Traditions

Bulgarian culture embodies the spirit and traditions of the Bulgarians, their ancient traditions, rich folklore and ancient wisdom. Though small in size, the Bulgarian state has 40,000 historical monuments, 36 cultural reserves, 160 monasteries, about 330 museums and galleries. This includes prehistoric finds, Thracian tombs, objects from the Hellenic period, Roman fortresses, historical monuments from the time of the First and Second Bulgarian kingdoms, architectural landmarks from the Renaissance and many others.[1]

The rich cultural heritage of Bulgaria is highly appreciated by UNESCO. The UNESCO World Heritage List includes seven Bulgarian cultural sites: Boyana Church; Madara Horseman; Ivanovo Rock Churches; Kazanlak Tomb; Nessebar Old Town; Rila Monastery; Sveshtari Thracian Tomb. Parts of the list are also two natural sites – Pirin National Park and Srebarna Nature Reserve.

 

Boyana church St. Nikola & St. Panteleymon, source

Madara horseman, source

Kazanlak tomb, source: By Kmrakmra – own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

Nessebar old town, Church of Christ Pantocrator, source: De © Utilisateur: Ratigan – Originally from the French Wikipedia, there supplied by Utilisateur: Ratigan. Later cropped and compressed by User: Trilobite for the English Wikipedia., CC BY-SA 3.0

Rila Monastery

Sveshtari Thracian Tomb

Dalmatian Pelican and Great Cormorant in Danube delta at Srebarna Nature Reserve, source: By Cody escadron delta – own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

Ivanovo rock churches, photographer Liliya Ognyanova, source: Alexander Nishkov

Pirin national park, source

Traditional crafts

Since ancient times on the Bulgarian lands a variety of crafts are developed and distributed, largely recreating the lifestyle of the Bulgarians for centuries. Products created by Bulgarian craftsmen originally were used for subsistence, to satisfy the daily needs of people. Gradually, however, everyday life craft products are replaced by those created by skilled craftsmen or in other words Bulgarian craftsmanship takes a new direction.

The heyday of Bulgarian craftsmanship was during the Bulgarian Renaissance. It is from this period back to lead several examples of craftsmanship that are extremely important for the Bulgarian traditions and culture. The Craftsmanship during the Renaissance is characterized by narrow specialization of the separate craft guilds – followers of the art schools in Chiprovtsi, Trojan, Kotel, Busintsi emerged at that time.

The bloom and subsequent decay of crafts in Bulgaria in the 20th century as a result of historical changes and expansion of mechanized production.[2] Despite the modernization of the production process as a whole, creating products born from the hands of master craftsmen is still practiced today. In contrast to the period of the Bulgarian Revival, however, when the craft is practiced everywhere in the cities and villages, it is currently practiced mostly in rural areas.

Pottery is one of the most famous and oldest traditional Bulgarian crafts. Pottery emerged during the ancient Thracian times. Thracians were famous with the ​​unique ceramics. It is a crafted technology for the production of different pottery like bowls, vases, pots, jars, plates and more. In developing a pottery the master relies mainly on hands, of course, using some tools such as lathe, blades, cutting tools and more. The uniqueness of pottery arises mainly from the different decorations, gracing the pottery, achieved through the application of various techniques for engraving and colouring. Products produced by the Bulgarian pottery art can be seen in the architectural and ethnographic complex “Etаr” (Gabrovo), “Ethnographic Area Complex – Zlatograd” Museum of crafts and applied arts (Trojan).

Pottery products at “Etar” open air museum nearby Gabrovo, source

Woodcarving is a craft perfected over the centuries. It is a working wood art by displaying decorative motifs, intricate shapes and images. Across the Bulgarian lands carving is known since the ancient Slavs. Today it is used in a variety of forms – from threading objects for the home and lifestyle to complex architectural compositions – screw ceilings, furniture, doors, chests and more. Very typical of the Bulgarian carving are decorations (figure compositions, assemblages and arabesques), animal (lion, snake, eagle, peacock) and floral (sunflower, vines, jack oak leaf) motives. The main types of wood used to make woodcarving products are walnut, maple, linden and beech. They are processed with carpentry tool called a chisel. Several schools associated with this craft originated from the Renaissance – Bansko Art School, Kalofer carving school, Debar School of Art and others. Woodcarving is best developed in the towns of Tryavna, Teteven, Koprivshtica.

