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Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski” Marked 130th Anniversary with a Solemn Meeting and a Concert at the Ivan Vazov National Theatre

8th, December, 2018 marked the culmination point of the festivities with which the oldest high academic institution in this country celebrated its 130th anniversary. The jubilee was an opportunity for the academic community to report on its contributions to Alma mater in the intellectual and spiritual domains of Bulgarian history and to highlight with activities that Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski” is a temple of knowledge, science and national spirit.

At the Ivan Vazov National Theatre a jubilee meeting was held, followed by a concert, dedicated to the 130th anniversary of the foundation of Sofia University and the beginning of high academic education in this country. The President of this country, Mr. Roumen Radev, was guest of the solemn meeting; he was accompanied by his wife Mrs Desislava Radeva.

The event was attended by the Deputy-minister of Education and Science, Mrs Denitsa Sacheva, the Chairperson of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences Academician Yulian Revalski, representatives of the academic community, representatives of the academic community, former and present members of faculty, personnel and students, rectors and vice-rectors of several universities in this country, foreign diplomats, etc.

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Sofia University maintains active links with more than 500 universities round the world. The celebration of Alma mater was attended by foreign guests, amongst them being the President of the Institutional Network of the Universities from the Capitals of Europe (UNICA) Professor Lucian Sasso, the Secretary General of the Network of Black Sea Universities Professor Eden Mamut and rectors and representatives of partner universities: Dr. George Sharvashidze, Rector of Tbilisi State University, Georgia;; Professor Krisi Vitsilaki, Rector of the Aegean University, Greece; Professor Sari Ghanima, Rector of the University of Amman, Jordan; Professor Renato Massiani, Vice-rector of La Sapienza University, Italy; Assoc. Professor Bekzhan Meirbaev, Deputy-dean of the Faculty of Philosophy and Political Sciences, Kazakh National University; Professor Dzya Wedzien, Vice-rector of Beijing University of Foreign Languages, China; Professor Syu Syumin, Vice-rector of Dzyautun Shanghai University, China; Professor Mariyan Dema, Rector of Pristina University, Kosovo; Professor Nikola Yankulovski, Rector of SS Cyril and Methodius University, Skopje; Professor Bilyana Angelova, Vice-rector of SS Cyril and Methodius University, Skopje; Professor Sasho Korunovski, Rector of St. Kliment Ohridski University, Bitolja; Dr. Chong Kyusang, Rector of Songkyunkvan University, Republic of South Korea; Professor Mirca Dimitru, Rector of Bucarest University, Romania; Professor Liviu Papadima, Vice-rector of Bucarest University, Romania; Dr. Rugina Sorin, Rector of the Ovid University, Constanta, Romania; Professor Mihaela Lutas, Vice-rector of the Babes Bolyai University, Romania; Professor Erkan Ibis, Rector of Ankara University, Turkey; Professor Sibel Suzen, Vice-rector of Ankara University, Turkey; Professor Dr. Kaihan Upker, Vice-rector of Mimar Sinan University of Fine Arts, Turkey; Professor Erhan Takooglu, Rector of the Thracian University, Turkey; Professor Lazlo Borhi, Rector of Eotvos Lorand University, Budapest, Hungary; Professor Jan Skrha, Vice-rector of Charles University, The Czech Republic; Professor Akio Fuji, Vice-rector of the University of Fukuyama, Japan..

Alma mater’s Rector. Professor Dr. habil Anastas Gerdzhikov welcomed the guests and noted that Sofia University is the oldest and biggest university in this country, the university which President Radev referred to as “Bulgaria’s secular temple” and PM Borisov called it the “emblem of Bulgarian education and science”. He mentioned the fact that the patron-feast of St Kliment Ohridski, 25th November, was established in 1902 and from 1916 to 1968 it was celebrated on 8th December. With the readoption of the Julian calendar 8th December became the nation-wide holiday of all Bulgarian university students.

There is also another reason to celebrate today, Professor Gerdzhikov stressed and added that prominent Bulgarians of the Revival Period, graduates of venerable European universities, bequeathed to the first generation of free Bulgarians a cherished dream – the idea of establishing a Bulgarian university. The two brothers, Evlogi and Christo Georgievs, were the generous tycoons whom Bulgarians will always be grateful to.

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In 1880 the Ministry of Education tabled a bill envisaging “the establishment of a high Bulgarian school (university)”. In 1887 the Minister of Education Todor Ivanchev issued an ordinance for the opening of a pedagogical class affiliated to First Boys’ Gymnasium in Sofia, which, subsequently, on 8th December, 1888 Parliament transformed into a High School. Thus, the first Bulgarian university was founded and that is why today we are celebrating the 130 anniversary of its foundation, the Rector said.

