Byala Cherkva (BYAH-lah). Fictional Bulgarian town in which the principal action takes place. Located in the Strema Valley or valley of roses, in the mountains of the Balkan Peninsula, it is a prosperous town with many merchants and has its own school. It is also the location of the konak, the Turkish governor’s residence, a constant reminder to the Bulgarians that they are under the rule of Muslims who despise Bulgarians, most of whom are Orthodox Christians, as infidels. At first the wealthy members of the merchant class prefer to accommodate the Turks, but a random act of rebellion and the Turks’ response to it lead the merchants to join the rebels in a doomed uprising. Yet afterward the merchants prefer to purchase their own safety by abject surrender of all weapons and any suspected individuals, rather than become another razed village. The town is heavily based upon Ivan Vazov’s own hometown of Sopot.
Mill. Old mill building, located just beyond the main part of Byala Cherkva, on the Old River that is the site of the murder of two Turks. This act by a passing revolutionary is the spark that sets off the action of the novel. When the Turks’ hastily buried bodies are discovered by the authorities as a result of a dog’s obsessive pawing at the spot, the Turks then brutalize and kill a respected member of the community. This so outrages the previously apathetic merchants that...
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