Bulgarian Historical Archive

Size. Content

The Bulgarian Historical Archive (BHA), with its Portraits and Photographs collection is part of the special departments of the Handwritten Documentary and Literary Heritage Department of the “St. St. Cyril and Methodius” National Library.

Today 1,600,000 documents are stored in the BHA, with more than 900 personal and public acquisitions, 89 collections and hundreds of single acquisitions. More than 1,300,000 documents have been processed and catalogued in inventories and card catalogues.

See: Overviews of the BHA archives,  book 1 ;  book  2 ;  book  3 ;  book  4 ;  book  5 ;  book  6 ;  book  7 ;  book 8 ;  book  9

The Portraits and Photographs Collection contains over 80,000 photo documents capturing not only the individual stages in the development of Bulgarian history, but also representing the improvement of photographic art in Europe and the Balkans.

See „Overview of the Portraits and Photographs Collection at the National Library, compiler Dora Popsavova, Part I, Sofia, 1975, 504 p.

See „Overview of the Portraits and Photographs Collection at the National Library Part ІІ. Sofia, 1983, 672 p.

See „Overview of the Portraits and Photographs Collection at the National Library Part ІІI. Sofia, 1989, 274 p.

The oldest manuscript in BHA dates back to the 11th century. This is a fragment of parchment written in Greek minuscule script. It was acquired by BHA in 1967 and comes from the collection of Atanas Bashev, a long-standing teacher in Prespansko.

The collection contains individual documents from 15th-17th centuries such as the description of the male population of the fortress Castel Mirabello – 1653, the Code of the Bulgarian Archbishopric of Ohrid from 1677 and others.

The most numerous are the chronological records from the mid-19th to the middle of the 20th century. They belong to prominent political, economic and cultural figures of the Bulgarian Revival period and to statesmen, public figures and cultural workers who worked after the Liberation of Bulgaria from Ottoman rule.

BHA stores multiple sources for the development of Bulgarian education and culture. Besides the archives of writers such as Nayden Gerov, Todor Burmov, Tsani Ginchev and others, the department stores materials of the prominent teachers and educators Vasil Aprilov, Nikola Batsarov, Dr. Petar Beron, Raino Popovich, Petko Rachev Slaveykov and others. Especially valuable are the archives reporting the struggle of the Bulgarian people to establish an independent national church – the documents of the Bulgarian Exarchate, of the Rila Monastery, of activists of the Bulgarian Church movement  as Exarch Antim I, Simeon Metropolitan of Varna and Preslav, Hilarion of Makariopolis, Gavril Krastevich, Nayden Gerov and others.

The revolutionary movement for National Liberation is thoroughly documented in materials related to the activities of the Apostle of Freedom Vasil Levski (his pocketbook, letters and notes of his activities in 1871-1872 are preserved), in acquisitions related to the revolutionary poet Hristo Botev (including his pocket book), the Bulgarian Revolutionary Central Committee or BRCC, the Bulgarian Central Charity Society (BCCS), Lyuben Karavelov, Georgi Stoykov Rakovski and many others.

The following documents reflecting the economic development of the Bulgarians during the Revival period has sparked interest among the researchers: the numerous guild chronicles, the trading notebooks and correspondence of major trading houses of Evlogi and Hristo Georgiev, of Zahari Hadjigyurov, Tapchileshtov family, Robev brothers, Puliev brothers,  Geshov family and others.

A significant part of the BHA collection consists of documents related to the Liberation of Bulgaria and the construction of the new state. These are the archives of the National Assembly, the Prince Alexander of Battenberg, the Prime Ministers Todor Burmov, Stefan Stambolov, Gen. Racho Petrov, Ivan Evstratiev Geshov, Teodor Teodorov, Alexander Malinov, Bogdan Filov as well as over thirty ministers and generals.

