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Culture & People
 
 
 

General

A country often described as lying at the crossroads linking the East and West, Bulgaria functioned as the hub of Slavic Europe during much of the Middle Ages, exerting considerable literary and cultural influence over the Eastern Orthodox Slavic world by means of the Preslav and Ohrid Literary Schools. Bulgaria also gave the world the Cyrillic alphabet, the second most-widely used alphabet in the world, which originated in these two schools in the tenth century AD.

A number of ancient civilisations, most notably the Thracians, Greeks, Romans, Slavs, and Bulgars, have left their mark on the culture, history and heritage of Bulgaria. The country has some UNESCO World Heritage Sites:

• The early medieval large rock relief Madara Rider.
• two Thracian tombs (one in Sveshtari and one in Kazanlak)
• three monuments of medieval Bulgarian culture (the Boyana Church, the Rila Monastery and the Rock-hewn Churches of Ivanovo)
• two examples of natural beauty: the Pirin National Park and the Srebarna Nature Reserve
• the ancient city of Nesebar, a unique combination of European cultural interaction, as well as, historically, one of the most important centres of sea-borne trade in the Black Sea

Note also the Varna Necropolis, a 3500-3200 BC burial-site, purportedly containing the oldest examples of worked gold in the world.

Bulgaria's contribution to humanity continued throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, with individuals such as John Atanasoff – a United States citizen of Bulgarian descent, regarded as the father of the digital computer. A number of noted opera-singers (Nicolai Ghiaurov, Boris Christoff, Raina Kabaivanska, Ghena Dimitrova), Anna Veleva, the world-famous harpist Anna-Maria Ravnopolska-Dean and successful artists (Christo Yavashev, Pascin, Vladimir Dimitrov) popularized the culture of Bulgaria abroad.

One of the best internationally-known artists, Valya Balkanska sang the song Izlel e Delyu Haydutin, part of the Voyager Golden Record selection of music included in the two Voyager spacecraft launched in 1977. The Bulgarian State Television Female Vocal Choir also known as Mystery of Bulgarian voices has also attained a considerable degree of fame.

A unique custom called nestinarstvo distinguishes the Strandja region. Customs include dancing into fire or over live embers.

Literature

With the Bulgarian Empire welcoming the disciples of Cyril and Methodius after they were expelled from Great Moravia, the country became a centre of rich literary activity during what is known as the Golden Age of medieval Bulgarian culture. In the late 9th, the 10th and early 11th century literature in Bulgaria prospered, with many books being translated from Byzantine Greek, but also new works being created. Many scholars worked in the Preslav and Ohrid Literary Schools, creating the Cyrillic alphabet for their needs. Chernorizets Hrabar wrote his popular work An Account of Letters, Clement of Ohrid worked on translations from Greek and is credited with several important religious books, John Exarch wrote his Shestodnev and translated On Orthodox Christianity by John of Damascus, Naum of Preslav also had a significant contribution. Bulgarian scholars and works influenced most of the Slavic world, spreading Old Church Slavonic, the Cyrillic and the Glagolithic alphabet to Kievan Rus', medieval Serbia and medieval Croatia.

As the Bulgarian Empire was subjugated by the Byzantines in 1018, Bulgarian literary activity declined. However, after the establishment of the Second Bulgarian Empire followed another period of upsurge during the time of Patriarch Evtimiy in the 14th century. Evtimiy founded the Tarnovo Literary School that had a significant impact on the literature of Serbia and Muscovite Russia, as many writers fled abroad after the Ottoman conquest. Apart from Evtimiy, other established writers from the period were Constantine of Kostenets (1380-first half of the 15th century) and Gregory Tsamblak (1365-1420).


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