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The origins and early development of Baptists in Bulgaria.

For the student of Baptist origins and history, Baptist development and work in Bulgaria present a challenge. Little has been written on Bulgarian Baptists, not only by Bulgarians but also by Western historians.

Prior to the World War II, no one attempted to thoroughly research the Baptist movement in Bulgaria. During that time, most church records, personal correspondence, and Baptist brochures and magazines were confiscated by the secret police who served the Communist Party during the forty-five-year Communist rule in Bulgaria. Following World War II until 1989, Baptists suffered severe persecution, and some of the leaders of churches and groups sadly made the decision to deliberately destroy all the historical records and information for security purposes. (1) Some brave Christians, however, took a personal risk and kept documents, old pictures, and issues of old magazines published between World War I and World War II. Baptist historians are indebted to those courageous Christians. (2) Also, materials published from a Marxist perspective during the communist period, although entirely focused on discrediting the Protestants, contain useful historical information. (3)

After communism collapsed in Eastern Europe, a new interest developed in tracing the historical beginnings of the Baptist churches in Bulgaria. One of the first attempts to retell the story of the Bulgarian Baptists was made by Albert Wardin, whose 1991 article "Baptists in Bulgaria" (4) was published in The Baptist Quarterly. Wardin cited primary sources found in Baptist periodicals published in the West. His work represents the first well-documented overview of the Baptist work in Bulgaria for the 130 years of Baptist presence in the country. Using German sources and publications, following important although not extensive research, Dobrina Dadder, a graduate of the Hamburg Seminary in Germany, wrote an article on Baptist beginnings in Bulgaria in 1994. Her work was later translated from German and published in 1996 and 1997 in several issues of the Baptist magazine, Vitania. (5)

The research for materials and sources within Bulgaria and the collection of information from people who still remember the key events of the last fifty years are of primary importance. Historians are not sure whether all of the materials that were confiscated by the secret police were indeed destroyed or were kept in some of the archives that have not yet been opened to the public. One of the vital sources of information is the Baptist magazine, Evangelist. (6) Articles in the magazine captured the living memories of people who were often the first converts or initial leaders of many of the Bulgarian churches before the end of the nineteenth century and also provided details of the development of the Baptist churches between the world wars.

For the past two years, I have devoted much time to the recovery of original Baptist sources in Bulgaria. (7) Based on much of that research, this article first offers an overview of the different factors contributing to the beginnings of the Baptist work in Bulgaria and then provides an account of Baptist development through 1890.

Factors Contributing to the Beginning of Baptist Work in Bulgaria

The first organized Protestant work in the Bulgarian lands was that of the Congregationalists and the Methodists in the 1850s. (8) The Congregationalists' American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (9) established its first missionary station in July 1858 at Adrianopol. (10) The earliest Methodist work in Bulgaria specifically targeted the areas to the north of the Old Mountains (The Balkans), while the Congregational efforts were concentrated south of the mountains. Both denominational mission efforts preceded the appearance of the first Baptist missionaries by a quarter of a century. (11)

Three major factors influenced the beginning of the Baptist work in Bulgaria: (1) the British and Foreign Bible Society (BFBS) sent colporteurs to distribute the scripture in the territories under Ottoman control during the later part of the nineteenth century; (2) Baptist refugees of German origin from Southern Russia who were fleeing religious persecution settled in northern Bulgaria; and (3) Bulgarians, who had come into contact with Baptists outside of the country and had been converted to the Baptist faith, returned to Bulgaria and preached Baptist principles.

As early as 1867, Baptists began working in Bulgarian lands as colporteurs of the BFBS. That year, the BFBS appointed two Polish Baptists as their distributors in northwest Bulgaria: Kutsichewsky and Christian Krzossa. Later, Martin Herringer and Jacob Klundt were also appointed. Herringer had a strong influence on the church in Lompalanka and later in Ruschuk. Klundt was later ordained as a pastor. Despite strict rules about "only distributing the Bible among the people and not sharing their own particular Evangelical convictions" (12) and not "organizing any public meetings," (13) the colporteurs did not adhere to those rules. Thus, they "performed an excellent pioneering work among the Bulgarian population." (14) Also, the BFBS made vital contributions to Baptist work by publishing with the American Board the "complete edition of the Bible in the vernacular (New Bulgarian language) in 1871" (15) and by distributing that version of the Bible in contemporary Bulgarian to every part of the land.

