Bulgarian Freemasonry After 1992
BULGARIAN FREEMASONRY AFTER 1992
From the Book ‘25 Years, The United Grand Lodge of Bulgaria’
Written by VW Bro Mihail Dimitrov, Past Grand Orator of UGLB.
The socio-political changes in Bulgaria after 1989, became the basis for the re-establishment of a number of institutions and structures from earlier times; one of which was Freemasonry.
Freemasonry in Bulgaria existed from 1917 and made dormant in 1940 and was subsequently disbanded by virtue of the “Law for Protection of the Nation”. Not long after that it was declared illegal.
Bulgarian Freemasonry was eventually reinstated by two completely independent strands:
А) The first was the line of the Grand Lodge of Yugoslavia (GLY);
- B) The second was the line of the United Grand Lodges of Germany (UGL’s G) and its constituent Grand Lodge, the Grand Lodge of the Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of Germany (GLAFAM of Germany).
- The first line: The Grand Lodge of Yugoslavia (GLY)”:
In the not so distant 1990, by the initiative of the GLY, selected Bulgarian citizens were invited to join member Lodges of the GLY. Shortly thereafter (in 1991) their Initiations within “Pobratim” Lodge in Belgrade began. During the same year 35 Bulgarians were Initiated, of which 25 were Raised to the Degree of a Master Mason. The first one to receive the Third Degree was Bro Georgi Krumov.
This made it possible for three Lodges to be Consecrated in Bulgaria in January 1992, working under the Jurisdiction of the GLY, respectively: the Lodges “Sgovor”, “Svetlina” and “Zarya”. These Lodges continued to attract and Initiate new members and began to start the proper preparations and necessary procedures for the eventual foundation of the future Grand Lodge of Bulgaria.
In September 1992, a delegation of Yugoslav Masons led by their Grand Master at the time, MW Bro Zoran Nenezic, attended the 148th Anniversary of the Grand Lodge of California. Brother Georgi Krumov was part of that delegation. In the course of the visit, the Grand Lodge of California was informed about the desire of the newly Initiated and Raised Bulgarian Masons to Install a Grand Lodge in Bulgaria. An inviation was extended to the Grand Lodge of California to be the Installing Grand Lodge. This offer was made in spite of the fact that the initial intention was for the GLY itself to be the Installing Lodge. But, guided by ethical considerations, the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of California declined the invitation, and at the same time recommended that the Grand Lodge of Yugoslavia itself should proceed with the Foundation of the new Grand Lodge.
The chronology of events which preceded the Foundation of the Grand Lodge of Bulgaria.
On 22 October 1992, each of the three Lodges, “Sgovor”, “Svetlina”, and “Zarya”, wrote to the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Yugoslavia with a request that the Grand Lodge of Yugoslavia become the founder of the Grand Lodge of Bulgaria.
On 28 October 1992, the three Lodges held meetings during which they nominated the delegates for the General Assembly and for the Executive Committee, whose brief was to work towards the foundation of the Grand Lodge of Bulgaria.
On 10 November 1992, the Executive Committee met to elect the future Grand Master and Grand Officers and to choose and appoint the date for the foundation of the Grand Lodge which was to be the 5th December 1992.
On 5 December 1992, by virtue of the sincere enthusiasm expressed by these three member Lodges, the Grand Lodge of Yugoslavia founded the Grand Lodge of Bulgaria with the Installation of MW Bro Georgi Krumov as Grand Master.
Thus, the building of contemporary Bulgarian Freemasonry began, which was characterised by the newly founded Grand Lodge of Bulgaria undertaking the fundamental strengthening of its structures and encouraging a gradual growth in numbers by admitting new members into the three regularly constituted Lodges under its own Jurisdiction. Growth of membership was also helped by the Consecration of new Lodges.
- The second line: From the United Grand Lodges of Germany (UGL’s G) and its constituent Grand Lodge, the Grand Lodge of the Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of Germany (GLAFAM of Germany).
On the 29th of May 1992, seven Bulgarian citizens, residing in Munich, Germany, were Initiated into Masonry in the Temple of “Lessing zum Flamenden Stern” Lodge, a member of the GLAFAM of Germany. The Grand Master at the time was MW Brother Klaus Horneffer. The idea of Initiating Bulgarian citizens initially belongs to the Bulgarian, RW Brother Ivan Voinov, a long-time Freemason, who held high positions within the German Brotherhood. These actions were undertaken in parallel to but independent from the actions already being taken by the Grand Lodge of Yugoslavia.