The array of documents directly related to the struggle of the Bulgarians to liberate Macedonia and Edirne after 1878 is impressive. They are stored in the archives of Captain Petko Voivoda, of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO), containing more than 100,000 documents by Gotse Delchev, Gyorche Petrov, Nikola Zografov, Nikola Maleshevski , the family archives of Dimitar, Hristo and Angel Uzunovi, Boris Sarafov, Vladislav Kovachev, Vasil Chekalarov, Todor Alexandrov and others.

The personal archives of the prominent Bulgarian writers and poets Ivan Vazov, Zahari Stoyanov, Pencho P. Slaveikov, Mara Belcheva, Elisaveta Bagryana, Geo Milev, Stoyan Mihailovski, Peyo Yavorov, Yordan Yovkov and others are also stored in the BHA.

During the period 1945-1947, implementing ministerial decrees, the National Library has acquired the books and archives of persons convicted by the People’s Court (the special court of Communist Bulgaria). The BHA contains the documents of some members of the royal family, such as Stefan Tanev, Hristo Shishmanov, Bogdan Filov, Gen. Hristo Lukov, the Masonic Lodges in Bulgaria, the Bulgarian-German Society and others.

The Bulgarian Historical Archive is the place where are stored valuable testimonies of the Bulgarian Catholics who were expelled in Transylvania and Banat region after the defeat of the Chiprovsky Uprising (1688). The documents are extremely diverse and contain information on the noble status of some Bulgarian families in the Habsburg Empire and the history and folklore of this disconnected part of Bulgarian people. The texts written with the Latin alphabet of the Banat Bulgarians are particularly impressive.

In recent years the BHA received as a donation the personal archives of prominent representatives of the Bulgarian political emigration after the Second World War (1941-1945). These documents highlight the activities of the emigrant organisations in Europe, the United States and Canada such as “Bulgarian Free Center”, “Bulgarian jurists in exile”, “Bulgarian Emigrant Society in France”, “Bulgarian Emigrant Society in Spain”.


The Bulgarian Historical Archives, formerly called Archives Department, is one of the first Bulgarian archival repositories created after the Liberation of Bulgaria from the Ottoman rule in 1878 and existing so far. With the establishment of the National Library in Sofia in 1878 began the development of the archive collection. It emerged as a response to the desire of Bulgarians after the Liberation to collect and preserve documents from the Renaissance period. Gradually its importance increased, and in the years until the building of the State Archives of Bulgaria (1951) it played the role of a national archive. Since the establishment of a centralised archive till the present day, the BHA has the status of an archive repository of documents of the Bulgarian National Revival and the struggle for liberation of the Bulgarians in Macedonia and Edirne until 1912. For more than a century, people working in it have contributed to its enrichment and development.

Catalogues, inventories, publications

Inventory No 1 of Collection 849 Creator of the collection Todor Borov (Todor Tsvetanov Todorov)

Overview of the archives, collections and single acquisitions, stored in the Bulgarian Historical Archive. Book 1-9, Sofia, 1963 – 2006. See: Overview of the archives of the BHA,  book 1 ;  book 2 ;  book 3 ;  book  4 ;  book 5 ;  book 6 ;  book 7 ;  book 8 ;  book 9

Inventory of memoirs and documentary sources preserved in the Bulgarian Historical Archive at the National Library “St. St. Cyril and Methodius”. Sofia 1978.

Inventory of documents on healthcare, preserved in the Bulgarian Historical Archive at the National Library “St. St. Cyril and Methodius“. Volume 1 – until 1878  Sofia, 1986.

Vasil Levski. Documents. In two volumes. Vol. 1-2. Facsimile editions of the documents. Sofia, 2000-2006.

Portraits and Photographs Collection

History of the Portraits and Photographs Collection

The development of the collection started in 1879 when, together with the archival collection and some independent acquisitions, the collection of photographs of historical value began. Of particular importance for the Collection are the photographs, submitted in 1924 by the Ethnographic Museum in Sofia along with the Archives of the Bulgarian Revival period, as well as the collections of portraits of Renaissance figures, purchased by the Library from Dimitar Strashimirov, Ivan Klincharov, Nikola and Petrana Obretenovi, Yulia Simidova and others.