Another significant factor in the early days of Bulgarian Baptist work was the settlement in 1866 of thirty-seven families of immigrants from Russia in the village of Katalui, which was fourteen kilometers from Tulcha in the northeast corner of Bulgaria. (16) Three of those immigrants were directly connected with the beginnings of the Baptist work in Bulgaria: Martin Herringer, Jacob Klundt, and M. Herbold. These men were German-Russian Baptists from Neu Danzig and Rorbach.

After Catherine II issued a manifest in 1783 granting privileges to immigrants, a stream of foreigners, mostly Germans, entered Russia. That same year, Russia officially annexed Crimea and added that territory under the name Tavricheskaya Gubernia (Tavrian Province). Because some outskirts of the new territory were not populated, the government decided to use that land for foreign colonization, something that had worked in the past in other parts of Russia. The German colonies of Rorbach and Neu Danzig were probably formed at that time.

Years later, in 1867, an Orthodox bishop from Odessa wrote a letter to the governors of those colonies, who were shtundists, about the Baptists who had settled in that area: "this 'brotherhood' has the appearance of a schism, similar to the reformation one ... they read the church-slavonic books, and interpret the meaning and the content of the texts on their own ... under the leadership of some reformation schismatics-Germans from the neighboring colony of Rorbach. They do not visit the Orthodox Church and do not worship the holy icons." (17)

Some historians argue that the beginnings of the Baptist movement in that part of Russia (today's Ukraine) were connected with the work of German Baptists, including Libbih, Bentzin, Oncken, and Ondra. One statement written by the bishop of the Elisavetskiy Uezd has been preserved proving the involvement of J. G. Oncken in that part of Russia: "Oncken indeed was preaching and was baptizing the Germans." (18) Most probably, the Rorbach and the Neu Danzig colonists accepted the Baptist faith. The Orthodox priests in the area tolerated the baptism of the German settlers, but when the new faith began to spread among the Orthodox Christians, a violent reaction followed, and the Baptists were severely persecuted.

In 1864, the family of Jacob Klundt and another thirty-six families were accused of being unreliable and dangerous elements. (19) They were arrested, chained, and sent to the governor of Kherson. The governor, in an unofficial administrative decision without a court sentence, exiled them all to Siberia. On the way to Siberia, the prisoners managed to send a letter to Emperor Alexander II, explaining why they had been sent to Siberia and appealing for amnesty. The emperor ordered their release, but upon their return to Neu Danzig, the village mayor and the Orthodox priests did not allow them to enter the village. They were again arrested, tied up, and sent to the governor of Herson. This governor suggested that they move to another province, but the Baptists instead decided to seek asylum in the Ottoman Empire, and they were promptly extradited to that area. After a long and difficult journey, the thirty-seven families arrived in Tulcha on May 10, 1866. The Turkish government in that town accepted the refugees and settled them in Katalui, which already had an established German colony.

The Baptists began meetings for Bible study and soon began to travel around the territory of Bulgaria spreading the gospel of Christ. (20) In 1869, after a visit by Oncken, a Baptist church was founded. (21)

Baptists in Bulgaria also benefited greatly as a result of the work of Bulgarians who returned from abroad with Baptist convictions or who were trained in western theological seminaries and colleges. Among those Baptists were Vasil K. Marchev, who started his ministry as colporteur for the congregation in Ruschuk during the pastorate of I. Kargel. After four years at the seminary in Hamburg (1883-1887), Marchev returned to Ruschuk and became the pastor of the church there. Under his leadership, church membership doubled, and the congregation successfully established several preaching stations. (22) Another Bulgarian Baptist, Vasil Kiyosev, after graduating from Cliff College in Sheffield, England, returned to Lompalanka. Kiyosev was supported for a few years by the American Baptist Missionary Union and had a fruitful ministry in northwest Bulgaria. (23) But perhaps the most influential Bulgarian pastor-missionary in the first years of the twentieth century was Peter Doychev. Upon his return from the United States where he had accepted the Baptist faith, Doychev, despite intense opposition, did remarkable pioneering work in Chirpan in central Bulgaria. Under his leadership, the Bulgarian Baptist Union was formed in 1908.

