The former Minister of Culture and one of the founders of the Fund
traces the path of the organisation
Georgi Yordanov was among the main initiators for the establishment of the ‘13 Centuries of Bulgaria’ National Endowment Fund, which will celebrate its 40th anniversary in 2021.
The former Minister of Culture shares his memories of the beginning and of the Bulgarians with generous hearts who have donated over the years.
Bulgaria’s centuries-old journey is long and dramatic. It cannot be understood without the spiritual bridges that connect phenomena, events, and generations. The future belongs to nations that possess a sense of eternality: it was this understanding that gave rise to the idea of solemnly marking the 1,300th anniversary of the Bulgarian state in 1981.
The celebration drew an unprecedented national and international response; influential personalities pointed to the unique Bulgarian contribution to world civilisation. Valuable books, authoritative publications, films, exhibitions about ancient and modern Bulgaria, appeared. We received congratulations from the leaders of scores of countries and wonderful signs of respect for our country—works of art, material donations, notable addresses…
We deemed that these possessions should be preserved after the celebration was over, so that they could also be used for posterity. As early as April 1981, at a scientific forum, we discussed the possibility of continuing and developing the national tradition of donorship. We were in the Aula Magna of Alma Mater, in front of whose doors the images of the brothers Evlogi and Hristo Georgiev are sculpted. Prominent representatives of the Bulgarian public and guests from abroad took part.
I was a rapporteur and, I must admit, did not expect such strong support for the proposal to launch an all-Bulgarian donative movement in honour of the notable anniversary. Thus, the foundations of our national endowment fund began to be poured even before the solemn celebration of the 1,300th anniversary on 20 October, in Hall 1 of the National Palace of Culture.
At the end of the jubilee year, I submitted to the Council of Ministers а decree for the establishment of the ‘13 Centuries of Bulgaria’ Fund. Later, in several normative acts of the government and the Council for Spiritual Development at the Council of Ministers, the regulatory legal framework for non-profit organisations was established, following the example of the already successfully operating State-public Organisation ‘13 Centuries of Bulgaria’ Fund.
After lengthy preparation, on 20 October 1982, we established the Lyudmila Zhivkova International Foundation, today’s Sts Cyril and Methodius. Prominent figures from the intellectual, political and business worlds, from scores of countries, joined. The two organisations began working closely together.
The ‘13 Centuries of Bulgaria’ National Endowment Fund quickly gained popularity. An excellent structure was created with active subdivisions of the Fund in all the regions. I had the honour and responsibility of being the Fund’s Chairman of the Board from its inception until the end of 1989. I preserve fond memories of the selfless patriotic work of donors and individuals who were involved in the management of the organisation and in the implementation of projects of lasting significance.
It was through the efforts and the financial support of the ‘13 Centuries of Bulgaria’ Fund that the ‘Earth and People’ National Museum was established, and masterpieces for the collection of the National Museum of Foreign Art were purchased. The Fund can take the largest share of the credit for the construction of the ‘1,300 Years of Bulgaria’ Monument, which was part of the complex of the National Palace of Culture, the monuments to the Unknown Soldier in Sofia, the Unification [of Bulgaria] in Plovdiv, to Khan Asparuh in Dobrich, to the founders of the Bulgarian state in Shumen, to the Asen Dynasty in Veliko Tarnovo, and to the wonderful ‘Sound and Light’ programme in the old capital, to the Prof. Ivan Duychev Centre for Slavonic and Byzantine Research, and so on, and so on.
The Fund contributed to the formation of the Festival Orchestra of the National Palace of Culture, the purchase of expensive musical instruments for prominent performers, the setting up of a modern sound-recording studio, and to the artistic renditions of the Sofia New Year’s Music Fest, famous throughout Europe.
Scores of monuments to those who died for the freedom and independence of the Fatherland have been restored. Public community centres, schools, scientific and other hubs for cultural and educational activities were reopened. Timeless works of literature, art, science, as well as high sporting achievements were rewarded. The St Ekaterina National Cardiology Centre and its founder and head, Prof. Dr Alexander Chirkov, received constant material and moral support through the Heart Foundation of the ‘13 Centuries of Bulgaria’ Fund.
