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How did Kardzhali receive its name?

There are numerous myths and stories about Kirdzha Ali – an ordinary person, a commander and a saint, whose name the town of Kardzhali has received. Old people state that the native town of Kirdzha Ali is Buhara or Alanya which is a port in Konya region. In the Almanac of the Odrin Vilayet, in 1310 by Hidjra (year 1892) a legend was translated and according to this legend when The Turks аttacked the Rhodope Mountains during the reign of Sultan Murad I ( 1360-1389 ) the commander of the army was Kirdzha Ali. He was killed during one of the battles and the new town received his name. It is not easy to give a name to a new town, nor is it to give any other name.

     Without doubt Kardzha Ali must have been a great person, who was far above the level of the people he lived with, a person who was far more competent, with great authority, ostensible, loved and esteemed as well. That was the reason why after his death people decided to call the town by his name. And this has eternalized Kirdzha Ali, no matter what kind of person he was. There still lies the question whether the town starts existing after Kirdzha Ali`s death or it existed even before that event and he just left his name to the town. However, we observe that it is more important to know how the town came into being. Let us see how legends present Kardzha Ali:

Тhe legend about Kirdzha Ali Gazi

In one of Buhara`s clerical schools, which was an old scientific and arts center in Middle Asia, the former Uzbek USSR, there studied а certain Ali. He was remarkable for his great memory and was also loved by his classmates as well as by the imam who was his teacher. When Ali grew up, he became naughtier and became so fond of hunting that he did not come home all day long. Many times the imam advised him not wander in the woods and instead of this he advised him to study his clerical duties. Ali promised to do so, but once the lessons were over he took his gun again and went straight hunting.

The innumerable pieces of advice that the imam gave him did not work and so he decided to exercise his influence on Ali in some other way. The imam was a great wizard. He traced Ali as he once went hunting. While Ali was trying to aim carefully at a rabbit, the imam kept a close watch on him while hiding behind the tree. Ali killed the rabbit, but he was very surprised to see his imam lying killed instead of the rabbit. Terrified, Ali ran straight to school. However, the moment he entered the yard he saw his teacher washing quite calmly at the fountain. Ali took a deep breath and thought that this vision was a result of the fear he feels for his teacher, because of the frequent remarks of the imam. The next day when they started classes, the imam fixed his eyes upon Ali and asked:

