The Bulgarian Historical Archive (BHA) with its adjoining “Portraits and Photos” Collection is part of the Manuscript – Documental and Literary Heritage Division in the St. St. Cyril and Methodius National Library.
Today 1 600 000 documents are kept in BHA, spread in over 900 private and public funds, 89 collections and hundreds of individual collections. Over 1 300 000 documents are described and are available to the public through catalogues and card indexes.
The “Portraits and Photos” Collection consists of over 80 000 photo documents, which illustrate not only separate stages of Bulgarian history development but follow the development of photographic art in Europe and on the Balkans.
From the beginning of January 2012, you could use online the all nine books from the main guide-book of the Bulgarian Historical Archive to the National Library “Overview of the archival funds, collections and single acquisitions, stored in the Bulgarian Historical Archive”.
The Bulgarian Historical Archive, earlier known as the Archives Department, is one of the first Bulgarian archive depositories, established after the Bulgarian Liberation from Turkish domination in 1878 and existing to this day. When the needs to collect and preserve documents from the period of the National Revival emerged, the Archives Department gradually assumed an increased role and importance. The formation of an archive collection began with the establishment of the Library in 1878. In the years before the establishment of the State Archive Fund (SAF) in 1951 it gained the status of a national archive. From the establishment of a centralized archives to this day BHA has the status of a chief archive depository of documents from the Bulgarian National Revival and the liberation struggles of the Bulgarians in Macedonia and the Odrin region until 1912. For over a century its staff has contributed to its enlargement and development. The names of the renowned specialists Senior research fellow Dr. Ivan Panayotov, Senior research fellow Kirila Vazvazova – Karateodorova, Senior research fellow Dora Belcheva – Popsavova should be mentioned for their contribution.
The oldest preserved manuscript in BHA dates back to the 11th century. This is a fragment of a parchment with Greek minuscule script acquired by BHA in 1967. Today it is kept in the collection of Atanas Bashev – a teacher of long standing in Prespa district.
There are separate documents from the 15th – 17th century. Such are, for example, the Inventory of the male population by the castle Mirabelo – 1635, the Code of the Bulgarian Archbishopric in Ochrid – 1677 etc.
Chronologically the largest number of documents date back from the middle of the 19th century to the middle of the 20th century and belonged to eminent public figures of the day throughout the National Revival period and the period after the Liberation.
BHA has preserved many sources for the development of Bulgarian education and culture. Apart from the archive collections of writers like Nayden Gerov, Todor Burmov, Tzani Ginchev, etc, the Department houses documents by other prominent teachers and enlighteners such as Vasil Aprilov, N. Batzarov, Dr. Peter Beron, R. Popovich, Petko Rachov Slaveikov, etc. The archive collections revealing the struggle of the Bulgarian people for the establishment of an independent national church are extremely valuable – the documents of the Bulgarian Exarchate, of the Rila Monastery, of the church leaders Exarch Antim I, Simeon of Varna, Ilarion Makariopolski, Gavril Krastevich, Nayden Gerov, etc.
The National Liberation Revolutionary movement is reflected in documents connected with the activity of the Apostle of freedom Vasil Levski (his pocket book, the draft Statutes of the Bulgarian Revolutionary Central Committee, letters and notes of his activity in the period 1871 – 1872 are preserved); of the poet and revolutionary Hristo Botev (his pocket book), of the Bulgarian Revolutionary Central Committee (BRCC), of the Bulgarian Central Charity Community (BCCC), of Lyuben Karavelov, of Georgi Stoykov Rakovski and of many others.
Researchers have shown interest in documents reflecting the economic development of the Bulgarians during the National Revival Period: preserved are the numerous archives of the artisan’s guilds, the books and the correspondence of the major merchants Evlogi and Hristo Georgiev, the Hadjigyurov family, the Tapchileshtov family, the Robev Brothers, the Puliev Brothers, the Geshov family.
The documents related to the Liberation of Bulgaria and to the construction of the new state constitute a considerable part of the BHA fund. These are the archives of the National Assembly, of Prince Alexander I Batenberg, of the Prime ministers Todor Burmov, Stefan Stambolov, Gen. Racho Petrov, Ivan Evst. Geshov, Teodor Teodorov, Alexander Malinov, Bogdan Filov, and of over 30 ministers and generals.
