It is assumed that Batak
was founded as a small mountain village
in the 16th century. The main form
of subsistence for the local population
was found in the forest. Woodworking
became prevalent with the introduction
of lumber-mills. At the beginning
of the 19th century, Batak, which
is endowed with many suitable rivers,
had over 200 lumber-mills manufacturing
talk of the forest industry in Batak.
The majority of lumber-mills were
situated on the rivers of the area,
particularly the Old river and the
“Vucha” river. In the year 1818, the
priest Constantine, writing of the
area, recorded that “here there are
many mills cutting boards, along the
‘Kriva’ river – 4, ‘Beglika’ – 8,
in the town – 23, along the ‘Karluska’
river – 14.” This is just a sampling
of the rivers, along which at the
time were mills.
Now in Batak there are many places
that carry the name of these old lumber-mills,
such as “Toshkov Chark,” “Vlaseviya
Chark,” “Tsigov Chark,” and others.
The architect K. Boichev has drawn
up plans of the “Tsigov Chark” area,
along the road between Batak and Rakitovo,
recorded in the book of architect
Georgi Stoichev, “Batak and its Architectural
Legacy.” The word “Chark,” is of Turkish/Persian
origin and refers to a wheeled mechanism.
In the Rodopi region, lumber mills
are generally referred to as “charks.”
Lumber-mills in Batak
were for the most part powered by
water wheels. The lower end of the
water channel, where the water entered
the water wheel, was a pyramid shaped
funnel. From the height of the water
and therefore the large amount of
available energy, the wheels were
able to spin at a fast rate, from
30 to 120 revolutions per minute.
The lumber-mills in
Batak represented a particular form
of ownership. Each lumber-mill was
owned by 6-7 forest workers. The mills
lacked a designated leader or written
rules of management, they were run
through traditional agreements, everyone
working equally, with the mill running
day and night.
Each mill cut its boards
by the length, width, and thickness
that the original trees allowed and
by the specifications of the purchaser.
An automatic system
was created to feed the trees into
the saw blades, similar to the automatic
feeding of water into the water wheel,
in order to make the running of the
mill more efficient.
The tree was attached
to the movable wheel by way of an
iron grip. With the help of the workers,
two trees could be placed one on top
of the other, to be run through the
blade at the same time.
Replacement and sharpening
of the blades was done periodically
by the most-skilled of the workers.
Through the winter months,
most of the lumber-mills didn’t work
because the rivers that they relied
on for power were frozen.
One water powered mill
could saw from 2 to 6 m3 of wood.
When conditions allowed, there were
250 lumber-mills operating in Batak,
employing over 3000 people, producing
about 300,000 m3 of material in a
given year, as much as 30 modern lumber
Magazine “Rodopi” Georgi