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The first Greek public schools opened in the city in 1840-41 (a secondary “Ellinikon”) and 1844-45 (a primary Lancasterian school), a period when the grain export trade brought to the city many Greek merchants bearers of a “high culture”. It is noteworthy that by 1845 the schools were financed by a special tax levied on the grain exports and paid by the Greek exporters. After the Crimean war, three new primary schools were opened (two for male and one for female children). In 1868 two communal nurseries were founded and the primary schools became three in 1873 6 (three All Male and three All Female). This period until the establishment of the Bulgarian state, marked the apogee of the Greek education of the city, which corresponded to the socio-economic and cultural hegemony of the Greeks. Despite the pressures of the Bulgarian state after 1878, the Greek community managed to run 7 schools until 1906 and the general suppression of Greek education following the anti-Greek pogroms of that year.

2/ The Bulgarian schools in Varna.

The Bulgarian school in Varna was inaugurated on August 12, 1860. The Bulgarians found significant support from the Russian vice-consul in Varna Alexander Rachinski. The first teacher at the school was Konstantin Todorov Arabadzhiev (1837-1911). A trusteeship council under the chairmanship of the merchant Hristo T. Gruev was created. The classes started on August 12 and on August 28 the schoolmaster “gathered the people in the school and held a speech, in which he demonstrated the advantage of learning and the need of finding financial means for the maintenance of this national institution”. The speech of Konstantin T. Arabadzhiev brought about an effect as the local people gathered again only a week later and donated funds for the school. This was, however, only the beginning, as in the next year, 1861, Varna’s Bulgarian community initiated the construction of a separate school building – initially, it had been situated in a private house, which impeded the teaching process. Varna’s councilors h.Stamat Siderov, the brothers Nikola and Sava Georgievich, Rali h. Mavridov, H. Popov brothers and others provided own fund to join the initiative, which acquired national dimensions. The Bulgarian scholar Dr. Peter Beron granted 1 840 grosh, and the Russian consul Alexander Rachinski – 6 402 grosh. The building was finished very quickly, in only about a year. The official inauguration of the new school, which was known as the “Bulgarian central school” in Varna, took place on July 25 1862 in an exceptionally festive atmosphere, which was reflected in the Bulgarian Press in Constantinople. According to the historian Velko Tonev, this ceremony was not only “courtesy and an act of propriety, but also an acknowledgement for the nation’s cultural independence, which was practically being denied up to that moment, both from the town’s administrative and church authorities.” St. Cyril and St. Methodius were declared patrons of the new school and celebrated for the first time in Varna on May 11, 1862. The construction of a separate building functioning solely as a school created the opportunity for increasing the number of students. AT the beginning they were between 30 and 40 and only just reached 75. However, in the first year of the new school the students reached 349 – both male and female. Among them, there were Bulgarian, Gagauz (the greatest number), and Greek students. They were divided into two groups – the “class” students were taught by Sava Dobroplodni, and those studying according to the Monitorial System (Bell-Lancaster method) – by K. Arabadzhiev. On August 27, 1864 the Ottoman Minister of Education visited the school and attended exams in Geography, Arithmetic, and Turkish Language, giving very high praise to the curriculum and the method of teaching. On the eve of the Russian-Turkish War of 1877-1878 in the boys’ school of Varna there were around 70 students in the three grades of the primary school and 40 children in the three grades of the upper class stage. Meanwhile, a girls’ school has been founded. That happened in 1866 in a private house, and the first teacher was Mariya N. Batsarova who stayed here until the summer of 1869. Initially, the school was working according to the Monitorial System and its curriculum included classes in reading, writing, reckoning, as well as the acquisition of practical abilities in handiwork. Ivanka D. Stamatova who was born in Varna and had studied in the Fudukleev Gymnasium in Kiev, taught at the school in the school year of 1869-1870. In the next two years Varna’s girls’ school didn’t function. It was restored in the autumn of 1872 with the arrival of the teacher Viktoriya Atanasova who taught there until 1874. She was replaced by Kitsa p. Ivanova who taught in the school until the Liberation (1878). Indeed, the greatest achievements of Varna’s girls’ school pertain to the work of Kitsa p. Ivanova. In the school year of 1875-1876 it included 3 primary grades with 66 girls in total as well as a first upper grade with 11 students. Following subjects were studied in the upper (class) stage: Bulgarian History, Sacred History, The Old Testament, Arithmetic, Bulgarian Language, Geography et al.

In the 1860s and the 1870s there were 22 teachers to teach at both of the Bulgarian schools (the boys’ and the girls’ ones) in both of their stages.[1]

3/ Schools of the Muslim population of Varna.

According to the Yearbook (salname) of the Danubian Vilayet for 1872-1873, 12 mektebs and as many medreses were registered in Varna.