Historians have suggested two other factors that contributed to the Baptist work in Bulgaria. Dobrina Dadder, in "History of Baptism in Bulgaria," insisted that foreign missionaries in Bulgaria assisted in the early developments of Baptist work. (24) I disagree with his suggestion. Without doubt, a definite boost was given by missionary work in the development of the Baptist churches in a much later stage. Among those foreign missionaries was E. Herrasimenko, a native Russian who studied at the Hamburg seminary and who served as a missionary of the Romanian Bulgarian Association. Herrasimenko became the pastor of Ruschuk Baptist Church in 1895, (25) and he had a remarkable ministry in that town and indeed throughout Bulgaria. Another foreign missionary, K. Grabain, was a German-Russian who arrived in Bulgaria in 1911 and had an influential ministry in Lompalanka. (26) Finally, C. E. Petrick, a missionary of the American Baptist Foreign Mission Society, began mission work in 1914 and ministered until an illness forced him to return to Germany in 1928. (27) But in earliest years of Bulgarian Baptist development, as Albert Wardin rightly concluded, "the Bulgarian Baptist work has been largely indigenous, but its planting was rather haphazard." (28) Even when news about a Baptist group in Kazanluck reached the German Baptists after a letter appeal was sent asking for help, the German Baptists' reaction was slow in coming and somewhat inadequate. (29) Thus, most historians believe that "The Baptist movement in Bulgaria was not the result of foreign missionaries sent in by Baptist missionary societies from outside the country;" (30) instead, they believe that "small isolated groups of converts existed and laboured, largely in ignorance of one another and of the outside world." (31)

A second suggestion some historians have made is that groups of people spontaneously studying the Bible were led to Baptist faith without any outside influence. (32) W. O. Lewis even placed that possibility as the most important influence: "Baptist churches sprang up from the reading of the Bible without the preaching of any evangelist." (33) This statement is certainly appealing, but unfortunately, finding historical support for the suggestion is difficult. Some of the Baptist churches were formed on the foundations of other Protestant churches. The first "Baptist" church of Kazanluck was composed of Congregational believers who adopted Baptist convictions some ten to twelve years after the beginning of Congregational work there. The first evangelical believer in Kazanluck, Stephan Kurdov, was exposed to the gospel by Armenians in Tsarigrad in 1867. (34) During a visit in 1875 by M. Herbold, a Baptist BFBS colporteur, Kurdov learned a new understanding of the meaning of baptism, and the seeds of Baptist principles were thus sown in that town. (35) The Baptist work in Ruschuk and Lompalanka, the second and the third Baptist churches in Bulgaria, also began as people with Baptist convictions moved in and spread their faith or as colporteurs shared the gospel.

With regard to the suggestion that people spontaneously studying the Bible converted to the Baptist faith, Bulgarians had no access to a translation of the Bible in their own language for many centuries before the first evangelicals arrived in the country. Furthermore, not until the Protestant interpretations of the scriptures were heard did the first instances of Bulgarians turning from the Orthodox tradition to evangelical convictions occur, and only after even further discussions on "believers' baptism" by people who already held "Baptist" beliefs did some Bulgarians adopt Baptist convictions.

Early Development of the Work in Bulgaria

The first Baptist church established within the territory of present-day Bulgaria was in the town of Kazanluk in central Bulgaria. (36) A Congregational community had been formed there in 1867 as a result of the preaching of Stephan Kurdov, who at that time was a new convert and a colporteur employed by the Bible Society. (37) Kurdov worked in Kazanluck and also traveled to other nearby towns such as Sliven, Yambol, Eski-Zagre, and Nova-Zagora. His energetic evangelism was poorly received by the Orthodox citizens of Kazanluck. He was openly criticized on the streets, mocked by crowds, and finally summoned by the local Orthodox monastery to explain his sectarian views. At the monastery, he was threatened with imprisonment and persecution if he continued to advocate evangelical teachings. The threats did not stop the colporteur, and his labors soon resulted in several people accepting the evangelical faith. One convert was Grigor Drumnikov, one of the former accusers. The oppression continued against the small group of believers as the Orthodox priests openly condemned the "sectant" followers. In 1871, when Kurdov's wife, who was also a believer, died, the Orthodox leaders would not allow her body to be buried in any of the Orthodox graveyards. In a few days, the evangelicals were forced to bury the decomposing body in a field outside of town.

