Bulgaria Table of Contents
In 1824 Dr. Petur Beron, a member of the Bulgarian emigrant community in Romania, published the first primer in colloquial Bulgarian. His book also explained a new system of secular education to replace the outdated precepts of monastery pedagogy, and Beron's suggestions strongly influenced the development of Bulgarian education in the nineteenth century. In 1835 a school was opened in Gabrovo according to Beron's design. Under direction of the monk Neofit Rilski, it was the first school to teach in Bulgarian. Similar schools opened in the ensuing years, and in 1840 the first school for girls opened in Pleven. Education grew especially fast in trading towns such as Koprivshtitsa and Kalofer in the foothills of the Balkans, where textiles and other trades created a wealthy merchant class. In the 1840s, the first generation of Western-educated Bulgarians returned home. Forming a cosmopolitan intelligentsia, they diversified and expanded Bulgarian schools in the following decades.
In the first half of the 1800s, special educational and cultural ties developed with Russia and France. In 1840 the Russian government began awarding grants for Bulgarian students to study in Russia. The total number of students in the Russian program was never high, but several graduates were leaders in the independence drive of the 1870s. Several notable Bulgarians of that generation also were educated in France and at Robert College, founded as a missionary institution in Constantinople.
Parallel with educational advancement, Bulgarian book printing advanced substantially after 1830. Before that date only seventeen original Bulgarian titles had been printed; but by mid-century, printing had replaced manuscript copying as the predominant means of distributing the written word. The first periodical was printed in Bulgarian in 1844, beginning an outpouring of mostly ephemeral journals through the nineteenth century. Censorship before 1878 meant that the majority of such journals were printed in the Romanian emigrant centers, outside the Ottoman Empire. Most Bulgarian-language periodicals printed within the empire came from Constantinople, showing the cultural importance of that city to the Bulgarian National Revival. After 1850 Bulgarian émigré periodicals, supporting a wide variety of political views toward the national independence movement, played a vital role in stimulating Bulgarian political consciousness.
In the mid-1800s, a number of cultural and charitable organizations founded in Constantinople supported and directed Bulgarian national institutions that resisted Ottoman and Greek influence. The social institution of the chitalishte (literally "reading room") played an important cultural role beginning in 1856. Established in population centers by adult education societies, the chitalishte was a center for social gatherings, lectures, performances, and debates. Because it was available to the entire public, this institution spread national cultural and political ideals beyond the intelligentsia to the larger society. By 1878 there were 131 such centers.
The Bulgarian National Revival also stimulated the arts in the nineteenth century. Dobri Chintulov wrote the first poetry in modern Bulgarian in the 1840s, pioneering a national literary revival that peaked in the 1870s. Translation of Western European and Russian literature accelerated, providing new influences that broke centuries of rigid formalism. Painting and architecture now also broke from the prescribed forms of Byzantine church art to express secular and folk themes. Bulgarian wood-carving and church singing assumed the forms that survive today.
Data as of June 1992