On the following day, the 30th of May 1992, with the special sanction of the Grand Master of the UGL’s of Germany, MW Brother Rainer Schicke, four of the newly Initiated Bulgarian Brethren were Raised to the Degree of a Master Mason in order to return to Bulgaria and to partake in the installation of a regularly constituted Lodge in Bulgaria under the GLAFAM of Germany.
On the 24th of October 1992, a group of German Brethren from „Lessing zum Flammenden Stern” Lodge visited Bulgaria and Initiated new members, and Raised them to the Degree of a Master Mason. A “deputation” Lodge “Zora” was Constituted in Sofia which began admitting new members. This continued until the Summer of 1994.
On the 24th and 25th of June 1994, a delegation from „Lessing zum Flammenden Stern” Lodge visited Bulgaria, headed personally by the Grand Master of the GLAFAM of Germany, MW Brother Klaus Horneffer, whose aim was the Consecration of additional regular Bulgarian Lodges, operating under the GLAFAM of Germany. Upon completing the requisite documentation and performing the respective Rituals, the following Lodges were regularly Constituted:
„Zora” Lodge, Orient Sofia, pat. № 1001/ 24.06.1994.
„Svetlina” Lodge, Orient Sofia, pat. № 1002/ 24.06.1994.
„Serdika” Lodge, Orient Sofia, pat. № 1003/ 25.06.1994.
The three Lodges began their work using the By-laws of the „Lessing zum Flammenden Stern” Lodge. The patent numbers were those which were entered into the books of the GLAFAM of Germany. At that time, the total number of the Brethren who were members in these three lodges was 44.
On the 3rd August 1996, a delegation of the GLAFAM of Germany visited Bulgaria again and Consecrated two more Lodges:
„Zaria” Lodge, Orient Sofia, pat. № 1012/ 03.08.1996.
„Chernomorski priateli” Lodge, Orient Varna, pat. № 1013/04.08.1996.
From August 1996 untill March 1997, delegations from „Lessing zum Flammenden Stern” Lodge and the GLAFAM of Germany visited Bulgaria and held discussions concerning the desire expressed by the Bulgarian Brethren to install a new Grand Lodge.
On the 10th November 1996 the five Bulgarian Lodges, working within the GLAFAM of Germany, upon a sanction by the Grand Master, MW Brother Klaus Horneffer, held a General Assembly during which they elected Brother Ivan Stavrev as Grand Master and also the members of the future Board of Grand Officers, who would be officially Invested at the forthcoming Installation of the Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of Bulgaria (GLAFAM of Bulgaria).
On the 24th April 1997, the Grand Master Elect, Brother Ivan Stavrev, petitioned the Senate of the UGL’s of Germany with a request for the Installation of an independent, full-fledged and perfect Grand Lodge of Bulgaria.
On the 26th April 1997, at a meeting held in Hamburg, the Senate of the UGL’s of Germany formally adopted a resolution at the request of the Bulgarian Brethren, to include in its agenda the installation of an independent Grand Lodge in Bulgaria – the Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of Bulgaria (GLAFAM of Bulgaria). All the Grand Lodges with which the UGL’s of Germany had official fraternal relations were notified about this intention. The necessary preparations were then begun, which included:
On the 27th April 1997, the Grand Master of the UGL’s of Germany, MW Brother Rainer Schicke notified in writing the Grand Master Elect, the MW Brother Ivan Stavrev, of the resolution adopted by the Senate of the UGL’s of Germany to proceed with the Installation of the Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of Bulgaria (GLAFAM of Bulgaria).
On the 20th September 1997, the Ritual for the Installation of the Grand Lodge of Antient Free and Accepted Masons of Bulgaria was performed. The Ceremony was conducted by the Grand Master of the UGL’s of Germany, MW Brother Rainer Schicke and the Grand Master of the GLAFAM of Germany, MW Brother Klaus Horneffer. MW Brother Ivan Stavrev was Installed as Grand Master of GLAFAM of Bulgaria. Delegations of the Grand Lodges of Germany, Austria, Italy and Greece were also present. The five Bulgarian Lodges working until then under the GLAFAM of Germany, returned their German patents and were solemnly Constituted and registered in the books of the newly Installed GLAFAM of Bulgaria.
Soon afterwards, by a Decision of the Sofia City Court, dated 21April 1998, and pursuant to the laws of the Republic of Bulgaria, the GLAFAM of Bulgaria was entered into the Court Register, as a legitimate non-profit association. In addition, the five founding Lodges of the GLAFAM of Bulgaria were also granted the same status.
