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HISTORY OF THE BULGARIAN LITERARY SOCIETY IN BRAILA

Author: Mihail Arnaudov

Editor's Note: The historical past of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences /BAS/ is not yet clarified well or at least the available materials are not systematized properly. The archive of the Academy is unmanageably big and scholarly effort goes beyond the means of a single person or a group of dedicated beneficiaries. However, this is how the scientific community evolved and developed during its almost 150 years of existence. Certainly it was more a set of individual activities rather than a concerted public effort. Besides this book written by leading expert of documentary narrative in Bulgaria there are many other contributions dispersed in different institutional libraries and personal archives. Part of the funds of the Academy were transferred abroad at least on two occasions: 1) firstly, after the constitutional referendum in 1947 which expelled all pro-monarchist and capitalist elements from the governing bodies abroad; and 2) secondly, during the provisional transition period in the 1990s when most of the capital assets of the Academy were looted and coordinated control on the multifaceted organization is still difficult to achieve, ditto.

 

The monograph discusses certain aspects of the foundation and development of the Bulgarian Literary Society which, in 1911, was followed by the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.

The Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (BAS) was a specific and unique phenomenon in the cultural history of the Bulgarian people. The Society appeared in a period when Bulgaria was not a politically independent and sovereign state. It was founded by Bulgarian patriots, scientists and social figures who were emigrants mainly to Romania, Russia, Austro-Hungary, etc. Following long preparatory work, on 29 September 1869 the Bulgarian Literary Society was founded. The present section is dedicated to that remarkable event. The study treats only a part of the problems related to the historical development of the BAS and is not aimed at doing a profound and systematic investigation, it examines the fields of science which developed within the BAS but for one reason or another have not been discussed and popularized so far. The study deals mainly with natural and technical sciences but it also traces out the development of historical science and the sciences of state and law.

The section “Foundation and development of the BAS” traces the steep path of establishing the idea of an all-Bulgarian educational and scientific organization with the purpose of uniting the creative efforts of Bulgarian intelligentsia which was under formation. The constituent assembly of the BAS adopted the Statute of the Society and elected its leading bodies: board of trustees, full members, etc. The historian Marin Drinov was elected President of the Society, the prominent writer and social figure Vasil Drumev was elected a member and the publicist Vasil D. Stojanov — a secretary. The Board of Trustees which organized the financial and economic activities of the Society was headed by the prominent merchant Nikolay Tsenov. The Statute was based on the democratic principles of electivity, accounting and publicity and it proclaimed the tasks of the Society: to undertake studies in Bulgarian language, history, literature, ethnography, folklore, etc. Special attention is paid to the various activities of the Society which resulted in the appearance of its scientific organ “Periodical Journal”, as well as to its popularization among Bulgarians and to the establishing of creative contacts with the European academies, universities, museums, libraries, cultural societies, etc. Emphasis is laid on the fact that the BAS was considered a part of the European scientific structure.

The section “Historical sciences” discusses the first scientific attempts at throwing light over certain aspects of Bulgarian history. The thesis is supported that Bulgarian historians followed the theoretical concepts of the prominent European historians and considered the separate events of the existence of the Bulgarian people in the context of the European historical process. Emphasis is laid, above all, on the scientific work of Prof. M. Drinov, Prof. V. Zlatarski, V. D. Stojanov, etc. The conclusion is drawn that historical problematic constituted a major part of the various activities of the BAS.

The sciences of state and law are profoundly discussed in several aspects. A survey is made of the activities of the pioneering Bulgarian jurists and their efforts to introduce the legal and juridical organization and legislation of the recently liberated state. They were also the builders of the new Bulgarian state system after the Liberation from the Ottoman yoke in 1878. The fact is mentioned of the formation of a considerable group of jurists in the period from the 1880’s till 1911 who worked over theory and various aspects of state and law sciences. Special attention is paid to their role for the developing of university and law education.

The comparatively weakly studied fields of biological sciences, and especially botany and zoology, within the BAS are discussed in relation to the scientific work of a number of Bulgarian botanists, entomologists and zoologists. Having received their education in reputed European universities, they transferred these experience, traditions and methods of study into their work in Bulgaria. Special mention should be made of the merits of S. Georgiev, I. Urumov, N. Nedjalkov, P. Bahmetiev, S. Jurinich, I. Buresh, etc. They carried out the first scientific studies on Bulgarian flora and fauna.

The various activities of the large group of Bulgarian medical men are discussed in several aspects. They are presented as scientists and popularize activists of medical knowledge, builders of the medical-sanitary system of Bulgaria and founders of medical unions of international authority. Here one should mention the names of V. Hadzhistojanov-Beron, D. Mollov, S. Vatev, B. Beron, S. Danadzhiev, etc.

