The city of Pyrgos (Burgas) has the fourth largest population and is the most important port of present day Bulgaria. However, it differs from all the other Bulgarian coastal cities of the Black Sea such as, Varna, Sozopoli, Anchialos, Mesimvria and Agathoupoli as it was not a colony which had been established in the antiquity by the Greeks. It’s history began later , during the Ottoman rule.
2. The establishment of the city
There is no reliable information as to the exact date that the city was established. According to tradition, one possibility is that in the middle of the 17th century fishermen from Anchialos and Sozopoli traded in salted fish at the fish market (Balik Bazaar) of Constantinople. Their trade was very successful and so a group of fishermen from a settlement on the Asia Minor coast relocated, with their boats, in search of a more convenient area for fishing. They reached as far as the present day gulf of Burgas and settled there, where fishermen from Anchialos and Sozopoli had already built their huts. With this installation a settlement was organised in the position of modern day Burgas. One of the first names given to it was “The Pigadia”, because there was no drinking water and so the residents were obliged to dig wells. Later on, a third group of fishermen from Constantinople relocated there. It is believed that the first settlement was situated around where the Church of Panagia stands today.1
The settlement is first referred to for the first time in the middle of the 17th century by the Ottoman geographer and scientist, Chatzi Kalfa, in his geographical description of Roumeli and Bosnia. Chatzi Kalfa refers to it both as Burgas and as Pyrgos and also mentions the fact that it is the primary port outside the Bosphorus region in the Black Sea. The name Pyrgos probably came from the castle that was found in the medieval settlement of Poros or Phoros, the aim of which had been to guard the entrance to the city of Skafida. Burgas was the Turkish version of the name, Pyrgos.
A century later, the settlement has grown significantly enough for foreigners passing through that region to record it. Wenzel Edler von Brognard, an Austrian diplomat who was travelling along the west coast of the Black Sea to the estuary of the Danube in 1786, provided us with the first complete description of the city. He wrote that Burgas, comprising 1,000-1,200 houses, was the largest and richest settlement in that region. Under its jurisdiction were all the surrounding villages. The basic trade which was developed was connected with timber and construction materials, fruit, oil and sea salt.2
During the years of the Russo-Turkish war, 1828-1829, the Russian military authorities appreciated the geographical position of the port and established, in Pyrgos, the headquarters of the Russian army. From the stay of Russian officers in the city, we have the description of colonel Gieneholm, according to whom there were 481 buildings in Burgas, 212 of which were Turkish, 116 Greek, 29 Armenian and 7 of which were Gypsy. Apart from these, there were also 112 workshops, one Turkish bath, a mosque, a church and three mills.3
Information regarding the development of the city in the following decades is limited. Nevertheless, during the Crimean War, 1853-1856, Burgas was the centre of the Anglo-French allied forces and from its port, steamships loaded with ammunition were sent to the Peninsula of Crimea. During that period, the great Polish poet Adam Mickiewicz also resided in the city , and visited the important Ottoman pasha Santik, there.
Up until the 19th century the settlement of Burgas was under the administration of the of Anchialos. In the fifth decade of the 19th century, after reforms in the administrative sector, the new kaza of Pyrgos was organised from the regions of the kazas of Anchialos and Rousokastro.4 This shows the increased role of the settlement which, from the first half of the century, changed from a simple port to a small city. This change of status was due not only to the growth of trade and the opening up of Burgas to markets apart from that of Constantinople but also, to the trade practised there on behalf of neighbouring, Sozopolis and Anchialos. The administrative status of the city was preserved after 1878 when, along with the law regarding the administrative division of Eastern Romilia, the district of Burgas was created; and which continue to exist after the incorporation of Eastern Romilia into the Principate of Bulgaria (1885).
3. The Ethnic groups of the city. The Greeks of Burgas
The ethnic mosaic of the city was quite varied. Apart from the Greeks who moved there in the first hundred years after the establishment of the settlement, that is, from the mid-seventeenth to the mid-eighteenth centuries, various Turks, primarily tradesmen and fishermen, also settled there. From the second half of the 18th century the emigration of Bulgarians also began, comprising basically of farmers and tradesmen.5 In 1814 , from the regions of Armenia, the first Armenians arrived.6 Later, in the seventh decade of the 19th century, approximately sixty families of Tatars from the south of Russia and after the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-1878 Jewish merchants settled there in addition to a new group of Armenians.