A wood-carved ceiling in a Koprivshtitsa house, source

Tryavna wood carved ceiling, source

Iconography is a kind of art, characterized by the painting of icons. The word icon is of Greek origin and means image portrait. This type of craft became popular in the Bulgarian lands in the middle of the ninth century, when Christianity was established as the official religion in Bulgaria. Renaissance painters display on their icons most men and women in traditional costumes, gradually it changes and they begin to draw Bulgarian saints, kings, philosophers, teachers and others. During the process of icon painting craftsmen use wooden base, on which fabric is glued and then coated with primer, then the edges of the image are applied. Then, the almost finished icon is done with gilding gold forged notes or gold plates and gold dust. Currently iconographers use leaf – real gold petals. After gilding, the icon is colored with paint. The whole process ends with the deposition of notices and polishing the icon with lacquer. In Bulgaria there are also ceramic and mosaic icons, such as the found around Preslav ceramic icon with the image of St. Theodore stratum. The most famous Bulgarian painters are Zachary Zograf, Pimen Zograf, Toma Vishanov, Stanislav Dospevski, Dimitar Molerov, Tsanko Lavrenov. The centers of iconographic art in Bulgaria are the towns of Tryavna, Samokov, Bansko and Veliko Tarnovo.

 

Frescoes of Zachary Zograph in the narthex of the Catholicon of the Great Lavra “St. Atanasii Atonski”, source

Angels, detail from Toma Vishanov’s mural on the altar apsis in the “St. Luca” church in the “St. Luca” hermitage in Rila monastery, 1798, source: By Toma Vishanov

St. Joan Baptis, Icon from circa 1859 by Stanislav Dospevski. Today displayed in the Holy Metropolis of Plovdiv. source

Lazar’s Resurrection. Mural by Dimitar Molerov from the church “St. Michael archangel” in the village of Osenovo near Bansko, source

Hilendar monastery, Tsanko Lavrenov, source

The goldsmithing is among the first crafts оn the Bulgarian lands. Bulgaria is home of the world’s oldest gold treasure – in the Varna Necropolis. It dates from the 5th century BC. More than 3000 fine gold objects have been found in the necropolis. The centers of the Bulgarian goldsmith art in the past were Vratsa, Vidin, Sofia and others. Especially popular was the goldsmith school from Panagyurishte[3]. The Historical Museum in Panagyurishte organizes a special thematic exhibition “The goldsmith school from Panagyurishte”. Exquisite products are also made by the hands of the masters of the Chiprovtsi goldsmith school.

Chiprovtsi goldsmith school, source

Copper processing is an ancient craft. Its traditions are from the time of the Thracians. They were famous masters of copper. Copper utensils and ornaments preserved today arouse admiration for its rich decoration and graceful forms.

Coppersmith – an ancient and mysterious craft, author of the article: didanov, source

Copper art consists primarily in profiling the basins, which is made easy by the great malleability of copper. The coppersmith further processes his products by tinning them and adding ornamentation.[4] A wide range of examples of coppersmith’s art is stored in the Museum of Folk Crafts and Applied Arts (Troyan) and Architectural and ethnographic complex “Etar”.

Weaving is known to Bulgarian people since IV-V century BC. Its subtleties are passed down from generations to generations mostly among the women in the family. Weaving requires work with vertical or horizontal loom, which weaves clothes, carpets, rugs, rugs, blankets, bedspreads, towels and curtains. The main materials used are wool, cotton, linen, silk, fur and hemp. For staining of cloth in different colors natural dyes are used, which are derived from plants, animals and various minerals. Soot, ash and lime can also be used. In the past, this process was carried out manually, while today different machines and chemical dyes are used. Bulgaria is famous for the Chiprovtsi carpets, whose production started in the early 17th century. They are double-sided hand-made carpets. They are made of cotton and wool. Besides Chiprovtsi carpet centers have evolved in the towns of Samokov, Boiler and Panagyurishte.[5]

Hand-woven carpets from Chiprovtsi, source

The main preservation of the Bulgarian culture are the numerous churches and monasteries throughout the country – Rila Monastery, Bachkovo Monastery, Troyan Monastery, Zemen Monastery, Rozhen Monastery, Glozhene Monastery, Kilifarevo Monastery, Boyanski Monastery, Dryanovo Monastery and many others. They present an example of the activity of the Bulgarian iconographic, wood-carving and painting masters.

 

Traditional clothing

Traditional Bulgarian costume is an integral part of everyday and festive life of the Bulgarians. It can be defined as a specific cultural phenomenon, characterized by long historical roots. Bulgarian costumes are mainly divided into male, female and children. The overall composition, used textiles, jewellery and embroidery across traditional Bulgarian clothing gives a clear picture of the life of Bulgarians in various domestic, ritual and festive environment in which they are placed. Moreover, in the past people could know by the costume which family one comes from, or from which part of Bulgaria he/she is.

