American contribution to the revival in Bulgaria

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

I

Through four hundred years of Turkish oppression the Greeks never lost the consciousness of their former glory, and dreamt of the reestablishment of their independence. Their aspirations were kindled to a new flame in the beginning of our century, when they received the warm moral support of the cultured of Europe who, as if in repayment for their services in the Renaissance, were burning with the desire to see all the Greeks gathered in under the rule of classical Athens. At last their struggles were crowned with success in the establishment of the temporary government under the presidency of Capodistria. The country, however, presented a sad spectacle. The rich and the educated were living abroad in the large capitals of Western Europe, or at Odessa, Alexandria, and in the Phanar quarter of Constantinople. In the Morea, the poverty of the ignorant populace was unparalleled. Capodistria did his very best to introduce a system of primary schools, but the exchecquer was drained, there were to be found few suitable teachers, and scarcely any textbooks in the vernacular, or in that mixed dialect which aimed at making the ancient Greek the literary form.

The Anglo-Saxon world, among whom there were to be found the most enthusiastic Philhellenes, came to his rescue. Lord Guilford built and endowed a Greek University on the island of Corfu, while American missionaries, uniting their enthusiasm with their native sense for the practical, took an active part in building up the lower schools. In 1831 there were in the Peloponesos one hundred and seventy-two schools with less than ten thousand pupils that is, about one schoolboy to every three hundred inhabitants. Girl schools did not exist until a preacher of the Gospel from Massachusetts, Jonas King, braving persecution on account of heterodoxy, established them along with schools for boys. In 1832 there was associated with him Elias Riggs who had just graduated from Amherst College. They translated Woodbury's Geography, Pailey's Arithmetic, Gallaudet's Psychology, Cutter's Physiology, and other American schoolbooks, and printed them in their own printing establishment, one of the very first in the country. Nor was Capodistria slow in discovering the praiseworthy activity of the men from beyond the Atlantic, and in a rescript of February 8-20, 1831 (Document No. 1915), he begged the Secretary of the American Board of Foreign Missions, Mr. Anderson, to express his thanks to his people in New York and to invoke their continued aid.

The missionary efforts for the evangelization of Greece dates from an earlier period. In the beginning of the twenties, the American Press at Malta had been issuing a vast number of religious and semireligious tracts, intended for the Greeks of the Ionian Islands, Asia Minor, and Greece Proper. The educational importance of these tracts has been much greater than one would be inclined to suppose, for while the Greek presses of Vienna, Venice and Paris supplied the higher classes of society with some kind of a literature, there was absolutely nothing readable in existence for the masses. It need not at all surprise us, then, to hear of the great eagerness with which the pamphlets and books of the American missionaries were bought up. Fortunately for the nascent consciousness of the people, the Americans were in full sympathy with the popular language, and naturally enough. It was their purpose to reach the hearts and minds of the common people who had been badly cared for by their more fortunate brothers and by the Orthodox Church, and to achieve this end they had to speak to them in an intelligible dialect. For the same reason they furnished the Greeks with a translation of the Bible made but one hundred and fifty years before. But the language having in the meantime become antiquated, the British and Foreign Bible Society set about to provide them with a more modern version of the whole Testament.

Bishop Hilarion was singled out by them to do that work. In 1821, during the darkest days for the Greeks at Constantinople when "even Franks were scarcely respected," he was intrusted with the labor. He, of all the ecclesiastics, was alone in full sympathy with the missionaries, in fact it may be said he was their creation. Hilarion never forgot to acknowledge his dependence on the Bible Society, as is evident from his letters to Rev. H. D. Leeves, the Society's agent in Turkey. In a letter of September 13, 1821 to the office in London, Leeves says;

“I have lately received a letter from Hilarion, informing me that the transcription Of this manuscript was completed, and that he was preparing to depart for his Bishopric. As you may like to see a little of the Bishop's sentiments, I translate a portion of his letter ‘I take with me,' he says, ' my Manuscript, that when, with God's permission, I arrive at my diocese, and enjoy quiet, I may pursue the revision and correction of it. Both I and my assistant here have ceased from our labours, on account of the fearful circumstances which have occurred but God, whose providence watches over good undertakings, will not suffer this, which has for its object the common good, to remain unfinished! Friend and brother. I implore God for this reason alone, to grant me life, that I may finish this work, and that I may thus manifest my gratitude to the Bible Society, which has chosen me to be its minister in this labour, and may fulfil my obligations to my nation by the completion of this undertaking which is dear to God ' "