From its establishment and until the Crimean War, Burgas remained in the shadow of Anchialos, not only administratively and economically but also demographically. The Russian colonel, Gieneholm mentioned that in 1829, 116 Greek homes existed in the city, that is, approximately 700 people resided there. Up till 1879 we do not have clear data on its Greek population whilst in the subsequent period it is not always easy to determine the number with accuracy because, sometimes, the information in the censuses and from the annual records of the prefects are referring not only to the city but also to the provinces or the prefecture of Burgas. The first statistics are in 1880. According to these, in the province of Burgas (that is, the urban communities of Burgas and Sozopoli) lived 26,045 people, 3,830 of whom were Greek (1,917 men and 1,913 women).7 An article in the "Philippoupoli" newspaper of the same year, mentioned that 400 Greek families (approximately 2,000 people) resided in the city.8 Three years after the incorporation of Eastern Romilia into Bulgaria (in the year 1888), in Burgas were recorded, 1,963 Greeks out of a total population of 5,749.9 In 1900, using the mother tongue as the criterion, out of the 11,738 residents of the city 3,679 were Greek (1,991 men and 1,688 women).10
After the First World War the Greek population of Burgas declines, a fact which is connected to intergovernmental agreements on the exchange of populations. In 1920 there lived in the city, 2,075 Greeks11 whilst in 1926, in all the province of Burgas, the Greeks numbered just 1,238.12
4. Greek education in Pyrgos (Burgas)
The development of the Greek education in Burgas was slow in comparison to other large urban centres, like Varna and Philippoupoli (Plovdiv). The first school, naturally of an elementary level of education, opened in 1845. Ten years later, A. Papadopoulos-Vretos mentioned that 120 pupils attended the school, and yet, there was only one teacher who also performed the duties of a priest.13 In 1862 a secondary school was in operation. In that same year, in the city, there were approximately 450 students, both boys and girls.14 During 1879-1880, at both the urban school for boys and the school for girls (which later evolved into an urban school, including a kindergarten) a total of 250 students were being educated.15 As the interest in education for girls grew in the middle of the 19th century, a girls’ school was opened, specifically in 1862, which, however, closed down two years later due to financial difficulties, and re-operated in 1879. The largest number of students was recorded in 1906 when more than 500 children attended lessons at both schools (7 classes for boys and 9 for girls) and kindergarten.16 The number of teachers was small, before 1880 there was basically only one. At the beginning of the twentieth century there were five teachers, reaching eight in 1904.17 An interesting detail is the fact that a student at the beginning and later a teacher at the Greek school (during the period 1866-1868) was the future Bulgarian metropolite of Varna Simeon.
After the establishment of the Bulgarian state and the annexation of Eastern Romilia, the Bulgarian language, apart from those of Greek and French, was taught at the schools of Burgas and, moreover, in the annual examinations which lasted one whole week, representatives of the local authorities were present. The financing of the schools was always difficult. They received donations from wealthy Greeks in Constantinople and Athens, from the monastery of Agia Anastasia and from various societies like that of the Thrace Educational Society, the Greek Philological Association of Constantinople etc. One of the sources of funding was also from theatrical performances at schools, organised by the students and teachers, and which were attended by Greek consuls and later, representatives of the local authorities as well. In the pages of the Neologos newspaper we can read that the Greek schools sometimes received assistance from the Bulgarian state, and indeed, from Prince Ferdinand in person.18
In 1906, owing to the deterioration of relations between Greece and Bulgaria, in many Bulgarian cities the persecutions against the Greek population began. In Burgas, these persecutions reached a peak from the 15th to the 17th of July. The Bulgarians carried out a raid on the Greek church of Koimisis tis Theotokou and renamed it the church of the Metamorphosis of Christ. At the same time they occupied the Greek school next to the church.19 Fortunately, the clashes ended without any serious damage to the city and without any casualties. In that same year the Bulgarian government decided to enforce the law, “Regarding Public Education”, which had been passed in 1891. Under the articles of this law: the children of Bulgarian citizens of different Christian denominations were to receive elementary education in the Bulgarian language, no private school could be established without the permission of the minister of education and, moreover, it was mandatory for the Bulgarian language to be taught in all private schools and the principals and teachers of whom had to be Bulgarian citizens.20 For a long time, the parents of the Greek children of Burgas reacted, by not enrolling their children in Bulgarian schools. They preferred to arranged private lessons at home or send their children to Catholic school or/and to Greece.21 The following year (1907) the Pyrgos school board announced to the residents of the city that all the children of Bulgarian citizens of the Orthodox dogma would have to be sent to public and not private schools as these were designated for foreign citizens. Parents who failed to comply would be punished.22 Basically, the enforcement of this law and the circular of the School Board led to the extinction of Greek education in Burgas, and in Bulgaria, in general. The last information concerning the Greek school is in the year 1913.23
5. Greek Newspapers
In Burgas, only two Greek newspapers were published (Varna, in comparison, had eight). Gerasimos Skanavis was the publisher of the newspaper "To Vima", which first came out in 1896. It was printed twice a week, on Tuesday and on Friday, and it succeeded the newspaper "O Minitor tou Aimou", which was also published by Skanavis in Philippoupoli. In 1897, the newspaper became a daily one owing to the crisis in Crete, in which Greece played a crucial role. This indicates the interest of the Greeks of Pyrgos in political developments in Greece. The last known issue of the newspaper is on the 4th January, 1898.24 The other edition was the weekly newspaper "Theatis", which was published during the period, March-July, 1899.25 Unfortunately, however, not even one issue of the newspaper has survived.
