Podcast in English
Bulgarian National Radio © 2022 All Rights Reserved

Stoyan Milenkov - the renowned king of bitter humour

A guest exhibition at the National Polytechnic Museum in Sofia reveals the story of a true troubadour from the first half of the twentieth century. Stoyan Milenkov was born in 1889 in Breznik and his activities do not fit into a simple definition. He was a poet, actor, musician, humorist, satirist, and today some even call him a rapper.

A rebellious student, he dreamed of studying drama in Paris and barely finished sixth grade of high school. In Paris he graduated from the school of Charles Masset and studied with renowned Comedy Française actor Paul Mounet, gaining experience as an assistant director and intern in several theaters. He returned to his homeland with a diploma in 1911 and initially worked at the New National Theater and the National Theater and wrote the libretto of the operetta "Moralists".

"In the years between the two world wars, the whole of Sofia knew his verses by heart," Madlen Yaneva of the National Polytechnic Museum says. “People were singing his songs in the streets, in the trams, in their homes, and the newspapers that printed his works were the first to sell. Stoyan Milenkov ridiculed negative manifestations in public and political life, even in times when freedom of speech and press was suppressed. In the foreword to his collection ‘Carnival without Masks - between the Cabaret and Parnassus’ Stoyan Chilingirov wrote that Milenkov was the founder of joke, ridicule, mockery, and humor, constructed according to literature standards and would leave a lasting mark that those who underestimate him could only dream of."

"The whole of Bulgaria knew who Stoyan Milenkov was and when he appeared in a public place, one had the feeling that he was a close friend of everyone," art critic Dragan Tenev says in an interview from 1994, preserved in the BNR's Golden Fund. “If he, a graduate of the Paris theater school, had stayed to sing his songs by the Seine and not by the Perlovska River, he would have gained the fame of Maurice Chevalier. Everything he wrote remained in the memory of my brothers because it was relevant and never neutral. He had a social position in art and defended it in humorous style. In Paris, he heard the chansonniers in the avenues and back in Bulgaria he used to walk in the street with his guitar in hand.”

No matter which page from the collection of Stoyan Milenkov you read, you will see that nothing has changed since the 20s and 30s of the past century and his verses are still relevant today, Madlen Yaneva says.

With his guitar in hand, Stoyan Milenkov traveled around towns and villages, singing his songs. After the change of the political system in 1944, he moved to the circus stage where he received his last rounds of applause. His life, full of poetry and art, ended at the age of 64.

English: Alexander Markov

Photos: National Polytechnic Museum

Listen to the daily news from Bulgaria presented in "Bulgaria Today" podcast, available in Spotify.


More from category

From Italy to Mount Rila: Michele Crescentini and his donkey farm

One man’s love of animals and pristine nature took him on a journey from Italy to a picturesque village in Mount Rila, turning it into pure paradise for young and old alike. The village is called Madzhare, and it is located in the..

published on 6/3/22 1:11 PM

Pierre Colliot: Francophonie in Bulgaria is the Francophonie of the heart

Since September 2021, Pierre Colliot has been the Director of the French Cultural Institute and Counsellor for Cooperation and Cultural Affairs at the French Embassy in Sofia. The reason we invited him for a conversation was the recent European..

published on 5/31/22 2:05 PM

Bulgarian fashion designer fascinates the guests at Cannes Film Festival

The garments of 24-year-old Bulgarian designer Desislava Tosheva turned out to be a world event after the Lom-born designer was presented at the haute couture showroom at the Cannes Film Festival. The path to success: A business idea born..

published on 5/28/22 2:00 PM