Places: Under the Yoke

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: Pod igoto, serial, 1889-1890; book, 1893 (English translation, 1893)

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Historical

Time of work: 1875-1876

Places DiscussedByala Cherkva

Byala Under the YokeCherkva (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 they join with the rebels in the doomed uprising. At the end of the novel, Vazov brings the story full circle by having the protagonists cornered and captured at the mill, where the Turks kill them, mutilate their bodies, and place their heads on pikes as gruesome warnings to others who would raise their hand against Turkish rule.


Monastery. Center of Eastern Orthodox religious activity in the valley. Although the monastery is initially a lively center of activity, by the time of the novel it is run down, with only a few monks still living in it, including the half-wit Mooncho, who chatters obsessively. It is also the home of Deacon Vikenti, a historical rebel leader who provides shelter for the protagonist when he is in danger of being discovered by the Turks after the murder at the mill. At the close of the novel, Mooncho’s grief-stricken curse against Muhammad and the sultan of Turkey leads to his being seized and hanged as a traitor by the Turks.


Klissoura (klih-SEW-rah). Village in which the first major insurrection begins and in which many important rebels stay or visit. When the uprising finally begins, it is tragically premature and is rapidly crushed by the Turks with extreme brutality. The entire village is put to the torch and its inhabitants massacred and scattered.


Zli-Dol (TSLIH-dol). Mountain outcropping overlooking the valley on which the rebels place improvised cannons made from hollowed-out cherry tree trunks bound with metal bands. However, these cannons prove useless–the first one bursts during its first and only firing–and they play no real military role in the uprising.


Altunovo (ahlt-ah-NOH-vo). Village in which Ognyanov hides. Here he is concealed in a house that is hosting a traditional wedding, which Vazov describes in some detail.


Rahmanlari (ra-HMAN-la-ree). Turkish village nearest Klissoura where several hundred Turks, mostly ill-disciplined mercenary irregulars or bashi-bazouk, gather to attack Klissoura and crush the rebellion.

BibliographyChoice. Review of Under the Yoke, by Ivan Vazov. 9 (June, 1972): 514. Hails the publication in English of this important work. Praises the work of the translators and editor in making the work accessible to the English reader.Haffner, Susanne A. Review of Under the Yoke, by Ivan Vazov. Library Journal 97 (January, 1972): 86. Describes the importance of the novel in the context of Bulgarian history. Cites some weakness in characterization and the strength of the novel’s largely accurate account of a revolution.
Categories: Places