The number of documents directly related to the Bulgarian liberation struggles in Macedonia and the Odrin region after 1878 is considerable. They include archival documents from the archive collections of Captain Petko Voivoda, the Inner Macedonian-Odrin Revolutionary Organization (IMORO), of the Supreme Macedonian-Odrin Committee (SMOC) together with over 100 000 documents, of Gotze Delchev, Gyorche Petrov, Nikola Zografov, Nikola Maleshevski, Dimitar, Hristo and Angel Uzunovi’s family fund, Boris Sarafov, Vladislav Kovatchev, Vasil Tchekalarov, Todor Alexandrov etc.
The BHA also have the private archives of some of the Bulgarian most prominent poets and writers like Ivan Vazov, Zachary Stoyanov, Pencho P. Slaveikov, Mara Belcheva, Elisaveta Bagryana, Geo Milev, Stoyan Mihailovski, Peyo Yavorov, Yordan Yovkov, etc.
During the 1945 period according to Government decrees the libraries books and the archives of the persons convicted by People’s courts after World War II, were acquired by the Library. The BHA holds documents of members of the royal family, of St. Tanev, Hristo Shishmanov, Bogdan Filov, Gen. Lukov, the Masons lodges, the Bulgarian-German society, etc.
The Bulgarian Historical Archives is the place where valuable documents in connection with Bulgarian Catholics banished in Transilvania and Banat region after the defeat of the Chiprovci uprising in 1688 are kept. The documents are extremely varied and contain information for the noble status of some Bulgarian families in the Habsburg Empire, for the history and the folklore of this cut off part of the Bulgarian people. The texts from Banat are in Bulgarian, written in the Latin script and particularly impressive.
Recently the private archive collections of distinguished representatives of the Bulgarian political emigration after World War II (1941-1945) come to the BHA as donations. They cast light on the activity of the emigrant organizations in Europe, the USA and Canada: “The Bulgarian Free Centre”, “Bulgarian jurists in exile”, “The Bulgarian Emigrant Society in France”, “The Bulgarian Emigrant Society in Spain”, etc.
Catalogues, inventories, publications
An overview of the archive funds, collections and individual collections kept in the Bulgarian Historical Archive : Book 1 ; Book 2 ; Book 3 ; Book 4 ; Book 5 ; Book 6 ; Book 7 ; Book 8 ; Book 9. Sofia, 1963 – 2006.
An inventory of memoirs documental sources preserved in the BHA at St. St. Cyril and Methodius National Library. Sofia, 1978.
An inventory of documents on health matters and public health care preserved in the BHA at St. St. Cyril and Methodius National Library. Vol. 1 – to 1878. Sofia, 1986.
Vasil Levski. Documents. Two volumes. Vol. 1. Facsimile editions of the documents. Sofia, 2000.
Portraits and Photos Collection
The collection began in 1879 when together with archive collections and some separate acquisitions also begins the collecting of photographic materials of historical importance. The photo materials delivered in 1924 by the Ethnographical Museum in Sofia together with the National Revival Archive, as well as the portrait collections of National Revival figures purchased by the Library from Dimitar Strashimirov, Ivan Klincharov, Nikola and Petrana Obretenovi, Yulia Simidova, etc. are of great importance for the Collection.
In 1948 the Library created a special Portraits and Photos Department, which set up the first separate photo collection of its kind in Bulgaria, organized and arranged in accordance with contemporary requirements for work with photographic documents. Since 1970 the Collection was transferred to the Bulgarian Historical Archives.
