July 5 marks the 115th anniversary since the death of Evlogi Georgiev, one of the greatest Bulgarian benefactors and the person who initiated the building of the St. Kliment Ohridski University in Sofia. Each person entering the university through its central gate goes between two noteworthy sculptures: those of brothers Evlogi and Hristo Georgiev. In fact the university is a sort of a monument of these great Bulgarians and their deed.
Evlogi Georgiev was a really unique person. He used to be one of the wealthiest and most successful entrepreneurs in this region and left more money to his nation than to his own relatives. Evlogi Georgiev was born in the town of Karlovo, Central Bulgaria, in a merchant family with a pretty successful business. He studied in Karlovo and Plovdiv, and became a teacher in his hometown for a while, until in 1837 he moved to Romania and started his commercial activities. He launched a company together with his brother Hristo /b. 1824/ and other relatives and they traded goods with a number of European countries. As the company quickly increased its capital, Evlogi Georgiev turned into a banker, too.
The Georgiev brothers started to donate to their nation as early as the 1850s. They were among the founders of the so-called Virtuous Company – an organization of rich Bulgarians, supporting Russia and aiming at Bulgaria’s liberation from the Ottoman rule and at the progress of their people. The organization recruited Bulgarian volunteers for the 1853-56 Crimean War between Turkey and Russia. Later on, the company spent huge funds on education, literary activities and charity. Hristo died very young, at the age of 48 in 1872, with no chance to see his brother’s greatest deeds. His work had contributed a lot to the success and expansion of their joint company. That was the reason why Evlogi pointed out his merit for the donation given for the building of the Sofia University in his last will.
Evlogi lived through the Liberation in 1878 and continued to help his nation. He started to buy terrains in Sofia with the support of then-famous financier Ivan Evstratiev Geshov. Those later on merged in an impressive terrain, exceeding 10,000 m2. Then in 1896 Evlogi Georgiev declared his donation of 800,000 levs in gold and land worth 200,000 levs, for building a university. The benefactor died in 1897, leaving an impressive last will that left too little money to his relatives. By the way, both Evlogi and Hristo didn’t have their own families and children. The greatest deal of the legacy – a tremendous for that time sum amounting to 6 mln. levs had to go for the maintenance of the university. Ivan Evstatiev Geshov was appointed executor of the last will.
The tomb of the brothers Hristo and Evlogi Georgiev in the Belu Cemetery, Bucharest
However, a saga started then that was to continue for too long. At first, the relatives went to court, contesting the will, claiming that Geshov had replaced the original. Then the liberal government entered the trial, trying to take revenge for previous actions of conservatives Georgiev and Geshov, who was to become a prime minister. The legacy was confirmed after long trials. The expertise proved that Evlogi’s safe had been opened with the 4 keys, possessed by 4 different relatives of his and no secret replacement of documents had been possible. Fortunately, the 6 mln. fund would be even increased over the next years, due to successful bank operations. In 1913 the sum already exceeded 13 mln. The construction of the Sofia University started in 1924 and 10 years later the building was solemnly inaugurated.
It will be difficult to find and describe all the details of the Georgiev brothers’ charity activities. Evlogi also made a big donation to a textile factory in his home town of Karlovo that provided employment to hundreds of its citizens. He gifted major sums to the Bulgarian Hospital in Constantinople, to the Bulgarian Maiden School in Thessaloniki, too. He also made donations in Romania, where he lived for ten years and developed successful commercial and bank activities.
English version: Zhivko Stanchev