He was born in Braila on October 18, 1833. He studied at a Romanian high school, after which he moved to a Bulgarian one. Popovich served as a clerk at the English Consulate in Braila and Galati from 1848 to 1850. From 1851 to 1856 he studied at the Kiev Second High School. In 1857, he enrolled at the University of Kiev, but after a short time he left and became a student at the Faculty of History and Philology of Moscow University, where he edited Bratski trud magazine. In 1859, he published his first work, Откъс от разказите на моята майка. Разходка до лозето. Българска повест. [An Excerpt from My Mother’s Stories. A Walk to the Vineyard. Bulgarian Long Short Story.]
In 1861 Vasil Popovich returned to Braila and devoted himself to various activities. He assisted to the publishing of G. Rakovski’s Bulgarski lebed newspaper. He was a teacher at the Central Bulgarian School in Bolgrad. In Braila he participated in the troupe of Dobri Voynikov. In 1869, Popovich was elected a Corresponding Member of the Bulgarian Literary Society (today’s Bulgarian Academy of Sciences).
After the Liberation he published his only collection of poems, Детска гусла [Children’s Rebeck] (1879). He was elected MP. Popovich continued to work as a teacher in the Bulgarian Principality and even became a teacher in Bulgarian of Knyaz Alexander I of Bulgaria (Battenberg) (1881). At the end of his life, he published the following works: За звуковете. Конспект из етимологията на новобългарския език [The Sounds Study. Synopsis of the etymology of the New Bulgarian language], the dramas Примерните родители срещу примерните си деца [Exemplary parents against their exemplary children], Пролетариите или трай коньо за зелена трева [Proletarians, or What you expect will not happen ... but if you like it – endure it and hope for it!]. He died in Sofia on August 7, 1897.
Vasil Popovich’s work is diverse. He worked in both prose and poetry. He wrote perhaps the earliest Bulgarian long short story, many stories, dramas, a number of poems, the most popular of which are the children’s, collected in Детска гусла.
His long short story, Откъс от разказите на моята майка. Разходка до лозето was printed in 1859, about a year before Lyuben Karavelov’s Voyvoda (1860) and Vasil Drumev’s Unhappy Family (1860). Whether it can be considered to be the first Bulgarian long short story depends on what criteria determine a work to be considered as part of Bulgarian literature. If only the author has a certain origin, that is, if he is Bulgarian, everything written is part of Bulgarian literature, or everything that is written in Bulgarian is Bulgarian literature. Other criteria may be deduced, but in this case, Разходка до лозето is a work that remains relatively foreign to the Bulgarian audience as it was published in a foreign language (Russian) and in a foreign country – the Russian Empire. This hesitation does not in any way negate the fact that Vasil Popovich was one of the early Bulgarian prose writers, neither the merits of his story.
The work has a complicated structure. A mother tells her son about the stories she has heard about. She witnessed only the fact that three Bulgarians were beaten to a stake, and when she was little she did not fully comprehend the horrifying sight she had seen. Like the Voyvoda and the Unhappy Family, the main motive is the suffering of the Bulgarians under Ottoman rule.
The first dramaturgical work of Bulgarian literature is considered to be Монолог или мисли на владиката Иларион [Monologue or Thoughts of Bishop Ilarion]. The work is a monologue representing the thoughts of the priest. The main motive is the encroachment on the Bulgarian books and the presence of a foreign enemy. Ilarion is Greek in origin and his thoughts reflect the tensions of the struggle for independent church. The cunning Greek, looking to hurt the Bulgarians, is a typical character in the Revival Period works. It can be traced back to Paisiy Hilendarski’s Slavic-Bulgarian History.
After the Liberation, Vasil Popovic continued his career as a writer. The readers’ attention is drawn to his children’s poems, which were collected in the Детска гусла (1879). In the preface, the author defined four requirements that poetry for children must meet – to nurture the moral virtues of the people, to conform to children’s age and to the spiritual world of the young reader, to have an easy-to-understand subject matter, and to be written in a comprehensible and sound language (Симеонов, 2005: 72). His most voluminous work, the long short story Беше. Повест из разказите и дневника на моя учител [As it was. A story from my teacher’s short stories and diary] was published in 1883 as a supplement to Balkan newspaper.
The author also established himself as an artist, critic and linguist with the study За звуковете. Конспект из етимологията на новобългарския език. The Bulgarian literary canon generally rejected it, but Vasil Popovich has his deserved place among the pioneers of Bulgarian literature.
- Васил Попович. Съчинения. Съст. Н. Аретов. София, Кралица Маб, 2001.
- Аретов, Н. Васил Попович. Живот и творчество. София, Кралица Маб, 2000.
- Аретов, Н. Българската литература от епохата на националното възраждане. София, Кралица Маб, 2009.
- Симеонов, И. Творци и проблеми на литературата за деца. Пловдив, УИ: Паисий Хилендарски, 2005.
- Силяновска-Новикова, Т. Васил Попович и началото на българското изкуствознание – Известия на Института за изобразителни изкуства, 1958, 2, 75–134.