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Nikola Vaptsarov

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Nikola Vaptsarov
Vaptsarov during his time in the Varna Naval Machinery School
Vaptsarov during his time in the Varna Naval Machinery School
Native name
Никола Вапцаров
Born(1909-12-07)7 December 1909
Bansko, Ottoman Empire
Died23 July 1942(1942-07-23) (aged 32)
Sofia, Bulgaria
Occupationpoet, activist of the communist resistance
NationalityBulgarian[note 1]
Notable worksMotor Songs

Nikola Yonkov Vaptsarov (Bulgarian: Никола Йонков Вапцаров; Macedonian: Никола Јонков Вапцаров, romanizedNikola Jonkov Vapcarov; 7 December 1909 – 23 July 1942) was a Bulgarian poet, communist and revolutionary.[1][2][3] Working most of his life as a machinist, he only wrote in his spare time. Despite the fact that he only ever published one poetry book, he is considered one of the most important Bulgarian poets. Because of his underground communist activity against the government of Boris III and the German troops in Bulgaria, Vaptsarov was arrested, tried, sentenced and executed the same night by a firing squad.



He was born in Bansko (today in Bulgaria).[4] Trained as a machine engineer at the Naval Machinery School in Varna, which was later named after him.[5] His first service was on the famous Drazki torpedo boat. In this period, he embraced Marxism and spread the communist ideology during the 1930s.[6] In April and May 1932, Vaptsarov visited Istanbul, Famagusta, Alexandria, Beirut, Port Said, and Haifa as a crew member of the Burgas vessel. In 1934, he joined the Bulgarian Communist Party.[7]

Later, he went to work in a factory in the village of Kocherinovo – at first as a stoker and eventually as a mechanic. He was elected Chairman of the Association, protecting worker rights in the factory. During this time Vaptsarov was devoted to his talent and spent his free time writing and organizing amateur theater pieces. He got fired after a technical failure in 1936. This forced him to move to Sofia, where he worked for the state railway service and the municipal incinerating furnace.[8] He continued writing, and a number of newspapers published poems of his. The "Romantika" poem won him a poetry contest.

In the late 1930s, he co-founded the Macedonian literary circle, which promoted the idea of a separate Macedonian nation, but Vaptsarov continued writing only in standard Bulgarian.[9][7] His only published poetry collection is Motor Songs (1940).[10][11] In 1940, he participated in the so-called "Sobolev action," gathering signatures for a pact of friendship between Bulgaria and the USSR. The illegal activity earned him an arrest and an internment in the village of Godech. After his release in September 1940, Vaptsarov got involved with the Central Military Committee of the Bulgarian Communist Party. His task was to organize the supply of guns and documents for the communist resistance. He was arrested in March 1942. On 23 July 1942, he was sentenced to death and shot the same evening along with eleven other men.



Post-war Bulgarian communist authorities revered him as an activist and revolutionary poet, presenting his poetry collection as an example of proletarian literature.[7] His work was also widely published in Soviet-bloc countries. In 1949, the Bulgarian Naval Academy was renamed Nikola Vaptsarov Naval Academy. In 1953, he received posthumously the International Peace Award.[12] His Selected Poems was published in London in the 1950s, by Lawrence & Wishart, translated into English with a foreword by British poet Peter Tempest. He was one of the most frequently translated Bulgarian poets.[1] Vaptsarov Peak in eastern Livingston Island, Antarctica, is named after the famous Bulgarian poet. Today, Nikola Vaptsarov's childhood home in Bansko and residence in Sofia are both museums. He is also revered in North Macedonia.[4]


  1. ^ From a police investigation of 13 December 1940, regarding the arrest of the poet because of his poem "Selska Chronicle": ... I am named Nikola Yonkov Vaptsarov, resident of Sofia, 37 Angel Kunchev Street, religion – Eastern Orthodox, nationality – Bulgarian, marital status – married, occupation – machine technician, born in 1909.


  1. ^ a b France, Peter (2000). The Oxford guide to literature in English translation. Oxford University Press. p. 194. ISBN 978-0198183594.
  2. ^ The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics, Stephen Cushman et al., Princeton University Press, 2012, ISBN 1400841429, p. 169.
  3. ^ "The History of Bulgaria", The Greenwood Histories of the Modern Nations Series, Frederick B. Chary, ABC-CLIO, 2011, ISBN 0313384460, pp. 143–144.
  4. ^ a b Dimitar Bechev (2009). Historical Dictionary of the Republic of Macedonia. Scarecrow Press. pp. 231–232. ISBN 978-0810862951.
  5. ^ "The Nikola Vaptsarov Museum in Bansko". 21 December 2014. Retrieved 6 May 2020.
  6. ^ R. J. Crampton (1987). A Short History of Modern Bulgaria. CUP Archive. p. 135. ISBN 9780521273237.
  7. ^ a b c Wojciech Roszkowski; Jan Kofman (2016). Biographical Dictionary of Central and Eastern Europe in the Twentieth Century. Routledge. pp. 1080–1081. ISBN 9781317475941.
  8. ^ "БДЖ организира пътуване с парния локомотив Баба Меца". 9 May 2019. Retrieved 6 May 2020.
  9. ^ Dimitar Bechev (2019). Historical Dictionary of North Macedonia (2nd ed.). Rowman & Littlefield. p. 188. ISBN 978-1538119624.
  10. ^ "Bulgarian literature". Encyclopædia Britannica. 20 July 1998. Retrieved 6 May 2020.
  11. ^ Charles A. Moser (2019). A History of Bulgarian Literature 865–1944. Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co KG. p. 227. ISBN 9783110810608.
  12. ^ "Bulgaria commemorates poet Nikola Vaptsarov". BGNES. 23 July 2022. Retrieved 6 September 2023.