BULGARIAN CULTURE OVER THE PERIOD 1878 - 1944
After the Liberation and post the restoration of its state independence, Bulgaria began developing its culture in entirely new conditions. During the first decades of freedom the Bulgarian governments were anxious to help the country out of the Orient and its backwardness, which stimulated the multifarious influences of modern European culture. The process of Europeanization affected all cultural spheres - education, science, literature and art. In a number of cases the cultural accomplishments outstripped even the modernization of the state itself or its economy.
In this process, unrestricted by dogmatic thinking or state censorship (the then Bulgarian Constitution was among the most liberal constitutions in the world) numerous, sometimes contradictory trends were frequently occurring in the Bulgarian cultural life. The intelligentsia was eager to adopt all European '-isms' - from the optimistic philosophical theories of Marxism to the decadent idealistic concepts of pessimism and symbolism.
Literature kept its leading position in the Bulgarian cultural environment. Literary life was marked by the existence of two conflicting trends containing the main ideological leanings which had sprung after the Liberation. The first one, supported by the literary circle around Ivan Vazov, tried to lay out the way of Bulgarian literature along the lines of critical realism in conjunction with folklore. The second trend was represented by the circle of the Misul (Thought) magazine, co-edited by Kiril Krustev, a literary critic and Pencho Slaveikov, a poet. This one was closer to the trends observed in the West European literary pattern, a phenomenon quite characteristic of any international recognition-seeking literature in that epoch.
The decades long rivalry between the two trends has ultimately led to the Bulgarian literature rising to the European standards. Despite the Bulgarian language being little known abroad, the verse of poets such as Theodor Trayanov, Dimcho Debelianov and Peyo Yavorov have been published in many European countries. Another Bulgarian poet, Pencho Slaveikov, was even nominated for the Nobel Prize in 1912.
The post-World War I period was marked by the Marxist trend taking up firm positions in the Bulgarian literature. This trend had its pinnacle in the poetry of Hristo Smirnenski and Geo Milev. Other outstanding literary achievements in this post-war period were the works of a number of authors, such as Elim Pelin, Yordan Yovkov, Elisaveta Bagriana, Dora Gabe and Anton Strashimirov.
It was also in those years that Bulgarian opera singers and Bulgarian music began winning a world-wide fame. The list of the renowned names of the Bulgarian musical culture is very long but here are some of them: Stefan Makedonski, Hristina Morfova, Mihail Popov and Mihail Lyutskanov, to be taken over by Boris Hristov, Nikolai Gyaurov, Raina Kabaivanska, Elena Nikolai, Nikola Gyuzelev and a few others of the current generation of Bulgarian voices.
The Bulgarian fine arts have also contributed names of world fame: Vladimir Dimitrov - the Master, Kiril Tsonev, Tsanko Lavrenov, Andrei Nikolov and Jules Pasquam.
Science and education in Bulgaria also advanced at fast pace mainly due to the special effort on the part of the state. The authorities saw scientific research as an instrument for modernization of the country. The school building, an element of the efficient network of education developed over all those long years, became a dominant architectural center of the Bulgarian towns and villages. The democratic constitution allowed hundreds of foreign scholars and scientists, persecuted in their own countries for their political or national beliefs, to settle down in Bulgaria. That influx of 'grey matter' has undoubtedly raised the level of Bulgarian education and has boosted its scientific results. A generally acknowledged characteristic feature of the Bulgarian scientific thought is that it has always retained its progressive and humanistic nature and, with small exceptions, has not yielded to political bias.
- 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