In the late 19th century, several local archaeological societies were founded in different Bulgarian towns and in 1901 the Bulgarian Archaeological Society was established, immediately becoming an important center of the archaeological studies that further strengthened the institutional backbone of the Bulgarian archaeology.

 

After the liberation from the Ottoman Empire, there was a significant interest in the mediaeval archaeology of the First and the Second Bulgarian Kingdoms, given that the new Principality of Bulgaria was considered as their political successor. Thus, in the 1880s archaeological excavations were carried out in Veliko Tarnovo, the last mediaeval Bulgarian capital, and in 1899 – 1900 excavations in Pliska, the first mediaeval Bulgarian capital, were launched by Karel Škorpil. In that period the interest of the foreign scholars in the Bulgarian archaeology was steadily growing. In 1900 – 1901 Georges Seure, a leading French archaeologist from École française d’Athènes, continued the excavations of the mediaeval capital in Veliko Tarnovo on the initiative of Prince Ferdinand I and he also launched the excavations in Nicopolis ad Istrum, a Roman town located near the village of Nikyup. Later on, Georges Seure published important studies presenting results from his intensive research in Bulgaria, particularly on the Thracian archaeology.

 

Václav Dobruský

Václav Dobruský

The most notable foreign archaeologist in that period was Václav Dobruský, a Czech scholar who served as the first Director of the National Archaeological Museum in Sofia from 1893 to 1910. He greatly contributed to the development of the Bulgarian archaeology and organized the exhibition of the Archaeological Museum following the model of the leading European museums in that time. Václav Dobruský excavated several sanctuaries of the Roman period and from 1904 to 1909 he carried out excavations in the Roman towns Ulpia Oescus and Nicopolis ad Istrum. In addition, from 1890 to 1910 Václav Dobruský taught archaeology at Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridski and founded the first Bulgarian archaeological periodical.

 

During the first decades of the 20th century, a number of Bulgarian archaeologists studied in different European universities and upon their return to Bulgaria they started successful professional careers. Thus, different European archaeological schools positively influenced and stimulated the development of the Bulgarian archaeology. In that period important preliminary information was accumulated, numerous archaeological sites were documented, various finds were collected and studied, important archaeological excavations were carried out and numerous archaeological studies were published, both in Bulgarian and in foreign periodicals. In 1920, the Bulgarian Archaeological Institute was founded and it became the most important archaeological research institution in Bulgaria. Simultaneously, local museums in some towns were founded and they became regional centers for archaeological explorations.

 

Rafail Popov

Rafail Popov                   — Boris Djakovich

One of the leading and internationally recognized Bulgarian archaeologists in the first decades of the 20th century was Rafail Popov, who participated in the foundation of the Bulgarian Archaeological Society and the Bulgarian Archaeological Institute. He was also the founder of Prehistory archaeology in Bulgaria, carried out a number of excavations in different prehistoric sites and published important studies. Another leading archaeologist with international academic background was Boris Djakovich, who served as the director of the Archaeological Museum in Plovdiv and participated in the foundation of the Archaeological Society in the town. He worked in the field of the Thracian and the Roman archaeology and published a number of studies.

 

Bogdan Filov

Bogdan Filov

The most prominent and internationally renowned Bulgarian archaeologist in that time was Bogdan Filov, born in 1883. He studied in Germany at Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg and Universität Leipzig and defended a doctoral dissertation at Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg. Bogdan Filov published a number of fundamental books and articles on various research topics, and he was the founder of Thracian archaeology in Bulgaria. His studies covered the Thracian, Roman and Mediaeval periods, and he carried out excavations in some of the most remarkable archaeological sites. Bogdan Filov had a brilliant academic career and played a leading role in the Bulgarian archaeology, greatly contributing to its institutional development and international recognition. He served as the Director of the National Archaeological Museum and the Chairman of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, but his involvement in policy during the World War II cost him his life. After the communist coup d’état and the soviet occupation in 1944, Bogdan Filov was sentenced to death by the so-called “People’s Tribunal” that was imposing communist terror throughout Bulgaria and was executed on the 1st February 1945.

 

Vasil Mikov

Vasil Mikov                   —    Krastyo Miyatev

After the World War I a new generation of Bulgarian archaeologists with international academic background began their research on variety of topics. Vasil Mikov was among the leading archaeologists in that time and he carried out excavations in a number of Prehistoric and Thracian archaeological sites and published many important studies. Another prominent archaeologist was Ivan Velkov who carried out numerous excavations of Thracian archaeological sites and published significant studies on Thracian archaeology. A leading scholar in the field of the Mediaeval archaeology in that time was Krastyo Miyatev who continued the excavations in Pliska, Preslav and Veliko Tarnovo and published seminal studies on the architecture and art of the Bulgarian Kingdom during the Middle Ages.

Géza Fehér | Antonio Frova

Géza Fehér                    —   Antonio Frova

During the 1920s, 1930s and the early 1940s, several foreign scholars worked in Bulgaria, greatly contributing to the international collaboration and research. In that time the leading Hungarian scholar Géza Fehér became a member of the Bulgarian Archaeological Society, participated in the archaeological excavations in Pliska and explored the Madara Horseman rock relief. He was one of the founders of Proto-Bulgarian studies. Another leading scholar who worked in Bulgaria was the Italian archaeologist Antonio Frova from Scuola Archeologica Italiana di Atene. He carried out archaeological excavations in Ulpia Oescuts and was the first scholar who published the Thracian painted tomb in Kazanlak and the Late Antique painted tomb in Durostorum (present-day Silistra).

 

James Harvey Gaul

James Harvey Gaul

Another prominent foreign scholar in that time was the American archaeologist James Harvey Gaul who explored the Prehistory in Bulgaria and wrote a book that became the most important seminal study in the field. During the World War II, James Harvey Gaul enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserve, served in the Persian Gulf and in 1944 he became Lieutenant in the Office of Strategic Services. During a perilous mission in Slovakia to rescue downed American and Allied airmen, he was captured by Nazi troops and executed at Mauthausen Concentration Camp on the 26th January 1945.

 

At the end of the World War II, in September 1944 Bulgaria was occupied by the soviet army and many thousands of Bulgarian intellectuals, politicians and officers were executed. A communist dictatorship was imposed in the country and over the following decades the communist ideology and total party control ruled not only the everyday life, but also the science and humanities.

 

By Nikola Theodossiev

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