Bulgarian historical archive at “Ivan Vazov” Public Library Plovdiv

In the early 20th c. the director of the Plovdiv library and museum, the eminent Bulgarian scholar and archeologist Boris Diakovich, set apart the rare, valuable and unique editions, archives and objects to set up the so called Museum Library. All those were library materials of exceptional value.
In 1949 the Special Collections Department of the Plovdiv Public Library was established with the mission to treasure up materials that differ by certain features from the other library units. A library specialist was appointed to organize the department activities. That was Vera Atseva, a historian and bibliographer.
The singular book-stocks of national significance have been collocated, classified and described into the following collections:
• Manuscripts,
• Bulgarian historical archive,
• Revival literature and periodicals, 1806–1878,
• Rare and valuable editions,
• Portraits and photographs,
• Prints and lithographs,
• Microfilms.
The Bulgarian historical archive at “Ivan Vazov” Public Library is a valuable archival treasure attracting the attention of Bulgarian and foreign researchers. The archival materials in the library are a valuable source of information not only for studies and research on the past of Plovdiv and Plovdiv region, but they are of national significance as they reveal interesting moments in the political, economic and cultural development of the country.
The first archival materials received in the Plovdiv library date from 1901. In its 140-years-long history the library has collected significant archival wealth amounting to 18,239 documents – 3698 archival units organized in 69 holdings, 12 collections and 47 single acquisitions.
The documents cover the period from the seventeenth to the twentieth century, most numerous being those from the second half of nineteenth century – the time of active national struggle for church independence, in which the city of Plovdiv played a most significant role.
The preserved archives are predominantly personal, and only a small part of them had belonged to departments, institutes and organizations. Here are the archives of prominent political, economic and cultural figures of the Bulgarian Revival, as well as notable public functionaries, writers and cultural figures after the Liberation.
The content of the archival collection is diverse: documents on church issues and the national liberation movement; materials related to the turbulent educational and cultural progress in the country (the opening of schools, establishing libraries and companies), the flourishing of crafts and trade, economic and welfare issues; events related to the Unification of the Principality of Bulgaria with Eastern Rumelia, organizational and management problems of the newly liberated country.
The archives contain the following kinds of documents: letters, accounts, reports, exposes, manuscripts, monographs and works of art, legislation acts and bills, memoirs, drawings, sketches, newspaper clippings, photos, chronicles, account books (commercial, corporate, personal), etc.They are in Bulgarian, Turkish, Greek, Russian, French, German, Romanian and other languages.
The archival holdings in the Plovdiv library are presented in inventory lists, which include the following data: number of the holding; quantitative characterization; date limits; the full name and biographic data of the holding’s founder; sources used; historic reference, characteristic features and content of archival documents.
The holdings are described in the order of their inventory, cataloguing and collocation.
The quantitative characterization of an archival unit indicates the number of documents and sheets in it. Date limits indicate the earliest and the latest document in the collection. Each archival document is annotated – the annotation is short, but containing the best possible information about the document. The holding’s inventory is focused on the content of documents. The type and language of materials and their user availability are also indicated.
To facilitate the search of archival records, the Special Collections Department has compiled the following catalogues: alphabetic, subject, geographical and chronological.
Archival documents in the Plovdiv library are apportioned into three major segments: archival holdings, collections and single acquisitions.
Archival holdings
At present (2019) we have 74 archival holdings. Only four of them are from organizations, institutions or governments: № 14 – village of Ichera, Sliven District; № 19 – Russian provisional government; № 20 – Eastern Rumelia; № 23 – Internal Macedonian-Adrianople Revolutionary Organization (IMRO) and the Supreme Macedonian-Adrianople Committee (VMOK); № 24 – “Ivan Vazov” Public Library Plovdiv. The latter is of particular importance for the history of the library. It contains the first library statute-book, revealing the structure of the library, catalogue types, usage of collections (1882). The correspondence referring to changes in the National Education Act and the excerpts concerning the library (1908) are of particular interest. There are materials related to library budgets in the period 1903–1910; regulations, reports and data about the acquisition of books and periodicals, the number of library users, etc. Interesting is the correspondence concerning library facilities, acquisitions, donations, international book exchange, legal deposit. All the honorary titles, medals, certificates, congratulatory addresses on library anniversary occasions also attract attention.
Private holdings constitute an essential part of the historical archives in the Special Collections Department. Most of them are donations to the library. Some are specially handed over after the death of their founders, in accordance with in their wills. Such is the case in recent years with Simeon Gruev’s and Nikola Dimitrov’s holdings. Similar is the latest case with the archive of the eminent poet and translator Lubomir Genchev, bequeathed to the library by his heirs.
The Bulgarian historical archive of our library keeps archival holdings of the following eminent figures of national and local significance: Nikolay Pavlovich, Yoakim Gruev, Georgi Gruev, Rafail Popov, Nesho Bonchev, Ivan Dobrovski, Svetoslav Mylar, Nikolai Rainov, Ivan Vazov, Geo Milev, Jordan Yovkov, Assen Belkovsky, Stoyan Bozhkov, Pavel Strezov, Dragan Tsankov, Dimiter Dushanov, Branislav Veleshki, Anna Boyadjieva, Valko Ivanov, Vasil Manchev, Lyuben Karavelov, Dr. Stoyan Chomakov, Konstantin Velichkov, Lady Emily Strangford, the Agushevs, Milan Milanov, Georgi Ludzhev, Vasil Cholakov, Todor Vachkov, Slav Kesyakov, Georgi Stamatov, Krustyu Hrulev, Stefan Shishkov, Dimitar Agoura, Prof. Vassil Zahariev, Dimitar Pashkov, Exarch Jossif, Georgi Vassilev, Konstantin Turnev, George Miyatev, Luka Kassurov, Dr. Alexander Peev, Luka Maleev Vicho Ivanov, Kostaki Peev, Ivan Vanev, Naum Temchev, Kosta Kulov, Jordan Stubel, Tsanko Lavrenov, Simeon Gruev, Ivan Boymitrov, Nikola Dimitrov.
Most valuable for us are the archival holdings of Nikolai Pavlovich, Joakim Gruev, Georgi Gruev, Dr. Stoyan Chomakov and the Agushevs.