By 1873, the evangelical group had at least seven members. Kurdov requested help from the American Congregationalist missionaries, asking that they send a pastor and provide funds for the group to purchase a small prayer home. The two requests were turned down, and the relationship between the small group and the American Congregationalists was shaken. Kurdov then donated an old building to the church, and the members gathered the funds to remodel it into a place for worship. Soon, more new converts joined the church, and at the end of 1874, the congregation again appealed to the American missionaries to send a pastor to Kazanluck. The request was again turned down. Later, in 1875, tired of asking for help, the little flock in Kazanluck declared that they "would never again turn to the American missionaries for help and would not even accept such even if it was offered to them ... and the next time the missionaries came to town they would see a sign at the door of the church written with big letters stating: 'Kazanluck Evangelical Church--Independent from the Americans.'" (38) That declaration proved effective, for that same year a preacher, Nickola Vlaev, was finally sent to the town. Yet, the church, apparently, never fully trusted in him.

At the end of 1875, when Vlaev was out of town, M. Herbold, a German colporteur of the BFBS, visited the town on the invitation of a Kazanluck native. Discovering the small congregation, Herbold, "using 38 passages from the Scriptures," convinced some of the believers that infant baptism was wrong and that they should practice believer's baptism. (39) When Vlaev returned, he was unable to find "evidence strong enough and based on the Word of God" to prove Herbold's beliefs wrong. Soon, some of his congregation requested to be re-baptized, which resulted in much tension between them and their preacher as well as between the church and the Congregational missionaries. In 1876, the European Turkey Mission reported: "At Kazanluck much apparent injury has been done by discussion and division on the subject of baptism." (40) The American missionaries sent a missionary, L. Bond, who offered to accept believer's baptism himself and then to baptize the people who wanted to accept believer's baptism. These baptisms almost took place, but when the people asked Bond to promise that he would never again baptize infants, he refused to make that promise. (41)

Not everyone in the church adopted believer's baptism, but the majority did. The church then published a brochure defending Baptist principles and sought to distribute it to other evangelical communities in the country. In 1876, at the meeting of the earlier founded Bulgarian Evangelical Society (42) in Yambol, representatives of the Kazanluck Evangelical Church asked that their brochure be read aloud and that the question of baptism be openly discussed. Their request was not granted. That same year, being aware of the presence of Baptists in the Talcha area, the church wrote their first official letter to the "German church that is in Katalui and [expressed that they too] confess the same convictions" of believer's baptism and asked that the church "help them in their need ... [and] send someone that could baptise them." (43) The letter was received, but because it was written in Bulgarian, no one could understand it. The letter was then sent to Ruschuk. The Christians there could not help, but they wrote to the Kazanluck church and promised that "they would see what they could do." (44)

Within the next three or four years, the Kazanluck church perhaps sent at least two more appeals to the same churches in Katalui and Ruschuk, and one request somehow reached August Libich in Odessa. In 1879, Libich brought the appeal before the general conference of the German Baptist Union in Hamburg. Apparently, the other request also reached H. Berneike, a leading German pastor in Koningsberg, but at that time, no one was able or willing to help. (45)

The Russian-Turkish war began in 1877, and many of the Kazanluck believers were forced to flee for their lives to northern Bulgaria. Stephen Kurdov and another member of the congregation were killed by the Turkish soldiers. After the end of the war, the people returned to their homes, and the church had no other choice but to hire their former pastor, Vlaev, to continue to minister at their own expense. He did that for one year, but controversy over the issue of baptism continued within the congregation. Being unwilling to accept the Baptist ideas, Vlaev resigned. In 1880, a letter was sent directly to the Germans who worked for the BFBS in Ruschuk. Grigor Drumnikov, on behalf of the church, wrote, explaining the "big need of a pastor for the 22 people." He noted their desire to have someone who could "come and baptise the believers in the right baptism." (46) That last letter, dated August 10, 1880, was also received, and this time was translated and published as part of an article entitled "The Macedonian Cry Re-Echoed from Macedonia Itself." That article appeared in the German Baptist newpaper, Der Wahrheitszeuge, and in the Quarterly Reporter of the German Baptist Mission. (47) In the article, the publishers added the words: "the fact that on that irrigated with blood land there is a community formed, that confesses the baptism by faith creates an even deeper appeal to help this desperate cry." (48)

