The history of Balkan and Bulgarian Protestants is still little to the general audience. Persecuted by the communist government, Protestant Bulgarians hold documents containing vital information on the development of Protestantism in the Balkans and Bulgaria. This heritage risks being lost to poor preservation.
Although Protestant missionaries started coming to the Ottoman Empire in the nineteenth century, there is no archival or digital collection dedicated to them. Evangelical Christianity is not an official religion in Bulgaria and its believers are still perceived as ‘sectarians’. To uncover the history of this persecuted population, the project aimed to locate and digitise photographs, letters, brochures, church diaries and other documents that have not yet been archived. The documents belong to Bulgarians, Turks, Gypsies/Roma, Jews, and Armenians and are written in the native languages of the communities (Turkish, Romany/Gypsy language, Hebrew, etc.).
Out of fear of persecution and imprisonment, some Protestants destroyed their archives. Protestant families store their materials improperly in cardboards boxes or paper bags. As there is no interest in archiving and making the material available, the documents risk being lost.
This survey project discovered various photographs, albums, id cards, letters, wedding and baptism certificates, training certificates, religious booklets, protocol books, and other text materials in Bulgarian, Romani and Armenian. The project digitised over 1,000 documents, and was well received in the Protestant communities and by scholars around the world. The project helped staff of the Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Studies develop their archival and digitisation skills.