the National Revival against the Greeks to ensure the survival of the Bulgarian church and the Bulgarian school and against the Ottomon Empire for national liberation. The Bulgarian nation was culturally dependant on the Greeks which were privileged among the Christian nations in the Ottoman Empire.

In the 14th century the Bulgarian church was replaced by the Greek Church. The ultimate aim of the Bulgarian people was to restore the Bulgarian country and the Christian Villages in central Rhodopes passed through a struggle which was specific to them only. This was the fight for the restoration of the churches because from the XVth c. till the beginning of the XIXth c. these villages were not allowed to have any churches.

In 1834, and as a result of this struggle and a lot of difficulties the inhabitants of Momchilovtsi, together with seven other neighbouring villages, received permission from the Turkish sultan to build a church. The church was dedicated in 1836 and was called “Saints Konstantinos and Helena”.

At the beginning a small school was created towards the church by Grigori, who is respected as a saint even nowadays by the Christian people in the Central Rhodopes. He was a Greek – a monk from Aton. At first he came in Momchilovtsi, where he learnt the Rhodopean dialect and created the so called “Greek transcription” (writing the Rhodopean dialect words with Greek letters).

Grigori translated the Greek liturgical books in this “writing” and by using them he taught his students to write and read in the small church schools in the villages of the region. In spite of his Greek origin, he later took the local people’s side in their struggle against the Greek church for Bulgarian church and Bulgarian school. After 1867 this school gradually developed into a secular school for primitive literacy.

The results of the Russian – Turkish war from 1878 were victory for Russia and restoring of the Bulgarian country but the Central Rhodopes remained again in the Ottoman Empire. This region became a part of the Bulgarian country in 1912 as a result of the First Balkan War (a war between the alliance of Bulgaria, Greece and Serbia against the Ottoman Empire ).

the shepherd The main occupation in the Rhodopes from the Ancient times till the middle of the XX c. was the shepherd’s trade. But during the period of the Bulgarian National Revival and because of the lack of sufficient fertile land the villages of the Central Rhodopes developed different crafts.

The craftsmen learned and practised their skills along the Aegean coast in the Asia Minor and on the Aegean islands for the winter period.

In the summer months they returned to their homes in order to combine their craft with agricultural work. According to the Bulgarian ethnologists this is the main reason for the high level of the traditional culture and way of life in the Christian villages of the Central Rhodopes. This was how the semi-urban – semi-rural culture appeared.
Tourist Information Centre, Cultural Centre, 5 Elitsa Str. Momchilovtsi Village 4750, Smolyan District, Bulgaria