"Stand up! Tell us where you were yesterday."
"I studied with my classmates ", answered Ali timidly.
" Then who aimed at his imam in the woods and killed him instead of the rabbit?"
Ali started trembling with fear, while the imam went on:
"Do not even try to think of telling me lies. The one that you killed was me, but here I am all alive, standing right in front of you. And remember, next time do not try to tell lies. Now, sit down. You are not a student any more, you are a kirdzhi. "
Students started laughing, while Ali died broken-hearted. He couldn’t answer anything, but as it grew dark he went to his Imam, knelt and begged for his pardon:
" I`ll never go hunting again. Forgive me and do not exclude me from school, because my parents will be very sad about this. I'm their only son. Take mercy on me."
From then on, Ali served as a model pupil, but all this was of no importance, for he had already lost his good name and everyone used to call him “Kirdzhi, Kirdzhi Ali " . There was nothing that could help Ali regain his former good name and reputation. And once again he started wandering in the woods without listening to the words of the people. The moment he felt that he was free, he took the gun and ran straight hunting. Ali was well-built, slender and very handsome. His inquisitiveness was also added to his attractive appearance. He studied hard and received excellent marks in all subjects. And because of that even the imam himself did not reprove him, but just acted as if he did not notice went hunting.  
It was already a time when Turkey had conquered Odrin (1363) and continued its military campaigns over the Balkan peninsula. All volunteers for the Battles of Faith had to be gathered. And when they came to the school in Buhara for volunteers, the Imam addressed Ali and told him:  
"Kirdzhi Ali, now show me how brave you are. You made me angry by not taking my advice when I told you not to go to the woods. I cannot hide it. I counted the times you went out in order to wander and that was the reason why I called you Kirdzhi. It is not a big deal to kill rabbits or to hit the target, this is not a deed of heroism indeed. Now let me see how brave you are and tell me will you be a volunteer? "
"Yes, I will. I'm ready ", answered Ali.
"Well, then, go ahead and I hope that you’ll become famous in the military campaign. I would like to give you a hearty welcome one day when you become a hero, and not only I, but all your classmates as well", said the imam.
There were many volunteers from Buhara, but even during the very first days Ali attracted the attention of his commanders through his unique courage and his wild nature. They started assigning him responsible missions which Kirdzhi Ali carried out perfectly. Even here people continued calling him Kirdzhi Ali and his name was notorious. He achieved distinction among the rest of the soldiers in the battle and was always on the front line. Thus, he succeeded in becoming a commander.
Kirdzhi Ali excited respect and worship everywhere. He spoke sensibly which, on the other hand, inspired his soldiers. To some extent he knew history as well and this was the reason why his speeches were very fascinating. He became famous for the fаct that he was an orator. In a few years he became famous and reached the rank of a colonel. It was his soldiers that drifted like a gale and won one battle after another. Kirdzhi Ali was always first in the battle. It was a complete miracle that he was never wounded. To his soldiers he was like a brother and they loved him like a brother. Never did Ali sit to eat if his soldiers were hungry and didn’t have a place to sleep.  
His regiment was already famous when they reached the Rhodopes. The wonderful Rhodope forests impressed Ali. After the campaign was over he decided to remain in these lands and preach to the ones who came immediately after the army and who settled in the nicest deserted villages whose inhabitants had been slaughtered or chased away.
While preaching in various villages, Kirdzhi Ali awaited his own old ages. Many of his soldiers also decided to stay in these lands. Wherever he went, he instructed the newly-come colonizers, but in the meantime he did not forget to go hunting. Sometimes he would organize whole shooting parties and the hunting activity would turn into a great festivity. A great many days they wandered in the Rhodope forests, amused themselves, ate and drank sherbet, thumped drums and timbals till they could eat and drink no more. The Turkish colonists worshipped Kirdzhi Ali. Anything was impossible without him – even in the civil life he was again first. He rode a nice wild horse and he was always armed, even while preaching. Whenever he mounted on his wild horse, everyone sighed in surprise, for Kirdzhi Ali was a good-looking man and on the horse he looked even more handsome.
Kirdzhi Ali got too old. One morning people found him dead. Thousands of Turks from the newly conquered villages gathered because of this event. They buried him in the meadow where he was found dead.
Some of his former soldiers loved him to such an extent that they decided to build their houses near his grave and so stay around their unforgettable leader and preacher.  Day after day, around these houses, other small houses started appearing as well. When these houses reached the number of 25-30, the oldest of these Turks asked the rest of the people what name they should give to this village. They did not think too long and all at once cried out loud that this village should receive the name of their courageous leader Kirdzhi Ali. " Let its name be Kirdzhi Ali from now on and let it be mentioned by people from all ages, for the glory and heroism of the bold commander from Buhara, let this village become famous and let it grow and become a town one day." This information was given by Halim Effendi, one of Sultan Abdul Hamid`s teachers. While rummaging through the library shelves in Istanbul, he stumbled across this story about Ali from Buhara and as he was also a native of Kardzhali, he reported what he had read in the Turkish chronicles and in this way the story was brought to our native region from doctor Sadik – the first doctor to live here.

To this, whether a legend or a real event, we shall add the note about Kirdzhi Ali which was written in the Almanac of the Odrin Valiyet dating back to year 1892, where on page 316 we read: " Although there does not exist another information about the conquest of the town of Kardzhali, according to Turkish chronicles this is thought to have happened during the reign of Murad I. After Gyumyurdzhina`s fall, next came Rhodope villages` turn. Another fact states that one of Murad`s commanders by the name of Kirdzhi Ali had fought on these territories. Here most of the villages had been destroyed by fire, Kirdzhi Ali rebuilt them and named one of these villages after his name. That is how the small town of Kirdzhi Ali has been founded in the Eastern Rhodopes ".


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