Professor Gerdzhikov mentioned the names of the first seven lecturers – Alexander Teodorov-Balan, Lyubomir Miletich, Ivan Georgov, Stanimir Stanimirov, Nikola Mihaylovski, Yosif Kovachev and Ivan Danev. The students were 43, only men, and the first Rector elected was the linguist Alexander Teodorov-Balan, an alumnus of the universities of Prague and Leipzig, Ph D of Prague University.

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Photo: Valentin Nikolov

In his speech Professor Anastas Gerdzhikov focused on the establishment of the first faculties – the historic-philological Section, the Physico-mathematical Section (1889), Faculty of Law (1892). “The three sections became faculties with the 1894 High School Act which points to the fact that the School had confirmed itself as a scientific institution and enjoyed the necessary prestige abroad “ where it was recognized as a high academic establishment even officially,” Professor Gerdzhikov pointed out.

In 1904 the first Bulgarian High School became a University, and from 1918 to 1923 four more faculties were established: Faculty of Medicine, Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry, Faculty of Theology and Faculty of Veterinary Medicine. In his speech the Rector focused also on the formation of faculties and institutes within the University in the 1947-1952 period. Some of them laid the foundations of some new, autonomous high schools.

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“Recently some of these units, such as the Faculty of Theology and the Faculty of Medicine, have been restored and co-opted again by the University,” Professor Gerdzhikov remarked.

In his speech Professor Gerdzhikov also presented the history of the emblematic building of Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski” which is one of the architectural sites of Sofia. He made it a point to mention the symbols of the young Bulgarian university – the Rector’s insignia – the Rector’s necklace, the mace and gown.

The university rituals and ceremonies have been changing over the years but they have kept the solemn, academic spirit that was typical of the ceremonies and rites of the first universities established some 1000 years ago, Professor Gerdzhikov stressed. He recalled the fact that over the years Doctors honoris causa’s degrees of Sofia University were conferred to eminent scholars, politicians and social dignitaries from many countries.

Today Sofia University is housed in 18 building blocks and includes 16 faculties, 3 departments, many centers and ancillary units, and the University Library is the peer of the University itself. With more than 2 500 000 library units – scientific and study literature, old print, rare and valuable editions, periodicals, e-books, etc. it is second in size to the National Library, and with its 30 000 readers it is first in attendance, Professor Gerdzhikov pointed out.

We have our own University Center for Quality Management, Science and Research Sector, University Center for Information and Communication Technologies, Center for Distance Learning, Career Center, etc. We are proud of our University Publishing House, with the Cultural Center, the Center for Slavonic and Byzantine Research “Professor Ivan Duychev”, the University media and theater @lma @lter, the museums at the University and the botanical gardens.

Sofia University maintains official relations with hundreds of universities world-wide, numerous joint participations in international projects, and is leading in student and faculty mobility.

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The University offers degrees in 118 BA/ B.Sc. subjects and more than 400 MA/ M.Sc. programs.

The Rector stressed that according to the National Rating System Sofia University came first in half of all professional venues in the country and in all priority venues with the exception of the technological sciences. “The University gives more than one third of the scientific results of all the 52 Bulgarian high schools. Of the 15 most often cited Bulgarian scholars seven are from Sofia University. It is also the only Bulgarian university in the first one thousand of the world rating, and in the professional venues such as “Physics” and “Philology” it rates amongst the first 200–300. This means that Sofia University is in the group of the first 4% of the world universities and in some domains – in the first 2%,” Professor Anastas Gerdzhikov said.

The scientific output of the University in journals with impact factor which are indexed by world databases is on the increase. For the past three years the number of publications has increased by 13% and the number of citations -- by 16%. Sofia University has participated in the greatest number of successful projects within the 2020 Horizon Program. It takes part in the three centers for top achievements in the country, being the leading partner of two of them. It is also a partner of the competence centers. The total number f the projects completed so far comes to more than 300.

The University scores its successes owing to its 1700 strong faculty and research workers, many of them being laureates of the national prize for science “Pythagoras” and also of prestigious international awards; our society is in debt to such people for their unstinted enthusiasm and dedication, the Rector said.

“What has been said thus far gives an explanation as to why Sofia University is the University writ large and why when we say “the University”, every Bulgarian knows which university we are talking about. We are proud of that. This is why we did not want to denigrate the magnitude of the jubilee to a couple of ceremonial acts which would merely bring out the venerable tradition and the prestigious achievements of Sofia University; we wanted to turn them into an occasion for the rationalization of the past and outlining a vision for the future not only of the University but also of the country,” Professor Gerdzhikov said.

