The Bulgarian Collection at the Library of Congress

Bulgaria has a long and rich history, a fascinating landscape that ranges from rolling green hills to the high peaks of the Pirin Mountains, and a coastline that includes wide sandy beaches and the beautiful Black Sea. The population of 7.3 million lives in a land whose culture is as diverse as its landscape. Bulgarian cuisine is primarily Slavic, but it has been influenced by Turkish, Greek and Middle Eastern traditions, and its wines have gained international acclaim.

The country’s rich natural resources include vast reserves of lignite and anthracite coal; non-ferrous ores including copper, lead, zinc, silver and gold; rock salt, gypsum, and kaolin; and several kinds of mineral water. The economy is based on services, agriculture, and industry. The president is the head of state and commander in chief of the armed forces, and his or her term is five years. He or she schedules elections and referendums, represents the country abroad, concludes international treaties, and has a veto power in regard to legislation passed by the National Assembly.

In addition, the country has a complex drainage pattern characterized by short rivers and a number of lakes. Three national parks (Rila, Pirin and Central Balkan) and a number of nature reserves have been set up to preserve the country’s wildlife.

Historically, the LC collection of Bulgarian materials was limited in scope, with emphasis placed mainly on government publications. Despite this, the library has acquired valuable nineteenth- and early twentieth-century material, such as the Bulgarian bibliography Biblioteka Sveti Kliment [Library of St. Kliment] (1894-1915), Ivan Vazov’s Dennitsa [Morning star] (1990-1891), and the 1896 volume of Misul [Thought].

Today, LC staff involved with Bulgarian acquisitions number three: a Bulgarian recommending officer/reference specialist in the European Division who also works with Russian (this author); a Bulgarian/Slavic serials cataloger in the Acquisitions and Bibliographic Access Directorate (ABA); and a support staff member in ABA to help process Bulgarian materials. The ABA staff includes two native Bulgarian speakers.

The LC collection of Bulgarian literature is still small, but the library’s commitment to providing the American public with all types of materials continues unabated. The current staff is optimistic that a growing interest in Bulgarian among scholars, students and the general public will stimulate the growth of a more complete collection. LC has a number of strategies to promote this, including working with Bulgarian immigrants in the United States. It is also hoped that the growing community of Bulgarians in the US will encourage their families to make gifts to LC. Until recently, the majority of the Bulgarian material in LC was donated by individuals. The return of private property to pre-collectivization owners and heirs following the collapse of communism has boosted agricultural and forest land ownership. Foreign investors have also fueled development of industrial production. A major mining industry is concentrated in the northeast, which has large deposits of lignite and anthracite coke; and metal ores such as chromite, nickel, iron, silver and gold.