Female costumes are divided into one-apron female, two-apron, “saya” and “sukman” and males are white and black colored. Traditional Bulgarian folk costumes are made at home under the skilful hands of the Bulgarian. Men were very rarely involved in its production process. Over time, however, this is changing due to the formation of specialized crafts shops, where tailors, called “terzii” made clothes, most of them used in male traditional costumes. The main materials used to make the costumes are linen, hemp, cotton, wool; rarely silk and leather. The structure of folk costumes is extremely complex. It varies in the different parts of the country. Female traditional costumes are distinguished by the cut and the way of dressing of the clothing. Men traditional clothing is defined by the shape and color of the outer garment.

The composition of one-apron female costume is: tunic-like long shirt and ornate apron. It can be seen mostly in the Rhodopi mountain areas and in most of the villages around the Danube plain. For these regions the typical black male costume consists of shirt, dark colored trousers, belt, jacket and hat. [6]

Two-apron-type female costume includes shirt, two aprons – front and rear and a belt. This type of clothing is used mostly in Northern Bulgaria. As for the men’s traditional national costume in this part of the country the most distinctive costume is white colored, consisting of shirt, belt, pants (dimii) and a coat.

The main part of the Saya costume is the saya – permanent coat of varying length skirts and sleeves. Other immutable elements are tunic-like shirt, skirt and belt. This type of dress is typical of the southern and southwestern areas of the country. Sukman female costume is most widespread – it is used in the central highlands of the country, the coastal region, southeast Trace.[7]  Its main components are sukman (dress), shirt, skirt and belt. Decorative ornamentation is most pronounced in the front of the apron and the neck of the sukman.

Traditional female clothing from Dobrudzha, source

Music

Bulgarian musical art is characterized by exceptional aesthetic value and artistic qualities. Despite the many changes over the centuries it managed to retain its authentic style and expressive form. In folk songs poetry, music and dance coexist, combined into one complex on the basis of the overall rhythm.[8] In the past, their authors remain anonymous, as it is the nation that maintains and passes from generation to generation these musical works. Today the situation is a little different, songwriting is given to people fully engaged in this activity as songwriters and composers. Many of these professionals, who create folk music, now use well-known old songs as basis. In this sense, we can say that folk songs to some extent derive from one another. The value of a Bulgarian folk song is extremely important, particularly in the years of slavery, in which it was a major sustainer of the Bulgarian spirit.

Bulgaria is divided into folklore regions, each characterized by its own folk art. This spatial separation is particularly strong to the songs and dances. Folklore areas are seven – Dobrudzha, Northern, Pirin, Strandzha, Rhodope, Shopska and Thracian.

Dobrudzhanska folklore area covers the administrative districts of Varna, Dobrich and Silistra. Typical for this area are two specific styles – Thracian and Balkan. Popular here are divided into a harvest type, type used during gatherings and table type. Dobrudzha region is characterized by a specific instrumental style, played on fiddle, flute, bagpipes. Typical are the dancing melodies “ryki”, “syboreni”, “rychenica”.[9] Most prominent songs are “Moon is rising”, “Are you a tulip or a hyacinth”, “Dobrodzho, sweet Dobrodzho”, “Yanka talked to her mother” and others. They are performed by singers like Kalinka Valcheva, Verka Siderova, Ivan Georgiev, Dobra Savova, Galina Durmushliyska and others.

Northern folklore music area is a sort of compilation of the folklore of other areas. Typical here are a rebel and lyrical songs that are performed in one voice. Very often in the lyrics of this region mythical creatures like dragons are present. The most popular musical works are “Elena, girl”, “Janissaries go, Mother”, “Eh, girl” and “Baa, lamb.” Typical for this area are brass musical instruments – pipe, ocarina, flute and bagpipes. Popular artists are Lalka Pavlova, Boris Mashalov, Ivan Panovski, Daniel Spassov, Mita Stoycheva and others.

For Pirin Folk field (Southwest Bulgaria) typical are the heroic songs which glorify Bulgarian heroism. Common are also harvest and “sedeshki” type songs (songs that are sung during specific types of gatherings) which are of happier and more dancing style. They are performed with hiccups and jitter of voice. Pirin popular songs are “If I am dead”, “Macedonian girl”, “Liliana lass”, “Pirin, Pirin”, “Iovano Iovanke”, “Ludo Mlado”, “Katerino lass” and many others. Widespread musical instruments are tambura, bagpipe and shepherd flute called “svorche.” Popular artists are Volodia Stoyanov, Rumyana Stoyanova, Malin Domozetski, Nikolina Chakardakova, Ilia Lukov, Ivan Dyakov, Kostadin Gutov.

