Stoinov, Nikola (1862-1964), The grandfather of Bulgarian Anarchism

Nikola Stoinov

A short biography of noted Bulgarian anarchist communist Nikola Stoinov

Submitted by Battlescarred on January 29, 2024

Nikola Pavlev Stoinov was born on 19th December 1862 at the Bulgarian city of Shumen, into a family of peasant origin, who continued to cultivate land, whilst at the same time, principally in winter, operating a tailor’s workshop. As a student, he witnessed the liberation of Shumen from the Turks by Russian armed forces. Meeting with Russian soldiers, he determined to learn Russian, later also learning French. This allowed him to gain access to anarchist texts in these languages.

Finishing school, Stoinov followed a teaching course and in 1862 became a teacher. Despite the possibilities of occupying more rewarding financially, he dedicated himself to working among the masses. He was moved or sacked several times, but continued with this work, never leaving the region which included the districts of Shumen, Varna, Silistra and Dobrich.

As a resolute anti-militarist he was imprisoned at Rousse for refusing to serve in the armed forces. He called for reforms in education and sent out two appeals to Bulgarian teachers. In one of them, "Guarantee the rights and freedoms of the teacher, especially as an actor in society", issued May 1st 1895 he sketched out the role teachers should play. "The activity of a real national teacher must be in school and outside the school, in society. The interests of education stand higher than personal and party interests! The teacher's career is not only pedagogical, alphabetical, but also social. Teachers are not only leaders of the younger generation, but also a holy beacon in the darkness of socio-political delusion and prejudice. That is why the role of the teacher is necessarily twofold - pedagogical in the school and social in life".

In Divdyadovo, the village where he spent much of his teaching life, (then a village, now swallowed up by Shumen) he organised evening courses for adult literacy and activity at a large community centre.

He took part in the first Teachers’ Congress in Kazanlak in 1893, and was one of the founders of the Bulgarian Teachers’ Union. Together with fellow libertarian Spiro Gulabchev, he set up the first evening schools for adult literacy in the country. He was active in the cenacles of education, and in the Houses of Culture (Tchitalichta, public institutions unique to Bulgaria which promoted educational, artistic, and cultural activities).

He was one of the founders of the newspaper Uchitelsko Dvizhenie (Teachers’ Movement), published from February 1897 in Varna.

He witnessed the police violence at Durankulash when peasants protesting against tithes were viciously attacked, and wrote a series of articles in defence of the peasants. He actively participated in the formation of agricultural associations, created spontaneously by peasants. In his articles on the peasants, he underlines the ignorance and low literacy of this section of society, calling for higher literacy as a means of combatting their exploitation by capital. Later, in 1909, he published the book "The position of the peasant and his needs for education".

He was a member of the Bulgarian Anarchist Communist Federation (FAKB), taking part in its activities and meetings. At the 5th Congress of the FAKB at Yambol, he was the oldest participant. He infected the younger members with his enthusiasm, including his own son.

The police kept a close eye on him, and a report of 1931, at the height of repression, names him, his son Pavel, and twelve others as still being active anarchists in Shumen.

Nikola Stoinov was not deluded by the establishment of the Communist regime in Bulgaria. He was then denied, posts and awards. Despite being threatened with concentration camp and prison in December 1948, he refused to give up his ideas.

In retirement, he tended a vineyard near Shumen, which he himself had planted in a rocky soil, and which had required much effort to establish.

At the age of ninety, wishing to voice his opinions on both domestic and foreign matters, and denied a voice in the press, he published his own bulletin, that he pasted on walls, distributed to his contacts, and left in cafes.

He died peacefully on February 4th, 1964 at an advanced age. A gentle and tolerant man, he was intransigent in his revolutionary position, that the capitalist and authoritarian world could not be replaced without a radical social revolution.

Nick Heath

Balkanski, Gr. Histoire du Mouvement Libertaire en Bulgarie (Esquisse). 1982
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3 months 3 weeks ago

Submitted by Steven. on January 29, 2024

this is great, and glad he had a happier ending than many of your bios!


3 months 2 weeks ago

Submitted by westartfromhere on February 10, 2024

Bet that vineyard produced some tasty wine! If ever you go to Lanzagrote try the local stuff grown traditionally by an ingenious method.