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Author: Mihail Arnaudov

Editor's Note: The history of Higher Education in Bulgaria is epitomized with its oldest establishment viz., Sofia University "St. Kliment Ohridski". We have tried to make a meta-analysis on the literature from and about this educational facility. It proved to be a cumbersome task and not because of lack of sources, but because of their lavishness. So far, the two main publications on the Sofia University remain the "Jubilee Almanacs with History" on the occasion of the 50th and 100th anniversary of the university. They comprise 4 medium octavo volumes, with a total bulk of more than 2000 pages and published respectively in years 1939 and 1988. Besides these there are also some dozen monographs of lesser importance and numerous brochures, flyers, plaques, etc. published on various commemorative instances. Our dictum in the booklist have always been to make short, well-centered reviews on the subject matter at hand. This is how the material below has evolved, however, a comprehensive history of the Sofia University and in a referred international language (English) is a matter of self-esteem and worthiness for any Alma Matter around the world, ditto.


On October 1, 1888 was founded the oldest university in Bulgaria Sofia University "St. Kliment Ohridski" with 4 regular and 3 exceptional teachers and 49 students. Open as pedagogical course, after several months was renamed in the Higher School, and from 1904 on at Sofia University. Famous bulgarian linguist Alexander Teodorov-Balan is Rector Primoris.

Sofia University store democratic traditions in the field of education and culture from the age of the Bulgarian National Revival and impose as the main training, scientific and cultural center in the young Bulgarian state. During the first years of its existence it has three faculties the Historical and Philological (since 1888), the Physical and Mathematical (since 1889) and the Legal (from 1892 on). The following subjects are learned there: history and geography; Slav philology and literature, philosophy and pedagogy; mathematics and physics, chemistry, natural sciences, law. In 1901 are adopted and the first 16 women in universities. From 1902 official holiday becomes November 25 (8 December) Day of St. Kliment Ohridski.

Memorable in the history of the university is 1907, when in the opening of the National Theatre in Sofia students wooed Prince Ferdinand, and then followed the closure of the university for 6 months and the recall of all its teachers (professors, associate professors and lecturers). University crisis is permeated only after the appointment of a new government (in January 1908) headed by the leader of the Democratic Party Alexander Malinov. On the eve of the Balkan wars in the Sofia University have recorded 1379 students (725 youths and 654 girls). The fourth faculty of the University (medical) was opened in 1917, fifth (agronomical) in 1921, and sixth (veterinary) and seventh (theological) in 1923. During the academic year 1922/1923, Sofia university has 111 professors with 205 teachers and assistants (52 regular and 18 exceptional teachers, 35 regular and 21 private associate professors, 6 lecturers and 73 assistants). The number of students is 2388 people (1702 men and 686 women).

At the end of 1921 and the first half of 1922, during the administration of the Bulgarian Agrarian National Union, was made the second serious attempt to impeach on the autonomy of the university. And then the government of Alexander Stamboliiski was forced to step back against the position of teachers and students.

Active at Sofia University, the students developed academic societies 16 at the end of the 1920s. Organizers of the cultural life of students was the all-students organization "Hristo Botev", which combined a significant part of the university youth. It was also the largest branch of the Bulgarian National Students Union (BNSS, transliteration from bulgarian). In contrast to this student organization at the end of March 1930 was delegated the Bulgarian General Popular Student Union (BONSS, transliteration from bulgarian), which brings together mainly students with left beliefs.

Sofia University developed as a major research institution in the country. Pedagogical employment of teachers was combined with effective research, which enriched science with significant contributions and became available to the public through the university scientific journals "Annual of Sofia University", "University Library", and others.

