Blagoi Emanuilov was born in 1934 in the village of Gabarevo, Kazanlak. He graduated from a high school in Kazanlak and the Faculty of Law at the Sofia University "St. Kliment Ohridski ".

He has more than 30 years of legal experience, twenty of which are as an investigator in Plovdiv and Karlovo. Over the past two decades, he has also appeared as a writer investigating significant historical events and riddles. His first book “The Secret of Nicholas II” was released in 1998. It was dedicated to the mystery of the missing imperial children Alexei and Anastasia during the shooting of the last royal family in Russia. This theme is deepened in his second book, "Emperor Nicolas II and the Conspiracy of the 20th Century" (2009). His last two books, "The Capturing of Vasil Levski and the Secret Imperial Services" (2013) and "Secrets and Mysteries about Vasil Levski’s Capture" (2016) throw light and make an unmistakable contribution in clarifying a series of events and facts related to the revolutionary deed, the capture and the death of the Apostle. That is why, in connection with the upcoming celebration of the 180th anniversary of Vasil Levski's birth in July, we met with thewriting  investigator to tell us more about his point of view on the subject.

- Mr. Emanuilov, you are known with the skill of digging and uncovering riddles that have been unsolvable for a long time. What facts and events from the life and activity of the Apostle provoked your inquisitive flair and the desire to offer your point of view and your truth about them?

- Vasil Levski is undoubtedly the most beloved Bulgarian national hero. The interest in him and his work not only subsists but it is also reproduced in every new generation. This phenomenon is particularly vivid in his home town of Karlovo, where I have worked for many years as an investigator. I also wanted to find and read everything written about Levski. But with the deep reading of this literature, more and more doubts, disappointments and many questions grew in my mind. Because, along with the serious studies of authoritative historians and artistic interpretations of writers, I came across works that contain many inventions, unconfirmed rumors, irresponsible and divergent writings, allegations devoid of logic, controversies and even frank falsifications. To some extent, this is understandable given the conspirative nature of the activity related to the creation of local secret revolutionary committees on Bulgarian territory. Therefore, on the basis of approaches and methodologies of my long-term professional practice of investigator, I tried to get some truths and offer in my books an explanation, at least, about the basic mysteries and the unclear hitherto circumstances related to the way Vasil Levski was captured and died.

- In your last book, two interesting things are to be noted: the first - that Levski's idea and practice of establishing an internal revolutionary organization threatened not only the Ottoman Empire, but in the period 1860-80 they were not in the interest of the Great Powers. And the second: that as a consequence, Levski had been in the spotlight of several secret spy stations since the very beginning of his activity. Would you share details with our readers?

- The predominant part of the authors of books devoted to Levski are based on the presumption that his revolutionary activity affects only the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria. But in fact, this activity has a direct bearing on the geopolitical situation and the interests of the Great Powers on the Balkan Peninsula, and in particular on the solution of the so-called "Eastern Question". And it has a dominant position in the foreign policy of both the West and the East. On one side are England, France and Austria (Austro-Hungary), on the other - Russia, and in the middle is Turkey, with Tsarigrad and the two strategic straits of Bosphorus and the Dardanelles. Although they were driven by different goals and motives, in the 1960s, all of them- the first, the second and the third were unanimous in one – the necessity to preserve the status quo of the Balkans at all costs.

And then the personality of Vasil Levski appeared with his insight that the liberation of Bulgaria should be done by the Bulgarians themselves through the creation of a powerful internal revolutionary organization. This insight comes from his experience and stems from his personal involvement in the unsuccessful attempts of Rakovski's legions in Serbia, and the squads of Panayot Hitov, Hadji Dimitar and Stefan Karadja in Bulgaria, to "bring" a national liberation revolution from outside. But the outbreak of such a revolution in Bulgaria would destroy the so-called and jealously upgraded status quo on the Balkan Peninsula.

Russia, which is sympathetic and empathetic to the Bulgarian compulsion and hopes of freedom, is not ready to encourage and support them because it is defeated and overpowered by the Turks in the Crimean War. That is to say, taking a new war to help the rebellious Bulgarian people at that time is not in its interest and it prefers that the rebellious intentions and actions of the local population are monitored and "dosed". A successful revolution in Bulgaria does suit neither England nor Austro-Hungary. This would mean the revival of a large and free Slavic state that would strengthen Russia's influence on the Balkans and its access to the Bosphorus, the Dardanelles and the Mediterranean. But most directly threatened is Turkey, which, following the adoption of the Reformation Decrees- the Gyulahan Hatiserif (1839) and Hatt-ihumayun(1856) of Sultan Abdulmedjid, lives with the thought that it has given some rights and liberties to the enslaved rayah and expects it to "calm down".

