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Author: Lyudmila Gorina


Marin Drinov — pioneer of the History Science in Bulgaria

Professor Marin Stoyanov Drinov (Bulgarian: Марин Стоянов Дринов, known in Russia as Марин Степанович Дринов, 1838-1906) was a Bulgarian historian and philologist from the National Revival period who lived and worked in Russia through most of his life. He was one of the originators of Bulgarian historiography and a founding member of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (then the Bulgarian Literary Society), as well as its first chairman.

Drinov was born in Panagyurishte in 1838. He left for Russia in 1858 to continue his education. He studied history and philology in Kiev and at the Moscow State University, travelled and worked in Austria and Italy between 1865 and 1871.

In 1869, he became one of the co-founders and an active member of the Bulgarian Literary Society. Drinov achieved a master's degree and became a reader of Slavistics at Kharkov University, beginning to work as a regular professor in the end of 1876.

During the period of Russian government in Bulgaria (1878-1879), Drinov became Minister of Popular Enlightenment and Spiritual Affairs where he took an active part in the organization of the newly liberated Bulgarian state.

Marin Drinov is known as one of the authors of the Tarnovo Constitution, the person to have proposed Sofia instead of Tarnovo — favoured by Austrian diplomats — for the new Bulgarian capital, and the person to have introduced the standardized 32-letter edition of Cyrillic that was used in Bulgaria until the orthographic reform of 1945.

Drinov lived in Kharkov after 1881, continuing his scientific and educational activities until the end of his life. He died in that town in 1906 after a long fight with tuberculosis.



Professor Marin Drinov is a prominent Bulgarian scholar, enlightener and public figure. Unfortunately, his work has been greatly underestimated, and he is known to the general public as the person who suggested that Sofia be made the capital of the young Bulgarian state after the liberation from 5 centuries of Ottoman domination in 1878. But this is only a tiny episode in the life of a great man.

Born in March 1838 in the town of Panagyurishte, he grew up in a milieu of enlighteners, who raised funds and sent the young Drinov to Russia to study for a cleric. In Kiev he graduated the Seminary, but went on with his studies and completed a degree at the History and Languages Department of the University of Moscow, where he received solid education in the science of history, Slavic studies, linguistics and ethnography. He worked for a while as tutor to the children of the Golitzin family, which enabled him to travel extensively to Paris, Geneva, Rome, Naples, Vienna, Prague and Budapest, and study the archives of many libraries, including the Vatican Library. He was particularly interested in the studies of the Slav people and the Bulgarians. Marin Drinov was able to look up a great deal of information sources, as he was proficient in Latin, Ancient Greek, Russian, French, German and English. Thus, he was able to complete one of his major works — viz., “A Study at the Origins of the Bulgarian People and the Beginnings of the Bulgarian History” (1869). Immediately upon its publication, copies of the volume were sent to the Bulgarian lands.

The historic importance of Drinov’s work is the coherent and well-grounded theory on the origins of the Bulgarian statehood and nation. This theory has survived with little changes and a few corrections to this date as the orthodox version adopted by history scholars across the world. According to Marin Drinov, the Slavonic tribes settled south of the River Danube in the 5th-7th century. They were not belligerent towards the Byzantine Empire, and thus, failed to establish a state of their own.

The Proto-Bulgarians, however, who came later in the 7th century, became the nucleus of the would be Bulgarian state because of their military discipline and organization. Drinov drew also parallels to the French and Russian history and the origins of the respective states in the Middle Ages. His theory also had a somewhat patriotic impact, because it related the history of the Bulgarian state to that of two great empires.

That same year Marin Drinov released another major work, paramount to the foundation of the historical science in Bulgaria — viz., “A Historical Review of the Bulgarian Church from its Origins to Present Day” (1869). Naturally enough, when the Bulgarian Literary Society — the protagonist of the future Bulgarian Academy of Sciences — was founded in the Romanian town of Braila, Marin Drinov was elected president.

In the 1870s he was made professor at the University of Kharkov, in present-day Ukraine, where he made a most prolific scientific career right up to his death.

In 1878 Drinov returned to the motherland, and took part in the building of the young Bulgarian state. He occupied the post of Sofia’s Vice-Governor, and he was also aide to the Russian Commissioner Dondukov-Korsakov during the interim Russian government. In 1879 he joined the team that worked on the draft of the First Bulgarian Constitution, and at that time grounded his idea of making Sofia capital of the new Bulgarian state. His proposal came after researching extensively the strategic and communication importance of the town in the Middle Ages, especially at the height of its days.