As a token of gratitude to the citizens of Murmansk, who in 1986 were the first to organise a spectacular celebration on 24 May, we presented the northern Russian city with a cast replica of the monument in front of Sts Cyril and Methodius Public Library in Sofia.
The surge of donor energy at home was followed by many impressive initiatives of compatriots living abroad. The invaluable donations of giant crystals by Iliya Delev, France; Impressionist artworks by Claudia and Kostadin Deltcheff, France; sculptures by Atanas Katchamakoff, USA; financial contributions by Dr Astinov, Italy, and Vasil Pomazanov, Federal Republic of Germany.
The former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Japan Kurita provided, through the Fund, a collection of exclusive Japanese porcelain. The donations of properties and artworks bequeathed by Prof. Vasil Gerov, MEng; the Rakarov family; Acad. Yovcho Yovchev; Dora Gabe; Prof. Pancho Vladigerov; Prof. Naiden Petkov; Arch. Georgi Stoilov; Prof. Velichko Minekov; Prof. Svetlin Rusev; Ivan Radev are remarkable. The granddaughter of the legendary Grandma Tonka, Lilyana Balkanska, wholeheartedly donated their family house in Sofia and a huge collection of magnificent paintings by her late husband, the great Bulgarian artist, Prof. Nenko Balkanski.
A testimonial to the scale of the massive donorship during the 1980s is the wonderful publication of the State-public Organisation ‘13 Centuries of Bulgaria’ Fund, ‘The Golden Book of Donors’. Funds were raised for the construction of a centre for Bulgarians abroad and a hotel to serve as their home during their stays in their native country.
The example of the ‘13 Centuries of Bulgaria’ Fund was soon appreciated in friendly countries, as well. Under the leadership of the renowned Academician Dmitry Sergeyevich Likhachov, the Russian Cultural Fund was established. Leaders of the new fund in the USSR visited in order to study the legal framework of Bulgarian donorship practice, and to celebrate the feast day of Cyril and Methodius.
It should be emphasised that the Russian Cultural Fund contributed to popularising the role of medieval Bulgaria in the Christianisation, cultural development and literary languages of Russia and the other Slavic countries.
The significant public-benefit activity of the ‘13 Centuries of Bulgaria’ Fund was also highly appreciated by the world body, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), to which some 500 non-profit organisations are affiliated.
I am forced to recall the incredibly foolish efforts of those who declared themselves democrats and reformers after 1990, who, by adopting a campaign of vilification, aimed at destroying and plundering the Fund. It is commendable that the stalwarts of the ‘13 Centuries of Bulgaria’ Fund counteracted. The irreplaceable donorship organisation has survived and continues to develop beneficial activities for the cultural progress of the Fatherland. Many of those involved in that unworthy campaign later regretted their actions and apologised for not knowing anything about the nature and public benefit of the work of this important cross-cultural institution.
It is not good, however, that the Fund’s incoming donations are presently in a state of steep decline. That is why, in my opinion, from here on, the ‘13 Centuries of Bulgaria’ National Endowment Fund, having rendered significant services to Bulgarian cultural development, must do whatever is necessary so that the patriotic ideas of the donors do not dry up.
It is well known that the deepest lake in the world, Baikal, is fed by over 320 inflowing rivers, large and small. If they dry out, so in time will the lake. That is why I think that the Fund’s staff are called to deploy activities effectively in order to multiply incoming donations—to reach at least the level of donations in the 1980s, the first decade of existence of the public-benefit organisation.
During the National Revival, Bulgarian patriots established through their donations a celebrated educational system, a wide network of community centres, and a scientific society—the forerunner of today’s Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. Our predecessors realised that historical trials can only be overcome by an enlightened people. This infectious example should encourage current and future efforts to raise the activities of the ‘13 Centuries of Bulgaria’ National Endowment Fund to a new, even greater height.