Prof. Minka Zlateva on prof. Philip Panayotov: A Knight of Free Speech

  • 16.06.2023
  • UBJ
  • Rozalina Evdokimova
Prof. Minka Zlateva

On June 14, a dignified and great personality in Bulgarian journalism - prof. Philip Panayotov - passed away. His long-time colleague prof. Minka Zlateva shared memories about him on the website of the UBJ.

- Sad news reached us, prof. Zlateva. We lost a great personality, which was a crown not only for Bulgarian journalism, but also for Bulgarian culture - prof. Philip Panayotov. What is the price of this great loss?

- Immeasurable. Because for personalities like him with a large scope of action, a clear horizon, a fighting temper and a constant striving for more and more diverse creative contributions in different spheres of journalism, book publishing, national psychology and culture, no adequate measurements have been created.

Prof. Philip Panayotov was a historian by training, but he had a keen eye, a quick journalistic reflex, and a keen interest in significant events and brigfht personalities, both past and present.

He started practical journalistic experience first as a reporter at the BTA (1956-1958), and then grew to become editor, department head, and editor-in-chief at a number of youth publications such as Narodna Mladezh daily, the weekly Pulse, and Youth magazine.

In 1969, in parallel with his journalistic activity, Philip Panayotov began working as a lecturer, and after three years as a full-time assistant to prof. Georgi Borshukov at the Faculty of Journalism of Sofia University. He dedicated himself to the history of Bulgarian journalism, to which he remained faithful until the end. He has been the founder and editor-in-chief of the weekly newspaper "ABV" since 1979 for ten years. And when in 1986 he became chairman of the Editorial board of Sofia University, prof. Philip Panayotov founded and directed the University publishing house "St. Kliment Ohridski" for three years.

- How will you remember him and could you share some memories of your encounters with prof. Philip Panayotov?

- His name was widely popular among those working in the youth publications of the 1970s. When I first submitted my text to him for the youth literature and arts weekly Pulse, I realised what a demanding but also benevolent editor he was and what a strong sense for the language he had. He was the same when I sent dispatshes from Berlin for the newspaper "ABV".

Later, fate brought us together at the Faculty of Journalism, where I started working after a competition for an assistant professorship in the Department of History and Theory of Journalism in February 1977. There I had the opportunity to get to know him as a lecturer and head of the department.

He was able to lighten up the atmosphere with a joke and a big smile even during the longest meetings, where we discussed current issues of the educational process, changes in the curricula, preparation of conferences and scientific proceedings. All this often long and complicated administrative side of teaching work remains hidden from the students, but it requires no less time, initiative and efficiency. Prof. Panayotov was able to strike a balance in various controversial situations between colleagues and reach a consensus, for which he showed patience, the ability to listen carefully to the arguments of both sides and to make the most appropriate decisions.

He provided opportunities for creative expressions of students. He included them as participants in scientific conferences and discussions. He had organized a student circle on the history of Bulgarian journalism with many active participants. Even now his former students from the faculty remember with excitement how he organized excursions for them to places related to the history of Bulgaria and its press - Veliko Tarnovo, Bucharest, Braila, Istanbul, etc. This helped them to gain experience and self-confidence, to explore the possibilities of their future profession and they are grateful to him for his care and trust to this day.

- What legacy does Prof. Panayotov leave behind? And with what will we always remember him?

- His legacy is vast and diverse. Let us start with his scientific legacy, with his research in the field of the history of Bulgarian journalism. He gradually included in this sphere a section devoted to old Bulgarian literature by focusing on political writing during the First Bulgarian Kingdom, with an emphasis on questions of Cyrillo-Methodievism; also during the Byzantine rule, in sermons and apocrypha; during the Turkish rule, in hagiographies and damascenes, in folklore, and in the activities of Catholic scribes and preachers who worked in Bulgarian lands.      

When examining our Renaissance period, prof. Panayotov pays special attention to the European origins in the history of Bulgarian journalism and to the publishing centres of our Renaissance periodicals in Turkey, Germany, Austria-Hungary, Serbia, Russia and Romania.

And in the case of our post-liberation journalism, he covers its development from Bulgaria's liberation from Turkish rule to the end of the 20th century. He also presents the dynamic and turbulent events of that time through portraits of important personalities from different periods.