6. Greek Associations- Cultural Life
The development of education and cultural life of the Greeks in the city in the last quarter of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century is attributed, to a large extent, to the activities of various associations. The oldest and longest –surviving was the educational association, “Efxeinos Pontos”, which operated from 1879 to, at least, 1893 with the encouragement of the metropolitans of Anchialos. It was established by the metropolite Basileios and the Greek vice consul Mavromichalis with the basic aim of collecting money for the new building of the Greek school.26 This association supported financially the schools and the poor of the city. In Burgas, in 1896, the association of “Agios Nikolaos” was active. It provided schools with funds so as to purchase physics and chemistry equipment and for the construction of tanks for their water supply.27 The association “Proodos” was established in 1899, and its primary aim was the provision of material and moral support for the poor and diligent students. It served “a national need and national aims”.28 The association frequently organised musical-dancing evenings, opened reading rooms with books, magazines, newspapers, provided impoverished students with the basic necessities for their education and also, organised various lectures.29 The last information regarding the association is dated in 1906. In 1900, the fraternity of Greek ladies “Omonoia”, was established, on the initiative of the principal of the girls’ school, Eleni Santorinaiou.30 She herself organised musical and dancing evenings and with the proceeds from these she, once again, supported the poor students. It operated until 1906.31 In 1905, the newspaper "Philippoupolis" published information about a association for the young, named “Philicos Desmos”, which also had a reading room and organised theatrical performances as well. The association “Greek Fraternity Philadelphia” tended to unemployed workers and their families.32
An additional stroke of the brush in the cultural life of the city is the fact that Burgas is the birthplace of a Greek writer who left his mark on Greek literature of the 20th century, Costas Varnalis. He was born in 1884. After completing the Greek school in Burgas and with the assistance of the Greek community, he was sent to Zarifeia Didaskaleia in Philippoupoli. Afterwards, he studied philosophy in Athens and then in France. Even though he never returned to Burgas, he never forgot his birthplace and he devoted many pages in "Philologika Apomnimonevmata" to his yearning for it. In the last years prior to his death (1974), Varnalis often returned, mentally, to his house in the centre of Burgas, to the caravans of camels, which was the great spectacle at the end of the 19th century, to his fellow-citizens, the Bulgarians, Jews and Armenians, to the special religion of his mother- a blend of Christianity and folk exaltation- and to his unwillingness to leave the city and go to Philippoupoli.33
7. Greek participation in the economic life of Burgas
The Greeks of Burgas played a significant role in the economic life of the city. We have information concerning their companies primarily from the local newspapers, in which were published advertisements of Greek stores, agents and industries.
In 1898, the soap factory of “O. Nikolaidis & Sons” was constructed in order to produce Turkish white and green soap.34 In 1910, its owners moved to Greece and sold the factory to the company, “A. Kalfas & Co.”. The company “Triantaphillos Theodosiou & Sons” was established in 1898 in Burgas, the purpose mainly being the trade of edible colonial products. In addition to this, they were also occupied with the production of tahini and oil and in 1912 opened one of the first factories for the production of loukoumia, halvas, tahini and other confectionery products. Another well-known company was that of “Georgios Bezis & Sons”. It was initially established in Rhaedestos (Tekirdağ), but owing to the rapid development of the port of Burgas it relocated and, in 1898, established a steamship agency there. The company expanded quickly and became involved, apart from sea transport, in conveyance to the Danube whilst, it also opened offices in Brăila and in Constanţa. The local newspapers also refer to: Christos P. Iosifidis, who had a jewellery and watch shop out of Burgas, in Soumla and in Varna, the brewery of the Gizelis brothers, the merchant office of the G. Koumenis brothers, the brothers Kourtzis and their steamships, which ran the route between Pyrgos, Varna and Constantinople, the pastry shop of Spyros Ioannidis, the photographic studio of X. Xanthopoulos and I. Kokkinos, the factories of the industrialists Paschalis Kapikoglou and Christos Chrisopoulos, as well as, to Ioannis Armiras whose marble factory received an award in 1892, at the first Bulgarian exhibition in Philippoupoli.35 The Ginelis brothers also participated in this exposition, the drinks of whose , masticha and cognac, were awarded a bronze medal.36 It’s worth noting that at the height of the confrontation between the Bulgarians and the Greeks (1906-1907) the advertisements of Greek companies were continued to be published in Bulgarian newspapers, a fact that signifies the importance of their role in the local economy.