Nikolai Pavlovich is an eminent painter, one of the most famous Bulgarian portrait and graphic artists and the founder of history painting in the country. He took an active part in public and political life. “Ivan Vazov” Public Library acquired Nikolay Pavlovich’s archive in 1923, 1925, 1951 from the artist’s nephew. The files are organized into the following groups: biographical materials, correspondence (to and from N. Pavlovich) and materials related to the artist’s works, sketches, drawings, notes, manuscripts. The materials are in Bulgarian, but there are also letters in German, French, Russian and Turkish. The materials of biographical nature are of particular value applications, certificates, membership cards, notebooks, passports, lists, autobiographical notes, information about his father Hristaki Pavlovich.
The major part of the Pavlovic archive consists of the correspondence he kept with over 100 people, among whom are distinguished Revival period writers and public figures, such as Dr. Petar Beron, Exarch Antim I, Nayden Gerov, Georgi Gruev, Hristo G. Danov, George Danchov, Marin Drinov, Vasil Drumev, Constantine Irechek, Petko Slaveikov, Dragan Tsankov, etc. Documents from a later period attest to Pavlovic’s work as an artist, teacher and school inspector. 

Joakim Gruev’s archive was donated to the library in 1938 by his son, Salcho Yoakimov Gruev. The documentary materials in it are organized into the following groups: correspondence, manuscripts reflecting his teaching and literary activity, materials concerning public issues. They are in Bulgarian, French, Russian and Turkish. Some of the more important materials concerning Joakim Gruev’s life include: autobiographical notes, memories, notes, business cards, letters, telegrams, transcripts, receipts, writs, diplomas, berats, award certificates, congratulatory addresses and telegrams on the occasion of his 80th anniversary. After the liberation Joakim Gruev was in charge of a number of important social and cultural issues. His correspondence with members of the Bulgarian Literary Society reveals the authority he had as a member of the Society. Numerous letters and telegrams testify to his involvement with the “Love of Learning” Society in Plovdiv, “Bee” Society, The Slavic Charity-Sofia and others.
The materials concerning his activity as director of the National Education of Eastern Rumelia include: letters, reports, memos, resolutions, programs, exposes on the opening of: the Regional Library and Museum, theater groups, schools, clubs, orphanages, hospital. The archive holding contains documents related to organizational issues, management and legislation in Eastern Rumelia: laws, bills, regulations, orders, reports, statute-books, payroll tables, forms, lists, demographic statistics, Minutes of the European Commission meeting in Plovdiv in November 1878, objections, proclamations, protests to representatives of the Great Powers against the resolutions of the Berlin Treaty.
A large number of archival documents reflect Joakim Gruev’s activity as teacher and education organizer – letters, reports, programs, rules, regulations. The archive contains also documents concerning members of his family, such as letters, certificates, postcards, notebooks, etc. 