Among his undoubted achievements is the sculpting of the images of Simeon Radev, Stoyan Mikhailovsky, Anton Strashimirov, Ekaterina Karavelova and especially Joseph Herbst with his motto "To please no one, to spite no one" (or in other words: "Never fawn on anyone, never do something to spite someone”.). The professor continued to work on the accuracy of the data about his life and death for decades.

The written heritage of prof. Panayotov includes dozens of his journalistic, scientific and artistic books, studies and articles, as well as "Christomata on the History of Bulgarian Journalism", created together with prof. Georgi Borshukov, published in 1976, the Almanac of Sofia University (1938-1988), the Almanac "Bulgaria XX Century", etc.

He is the master of such brilliant titles as "The Word That Turned the swineherd into King", "Duel in the Airwaves", "The Press in the Fire of the Uprising", "A Story No One Believed", "Without Indiscretions", etc.

Often his scientifically selected factology is colored in his texts by emotion, and polemic is among his favorite techniques. Consider, for example, “Macduff on Stage Again”, where, in the form of a play in three acts, Prof. Panayotov reminds us with harsh sarcasm of "the new exploits of Botev's rejecters". The first of them is Peter Naumov, the author of a book debunked as a pathetic pasquil in 1930 by the then young assistant and future academician Peter Dynekov. And the second is Lyuben Dilov (father), who for his article "Reflections on a Shot Icon" in 1993 met with a strong rebuke from Velislava Dareva in her pamphlet "A remark to the opposite shore", published in the newspaper "Duma".

There is yet another dimension to the legacy of prof. Philip Panayotov - his dedicated teaching work among hundreds of graduates of the Faculty of Journalism, and since 1991 - the Faculty of Journalism and Mass Communications (FJMC) of Sofia University "St. Kliment Ohridski”, as well as from the University of National and World Economy (UNWE) and Varna Free University "Chernorizets Hrabar". He has opened the window of knowledge on the development of the history of Bulgarian journalism to each of them, and has introduced them to its great creators and their most significant works.

But together with the famous three basic “T”-s of acad. I. I. Mintz, necessary for mastering the art of historical research - labor (trud in Bulgarian), theory, talent, prof. Panayotov has passed on to his students one more "T", which he himself formulated in the preface to the book "Newspapers and Newspapermen" by prof. Georgi Borshukov, published posthumously together with the professor's wife, Hriska, in 1984. The fourth "T" - "it was his temperament that was felt in everything he undertook, -wrote prof. Panayotov. - This is also evident in his most academic studies and gives them that uniqueness which is so rare in our historical science".

The gracious student adopted and applied with his own talent all four "T"-s from his Master!

- In just a few months Philip Panayotov would have turned 90. You were at the heart of the initiative to celebrate his anniversary. What should we especially remember this sage of the word for? Can we call him a knight of enlightenment in today's Bulgaria?

- When in January this year Antonia Mechkova proposed in the electronic newspaper to celebrate the 120th anniversary of the birth of prof. Georgi Borshukov by placing a memorial plaque on the house where he lived, a group of professors and students from FJMC readily supported the idea and so an initiative group was formed to mark the anniversary. Since 2023 also marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Prof. Dr. Dafin Todorov, and on 30 October Panayotov would be 90 years old, I made a proposal that our initiative group should turn to the UBJ to celebrate within our professional community the jubilees of the three Bulgarian historians of the press.

At its meeting on April 6, the UBJ Board supported the idea the celebration to take place on the Day of the National Enlighteners - November 1, and proposed to Sofia University and its Faculty of Journalism and Mass Communications to become its co-organizers. On April 11 this year, the Faculty Council agreed to become a co-organizer and decided that the celebration would take place on November 1 at 11 am in the Faculty's Magna Hall and would be dedicated to the 135th anniversary of our Alma Mater.

Although prof. Panayotov entered his jubilee year but did not live to meet his 90th birthday, I think we can give him the respect and recognition he deserves along with that to prof. Georgi Borshukov and prof. Dafin Todorov.

All colleagues who wish to share their memories of the three historians of the press can send them to the editors of the electronic newspaper for publication, after which it would be good to summarize them in an anniversary collection.

I will remember prof. Philip Panayotov for the breadth of his interests, for his dedication and fidelity to the courageous journalism and the serious historical science, for his deep respect for his greatest teacher prof. Georgi Borshukov, for his cheerful sense of humour and his warm smile.   

He was a sage, successful in reaching agreement on important decisions, and a tireless knight of free speech.

A deep bow to his bright memory!