 Strandzha folklore region extends on the territory of the administrative district of Burgas. Typical of this region are the harvest songs, wedding, horo, sedenkarski and those which are sung at the table. Very often chieftains and rebels are praised such as Captain Petko Voivoda, Inzhe Voivoda, Hadzhi Dimitar and others. Among the most famous songs from Strandzha are “Captain Petko Voivoda”, “Rado, Rado white Rado”, “Clear moon rises”, “Yana is sitting” and many others. Typical instruments are fiddle, mandolin, bagpipes, flute, drum, flute and tambourine. Among the singers in this area the most famous are Yanka Rupkina, Duo Stavrevi, Magda Pushkarova, Dimka Vladimirova, Manol Mihaylov, Zlatka Stavreva and others.

Rhodope folklore area extends on the territory of the Rhodope Mountain. For this region love-themed songs are typical. They are performed mostly on gathering, working-bees, engagements and weddings. Typical are also Gurbeti songs, wedding and shepherd, historical and rebel songs. Songs are sung for Momchil the hero, the brave chieftain Delyu, revolutionary and rebel Petko Voivoda[10]. Undoubtedly, the most famous Rhodope song is “Delyu rebel went out”[11] performed by Valya Balkanska. The song is included in the human message that travels space “Voices of the Earth”. Other very popular Rhodope musical works are “Pusto ludo I mlado”, “Dance, ladybug”, “White I am, you lad”. The Rhodope song is generally characterized as one voice, but in the town of Nedelino and some parts of the municipality of Velingrad two-voices singing is typical. Musical instruments typical of this region are bagpipes, flute, bells and drums. Popular artists are Valya Balkanska, Rumen Rhodopski, sisters Hadzhievi, sisters Georgievi, Veselin Dzhigov, Rosica Peycheva, Georgi Chilingirov and others.

Valya Balkanska, source: By Daznaempoveche – Own work, Public Domain

Shopska folklore region includes the western parts of Sredna gora, Sofia region, Pernic region, Breznik region. It is well known for its special two-voice songs, where some of the performers sing the main melody and the second holds “iso” or in other words, keeping a low tone. Typical are the harvest, heroic and historical songs. In the village of Bistrica (Sofia) Bulgarian folklore fans can enjoy the unique chanting of three voices. Since 1946 triphthongs songs are performed by folk group “Bistritsa Grandmothers”[12]. One of the most popular shopski songs are “Wow, Svashke”, “Dilmano, Dilbero”, “Lille, Lille,” “Oy, Shope, Shope” and others. The most important instruments in this region are dvoyanka, troyanka, fiddle, bagpipe and flute. Popular artists Bistritsa grandmothers, Olga Borisova, Pavlina Gorcheva, Vasilka Andonova, Poli Paskova and others.

The Thracian folklore region covers territory of Stara planina, Pirin and Rhodope. It is characterized by slow songs, mainly performed on one voice during evening gatherings and table songs. Also popular are horo and carol harvest songs. Most prominent among them are “Where is it heard, where is it seen”, “Dan’s mother,” “Lying Gergana”, “Do not say, my love, good night”, “Old Mother” and others. Famous artists in this area are Binka Dobreva, Nadka Karadzhova, Stefka Sabotinova, Petranka Zaharieva, Yanka Taneva, Todor Kozhuharov and others.

 

Traditional dances

Bulgarian dance folklore is rich and varied. Historical, political and socio-economic conditions under which the nation formed its history left an impact on dance too. Bulgarian folk dances, like the songs, reproduce the material and spiritual life of the Bulgarians – their manners, customs and traditions. The main feature defining the style of Bulgarian folk dance is mainly focusing on the movements of the legs, the head, arms and body – as a whole these are an expression of rich mental state of the dancing person.[13] Bulgarian folk dance is very diverse in terms of rhythm, movement, form, method of attachment, as well as a number of dancers involved in this dance. The most popular Bulgarian folk dance is called horo. The style and character of Bulgarian folk dances are determined by the ethnographic field in which they fall.

