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1898: First School for the Deaf in Bulgaria, Sofia


"The first school for the deaf was founded in Sofia in 1898 by Ferdinand Urbich, an acknowledged German teacher of the deaf. He was born in Kreutzburg on Vera in Germany.

He completed his teacher's training in Eisenach and started his career in education teaching deaf pupils in Weimar, and afterwards in Hamburg for three years. He then taught a deaf boy in Heidelberg for eleven years. It was there that he met a number of Bulgarian students, Nicola Petkov from Vidin and Nicola Zlatin from Sofia. Urbich asked them if Bulgaria already had a school for the deaf. They did not and Urbich felt it as his duty to do something for the deaf people in Bulgaria and thus he ended up in Sofia in 1897. He learned to speak Bulgarian in one year. 

In April 1898, he opened a private school for - probably - six pupils. His work there was successful and for eight years he paid for everything from his own pocket.

In 1906, the government reconized Urbich's work and the school received tfhe name: "the institute for the deaf recognized by the government".


The method used by Urbich was the oral method, which he had brought with him from Germany. At the same time, he allowed deaf people to use gestures and mimics. He also took care of the training of new teachers for the deaf.

He commanded so much respect that the Deaf Sports Club and a day nursery used his name.

He left Bulgaria in 1918 and lived in Germany until 1945."

from: Deaf Education in Europe - The Early Years: by Henk Betten, 2013


Bulgarian Sign Language has its roots in Russian Sign Language, which was first introduced to the country approximately 10 years later. Sign language was allowed in the classroom by 1945.

In 2013 Deaflympics were held in Sofia, Bulgaria. This event brought many Deaf people from around the world to the country, and increased the awareness among many Bulgarians of Deaf culture and sign language.

  • At present there are three boarding schools in Bulgaria for the Deaf. These schools utilize “oral methods,” emphasizing speaking/voicing Bulgarian and understanding written Bulgarian while downplaying the use of Bulgarian Sign Language (if it is allowed at all in the schools).
  • The concepts of “Deaf culture,” “Deaf community,” etc., are fairly well established in North America and western Europe, but are relatively new concepts in Bulgaria, particularly among hearing Bulgarians. Bulgarian Sign Language is not officially recognized as a minority language by the Bulgarian government.
  • Because of the lack of recognition or protection by the government for the Deaf as a linguistic and cultural group, obtaining support services, such as adequately trained and certified interpreters, is a struggle for the Deaf of Bulgaria.
  • Source: https://joshuaproject.net/assets/media/profiles/text/t19007_bu.pdf, 2015

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