History - Education


Primary schools

In the period 1866 to 1868 the home of Konstantin Durzhilovec housed a Bulgarian school, run by his daughter Slavka Dinkova. The pupils were boys and girls, Bulgarians and Greek, amounting to about 25-27 children. Over the next years the Bulgarian school in Thessaloniki was maintained by the Bulgarian community, with the support of the Balgarsko chitalishte (Bulgarian community centre) and the Makedonska druzhinka (Bulgarian educational organization) in Constantinople, as well as the Bulgarian monasteries in the Mount of Athos. In 1873 the primary Bulgarian schools in the city were already two – the central one, near the chapel ‘St. St. Cyril and Methodius’ with teacher Mihail Bubotinov and the one in the Vardar gate district with teacher Nedelya Petkova. In the last decade of the 19th century there were three permanently functioning Bulgarian primary schools in the city with a total of 400 pupils. Prior to the Balkan Wars the number of Bulgarian primary schools in Thessaloniki was already five with a total of 17 teachers.

The Bulgarian central school ‘St. Kliment Ohridski’ was an exemplary one with a nursery and four grades. Here girls from the girls’ high school observed the lessons and learned to become future teachers. In 1898 it acquired its own building on 64 Ag. Sofia Str with a donation from the Bulgarian tradesman Georgi Shopov.

The school in the Vardar mahala had a nursery and four wards, while at the beginning of the 20th century it even had a boarding house. It was located in the building next to the Bulgarian church ‘St. Demetrius’. In November 1905 a primary school opened in the Kukushka mahala as its branch.
In the farthest eastern quarter of the city, in the Pirgi district there was also a primary school with three wards and a nursery. In 1905 it was relocated to its own new building close to the Greek church ‘Holy Trinity’ on 39 Andoraki Str.

After the Second Balkan War the Bulgarian primary schools were shut down. In the period 1942 to 1944 the Bulgarian school ‘St. St. Cyril and Methodius’ with three teachers and around 200 pupils functioned in Thessaloniki.

Bulgarian high schools

The Bulgarian high school for boys ‘St. St. Cyril and Methodius’ (1881-1913) was the pride of the Bulgarian education in the Ottoman Empire. It was housed in its own building on the Olimpu Str., on the plot where the 36th primary school is located today. In March 2014 a commemorative plaque was placed there in memory of the High School, which was often described by Bulgarians in Macedonia as the ‘Bulgarian candlestick’. For 33 years of existence the Bulgarian high school for boys managed to give education to 27 classes, in which there were representatives of different Bulgarian communities from the European vilayets of the Empire. Many famous Bulgarian families from Macedonia can be recognized among those – Shapkarevi, Robevi, Stanishevi, Purlichevi, Sprostranovi, Lyapchevi, Hadzhimishevi, Kondovi.

The Bulgarian girls’ high school ‘Sveto Blagoveshtenie’ (1881-1913) had its own building and boarding house, acquired with the help of the great Bulgarian patriot and benefactor Evlogi Georgiev. At its place today (Ag. Sofia Str.) a branch of the 36th primary school is located. The Bulgarian girls’ high school in Thessaloniki was the only complete girls’ high school in the vilayet and in its VI final grade there were girls, who had started their education at other Bulgarian girls’ high schools in the region.

The Bulgarian trade high school (1904-1911) was a continuation of the economic courses offered at the boys’ high school in 1898. In the school year 1904-1905 a decision was made that this department should be separated as an independent high school of trade. Initially the Trade School was housed in the building of the Boys’ High School and was managed by its Principal. Due to the good reputation of the Trade School its students quickly increased and in 1910-1911 its capacity was filled, i.e. there were 7 classes. It then occupied the house of Mr. M. Saltiel, ‘which is located on second level with view to the sea’.

Foreign schools

Apart from primary schools and high schools, supported by the Bulgarian Church Community and the Bulgarian Exarchate, there were many Bulgarian children who received their education at foreign educational establishments. Already back in 1888 the home of baron Sharno was open for a new school with 244 pupils, of whom 120 were Catholics. This is the college Jean Baptist de La Salle, which developed, expanded over time and has kept its good reputation till the present. In the Ottoman period it welcomed children from all religious communities in the city: in the first place Catholics, followed by Orthodox, Jews, Armenians and Muslims. Lessons were taught in a newly built and equipped building. Education was offered in eight classes.

The pre-history of the Bulgarian Catholic Seminary ‘St. St. Cyril and Methodius’ (1884-1914) began already in the 50s of the 19th century. Back then the sisters of compassion founded a school for girls and an orphanage, a hospital, where they took care of the poor and the victims of the Crimean War (1855-1856). Zeytinlik was the suburban region of Thessaloniki, where their buildings were located. The boys’ boarding school for pupils from Macedonia was founded by the Order of Saint Lazarus to educate Bulgarian children, whose parents were supporters of the union with the Catholic Church and was consecrated on 2 October 1864. Twenty years later Pope Leo XIII (1878-1903) visited Thessaloniki and subsequently granted 100,000 French Francs for the construction of a new building of the Seminary. The three Zeytinlik buildings began to be used for the purposes of the Bulgarian Seminary and the parish. A special administration was created for the Bulgarians, which was separate and independent of the one for the ‘Latini’, i.e. the Lazarus teachers.

The Thessalonica Agricultural and Industrial Institute, which is known as the American School of Agriculture, was founded in 1904 by the American missionary John Henry House. Its first pupils were Bulgarian children, who remained orphans after the massacre in Bitola, followed by the Ilinden–Preobrazhenie Uprising (1903). The tendency that the pupils in the agricultural school were mainly Bulgarians continued during the whole first decade of its existence. Proselytism was the aim of the American protestant mission in the city, but by no means all pupils at the school became Protestants.
In 1907 a Hukuk Mektebi (University for Law Studies) was founded in Thessaloniki, the graduates of which occupied administrative and judicial posts in the Ottoman Empire. During the first year of its foundation, the Ottoman government gave scholarships to 120 students, of whom 15 were Bulgarian – 12 exarchates and 3 Catholics. In the years prior to the Balkan Wars the number of Bulgarian students there increased and they participated actively in the public city life.