The leadership of Sofia University gave deserved recognition to those who support the development of Bulgarian science. For example, on October 28, 1928, the Academic Council inaugurated Tsar Boris III as "Doctor Honoris of natural sciences." The main reasons for this title were that "His Majesty king of Bulgaria is closely following with interest the development of our young science generation in all its manifestations. He is generously supporting many initiatives in science, thus taking into his ultimate guidance Bulgarian scientific thought. With the Royal Institutes on whose support he is not withholding any resources, our work, our expensive time are encouraged and facilitated for the study of our country in every respect that he himself was personally very much interested and contributed to enrich our knowledge (of the fauna and the flora) of Bulgaria".

With honorary doctorate titles are endowed also other bulgarian figures and foreign scientists.

On October 27, 1929 is secured the first doctoral dissertation at Sofia University in natural sciences from Vasil Tsankov. The second development is a Ph.D. in Chemistry and is defended on July 1, 1930 by Alexander Spasov. During the academic year 1930/1931, the number of doctorates in the university increases with still 4 people.

According to the Law of the University from 1904, the Public Education Act of 1909 and 1921, and the amendment of the Public Education Act of 1924 the overall management of the university is carried out by the Academic Council. It is elected by the end of each academic year. It includes the Rector, pro-rectorate, the 7 Deans, pro-dekanate and several independent representatives from all faculties. The overall activity of the university is based on different rules accepted by the Academic Council, such as: general university rules, rules for admission of students in universities, regulations and programs for university exams, rules for student practice, rules for student fees, rules of premiums and stipends, rules of assistants at the university, rules of the fund for scientific purposes, rules for academic journals and others.

The Rector of the University has a one-year term. His choice is approved by the King in a report to the Minister for public education. After the expiry of the one-year term, the Rector remain in the leadership as pro-rector. The annual celebration of the university are traditionally held at the National Theatre, in the presence of the king, Prime Minister, Minister of public education and other prominent public, political and public figures. The pro-rector make a report on the activities of the university during the past school year. The new Rector expand with a report reflecting in popular form on the future scientific activities.

On June 30, 1924 the final stone is attached to the main building of the Central University for the Rectorate. By decision of the foundation (efforiya) "Brothers Evlogiy and Christo Georgievi" each year a substantial capital was separated for construction of the university. To be completed within the building, proposed by the Ministry of public education, the parliament authorized a targeted funding and significant vote amounts were also donated. The construction of the central university block was done on the draft of the French architect G. Breason after successful competition for the building of the university as early as 1907. Construction plans were processed afterwards by the architect of efforiya Jordan Milanov. It retains architectural appearance of the building of the Rectorate and volume of the main structure, but provides more floors and rooms in the building. The official opening of the reconstruction becomes on December 16, 1934.

New buildings are built for the needs of Agronomical Faculty, University Library and Veterinary-Medical Faculty. Faculty of Theology provided part of the building for the spiritual Academy.

In 1938, when honor is marked for the 50th anniversary of the Sofia University "St. Kliment Ohridski", in it work 286 teachers and assistants and teach 5553 students. For half a century at the university are trained about 15 thousand specialists with higher education. In their training participate most prominent scientists and educators in the field of linguistics (Benyo Tsonev, Alexander Teodorov-Balan), literature criticism (Ivan Shishmanov, Jordan Ivanov, Boyan Penev, Michael Arnaudov), history (Vasil Zlatarski, Petar Mutafchiev, Bogdan Filov), philosophy (Ivan Georgov, Dimitar Mihalchev) pedagogy (Michael Geraskov), law (Stefan Kirov, Stefan S. Bobchev, Stefan Balamezov, Venelin Ganev), geography, geology, biology, zoology, physics, astronomy, chemistry, mathematics, medicine.

