The ancient Bulgarian literature, originating in the works of SS. Cyril and Methodius and their disciples, consisted for the most part of theological works translated from the Greek. From the conversion of Boris down to the Turkish conquest the religious character predominates, and the influence of Byzantine literature is supreme. Translations of the gospels and epistles, lives of the saints, collections of sermons, exegetic religious works, translations of Greek chronicles, and miscellanies such as the Sbornik of St Sviatoslav, formed the staple of the national literature. In the time of Tsar Simeon, himself an author, considerable literary activity prevailed; among the more remarkable works of this period was the Shestodnev, or Hexameron, of John the exarch, an account of the creation. A little later the heresy of the Bogomils gave an impulse to controversial writing. The principal champions of orthodoxy were St Kosmâs and the monk Athanas of Jerusalem; among the Bogomils the Questions of St Ivan Bogosloff, a work containing a description of the beginning and the end of the world, was held in high esteem.
Contemporaneously with the spread of this sect a number of apocryphal works, based on the Scripture narrative, but embellished with Oriental legends of a highly imaginative character, obtained great popularity. Together with these religious writings works of fiction, also of Oriental origin, made their appearance, such as the life of Alexander the Great, the story of Troy, the tales of Stephanit and Ichnilat and Barlaam and Josaphat, the latter founded on the biography of Buddha. These were for the most part reproductions or variations of the fantastical romances which circulated through Europe in the middle ages, and many of them have left traces in the national legends and folk-songs. In the 13th century, under the Asên dynasty, numerous historical works or chronicles (lêtopisi) were composed. State records appear to have existed, but none of them have been preserved. With the Ottoman conquest literature disappeared; the manuscripts became the food of moths and worms, or fell a prey to the fanaticism of the Phanariot clergy.
The library of the patriarchs of Trnovo was committed to the flames by the Greek metropolitan Hilarion in 1825.
The monk Païsii (born about 1720) and Bishop Sofronii (1739-1815) have already been mentioned as the precursors of the literary revival. The Istoria Slaveno-Bolgarska (1762) of Païsii, written in the solitude of Mount Athos, was a work of little historical value, but its influence upon the Bulgarian race was immense. An ardent patriot, Païsii recalls the glories of the Bulgarian tsars and saints, rebukes his fellow-countrymen for allowing themselves to be called Greeks, and denounces the arbitrary proceedings of the Phanariot prelates. The Life and Sufferings of sinful Sofronii (1804) describes in simple and touching language the condition of Bulgaria at the beginning of the 19th century. Both works were written in a modified form of the church Slavonic. The first printed work in the vernacular appears to have been the Kyriakodromion, a translation of sermons, also by Sofronii, published in 1806. The Servian and Greek insurrections quickened the patriotic sentiments of the Bulgarian refugees and merchants in Rumania, Bessarabia and southern Russia, and Bucharest became the centre of their political and literary activity. A modest bukvar, or primer, published at Kronstadt by Berovitch in 1824, was the first product of the new movement.
Translations of the Gospels, school reading-books, short histories and various elementary treatises now appeared. With the multiplication of books came the movement for establishing Bulgarian schools, in which the monk Neophyt Rilski (1793-1881) played a leading part. He was the author of the first Bulgarian grammar (1835) and other educational works, and translated the New Testament into the modern language. Among the writers of the literary renaissance were George Rakovski (1818-1867), a fantastic writer of the patriotic type, whose works did much to stimulate the national zeal, Liuben Karaveloff (1837-1879), journalist and novelist, Christo Boteff (1847-1876), lyric poet, whose ode on the death of his friend Haji Dimitr, an insurgent leader, is one of the best in the language, and Petko Slaveikoff (died 1895), whose poems, patriotic, satirical and erotic, moulded the modern poetical language and exercised a great influence over the people. Gavril Krstovitch, formerly governor-general of eastern Rumelia, and Marin Drinoff, a Slavist of high repute, have written historical works. Stamboloff, the statesman, was the author of revolutionary and satirical ballads; his friend Zacharia Stoyanoff (d. 1889), who began life as a shepherd, has left some interesting memoirs.