In the same letter he announces that with Hilarion's aid he has been able to procure a suitable person to translate the Bible into Albanian. In another, from Hilarion to the Patriarch of Constantinople, Anthimus, and the Holy Synod of the Greek Church, written in 1827, we again find him acknowledging his obligations to the Bible Society :

"Although the sublimity of the divine thoughts of Scripture does not admit of change, and the giving them another form is a difficult task to the feebleness of human understandings, it is nevertheless of the first necessity that we should at least dissipate the darkness with which the language involves them, and render the latter so clear, as that the Scriptures may become as comprehensible as they can be to the understanding of those who read them. And it was perhaps necessary that this should have been done many years ago, in order that the reading of the Holy Scriptures might become more general; but different circumstances which have occurred from time to time, and perhaps a negligence and want of zeal for good thugs, have been the cause, that this measure of public utility has never been undertaken until these our days; nor perhaps would it even now have been undertaken, had not the British Bible Society, with a benevolent zeal, taken it under its care.

“This renowned and useful Society (to which all nations owe infinite thanks) having perceived, from experience, that the divinely Inspired morality of these sacred books is able to change the manners of men from barbarism to civilization, from disorder to order from the life of beasts to that of men, moved by religious zeal, voluntarily undertook the care of translating, at its own expense, all the sacred books of the Old and New Testament into all the languages spoken throughout the world, and to publish them for the common benefit of men; and, up to the present day, it has published them In upwards of eighty dialects. This Society having found the translation of the New Testament made one hundred and fifty years back, from the Hellenic into our modern language, published it in London, and, with the permission of the Patriarch, distributed it. But afterwards, having received information of the bad style of this translation, the engaged me to make a new translation, both of the New Testament, and of the sacred books of the Old." Hilarion was during the greater part Of his life Archbishop of Ternovo in Bulgaria.

II

The Bulgarian Kingdom, which at one time had been the terror of Byzantium, was completely crushed by the Turks after the battle on the Field of Blackbirds and the sack of Ternovo at the end of the fourteenth century. The flower of the Bulgarian youth was drafted into the Turkish army where they constituted the formidable troops of the Janissaries, and at one time nearly all the officers of the palace were Bulgarians so that their language practically became the court language at Constantinople. But those who remained at home were turned into a nation of slaves, paying heavy taxes to their oppressors. The last vestige of their independent existence was wiped out when one of the Sultans, in classifying his subjects according to their religions, mentioned the Bulgarians together with the Greeks.

This gave the latter the supremacy in spiritual matters, and henceforth to the heavy burden of Turkish rule was superadded the intollerable yoke of the clergy, which was entirely recruited in the Phanar quarter of Constantinople. These lived on the life blood of the nation, enriching themselves at the expense of the poor peasants. They had no interest in the intellectual welfare of the masses, and Bulgaria, once the seat of Slavic learning, became the most ignorant of European countries. Whatever few schools did exist before the first quarter of this cent, were all taught in Greek; the service was held in that ancient language, doubly unintelligible to the Slavic masses. Under these conditions the inhabitants of Macedonia, nearest to Greece, and therefore thrown in contact with that country, became bilingual, using their own despised dialect only in the narrow circle of their homes, nay, whole cities became completely hellenized.

When, in the memory of men still living, Bulgaria for the first time woke from its lethargy of more than four hundred years, it had no traditions, no literature, in fact no language ready for literary use, for during that period the idiom had passed through strange vicissitudes. The Bulgarian language, rich in inflections, uncontaminated by foreign influence, except through the Greek, had been used by the protoapostles of the Slays, Cyril and Methodius, in the translation of the New Testament and other works. When, in the twelfth century, Russia became the leading Slavic country, its many monasteries began to supply the rest of the Orthodox Slavic world with a religious and apocryphal literature. The language used in these productions was the Old Church Slavic influenced in forms and phonetics by the spoken dialects of Russia. This Slavic language of the Russian redaction thus became the official language of the Church even in Bulgaria and in Servia, where it is still used for this purpose.

In the meantime the spoken idiom of Bulgaria, unimpeded by the controlling influence of a literary norm, was departing more and more from its parent language. It differs now in two important particulars from all its sister idioms in that it has almost entirely lost its many case endings, and in that it has developed a postpositive article, such as is found in Roumanian and Albanian.

