Konstantin Velichkov (1855 - 1907)

 

       Konstantin Velichkov was born in Pazardzhik in 1855 in the family of a craftsman. He received his schooling at the Imperial College "Galata Sarai" in Istanbul from 1868 to 1874. There he moulded his character and view of life and was inspired by the ideas for revolutionary struggle. As a college student he made his first attempt as a writer of literary prose. He achieved a real success with his dramatic work "Nevianka and Svetoslav" in 1874, which was put up on the stage of "Osmanie" Theatre in Istanbul.

      After his graduation he returned to his native town and was appointed teacher at the secondary school there. As a chairman of the library club "Videlina" he worked for better education and political revival of the local youth and contributed energetically to the development of the dramatic art in the town. As a brave public speaker and a tireless organizer Konstantin Velichkov was in charge of the preparations for the April Uprising in the region. After the outbreak and subsequent crushing of the uprising, for his revolutionary activities he was arrested, put in chains and taken to Plovdiv and later - to the prison in the city of Odrin.

      During the first three decades after the national liberation in 1978 Konstantin Velichkov was one of the most prominent public figures in Bulgaria - he was elected many times to be a Member of the Bulgarian Parliament and a Minister of Education for Eastern Roumelia and later on a Minister of Education for the whole country. His appeal as a political figure was a result of his work as one of the builders of the national culture and educational system.

      Being an artist by nature and by calling Velichkov was the initiator for the opening of the Drawing School in Sofia in 1896 (which has grown to become the Bulgarian Academy of Fine Arts). As a gifted actor he rose Bulgarian dramatic art up to mark. He moved for scholarships to be given to gifted young Bulgarian actors to specialize abroad. Among the recipients of such scholarships were driana Budevs, rasti Srfv, Gn irv and others. As a minister of education in Konstantin Stoilov's government he published statutes and orders to improve the organization and methodology of instruction at all levels of the Bulgarian Educational System, he established the Higher Academic Council and Uchilishten Pregled (Schools' Review) magazine. Aware of the need for a handbook of Bulgarian language for the secondary schools together with Ivan Vazov he publishes Balgarska Hristomatia (Bulgarian Reader) in two volumes - a publication which is unique for its time and with an enormous contribution to the Bulgarian education at that time.

      Konstantin Velichkov served his people as a writer as well. As a writer in the post-liberation literary period he is famous as a poet, a fiction-writer, a memoirs writer, a playwright, a translator, a literary critic and a publicist. He is the author of the dramatic works: Opalchenetz (Soldier-Volunteer from the Bulgarian Liberation Forces), At the Seaside and Haderal.
His lyric diary Tzarigradski Soneti (Istanbul Sonnets) has a special place in Bulgarian classic literature and Pisma do Rim (Letters to Rome) is an original in form and content piece of work revealing in an elegant style the interest towards the fine arts for the first time in our country. The most significant literary piece of Velichkov's is his memoirs V temnitza(In Prison) a historical document about the moral greatness of Bulgarians during the rebellious days of April 1876. He is also the translator of many masterpieces from French, Italian and Russian among which the most precious is his translation of Dante's Hell - it has been unsurpassed in its quality in Bulgarian literature so far.

  .           Konstantin Velichkov was an editor in chief and contributed to a number of periodicals: the newspapers Lacha (the Ray) and Progress in Pazardzhik and Narodnii Glas (People's Voice) in Plovdiv. He contributed also to the magazines Nauka (Science), Zora (Dawn), Misal (Thought), Balgarski Pregled (Bulgarian Review) and many others. On the initiative and under the guidance of Konstantin Velichkov the magazines Uchilishten Pregled (School's Review), Uchenicheska Beseda (Students' Causerie) and Letopisi (Chronicles).

      To the very end of his life he remained loyal to his great passion for drawing. He created pictorial paintings and portrait sketches. His paintings are kept in the art galleries in the towns of Sofia, Plovdiv, Pazardzhik and some private collections.

      Preserving in his soul the idealism of the Bulgarian national revival, embittered by the realities of the social and political life in Bulgaria, Konstantin Velichkov left the country and went to Southern France to undergo a medical treatment. He died in Grenoble on November 3, 1907.

Ivanka Kibritova, curator of the house-museum Konstantin Velichkov, Pazardzhik
Translator: Iordan T. Trendafilov