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BULGARIAN REVIVAL CULTURE IN THE 18th AND THE 19th C.

During the Revival period Bulgarian culture developed in conditions which would be uncommonly difficult for any one people - alien political power, foreign chuch administration, absence of own national cultural institutions and economically weak bourgeois class. Against that background, the cultural achievements of the Bulgarians were amazing, indeed.

One of the most significant cultural phenomena is that connected with the enlightenment. Neither the totally outdated medieval small monastery schools, used to teaching only simple reading and writing, nor the intellectually wretched level of education in the Muslim schools could satisfy the needs of the Bulgarian society. Then it was only natural to have the eyes of those fighting for modern education directed towards the achievements of modern Europe to whose culture the Bulgarian people felt close for religious, economic and psychological reasons.

According to the unanimous assessment of the Bulgarian cultural science, the then modern European civilization had given image, flesh and blood to the Bulgarian culture. The establishment of a school network was the most telling evidence to that end.

In 1824 Dr Peter Beron, one of the few Bulgarians of that time to have received college education abroad, in Heidelberg, published his remarkable primer known as 'ABC of the Fish'. It contained grammar, natural science, arithmetics, anatomy and literature. In this book Dr Peter Beron pleaded for the introduction of the progressive Bell-Lancaster method of education in the Bulgarian schools of the future. After that memorable event, it took only a few decades for 1500 primary schools and dozens of secondary schools to be established in the Bulgarian lands. All these had been set up on the analogy of the most advanced European patterns. Thousands of Bulgarians enrolled in the universities of Russia, France, Germany, Austria-Hungary and Britain. Highly educated elite gradually evolved in a short time to take the Bulgarian literature, press and the arts in Bulgarian capable hands.

It is worth noting that all these successes of the Bulgarian culture had been achieved in an atmosphere of constant bridging over difficulties arising from the opposition of both the Turkish political authorities and the still foreign church administration. It is still more noteworthy that the powerful network of schools had been set up without any subsidies by the state or the church. All money for the building and furnishing of the schools, as well as for need-based grants or other school payments, as a rule, came from patriotically minded Bulgarians or from the Bulgarian parish - communities whose budgets were entirely dependent on donations or other willing Bulgarian population contributions, but were never derived from state tax deductions.

The highly erudite Bulgarian intelligentsia lay the beginnings of new Bulgarian literature and saw to its further development. As from the beginning of the 19th century new Bulgarian books were published in the Bulgarian language spoken at the time. This testified to the deeply rooted democratic literary traditions of the Bulgarian people.

The Bulgarian periodical press appeared at the turn of the 40s in the 19th century. By the mid 60s over fifty different newspapers and magazines had been published both in Bulgaria and over the border, in the neighboring countries. The latter were mainly papers and magazines circulated by Bulgarian immigrants' revolutionary organizations.

Some Bulgarian scholars working in universities abroad - Dr Nicola Piccolo (at the Sorbonne), Marin Drinov and Spiridon Palauzov (at St Petersburg and Kharkov universities). Dr Peter Beron (at Heidelberg) and others, had achieved serious results in the field of history, philosophy, natural history, mathematics and medicine. A group of Bulgarian academics laid the foundations of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences in Braila (in Romania) in 1869.

Historical research and intelligence gathering occupied a special place in all academic activities, as these had most closely been connected with the national political aspirations. Still in the 17th century works of great historical value were written by authors like Peter Bogdan, Father Paisi (the Bulgarian monk at the Hilendar monastery on Mount Athos whose All-Bulgarian History enjoyed extraordinary popularity), Hristofor Zhefarovich, Georgi Rakovski, Vasil Aprilov and others.

Poetry and fiction were particularly outstanding among the other Bulgarian cultural achievements at that time. The first Bulgarian verse was written between the 17th and the 18th centuries by authors of the Catholic persuasion such as Peter Bogdan, Pavel Duvanliev and Peter Kovachev. The acme of poetic perfection was reached in the 19th century by poets who had cast in their lot with the national revolutionary struggle such as Hristo Botev, Georgi Rakovski, Dobri Chintulov and Petko Slaveikov.

Among the talented works of fiction, drama and literary critic there stand out the names of Liuben Karavelov, Dobri Voinikov, Nesho Bonchev and few others.

Along with the modern European trends, some of the traditional arts had also made progress and had registered some really interesting achievements. For instance, the fine arts were to remain inextricably bound up with church mural and icon painting. However, the last few decades of that period marked the appearance of secular art, represented mainly by Bulgarian painters who had graduated from the art schools of Russia, Munich and Vienna. Owing to the lack of large-scale government assignments, architecture gave vent to what it was worth by building numerous churches, monasteries, bridges and private houses. Their beauty and practical value will never cease to amaze everyone, moreover, they are all the work of self-made architects.


- Translated from the book "Bulgaria Illustrated History" by Maria Nikolotva
- Bulgarian text by Bojidar Dimitrov, PhD.
- Published by BORIANA Publishing House, Sofia, Bulgaria

text used here with permission from translator, save modifications for noding

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