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Anniversary from the death of the first Bulgarian Exarch, Antim I (Dec. 1st, 1888)

Anniversary from the death of the first Bulgarian Exarch, Antim I (Dec. 1st, 1888)

12/1/2009 12:02:43 AM

Antim I (real name: Atanas Chalukov, 1816-1888): The first Bulgarian exarch, Antim, was born in Lozengrad. After being a student at the Greek School in his hometown, he further studied in Constantinopol. In 1865 he attended the Moscow Clergy Academy. In 1857 he was a teacher of Church History, Russian and Slav languages at a theological school on the island of Halki. In 1868 Antim I was appointed a bishop in Vidin. In 1872 he got elected as the first Bulgarian Exarch after five centuries of slavery.

The Bulgarian Exarchate was established on 28 February 1870 with a Firman from the Sultan, as a result of the long struggle of the Bulgarian people for church independence from the Greek Patriarchate, which had began yet in 1824 in the towns of Vratsa, Skopje and Samokov, but most active in it was the Bulgarian community in Constantinople. After considerable pressure from his Bulgarian subjects, the Ottoman Sultan issued a firman on Feb. 28, 1870, establishing an autocephalous Orthodox Bulgarian National Church. It, and its first Exarch, Antim I, elected only in Feb. 1872, were almost immediately declared schismatic by the Greek patriarch of Constantinople.

The Firman granted the Exarchate the following eparchies: Ruschuk, Silistra, Tirnovo, Lovech, Vratsa, Vidin, Sofia, Samokov, Kjustendil, Nish, Pirot and Veles. It also decided that other eparchies could acknowledge the Exarchate if 2/3 of their Christian inhabitants demanded this. In the course of the Russo - Turkish war of 1877-78, the Bulgarian Exarch Antim I was exiled in Asia Minor and replaced with Josif (1877).

The establishment of Bulgarian Exarchate was result of a national revival period. That was the time that stimulated the evolution of the national literature. National education and culture developed, and a number of schools and reading clubs were established. The struggle for the independence of the Bulgarian Church, led by the leading figures of the Bulgarian National Revival, such as Neophyte Bozveli and llarion Makariopolski, culminated with the establishing of the Bulgarian Exarchate, and the election of the first Bulgarian Exarch Antim I in 1872. With the recognition of the autonomy of the Bulgarian Church community, the ethnic boundaries of the Bulgarian nation in the Ottoman Empire were outlined. The attaining of the Bulgarian spiritual ideal and the growing national self-confidence gave an impetus to the struggle for political liberation.

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