Several aspects of the development of physical sciences are also discussed. A survey is made of the work of BAS members before the Liberation and their efforts for distribution of knowledge in physics and writing of textbooks. Towards the end of the 19th and in the early 20th century the beginnings were laid of experimental and theoretical physics studies. The development affected mainly meteorology, seismology and chronometry, where the names of S. Vatsov and G. Bonchev should be mentioned. Serious research in the fields of magnetism, thermoelectricity and solid state physics was done by P. Bahmetiev.

The actual development of chemical sciences was set out in the late 19th century. During that time the professional chemists who had received their education in European universities began their work. Among them most outstanding was the BAS member Prof. P. Rajkov — a scientist of a broad erudition, scientific prolificacy and international authority. He worked in the fields of organic, inorganic and analytical chemistry and published the results of his studies in renowned specialized chemical journals. He also took part in a number of international chemical events and was a member of international scientific organizations and years-long lector of great authority.

Quite logically, the development of the natural-mathematical branch of the BAS led to the emergence of professional and specialized research into Bulgaria’s geography and geology. Based on a number of studies and geographical maps of the region done by European scientists, the BAS member A. Ishirkov laid the scientific bases of geography and cartography of Bulgaria.

Geological knowledge and studies are related to the names of G. Bonchev and G. Zlatarski. They carried out profound studies on the country’s mineral resources.

For the first time the work of BAS members in the field of technical and military sciences have been discussed. The works of H. Hesapchiev, L. Hashnov, I. Fichev, etc. were not only of a theoretical character but also of a definitely applied and practical significance.

The last section deals with the organization and systematization of the archives and library of the BAS. Their history is traced out starting from the Braila period of the BAS and following the moving of the Society in Sofia.

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Bulgarian Academy of Sciences was founded as the Bulgarian Literary Society in September 1869 by Bulgarian exiles in the house of Varvara Hadzhi Veleva in Braila, Romania. The first statutes were accepted on 29 September and Nikolai Tsenov was elected president of the Bulgarian Literary Society. The Society began publishing a journal in 1870 and nine years after its foundation, in October 1878, the General Assembly of the Society voted to move the headquarters to Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria.

By 1882 the Society had resumed functioning after a short break. Vasil D Stoyanov, who had been elected as Secretary when the Society was founded in Braila, Romania, was now elected as President. The Society began negotiations for a site for a building in Sofia, which was provided by the city council two years later. In 1884 the areas covered by the Society were extended to include some natural sciences, but at this stage mathematics and the physical sciences were still not among the Society's interests. At this time the Society came under the patronage of His Royal Highness the Bulgarian prince Alexander I. On 5 October 1890 the Society laid the foundation stone for a building in Sofia, which was completed in March 1893.

On 25 October 1898 the General Assembly of the Bulgarian Literary Society agreed on the statute of its main scientific branches. On 6 March 1911 the Bulgarian Literary Society changed its name to the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. At this time Ivan E Geshov became President. The Academy began to construct a new building in 1925 and three years later the building was completed and the General Assembly met in the new building for the first time on 24 June 1928.

In April 1940 the Academy again changed its name, this time to the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences and Arts. New statutes were drawn up and accepted but in 1941 a dispute arose when the government demanded that the Scientific Secretary of the Academy should be appointed by the government and not elected by the Academy. Despite opposition, it was agreed that the Minister of National Education should appoint the Secretary of the Academy.

In 1944 the Academy buildings were damaged by bomb shelling during World War II and the Academy had to suspend its activities. Reorganization in 1945 saw plans put in place to found a number of new scientific institutes as part of the Academy. The first institutes were set up in 1946 and the Academy had again been renamed, going back to the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.

At this time a law was brought in so that:

"Bulgarian Academy of Sciences is the leading scientific institute in the country. It is a state organization under the authority of the Council of Ministers."

In 1947 the Academy's statutes were cancelled and replaced by legal regulations. However, the statutes were reinstalled in 1957 when a law was enacted:

"Issues of the structure, personnel and administrative bodies of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences as well as the rest of all the organizational matters are to be arranged by the Statutes approved by the Council of Ministers and sanctioned with a Decree of the Presidium of the National Assembly."

The Communist Party in Bulgaria took firm control of the Academy on 21 December 1972 when it was decreed:

"Bulgarian Academy of Sciences develops its activities according to the program and decisions of the Bulgarian Communist Party."

In November 1991 the Academy was again given control of its own affairs. It became an independent institution which again elected its own officials.

 

Pictures 1 & 2: Sample illustration on the text.

(i). This is how the Chairman (M. Drinov, left) and the Secretary (V. Stoyanov, right) looked like in the far gone 1860s, when the Society was founded in Braila.

 

(ii). The rare photograph gives idea of the Central building of the Academy which is ultimately located in Sofia; the baroque architecture is seen here during a rally of the peasant government in 1922.

 

 

Copyright © 2008 by the author.