The answer to the four-year search was finally found in the person of Ivan G. Kargel. Wardin suggested that the former pastor of the German Baptist congregation in St. Petersburg had earlier decided he needed to "change the climate." Thus, because of health problems, Kargel moved to Bulgaria. He settled in Ruschuk, which was the site of a BFBS depot and was the logical center for missionary and pastoral work. (49) In Ruschuk, Kargel was introduced to the three families who constituted the Ruschuk branch of the Baptist church in Bucharest. (50) Those families were the Krzossa family, who were German-Polish and were specifically responsible for the depot of literature of BFBS, the Herringer family, and the Herbold family. (51) Thus, when Kargel read about the needs in Kazanluck, he was already living in Bulgaria. Dadder, however, argued that Kargel heard in 1879 at General Conference of the German Baptist Union about the needs in Bulgaria, and his move occurred because he felt called to respond. (52)

This suggestion would be appealing if Kargel had settled in Kazanluck, but he did not. And also he only occasionally visited the church in Kazanluck during the time he spent in Bulgaria, which would have been strange if his sole purpose in moving to Bulgaria had been to answer the call of the "Macedonians" in Kazanluck. Certainly, he was able to read the publications while already in Ruschuk.

With the help of Herringer as a guide and translator, Kargel arrived in Kazanluck on September 5, 1880. For two days, Kargel and Herringer rigorously questioned the baptismal candidates. Two or possibly three of candidates did not pass the test and were refused baptism. Two days after his arrival, Kargel baptized in the river Tundja the first five members of Evangelical Baptist Church in Kazanluck, which was formed the same day. The church was the first Bulgarian Baptist church in the territory of today's Bulgaria. The first protocol of the new church was dated September 7, 1880, and was signed by Kargel himself. (53)

Kargel did not stay long in Kazanluck, for he left town two days after the baptismal service. Returning to Ruschuk, he developed an energetic ministry in that town and often traveled to other places, including Bucharest. During the early years of his ministry, because he did not speak Bulgarian well, he preached in Russian and German to the three German-Russian families in Ruschuk. Yet, soon two Bulgarians gave their lives to Christ: Rozina Herringer (54) and V. Marchev. (55) Later, another native, T. Muftief from Shumen, was also converted. Kargel's next visit to Kazanluck was not earlier than 1882, almost two years after the first baptisms. The Baptists in Kazanluck were still in a need of a pastor, since Kargel could not visit them more than once a year.

In 1882, seven people were baptized in Ruschuk. According to the Der Wahrheitszeuge, the Bulgarian Baptist church in Ruschuk was established that same year. (56) In 1883, Marchev was sent to study at the seminary in Hamburg, and Kargel reported fourteen baptisms as having taken place that year. One baptismal service was held on August 26 and the second one on September 7. Ten of those baptized were Bulgarians, but two were Jews and two were Germans. The baptisms were performed in the open at the Danube River, and as a result, an intense negative reaction was sparked in town. The local press, inspired by the clergy, wrote abusive articles full of threats. The archbishop of the area, who was furious that the Baptists did not respect Orthodox baptism, warned them that if they continued with the offensive practices, he could not guarantee their safety. The archbishop's statement led Kargel to conclude that the priests were behind the rising persecution. Some of the newly baptized Baptists were soon beaten by a mob, and a group of fanatics declared that "next time the Baptists decide to baptise in the Danube, they will be met with knifes and stones." (57) Kargel was forced to be more careful, and the church decided to dig a baptistery pool in the garden of the home of the Krzossa family. When the next baptism took place on November 20, the police, who had been informed about that by spies, came and arrested everyone present, including the homeowner, the preacher, and the three baptismal candidates. The foreigners arrested were soon released, but the three Bulgarians remained in prison, and the police officers often threatened them. Kargel and Krzossa immediately tried to find help, and they somehow managed to persuade the town's governor to order the release of the three Bulgarians on the following morning. (58)

In 1884, Kargel returned to St. Petersburg, and Ruschuk was left without a pastor. Up until that time, the church had met in Kargel's home. Upon his departure, he secured a small house with a meeting room which held fifty seats. (59) Krzossa did his best to assist the ministry of the church, but because he was busy with his work for BFBS, the church experienced tough times. The attitude of the people in town did not change, and the persecution was at times vicious. Fights with Methodists contributed to the weakening of the church. In 1887, Marchev returned to Ruschuk from Hamburg, and the Baptist ministry was soon strengthened. By 1888, the church reported that it had thirty-two members, three preaching stations, and a Sunday school with fifteen pupils.