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He added that the academic community of the University aims at not closing knowledge within the walls of the University, but, rather, like his patron St Kliment Ohridski disseminate spirituality everywhere and reach from the students’ lecture theaters and research laboratories to the whole of society. The process should aim not only at educating but also at inculcating spirituality, cultural traditions, moral values and humaneness. The Rector wished to his colleagues to be worthy of the mission and take on themselves the intellectual duty, thus leading the country to economic and spiritual revival.

Professor Gerdzhikov turned to his colleagues – faculty, research workers, personnel– and pointed that all those successes would have been impossible without their efforts, educational and scientific achievements, erudition and academic ethic. He called on them to be the students’ mentors and partners, to cheer their students’ successes since that was their calling.

Alma mater’s Rector turned also to the students and he wished them to study hard, diligently, with perseverance and intellectual curiosity, with the interest and enthusiasm of learning something new. He appealed to them not to allow anyone, their parents, lecturers, and authorities, turn their lives into a re-sit exam. “Think independently, make up your own minds, make your own choice. Do it in a wise manner because you bear heavy responsibility. The future belongs to you; it will be very different from the world we know and it will be of your own device.” Professor Gerdzhikov expressed his hope that their stay at Alma mater would turn into an emotional journey to knowledge and the future, their future and that of tomorrow’s Bulgaria!

“I wish to all colleagues – faculty, researchers, undergraduates, Ph D students -- to be proud of their achievements and never forget the mission of Sofia University. Let us pass on our love of truth, the spiritual, the beautiful and the good to our society. May Sofia University live long for the good of our nation and glory to the motherland! Merry holiday!” said Professor Gerdzhikov in conclusion to his speech.

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The governing body, the alumni of Alma mater and the guests of the celebration were addressed by the President of the Republic of Bulgaria Roumen Radev. He pointed out that young Bulgarians were decreasing in number but they would have to take the responsibility to radically change the moral climate of the country and overcome the impasse which banishes their peers from Bulgaria. “The students are called to be the conscience of the nations,“ President Radev pointed out and added that during the years of transition the Bulgarians had got used to the fact that injustice could reign supreme. “Your generation mission is to prove that justice must reign supreme. This is not a conventional battle for your future. This is youe battle for Bulgaria. It is also mine,“ Roumen Radev said.

He remarked that all Bulgarians call Alma mater “Bulgaria’s secular temple” and stressed that over the years of its existence Sofia University created the best geniuses of the nation. It is the cradle of knowledge, of creativity, freedom and critical thinking, and also of the never ending striving for the unfailing quest for truth, Roumen Radev stated.

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Photo: Valentin Nikolov

“Today quite a few people from high rostra mutilate our language. Yet you know very well that with every mutilated or denigrated word, a part of its meaning is perished. Today some people do their best to tell us that literacy is a boring detail but you know very well that the one who does not observe the rules of grammar will transcend law, too. Yet we have allowed people who do not venerate the books to take decisions,” the head of state pointed out. The President also remarked that the truth is in the written lines passed on through the millennia, and culture is the “crash barrier“ which keeps us from falling into the abyss for ignorance is just a step away from catastrophe, both personal and social.

“I can’t think of a young person who once attending an academic lecture would never dream of a brilliant future. Don’t forget, however, that conformism can be a way in your career but never a way to happiness. Pursue your dreams but never tolerate the inflation of values and the lack of transparency. Fight against hypocrisy and corruption. Be critical. Don’t let yourself be come victims of deceit and getting robbed of your future. Never put up with the aggression of ignorance,” President Radev said openly.

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Photo: Valentin Nikolov

The Rector of Sofia University Professor Anastas Gerdzhikov presented President Roumen Radev with a plaque dedicated to the 130th anniversary of Alma mater.

During the solemn celebration former Rectors Academician Blagovest Sendov, Professor Ivan Lalov, Professor Boyan Biolchev and Professor Ivan Ilchev were awarded the honorary title of Academicus emeritus of Sofia University with a necklace.

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Jubilee plaques were awarded to two prominent deans – the Dean of the Faculty of Philosophy Professor Dimiter Denkov, who, in his capacity of Chairpeson of the Council of Deans, managed to maintain the tenuous balance between units of the biggest public organization, and the Dean of the Faculty of Law Professor Sasho Penov for the efforts he put to the welfare not only of his faculty but also of the University.

