What the whole of the Literary Institute could not accomplish from its founding until the present day with its plethora of scholars, was made possible by Ivan Bogdanov. An example: “Dictionary of Bulgarian Literature” by the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences in three volumes took almost 20 years to be published – since the beginning of the 1970s until the late 1980s. And when it was finally completed, the facts and figures it contained were already outdated, and the writers with the longest biographies were precisely the ones that worked at the Literary Institute.
Such ethics was foreign to Ivan Bogdanov and understandably, some of his “colleagues”, involved with research on Bulgarian literature were envious of his rich and prolific work. Ivan Bogdanov himself, however, was deaf to their hatred. By nature, he was a jovial and smiling person. His eyes and his comportment exuded nobility and spiritual aristocracy. He was obliging and helped anyone seeking his assistance.
The great scholar and researcher of Bulgarian literature, archival scientist and bibliographer (1910-1992) Ivan Bogdanov authored more than 70 books – monographs, essays, articles, encyclopedic dictionaries and reference books – an almost impossible feat for one life-time. Suffice it to mention his immensely valuable works “Bulgarian Literature in Dates and Features”, “Dictionary of Bulgarian Pseudonyms”, “Bulgarian Literary Periodicals”, “ Encyclopedic Dictionaries of Literary Terms”, “13 Centuries of Bulgarian Literature – Events, Authors, Works, Bibliography, Synchronous Repertoire” etc., to realize that he is one of our talented authors, whose books have been used by generations of Bulgarians.
Although totalitarian dictatorship is a challenge to the intellectual, he was genuinely happy for the success of others. In the period 1947- 1960 he was banned from being published.
During that time he did not suffer or complain, he did not demonstrate weakness, but created his own system and organization of work, which led him to numerous interesting and profound studies.
His son, Prof. Bogdan Bogdanov, who is one of our best classic Greek literature scholars, reminisces: “My father was a strong, non-standard, organized and resilient man. Events had made him a loner. He had many acquaintances – Konstantin Konstantinov, Stoyan Zagorchinov, etc. In cafes he enjoyed talking to them about people and events, connected with Bulgarian literature, but did not like wasting time. His strict writing schedule did not make allowances for that.
Official literary critics looked down on him, as a person who “works on his own and is not sure what he is doing”.
Professor Bogdanov recounts, that his father graduated the Law faculty at Sofia University in 1939. From a very young age he dreamed of becoming a writer. He wrote short stories and novellas but did not publish them. In the 1940s, he started publishing small studies. His first big research is connected to Stoyan Mihailovski – his personality, his life and work. In 1946 Bogdanov published the political book “Between truce and peace”, which is a dialogue between the author with an imaginary communist opponent.
After 1947, when he was banned from publishing his works, Ivan Bogdanov made a living as a lawyer and thus supported his family.
His son claims, that his father never stopped his literary pursuits – in order to lead a full life, he needed his research. After his demise, prof. Bogdan Bogdanov handed over his huge archive to the Museum of Bulgarian Literature – manuscripts, letters, bibliography, books, to be made use of by future researchers of Bulgarian literature. “Unfortunately, says the professor, his will was not obeyed: my father’s rich manuscript collection remains in cardboard boxes until this very day”.
Ivan Bogdanov was overjoyed when he learnt that his son wanted to major in classical philology. “if I had to start again, I would also study philology”, said he. Bogdan graduated Sofia University in 1963. He was assistant professor and then lecturer at the university of Veliko Turnovo and Sofia University, Department of Classical Studies. From 1991 until 1993 he was the Bulgarian ambassador to Greece. At present, the Professor is the Chair of the Board of Trustees of New Bulgarian University. He is the author of the substantial studies “History of Ancient Greek Literature”, “Hellenic Literature”, “Myth and Literature”. A shared feature by father and son is that they do not like speaking about themselves, or flooding others with biographical reminiscences. They firmly believe that only he who does not work and has an inferiority complex likes to assume the role of the teller of his own life story.
And yet, prof. Bogdanov shared some interesting details about his family with “Sega”, where many have demonstrated preferences towards belles letters as the highest art form. His father’s parents, Bogdan and Stefka Genchevi, originally from Gabrovo, had a huge bookcase in their house. Bogdan Genchev was a tradesman who owned a textile shop. After he married Stefanka in 1906, he merged his business with his wife’s land and bought a small textile factory in Gabrovo. Although she was financially secure, Stefanka founded the “Mother care” society in Gabrovo, where she had an important role to play and gained high esteem in society. During the Balkan war and the First World War, Bogdan Genchev’s wife helped the doctors in the town hospital. She collected food and clothes for the soldiers at the front lines. She was the first woman in Gabrovo to speak openly and fervently against the provisions of the Treaty of Neuilly.
Stefana put a lot of work and efforts into the schools in Gabrovo. She mortgaged her own home for 1 million leva in order to provide a building for “Mother care” where a professional school was founded. For 30 years of noble work, Tzar Boris ІІІ awarded her with a medal and a certificate for philanthropy.
Stefanka’s father, Ivan Kozhuharov was a parish priest, a respected and wealthy man. His son, Ilia Kozhuharov became Gabrovo’s mayor, and in the 1930s – Minister of Trade and Justice Minister in Georgi Kioseivanov’s Cabinet. Ilia is one of the founders of the Democratic party in Bulgaria, which is why he was revered by Stefan Savov. After 1944, Minister Kozhuharov was sentenced to 10 years labour camp in Belene, but he never later complained about his fate. Ilia died at the age of 101 in 1994. He studied economics and went through the long and complex hierarchy in the Ministry of Finance. His niece and prof. Bogdan Bogdanov’s sister – Albena, also graduated the Economics Institute, but also had a marked fondness towards belles letters. Albena and Bogdan cherish their contacts with talented people.
“One of the greatest evils in Bulgaria is that there is no selection, no feeling for the value of people. And woe on this nation who does not make use of its intelligent people. Its mission is to find them… To comb everywhere and to look for the human being”, Ivan Bogdanov liked saying to his children and relatives.
Galina Mincheva,“Sega” daily
** Picture – Three-year-old Bogdan with his mother and father.