Dobrudzha dances are danced with a sure step; in most cases recreate elements of daily work. The main movements are mainly down in order to show the relationship of Dobroudzhan to the ground. Typical of this area are also movements with arms and shoulders. The majority of the Dobrudzha dances begin slowly, gradually tempo is increased. The most popular horo in this area are mixed, i.e. those that both men and women take part in. The most popular dances of Dobrudzha are Dobrudzhanska rychenica[14], Sborenia, Paydusko horo, Varna horo, Trunka, Tropanka and others.

Typical for the Northern folk dance is alternating slow and fast rhythms, and the use of tiny/small steps. Freedom and ease in horo dance is accompanied by springy legs and shoulders, jitter, also known as “natrishane”. The Northern folk dances are accompanied with a very specific yelling. In most cases dancers hold their hands together which they sweep freely. Sometimes dancers also hold each other by their belt. The most popular Northern horo dances are: Danube horo[15], Daychovo horo[16], Gankino horo, Elenino horo[17], Paydushko horo, Chichovo horo, Grancharsko horo, Shira and others.

Pirin horo dances are complex and varied. They are influenced by neighbouring countries and ethnographic regions. Only in this region, however, there are horo dances, which are played in one step size in their slow part, and another – in the rapid part. This speaks of the extraordinary dance talent the people from this region have and their sense of improvisation. The female dances are mostly slow and moderate. The male dances are more dynamic and characterized by squatting, jumping and rotation.[18]  Pirin most popular dances are Macedonian horo, Melnik horo, Ograzhdansko horo, Quadruple dance, Shirto, Krivata, Petruno and others.

Strandzha dances have their own specifics too. They are extremely varied from mild and gentle horo to fast, energetic and crazy dances. Characteristic only for this area is the folklore “Silent dance”, which is danced without music and in which humorous elements are intertwined. Strandzha most popular dances are Kopanitsa, Ruche, Paydushko horo, Kableshkovo horo, Strandzha horo, Petrunino and Elhovo horo.

Rhodope folk dance is mostly reserved and moderately slow. It is typically easy and does not have complicated steps. Dancing people make a hand grip, shoulder or belt grip. Men play more freely, making imaginative movements, crouch and kneel. Women dance with more twists and standing close to each other. Interesting in this field is the order in which the dancers are arranged in the dance – first men are gathered and women after them. Most popular Rhodope folk dances are Yenino horo, Mitrino horo, Chukano horo, Momchilovsko horo, Ripni and Kopche.

The dances from Shopska folklore area are temperamental, dynamic and playful. They are very diverse in their form and movements. Like in the Northern dance “natrisane” is a common movement. Typical of this ethnographic field are shouts, made by men during the dances. The most popular type of horo dances are “led dance” (“characterized by a grip to the belt”) and “sklyucheno horo”.[19] The most popular shopski dances are Graovsko horo, Petrunino horo, Sitno shopsko horo, Bistrishka Kopanitsa, Kyustendil rychenica, Chetvorno horo and etc.

National folk dances from the Thracian area also cover a whole range of movements and rhythms. Typical are men’s dances and ripped dances. Women dance in a more moderate and smooth way, while men focus on fast rhythms. Well known movement is the “tropoli” movement, through which the dancer talks with Earth. The most popular Thracian dances are Thracian rychenica, Glavinishka Kopanitsa, Pravo Thrakisko horo, Vartyano horo, Krivo Plovdivsko horo, Buchimish, Three times, Sedi Donka and others.

Literature

Bulgarian literature, with its rich history is characterized by a rich diversity of genres and styles. It is a kind of reflection of the aspirations, ideals and characteristics of the Bulgarian people accompanying it through the various stages of its historical development.

Old Bulgarian literature originated with the formal adoption of Christianity as the official religion in the middle of the ninth century. Old Bulgarian literature originated with the formal adoption of Christianity as the official religion in the middle of the ninth century. The adoption of Slavic language as sacred and official administrative language in 893 gave a powerful impulse to the development of old Bulgarian literature. Old Bulgarian literature is the intermediary between the Byzantine literature tradition and the literature traditions of Eastern Slavs. The old Bulgarian literature plays the role of a model for the other Orthodox Slavic literatures during most of the Middle Ages.[20] Bulgarian manuscript literature of this period is all about the Christian faith and Cyril and Methodius literary work. Emerging in the context of Christianization Old Bulgarian literature was influenced by the Byzantine Empire in familiar genres – translation work is active in basic theological writings. After king Simeon’s death in 927 Bulgarian scholars turned their attention to the various books contents – legal and church. Readable works such as short stories, biographies and chronicles are preferred.

Bulgarian literature reached its zenith during the reign of Ivan Alexander and king Shishman. The literary center of that time is Tarnovo. Achievements in literature at that time are due mainly to the activities of Patriarch Euthymius, and the school he sat up.