The Georgi Gruev archival holding was acquired by the library in 1938. With few exceptions, the documents are well preserved. The holding is part of archive № 2 Joakim Gruev. The separation was effected in 1959. The archival holding has been made inventory of, described, classified divided into the following groups: biographical materials; correspondence (teacher, secretary of the Bulgarian Exarchate, Chairman of Courts, public); documents of general content.
Interesting materials on the history of education and the national and religious struggles are: the Statute of the Bulgarian community in Constantinople, draft statutes of the Bulgarian Exarchate church government, minute-books of the Bishopric Council, financial statements, Exarchate budgets and accounts.
G. Gruev played a prominent role in the establishment of an extensive network of Bulgarian schools in Macedonia. In the hard times of1874–1878, the letters exchanged between him and teachers in Macedonia reveal the importance of the Bulgarian Exarchate as a center of educational activity in the Bulgarian territories. The letters of P.R. Slaveikov to Gruev are also very interesting – they shed light on the unbearable conditions for the Bulgarian population and schools in Adrianople and Eastern Thrace.
Georgi Gruev was a man of great erudition and his opinion on a number of social, political and cultural issues was often sought after. Another very important field of Gruev’s activities is his work as editor of “Maritza” – Plovdiv. The great circle of associates and correspondents reflects the organizational abilities of a newspaper editor, whose main principles were relevance and reliability.
Dr. Stoyan Chomakov’s archive became part of the library collections in 1936 and 1939. It consists primarily of letters from various people to Dr. Chomakov on school issues, the struggle for independent Bulgarian church, the hatred towards the Greek bishop Hrissant in Plovdiv, etc. Those letters reveal interesting points of disagreement between the Church Council in Constantinople (1869) and the Diocesan Council in Plovdiv (1873). 

The correspondence file includes also letters from his brother – Salcho Chomakov, Hristo Gruyuglu from Kazanlak, priest Atanas from Thessaloniki on church matters, from Joakim Gruev on educational and civic issues.
Among the archival documents is also the account of the Plovdiv church community for Dr Chomakov’s allowance in Constantinople, as well as letters of personal and family nature.

The collection documents are organized according to their content into 12 collections:
Collection № 1 – Economic issues
Collection № 2 – Manuscripts
Collection № 3 – Cultural issues
Collection № 4 – Poets and writers
Collection № 5 – Election campaigns
Collection № 6 – Logbook
Collection № 7 – Religious issues
Collection № 8 – Political Issues

Collection № 9 – Education
Collection № 10 – Revolutionary issues
Collection № 11 – Artists
Collection № 12 – Music
Collection № 1 contains the Chrionicle of the Plovdiv tailors’ guild. This is the oldest document in the archives of “Ivan Vazov” Public Library. The Chronicle consists of three books written in Greek, in various handwriting styles; they cover the period from 1685 to 1857.
The tailor's guild in Plovdiv was a large and economically powerful trade association that existed in the course of almost three centuries. Its members were of Greek and Bulgarian origin. Due to the national religious struggle between Greeks and Bulgarians, in 1857 the guild was divided into two separate groups – a Bulgarian and Greek one. The “Chronicle of the Plovdiv tailor's guild” was discovered by Dr. Alexander Peev in 1929 in the home of an old Plovdiv tailor and was donated to the library. In 1931 the materials were published. The part in Greek was copied by Mirtilos Apostolidis and translated into Bulgarian by Alexander Peev. The Chronicle of the Plovdiv tailor's guild is of great scientific value and interest for studies of economic, social and folkloric character.
The documents in Collection № 7 are also of exceptional value. Part of that collection are: the Letter of absolution and soul salvation of the Jerusalem Patriarch to Atanas (Gyumyushgerdan), Zoe and Teopealmita from Plovdiv, dated October 1840; a Conciliatory letter of the tailor's guild in Plovdiv, dated July 29, 1805; the Indulgence-absolution diploma, issued by Antim, Patriarch of Jerusalem and the whole of Palestine, in 1789; the Sultan's firman (decree) of 1870 in three columns and in three languages (Bulgarian, Turkish and Greek), declaring the establishment of the

KondikaBulgarian Patriarchate; five letters of Dobri Chintoulov from Constantinople to the Bulgarian municipality in Sliven, concerning the proceedings of the Church Council in Constantinople in 1871. Chintoulov was the Sliven representative at that Council. 

Single acquisitions
The single acquisitions in our Bulgarian historical archives are of various natures. Those are account books, letters, minute-books, lists, receipts, certificates, vouchers, memoirs, dissertations, essays, notes, memos, etc.concerning political, economic and cultural issues. Their cover one century. Of particular Interest are the following documents: minute-book of the Mixed Kaaza Council Gabrovo (1875–1876), lists of household goods and goldsmith’s instruments, S. I. Shopov’s notes from his participation in the Unification of Bulgaria and the Serbo-Bulgarian War, the memoirs Constantine Nounkov, participant in the Macedonian Revolutionary Movement (1905); information about the life and work of volunteers Pavel and Lazar Pulev of Karlovo by Lazar Pulev; notice about the opening of Yanko Kovachev’s printing-office in Vienna (1874). 

In the period 1980–2010, 12 single acquisitions were added to the collections: applications, appeals, and certificates of various persons on property issues in Turkish, receipts for paid off debts, Ludmilla Zhivkov’s obituary, poems dedicated to Slavka Slaveikova by Laura Karavelova; the diary of General George Abadjiev (1859–1940) from Stara Zagora, kept by him during the time when the Unification was announced and during the Serbo-Bulgarian war.
Although small in volume, the collection of archival materials at the Plovdiv library has been a valuable resource for research for 140 years now. It is used by graduate students, academics, Bulgarian and foreign doctoral students and journalists. Guests from various countries, clergymen and publishers have also taken interest in it.

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