Many people from the university staff deal with active social-political work. Minister-chairmen of the country became professor Alexander Tsankov (1923-1926) and professor Bogdan Filov (1940-1943). In different years ministers of public education are Ivan Shishmanov, Stefan Bobchev, Yanaki Mollov, Dimitar Mishaykov, Boris Yotzov, Mikhail Arnaudov. For the ministers of justice are appointed Peter Abrashev, Joseph Fadenheht, Venelin Ganev, Todor Kulev, Lyuben Dikov. From June 1 to September 2, 1944 prof. Dr. Alexander Stanishev is the Minister of Interior and Public Health. Envoy ministers are lawyer Petko Stainov (Paris, 1934-1935), Dimitar Mihalchev (Moscow, 1934-1936), Slavcho Zagorov (Berlin, 1942-1944). From September 9, 1943 to September 8, 1944 prof. Bogdan Filov is one of regents of Bulgaria.

After the political change from September 9, 1944, in university education occurred radical changes. The 1944/1945 academic year begins with 13 627 students, 182 professors and associate professors and 286 assistants. The Rectorate elected new leadership. In the Academic Council were included professors communists. From the University were removed many teachers and students declared "anti-national elements" or as carriers of "reactionist views".

In 1947 and 1948 were adopted new laws on higher education. Their goal was training and education in high schools to be transformed on "scientific", i.e. on "marxist-leninist" basis. In this connection, the University has created Department of dialectical and historical materialism. Novelty in university education was the introduction of part-time training and doctorate (aspirantura) in Soviet model. In the curricula of all subjects as compulsory modules were included marxist-leninist philosophy, political economy, history of the Bulgarian Communist Party and the history of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (later replaced by "scientific communism").

For several years in the structure of the Sofia University were made substantive changes. In 1947 were formed another three faculties on Forestry, on Zoo-technology, and faculty for National Economy. In the next year Agronomy, Veterinary-Medicine, Forestry and Zoo-technology were separated from the University and formed an Agricultural Academy. In 1955 were established Biology-Geology and Geography faculties. History-Philology faculty is divided into two separate faculties History with Philosophy and Philology. In the same year the Medical faculty was transformed into Medical Academy, the Theology faculty in Spiritual Academy. Based on National Economy faculty in 1952 was established a Supreme Economic Institute (present-day University of National and World Economy). So for about one decade Sofia University functioned with a 5 major faculties: History with Philosophy, Philology, Physics-Mathematics, Biology-Geology and Geography with Law.

In 1952 were opened two new parts of the central building of Sofia University (the so-called north and south wing). Architect of these objects is Lyuben Konstantinov. Converted and equipped with the necessary equipment, the building of Physico-Mathematical faculty was functional at present-day blvd. "James Bouchier".

In 1963 as a separate party functioned the Biology, Geology, Mathematics, physics, and Chemistry faculties; in 1965 Faculty of Slavic Philology and Faculty of Western Philology, and in 1972 Philosophy and History faculties. The next individual faculties at the University are: Faculty of Journalism (1974), Faculty of Pre-school Education (1983) and Faculty of Education (1986). In 1990 is restored the National Economy, and in 1991 the Theology faculties.

Rectors of the University during the period 1944-1989 were Professors in a following order: Dimitar Selyanovski (1944), Stefan Balamezov (1945), Dimitar Orahovats (1945-1947), George Nadjakov (1947-1951), Vladimir Georgiev (1951-1956), Daki Yordanov (1956-1962), Dimitar Kosev ( 1962-1968), Pantelei Zarev (1968-1972), Hristo Hristov (1972-1973), Blagovest Sendov (1973-1979), Andrei Dimitrov (1979-1981), Georgi Bliznakov (1981-1985) and Mincho Semov (1985-1989).

After November 10, 1989 a new stage is brought in at the development of the university. It is regulated by the "Law for Academic Autonomy of Higher Education Institutions" (1990), the "Higher Education Act" (1995) and regulations for the organization and activities of the Sofia University "St. Kliment Ohridski" (1998). In their policy the university education became "irrespective of ideological, religious and political doctrines" (Article 1, 1995) and it "would not be allowed privileges and restrictions related to age, race, nationality, ethnic affiliation, gender, social origin, political opinions and religion" (Article 4). The law proclaimed "academic freedoms, academic self-regulation and integrity of territory for higher education as basic principles" (Article 19).