The Bulgarians were for the first time roused from their torpid state in 1762 by manuscript copies of Paysius' Slavo-Bulgarian History of the Bulgarian People, its Kings and Saints. The author, a monk at Mount Athos, was not a critical historian, but his work breathed such warm patriotism that it atoned for its many defects of scholarship and became instrumental in creating a nucleus of a national party, and kept ablaze the little spark of culture which managed to penetrate into their benighted country. Under the influence of this impetus, his pupil Sophronius published in 18o6 his Sermons for Weekdays and Holydays, in which one of the modern Bulgarian dialects was for the first time used in a printed book. The conditions were, however, not favorable for the use of this new idiom or for the development of a literature, and before the year 1827 there were less than a dozen books extant in which there was made any attempt at approaching the speech of the people. In a letter from Mr. Leeves to the British and Foreign Bible Society of January 18, 1827, there is given a good account of the state of learning in Bulgaria at that time, and there is also foreshadowed in it the course which henceforth Anglo-Saxons, both English and Americans, will take in order to assist this Slavic country in forming a native literature:

"It appears that the Greeks (the Bulgarian bishops being always Greeks, named by the Patriarch and Synod at Constantinople) have labored to introduce the use of their own language as much as possible among this nation; and in all the country to the south of the Balcan, (and after quitting Adrianople the whole Christian population is Bulgarian) the custom of reading the service in Greek almost universally prevails: and whatever schools are stablished, the Greek language alone is taught. On the other side of the Balcan, however, that is to say, in Bulgaria Proper, the church service is read in the ancient Slavonian (the mother of the Bulgarian dialect) everywhere except at Ternovo, the metropolis, where the custom of reading in Greek has also been introduced. Slavonian books are also read in the schools. The modern Bulgarian is, however, so far changed from the mother tongue, that the people can understand little or nothing of what they hear in church; and numbers of the priests, from want of education, are much in the same circumstances with the people. When, in addition to this, it is considered that the Bulgarians have scarcely any books in their spoken language, it will appear absolutely impossible that they should be anything but what they are—extremely ignorant. All the individuals of this nation who acquire any tincture of learning, and they are very few, are necessarily obliged to seek it through the medium of another language. A small beginning is at present being made to the cultivation of the Bulgarian tongue, in which two elementary works have lately been published the one a spelling-book, to which is appended a treatise on arithmetic, and a few partlculars of natural history; and the other an abridged history of the Old and New Testament; both translated from the Greek. The language has not yet been reduced to rules, and a grammar and lexicon are still desiderata. The above works have been executed by Bulgarians, who have left their country and obtained some education in Wallachia or Germany: and the few schoolmasters resident in Bulgaria who have any reputation for learning, have enjoyed this advantage. The hand of the Turks weighs heavy upon this people, interesting and estimable ill many respects but light will, I trust, soon break in upon them; and this. it is evident can only be effectually diffused by the cultivation of their spoken tongue."

III

From another passage in the letter just mentioned we learn that the British and Foreign Bible Society was then trying to find suitable persons to translate the New Testament into Bulgarian. Its agents had induced the Archbishop of Adrianople to commission two priests at Selimnia to commence the labor, but this work was not executed to the satisfaction of the Society and was at once rejected. These priests had translated only a portion of the first Gospel and had stopped their work when they heard that the Archbishop at Ternovo, Hilarion, was employed in a similar undertaking. But even this latter translation seems to have been abandoned when it was learned that Sapunov of Bucharest had made his arrangements for printing his edition of twelve hundred copies of the New Testament. That was welcome news to Mr. Leeves, and in reporting it in a letter of August 1827, he exclaims I am glad, for my own part, that this beginning will be made by themselves."

The following year his Gospels were printed at the press of the Metropolitan Of Wallachia, and in a few years four hundred copies were sold by him in his immediate neighborhood. But from a lack of enthusiasm and on account of the disturbed state of Turkey as the result of its war with Russia, he made no effort to sell the rest, and in 1834 they had not yet been disposed of when Mr. Barker began to make overtures for the purchase of the eight hundred copies which Sapunov still had on hand. Before consummating the transaction, Mr. Barker went with a copy of the Gospels from Bucharest to Ternovo, in order to consult Hilarion on the genuineness and comprehensibility of the language employed in the translation. He was disappointed at not meeting him, for he was away on his annual round in his diocese. So he turned for advice to the Protosingellos, the priest next in dignity, and the latter informed him that "they were not only exact, but also the language was welt adapted for the poor, being that which they speak in the extensive bishopric under Hilarion's care, and, for what he knew, they would be understood all over Bulgaria."