After Bulgaria fell under Ottoman rule in 1393 official literature ceased to exist. Its traditions are maintained by Bulgarian writers, found refuge on Mount Athos, Russia, Serbia, Wallachia and Moldova. [21] Characteristic of this period is the writing of collections containing narrative and moral-didactic works, and apocryphal writings. This is the time when the Dobromirovo gospel and Bitola triode were created. Extremely popular in the 12th and 13th century are collections of mixed content – damascus, which are written in a language closer to the spoken language.

Printed versions of 18 c., led by “Nedelnik” of Sophronius of Vratsa mark the beginning of the Bulgarian Renaissance. Early printed Bulgarian literature is in line with the aspirations of the Bulgarians towards religious independence. Established as a new kind of cultural institution – the school is a prerequisite for the development of academic literature. Remarkable in this area is the activity of P. Beron (“Fish Primer”), Neofit of Rila (” Bulgarian Grammar”, “Book of the Slavic language”) and Emmanuel Vaskidovich (“Slavyanobolgarskoe detevodstvo “). Pedagogical literature of this period is written by Vasil Aprilov, Rayno Popovich, Ivan and Bogorov Konstantin Fotinov.

In the 30s and 40s of the century the first Bulgarian scientific papers in the fields of medicine, physics, astronomy and chemistry are issued. Ivan Seliminski and Nikola Piccolo are dealing with intensive research work. Other Bulgarian scientists writing papers at that time are Neofit Rilski, Naiden Gerov (linguistic development), Spiridon Palauzov and Vasil Aprilov (history), Neofit of Rila (Bulgarian folklore).

Fiction and poetry are also characteristic of the Renaissance. The first poems in Modern Bulgarian are the work of Neofit of Rila, Neofit Bozveli and Dimitar Popski. Outstanding contribution to the literary life of the Bulgarians at the time was made by Dobri Chintulov whose most popular works are “Where are you, true people’s love”, “Arise, arise, Balkan Hero”, “Wind blows, Balkan moans”, “Bulgarian heroes”.

After the Crimean War (1853 – 1856) Bulgarian Renaissance literature marks an unprecedented boom. Fiction is divided in different genres such as poetry, fiction, drama, literary criticism. 60 years of the 19th century are times, in which the beginning of his literary work places Petko R. Slaveykov. His works are known to this day works “Belonoga’s spring” and “Boyka Voivoda”. Together with him, at that time work Karavelov, Voinikov, Nicola Kozlev and Rajko Jinzifov. The Bulgarian literary scene in the 70s and rises the star of Ivan Vazov, issuing his first poetry “A banner and a harp” and “Woes of Bulgaria”. Among the prominent Bulgarian artists at that time is also Hristo Botev, who created his poetic works – “Hadji Dimitar”, “My Prayer”, “Patriot”, “Hajduti” and others.

Hadzhi Dimitar’s and Stefan Karadzha’s battalion fighting the Turkish army and the bashibozuk – 8 July (old style) 1868. Renaissance lithography, source

During the Renaissance another genre that comes popular is fiction. Its representatives are Vasil Drumev (“Unhappy family”) and Ilia Blaskov (“Lost Stanka”, “Unfortunate Krastinka”). In the field of fiction most actively manifests Lyuben Karavelov. Fruit of his talents are more than 30 short stories and novels that reflect the full reality (“Mommy’s boy”, “Bulgarians from olden times”, etc.).

Years before the Liberation are favorable for the development of Bulgarian drama. Prominent Bulgarian playwrights are Dobri Voinikov, Sava Dobroplodni, Krastyu Pisarushka, Todor Ikonomov and Vasil Drumev.

In the post-Independence era Bulgarian literary classic appears as a main genre. The brightest representative of this time is Ivan Vazov – the Patriarch of Bulgarian literature. In his work he focuses almost exclusively on national-patriotic issues. His best known work is the novel “Under the Yoke” which has been translated into more than 50 languages. Another literary genius is Aleko Konstantinov, whose most famous works are “Baj Ganyo” (“Ganyo fellow”) and “To Chicago and Back”.

One of the most famous and loved Bulgarian actors – Georgi Kaloyanchev – the role of Baj Ganyo’s personage, source

90 years of the 19th century are characterized by dynamic development of socialist literature. Socialism puts the main emphasis in historical books, guides and publications.