That is why the rapid measures taken by Turkey, Russia, England and Austro-Hungary to control the Bulgarian Revolutionary Committee in Romania, the internal revolutionary network in Bulgaria, its initiator and organizer the "true revolutionist" –Levski - are also explicable. For this purpose, in the beginning of 1867, the European secret services created an Austro-Hungarian espionage center in Constantinople with the participation of England, France and Austria, in which local Turks and Bulgarians were enlisted. Agents of the secret services have been successfully implanted even in the revolutionary circles, and in Romania spies were used by the Polish emigration. The Turkish police were also involved in such task. As for Russia, through its vice-consul Nayden Gerov in Plovdiv, with whom Levski maintained close ties, and the Russian ambassador in Constantinople Count Ignatiev, the imperial palace was regularly informed of the activities of the Apostle...

- Does that mean that all the clandestine actions of Vasil Levski on Bulgarian territory - from December 1868 until his capture on the 27thof December 1872, in the Kukrinsko Hanche - were under the surveillance of the secret services?

- Yes, that is exactly what it means. His underground path, his capture, and his death, are the result of a string of betrayals - including unconscious ones - from the people he considered the closest with whom he shared his plans, intentions, or even the routes on which he was moving. A typical example is the naive belief of Hristo Ivanov - Golemia, considered to be the right hand of Levski and head of the secret police of the Internal Revolutionary Organization, that the Austro-Hungarian Consul in Ruse Oscar Montlog (in fact an experienced scout) is sympathetic to the revolutionary work of Levski. And he accepts a "gift" for the Apostle - a revolver, the Austrian "Gasser 16671", a system of 1870, which is now exhibited at the Military History Museum in Sofia. As a result of the coordinated actions of several secret services - spies and agents are constantly following Levski's paths, and the files related to the case against him and his revolutionary activity grow...

- How would you then explain the fact that Levski was not arrested when founding the first private revolutionary committees in 1869 but was left to act for four years?

- I will explain using my own hypothesis. For the spy stations, but especially for the Turkish police, it was important to collect as much data as possible about the "imperial enemies" in Bulgaria so that they could catch them before the decisive hour for a nationwide uprising and be beheaded and quenched. That's why they've been waiting for a moment. Levski was aware that he was being followed and that his life was in a mortal danger. But his philosophy of self-condemnation - "If I lose, I only lose myself", gives him the strength to continue.

The moment of dealing with him may be have came earlier than expected. The reason is the arbitrary robbery of the Turkish Post in Arabakonak, organized by Dimitar Obshti on the 22nd of September 1872, who was arrested and in the interrogation he admitted that the money was needed in order to buy rifles for the uprising. This recognition alters the nature of the offense - it is already charged as a political crime not a criminal act, and not only by Tsarigrad, but also by the European states friendly to Turkey. The real danger of a failure of the Internal Revolutionary Organization drives Levski to a risky decision - to collect its archives stored in Lovech and to meet with priest Krustyo to discuss the situation in the city. Since autumn 1872 the revolutionary organization there is physically unmanaged. Ivan Drasov left for Prague in August, the chairman Marin Poplukanov and his deputy Dimitar Pushkov were arrested on the 30th of October. The only remaining educated member of the committee is priest Krustyo. In anticipation of Levski's move, the secret services lured him to Lovech, serving themselves with false posters, entangling intrigues, and arresting leaders of the local secret revolutionary committee. And the trap prepared for the Apostle clicks. He manages to conceal conspiracy archives, saving thousands of his followers from arrest and death. But... at the cost of his life.

- All this gives you a reason to challenge categorically the common accusation of the Lovech priest Krastyu Nikiforov that he betrayed Levski...

- That is right. He was upbeaten and became a synonym of betrayal and disdain for years; not only that he did not betray Levski, but he himself was the victim of a preconceived treacherous script in which he was given this disgraceful role. And this move by the secret services has a striking effect. Just imagine what disappointment, mistrust and rejection from the revolutionary organization of hundreds and thousands of Orthodox Bulgarian patriots had caused the fact that a spiritual shepherd has betrayed their idol, the Apostle,as well as, their dream of freedom!

- You finish your book with a specific message to the current Bulgarian President. Would you share it in a summary?

- My message to the President is based, not only on my personal impressions on the lack of precision in the research on the life, the revolutionary deed and the peril of Vasil Levski, but on the proposal of the writer Marin Kalonkin from the 23rd of January 1987 to the Ministry of Defense to secure a scientific clarification to all the discussed problems, that occurred on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the birth of Vasil Levski as well. Unfortunately, his letter went by without consequences. So I, in the conclusion of the book, allow myself to propose or, more precisely, to ask with the hope and respect of the President of the Republic of Bulgaria for the following - to initiate the creation of a special commission or research team to deal with the clarification of all riddles and the revision of all the writings of Vasil Levski. This shall be done by not only historians, but also people with other majors; patriots, with no ambition for academic degrees. People who have earned their bread as secret agents, investigators, and authors or conspirators must also be included. This is necessary in order to clear the untruths, the inaccuracies, the absurdities and the slanders of the holy work of Vasil Levski. In the name of Bulgaria and the people of Bulgaria...

Photo: personal archive