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The Center for the Study of Religions is an interdisciplinary university unit and is the first of its kind in Bulgaria and Southeastern Europe. It was founded at Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridski in 2008 by scholars from four faculties:

  • Faculty of Classical and Modern Philology
  • Faculty of Philosophy
  • Faculty of History
  • Faculty of Theology


Since its inception, the CSR has realized a large number of activities in various academic disciplines related to the interdisciplinary study of religions and has significantly fostered international cooperation in the field. The Center has contributed to the exchange of ideas among representatives of different disciplines and academic traditions studying religious doctrine and practice, as well as the cultural and sociopolitical phenomena related to religion. The CSR team is also interested in interreligious relations and intercultural interactions.

The CSR has implemented a number of research programs, among which two important initiatives stand out nationally and internationally. The first of them is centered around the project "Scholarly Approaches to the Relationship Normative Text – Sociocultural Context in the Study of Religions" (2009 – 2010), which was funded by the Sofia University Research Fund. More than 30 scholars participated in the project – from the Faculty of Classical and Modern Philology, the Faculty of Philosophy, the Faculty of History, and the Faculty of Theology of Sofia University, as well as colleagues from New Bulgarian University, the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology, as well as the Institute of Balkan Studies at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, and others. More than 30 graduate students in various Master’s and PhD programs took part in this research program.

Of central importance for that project was the regularly held interdisciplinary seminar "Religion and Culture", established in 2009 – 2010 academic year. Together with experienced researchers, doctoral students from Sofia University and the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences took part in the seminar’s sessions. At the end of August 2009, a Summer School "Religion and Culture" was organized in Smolyan. Established scholars delivered lectures to Masters’ and PhD students, who, in turn, presented research papers. After a concluding an interdisciplinary workshop in April 2010, an edited book was published – Christianity, Islam and Eastern Religions: Normative Text and Socio-Cultural Context, edited by Simeon Evstatiev, Sofia, East-West Publishers, 2011.

The second, larger-scale research program was linked to the international project "Religion and the Public Sphere: Interdisciplinary Approaches" (2010 – 2013), funded by the Bulgarian Scientific Research Fund at the Ministry of Education and Science. This was a major academic activity with significant international participation. Its main objective was to study fundamental traits of the interactions between religion and the public sphere through interdisciplinary comparative research focused on the role of Christianity and Islam in Bulgaria and in the Balkans. The research team involved established scholars from Sofia University, New Bulgarian University, and the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, as well as of colleagues from the USA, Germany, and Denmark.

Apart from these research programs, the CSR hosted the International Summer School "Religion and Public Life" (July 2011), with the participation of the outstanding sociologist of religion Professor Adam B. Seligman from Boston University, USA. Colleagues from Europe, North America, Asia, and Africa also took part in the event.

In the same year 2011, a debate on the topic "Islam and Secularism" was organized by CSR together with the Red House Center for Culture and Debate and the Chief Muftiship in Bulgaria.

Within the Project "Religion and the Public Sphere: Interdisciplinary Approaches", a large-scale international conference on "Religion and the Public Sphere" took place in Sofia, with the participation of scholars from Bulgaria, the United States, Greece, and Russia. A product evolving from the entire research, which was enriched through scholarly discussions in the subsequent years, an edited book was published by Brill Academic Publishers – Islam, Christianity and Secularism in Bulgaria and Eastern Europe: The Last Half Century, edited by Simeon Evstatiev and Dale F. Eickelman, Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2022.

Another important dimension of CSR activities is international academic cooperation.

Soon after the establishment of the Center, on 20 January 2009, a Bulgarian-Iranian seminar was organized on the theme "Mulla Sadra Shirazi and the Philosophical Dimensions of Religious Experience".

On 5 April 2011, a public discussion was organized by CSR, together with SIETAR Bulgaria, on the theme "Is Multiculturalism in Europe Dead?" Professor Juliana Roth from Ludwig Maximillian University, Munich, and Professor Plamen Makariev from Sofia University were among the panel discussants.

On 21 May 2012, a public discussion took place on the theme "Religious Pilgrimage in Europe: Nationalism, Transnationalism, Multiculturalism", with the participation of John Yead, Professor of Sociology and Anthropology at the Center for the Study of Nationalism, Ethnicity and Multiculturalism (CRONEM), the University Roehampton and the University of Surrey, UK.

On 17 – 21 October 2012, an international conference on "Tolerance within Churches – Tolerance Supported by Churches" was hosted by the CSR and the Faculty of Theology at Graz University, with the participation of scholars from Austria, Norway, Serbia, and Romania.

On 17 February 2015, the CSR conducted, together with the Cultural Center of Sofia University, the academic discussion "On Religion, Politics and Secularism after Charlie Hebdo", which was widely covered by media and academically, including in publication at the scholarly journal Sociological Problems (2015, 1–2).

Furthermore, CSR has regularly organized public lectures by internationally recognized scholars. Examples of this type of activity are the lectures by Professor Dale F. Eickelman on "Culture and Identity: How They Influence Governance"; the lecture of the Secretary General of the International Association of the History of Religions Dr. Tim Jensen from the University of South Denmark on "Religion in the Public Sphere: Facts, Discussions and Developments: The Situation in Denmark", or the lecture of Professor Ulrike Freitag from the Freie Universität Berlin on "Religion and Trade in Arabia: Jeddah – the port town of Mecca in XIX and XX centuries".

After the COVID-19 pandemic, the Center for the Study of Religions resumed its "offline" activities, including the regular seminar "Religion and Culture".

In the 2022 – 2023 academic year, the seminar is conducted by the CSR in cooperation with the Center for Advanced Study (CAS) Sofia.

The general theme for 2022 – 2023 is "Center and Periphery in Religion and Society", and the opening session took place on 25 October 2022, keynoted by Professor Dale F. Eickelman (USA). The participants in the seminar are established and junior scholars from Sofia University, the American University in Bulgaria, and New Bulgarian University, as well as various institutes of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences such as the Institute for Historical Studies, the Institute of Balkan Studies with the Center for Thracian Studies, the Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Studies with the Ethnographic Museum, as well as international visiting scholars.

On 17 January 2023, the seminar continued with a presentation by Associate Professor Dr. Ilia Iliev, Head of the Department of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology at the Faculty of History, Sofia University, whose topic was "The Mysticism of the Ancient Thracians – Internal and External Publics in the 1970s", which provoked a vivid scholarly discussion.