A translation which had been prepared in the same year by Fotinov, a Bulgarian teacher in Smyrna, in Asia Minor, had been rejected "as being neither Slavonian nor Bulgarian, but a mixture of both." Not satisfied with the statement made by the Protosingellos, Mr. Barker carried Sapunov's translation wherever he went, and had it subjected to a close scrutiny. On October 16 of the same year he was able to announce that

“Sapounoff’s Bulgarian Gospels were everywhere understood and though some words in that work are different to those in use in those parts, still the language is such as to be comprehensible both to rich and poor."

It had been the intention of the Bible Society to get a complete translation Of the New Testament and to print it in London, but this plan, too, was soon abandoned when Mr. Barker succeeded in 1836 in making "arrangements for obtaining a translation which is likely to prove more satisfactory, and to which Archbishop Hilariou has kindly promised to give his sanction." This new man employed in the task of furnishing the Bulgarians with the new Testament was Neophytos of Ryla, a monastery under Hilarion’s jurisdiction. We have seen how the Archbishop of Ternovo had been influenced by the foreign missionaries to favor religious instruction in the native language of the people; it was, therefore, natural for him to depart still farther from the practices of the Phanariot priests in Bulgaria by directly encouraging the efforts of the Anglo-Saxon missionaries to promote popular instruction. At that time the Lancasterian schools were very popular in the South-East of Europe. They owed their origin to an English missionary whose name they bore, and were based on the principle of mutual instruction by the pupils themselves; they were specially intended for those parts of the world where teachers and books were nor easily to be had, and for that reason found ready acceptance in those regions where the missionaries were active. In the Turkish Empire most of these schools owed their origin to the efforts of the preachers of the Gospel, while many of them, notably those at Syra, Athens, Smyrna, Constantinople were directly under the charge of Americans. When Hilarion had made up his mind to give Bulgaria a native school, he selected Neophytes of Ryla to be its first teacher. He sent him to Bucharest to get acquainted with the methods of the Lancasterian schools, and after Neophytos's return began his activity as a pedagogue and writer of schoolbooks. One of these was a Grammar of the spoken language. Although written in a discursive style and permitting certain forms of the older tongue, it still deserves creditable mention as the first attempt to establish rules for the modern idiom. The following year after the appearance of this work, Neophytes was engaged, through Hilarion's instrumentality, to write a translation of the whole New Testament for the British and Foreign Bible Society.

IV.

The usefulness of the American missionaries in Greece was cut short by restrictive measures of King Otho who, upon becoming of age, had himself assumed the reigns of government, and had yielded to the pressure brought to bear upon him by the Orthodox bishops. He issued an edict that only the Greek Catholic religion could be taught in schools established by foreigners. One by one the Greek missions were abandoned, or transferred to places outside the pale of the influence of the Church. Mr. Riggs was ordered in 1838 to repair to Smyrna on the Aegean Sea. The choice of that city as a base of operation was a particularly fortunate one, for from that place various nations could be easily reached, while the Turkish Government did not do anything to impede the work of the Protestants. Henceforth Smyrna became the central depot of distribution and publication of schoolbooks and religious literature. The British and Foreign Bible Society regarded Riggs as a suitable person to supervise the printing of the Bulgarian New Testament, and sent through Mr. Barker, its agent, the newly acquired manuscript to be issued there. At that time there was not a printing establishment in the whole of Bulgaria, and what few books had been printed in Slavic type for the people, had been issued in Servia or Wallachia. Mr. Barker provided Damian, the Greek printer of Smyrna, with a font of Slavic type, and thus created the first Bulgarian typography. Here were issued in 1838 and 1839 the Gospels and Acts, and in 1840 the complete New Testament. In 1839 there was, it is true, established a small printing office at Saloniki, but all the books that appeared there were in Old Slavic, or in a mixture of the old with the new idiom, whereas Smyrna became the seminary, however small its beginning, of Bulgarian learning. The first reviewer and censor of that nascent literature was Elias Riggs.