During the first years (1997-2000) of its independent operation, the GLAFAM of Bulgaria Cosecrated 7 additional Lodges:
„Маdarа” Lodge, Orient Shumen, pat. № 006/06.12.1997;
„Dunavska Zvezda” Lodge, Orient Rouse, pat. № 007/06.06.1998;
„Моrska Zvezda” Lodge, Orient Varna, pat. № 008/15.05.1999;
„Zvezdata na Sofia” Lodge, Orient Sofia, pat. № 009/23.01.2000;
„ТаNакRа” Lodge, Orient Dobrich, pat. № 010/30.09.2000;
„Prof. Asen Zlatarov”, Orient Sofia, pat. № 011/04.11.2000;
„Mizia” Lodge, Orient Pleven, pat. № 012/11.11.2000.
Thus, the total number of member Lodges within the GLAFAM of Bulgaria became 12.
During the period, 1997–2000, the GLAFAM of Bulgaria established formal contacts with, and received recognitions from, more than 35 Grand Lodges, including the UGL’s of Germany and the regular Grand Lodges from: Netherands, Turkey, Russia, Greece, Romania, Canada, Australia, a number of Grand Lodges from the USA. Official delegations and representatives of the GLAFAM of Bulgaria took part in a multitude of events and Masonic initiatives of the Brotherhood worldwide. A number of Twinning Ceremonies took place between Lodges from GLAFAM of Bulgaria and member Lodges from other Grand Lodges.
The continued development of the GLB: the first line.
During the actions being taken and applied by the so-called “second line” described above, the GLB, which was Installed on the 5th December 1992, continued to exist and to develop through regular means by expanding its membership and establishing itself internationally. The GLB received recognitions from the Grand Lodge of of Kansas, the Grand Lodge of Illinois, as well as the particularly valuable recognition from the Grand Lodge Alpina of Switzerland, resolved officially on 7 June 1999. A number of new Lodges were consecrated and by the end of 2000 there were seven Lodges with a membership of around 200 Brethren.
In 1997, two Grand Masters were elected in the course of two consecutive Annual Communications of the Grand Lodge – first, MW Brother Stoyan Raychevski, and at the end of the same year, MW Brother Yanko Bonev, who remained Grand Master until the Act of the Unification in 2001 (see below).
The years immediately after 1997, which was the year of the Installation of the GLAFAM of Bulgaria, were devoted to the process of strengthening the structures of both parallel existing Grand Lodges in Bulgaria, as well as to their efforts for their further legitimation in the Masonic world.
Thus, in June 2000, a delegation of Masons from the GLB, led by the Grand Master, MW Brother Yanko Bonev took part in the Annual Communication of the Grand Lodge Alpina of Switzerland during which meetings were held including conversations with the Grand Master of the UGL’s of Germany, MW Brother Alfred Koska, and with the Grand Secretary of the UGL of England, RW Brother James Daniel and others. The situation regarding Bulgarian Jurisdiction was discussed, as well as the granting of formal recognition to the GLB from the United Grand Lodge of England. The Grand Secretary of the UGLE recommended that the GLB should prepare and send its “Application Form” for obtaining recognition. At the same time, the Grand Secretary of the UGLE stressed the fact that they would prefer to see Masonry in Bulgaria united, and that the UGLE would consider this in taking any decision about resolving the question of recognition. The conversation between the MW Brother Yanko Bonev with MW Brother Alfred Koska had a very important cognitive character and undoubtedly contributed to the constructive attitude adopted by the latter, regarding the issue which was crucial for Bulgarian Freemasonry – the unification of the two existing regular Grand Lodges in Bulgaria (see below).
On the 20th September 2000, the 3-year term of office of the Grand Master and the Council of Grand Officers of the GLAFAM of Bulgaria expired.
Preparations for a Regular Annual Communication began and it was held on the 24th November 2000. All Grand Lodges maintaining Brotherly relations with the GLAFAM of Bulgaria were invited as guests. All the 12 Lodges members of the GLAFAM of Bulgaria participated in the Communication. Of these, 11 Lodges had the right to vote. Brother Borislav Sarandev was elected as a Grand Master with 6 votes in his favor. On the next day, during the Ceremony of the Annual Communication, MW Brother Ivan Stavrev, who was also nominated but was not elected, officially proclaimed the result of the election in the presence of all attending Brothers and representatives of foreign Grand Lodges. In keeping with the Constitution of the GLAFAM of Bulgaria, the newly elected Grand Master, MW Brother Borislav Sarandev was duly obligated.
