"Follower of National Enlighteners" – prestigious Bulgarian award for contribution to science and culture

Photo: BТА

Most of existing community centers (“chitalishte”) in Bulgaria have already celebrated their 100th anniversaries. This is not accidental, because they were created in hard times in order to satisfy aspirations of Bulgarians for knowledge, spiritual development and cultural elevation. Bulgaria is the only country in Europe to have this institution and the only country that has a holiday dedicated to their spiritual leaders, whom we call national enlighteners. The “chitalishte” is much more than the public libraries known in other European cities, as in Bulgaria it is the center of all cultural life of the small community. Even before there was Bulgarian parliament and government, patriotic Bulgarians founded the institution of the Community Center. The tradition continues to this day and each community center in this country has been developing its own original activities.

Acknowledgment for active work in the field of preservation of Bulgarian spirit and culture are the annual "Follower of National Enlighteners" awards. The prize was established by the Union of National Community Center 12 years ago and is given to individuals with significant contribution to modern science, culture, education and spiritual development. This year the ceremony was held at the National Library of "Sts. Cyril and Methodius ", which is rightly called “the biggest Bulgarian community center ". Among the laureates of the distinction are Bulgarian Patriarch Neophyte, the director of the Classical High School in Sofia Gergina Toncheva, and this year the prize went to the rector of the Sofia University Prof. Anastas Gerdzhikov, writer Anton Donchev, singer Margarita Hranova, composer Stefan Diomov, banker Levon Hampartsumyan. Krasimira Alexandrova – director of the National Library and Galya Hristova – secretary of the "Razvitie 1870" community center  in Sevlievo also received the award.

To this date, libraries at community centers in Bulgaria are over 2800 and in practice this country has become the owner of the largest library network in Europe.

The role of the Bulgarian spiritual centers is huge, as in the current globalized world they help us be more united and not to forget that we are first and foremost Bulgarians, Academician Georgi Markov said. The researcher of Bulgarian history is also winner of "Follower of National Enlighteners" – 2019.

Academician Georgi Markov (left)

“For me, the spiritual world is above the material because the material world is transient. Often people do not understand this because we are living in a very pragmatic world. Often, the first question young historians have is how much money they would get for a lecture and that is their mistake. I am very happy that the tradition to celebrate the Day of the National Enlighteners has been revived, because thanks to these people we exist as a nation. Without them we would have not be saved,” Academician Georgi Markov says. “And thanks to our enlighteners, we have realized that we are a nation with a centuries-old history and therefore we have the right for a better future as a nation. I am happy that we are descendants of people who had optimism in extremely hard times. When we say that the situation for us is difficult today, we must remember that there were much harder times when people were able to work in the name of the spiritual preservation of the Bulgarian people.”

English: Alexander Markov

Photos: BTA

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