8. The participation of the Greeks in the public life of Burgas
The Greeks of Burgas actively took part in the public life of the city. There is no information regarding their party preferences, however, from the period of Eastern Romilia until the First World War, Greek representatives were elected to the city council, like: E. Aggelidis (1884-1890), Alk. Dimitrakopoulos (1893-1894, 1895-1897, 1908-1911), Christos Chrisopoulos (1895-1897, 1912-1916), Achilleas Ioannidis (1895-1897), Giannakos Saris (1898-1899), A. Chr. Dionisiadis (1898-1899), Kostakis Balasopoulos (1903-1907), Konstantinos Bilis (1903-1907), Nikos Apostolidis (1903-1907), Giannis Ginelis (1898-1899, 1901-1903, 1912-1915, 1915-1917).37
After the Second World War, political refugees from Greece settled in Burgas.
1. Юбилеен сборник 80 години от Освобождението на Бургас (Бургас 1958), pp. 13-15.
2. Ников, П., “Едно неизвестно описание на българския черноморски бряг от Х VІІІ век”, ГСУ ИФФ 28:3 (1931), p. 16.
3. Енехолм, Г., “Бележки върху градовете оттатък Балкана ”, Архив за поселищни проучвания 1 (1938), p. 123.
4. Райчевска, Ц., “Учредяване и административно‑териториален обхват на каза Пиргос (Бургас)”, Известия на Музеите на Югоизточна България 18 (1995), p. 117.
5. Юбилеен сборник 80 години от Освобождението на Бургас (Бургас 1958), p. 33.
6. Юбилеен сборник 80 години от Освобождението на Бургас (Бургас 1958), p. 33.
7. Статистически сведения на Дирекцията на финансиите на Източна Румелия (Пловдив 1880), pp. 1-2.
8. Χατζηαναστασίου, Τ., «Η οικονομική ζωή των Ελληνικών Κοινοτήτων », in the Κοτζαγεώργη, Ξ. (ed.), Οι Έλληνες της Βουλγαρίας. Ένα ιστορικό τμήμα του περιφερειακού ελληνισμού (Θεσσαλονίκη 1999), pp. 247.
9. Резултати от преброяване на населението в Северна и Южна България на 01.І.1888. Бургаски окръг 1 (София 1888), pp. 52-53.
10. Резултати от преброяване на населението на Княжество България на 31.ΧΙΙ.1900, Окръг Бургас 1 (София 1900), pp. 46-47.
11. Резултати от преброяване на населението в царство България на 31.XII.1920. Окръг Бургас 1 (София 1928), pp. 35.
12. Общи резултати от преброяването на населението в царство България на 31.XII.1926 1 (София 1931), pp. 74-75.
13. Papadopoulos - Vretos, A., La Bulgarie ancienne et moderne: sous le rapport géographique, historique, archéologique, statistique et commercial (St. Petersbourg 1856), p. 234.
14. Kotzageorgi, X., “The Greek Community of Burgas. Education and Culture”, Etudes Balkaniques 30:1 (1994), p. 80.
15. Κοτζαγεώργη, Ξ ., «Χαρακτήρας και είδος της εκπαίδευσης του περιφερειακού Ελληνισμού . Τα ελληνικά σχολεία στην Ανατολική Ρωμυλία (Νότιο Βουλγαρία), αρχές 19ου αι. - 1885», Βαλκανικά Σύμμεικτα 7 (1995), p. 100.
16. Kotzageorgi, X., “The Greek Community of Burgas. Education and Culture”, Etudes Balkaniques 30:1 (1994), p. 82.
17. Kotzageorgi, X., “The Greek Community of Burgas. Education and Culture”, Etudes Balkaniques 30:1 (1994), p. 82.
18. Kotzageorgi, X., “The Greek Community of Burgas. Education and Culture”, Etudes Balkaniques 30:1 (1994), p. 83.
19. Newspaper «Бургасki Глас», 21 (22.07.1906), pp. 2-3.
20. Κοτζαγεώργη, Ξ ., «Η ελληνική εκπαίδευση στη Βουλγαρία , αρχές 19ου αι.-1912», in the Κοτζαγεώργη, Ξ. (ed.), Οι Έλληνες της Βουλγαρίας. Ένα ιστορικό τμήμα του περιφερειακού ελληνισμού (Θεσσαλονίκη 1999), p. 276.