However, even before the Annual Communication was closed, tension arose among its participants. This tension continued after the Communication had concluded and was based on the claim by a group of Brothers headed by the Past Grand Master MW Brother Ivan Stavrev, who had failed to obtain the majority vote, that the legitimacy of the vote was in doubt, as well as the voting right exercised by the Lodge Masters present.
At the end of December 2000, the Grand Master of the UGL’s of Germany, MW Brother Alfred Koska sent a letter to the GLAFAM of Bulgaria, informing them that the UGL’s of Germany recognise as legitimate the election of the Grand Master MW Brother Borislav Sarandev and that they stood by their recognition of the Grand Lodge.
On the 24th December 2000, MW Brother Borislav Sarandev was formally Installed as Grand Master and was compelled to issue an Ordinance whereby the five “discontent” Lodges and Brothers, were “put to sleep”. Among them was the Past Grand Master, MW Bro Ivan Stavrev.
Several months later, on the 8th May 2001, the High Masonic Court of the GLAFAM of Bulgaria (regular and recognised) definitively erased the five Lodges and expelled 17 Brothers from the folds of the Grand Lodge of Bulgaria.
Meanwhile, Ivan Stavrev and the deactivated Lodges and Brethren of the GLAFAM of Bulgaria gathered together with him at the head, and convened an Extraordinary Communication on the 22nd March 2001, at which they self-installed themselves as a Grand Lodge, adopting the name “Grand Lodge of the Ancient Free and Accepted Masons in (!) Bulgaria”. This act formalised the split of the GLAFAM of Bulgaria and thus, the birth of a new irregugular body occurred by reason of the irregularity of its origin insofar as it was never consecrated by another regular Grand Lodge.
One of the most positive moments in the later history of Bulgarian Freemasonry was the Unification of regular Freemasonry in Bulgaria, of the GL of Bulgaria and the GLAFAM of Bulgaria, which took place on the 23rd April 2001. On this day a Declaration and a Reconciliation Protocol for the Unification of the GLB and the GLAFAMB were signed by the two rightful and lawful Grand Masters, MW Brother Yanko Bonev, GM of the GL of Bugaria and MW Brother Borislav Sarandev, GM of the GLAFAM of Bulgaria, the name GLAFAM of Bulgaria being temporarily retained.
The preparations for, and the act of the unification, was under the patronage, active assistance, guidance and support of the Grand Masters of the UGL’s of Germany, MW Brother Alfred Koska and of the Grand Lodge Alpina of Switzerland, MW Brother Jean-Jacques Sunier. As a result of this, one, and only one regular and recognised Grand Lodge in Bulgaria, was established – the Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of Bulgaria (the GLAFAM of Bulgaria) with Grand Master, MW Brother Borislav Sarandev and Deputy Grand Master, MW Brother Yanko Bonev.
On the 12th May 2001, an Extraordinary Annual Communication of the united GLAFAM of Bulgaria was held, during which the decisions taken with the Declaration and the Reconciliation Protocol, dated 23rd April 2001, were confirmed. The Installation of the Grand Master and the new Council of Grand Officers (CGO) of the GLAFAM of Bulgaria were confirmed and formulated on the basis of proportional representation of the two uniting Grand Lodges. This act was the beginning of a process of the Consolidation of Regular Freemasonry within the Jurisdiction of Bulgaria and of an ascending line of development, establishment and meaningful growth.
On the 20th November 2002 the united GLAFAM of Bulgaria held its regular Annual Communication. A review was made of the intervening period between the two Annual Communications after the act of unification and MW Brother Borislav Sarandev was re-elected unanimously for another 2-year term. A new Council of Grand Officers (CGO) was also elected. The Annual Communication was “remarkable” for the presence of a large number of Brethren from foreign Grand Lodges: the Grand Master of the UGL’s of Germany, MW Brother Alfred Koska and the Deputy Grand Master of GLAFAM of Germany, RW Brother Willy Drach, the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge “Alpina” of Switzerland, MW Brother Alberto Menasche and the Grand Treasurer, VW Brother Michele Frigerio, the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Lithuania, MW Brother Vytautas Pleckaitis, the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Croatia, MW Brother Radovan Horvat, the Past Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Turkey, MW Brother Tunc Timurkan, accompanied by 21 Grand Officers and Master Masons, belonging to different Lodges from the the Grand Lodge of Turkey, the Deputy Grand Master of the Grand Orient of Italy, RW Brother Massimo Bianchi, the Grand Orator of the National Grand Lodge of Romania, VW Brother Horia Nestoresku-Balcesti, Grand officers of the Grand Lodge of Russia, VW Brother Roman Gorodnitski and VW Brother Sergey Karpachev, VW Brother John Scott – Grand Officer in the National Grand Lodge of France and GL of Canada and others.