In 1948 a special Portraits and Photographs department was created in the Library, which initiated the first ever collection of photographs in Bulgaria, organised and arranged according to the modern requirements for handling photographic documents. Since 1970 the collection has been transferred to the Bulgarian Historical Archives.

Content of the Portraits and Photographs collection

The Portraits and Photographs collection encompasses, preserves and provides for use originals, photocopies and postcards mainly as historical sources and as examples of Bulgarian and European photography. The collection covers chronologically the period from 1860 to the 70s of the 20th century. Most of the visual archival materials and pictures from the Bulgarian Revival period were taken by foreign masters of photography and , and were created outside of today’s Bulgarian territories – in Belgrade, Kladovo, Bucharest, Galatz, Braila, Giurgiu, St. Petersburg, Chisinau, Moscow, Odessa, Constantinople, Prague, Budapest, Vienna, Edirne and others. The collection also contains many portraits made by some of the pioneers of Bulgarian photography – Atanas Karastoyanov and his sons – Ivan and Dimitar Karastoyanov, by Toma Hitrov, Georgi Danchov – Zografina, Ivan Dospevski, Xenofontes Smrikarov, Ivancho Zakhariev, Dimitar Germanski, Hrisant Rashovich, Panayot Ivanov, Simeon Simeonov, Stoyan Karaleev. We should mention also the works of some foreign photographers, who created their studios and worked actively in the newly liberated Bulgaria –  M. Wolf, Fr. Bauer, On. Markolesko, M. Rekhnitch, J. Buresh, V. Velebni, F. Grabner, M. Kurtz.

The Portraits and Photographs Collection provides the following visual materials to researchers and users:

– portraits of political, business, cultural and church figures, including photographs of their families, followers and relatives;

– photographs related to the Bulgarian political, military, economic and cultural history;

– photographs capturing the life of Bulgarians;

– views from Bulgarian towns, villages, historical sites and monuments related to certain persons and events;

– portraits and photographs of foreign socio-political and cultural figures and events related to the history of Bulgaria;

– views from cities and villages in Europe, Russia and America where Bulgarians have studied, lived and worked.

The oldest photographs stored in the collection are related to the Bulgarian Revival. They capture the struggle for an independent church as well as the Bulgaria’s independence struggle; the development of the cultural and educational movement; the participation of Bulgarians in the national liberation struggles of the neighboring Balkan peoples, the Russo-Turkish War (1877/1878); the socio-economic changes that occurred in the Ottoman Empire after the Crimean War.

The period after the Liberation of Bulgaria and the later development of the country is also richly illustrated. The Portraits and Photographs Collection preserves visual materials about the everyday life and the economic situation of the Bulgarians after 1878; about the restoration of the active political life; about the struggles for national unification of the Bulgarians in Macedonia and the Edirne region after the Berlin Congress; about the wars the Bulgarian people fought to restore its territorial and ethnic integrity; about the development of education and culture in the state, etc.

Catalogues, inventories and publications of the Portraits and Photographs collection

The Collection has an illustrated card index and is inventoried in specialised editions, the most important of which are:

Popsavova, D. Inventory of the Portraits and Photographs Collection (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 unification of the Principality of Bulgaria and the province of Eastern Rumelia 1885-1895. Overview of photo materials contained in the Portraits and Photographs Collection (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 Uprising (Balgarskite profesionalni fotografi i Aprilskoto vastanie). – In: Godishnik na Obshtobalgarskija komitet “Vasil Levski”. Sofia, 2002, Vol. 4, 257-262


Readers may request to reproduce materials from the collection by filling out a relevant form in accordance with the rules applied at the National Library – Rules and Regulations and Library Services Price List.

The archive materials are available for use only in the specialised reading room “PROF. MARIN DRINOV “(Reading room 1) with business hours: Monday to Friday from 8.30 to 18.00, Saturday from 9.00 to 15.00. The requests for archive materials from BHA are processed within 24 hours. On Saturday, readers can only use materials requested in advance.

Part of the documents in the collection are available via the Digital Library.