Gabrovo has given Bulgaria a galaxy of personalities: donors, educators, artists, industrialists, inventors, politicians and many more. etc. Among them is the man-of-the-age Iliya Kozhuharov. 100 years ago, he became the mayor of Gabrovo, and on October 31, he was born 130 years ago.
Born in Gabrovo in the family of a candle. Ivan Iliev Kozhuharov and Tsanka Negentsova. His sister is Stefana Bogdan Gencheva – chairperson of the “Maichina Griga” Public Welfare Association, a person with a huge contribution to the Society and Gabrovo. He completed his primary education at the Upper Krai School, and in 1912 at the Aprilov High School. He studied law in Aix-en-Provence, France. Interrupted to participate in the Balkan Wars, as part of the 23rd Shipchen Regiment and Shumen Fortress Garrison. Graduated from the Faculty of Law of Sofia University. In the meantime, he graduated from the School for reserve officers in Kniazhevo and was sent to serve in the navy in Varna, where he served as adjutant during the First World War.
After demobilization, he was a judicial candidate at the Tarnovo District Court (1919-1920), after which he moved to the Gabrovo Peace Court as a judge in the period 1920-1923. Meanwhile, the Democratic Party in the city nominated him for municipal councilor in the February elections. 1923, after which he was also elected mayor by the municipal councilors. This post is valid until September 12. 1932, having been successively elected four times and twice appointed. After a break of two years, in which he worked as a lawyer in the city, he was again appointed mayor for the period 1934-1935.
Iliya Kozhuharov’s contribution to the beautification and modernization of Gabrovo is extremely great. In the period 1925-1935, thanks to his energetic actions, a city water supply system, a chlorine purification station for the water source “Toplica” were built. It is an interesting fact that Mayor Kozhuharov himself provides the 73-page brochure “Water Supply of Gabrovo” to Gabrovo citizens as an author. In it, he follows in detail the plans, attempts, mistakes and efforts of the Municipality to ensure clean drinking water for the people of Gabrovo. There is also the information that after Popular Bank refused a loan for the purchase of the pipes, they were provided with the funds of six residents of Gabrovo, including the mayor Kozhuharov, who took out personal loans for the public cause. Its contribution to the energy supply of Gabrovo is great. Until then, the city used energy from Hristo Lulev’s power plant and Malusha hydroelectric power station, which proved to be extremely insufficient for the developing gabbro industry. In 1923, Mayor Kozhuharov accepted the proposal of the Yunak Gymnastic Society, the Aprilov-Palauzov Library, the Gabrovska Industrial and Popular Banks to create the Gramadata Water Syndicate, which solved the problems of supplying electricity to the city and the surrounding area . During his administration, the new municipal hall, the town halls, the slaughterhouse, the town bath, the new post office, the Second Junior High School “Neofit Rilski”, the Padal School, the New Bridge “Igoto” were built, streets were paved, and the fire department was built. The monuments of Vasil Aprilov (1935), Racho Kovacha (1936) were unveiled, and in 1934 the Freedom Monument was unveiled. As early as 1925, the municipality allocated a site to the “Invalid” Society for the construction of a monument to those who died in the wars of 1912-1918. During his administration, in 1923, 522 militiamen who were still wanted and still wanted were proclaimed Honorary Citizens of Gabrovo and champions.
The personal qualities of Iliya Kozhuharov have been noticed by the state authorities. The incredibly efficient, businesslike, goal-oriented mayor of Gabrovo was noticed by Prime Minister Andrey Toshev and held the position of Chief Secretary of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications from 1935 to 1938. In 1938, he was appointed Minister of Justice, then Minister of Trade and Industry (1939 d.) In the so-called non-party regime, Iliya Kozhuharov proves that a sick society needs individuals and statesmen who can take on the burden of governing on their own behalf in the name of democratic principles. In 1939-1941 he worked as a lawyer in Sofia. During the Anglo-American bombing in the Second World War, his personal archive, which was taken to his work office, was burned. From May 12 to November 5. In 1941, he was the governor of the Belomor region with headquarters in Xanthi (today in Greece).
After September 9, 1944, he shared the fate of all oppositionists and former rulers. In 1951, he was interned in the camp in Belene for three years. After that, he and his family were moved to Levski station. He briefly returned to Gabrovo, then worked as a mosaicist in Rousse, returning to Sofia in 1955. In 1965, he retired as manager of the Synodal Rest Station “Momin Prohod”, Sofia.
Iliya Kozhuharov survived the era of socialism. He was declared an Honorary Citizen of Gabrovo during his lifetime, with Decision No. 13 of 1993. This event was held with great solemnity on July 20, 1993, when his name day was also celebrated. He died at the age of 100 on June 12, 1994 in Sofia. He was solemnly buried in his hometown Gabrovo.
Today, the memory of Iliya Kozhuharov is preserved in his implemented ideas for the modernization of his hometown, in the memories of his descendants about what he did, and also in the preserved photos, documents, phonorecord. This became possible in 1991, when he visited the Gabrovo archive and agreed to make an audio recording of the memories he told. Along with this, he provides the archive with his personal photo albums, of which copies have been made. They store many valuable photographs of celebrations, views, personalities covering his years as mayor of Gabrovo and minister from the Democratic Party.
His memory is also preserved in the words of individuals and contemporaries who worked with him:
“Minister Iliya Kozhuharov is a friendly, polite person with an obviously brilliant mind, broad culture and an interesting interlocutor. With as few risks as possible, he achieves good results as a statesman.“
H.V. Tsar Boris III, 1939
“An intelligent, well-educated, noble man… As mayor, he was respected and honored by the entire city regardless of political and religious beliefs. He was also respected by his political opponents. His wisdom and desire to make our old city something good, new, useful, succeeded.”
Krastyu Doichinov, a municipal employee under the administration of Mayor Iliya Kozhuharov
“The people of Gabrovo loved him and loved him. At the very beginning of his mayoralty, he set himself the primary task of turning Gabrovo from a medium-sized, backward in terms of infrastructure into an orderly and modern one. During his term as mayor, he was uncompromising in the implementation of the law.”
Dosyu Grudov, municipal employee under Mayor Iliya Kozhuharov.
“Mr. Iliya Kozhuharov is a worthy Bulgarian from Gabrovo, a man enlightened by God’s blessing, who gave him 100 years of life – a gift to the chosen among men. This is a century gathered in one person, a life passed through peaceful creative years, military conflicts and political passions, economic and financial crises, it is a living history of our city and country. The ideas of a confident democrat implemented by him 60-70 years ago are today collected as remarkable highlights that Gabrovo is proud of and for which we are grateful. He was a source of hope, hope and faith for us, that as long as there are people on him, Gabrovo and Bulgaria will have them, but not everyone is honored and chosen with such a great honor…”
In the words of Maria Tomova – Chairwoman of the Municipal Council – Gabrovo, upon awarding Iliya Kozhuharov with the title of Honorary Citizen of Gabrovo”, July 20, 1993.
The thoughts that Iliya Kozhuharov himself shared are also relevant:
“I want everyone who comes here to find what they need and leave satisfied.” I don’t want to differentiate between rich and poor. All are equal in rights and obligations before the law.”
“And if the maxim of our late statesman Karavelov can best be applied somewhere, that one comes to power with a party, but one does not govern for a party, it must undoubtedly be in the management of the municipality.”
Author: Tsvetomira Koycheva – State Archives – Gabrovo.