The earliest information about Baptist work in the town of Lompalanka is that Martin Herringer arrived in the town sometime in 1875. (60) He moved into the house of Georgi Zzullia and began organizing evangelistic meetings. As a result, several Bulgarians became seriously interested in the faith. One of them, Fillip Kamenov, repented and was baptized in 1877 in Ruschuk. Later, another Bulgarian, Georgi Iskrenov, was baptized in Bucharest. Those two young men may have been the first two Bulgarians to accept believer's baptism as Baptists. Neither of them, however, was firm in the faith. In the Evangelist, Spass Stefanov, who was baptized in 1888 by V. Marchev, the pastor of Ruschuk church, recalled:
 From the time of the work of brother Herringer there was a
 man--Fillip Kamenov. He was coming from time to time at the
 services and was often crying for his condition. He was placing in
 the collection box a whole 'napoleon,' because he was very rich,
 but then he was disappearing for months and was not coming to the
 meetings.... Another one was Iskrenov. He had become a priest a
 few years after his conversion. Once he met me on the street and
 told me: "You do well to go to your church.... I was baptised in
 Bucharest in Dumbavitsa, but fell away and cannot come back
 now." (61)


In 1877, Herringer moved to Ruschuk, and no evidence exists that any Baptist work was done in Lompalanka for three years. With the arrival of J. Klundt in August 1880, that soon changed. Klundt had been sent upon his own request as a colporteur of BFBS to Lompalanka after eight years of hard labor in the Macedonian region. (62) During his first years in the town, he was entirely devoted to his colporteur's traveling responsibility. He traveled in five areas: Vidin, Vratsa, Pleven, Sofia, and Kustendil. Along with his wife Regina, Klundt organized home meetings whenever he was in Lompalanka. Although the meetings were attended by several interested people, they were infrequent due to Klundt's traveling schedule.

Seven years later, in 1887, Klundt traveled to Hamburg, Germany, on a private matter. There he met Georgi Chomonev, a young Bulgarian who was in contact with Baptists in Germany. Klundt invited Chomonev to return to Bulgaria with him and help in Lompalanka. Chomonev agreed and settled that same year in the town. Immediately, the meetings at the Herringers' home began being held on a regular basis. V. Chomonev, a close relative of G. Chomonev, explained: "When brother Klundt was traveling around the Kingdom, the meetings were carried away by the other two, as in the morning sister Regina Klundt would read a portion of the scripture and preach from it, and in the evening--brother Chomonev." (63) At the invitation of G. Chomonev, many young people and traders attended the meetings. In April 1888, at least five people were converted and later baptized by V. Marchev, the pastor of the Ruschuk Baptist Church. On July 10, 1888, the group in Lompalanka officially became a branch of the Baptist church in Ruschuk.

In 1893, the Lompalanka church secured its first public place of worship, which the members purchased as a result of their sacrificial giving. The next year, V. Kiyosev, who had trained for pastoral work in England, settled in the town and became the church's pastor. Under his leadership, the church grew and in 1896 became independent from the Ruschuk church. During these years, the church experienced serious persecution. For example, after the arrival of Kiyosev, the church was the target in early 1895 of sharply negative articles by the press. Church members experienced public abuse on the streets of the town, and many lesser assaults also occurred. Then on Sunday morning, February 19, 1895, a large crowd led by the local priests entered the church building during their worship service and totally destroyed the building. Fortunately, the church members escaped with minimal injuries, and the pastor was "somehow hidden among the sisters" and also escaped. Bibles and songbooks were torn to shreds, and the "broken pages were spread from there to the Danube River all over the town." (64)

Conclusion

Baptist beginnings in Bulgaria were largely dependent on outside influences. Refugees, colporteurs, and pastors mainly from German and Russian origins were the driving force and assisted in establishing the first Bulgarian Baptist communities. In some cases, the Baptist ideas were spread among people who already held evangelical convictions. In other cases, Baptists did pioneering work among people who did not hold to Christian beliefs or were nominally Orthodox.

Until the beginning of the twentieth century, no planned Baptist missionary work occurred in the country, and the first Baptist churches received little support from the German Baptist Mission. The work of the BFBS, although vital in distributing copies of the New Testament and other literature, had little interest in forming Protestant churches. Yet, the colporteurs who held Baptist convictions and who were assigned to Bulgarian territories naturally shared their faith when they could. Missionary schools, seminaries, and Bible colleges in the West had indirect influence, for they trained some of the most capable native Bulgarian pastors and leaders in the history of the Baptists in Bulgaria.