Marin Drinov contributed greatly to the educational system reform by creating what is referred to as a "democratic pattern". He worked — together with the Czech Konstantin Jirechek — as a Minister and Head of the Department of Popular Enlightenment and Spiritual Affairs. The essence of the model system he devised provided free education to all, and envisaged that poor youth, who excelled in their studies, could rely on scholarships. He made primary education compulsory.

Marin Drinov laid the foundations of the National Library, one of the most respected Bulgarian cultural institutes. He donated his personal collection of 3 000 volumes to the library shortly before his death.

But first and foremost Professor Marin Drinov was the uncontested pioneer of the Bulgarian scientific history school. He was among the 19th century luminaries in the field of Slavic Studies. His works made serious contribution to the development of the Byzantine Studies, the History of the Balkan Peoples, Ethnography, Linguistics, Literature Studies, Folklore Studies, etc. He was member of the Academies in St. Petersburg, Prague, Krakow and Zagreb.

Finally, we offer you an excerpt from an article Drinov wrote to the Bulgarian emigrants’ colony newspaper at Bucharest in 1868:

“I perceive a nation’s cardinal moral interests to be the language, the creed, the popular education, the national literature and the public opinion. As long as the people ignore them, and do not develop or enhance them, no matter how spiritual and endowed this nation might be, its future days are for ever uncertain ...”



Miscellaneous: This is not the first instance that we refer to the life and works of Prof. Marin Drinov — cf., "M. Arnaudov. History of the Bulgarian Literary Society in Braila" from the booklist. Since we do not intend to offer a critical review on the literary heritage of the titular, which appeared as "Collected Works" in the 1920s /3 vols./ and again in the 1970s /2 vols./ — subsequently, we should try to throw some additional light on the early bulgarian historiography as envisaged by Prof. Marin Drinov and namely, its classical, medievist and modern romanticist roots. It is not that the professor didn't mention his sources in the numerous writings he left, but mainly to elucidate "who the Bulgarians really were" in the aspects perceived by preceding Ecclesiastical, European /i.e., mainly German historians/ and Russian scholars. Essentially, bulgarian history in the 19th century didn't appear "out-of-the-blue" and had a long story to tell.

The solemnity of the question at hand oblige us to show some sources, at least some critical reviews that should lead to further inquiries of the interested one. In bulgarian language the interpretative study of historical roots are scanty. We have chosen to include two authors in our booklist — viz., Dimitar Tzanev and Dimitar Raykov — mainly, because their monographs doesn't regard post-Medieval bulgarian history as sealed or hermetic. Most of the other modern time bulgarian writers consider Bulgaria in its 500-years Ottoman bondage as "lost entity", as if that ethnos never existed and was duly revived in the 19th century. The "thin red line" in the whole misconception is that Turkey's neighbors — i.e., Russia, Austro-Hungary, and the European concert — were at constant wars with the Ottomans which kept full records of the "Eastern Question" conflict. Subsequently, a historian should never forget that Christian population was lay in the domains of the Conqueror and studying historical sources on the Holy Roman Empire from that period /i.e., XVI to XIX cc./, together with some good interpretative histories on Russian culture are critical for understanding Bulgarian history, per se. Our efforts to find a link in the field and in several European languages were dubious, but lately there appeared some articles from Bulgarian-American scholar Marin Pundeff who had worked long years on the subject at Stanford University, USA.

Here is a primer syllabus on sources, divided in three groups as mentioned above and chronologically dated. As of the time of writing most of these books exist in their original languages /i.e., Latin, French, German, etc./, or have corresponding translation in Russian and some other Slav languages. A small part of the titles have a translation in Bulgarian or are in a process of translation:

1). Ecclesiastical Fathers — C. Baronius (1588-1607); J. Leunclavius (1588); M. Orbini (1601); C. Ducange (1610-1688); D. Cantemir (1743); J. Assemani (1755); C. Lebeau (1757-1786); G. Pray (1775); A. Canova (1841) and others.

2). German Historiography — A. Schlozer (1771); J. Thunmann (1774); J. Stritter (1774); L. Gebhardi (1788); J. Engel (1794); J. Klaproth (1814); I. Kessler (1815) and others.

3). Russian and Slavic Authors — V. Tatishchev (1750); J. Raich (1794); A. Vostokov (1820); K. Kalaidovich (1824); Y. Venelin (1829); M. Pogodin (1835); O. Bodyanski (1836); I. Sreznevski (1846) and others.


Pictures 1 & 2: Sample illustrations on the text above.

(i). This is an alternative version of the enlightenment historiography for the bulgarians. Presentation is made by Iliya Konev and titles have been arranged on chronological, rather than topographic or thematic principle.


(ii). "A Study at the Origins of the Bulgarian People and the Beginnings of the Bulgarian History" (1869).



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