Stefan Obreykov established the first chemical factory in the city under the hills. He initiated and funded the Commercial High School


Stefan Obreykov established the first chemical factory in the city under the hills

He initiated and funded the Commercial High School

His son, Obreyko Obreykov’s red pepper was used for the production of eco lipsticks in America

The son established the Plovdiv International Fair as such

Stefka Georgieva

The story of the Obreykov family, after whom one of the streets in Plovdiv is named, began outside the city under the hills. The family came from Klisura and one of the descendants fought in the April Uprising in 1876. After the Liberation of Bulgaria, a part of the family moved to Plovdiv. Among them is Stefan Obreykov who took a number of initiatives in the ancient city and strived to introduce to Plovdiv all the innovations he witnessed.

Stefan Obreykov graduated the Commercial academy in Odessa where reportedly an employer sent him so he could organize the rhythmic gas supply from Odessa to Burgas. Everything which Stefan managed to earn and save from commerce in Odessa he invested in gold and Russian state bonds. Upon coming back to Bulgaria he sold everything and started a real estate business. However everything that remained was 25 gold spoons and 2 watches which were eventually confiscated during the Nationalization. Stefan Obreykov was the first who introduced contemporary accounting to Bulgaria.

He established the first chemical factory – the manufactory for the first blue ink in the country “May”. In order to have a higher quality of production, Stefan Obreykov sent a relative of his to specialize in the Czech Republic in order to increase the quality of the work in the factory. In time the factory expanded and the production increased. It started producing other colours of ink, then black ink, red wax and glue and the wax was intended primarily for export in France, Italy and Portugal. And so his ink won a gold medal in the First Bulgarian Agricultural and Industrial Fair in Plovdiv. This is just the beginning of the Plovdiv Fair in August 1892. Tradespeople and companies from 24 countries took part.

In 1902 Stefan Obreykov was chosen for vice-chairperson of the Plovdiv Chamber of Commerce and Industry and in the years between 1910 and 1912, and then 1919 and 1924 he was its chairperson. Meanwhile he was a member of every commercial and industrial organization of his time. Immediately after his inauguration in the Chamber of Commerce and Industry he founded a professional school.    

Stefan Obreykov also came across an extremely troubling fact – in his opinion most of the company bankruptcies happened because of the unclear state of their finances. Back then there weren’t any accountant firms in Bulgaria and there weren’t any trained professionals so it was time to create some. This is one of the reasons he donated a significant amount of money and initiated the building of the Commercial High School in Plovdiv where he later taught French and accounting.

Even nowadays the citizens of Plovdiv are proud of the beautiful building of the National Commercial High School but the name of the founder who was posthumously announced an honorary citizen of Plovdiv three years ago, is written only on a memorial tablet. The school board didn’t make the decision to name the school after its founder who supported it financially for years and granted scholarships to excellent students.

This wasn’t merely enough for the innovator Obreykov. In 1905, during a visit in Paris, Stefan was really impressed by the water heating with radiators and was impatient to bring the new technology back home. He managed to convince one of the owners of a French factory to take a Bulgarian student who had to carry the craft and the new technology in Bulgaria and he bore all the costs of the training of the young man. After the craftsman came back he demonstrated his skills for the first time in the Obreykov family house which is the first building heated with water in the country.

His son, Obreyko Obreykov, followed the steps of his father. In 1912 he graduated from law school in Montpellier with honors and seven years later he got a diploma in finance and commerce in Paris. He got three PhDs and spoke French, German and English fluently.

In the beginning of World War I, he graduated from The Reserve Officers School in Knyazhevo and went to the front in the ranks of the 13th Artillery Regiment with which he fought in Doyran where he got hurt in the head with a piece of shrapnel which he didn’t remove his whole life.

In 1926 he married the alumnus of the Vienna Conservatory Velichka Obreykova and they had a son a year later.

After the war ended he started trading with sugar and in 1940 he founded a pepper mill equipped with the most modern technology at the time. His venture turned out to be extremely profitable and he started exporting a wagon of red pepper in the West, including the USA. Obreykov’s pepper quickly became popular in America because of its more saturated color in comparison to the other peppers. Then he received an offer for the production of eco-lipsticks with his pepper. There was only one condition – the pepper had to have no seeds. Obreykov explained that this will increase the price because the removing of the seeds is done by hand but the Americans freely paid the requested amount.

A happy coincidence or great fortune, it’s unknown, but the best thing was yet to come for Obreyko Obreykov. An Egyptian firm ordered slightly roasted seeds of brown pepper from his mill and they offered a lot of money for it because they consider it an aphrodisiac. So for just two years the small venture for Obreykov the son became a large business and its owner quickly started to gain profit.

Following the example of his father Obreykov took the initiative and paid for the building of the Industrial School (now Vocational High School of Architecture and Wood proccessing) and of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry where today the Courthouse is housed. A little later in time father and son together founded the orphan shelter “Elisaveta Obreykova” (today Private High School of Economics and Management).

As we already mentioned, in 1930 Stefan Obreykov became a chairperson of the Plovdiv Chamber of Commerce and Industry and worked there for 13 years right until its closing. At this point the idea that the First Bulgarian exhibition in Plovdiv should become a contemporary fair had taken shape.

Obreyko Obreykov’s most important deed is however the International Fair in Plovdiv founded under his management as a chairperson of the Plovdiv Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The exhibition was founded on 4th March 1933 with a speech of the Minister of Commerce Dimitar Gichev and the attendance of thousands of citizens and guests of the city. 423 exhibitors from the private, public and government sectors took part and this made it possible for the young Bulgarian industry to step on the international market. After 9th September the Fair remained his only state recognized merit for which it gives him a personal pension. The effect of the International Fair itself was grand and unexpected even for the organizers themselves.

Dr. Obreyko Obreykov took the initiative to spread the word everywhere. He committed to convincing responsible people on whom the future of the Fair depended and traveled all over the country to talk about the benefits of a true fair for Bulgaria. He also arranged multiple meetings in the Ministries and conversed with the Prime Minister and the Minister of Commerce and Finance to make the fair international. His efforts succeeded and in 1933 the fair became International and was highly praised by the Bulgarian firms of the time.

On 16th May 1934 the Council of Ministers issued a decree stating that the Plovdiv Fair should be recognized as permanent and the only one in the country. In autumn next year the law on markets and exhibitions was passed which stated that in Bulgaria there is only one fair and its headquarters in in the City under the hills. These regulations put an end to the argument between Plovdiv and other towns for hosting the forum once and for all.

Together with the then mayor of Plovdiv, Bozhidar Zdravkov, Dr. Obreykov managed to earn international recognition for the Fair. The two of them took part in the meetings of the congress of the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry (UFI) in Paris in December 1936. They arrived there with the mission to apply for a membership of the Plovdiv Fair in the organization. Representatives of the economic sphere in Varna and Sofia tried to thwart their undertaking but Dr. Obreykov and Zdravkov outweighed them and successfully fulfilled their task.

Even though the state granted funds very slowly and this created many difficulties, in the years between 1934 and 1943 ten editions of the exhibition carried out successfully which were managed personally by Obreyko Obreykov. In a report of his in the newspaper Latest News in 1943 he pointed out: “The International Fair in Plovdiv is a big deed – a deed of the creative power of our whole economy. The Fair belongs to our people, to Bulgaria and because of this it has to be supported and encouraged by all and most of all by the state.” Dr. Obreykov himself helped with everything he had – with money, with his own car, with contacts and authority. He managed all the preparation and during the international fairs in the 40s and the 50s he didn’t stop monitoring the work of the exhibition center even at his age.