That Annual Communication unanimously reaffirmed the unflinching determination of the GLAFAM of Bulgaria not to permit any compromises regarding the Basic Principles of regular Freemasonry. The presence of more than 50 foreign guests unambiguously confirmed the growing authority of the GLAFAM of Bulgaria and the increasing support of its policies from regular Freemasonry worldwide.
The next year will be remembered for an event which laid the beginning of the further “consolidation” of Bulgarian Freemasonry. A process began of the regularisation of individuals and entire Lodges from the irregular GLAFAM in Bulgaria thus welcoming them into the folds of the regular Grand Lodge – the GLAFAM of Bulgaria. Thus, on 14th June 2003, considering and adhering to the rules and regulations of regular Freemasonry, a Ritual was conducted during the course of which a significant number of members and entire Lodges, who at some point had been erased from regular Masonry in Bulgaria, or who had been initiated into an irregular entity due to insufficient awareness or ignorance, were regularised.
This event took place in the presence of representatives of a number of Grand Lodges, incl. the Grand Master of the United Grand Lodges of Germany, MW Brother Alfred Koska, the Deputy Grand Master of the Grand Lodge A.F. & A.M. of Germany, RW Brother Willy Drah, the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of British Freemasons in Germany, MW Brother Michael Cooper, the Grand Chancellor of the Grand Lodge Alpina of Switzerland, VW Brother Jean-Pierre Dousset, the Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Turkey, VW Brother Haluk Sanver, the Deputy Grand Master of the National Grand Lodge of Romania, RW Brother Ion Savancea, the Grand Officer of the American Canadian Grand Lodge in Germany, VW Brother Michael Kunze-Concewitz and others.
In the course of the said Ritual, 132 candidates were regularised out of 226 who officially applied to be regularised into the order of the GLAFAM of Bulgaria with Grand Master MW Brother Borislav Sarandev. The other 94 were regularised and afiliated at a slightly later stage. In the course of the Ritual, 6 Lodges were regularised and registered on the books of the GLAFAM of Bulgaria: “Svetlina Sofia’94” Lodge, “Makedonska Zora” Lodge, “Academic Mihail Arnaudov” Lodge, “Sredets” Lodge, “Puldin” Lodge and “Svetlinata na Trakite” Lodge”.
This became the starting point of a process of continual regularisation, welcoming into the folds the GLAFAM of Bulgaria (subsequently the UGLB), individuals and whole Lodges from the irregular GLAFAM in Bulgaria. This process of consolidation continued unabated until the act of “merging” (see below!) of the GLAFAM in Bulgaria into the UGLB, which took place on the 20th June 2015.
On 26th November 2004, the regular Annual Communication of the GLAFAM of Bulgaria was held. In his Annual Report, the Grand Master, MW Brother Borislav Sarandev specifically underlined a number of important moments in regular Bulgarian Freemasonry including the Unification of the two Grand Lodges – the GL of Bulgaria and the GLAFAM of Bulgaria; The process of consolidation of the GLAFAM of Bulgaria, including the method of the regularisation of individuals and Lodges from the irregular GL into the folds of the GLAFAM of Bulgaria; The adoption of a strategy for the further development of regular Freemasonry in Bulgaria, as an elitist society with a philosophically intellectual orientation and last but not least, the fact that for the first time since September 1989 there was only one regular and recognised Grand Lodge with the Jurisdiction of Bulgaria and this is the Grand Lodge of AF & AM of Bulgaria;
Special mention was made of a very noteworthy event in the recent history of Bulgarian Freemasonry, namely the formal recognition from the United Grand Lodge of England was granted to the GLAFAM of Bulgaria on the 10th March 2004.