In the new historical conditions, the academic community takes in its hands the solution of basic problems of the university. Selected are new Rectors and Deans Councils, as well as new Chambers of the Academic Board and the Faculty Committee. To activate the participation of students in opposition political activities in the summer and autumn of 1990 were found University student councils and Faculty student councils. In the settlement of labor and social relations of its own, positions were occupied at the University syndicate "KT Podkrepa", at University syndicate "KNSP" and other democratic trade unions.

In 1990 was created Council of Rectors of higher education institutions in Bulgaria, whose chairman is traditionally the Rector of the oldest and largest bulgarian University. Rektors of Sofia University "St. Kliment Ohridski" during the years of transition to democratic society and market economy were prof. Nikola Popov (1989-1990), prof. Nikolay Genchev (1991-1992), prof. Ivan Lalov (1992-1999), and prof. Boyan Biolchev (1999-2006). During this period, several university professors become ministers of Public Education prof. Alexander Fol (1989-1990), prof. Matey Mateev (1990-1991), prof. Nikolay Vassilev (1991-1992), and prof. Ilcho Dimitrov (1996-1997).

At the beginning of the 1998/1999 academic year, when the university celebrates its 110th Anniversary, Sofia University "St. Kliment Ohridski" has 15 faculties with 68 specialties. In its structure come also: University Library, University Publishing House with Research sector, Central Institute for the Improvement of Teachers and other units. In 1995 university teachers were 194 professors, 561 associate professors, 907 assistant professors, 19 teachers of foreign languages and sport and 14 research assistants. The total number of Bulgarian students in Sofia University was 27 082 people. Of these 19 691 people were in state contract (16 840 in regular training and 2851 in part-time training), and 7391 people were in paid training. The number of foreign students was 1100 people. With the "Higher Education Act" of 1995 were introduced 3 levels of university education "Bachelor", "Master" and "Doctor". Curricula were to include compulsory, elective and optional subjects. To broaden the opportunities for individual and integrated training and to obtain a second major and second higher education, training was allowed at distance education forms of acquiring teaching certificates and postgraduate specializations.

For the development of research at Sofia University "St. Kliment Ohridski", in 1992 was created Research Fund, which operated from 1993. To stabilize its business activity and the existing Research Sector for many years beforehand, contracts were concluded with foreign research organizations and companies. Teachers from the University participated in the annual competitions organized by the National Research Fund and under the auspices of the Ministry of Education. Scientific activities in the University was facilitated recently with the establishment of the University computer network. By the end of 1994, it was connected with the International computer network "Internet". For deployment of research related to the various aspects of involvement of Republic of Bulgaria to the European Union, since 1996 the University operates with the Center for European Studies.

Sofia University has its symbols and rituals. Coat of Arms stylizes with the University patron "St. Kliment Ohridski". His stamp is affixed to official documents of the higher school. Rectors dignity is displayed by Croom and Helm together with the Necklace and the Togue of the official. The University has its celebrations and its public holidays.


Pictures 1 & 2: We made our choice on the architectural history of the University. This is to date the single issue that remained politically commonsense during the years. Other views may wish to express their capitalist or communist inclinations, but what remains is the solid building in the center of the capital and one of the symbols of the city of Sofia.

(i). Here is how the building of the University looked like in year 1924 after completing the first part of the project. Architect G. Breason and his bulgarian commissioner Nikola Lazarov were executives of the construction which appeared on a dilapidated surround near the National Assembly.


(ii). This collage gives idea of the second part of the University project which started year 1934 and finished after the war around 1952. Clockwise are given N. Lazarov (commissioner), J. Milanov (efforiya representative), L. Konstantinov (executive of second phase), unknown, north and south wings of the University, unknown.



Copyright 2008 by the author.