At first he had to restrict himself only to a general supervision of the works issued under his care, for his knowledge of the language was not sufficiently great to correct the translations; but even at that early period he stood for a national language based on the spoken form, following in this the natural tendency of all the missionaries of his time. Neophytes himself was a Macedonian, and his translation of the New Testament was made in his native dialect. Considering his proneness to use Slavic forms in his previous works, which he published in 1835, it is fair to suppose that his manuscript of the Bible was not less free from them; but these have all disappeared in the printed book, no doubt at Riggs' suggestion or through his correction.

The latter insisted on a pure Bulgarian of the Western (Macedonian) type, since for a time to come he expected to confine his missionary efforts to the country this side of the Balcan mountains. The Gospels were frequently reprinted and were received by the people with the greatest enthusiasm, and for a period of two decades served as a model for the written idiom of the nation. Later, when culture penetrated into Bulgaria Proper, this abnormal state of raising a dialect spoken beyond the provinces of the country to the dignity of a literary language could not be maintained. When the Eastern dialect began to rise in importance, Riggs was among the first to adopt it for his translation of the whole Bible, but previous to the sixties, Neophytos' New Testament and Riggs' religious and ethical tracts formed the basis for all other literary productions.

Among the few Bulgarians who were settled at Smyrna, there was one who was in charge of a Lancasterian Greek school in which some Bulgarian was taught. This schoolteacher, by the name of Fotinov, was destined to become the founder of the first Bulgarian periodic. In 1894 the Bulgarians celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of this red letter year in the history of their intellectual awakening. Toasts were drunk, speeches made, and volumes written to commemorate the event. One of the country's most prominent scholars, Prof. Shishmanov, has since written an exhaustive treatise on the life and work of that Smyrna schoolmaster. In that unbiassed essay the distinguished author is inclined to give the missionaries their due for playing an important part in Fotinov's evolution, but not having had access to the archives of the American Board of Commissioners of Foreign Missions, which contain all the correspondence of the missionaries sent out by that society, he has been led greatly to underrate that influence and to place the whole subject in a wrong perspective. In that article he says : "There is, however, no doubt that the causes for that sudden development of Fotinov stand in some relation to the foundation of the Bulgarian printing office in Smyrna, and to the appearance of Neophytos’ translation of the New Testament, printed there at the expense of the British and Foreign Bible Society. From Mr. Riggs' reminiscences we learn the important fact that Fotinov had been engaged by Benjamin Barker, the Society's agent, to overlook the printing of the first edition. Since that edition came out in 1840, one may freely infer that Fotinov entered into an agreement with that agent soon after the appearance of Fotinov's Greek Grammar. It is difficult to say what influence this agent may have had on our writer and journalist, and in how far his issue of the 'Ljuboslovie' is connected with the history of the Protestant propaganda in our parts. One thing, however, is certain; considering Fotinov's weakness for Smyrna, he would never have realized his plans, if the British and Foreign Bible Society had not furnished A. Damian’s printing office with Slavic type. There are besides a few more proofs that the Protestant missionaries helped Fotinov. Such are, for example, the illustrations in his Geography (and may be also in his ‘Ljuboslovie’ ?) which had been furnished to him by the Society, as we learn from Mr. Riggs. But did the help of the Preachers of the Gospel stop there? I am inclined to answer in the affirmative, even though the later close relation of Fotinov with the missionaries, whose fruit is the first translation of the whole Bible, may lead the investigator to suppose a more active foreign influence on the original plan and edition of the first Bulgarian periodical. Against such a supposition speak the very contents of the Journal in which there is not the least trace at Protestant striving. On the contrary, there reigns in it, as we shall see, a purely Orthodox spirit, though free from all religious intolerance and narrow dogmatism."

With the aid of the documentary evidence spoken above we shall attempt to reconstruct the facts in their chronological sequence, It will be remembered that long before the year 1840 Fotinov had been invited by the Bible Society to furnish a translation of the Gospels, and that it had been rejected as not written in pure Bulgarian. Fotlnov was peculiarly obstinate the subject of a literary language: he had himself been brought up in the traditions of the Greek school, and like the Greek schoolmen, regarded a return to the ancient language as the desideratum for a literary norm. By a similar reasoning the Church Slavic, in the corrupted form in which it was known to him, seemed to him preferable to the quaint dialect of his native home. Only when he came under Riggs' control, he was induced to the precedent established by Neophytos' translation. This came about in the following manner.