The Annual Communication was honoured by the presence of more than 60 representatives from other Grand Lodges, including the Grand Master of: the UGL’s of Germany and Grand Masters of its constituent Grand Lodges: the Grand Lodge AF&AM of Germany, the Grand Lodge of the British Freemasons of Germany and the American Canadian Grand Lodge, the Grand Lodge of Turkey, the Grand Orient of Italy, the Grand Lodge of Russia, the National Grand Lodge of Romania, the Grand Lodge of Washington in the District of Columbia, the Grand Lodge Alpina of Switzerland, the Grand Lodge of Austria, the Grand Lodge of Spain, the Grand East of the Netherlands, the Grand Lodge of the State of Israel, the Grand Lodge of Moldova, the Regular Grand Lodge of Yugoslavia, as well as Grand Officers from the National Grand Lodge of France, the National Grand Lodge of Guinea, the Grand Lodge of the Czech Republic, the Grand Lodge of Croatia, the Grand Lodge of Macedonia and the UGL of England represented by VW Brother John Hamill – Director of Communications of the UGLE.
As a guest of honour there was the Past Grand Master of the UGL’s of Germany, MW Brother Alfred Koska – bearer of the highest recognition of the GLAFAM of Bulgaria – the Golden Medal of Honour of the GLAFAM of Bulgaria with which he was presented at the Convocation.
I would like to quote here several key points, contained in the Annual report of the Grand Master, MW Brother Borislav Sarandev, which continue to be an inseparable part of the policies of our Grand Lodge:
“We are not a mass organisation, and we are well aware that the Craft has no end in time and that we are a modest link in this infinite chain. Therefore, we have chosen the gradual and thorough approach to guide the process of building our regular Jurisdiction.
In the world of regular Freemasonry, there are many side Degree Orders and Appendant Bodies practiced. We treat all of them with respect and honour. It is our firm decision that all Brethren who are Master Masons and who are interested in exploring these appendant bodies should be able to get acquainted with and work in these respective Orders and Rites in Jurisdictions with an established tradition, so that one day they will be able to bring the essence of their respective knowledge into our own Jurisdiction, as well as gaining the respect and Brotherly Love of our Brethren from the more ancient Orients.
This principled position of ours guarantees a profound attitude towards the Craft in all its diversity and avoids the risk of profanisation of any of its elements within the Bulgarian Jurisdiction.
We have a very well-defined attitude towards the irregular and para-masonic entities in our Orient: due respect for any such entity, which is working for the benefit of our country, but maintaining clearly defined limits regarding regularity and recognition, in keeping with the universally accepted principles and norms. Because of our affilliation with the world of regular Freemasonry and its Principles, our Grand Lodge has never sanctioned, nor ever will sanction, taking part in any joint activity whatsoever with any irregular structure.
All of these insights and achievements would be unthinkable without the dedication of the entire Brotherhood, or without the selfless fraternal support of the World Chain of Brotherhood to which we now belong.
Along with the Mother Lodge of the regular Masonic world – the UGL of England, we will forever keep in our hearts our Mother Lodge – the UGL’s of Germany. The Grand Lodge Alpina of Switzerland, the Grand Lodge of Turkey, the Grand Orient of Italy and the GL of Austria have left profound landmarks in our memory for ever. We will always remember and will rely on the Brotherly support of the NGL of France, of the GE of the Netherlands, the GL of the State Israel, the GL of Luxemburg, the GL of Spain, the LGL of Portugal, the Conference of Grand Masters in North America, all members of the Sinaia Initiative and the many other Grand Lodges with whom we maintain Fraternal relations.”
In the course of the Communication a change in the name of the Grand Lodge was adopted and proclaimed. The GLAFAM of Bulgaria became the United Grand Lodge of Bulgaria (UGLB) and because of this the current Grand Master, MW Brother Borislav Sarandev became its first Grand Master. However, W Brother Petyo Penkov, Past Master of the “Mizia” Lodge, Pleven was elected and Installed as Grand Master. At this point the UGLB numbered 27 Lodges with a total membership of 902 Brothers.
The first and second term in office of MW Brother Petyo Penkov were marked with the continuation of the process of the consolidation of the UGLB. The process of the regularisation of members and Lodges from the irregular GLAFAM in Bulgaria continued.
In the spring of 2005, MW Brother Petyo Penkov took part in the Annual Conference of the Grand Masters in North America in Calgary, Canada, at which the Commission’s Finding was to recognise the Status of the UGLB as the only Grand Lodge in Bulgaria, having considered it to have met all the standards for recognition.
On the 23rd November 2007, at the Annual Communication of the UGLB held in Plovdiv, MW Brother Petyo Penkov was re-elected for a second term of two years. One other important matter was dealt with that day: which was a revision of the Constitution of the UGLB, which continues to be the foundation of regular masonry to this day.