Every one of the earliest Bulgarian Baptist churches and stations, and almost every individual Baptist believer, dealt with open confrontations with the Orthodox clergy, who often stirred negative attitudes among the general population against Baptist proselytizing in Orthodox territory. Often, the police and the governing officials in towns and villages took an active role in assisting the main national church. The commitment to their Baptist convictions and the deep desire to live to the highest possible level of Christian biblical standards gave Bulgarian Baptists the strength to continue and to grow slowly in numbers.

(1.) For example, in 1949, the leaders of Sofia Baptist Church gathered all the documents of the Baptist Union and Sofia Baptist Church that had been hidden in the church building and disposed of them in order to prevent the secret police from obtaining that information.

(2.) Pastor B. Igoff kept a copy of the oldest protocol concerning the founding of the first Baptist church in Bulgaria in Kazanluck. He even translated the document into English in 1971 and managed to send it to the people in the West for safekeeping.

(3.) See K. Krustev, "Protestantstkite secti v Bulgaria" (Partizdat, Sofia, 1972); M. Stoiyanov, "Nachalo na Protestantstkata Propaganda v Bulgaria" (Izvestia na Instituta za Istroia), 14-15:45-67; P. Shopov, "Propagandnata I prosvetna deinost na Americanskite Bibleiski Obshtestva v Bulgarskite Zemi prez XIX vek" (Izvestia na Instituta za Istroia), 23, 149-84.

(4.) Albert W. Wardin, Jr., "The Baptists in Bulgaria," The Baptist Quarterly 34, no. 4 (1991): 148-59.

(5.) Dobrina Dadder, "History of Baptism in Bulgaria," Vitania 1 (1996) and 4 (May-June 1997).

(6.) Evangelist was produced by the Bulgarian Baptist Union of Bulgaria and published between January 1920 and June 1939. For the first three years, it was a quarterly publication with a circulation of about 500. Later, it became a monthly publication with a circulation of 900 to 1200. The publication was discontinued at the beginning of World War II.

(7.) For the past few years, I have slowly and with some considerable difficulty been able to obtain copies of all but two issues of the Evangelist. In most cases, I discovered that individuals in churches throughout Bulgaria possessed only one or two past issues. A breakthrough occurred in my search when I found some "missing" copies, when I discovered that about 10 percent of all issues were available in the archives of the Bulgarian National Library in Sofia. Hopefully, more Bulgarian Baptist materials will be made available in the future.

(8.) M. Stoiyanov, "Nachalo na Protestantstkata Propaganda v Bulgaria" 14-15:45-67 (Izvestia na Instituta za Istroia), 66.

(9.) The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions was established in 1812.

(10.) T. Nestorova, American Missionaries among the Bulgarians (1858-1912) (New York: Columbia University Press, 1987), 8.

(11.) Wardin, "The Baptists in Bulgaria," 148.

(12.) H. Kulitchev, "Vestiteli na Istinata" (Sofia: Bulgarian Bible Society, 1994), 330.

(13.) Dadder, "History of Baptism in Bulgaria," 4.

(14.) Ibid., 5.

(15.) Although work on the translation was organized mostly under the supervision of the American Board, assistance also came from the European Turkey Mission, particularly by Elias Riggs of Tzsarigrad. The financial cost of this endeavor was covered by the British and Foreign Bible Society. See Nestorova, American Missionaries among the Bulgarians, 89.

(16.) An important article, "Brother Jacob Klundt," was published in 1921 in Evangelist, 2, no. 2 (1921): 1-4. The article contained the memories of Jacob Klundt about the settlement of the refugees in 1866. A commemoration of this great Baptist, the article was published the same month he died (March 28, 1921) in Kazanluck. His son-in-law, Sara Lechov, had recorded those memories some months before Klundt passed away and submitted the material for publication.

(17.) Episcop Alexey (Doroditsin), "Materialy dlia Istoriiy religiozno-ratsionalisticheskovo dvijeniya na uge Rossii vo Vtoroi polovine XIX stoletiya" (Kazan, 1908), 47.

(18.) Ibid., 80.

(19.) Evangelist, 2, no. 2 (1921): 1-4.

(20.) Dadder, "History of Baptism In Bulgaria," 14.

(21.) Wardin, "The Baptists in Bulgaria," 149.

(22.) Ibid., 150.

(23.) Kratka Istoriya na Evangelskata nBaptistka Tsurkva v gr. Lompalanka (Ferdinand, 1930), 4-5.