In 1841 Barker sent a few tracts of the American Tract Society to a pious Scotchman at Odessa; the latter had them translated by some Bulgarian students there, and sent them to Smyrna to be printed. Riggs employed Fotinov, the only educated Bulgarian within easy reach, to revise them with him. The following year there were issued two of them; Friendly Counsels to Parents respecting the Training of Children, and The Tree of Intemperance and the Tree of Temperance. Other two tracts: Something for the Unlearned, and Gallaudet's Child's Book the Soul, Part l, were taken by Riggs to Constantinople and there revised by Ognianovich, a Servian, who had just established a native printing press, and had become an ardent Bulgarophil. The last two were printed in 1843 and 1844 respectively. All these tracts were highly treasured by the natives, and were used as textbooks for the study Of Bulgarian in those Lancasterian schools that were fortunate enough to provide themselves with the same.

Through Riggs Fotinov became acquainted with the different American school books whose Greek translations were regarded as far superior to any other current at the time. The excellent cuts which accompanied them made them especially attractive, and threw in the shade all the native productions of the kind. No doubt Fotinov used them in his school. However it may be, he thought well enough of them to translate Woodbury's Geography into Bulgarian, and this was issued in 1842 from the Smyrna press. The success of the translation was phenomenal. Thirsting for knowledge, but possessing no reading matter, the Bulgarians welcomed that insignificant textbook with its American woodcuts, as one would to-day receive in America the latest work of a great novelist or a noted historian. It was the first book that conveyed to them the knowledge of the world without, and it filled their hearts with an unquenchable desire for learning.

In the same year Fotinov sent around a circular to solicit subscribers for a Bulgarian periodical. When the number had reached four hundred, he started in 1844 to publish his Philology (Liuboslovie), which at once became the rallying ground of the few intelligent men that the country could muster. In a letter of June 5, 1844, Riggs writes to the Secretary of the A. B. C. F. M. :

“I send you a specimen of the Bulgarian Monthly Magazine published here. It contains many articles {some of them religious) translated from our Greek Magazine. It is in fact a child of that work, without being sustained in any degree at our expense. This is one instance illustrative of the indirect influence Of missionary exertions in these parts. " So, we see, this first periodical, from which dates the beginning of Bulgarian journalism and belles letters, is "a child of an American direct result of Fotinov's acquaintance with Riggs. The few original articles that were written for that monthly by no means display any scholarship, but they for the first time dealt with Bulgarian matters and thus directed the attention of the people to their own country. Unfortunately Fotinov returned to his vagaries of a mixed Slavo-BuIgarian language, and this and the general poverty of his subscribers who would not, or could not, pay their dues, led to a cessation of the magazine in 1846. But the seed had been sown, and a rich crop has grown up in the last fifty years, so that now Bulgaria presents the unprecedented example of a nation rising to high culture from a state of crass ignorance within half a century.

V.

With rare exceptions, the Bulgarians have entirely forgotten their early benefactors. This deplorable state of affairs is not so much due to their express desire to be ungrateful as to the unfortunate, self-abnegating practices of the missionaries, whose efforts were all the time directed in majorem Dei gloriam and who therefore failed to subscribe their names to their literary productions. In the sixties they produced an extensive anonymous literature by which, among other things, the alarming contagion of the Roman-Catholic propaganda successfully checked, but it was possible to ascertain the name of the author of those pamphlets only by rummaging through the Archives of the Missionary Society at Boston.

In the same manner, Elias Riggs did not attach his name to any his own writings, and entirely refrained from mentioning himself as the reviser of any of the early books that were issued at Smyrna or Constantinople. It is not, therefore, to be wondered at that even such liberal men as Shishmanov should be inclined to allot to the preachers at best an indirect influence in the awakening of the country, and to ascribe various Bulgarian books wrongly to native authorship.