21. Newspaper «Бургасki Глас», f. 27 (2.09.2906), pp. 2-3.
22. Κοτζαγεώργη, Ξ ., «Η ελληνική εκπαίδευση στη Βουλγαρία , αρχές 19ου αι.-1912», in the Κοτζαγεώργη, Ξ . (επιμ.), Οι Έλληνες της Βουλγαρίας. Ένα ιστορικό τμήμα του περιφερειακού ελληνισμού (Θεσσαλονίκη 1999), p. 294.
23. Κοτζαγεώργη, Ξ ., «Η ελληνική εκπαίδευση στη Βουλγαρία , αρχές 19ου αι.-1912», in the Κοτζαγεώργη, Ξ . (ed.), Οι Έλληνες της Βουλγαρίας. Ένα ιστορικό τμήμα του περιφερειακού ελληνισμού (Θεσσαλονίκη 1999), p. 301.
24. Loukidou - Mavridou, D ., “An outline of the Greek Press in Bulgaria (1879-1906)”, Balkan Studies 19:1 (1978), pp. 355-356.
25. Loukidou - Mavridou, D ., “An outline of the Greek Press in Bulgaria (1879-1906)”, Balkan Studies 19:1 (1978), p. 356.
26. Kotzageorgi, X., “The Greek Community of Burgas: Education and Culture”, Etudes Balkaniques 30:1 (1994), p. 84.
27. Κοτζαγεώργη, Ξ ., «Σωματειακή οργάνωση - κοινωνικός βίος - πολιτισμός (μέσα 19ου αι.-αρχές 20ού)», in the Κοτζαγεώργη, Ξ . (ed.), Οι Έλληνες της Βουλγαρίας. Ένα ιστορικό τμήμα του περιφερειακού ελληνισμού (Θεσσαλονίκη 1999), pp. 395-396.
28. Μαμώνη, Κ., Σύλλογοι Θράκης και Ανατολικής Ρωμυλίας (1861-1922). Ιστορία και δράση (Θεσσαλονίκη 1995), p. 117.
29. Κοτζαγεώργη, Ξ ., «Σωματειακή οργάνωση - κοινωνικός βίος - πολιτισμός (μέσα 19ου αι. - αρχές 20ού)», in the Κοτζαγεώργη, Ξ . (ed.), Οι Έλληνες της Βουλγαρίας. Ένα ιστορικό τμήμα του περιφερειακού ελληνισμού (Θεσσαλονίκη 1999), p. 396.
30. Μαμώνη, Κ., Σύλλογοι Θράκης και Ανατολικής Ρωμυλίας (1861-1922). Ιστορία και δράση (Θεσσαλονίκη 1995), p. 117.
31. Kotzageorgi, X., “The Greek Community of Burgas. Education and Culture”, Etudes Balkaniques 30:1 (1994), p. 84.
32. Κοτζαγεώργη, Ξ ., «Σωματειακή οργάνωση - κοινωνικός βίος - πολιτισμός (μέσα 19ου αι.-αρχές 20ού)», in the Κοτζαγεώργη, Ξ . (ed.), Οι Έλληνες της Βουλγαρίας. Ένα ιστορικό τμήμα του περιφερειακού ελληνισμού (Θεσσαλονίκη 1999), p. 396.
33. Βάρναλης, Κ., Φιλολογικά απομνημονεύματα (Αθήνα 1980), pp. 24-44.
34. Казакова, В., “Индустрия и индустриалци през 30те години”, Море 7-8 (1999), pp. 14-15.
35. Χατζηαναστασίου, Τ., «Η οικονομική ζωή των Ελληνικών Κοινοτήτων », in the Κοτζαγεώργη, Ξ. (ed.), Οι Έλληνες της Βουλγαρίας. Ένα ιστορικό τμήμα του περιφερειακού ελληνισμού (Θεσσαλονίκη 1999), pp. 247.
36. Урумова, Р., “Участието на населението от Бургаския окръг в Първото българско земеделско -промишлено изложение в Пловдив през 1892 година”, Известия на Музеите на Югоизточна България 16 (1993), p. 301.
37. Христов, А., Бургас. Юбилейна книга, 1940 (Бургас 1940), pp. 184-187.