In the course of the ensuing Annual Communication 28th – 29th November 2008, MW Brother Grigorii Vazov was elected as Grand Master. A new Council of Grand Officers (CGO) was also constituted.
The Grand Master and the Council of Grand Officers continued to work on the development of regular Freemasonry in Bulgaria until the next Annual Communication, which was not held in November, as was customary, but on the 13th May 2011, at the suggestion of the Grand Master, MW Brother Grigorii Vazov, which practice continues to this day.
During the mandate of MW Brother Grigorii Vazov, an event took place which indirectly affected the masonic environment in Bulgaria:
In 2010, the Grand Lodge of France re-installed the Grand Lodge of Bulgaria (1917) on the basis of three secessionist lodges from the irregular GLAFAM in Bulgaria, with its Grand Master Savino Batanov.
Skipping ahead – in 2013 yet another Grand Lodge made its official appearance in Bulgaria, the Grand Lodge of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, which too derived from the irregular and unrecognised GLAFAM in Bulgaria (see Enclosure 1).
On the 23rd April 2011, the tenth Anniversary of the Unification of regular Freemasonry in Bulgaria was solemnly celebrated. A special Congratulatory address was prepared and presented by MW Brother Yanko Bonev, Past Grand Master – one of two very illustrious Brethren – together with MW Brother Borislav Sarandev, both of whom were instrumental in ensuring the act of the unification.
In the course of the regular Annual Communication of the UGLB, held on the 13th May 2011, a new Grand Master was elected, MW Brother Ivan Sariev together with a new Council of Grand Officers (CGO). The composition of the newly elected team of Grand Officers was indicative of the maturity of our Brotherhood. There was a considerable continuity in the choice of the Brothers elected as Grand Officers in the new Council of Grand Officers.
MW Brother Ivan Sariev received a decisive vote of confidence and was re-elected as Grand Master at the next regular Annual Communication, which convened on the 30th – 31st May 2014. Sixty eight Lodges, all of which had the right to vote, were present at the Communication.
The two mandates of MW Brother Ivan Sariev were notable. The first was his avowed intent to cultivate personal relationships and extremely active contacts with other Grand Lodges and their Grand Masters. The second was his very purposeful policy of enhancing the role of the central and local structures of the UGLB by way of improved organisation and additions to their human resources. The policy of the consolidation of regular Freemasonry in Bulgaria continued through the regularisation of members in the existing Lodges from the irregular GLAFAM in Bulgaria.
2014 will be remembered for one very significant event – the General Assembly of the GLAFAM in Bulgaria,held on the 14th December 2014, in the course of which a historic decision was taken: namely the dissolution of the irregular and unrecognised GLAFAM in Bulgaria and for its members and Lodges to merge into the UGLB should they so wish.
The corner stone for the final resolution of the existing situation in the Orient was the constructive actions taken by the two Grand Masters, MW Brother Ivan Sariev of the UGLB and MW Brother Valery Mitkov of the GLAFAM in Bulgaria. It is worth noting the initiative, determination and will demonstrated by MW Brother Valery Mitkov who deserves to be honoured for his part in the adoption of the above-mentioned historic decision. After the Ceremony of merging (see below), MW Brother Valeri Mitkov was given the title Honorary Grand Master of the UGLB, as recognition for his role in the process.