That Riggs was well fitted to carry on the revision of the works printed under his care and to write in idiomatic Bulgarian, is attested by his scientific journey to Varna and his linguistic studies at Constantinople, of which he reports in a letter of November 16, 1843:

“When I wrote you last (June 7th) I was about leaving home for the annual meeting of our I had then in mind a tour in Bulgaria and an absence of some months from home, I proposed to the brethren of the mission the matter of the journey and the whole question how I should spend my summer. As my health was not good, they advised me not to go into the interior of Bulgaria, but suggested that I might visit Varna, a Bulgarian town, but on the coast of the Black Sea, and which could be reached by a steamer, spend more or less time there as I might find expedient after seeing the place and then returu to Constantinople, where could at all events find Bulgarians, make some inquiries, and revise the Bulgarian tracts we had on hand. In compliance with the suggestion, I left Constantinople for Varna July 10 and arrived there the following day. I spent only a week there partly because I found that the Bulgarian language is spoken only by a few peasants from the neighboring villages and partly because the place is confessedly unhealthy…

Returning therefore to Constantinople on the 17th, I Immediately engaged the services of a Bulgarian teacher, and commenced revising for the press some tracts in that language which we have had on hand for several months. As my teacher lived at Arnaout-Koy, the village next below Bebek on the Bosphorus, at the invitation of Brother Wood, I took up my abode under his hospitable roof, and was accustomed to walk to Arnaout-Koy, spend an hour in revising, and return by about seven o’clock every morning. Except this hour, I gave the greater part of each day to miscellaneous employments, making health my first object, and entirely intermitting the work which I should have been engaged in at Smyrna. This I continued for six weeks, and during that time examined and with the help of the teacher revised, one hundred and thirty-two pages of MS."

The fruit of his intimate acquaintance with the spoken idiom was his Notes on the Grammar of the Bulgarian language, a pamphlet of twenty four pages, published in a small number of copies at Smyrna in 1844. This first attempt by a foreigner to establish rules for this Slavic tongue contains, in the short space just mentioned, all that is essential for practical purposes, and is based on the Macedonian dialect in which the author wrote up to the year 1859. Of this pamphlet there are a few copies in American libraries, but in Bulgaria it is entirely unknown, not being mentioned in any of the bibliographies. Nor is it generally known that the second grammar of the language written by a foreigner (Rev. F. C. Morse of St. Johnsbury, Vermont), and printed at Adrianople in 1859, which has not lost its value even today, owes not a few of its excellent features to suggestions by the author of the first treatise on the subject.

In the year 1851 began the agitation for the translation of the whole Bible into the vernacular, and soon after Fotinov was employed for the purpose of writing the same under Riggs' guidance. In 1857 there was brought out an edition of the Psalms. In the same year Riggs left for a two years' stay in the United States. Upon his return to Constantinople, to which place the mission had been removed in he resumed his labors with Fotinov, but the latter died a week later, and another collaborator had to be found. In the meanwhile great changes had taken place. Yielding to the urgent requests of Riggs, Hamlin, Schaufler and Richardson, the American missionaries at Constantinople, the Missionary Society had the year before established a station at Adrianople, and Riggs himself was, upon his return, sent on an inspection tour through Bulgaria for the purpose of deciding on other towns suitable for missions. In his long report, which is of great interest on account of its wealth of topographical notes, he dwells on the necessity of using the Eastern variety of speech, instead of the Macedonian, for all further publications, since from his inquiries among schoolteachers and other competent men, he had become convinced that the future belonged to that dialect. For the same reason he now engaged a native of Bulgaria Proper to aid him in the translation of the Old Testament (published in its entirety in 1872), and in other missionary publications.

With the establishment of the missions in Bulgaria there began a new period of American influence. Although the religious propaganda became the most prominent feature of their work, yet they continued furnishing the nation with translations of American schoolbooks, opened schools for them, and in 1864 began publishing the Zornica, an illustrated magazine, whose circulation was only second to the most popular native periodical, and in many other ways aided the country to free itself from the incubus of ignorance that had been lying heavily upon it for many centuries. In the meantime young Bulgaria was rapidly preparing itself to take the place of the foreign teachers and to agitate the intellectual and political independence of the country. It is an interesting fact that when in 1876 Bulgaria had broken out in revolt against Turkey, it was an American who was most active in obtaining their political freedom. In an article by Mr. Geshov, the present minister of Finance in Bulgaria, published a year or two ago, and entitled Memoirs of a Political Convict, he points out that it was Eugene Schuyler, the American Minister to Turkey, who drafted the constitution for his country, and that it was through his efforts, and through his efforts alone, that it was accepted in its entirety at San Stefano, and he concludes his remarks by saying that had it not been for Schuyler, Bulgaria would not have been made free.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1925.


The author died in 1939, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 80 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.