Samokov News: Newspaper of the American Board’s Principal Schools in Bulgaria

The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions’ work among Bulgarians can be traced to 1840, when the ABCFM’s press at Izmir issued a New Testament in the Bulgarian language. Despite excellent sales (including more than two thousand in less than a week at a single event in 1841), as well as Bulgaria’s favorable prospects for religious labor, the Board did not establish permanent stations there for almost two decades. In 1858, the ABCFM appointed Charles F. Morse as its first missionary to the Bulgarians, and he took up residence in Edirne. More personnel were dispatched to the region the following year, and they opened stations at Stara Zagora (Eski Zagra) and Plovdiv (Philippopolis).

By the mid-1860s, Board missionaries had launched schools in the latter cities: a boys’ school at Plovdiv and a school for girls in Stara Zagora. Both institutions were transferred to Samokov in the 1870s, where they prospered for the next half century.1As part of a general downsizing of its work in the Near East and Balkans after WWI, the ABCFM decided to close the Samokov schools in the mid 1920s; however, objections from alumni and other supporters in Bulgaria prompted the Board to turn them over to a new non-profit corporation, Sofia American Schools (SAS), to reconstitute them as the American College of Sofia (ACS), which opened to its first students in 1928.

ACS was forced to close during WWII, and in 1947, the Bulgarian government seized its campus and properties. The political changes of 1989 created an opportunity to reopen the college, and in 1992, after a hiatus of 50 years, ACS resumed operations.

The Samokov News commenced publication in 1922, as a joint publication of the American Board’s boys’ and girls’ schools in Samokov. Edited and published entirely by students, to serve as an internal news bulletin, it was nevertheless distributed in outside circles. In 1926, when the schools were transferred to SAS, to become the American College of Sophia, the paper was renamed Sophia News. The ARIT Istanbul (ARIT-I) Library contains the first volume and one issue of volume 2 of this rare periodical, which offers a glimpse into the ABCFM’s two most important educational institutions in Bulgaria, the predecessors of today’s American College of Sophia. Digital copies are available via the links below.


v. 1 : no. 1 (Nov. 1922)
v. 1 : no. 2 (Jan. 1923)
v. 1 : no. 3 (Mar. 1923)
v. 1 : no. 4 (May 1923)
v. 2 : no. 1 (Nov. 1923)

1. For more information on the ABCFM’s mission to Bulgaria and its educational institutions in this era, see William Webster Hall, Puritans in the Balkans, Sofia, 1938.