The findings of the Commission on Information for Recognition of the Conference of Grand Masters in North America, held in Vancouver 14th – 15th February, 2015, was a very indicative preliminary reaction on the part of the World Chain of Brotherhood, quote: “It was noted that Freemasonry in Bulgaria is taking steps for unity to take place not later than June 2015. The Commission extends its best wishes to those working on behalf of Freemasonry in Bulgaria.”The Commission’s finding is a reflection of the essence of the text, provided to it by MW Brother Ivan Sariev, containing the declared position of the Council of Grand Officers of the UGLB, adopted at its meeting held on the 7th February 2015, quote: “The Board of Grand Officers of the United Grand Lodge of Bulgaria lauds and welcomes the Decision of the General Assembly of the Grand Lodge AFAM of Bulgaria, which will therefore lead to a new re-structuring of Freemasonry in Bulgaria through the consolidation of Regular Freemasonry by the warm acceptance of Masons from the Grand Lodge AFAM of Bulgaria, who profess to admire the Principles of Regular Freemasonry, into the United Grand Lodge of Bulgaria”
On the 16th May 2015, the next regular Annual Communication of the UGLB was covened, which was honoured by the presence of: MW Brother Oscar de Alfonso – Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Spain and President of the Inter-American Masonic Confederation (CMI), the MW Brother Jovica Ugrinovski – Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Macedonia, MW Brother Alan Wainwright – Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of the British Freemasons in Germany, MW Brother Klaus Horneffer – Past Grand Master of the United Grand Lodges of Germany, MW Brother Novica Yovovich – Past Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Montenegro, MW Brother Remzi Sanver – Past Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Turkey, MW Brother James Barrett – Past Grand Master of the American-Canadian Grand Lodge, RW Brother Miran Podleshnik – Deputy Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Slovenia, RW Brother Robert Morrow – Past Grand Secretary of the United Grand Lodge of England and many other attending Brethren from the Grand Lodges of Slovakia, Romania, Serbia, Italy, and Switzerland. In the course of the solemn part of the Annual Communication, the following Brothers were awarded the Golden Medal of Honor of the UGLB: MW Brother Remzi Sanver, MW Brother Oscar de Alfonso Ortega and RW Brother Robert Morrow. RW Brother Alexey Lazarov – Past Grand Secretary of the UGLB and W Brother Georgi Petkov – Past Master of “Yaila” Lodge, Orient Dobrich were awarded with the Silver Medal of Honour.
The final act in overcoming the long-standing division in Bulgarian Masonry took place in the course of an unforgettable event: the merger of Bulgarian Masonry in a Solemn Ceremony which was held on the 20th June 2015 in the “Effe Hall” of the “Marinella” Hotel in Sofia. At the Ceremony forty four Lodges which were hitherto registered on the books of the GLAFAM in Bulgaria, merged with the UGLB.
This verberations of this event, were felt not only in Bulgaria, but had a very strong effect on the Masonic chain worldwide. This act of “merging” was honored by a number of dignified representatives of other Grand Lodges, including the Grand Master of the United Grand Lodges of Germany, MW Brother Rudiger Templin, Past Grand Master of the Grand Lodge ALPINA of Switzerland, MW Bro Jean-Michel Mascherpa, the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Russia, MW Brother Andrey Bogdanov, RW Brother Thomas Jackson, Past Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, the Grand Inspector of the Grand Lodge of Turkey, VW Brother Davud Berker and many other Brothers.
Regardless of the formal completion of the process of the merging of GLAFAM in Bulgaria into the UGLB (the Act of the 20th June 2015), the doors of the UGLB will always remain open for those who, for one reason or another, have missed the great event, but who may later sincerely desire to become a part of regular Freemasonry in Bulgaria and the world Masonic chain.
On the 19th May 2017, was the first Annual Communication of the UGLB to be covened since the merger at which a new Grand Master and Council of Grand officers were elected. All present once again demonstrated Brotherly unity and goodwill. MW Brother Iskren Yotov was elected as Grand Master of the UGLB by an impressive majority. A Council of Grand Officers was also elected, comprising a number of Brethren, who had been part of the previous Council of Grand Officers (CGO), as well as Brethren, from Lodges of the former GLAFAM in Bulgaria, which had been merged into the UGLB. This was an eloquent sign of recognition of their Masonic qualities, as well as of their desire to work for the progress of regular Freemasonry in Bulgaria. The Communication was honoured by a large number of representatives of Grand Lodges in Fraternal relations with the UGLB.
Upon assuming his duties, the new Grand Master, MW Bro. Iskren Yotov continued the course of organisational and normative strengthening and development of the UGLB.
An historic event in 2017 was the celebration of the 300th Anniversary of the United Grand Lodge of England, held at the Royal Albert Hall in London on the 31st October 2017. The UGLB, was honoured to be present in response to the formal invitation of the Most Worshipful Grand Master of the UGLE, HRH the Duke of Kent, and was represented by its Grand Master, MW Brother Iskren Yotov.
As a conclusion, it can surely be said that, despite of and perhaps because of the difficulties which the newly resurrected Bulgarian Masonry encountered after 1992, not only did it not lose its attraction for many of the best and most prominent representatives of our society, but in fact grew and strengthened and eventually achieved an enviable maturity despite its relatively short period of existance. It has emerged as one of the well respected and trustworthy links of the World Masonic Chain. All this is a guarantee for its never-ending glory and, more importantly, for the invaluable and ever more tangible role it plays and will continue to play in the progression of our homeland and the consolidation and maturing of its civil society – the pillar of a modern and prosperous country that we all desire our dear Fatherland to be.