The most important distinction of Bulgarian literature created in the 20th century was a tendency towards the creation of a modern literature. This impulse is reflected in the activities of the most significant creative unity – circle “Thought” – Dr. Krastev, P. Slaveikov, P. K. Yavorov and P. Todorov. Known to date community and national values ​​are replaced by such anthropocentric – the fore personality. The most prominent literary artists of this period along with the four from the “Thought” circle are Dimitar Boyadjiev, Atanas Dalchev Elisaveta Bagryana, Dimcho Debelyanov, Nikolai Liliev, Elin Pelin, Geo Milev, Vaptsarov and others

The social, economic and political changes that occurred since 1989 in Bulgarian society created a new socio-cultural situation for the Bulgarian literature to develop. Cultural and literary artists enjoy creative freedom and expression of variety of ideas. There are new conditions regarding the financing, production and distribution of artistic values.[22] The brightest phenomenon in the Bulgarian literary life since the end of the 20th century is postmodernism. Eminent Bulgarian postmodernists are Georgi Gospodinov, Plamen Doinov, Boyko Penchev, Yordan Evtimov and others. The story “Blind Vaysha” (Collection of Stories “Other Stories”) by Georgi Gospodinov was used by animator Theodor Ushev for the creation of the short animated cartoon of the same name[23]. In 2017, the film was nominated for the Oscar for “Short animated film”.

Art

Art is an integral part of the material and spiritual culture of the Bulgarian society. It is ancient as human history and is civilization’s universal language. Art involved in the formation of national cultural traditions and historical memory reflects what surrounds us – society and nature, and at the same time creates new interpretations of the real world.[24]

The earliest monuments of Bulgarian art are the petroglyphs in one of the galleries of the cave “Magura” located in Rabisha, Vidin. Aesthetic art of the ancient artist is expressed in decorating pottery. The use of white and red paint is very characteristic, as the combination of curved lines. Spectacularly skillful mastery of various geometrical ornaments – this is still a role model for many artists modernists. Evidence of high craftsmanship is the antiquity exquisite murals, found in Kazanlak Tomb, the Sveshtari tomb and Alexander tomb.

Petroglyphs in the Magura cave, source

Photo from the Sveshtari tomb, source

Photo from the Alexander tomb, source

The works of art from the Middle Ages almost entirely rely on the newly adopted Christian religion. The number of preserved today monuments of monumental painting in the territory of the Bulgarian state is very high. Most of them consist of murals on tombs and mosaics. Early Christian basilica in the village of Khan Krum (Shoumen) is a very rare example of the work of figural painting. Senior art center is Preslav, where especially popular are ceramic icons. Bulgarian art from this period is strongly influenced by the Byzantine cultural traditions.

During the Second Bulgarian Kingdom as artistic centers the new capital – Tarnovo, Melnik, Nesebar, Rila and Bachkovo monasteries are set. From this period are the icons “St. Nicholas with scenes from his life” (Nessebar), “Mary – Lady of Life “(Nessebar) and “Archangels’ Fare”(Bachkovo monastery).

Photo from Bachkovo monastery, source

St. Nicola with life scenes (12 century) – Nessebar, Bulgaria, source

„The meeting of St. Archangel Michael and the incorporeal forces“, Bulgarian icon from the XIV century (1344 – 1364) from the Bachkovo monastery collection. At present on display in the National gallery in Sofia, source

The fall of the Bulgarian state under Turkish rule is detrimental to art. To continue its existence it had to be extremely quick to adapt to the current new reality. This happens at the end of the 15th century when in some Bulgarian monasteries – Rila, Dragalevski, Boboshevski and others artists revive their activities. Beneath their hands the icons “St. George on horseback” (Boyana),”Christ Pantokrator” (Monastery Kremikovski) and “Mother and Child” (“St. Stephen” church, Nessebar) appear.

During the Bulgarian Renaissance a change in artistic tastes comes. Particularly important is the role of painters, whose main goal is to revive Bulgarian art. Their creative center became the Athos monasteries. In the second half of the century the first Renaissance art schools are created – Tryavna (Krastyu Zahariev, Simeon Tsonyuv and Dimitar Kanchov) Debar (The brothers Peter, Mark, Joseph and Jovan Filipovi), Samokov (Zachary Zograph and Nichola Obrazopisov), Banska (Thoma Vishanov Molera). [25] Notable, in the development of Bulgarian art, is the art contribution of Zachary Zograf. He is the founder of Bulgarian secular painting. Typical for the icons created by him is the integration of household items. His murals adorn most glorious Bulgarian monasteries – Troyan, Rila, Bachkovo, Transfiguration and even the Great Lavra on Mount Athos.

