Unfortunately for us all, in Bulgaria the word Freemasonry has a negative connotation because of the national features of the so-called Transition Period – the period after the façade fall of the Communist regime in Bulgaria in 1989 which, according to many, continues to this day. The main reason for this negative word association is the inclusion in the national freemasonry lodges of people who became rich in an assumingly criminal way during the last years of the Communist regime or who have been piling up their money due to their political connections since then.
Our article, however, is a brief summary on how freemasonry came into existence in the world, what were its purpose and role in the development of human societies and, finally, will meet you with the founder of the first Balkan Star freemasonry lodge in Bulgaria which was established in Rousse, Ivan Vedar.
A Very Brief History of Freemasonry around the World
The word masonry comes the English word mason and the French one maçon both of which meaning someone whose work is related to building with bricks. Though we don’t know for sure when exactly the freemasonry originated, researchers concede that it must have started in Ancient Egypt when the masons who took part in building the Great Pyramids and other Egyptian monuments started to unite in associations.
Over the centuries, the idea of craftsmen associations reached Europe. The official theory for the Freemasonry origin on the Old Continent indicates Scotland as its homeland when in 1599 a group of local builders established the first lodge with rituals and secret initiations.
At the heart of Freemasonry lies the idea of initiated members helping each other out regardless of what their location might be and of whether the masons personally know each other. It is believed that through secret signs, shared and known among all masons around the globe, they could identify when meeting each other and are obliged to help a fellow in trouble. The idea is not surprising – imagine a mason worker in the 16th century who, for months or often years, worked on a construction site in another city or country, left completely to the mercy of masters who could at all times break the negotiated terms. In other words, Freemasonry emerged as, let‘s say, a predecessor what we would nowadays call a “trade union” except that the identification of members was not made officially known but was done through secret signs and based on secret rites.
Gradually, more and more people became interested in the idea of solidarity which Freemasonry embodied and the Masonic lodges embraced not only bricklayers but also people of all trades as their members. So, it was from back then when the name Freemasonry was adopted as an indication of the various professional backgrounds of its members. It is important to note that most masons were greatly motivated and broadly knowledgeable people with strong social responsibility. Among the famous masons were Johan Sebastian Bach, George Washington, Sir Winston Churchill, Joseph Haydn, Henry Ford, Oscar Wilde, Mark Twain, Alexander Pushkin, and many more.
Freemasonry has evolved a great deal throughout the centuries and its global history is marked with interesting facts. If you are interested in how Freemasonry originated in Russia, what exactly happened in England in 1753 and 1877, or what the ritual Freemasonry symbols, you can start from article on Wikipedia.
Freemasonry in Bulgaria
In 1880, after the Liberation, Ivan Vedar founded the first Masonic lodge in our country, Etoile des Balkans, in Rousse. Its first founding members are the Bulgarian revolutionaries Zahari Stoyanov, Nikola Obretenov, Ilarion Dragostinov and Toma Kardzhiev, and His Highness Alexander Battenberg. Other notable Bulgarian revolutionaries such as Angel Kanchev, Georgi Sava Rakovski, Hristo Botev, and Dimitar Obshti are also believed to have been masons.
The contemporary Freemason lodges in Bulgaria have established an order with the name of their founder.
And midway through our article we got to the exceptional personality and motley life of the founder of the Freemasonry and the first masonry lodge in our country which was established in Rousse.
Ivan Vedar was born under the birth name of Danail Nikolov in 1827 in the town of Razgrad. Already during his young years, his life was marked by an interesting and dramatic story. His father was the master builder Karastoyan who was hired by a notable Turk to build a house for him. The assignor of the job on the Turkish side, however, refused to pay for the work done and as a result he two sides fought and Danail had to kill the Turk to protect his father’s life. After this incident, Daniel changed his name and went undercover.
His life kept that same dynamic path of development. He attended a college in Malta where he learned several foreign languages; worked as a sailor on an English ship traveling between London and Melbourne; became a translator for Turkish institutions in Constantinople; taught foreign languages to the sons of Turkish rulers in Izmir, including the children of Midhat Pasha, the ruler of the Danube vilayet (an administrative unit) whose centre before the Liberation was Rousse. During the Crimean War, Danail regularly visited Black Sea ports assumingly spying for Russia. He also graduated the medical school in Bucharest and received his Vedar nickname from his professors because of his open mind.
In 1863 Danail was initiated in the secret Freemasonry teachings at the Oriental Lodge Constantinople Branch and reached a 33rd degree which was the highest degree as considered by the Old and Adopted Scottish ritual.
His interesting fate continued and he started working at the construction of the first railway line between Rousse and Varna. Ten he became a sales representative in Manchester where he married the daughter of a respected Rousse-native architect, and also taught at Robert College in Constantinople, and became a correspondent of European newspapers.
Midhat Pasha who was the ruler of the Danube vilayet appointed him a secretary of foreign correspondence which exposed Danail to frequent contacts with foreign diplomats and helped him to establish connections with the revolutionaries from the city who fought against the Ottoman rule in the country and later drove the nation to its Liberation. Danail financially supported both the local revolutionary committee and several uprisings in the region. He also helped Zahari Stoyanov, one of Baba Tonka’s sons-in-law, to become a librarian in the Zora Community Center in Rousse.
Before his death in 1898, Ivan Vedar donated all his property to the state, stating that he had given enough to his children – proper upbringing and good education.
Ivan Vedar’s bones are kept in the Pantheon of National Revival (located in one of the city parks) and a monument was erected in his honor nearby.
An Urban Legend
An urban legend tells us an even more interesting story which, if true, was how Danail saved Rousse from complete destruction as well as 4,000 of its residents from sure death shortly before the Liberation.
Here it is. In August 1877, the Russian troops almost fully demolished the Turkish quarter in Rousse which in turn enraged the Turkish forces making them take steps to kill the entire Bulgarian population in the city. They gathered 4,000 people in one place located on the outskirts of the city where they were kept for several days. Ivan Veder managed to get out of his house that was guarded by the Turkish militaries by bribing them with a bag of gold. He then went to the Italian city consul, together they turned to a then influential local Turkish guy, the three of them climbed the Leventa hill to meet the Turkish pasha who commanded the Egyptian troops that were surrounding the city to negotiate with him to release the people and to spare Rousse from complete extinction.
And here follows the most interesting part – on meeting Delaver Pasha, the three of them make a Masonic hand sign. Delaver Pasha, realizing he was talking to a higher-ranking Mason brother, offered Ivan Vedar his brotherly co-operation. When returning from the Leventa hill, the delegation found out that those 4,000 people were surrounded by Egyptian soldiers who actually guarded them from the Circassian and Bashibosuk troops who wanted to kill them. So, this is how 4,000 people from the city evaded their death and Rousse was not reduced to rubble.
- Ivan Vedar on Wikipedia
- Freemasonry on Wikipedia
- List of Freemasons
- The Most Powerful Masons on Business Insider
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