The most distinguished Bulgarian man of letters is Ivan Vazoff (b. 1850), whose epic and lyric poems and prose works form the best specimens of the modern literary language. His novel Pod Igoto (Under the Yoke) has been translated into several European languages. The best dramatic work is Ivanko, a historical play by Archbishop Clement, who also wrote some novels. With the exception of Zlatarski's and Boncheff's geological treatises and contributions by Georgieff, Petkoff, Tosheff and Urumoff to Velnovski's Flora Bulgarica, no original works on natural science have as yet been produced; a like dearth is apparent in the fields of philosophy, criticism and fine art, but it must be remembered that the literature is still in its infancy. The ancient folk-songs have been preserved in several valuable collections; though inferior to the Servian in poetic merit, they deserve scientific attention. Several periodicals and reviews have been founded in modern times. Of these the most important are the Perioditchesko Spisanie, issued since 1869 by the Bulgarian Literary Society, and the Sbornik, a literary and scientific miscellany, formerly edited by Dr Shishmanoff, latterly by the Literary Society, and published by the government at irregular intervals.
C.J. Jireček, Das Furstenthum Bulgarien (Prague, 1891), and Cesty po Bulharsku (Travels in Bulgaria), (Prague, 1888), both works of the first importance; Léon Lamouche, La Bulgarie dans le passé et le présent (Paris, 1892); Prince Francis Joseph of Battenberg, Die Volkswirthschaftliche Entwicklung Bulgarians (Leipzig, 1891); F. Kanitz, Donau-Bulgarien und der Balkan (Leipzig, 1882); A.G. Drander, événements politiques en Bulgarie (Paris, 1896); and Le Prince Alexandre de Battenberg (Paris, 1884); A. Strausz, Die Bulgaren (Leipzig, 1898); A. Tuma, Die östliche Balkanhalbinsel (Vienna, 1886); A. de Gubernatis, La Bulgarie et les Bulgares (Florence, 1899); E. Blech, Consular Report on Bulgaria in 1889 (London, 1890); La Bulgarie contemporaine (issued by the Bulgarian Ministry of Commerce and Agriculture), (Brussels, 1905). Geology: F. Toula, Reisen und geologische Untersuchungen in Bulgarien (Vienna, 1890); J. Cvijić, "Die Tektonik der Balkanhalbinsel," in C.R. IX. Cong. géol. intern. de Vienne, pp. 348-370, with map, 1904. History: C.J. Jireček, Geschichte der Bulgaren (Prague, 1876); (a summary in The Balkans, by William Miller, London, 1896); Sokolov, Iz drevneì istorii Bolgar (Petersburg, 1879); Uspenski, Obrazovanïe vtorago Bolgarskago tsarstva (Odessa, 1879); Acta Bulgariae ecclesiastica, published by the South Slavonic Academy (Agram, 1887). Language: F. Miklosich, Vergleichende Grammatik (Vienna, 1879); and Geschichte d.
Lautbezeichnung im Bulgarischen (Vienna, 1883); A. Leskien, Handbuch d. altbulgarischen Sprache (with a glossary), (Wiemar, 1886); L. Miletich, Staroblgarska Gramatika (Sofia, 1896); Das Ostbulgarische (Vienna, 1903); Labrov, Obzor zvulkovikh i formalnikh osobenostei Bolgarskago yezika (Moscow, 1893); W.R. Morfill, A Short Grammar of the Bulgarian Language (London, 1897); F. Vymazal, Die Kunst die bulgarische Sprache leicht und schnell zu erlernen (Vienna, 1888). Literature: L.A.H. Dozon, Chansons populaires bulgares inédites (with French translations), (Paris, 1875); A. Strausz, Bulgarische Volksdichtungen (translations with a preface and notes), (Vienna and Leipzig, 1895); Lydia Shishmanov, Légendes religieuses bulgares (Paris, 1896); Pypin and Spasovich, History of the Slavonic Literature (in Russian, St Petersburg, 1879), (French translation, Paris, 1881); Vazov and Velitchkov, Bulgarian Chrestomathy (Philippopolis, 1884); Teodorov, Blgarska Literatura (Philippopolis, 1896); Collections of folk-songs, proverbs, etc., by the brothers Miladinov (Agram, 1861), Bezsonov (Moscow, 1855), Kachanovskiy (Petersburg, 1882), Shapkarev (Philippopolis, 1885), Iliev (Sofia, 1889), P. Slaveïkov (Sofia, 1899). See also The Shade of the Balkans, by Pencho Slaveïkov, H. Bernard and E.J. Dillon (London, 1904).
(J. D. B.)