The Defense of Perushtitsa (BG: Защитата на Перущица) is a large format painting illustrating real historical events which took place in the town of Perushtitsa during the April Uprising of 1876. It is the most important item and central exhibit in the permanent collection of the Perushtitsa History Museum.
The tragic events of the last day of the April Uprising in the town of Perushtitsa have inspired many artists over the years, among them the noteworthy Dobri Pavlov Dobrev. The Defense of Perushtitsa, painted in 1954 for his senior project at the Sofia Art Academy, is without question his most famous work.
Description of the Defense of Perushtitsa
The Defense of Perushtitsa depicts the scene inside the Perushtitsa Church of the Holy Archangel Michael on 1 May 1876. On that day, the rebels decided it was better to commit suicide, taking their loved ones with them, than to be captured and killed by the Turks and Pomaks holding them under siege.
Some of the more famous stories of that day are captured in the scene as imagined by Dobrev for his painting. Kocho Chestimenski killed his wife and child before taking his own life. Spas Ginov killed 4 of his 5 children, then his wife, and finally killed himself. One of his children managed to hide himself during the carnage, thereby surviving as a witness of the events that occurred. Eighteen more people died by their own hands. In all, 123 people died inside the church.
The Defense of Perushtitsa as Collective Commemoration
The Defense of Perushtitsa has taken on an important role as part of the collective memory of the town regarding the tragic events that took place in the town. In addition to the deaths inside the church, historian Ivan Kepov counted a total of 347 sons and daughters of Perushtitsa who died in the April Uprising. Dobrev’s painting is a lasting tribute to their suffering and bravery in the face of utter defeat.
The Defense of Perushtitsa in the Perushtitsa Historical Museum
The artist Professor Dobri Dobrev donated The Defense of Perushtitsa to the Perushtitsa History Museum for its grand opening in 1955. From that day to this, it remains the central work of the museum permanent collection and an essential exhibit for viewing by all museum visitors. In addition to the work itself, Dobrev gave to the museum preliminary studies, sketches, and notes he used during the creation of the work.