(24.) Dadder, "History of Baptism In Bulgaria," 4.

(25.) Wardin, "The Baptists in Bulgaria," 150.

(26.) Evangelist, 1, no. 3 (1920): 7.

(27.) See P. Fortunov, "Jivotopis za missionera Karl Ernest Christoff Petrick" (Sofia, 1931).

(28.) Wardin, "The Baptists in Bulgaria," 148.

(29.) Ibid., 149.

(30.) W. O. Lewis, "The Baptists in Bulgaria," Watchman Examiner, 37 (March 1949): 275.

(31.) J. H. Rushbrooke, The Baptist Movement in the Continent of Europe (London: The Carey Press, 1923), 168.

(32.) Dadder, "History of Baptism in Bulgaria," 4.

(33.) Lewis, "The Baptists in Bulgaria," 275.

(34.) P. T. Kirkilanov, "Kratka Istoriya na Evangelskata Baptistska Tsurkva v Grad Kazanluck," Evangelist 4, no. 9-10 (1924): 5. This article, written by Petko "i2 Kirkilanov who was one of the founders of the first Baptist church in Kazanluck, provided an eyewitness account of the founding of that church. He wrote the article in 1924 for Evangelist.

(35.) Ibid., 6.

(36.) Kirkilanov, "Kratka Istoriya," Evangelist, 4, no. 9-10 (1924): 5-9.

(37.) Wardin, "The Baptists in Bulgaria," 148.

(38.) Kirkilanov, P. T. "Kratka Istoriya," 4, no. 9-10 (1924): 6.

(39.) Ibid., 7.

(40.) "European Turkey Mission," Report of the Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (Boston, 1876), 11.

(41.) Igov Bojidar, "Copy of the Predistoriata na Evangelskata Baptistka Tsurkva V Kazanluck, napisana I pomestena v protocolnata kniga na tsurkvata pred purvia protocol, koito nosi data 7mi septemvri 1880, godina" (English translation: The Prehistory of the Evangelical Baptist Church in Kazanluck), written on September 7, 1880, and inserted in the minute book of the church before the official first minutes (Sioux Falls, SD: Archives of the North American Baptist Seminary), 4.

(42.) The Bulgarian Evangelical Society was a home mission society formed by the American Board in 1875. See Wardin, "Baptists in Bulgaria," 148.

(43.) Bojidar, "Copy of the Predistoriata," 5.

(44.) Quarterly Reporter of the German Baptist Mission, Hamburg, October 1880, 1.

(45.) Wardin, "The Baptists in Bulgaria," 149.

(46.) Kirkilanov, "Kratka Istoriya," 4, no. 9-10 (1924): 8.

(47.) "Der Wahrheitszeuge" (September 15, 1880), 142-43; Quarterly Reporter of the German Baptist Mission, (October 1880): 1-2.

(48.) Der Wahrheitszeuge" (September 15, 1880), 143.

(49.) Wardin, "The Baptists in Bulgaria," 149.

(50.) Quarterly Reporter of the German Baptist Mission (October 1880): 1.

(51.) Ibid., 12.

(52.) Dadder, "History of Baptism in Bulgaria," 11.

(53.) Bojidar, "Copy of the Predistoriata."

(54.) Rozina Herringer was the Bulgarian wife of M. Herringer.

(55.) Dadder, "History of Baptism in Bulgaria," 14.

(56.) "Der Wahrheitszeuge" 16 (1882): 160ff.

(57.) Ibid., 6 (1883): 65.

(58.) Quarterly Reporter of the German Baptist Mission (1883): 5-7.

(59.) Wardin, "The Baptists in Bulgaria," 150.

(60.) Kratka Istoriya na Evangelskata, 2.

(61.) S. P. Stefanov, "Spomen" Evangelist 14, no. 546 (1932): 6.

(62.) S. Lechov, "Brother Jacob Klundt" Evangelist 2, no. 2 (1921): 2-4.

(63.) V. Il. Chomonev, "Prinos kum Istoriyata na Baptistkata Tsurkva--Lompalankaska baptistka tsurkva", Evangelist 14, no. 7 (1932): 4.

(64.) "Kratka Istoriya na Evangelskata," 5.

Teodor B. Oprenov is general secretary of the Baptist Union of Bulgaria and pastor of First Baptist Church, Sofia, Bulgaria.
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Author:Oprenov, Teodor B.
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Date:Jan 1, 2007
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