AGORA Platform -
Active Communities for Development Alternatives
Tourist Infomation Centre Smolyan
The Momchilovtsi Tourist Information Centre
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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
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).
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 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
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.