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The Deputy-minister of Education and Science Ms. Denitsa Sacheva delivered an address on behalf of the Minister of Education and Science Krasimir Vulchev. In it it was pointed out that the 130th anniversary of Sofia University was a significant occasion and the Ministry of Education and Science highly appreciated the role of Sofia University as a spiritual center and crossroads of both promoting the cultural identity of the Bulgarians and providing up-to-date education.

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In the words of the Minister, Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski” has always been an educational institution with a vision directed towards social changes; it has served as a bridge between the generations, economy and culture, between the individual and society. Within the walls of the University during the past 130 years the spiritual community of the country has been formed.

“Sofia University was, is and must remain a proud guardian of the values which are fundamental to each society and to our civilization,“ was noted in the Minister of Education and Science’s address. In it Krasimir Vulchev wished faculty to persevere in being leaders in academic education, awaken the passion for research in their students and stimulate the latter’s aspirations to the acquisition of further knowledge. To the students he wished bold and far-sighted visions, perseverance in professional pursuits, and on a personal note, their becoming future sources of inspiration and teachers of other people.

UNICA’s President Professor Luciano Sasso remarked that for him it was an honour to attend the event and thanked Professor Anastas Gerdzhikov for extending the invitation. He briefly presented UNICA’s network which included 51 universities and is intimately linked with the innovations in education and scientific research and also stimulates the exchange of good practices.

In Professor Sasso’s words anniversaries provide a good opportunity for reviewing the past, present and future of the universities. He added that their responsibility is to educate and inform the young people not only in the sphere of their professional interests but also with relation to what is happening in society and the world, so that they could make rational choices based on real facts.

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Photo: Valentin Nikolov

In his address Professor Sasso paid attention to the necessity of changes in the way of teaching and the falling off of the need to memorize things that are easily available on internet or in the libraries. He pointed out that at the moment some universities allow the use of computers and internet during examinations and the students are stimulated to form complex questions showing good knowledge of subject matter. In his words, another revolutionary phenomenon was artificial intelligence that provides new possibilities in domains such as medicine, the engineering sciences and architecture.

All that takes us to face new challenges in the ethical and philosophical perspective, Professor Sasso said and added that due to those reasons in the future the humanitarian and social sciences will occupy an ever more crucial place in the development of universities.

A congratulatory address was also delivered by the Secretary General of the Network of Black Sea Universities Professor Eden Mamut who pointed out, that the 130th anniversary of Sofia University was an excellent opportunity to trace the present tendencies in the education of the region and determine the possible directions and priorities of development for the years to come.

In his address he touched on the topic of the Bologna process and the changes that had taken place in the region during the past two decades. Professor Mamut stressed that the complex economic processes that had been taking place in the region exerted influence on the development of education. He also touched on the topic of the new challenges which the universities in the region had to face if they wanted to be part and parcel of modern European education.

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In his address he highlighted the issue of faculty and student mobility and the processes of globalization, which also exerted influence on the development of contemporary education.

In his words, at the same time evolution of the information technologies is observed; there are digital transformations in all walks of life and new opportunities for the implementation of knowledge for sustainable development, new educational platforms which imminently influence the development of education. Parallel to all that, there is a need for ever more costly new laboratories and procuring funds for conducting scientific research.

In that very complicated situation, when we are faced by the new challenges, we are lent the support of our immediate colleagues who face the same type of difficulties, Professor Mamut pointed out and said that that was one of the positive aspects of the Network of Black Sea Universities – through their participation and cooperation in the network the universities exchanged valuable experience and ideas for coping with the new problems.

115 universities from 12 countries were members of the Network, Professor Mamut pointed out and added that it conducted a series of initiatives aimed at the inclusion of faculty and students in active cooperation – the development of joint online courses, joint research platforms, merging universities in joint innovative clusters, joint debates, etc. During the past year the Network of the Black Sea Universities marked the 20th jubilee and on that occasion some important events took place.

In his address Professor Mamut dwelt also on the vision for the future decades. According to him, we have to turn to the fundamental values and unite our efforts to continue our cooperation and popularize the integrated long-term strategy of implementing the mission of the Network of the Black Sea Universities – education, development of the scientific and technological knowledge and exchange of knowledge between academia and society.

Professor Mamut stressed that the foundation of Sofia University in 1888 was an important landmark in the development of the modern Bulgarian state. During the past 130 years the faculty of the University had contributed to the development of Bulgarian identity, culture and legal order. The University opened new opportunities for the ambitious and hard-working young Bulgarians and also played a vital role internationally as an active participant in prestigious international organizations in the domain of high education, Professor Mamut added.

