History - Public life

Public life

Books printing and dissemination

The first Bulgarian printing house in Thessaloniki was opened in 1838 by archimandrite Teodosii Sinaitski from Doyran. It existed until 1841 and printed at least 5 books in Bulgarian language. In the period 1851 to 1852 two more books in Bulgarian language with Greek letters were printed in the printing house of Kiryak Durzhilovec, while his bookshop represented the interests of the Bulgarian publishers Dragan V. Manchov and Hristo G. Danov in Thessaloniki. In the period 1873 to 1876 D. Manchov ran his own book store in Thessaloniki, while as of 1883 his books were sold in the book shop of Kone Samardzhiev, which existed until the Balkan Wars. In 1888 K. Samardzhiev expanded his bookselling activities by opening a Bulgarian division at the Italian printing house of Salvatore Muratori. Nearly all course books for Bulgarian educational establishments were printed there and as of 1889 – ‘Knizhici za prochit’ – the first periodic magazine in the Macedonian vilayets of the Ottoman Empire. In 1893 Ivan Hadzhinikolov also opened a Bulgarian bookshop in the city, but printed his publications at the Bulgarian division of the Greek printing press of Iraklidis. After the Young Turk coup d’état (1908) two printing houses were opened in Thessaloniki – of K. Samardzhiev and Yu. Yarcev. In fact news in Bulgarian language was printed in the vilayet paper ‘Selanik’ already in the end of the 60s of the 19th century. During the Ottoman period in Thessaloniki a total of 26 Bulgarian periodic publications were released, as well as many books.

Първата българска печатница в Солун е открита през 1838 г. от архимандрит Теодосий Синаитски от Дойран. Тя съществува до 1841 г. и в нея са отпечатани поне пет книги на български език. В периода 1851-1852 г. в печатницата на Киряк Държиловец в Солун са отпечатани още две книги на български език с гръцки букви, а в книжарницата му се продават книги от българските издатели Драган В. Манчов и Христо Г. Данов. В периода 1873-1876 г. Д. Манчов поддържа собствена книжарница в Солун, а от 1883 г. книгите му се продават в книжарницата на Коне Самарджиев, която съществува до Балканските войни. През 1888 г. К. Самарджиев разширява книжарската си дейност с откриване на българско отделение при италианската печатница на Салватор Муратори. Там се печатат почти всички учебници за българските учебни заведения, а от 1889 г. и „Книжици за прочит“ – първото периодично списание в македонските вилаети на Османската империя. През 1893 г. Иван Хаджиниколов също отваря българска книжарница в Солун, но печата своите издания в българското отделение на гръцката печатница на Ираклидис. След Младотурския преврат (1908) в Солун се откриват две български печатници – на К. Самарджиев и Ю. Ярцев. Всъщност новини на български език се отпечатват във вилаетския вестник „Селяник” още от края на 60-те години на ХІХ век. Общо през османския период в Солун излизат 26 български периодични издания и много книги.


Already in 1880 on initiative of Kuzman Shapkarev the Bulgarian Charity Society ‘Enlightenment’ was founded in Thessaloniki. Its aim was to finance the education of poor Bulgarian children in the city. The poverty of pupils at the Bulgarian schools was the main obstacle to the educational process, so a substantial part of the activity of several charity societies ‘Compassion’, which were founded over the next decades, was to combat poverty. The Women Charity Society ‘Faith, hope, love’ apart from poor pupils also took care of imprisoned Bulgarians and helped the Committee for founding a Bulgarian hospital in the city, set up in 1909.

Apart from charity purposes, the Bulgarians in Thessaloniki also established societies with professional purposes. Such for example was the Thessalonian district teachers’ society ‘St. Kliment Ohridski’, which protected the interests of the primary school teachers. Very popular among the Bulgarians in the city was the First Bulgarian Gymnastics Society, founded in 1908. Thessaloniki also gave birth to the idea about the creation of a public-cultural organisation of the Bulgarians in the Ottoman Empire ‘Bulgarian matica’, the first gathering of which was organised in 1910 in the city. Social activity was carried out also by the student society ‘Progress’.

The Charity Society ‘St. St. Cyril and Methodius’ in Sofia (1926-1952) was founded by Bulgarian refugees and immigrants from Thessaloniki. Its purpose was to support its poor members, to maintain and develop the spiritual connections with Thessaloniki, to collect and keep materials about the history of the city and its surroundings, as well as to develop cultural-educational activity. In the 30s of the 20th century a Jewish Association ‘Ezrat Ahim’ existed in Bulgaria.


The participation of Bulgarians in the public life of Thessaloniki began somewhat later as compared to other communities in the city, due to fears of persecution by the authorities and raging fights between armed organisations of Bulgarians, Greeks and Serbs. To remain safe, they tried to be inconspicuous and spent their evenings at home, not daring to go out into the streets. This impeded their activities and social initiatives, which were limited to amateur school plays, the annual acts of Bulgarian schools and high schools and the solemn commemoration of the day of the brothers Sts. Cyril and Methodius.

The active participation of the Bulgarians in the city public life began after 1908. Several months after the Young Turk coup d’état the family of Dimitar Mustakov, back then secretary of the Bulgarian consulate in Thessaloniki, organised a musical social evening. This seemed to unleash the accumulated social energy and was followed by one event after another – theatrical shows, gymnastic plays, talks, day and night fête, children matinees etc.


As a big commercial and administrative centre Thessaloniki was visited by diplomats, tradesmen, entrepreneurs, military men, spies, artists, missionaries and adventurers of various nationalities. Their descriptions give us the opportunity to see our ancestors through foreign eyes.
The city has always been a favourite destination for Bulgarians as well. Irrespective of the purpose of their journey – work or leisure, education or pilgrimage, politics or culture – their view complements the colourful mosaic of impressions about Thessaloniki and its inhabitants. The large for the period railway and road network, which ran through the city, facilitated the organisation of entertainment trains and excursions, which were very popular during the last years of the Ottoman rule. In the interwar period the journeys Bulgaria – Thessaloniki decreased, but never died out completely.