The circle of life by Zachary Zograf at Transfiguration monastery, source

Bulgarian art from the Liberation to the middle of the 20th century is characterized by the inclusion of modern European culture. The development of Bulgarian art goes through the following stages:

  • Ethnographic scenes painted by the artists after the Liberation Ivan Mrkvicka, Anton Mitov, Ivan Angelov, Jaroslav Veshin;
  • Exquisite landscapes and sorrowful portraits typical of the early 20th century – Nicola Petrov, Nikola Marinov, Stefan Ivanov, Elena Karamihailova a
  • Expressive attractiveness of the 20s Ivan Milev, Ivan Penkov, Pencho Georgijev
  • Rich and diverse artistic searches in the 30s and 40s of the 20th century – Vladimir Dimitrov – the Master, Zlatyu Boyadjiev, Dechko Uzunov, Nenko Balkan, Orphan Ranger, Vera Nedkova, Ivan Nenov, Bencho Obreshkov.[26]

Ivan Mrkvička, “Self-portrait”, 1926, source

“Young girl” by Vladimir Dimitrov – the Master, source

“Shepherds from Brezovo”, Zlatyu Boyadzhiev, source

“Masha’s portrait”, Dechko Uzunov, source

Jaroslav Veshin, “The Samara flag”, source

In the second half of the 20th century art changes – diversification of styles and genre searches. This is due to the creative artists at that time Ivan Nenov, Vera Nedkova, Dechko Uzunov, Ilia Petrov, Ivan Funev, Vaska Emanouilova, whose work is among the best achievements of Bulgarian art. The new paint and plastic searches of contemporary Bulgarian art are show through the work of Galin Malakchiev, Alexander Petrov, Nayden Petkov, Genko Genkov and Dimitar Kirov. While introducing new storylines and creative experiences, traditions can aslo be seen in the paintings Zlatyu Boyadjiev, Stoyan Venev, Nadezhda Kuteva and Dimitar Kazakov. In the late 20th century Bulgarian painting, sculpture and graphics are mostly oriented to the abstract. Compositions are constructed entirely following geometric principles; they are more typical for the development of individual artists. During this period it is very popular among young Bulgarian artists to use unconventional forms.[27]

 

[1] Cultural Tourism. In: Official tourism portal of Bulgaria [online]

[2] Santova, M. Miglena Ivanova, Vania Mateeva. Traditional crafts, household activities, habits [online]

[3] Kuyumdzhiystvo (Goldsmithing) – the fiery craft. In: Bulgarian history [online]

[4] Copper-processing. In: Fellowship of the masters of national crafts [online]

[5] Bulgaria – Craftsmanship. In: Ranica.eu [online]    

[6] Traditions, crafts and ethnography: Traditional Bulgarian clothing.  In: Official tourism portal of Bulgaria [online]

[7] Traditional Bulgarian clothing. In: Horo.bg  [online]

[8] Velikova,Pel., Minkova, Sv., Traditional songs in Bulgarian music folklore. In: Research papers University of Rousse, [online],  № 47, 2008

[9] Dobrudzhanska folklore area. In: Group for authentic Bulgarian folklore “Iskar” [online

[10] Bulgaria – folklore. In Ranica.eu [online]

[11] “Izlel e Delyu hajdutin” by Valya Balkanska

[12] A song by Bistritsa Grandmothers

[13] Velikova, Pel., Minkova, Sv. Style and character of Bulgarian folk dances – specifics. In: Research papers University of Rousse [online],  № 50, 2011 

[14] An example of Dobrudzhanska rychenica

[15] An example of Danube horo

[16] An example of Daychovo horo

[17] An example of Elenino horo

[18] Pirin folklore area. In: Club for Bulgarian dances „Accent” [online

[19] Shopska folklore area. In: Club for Bulgarian dances „Accent” [online]

[20] Dimitrova-Marinova, Dimitrinka. Biblical texts and Ancient Literature. In: Bulgarian language and literature [online], N 4, 2001 

[21] Gergova, Ani. Knigoznanie, Sofia, 1995, 84 p.

[22] Igov, Svetozar.  Views on the newest Bulgarian literature (1989-2001) In: LiterNet [online], 2004, №5

[23] “Blind Vaysha” the short movie + subtitles in EN can be discovered here.

[24] Dimchev, V., Rakanov. S. Painting and art. Book for teacher institutes, Sofia. Narodna Prosveta, 1980

[25] Christian art. In: National art gallery [online]

[26] Bulgarian Renaissance in art. In: BezRamka [online

[27] Modern Bulgarian art. In: National art gallery [online]

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