In conclusion Professor Mamut pointed out that he expected that in the years to come Sofia University would play a central role in the integration processes and development of education in the region and setting up a quality model in the Black Sea region. He expressed his respect to the achievements of Alma mater’s faculty, students and alumni during the past 130 years and wished them every further success in life and science.

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The Chairperson of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences Academician Yulian Revalski also delivered his congratulatory address. He remarked that the history of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences had been closely intertwined with the history of Sofia University. “Together with our junior brother, who came to life 19 years after the Literary Society had been founded, we have been going along the arduous way of enlightenment, education and science for the past 130 years together,” Academician Revalski said and added that if at the beginning the members of the Literary Society used to teach at the first High School, then, very soon the University started turning out scientists of world caliber. He mentioned that the first members, the nuclei of the first Academy’s institutes, were established in the period 1947 and the end of the fifties by Sofia University faculty. He gave plenty of examples of cooperation between the Bulgarian Academy of Science and the University over the years and expressed his confidence that the future of Bulgarian science lay in that successful cooperation.

Academician Revalski presented Sofia University with the highest distinction of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences – the Marin Drinov honorary plaque. For the University’s exceptional contribution to the domains of education, science and culture, and in view of the 130th anniversary of its establishment.

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The representative of the Students’ Council at Sofia University Lidiya Daskalova said in her address that Alma mater was much more than a high school. In her words, the University is history itself; it is the place for character formation, friendship creation and world discoveries. The University carries with itself inexplicable magic and magnificence, she added and wished to all the people who could safeguard the magic to keep it alive in time, and through experience and knowledge pass it on to the future generations.

Within the framework of the jubilee celebrations the Big 2018 Sofia University Prize for Literature was awarded. The Prize, which is awarded once every two years since 1999, went to Professor Kiril Topalov.

Associate Professor Boyko Penchev, Dean of the Faculty of Slavonic Philology, stated that that year the commission which included members from the two philological faculties of the University, together with the Rector, unanimously passed the 2018 prize to Professor Kiril Topalov.


Associate Professor Penchev introduced briefly Professor Topalov as a men of letters, playwright, academic scholar, script writer, research worker in Bulgarian Revival Literature and the cultural interaction between the Balkan peoples, also a diplomat, translator, social activist and publicly distinguished intellectual.

Assoc. Professor Penchev remarked that the major factor that influenced the commission in awarding the prize was the creative work of Professor Topalov. He mentioned his novels “Run … I Love You“, “ Be Blessed“ and “Parcheesi”. The Dean of the Faculty of Slavonic Philology added that Professor Topalov’s heroes were all outcast of the social periphery – abandoned children, delinquent youths, muddleheaded intellectuals, people on the fringe of the doctrine of the socialist society of the times.

“Kiril Topalov’s novels exemplify a rare kind of sensitivity for those years, the latter seems to be relevant even nowadays. For the first time the prize seems to come a bit late but, in fact, it comes right on time. I is because, in my opinion, as society, we seem to be acquiring again sensitivity to social problems,“ Assoc. Professor Penchev said. He reminded the audience of Professor Topalov’s activities as a scholar and personality. Drawing a parallel with the University jubilee, Assoc. Professor Penchev stressed that the 130 years are not mere marks on the calendar. In his words, behind each year there stands the visible, and very often invisible labour of the people working at the University, who, with their dedication and energy in the lecture theaters, behind the typing machine or the computer were broadening the spiritual horizons of the University. “Professor Topalov is certainly a personality of such a caliber, leaving a significant trace in the history of the University,” Assoc. Professor Penchev added.

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Professor Kiril Topalov thanked for the prize and recalled the years when the young lecturers, who were also writers, were looked down upon, as differently from today. In that respect, he stressed, that paying tribute to the writer-scientist is a significant task. He told his young colleagues who were making their pioneer steps in poetry and fiction that nowadays they had the right conditions for creative work and were expected to create significant pieces of creative literature.

The choirs of the National Gymnasium for Ancient Languages and Cultures, the Philarmonica Symphony Quartet, the National Academy of Music Big Band, the Aura Dancing Group and the Melodia Folk Formation at the SS Cyril and Methodius 1924 Reading Club took part in the concert.

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Earlier during the day, in the Central Foyer of the Rectorate a postal stamp was validated dedicated to the anniversary of the establishment of Sofia University.

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On the occasion of the 130th anniversary of Sofia University the academic governing body received congratulatory addresses from representatives of the executive, legislative and legal authorities, from universities and partners.