On December 2, 1862 a rushdiye was opened in Varna – a secondary (class) school with a junior high school course of study. The funds for its construction were provided by administrative officials, military men, merchants, craftsmen, representatives of the religious intelligentsia, notables, agas, and beys. Money from the taxes of the Muslim population of Varna and the adjacent kaza were added, too. Part of the required amount was covered by donations (incomes from waqfs). However, there is scant evidence about the teachers at the rushdiye. It is known that the senior master muderis Rushen Efendi used to teach there around 1874, and Mustafa Efendi – around 1877. Until beginning of November 1866 calligraphy was tought by Abdi Efendi who was replaced by Omer Efendi. The newspaper Dunav form November 30, 1866 (year 2, no. 130) reported that during the yearly examination the students were examined in Arabic and Persian language as well as in Arithmetic. The newspaper also gave account that four years had passed since the inauguration of the school and 18 students from the first (highest) grade would receive certificates in the same year. The examination was attended by notables and officials. The ceremony concluded with a prayer for the Sultan.

This is not the only information about the rushdiye of Varna to be supplied by the official organ of the Danubian Vilayet, the newspaper Dunav, in the 1860s and the 1870s, as it becomes clear that the school had developed and imposed itself as not only an educational but also social institution for the town’s Muslims of that time. Without mentioning his name, the newspaper reported that a teacher at the rushdiye haddonated 30 gr. to support the Muslim victims of the Greek Revolt in Crete in 1866 (Dunav, year 3, no. 167 from April 19, 1867). In 1869 ten students who had finished the rushdiye immediately entered different departments of the administration (Dunav, year 5, no. 426 from November 12, 1869) and a few months later sixteen other students finished their education and received certificates after the yearly examination had been held (Dunav, year 4, no. 494 from July 22, 1870). Another article in the newspaper points out that all of the students in Varna, both Christians and Muslims, had received 4 volumes of the History written by Cevdet Pasha. The Lovech-born author of the book was Minister of Justice at that time (Dunav, year 5, no. 373 from May 16, 1869). A salname for 1874-1874 also registered the existence of Varna’s rüştiye. Notwithstanding the scant evidence and the objective factors that hindered the cultural life of Varna’s Muslim community in the 19th century (mainly the wars against Russia and the concomitant destructions and migrations), Varna established itself as one of the towns with sound traditions in Ottoman education. Indicative of that is the relatively early foundation of the local rushdiye, immediately after those in Vidin and Ruse[2].

After the Liberation (1878) Varna had two Bulgarian schools (a boys’ and a girls’ school), seven Greek schools, and 13 Turkish school, one of which was a secondary school. Division according to gender in Varna’s primary schools was abolished in 1901-1902 and the students attended 14 primary schools. Two secondary schools were formed – a boys’ and a girls’ one. In 1912, the amount of 115 982 lv. for maintenance of the town’s primary schools was passed as part of the budget. It included the salaries of 56 primary teachers. 59 910 lv. were provided for the maintenance of the four existing junior high schools, two boys’ and two girls’ with respectively 31 and 24 teachers. A two-grade middle school was founded on September 29, 1879 and was turned into a full-scale secondary scientific school (Realgymnasium) with seven grades.

The State Girls’ Secondary School opened doors in the school year of 1883-1884.

In 1904 the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Varna founded the Secondary Commercial School where children from different parts of Bulgaria acquired their education. Its first director and a teacher with many years of service (until 1922) was Tsani Kalyandzhiev, who would later become rector of the Commercial High school of Varna (1920-1933).


[1] Тонев,В. Българското Черноморие през Възраждането. София, 1995, с. 145–148.

[2] Добрева, М. Османски общообразователни институции в Дунавския вилает. Дисертация за присъждане на образователната и научна степен „доктор”. София, 2008.




Κοτζαγεώργη Ξ., Η ελληνική εκπαίδευση στη Βουλγαρία. 1800-1914, Θεσσαλονίκη, 1997.

Lyberatos A., “Varna’s bourgeoisie(s) from Empire to Nation State (1840-1920)” in: Idem & C. Ardeleanu (eds.), Port Cities of the Western Black Sea Coast & the Danube. Economic and Social Development in the Long 19th Century, e-book, Thales Black Sea Project, 2016, p..190-211.

Lyberatos, A. “Between war and trade: remarks on the political constitution and social composition of the Greek orthodox community of Varna (19th century)”, Etudes balkaniques, vol. 2, 2007, p. 81–98.

Тонев,В. Българското Черноморие през Възраждането. София, 1995, с. 145–148.

Добрева, М. Османски общообразователни институции в Дунавския вилает. Дисертация за присъждане на образователната и научна степен „доктор”. София, 2008.

Дряновски, Б. Варна през 1878–1944 г. – История на Варна. Т. III, Изд. „Славена“, Варна /под печат/.