Bulgarian Chitalishte (Community Cultural Centre): practical experience in safeguarding the vitality of the Intangible Cultural Heritage
Selected in 2017 on the Register of Good Safeguarding Practices
Bulgarian chitalishta (cultural community centres) are uniformly distributed across the whole territory of Bulgaria. They are established by communities themselves and are open to everyone irrespective of age, gender, political and religious views. The first chitalishta were established in 1856, and they have been recognized as a key organizational unit of Bulgarian society ever since. In accordance with the Chitalishta Act of 1996, chitalishta are non-governmental self-regulatory organizations. By law, they perform cultural and educational activities aimed at safeguarding the customs and traditions of Bulgarian people, ensuring access to information, distributing knowledge and familiarizing citizens with the values and achievements of science, arts and culture. Chitalishta are central to the process of transmitting intangible cultural heritage in the country, with elderly members playing a key role in encouraging young people to get involved. The efficiency of chitalishte is demonstrated by their increasing numbers over the years and the growing numbers of participants in their activities, representing all ages and population groups. With a view to popularizing and presenting intangible cultural heritage, chitalishta organize festivals, celebrations, gatherings, exhibitions and so on, and one innovative approach for developing chitalishta is the establishment of local centres for documenting, archiving and handing over knowledge and skills.