Portraits and Photos Department is responsible for acquisition and preservation, and offers for research original photos, photocopies and post cards, mainly in their capacity of historical sources and secondarily as examples of Bulgarian and European photography. The chronological borders of the Collection comprise the period from 1860 to the 1970s. Most of the visual archive materials produced during the National Revival are works of foreign masters-photographers and were created outside the present Bulgarian territory – in Belgrade, Kladovo, Bucharest, Galatz, Braila, Giurgiu, Saint Petersburg, Kishinev, Moscow, Odessa, Constantinople, Prague, Budapest, Vienna, Odrin, etc. Many portraits were created by one of the pioneers of Bulgarian photography – Atanas Karastoyanov and his sons – Ivan and Dimitar Karastoyanovi, of Toma Hitrov, Georgi Danchov – Zografina, Ivan Dospevski, Xenofontes Smrikarov, Ivancho Zakhariev, Dimitar Germanski, Hrisant Rashovich, Panayot Ivanov, Simeon Simeonov, Stoyan Karaleev, etc are kept in the collection. We should also mention the works of some foreign photographers who opened their ateliers and worked in the newly liberated Bulgaria – M. Wolf, Fr. Bauer, On. Markolesko, M. Rekhnitch, J. Buresh, V. Velebni, F. Grabner, M. Kurtz, etc.
The Portraits and Photos Collection provides the following visual materials for the needs of researchers and users:
– Portraits of political, cultural and religious figures, leading merchants, including photographs of their families, followers and relatives;
– Photos related to Bulgarian political, military, economical and cultural history;
– Photos reflecting the life of Bulgarians;
– Views of Bulgarian towns, villages, historical sites and monuments connected with concrete persons and events;
– Portraits and photos of foreign political and cultural figures and events related to Bulgarian history;
– Views of towns and settlements in Europe, Russia and America, where Bulgarians have studied, lived and worked.
The oldest photo documents kept in the photographic collection are connected with the period of the Bulgarian National Revival. They illustrate Bulgarian struggles for independent church and national revolutionary struggles, the cultural and educational movement, the participation of Bulgarians in the national liberation struggles of neighbouring Balkan peoples, the Russian-Turkish War (1877- 1878), as well as the social and economic changes in the Ottoman Empire after the Crimean War.
The period after the Liberation of Bulgaria and the subsequent development of the country is also richly illustrated. Portraits and Photos Collection has preserved visual materials of the life and the economic situation of Bulgarians after 1878, of the recovery of active political life in the country, of the continuing struggles for national union of the Bulgarians in Macedonia and the Odrin region after the Berlin congress, of the wars of the Bulgarian people for restoration of its territorial and ethnic integrity, of the educational and cultural development in the state, etc.
Catalogues, inventories, publications
The Collection has an illustrated card index and is described in specialized editions.
Popsavova, D. Description of the Collection of Portraits and Photos (Opis na sbirkata “Portreti i snimki”). Vol. I-III. Sofia, 1975-1989;
Popsavova, D. The photographs as historical sources (Fotografskite snimki kato istoricheski izvori). Sofia, 1984;
Popsavova, D. and Jordan Peev. Rules for descriptions of photo materials (Pravila za opisvane na fotomateriali). – In: Izvestija na Darzhavna biblioteka “Vasil Kolarov” za 1953. Sofia, 1955, 287-293;
Simeonova, R. The Union of Bulgarian Kingdom and Eastern Rumelia 1885-1895. Survey of photo-materials preserved in the Collection “Portraits and Photos” (Saedinenieto na Knjazhestvo Balgarija i Iztochna Rumelija 1885-1895. Obzor na fotografski materiali, sahranjavani v sbirka “Portreti i snimki”). Sofia, 1985;
Simeonova, R. The Bulgarian professional photographers and the April Rebellion (Balgarskite profesionalni fotografi i Aprilskoto vastanie). – In: Godishnik na Obshtobalgarskija komitet “Vasil Levski”. Vol. 4. Sofia, 2002, 257-262.
The Bulgarian Historical Archive is responsible for these collections. The Department staff offers specialized references.
Requests for reproduction of the collection materials are made according the Regulations of services and the service tariffs of the Library.
Hours of service of the Department: 08.30 a.m. – 05.00 p.m.
Archive materials can only be used in Specialized reading room 1 with working time: Monday – Friday, 08:30 a.m. – 06:00 p.m., Saturday 09:00 a.m. – 03:00 p.m.
The BHA archive materials are drawn within 24 hours. On Saturdays readers may only use material, requested in advance.